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The terms F1 hybrid, Open-pollinated and Heirloom/Heritage are often found on seed packets.
F1 hybrid cultivars are the result of crossing distinct and different parents chosen for certain characteristics or traits such as disease resistance or high productivity. They have been inbred over at least 10 generations to stabilise the chosen characteristics and to ensure that they are passed on to succeeding generations. F1 hybrid seeds tend to be more expensive because of the time and investment required by the breeder. Every year F1 cultivar seeds must be produced again by crossing the parents; they cannot be grown from saved seed harvested from the F1 plants themselves as they will not breed true to character.
Open-pollinated cultivars are pollinated by natural means (eg wind, insects or birds) and they must be isolated from any related plants growing and flowering simultaneously nearby (eg by using physical barriers) in order to keep the cultivar ‘true’. Seed saved from Open-pollinated plants will remain true to type indefinitely, provided this isolation cycle is maintained.
Heirloom or Heritage cultivars are open-pollinated, old selections that have been grown through the ages and are still available today. Some experts argue that no cultivars dating after 1951 can rightfully be termed Heritage because that is the year that the first F1 hybrids were introduced. Though popular with ‘traditionalist’ growers, the terms Heirloom and Heritage do not necessarily signify superiority over F1 cultivars.