The Living Room Farm /



A breed apart

Like any cliché, organic farming has a broad connotation.  I have seen organic farming associated to many themes like religion, native cows (not the bull or buffalo only native cows mind it!), heirloom seeds, earthenware, local tradition, chemical usage, sustainability, nationalism, commercialization etc. 

We believe in producing safe & tasty food, therefore we too are organic. But instead of falling into the rut we look at every option rationally and without prejudice.  Having no agriculture background has been very helpful in this process.  One such choice we had to make was the type of seeds to use.  Organic proponents were dead against Hybrids and advised on using heirloom seeds.  This led to some soul searching & myth busting.  Here is the detail:  

Domesticated cattle, dogs, cats, mules, corn and rice would not have existed in their current form if not for human ingenuity.  Long before Gregor Mendel explained inheritance through his experiments with the peas it seems humans had figured out the workings of genetics.  Our ancestors used selective breeding across multiple generations to isolate plants and animals with desired characteristics. The outcome of such selective inbreeding is called True bred.  Once the True breeds are isolated then crossing them with another True breed with a dominant desired characteristics gives rise to Hybrids.  Therefore hybrids are clearly the outcome of human manipulation of breeding but not unnatural.

Let's recall our vision "grow safe & tasty food". A high yielding, tasty, pest and drought resistant hybrid seems to check all the boxes in our vision statement. 

There is also question of ethics, especially with seed companies patenting and inflating the seed cost.  Creation of a hybrid starts with the isolation of true breeds over multiple generations often stretching as far as 20 generations.  In plants, male and female plants are separated and hand pollinated, this is a labor intensive work.   Because of this first generation hybrid called F1 hybrids are sold by seed count and are expensive.   Also, the offspring of the hybrids do not guarantee the same results if they are not crossed with the same genotypes hence the advice to buy the seed from the seed makers every time.  Heritage seeds are often open pollinated leading to lesser control on the desired outcome.   Companies protecting a breed & charging for the effort is not a crime against humanity in my opinion.

This was the hybrid watermelon with which we had a great success in the summer of 2017. A look at the seed manufacturer's website gives an idea of how fruit characteristics differ.  Also notice the ability to measure every aspect of the fruit from size, weight, color, texture to taste.  Taste for example is measured in TSS (Total Soluble Solids) - higher TSS means higher percentage of sugar per 100 grams of fruit substance hence increased sweetness.

For a farmer the predictability of output is a matter of right market positioning instead of becoming another statistic. Hybrids are precision bombing equivalent in agriculture, the bombings target are not fields but markets.

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