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Video: Varieties Or Heterotic Hybrids - What To Choose?
Don't expect a good tribe from a bad seed
Often, for lovers of growing vegetables in their summer cottage, the question arises: what is better to plant - varieties or heterotic hybrids? Let's try to understand this issue.
Where do the seeds come from
The well-known geneticist, academician Viktor Dragavtsev, in one of his speeches, noted: “The increase in corn yields in America is only 4% ensured by improving agricultural technology and by 96% by genes and the creation of new corn hybrids. The same picture is with winter wheat in England: the yield increases by 5% from the improvement of agricultural technology, and by 95% from genetic selection technologies. " It is clear that in our household plots the reserves from the introduction of farming culture are slightly higher than in developed countries. However, a lot depends on the property of the seed.
In Russia, from time immemorial, there were problems with the "folk" vegetable growing. Mikhail Vasilyevich Rytov in his book "Russian gardening" (P. Soikin's publishing house, 1914) wrote: "In addition to the inability of peasants in many localities to grow good vegetables, one should also note general ignorance and often illiteracy, which does not allow acquiring knowledge through books and forces them to be content with only oral tips and examples of cultures nearby. Buying good seeds at an affordable price is also not a small difficulty; prasols, peddlers and bazaar traders often endow peasants with worthless seeds. Now there is a certain nostalgia for the old Russian varieties, they say, they were once not what they are in our time. I would like to note “… the seeds come from the middle provinces, more Oryol and Tambov, but out of 100 varieties, only 5% of Russian production,the rest is purchased from abroad "(M.V. Rytov, 1914)
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It has been 100 years since then, but the problems are still the same. In the USSR, problems with seed production were solved, very decent varieties appeared. Unfortunately, now everything has fallen into decay, scientists work only on enthusiasm. There is an opinion among gardeners that since cabbage grows in the Leningrad Region, it means that seeds can be produced here. Obviously, not everyone is familiar with the basics of breeding. As the famous cabbage breeder Grigory Monakhos noted: “Unfortunately, there is practically nowhere to produce seeds in Russia. In terms of natural and climatic conditions, two regions are most favorable for seed production of cabbage hybrids - the Adler region of Sochi and the Derbent region of Dagestan. The first is a resort area with the Olympics, so it is prohibited to use pesticides there (it was allowed in Soviet times). Accordingly, it is impossible to obtain high quality seeds there.Seeds with a germination rate of 96-98% are in demand, without the use of chemicals, 20-30% are obtained.
Previously, all these conditions were met by the seed farms of Azerbaijan, which were the main producers of cabbage seeds for the entire USSR. Scientists have now found a way out: in Russia, breeding is carried out, parental forms are multiplied and sent abroad - to Italy, France and Australia - to seed firms in the world, where the highest quality seed production. The seeds are produced there and then exported to Russia. So seed production is gradually acquiring an international status. Actually, this is correct, there are not so many favorable climatic zones on earth for each culture. For example, the Dutch sell the most seeds in the world, but in their country they only multiply the source material. And they are produced in those natural and climatic regions where you can get the highest quality products.
What are heterotic hybrids
Why is the civilized world now switching to the production of seeds of heterotic hybrids, abandoning varieties? After all, it is known: in order to create a hybrid with heterotic strength and certain qualities, several thousand hybrid combinations of vegetable crops are tested annually in the field, and then research is carried out for several years. Just to get the right combination of genes and create a hybrid of the desired property, it can take up to 15 years from the emergence of an idea to the introduction of a new variety / hybrid - that much time may be needed for re-crossing, testing, breeding and collaboration throughout the entire production chain.
What is a variety? A variety is a separate set of plants created by a breeder with certain characteristics (yield, early maturity, size, color, etc.). The main feature of the variety is its ability to preserve all properties in the next offspring, so that it is easy to propagate it even in the country. But with mass harvesting of seeds, and even with the fourth reproduction, the variety degenerates within 3-5 years.
For amateur gardening, maybe this is not so important. It seems that even you can get your own seeds, the savings come out. But, as you know, the miser pays twice. Why? Significant variations in traits are observed within the variety. Some plants are fruitful, others are not, some are early ripening, others are late, there are plants that are said to be "going to barren flowers", some are bitter, others are not.
