UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service
458 Highway 98 North
Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578
Phone: (863) 763-6469
E- mail: email@example.com
June 27 , 2011
For Release: June 29, 2011
Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent
a visitor asked a question about “heirloom seeds.”
Gardeners may have heard the term, but may not have a good
idea of what it means. Knowing a little bit about how seed
are produced can improve the chances of success in the
garden. It’s the focus of this column on seedy
first seedy words to know are a culti-vated
var-iety or cultivar.
This is a plant that has been selected for its desirable
characteristics that make it different from others. Those
differences can be passed on to new plants by their seed
or though cuttings or other means.
my time at the University, I “helped out” several
researchers with variety trials. This is where
different cultivars of the same kind of plant are grown
under the same growing conditions. Measurements are
taken on such things as the first date of harvest, the
number and size of the product, their ability to resist
pests, and sometimes a visual appearance rating was made
– i.e. looking for the perfect “10.”
may be duplicated in different areas and over different
years. The cultivars that do the best are the ones
that are recommended. It takes time and money
to conduct these trials. When funds are not available for
these kinds of investigations, new varieties may not be
adequately tested and recommendations may not be offered.
|EX 01420200, a Seminis fresh market tomato was developed by Monsanto for consumer acceptance and disease resistance. It is intended for commercial spring planting in south and central Florida. Photo: American Vegetable Grower.||Commercial tomato production in Florida: the varieties grown are based on the results of research trials. Photo: Les Harrison, UF/IFAS||Heirloom Tomato variety display: cultivars are evaluated on consumer qualities as well as production capabilities. Photo: High Mowing Organic Seeds|
years ago, when considerable interest in heirloom
vegetables appeared, UF vegetable crop researchers
performed a variety trial of heirloom tomatoes. They
wanted to see how these tomatoes could hold up under
large-scale commercial production. Their conclusion
was: “Many [heirloom] varieties may be suitable
for Florida home gardens and a few may be appropriate for
our commercial markets. [However,] commercial
heirloom growers must be aware of the considerable fruit
quality, harvesting, and shipping constraints associated
with heirloom tomatoes.”
is this term heirloom? According to one
reference, a plant must meet three criteria to be
considered an heirloom variety: the variety must grow
“true to type” from seed saved from each fruit; seed
must have been available for more than 50 years; and the
variety must have a history or folklore of its own.
So what does it mean to be “true to type”? This means that the plants will show the same color form, shape, taste, plant growth characteristics and even pest resistance among all examples of that variety. For example, while there could be some slight differences, you can depend on a Purple Cherokee Tomato to grow as an indeterminate vine-like habit, have a unique maroon red colored fruit with a flattened beefsteak tomato shape, and normally mature with a tomato size of about a pound.
|Cherokee Purple is an heirloom Tomato variety. The color is unusual, the taste is different and the seed can be saved. Because of root problems, commercial growers may resort to grafted tomato plants. Photo: Peter Nitzsche, Rutgers Cooperative Extension||Inbred lines (left) of corn (maize) are cross-pollinated to produce a hybrid offspring (right) that shows marked increase in vigor and crop quality. Photo: Uplingen Plant Science Garden.||Golden Bantam Sweet corn is an open-pollinated cultivar that was introduced by W. Atlee Burpee in 1902. Photo: Urban Farmer Seed Co.|
vegetables are also open-pollinated or non-hybrid.
These cultivars are produced by self-pollination or by
repeated crossing to the same parental type. The
seed they contain can be saved from fully ripened fruit,
and when grown in the following year, they will produce
fruit that will resemble the parents.
kind of variety is called a hybrid - a
variety that comes from crossing two different inbred
parents that differ in one or more characteristics.
Inbreds have been allowed to only reproduce with the same
parents over several generations. With each resulting
generation, these plants often become smaller, less
vigorous and less productive. Why do this?
