Hybrid Seeds
Hybrid Seeds

1. Q. Why are hybrid seed and plants so expensive?

A. Some plants, such as hybrid flowers, have been in the making literally for years. One multinational seed company, which propagates many of the flowers you see in your local garden centers, has research stations, research centers and breeding centers scattered across the world.

The company spends years developing seeds for a variety of flowers. It specializes in creating new flower varieties called F-1 hybrids. Hybrids come from two unlike parent flowers which are bred to incorporate the best characteristics of each parent. Trained breeders with years of experience select the parent lines that will be cross-pollinated.

After the breeders select the parents, through a process of trial and error and a reliance on the science of genetics, they successfully create the F-1 hybrids. Flowers are grown from the F-1 hybrid seeds every year in what those in the nursery industry call "plant trials."

Plant trials involve growing the seeds both in containers and in the field. Engaging in plant trials enable the seed company to determine if the new flower meets the desired objectives.

For example, a particular F-1 hybrid may be created to incorporate the hardiness of one parent and the colorful blooms of another. If the plant trials don't yield a strong and colorful plant, the seed company goes back to the drawing board and creates a hybrid which demonstrates these trait. This lengthy and expensive testing process insures that consumers will ultimately purchase a healthy, well-bred plant.

After the seed company is sure that the seeds meet the company's standards, the seeds are put into trial production. If the trial production phase yields flowers with the appropriate characteristics, the flower is pronounced a success.

The flower then goes into major production, which involves growing the two distinctly different parent flowers. The parents are pollinated by hand as they flower. The seed capsules are picked and the hybrid seeds are packaged and shipped to the growing headquarters.

The grower then subjects the seeds to a quality control process, removing samples from each lot. Germination is inspected, and these samples are grown to full bloom to verify that the seed is true to type. After testing, the seeds are packaged and shipped to wholesale distributors. Wholesale distributors sell the seed to growers who, in turn, sell the flowers to nurseries and retail garden centers.

By the time the consumer comes into the picture, the hybrid flowers have been checked and rechecked, and gardeners can be sure they're buying a plant which will bloom exactly as they expect. All of this effort is expensive and THAT'S WHY hybrid seed and plants are SO expensive!

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