How does Vegetable Breeding work?
Vegetable plant breeding has occurred for thousands of years, these days vegetable breeders are more knowledgeable and considered in how they conduct this process.
One of the major sources of vegetable breeding is the process of ‘selection’, the processes of selecting plants with desired characteristics and eliminating those with less desirable characteristics. This can occur very simply, that you choose to collect the seeds from the plant that provides you with the most fruit/vegetable product to grow in subsequent seasons. This type of selection is often called indirect selection.
Another method commonly used is the ‘interbreeding’, which involves cross-breeding close or distant relatives of the same plant species to produce desired characteristics. If the plant breeder is looking to enhance a particular characteristic of a plant, they will select the two individual plants (one might have a great colour and the other has great vigour). By cross-breeding these, the plant can have both traits. To ensure that the plant maintains both traits, careful and planned cross-breeding back with the original plant will occur to ensure that they desired traits are carried through to the final version of the plant. This type of plant select is called direct selection.
Where do the seeds come from?
Fairbanks Seeds sources their seeds from all over the world, enabling them to have a broad range of products available. Typically, the vegetable seeds come from the regions in which the vegetable originated.
- Asian vegetable seeds are typically sourced from our Asian suppliers
- Basil and wild rocket are generally sourced from Italian suppliers
- Brussels sprouts are sourced from The Netherlands
- Tomatoes are sourced from all over the world
Once a handful of varieties have shown potential in the screening trials, extensive trials must be conducted to determine the long term viability of the varieties. They must withstand different weather conditions, including extreme temperatures and variable rainfall to determine the best seasons and climate. Some varieties will thrive in the warmer northern states of Australia, whilst others show more success in the cooler climates of the New Zealand South Island. Without this extensive trialing Fairbanks Seeds would be unable to make sound recommendations to their loyal farmers.
Heirloom varieties are old cultivars that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are no longer used in modern large-scale agriculture. These varieties are maintained by gardeners and farmers. All heirloom varieties must be open pollinated to ensure that seeds saved from the plant are true to type.
Most heirloom enthusiasts agree that for a species to be referred to as Heirloom it must pre-date 1945 – which marks the end of World War II. After this point in time, vegetable breeders and growers become increasingly focused on food security using hybrid vegetable seed varieties to assist with this concern. However vegetable breeding has been happening for many years, Fairbanks Seeds for instance has been trading in vegetable seeds in Australia since 1926.
To overcome the international concern for food security, vegetable seed breeders began searching and breeding for traits such as yield, shelf life and tolerance to disease and environment.
Worldwide fresh food production could not be sustained using traditional varieties, so growers and breeders selected varieties that were more reliable, required less inputs (both fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides) and produced higher yielding crops to ensure that greater production could be obtained from farms without having to increase farming size.
Years of selective breeding has developed a large range of vegetables and fresh produce that enable growers to produce higher yielding crops from their farms in a more sustainable and efficient manner. These conventionally bred varieties must not be confused with genetically modified varieties, which cannot be sold in Australia or New Zealand.
Open pollinated varieties
Open pollinated vegetable seeds refers to plants that are self-pollinated or are pollinated by another plant of the same variety, the resultant seeds will produce a roughly identical plant. Open pollinated varieties are also called standard varieties. These are produced across generations of plant production, to ensure consistent characteristics are all maintained from generation to generation and anomalies have been bread out of the plant varieties.
13/53 Gateway Boulevard
Epping, Victoria, 3076. AUSTRALIA
Ph: + 61 (03) 8401 3346
Fax: +61 (03) 8401 3348
Ph: + 61 (03) 8401 3346
Fax: +61 (03) 8401 3348