When two unrelated in-bred offspring are finally allowed
to cross with another inbred line, a magical explosion of
crop strength and growth - “hybrid vigor” - is the
vigor of hybridization allows yields to increase, pest
resistance to be added, and it may include other desirable
characteristics which can improve the crop. Some
have credited crop hybridization as a prime reason for our
country’s ability to feed larger populations with fewer
down side of hybridization is that if you collect and save
the seed from a hybrid variety, its offspring will show a
loss of that hybrid vigor – it will start to revert back
to its inbred parents. The result is, if you want
the vigorous capacity that comes with hybrid varieties,
don’t save the seed for replanting. You will have
to buy seed from seed companies instead.
there are other down sides to saving seed too. Seed
can transmit various diseases from one generation to
another, both from outside the seed coat and within the
genetics of the seed. And seed need to be
appropriately handled and stored at correct temperatures
and humidity or they will die. Some seed store well
over several years, while others have a short “shelf
life” and need to be used promptly.
gardeners and consumers choose to use “organic”
vegetables. For vegetable farms that are growing
organic produce, they have to use organic seed.
This means that the vegetables that were grown to produce
the seed crop also had to avoid synthetic pesticides and
fertilizers, and must avoid the use of genetic
modification techniques. Generally speaking, organic
growers use open pollinated (i.e. non-hybrid) varieties,
and in some cases they may also use the old time heirloom
varieties. Growing vegetables for seed means longer
growing seasons and increased exposure to pests - and
increased challenges if organic methods are to be used.
(A UF bulletin
is available that outlines how this is accomplished.)
to the beginning: The visitor specifically wanted to know
what kinds of heirloom seeds would grow here and what they
needed to do to successfully grow them. I think what
he really wanted to know is if there were any
recommendations for heirloom vegetables adapted to this
area and if their culture would be any different than
of the challenges of home vegetable gardening in Florida
is that there is limited information on which cultivars do
best in our area. Looking over seed catalogs and
garden center advertisements gets gardeners excited about
new varieties. The real questions are, will they do
well under our growing conditions, and, are they available
to us when our growing seasons appear.
recommended varieties of Florida vegetable varieties can
be found in our Extension bulletin, Florida
Vegetable Gardening Guide. If you
grow vegetable garden you need a copy, available at our
office - or it can be found online - http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021.
the case of tomatoes, some varieties are identified as
heirloom vegetables. I’ll be examining the other
UF home garden varieties recommendations in the next few
weeks and identify which of these are considered heirloom
vs. hybrid vegetables. I will make that information
available in a future article if there is interest.
And if you need some suggestions for sources of heirloom vegetable seeds, I will add a few of these to the references at the bottom of the on-line version of this news article at http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu. Our phone number is (863) 763-6469, and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go Gators!
Seed Databases and Resource
Selected Seed Companies:
Adcock, Colin. Selecting Commercial Vegetable Varieties in Florida. Quincy: UF/IFAS Panhandle Agriculture Webpage, Volume: 1 Issue: 4. Fall 2009
Bonina, Jennifer and Cantliffe, Daniel J. Seed Production and Seed Sources of Organic Vegetables. [HS-981] Gainesville: UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension Service, November 2009 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs227
"F1 hybrids" [On-line article.] London: Royal Horticultural Society, 2011. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=710
Kelley, Terry (UGa Extension). “Heirloom Tomatoes: New Life For Old Varieties.” In: Green Garden News. UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County Extension Service, May 2006. http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/may06.pdf p.3
Scalera, Sally. Heirloom Vegetables [FS 6045 HORT]. Cocoa: Brevard Co. Extension Service, March 2006. http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/Forms%20and%20Publications/PDF/Heirloom%20Vegetables.pdf
Stephens, J.M. et.al. Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide [SP103]. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service, February 2009, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021
Treadwell, Danielle. Old-time vegetables offer new opportunities to Florida farmers, UF experts say . Gainesville: UF/IFAS News, January 21, 2010 http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2010/01/21/old-time-vegetables-offer-new-opportunities-to-florida-farmers-uf-experts-say/
Watson, Benjamin. Taylor’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996. In: Vavrina, Charles S., Armbrester Karen and Pena, Michiko. Growing Heirloom Tomato Varieties in Southwest Florida. [HS-921] . Immokalee: UF/IFAS SWFREC, April 2003. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs174
Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Dean. Last update: 06/28/2011. This page is maintained by Dan Culbert