More homogeneous varieties obtained by breeders through a long selection of the best plants. The most uniform in properties are the so-called lines. Lines are obtained by selecting the best from several generations by self-pollination, usually at least three to four. However, with prolonged self-pollination, a decrease in the vitality of the plant was found. This is inbred depression.
Breeders, when crossing two lines, get F1 hybrids. Plants of F1 hybrids are more homogeneous in their biological and morphological characteristics than conventional varieties. They are also distinguished by early maturity and higher productivity, resistance to adverse environmental factors, diseases and pests. But, unlike conventional varieties, seeds cannot be harvested from hybrid plants. It is interesting that when F1 hybrids were obtained, special hybrids were revealed in which economically valuable traits significantly exceeded both parents - both maternal and paternal forms. This phenomenon is called heterosis, we will talk about it in more detail later.
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In the USSR, the production of seeds of the variety began with the super-elite and the elite, carried out by its research institutions, using the method of individual-family selection according to the scheme: selection of the best plants, testing their offspring to identify the best families in the selection nursery, secondary testing of offspring in the seed nursery, obtaining superelites and elites. After reseeding, the elite in the semkhozes received the first, second and subsequent reproductions. With this approach, the quality of the variety can be maintained for a long time, observing interspecific isolation between crops of 3 km and carrying out a competent culling of plants that do not meet the characteristics of the variety.
I don't think that this activity will be successful on six hundred square meters, in the neighborhood of an amateur breeder, although, to be honest, I also doubt the effectiveness of modern Semkhozes.
Obviously, the seeds should be produced by professionals and where the highest quality seed production is.
Let's take a look at the book "Russian vegetable garden, nursery and orchard", by RI Schroeder - an outstanding pre-revolutionary scientist and practitioner, the chief gardener of the Petrovsk Agricultural Academy. Here is what he wrote: “Some varieties of vegetable plants cannot be cultivated with seeds collected outside of a real cultural area for any length of time without losing the characteristics that are characteristic of them in a real cultural area. An example of this is the Murom cucumbers, which in Western Europe degenerate already in the first generation, and whose seeds are annually exported abroad in large quantities”. Useful observation, draw your own conclusions.
What varieties were planted by our ancestors in pre-revolutionary Russia, and have they survived to our time? White cabbage: Velera, Yorkskaya, Sugarloaf-England, Ulm Spitz-filder, Braunschweig, Kolomenskaya, Saburka, Erfurt big, Greek pood, Ditmarskaya. The reader can search for the seeds of these varieties on sale, they were once very good. For example, Kolomenskaya: “Kolomenskaya cabbage in those days was successful in Moscow and adjacent provinces, reaching an extraordinary weight in kochna up to one pound; other places with a different soil, low moisture and weak fertilization are completely unsuitable for it, because on them it often does not even twist a head, especially with a belated planting … "Kolomna vegetable gardens on sandy-silty fertile lowlands, which kept moist during the summer,due to seeping river water. " (Rytov, Russian cabbage, 1890).
It is clear that for the peasants of that time, the production of cabbage was, as they say now, a business, it was bought by Moscow merchants for inns, the army, prisons were supplied with cabbage, this variety corresponded to the requirements of the time. The process went like this: “The peasants split the bay banks into plots or rent from monasteries (Spassky, Pokrovsky, Chudov), paying 50-100 rubles. for tithing. Manure is bought up in the capital for 15 rubles. 200-300 carts per tithe are plowed in a year for a horse and after spring water, the land is cultivated in wide ridges, over which thousands of weeders work in summer, more often wagons, and also from Tver and Smolensk provinces; near Pokrov, parties of choppers are hired to cut cabbage in large troughs …
Cabbage is salted in huge wooden vats called doshniks, 2 soot. depth and 4 yards. diameter; the doshnik holds 11/2 thousand buckets of chopped cabbage, which requires up to 10 thousand heads of cabbage and 30 poods of salt; to the bottom of the doorman, the beater in clean boots (bast shoes) descends the stairs and kills the cabbage with a rammer. Dooshniki are made on a par with the ground in the open air or in sheds, for the winter they are covered with boards and mats. " (M.V. Rytov, 1914)
Read the next part. What is heterosis and its use in plant breeding →
Vladimir Stepanov, Doctor of Biological Sciences
Photo by E. Valentinov