Now, I’m not much of a New Years resolution person. I never vow to lose x amount of weight or to completely stop eating sweets. I usually think of something I’d like to improve on, rather than anything absolute. Last year I decided I need to make more effort in keeping in touch with friends and family. Now, I’m not perfect, but I have been much better about it in the last year. Also, following my resolution of ’05 I certainly eat fish far more often now.
As we cleared out the plot, packing away the pea frames, cleaning out the shed and such; I got thinking about what could I improve with at the plot.
I could certainly improve my timings with crops, there were (and are) far too many beds sitting empty when they should have been producing something. Keeping up with the weeding is another, our fruit bushes virtually disappeared under a blanket of grass and bindweed this summer.
However, it was our carrot crop that inspired my ultimate “resolution” in the end. This summer we grew two different varieties of carrot. One standard orange variety and (for pure whimsy) a purple variety. The summer crop did so well that I did a second autumn crop. The first crop was untouched by pests, so it was a little disappointing when the second crop was a bit damaged by carrot fly. Now, I do need to be more vigilant about protecting crops, which could be yet another potential resolution, but it’s not what I’m getting at.
When we lifted the two varieties of carrot, both grown side by side, there was a marked difference in the amount of damage each had suffered. The hybrid orange variety had come out far worse. The non-hybrid purple variety had minimal damage. Now, this is purely observational and by no means a proper scientific experiment with statistical significance, proper reproduction or control groups. Still, it made me think more about the pros and cons of hybrid crops. Hybrids are generally considered high yielding but do have their limitations. I certainly grew F1 hybrid vegetables last year and many did just fine. Modern varieties certainly have their own value, heritage varieties were “modern” at some point in history after all. Hybrids more often than not, gain us highly valued yields even if they have the draw back of producing seed that carries little to no value*.
As I said, I don’t believe in absolute rules, so I will continue to grow some hybrids, but really want to try out more uncommon non-hybrid varieties in the allotment this year. I’ve got my copy of The Real Seed Catalogue. I have always had an interest in heritage/ non-hybrid varieties, in part of their cultural and natural history, but also for their genetic value. As a biologist at heart, I like to think with this resolution, I can add my own small support to continuing and preserving something that may have an immense value to us and our environment.
* For those that have been lucky enough to have avoided several years of university genetics courses; F1 hybrid plants are the offspring of two parent varieties of plants that have been carefully cross-pollinated. These parent plants or “inbred lines” each show a very desirable trait such as profuse flowering, growth vigour or uniformity, for example. Individually, they don’t tend to do that well. However the first generation, the F1 generation, show “hybrid vigour” and display the very best traits of their respective parents. However, this doesn’t last beyond the second generation as the poor traits tend to start showing up in the F2 generation and beyond. Thus the seed you collect from an F1, won’t necessarily produce offspring anything like it.