Seed varieties on the West Coast Seeds website are marked to indicate whether they are Hybrid Seeds (F1 or F2) or Open Pollinated Seeds (OP).
Open Pollinated Seeds (OP)
When two plants of the same variety produce offspring, the variety is known as open pollinated. Provided plants are prevented from crossing with other varieties, OP varieties produce seed that are true-to-type. This means the plants grown from these seeds will be similar (though not the same—they are not clones) to their parent. As pollination between plants is not strictly controlled, OP varieties are fairly genetically diverse so tend to show greater variation. Over time, breeders have produced newer strains of OP varieties, selecting for better uniformity. Heirloom varieties are OP strains that have been saved from generation to generation, usually relished for their flavour. In general, they have not been as carefully selected for particular traits so may exhibit more variation.
Hybrid Seeds (F1 or F2)
F1 hybrid seeds are produced by carefully controlled cross pollination of two distinct OP varieties within the same species. Plants grown from F1 hybrid seeds will tend to have desirable characteristics from both of its parents and be more reliable and uniform. The label F1 denotes that the plant is a first-generation hybrid variety. In general, F1 hybrid seeds are intentionally created for particular favorable traits, such as resistance to diseases, earlier maturity, or uniformity. The plants also tend to show “hybrid vigor” and will be more productive and vigorous. F2 hybrids are the offspring of a F1 hybrid variety, pollinated by hand or natural means—they are the result of seeds saved from an F1 plant. Plants grown from F2 hybrid seeds are usually less vigorous and productive compared to F1 hybrids. They are also inconsistent and not true-to-type—they may or not may retain the desirable traits of its parent. This is why F1 hybrid seeds must be purchased each year.
Hybridization is different from genetic modification. Genetically Engineered and Modified Organisms (GEO/GMO) have DNA (sometimes from non-plant organisms) inserted into their genome via genetic engineering techniques. West Coast Seeds does not sell GEO/GMOs.
What does it mean to grow Open Pollinated or Hybrid Seeds in your garden?
There are endless opportunities to experiment with your garden, and we encourage gardeners to grow both hybrid and open pollinated seeds. Both are suitable for organic growing. Growers may prefer hybrid seeds varieties if they live in areas where they require specific traits to help them yield a fuller harvest or desired outcome. Other growers may prefer open pollinated seeds for particular attributes of heirloom varieties, or if they intend to save seeds for replanting.