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Monday, June 27, 2011


I recently deliver a lecture to a group of farmers in Titi Gantung Agriculture Station at Perak about the potential of producing corn seeds in Malaysia. The basic question came from the participants are WHAT is the different between Open Pollinated Seeds and Hybrid seeds?.... My answers is to say that "Hybrid seeds are the first generation offsprings of two distant and distinct parental lines of the same species and the Seeds taken from a hybrid may either be sterile or more commonly fail to breed true, not incorporating and expressing the desired traits of the parent". It does not familiar with most participant due to their background that never go deep about plant breeding. Since 51 of them asks me to explain further about this topics , I manage to write the answer in my blog. I hope that they can refers and communicate with me on the website. This article I present some of the relevant differences between Open Pollinated Seeds versus Hybrid Seeds based on my study during university lecture and from various sources.  

a. Hybrid Seed
The development of hybrid seed enabled the beginning of the commercial seed market. Farmers were persuaded to buy new hybrid seed each season especially on food crop and short-term crop in Malaysia, replacing the traditional practice of farm-saved seed, due to the "hybrid vigour" which can improve yields. Malaysia imports 98-99% of Hybrid seeds from various country such as Taiwan, China, Thailand and many producing hybrid seed country values at RM 32 million annually. Melon and watermelon seeds among popular seeds imported and planted for domestic and export market valued at RM 300 million every year as fresh produce. Singapore, Hong Kong and China among popular Malaysian export fresh tropical fruit.

The performance of Hybrid seed is also known as "high response" seed. These seeds require fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and lots of water to achieve their high yields.  The research done is to ensure that the hybrid seeds is very responsive to agriculture practices. Hybrids have been bred with an emphasis on yield at the expense of hardiness and resistance. Breeders will sacrifice disease resistance where pesticides are available. Reliance on these seeds enforces the use of chemical inputs. Hybrid seeds and their required fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation systems have trapped many of the world’s poorest farmers into a cycle of debt. It was reported in India hundreds of farmers have committed suicide due to debt due to uneconomic return of farm produce. In other hands the farmers in developed country enjoy best results in farm production using new high performance hybrid seeds. Introduction of new hybrid seeds seems to assist global food production in the past and future years. 

There is an activity of substitution by farmers of chemical fertilisers for organic methods of returning nutrients to the soil, such as composting, crop rotation and manure creates lifeless dusty soils prone to soil erosion as practiced. An estimated 24 billion tonnes of soil are eroded from the world's agricultural land each year. This is due to the urbanization and modernization activity in many country. In Malaysia the rate of eroded land area are minimum due to the Sustainable Policies introduced by the government. There is reports by scientists that the dust levels in the lower atmosphere have tripled in the last 60 years. It causes the sunlight penetration to the crop reduced and the photosynthesis activity will be affected. The farm yield especially for grains and food crop will become less and needs for new hybrid seeds. 

The creation of New Modern Hybrid Seeds require large amounts of water often necessitating the construction of irrigation systems and dams. The experience in poor countries is that dams serve the rich minority and disrupt the natural watersheds essential to poorer farmers. To build these dams millions of people have been forcibly moved from their homes and fertile soils in river valleys have been flooded. The latest dam construction completed was in China which for power electricity and affect huge fertile agriculture area also affect other downstream country. This food crop area submerged under water and needs new area for food production. Did China used new Hybrid Seeds to increase their food production?  

b. Open pollinated seeds
By definition the Open-pollinated varieties are the traditional varieties which have been grown and selected for their desirable traits for millennial. The process of producing Open Pollinated seeds are not as complicated ad producing Hybrid Seeds. The amount of open pollinated seeds more in volume compare to the production of hybrid seeds. Many seed growers survive in their seeds business due to the open pollinated seeds. There was a Standard of Procedures to produce open pollinated seeds. Normally the OP seeds are cheaper than Hybrid Seeds. Most of grain seeds are OP Seeds such as paddy seeds, Corn Seeds, Wheat seeds, Sorghum Seeds and other selected vegetable seeds. Normally OP Seeds grow well without high inputs because they have been selected under organic conditions and natural.

The OP seed varieties have better flavor and reported as hardier and have more flexibility than hybrid varieties. Breeders cannot manipulate complex characteristics such as flavour as easily as they can size and shape. The OP seeds are stable due to the long selection process by the plant breeders and tested. OP Seeds hardier from pests attack, disease resistance, response to fertilizer, heat tolerance, water usage and many other factors. These seeds are dynamic, that is they mutate and adapt to the local ecosystem, as opposed to modern hybrids, which are static. Commercial breeders lack the incentive to produce new open pollinated varieties from which farmers could save seed and replant.

The Hybrid seeds provide better productivity in the future and produce many new varieties for food production. Both Hybrid Seeds and OP Seeds are important in new planting program for farmers. Since the hybrid seeds are more expensive in the market, the OP Seeds are able to be the second alternative for many crop types. Not all crop are suitable for hybrid due to genetic characteristics and many other factors. Many plants depends on vegetative reproduction system for true to type seeds or seedlings. The amount of global seeds market about USD 32 billion or may up to USD 45 billion annually. Malaysia seeds industry reported about RM 30 million. I hope this article able to explain to my participants about the Hybrid Seeds and OP Seeds. Any further inquiry the participants can communicate through my blog comments. Thank You.


M Anem
Lebuh Air Keroh
Jalan Istana
(Monday morning - on vacation)

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