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When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

Posted by n2xjk 5 (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 12, 12 at 0:07

I noticed today on the seed rack in the garden center that Burpee has labeled Golden Cross Bantam corn as an heirloom. Golden Cross Bantam has been around since 1933, but it is still a hybrid.

Would your definition of an heirloom seed ever include hybrids?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

I was in the garden center today and looked at this package again. I'm guessing its a missprint. The packaging clearly describes 'Golden Bantam' characteristics (intro 1902, 8 row ears, 80 days, etc) but the variety label says 'Golden Cross Bantam' (an F1 hybrid). So I'll write this off as a goof by whomever they contract to package seeds, rather than an attempt to broaden the definition of heirloom seeds!

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

I have bought some Golden Bantam corn to grow this year, so your question interested me.

I looked for answers on the net and what I came up with is that: Golden Bantam (OP, heirloom)
and Golden Bantam 12 row (OP, heirloom). And, Golden Cross Bantam is both a hybrid and an heirloom.

There were numerous comments of not being able to keep the seed of the Golden Cross Bantam.
Sounds to me that it is considered an heirloom strictly, because it has been around since 1933.

So, this is news to me also, that an heirloom can be both a hybrid and an heirloom. It kinda ruins the idea of what I thought heirlooms were to be.

I hope other's continue the research/explanation on this.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

  • Posted by remy 6WNY (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 15, 12 at 10:40

Most Heirlooms are OP(Open Pollinated.) F1 Hybrids(First Generation of a cross to produce a variety) have not been around as long. The late 1920's and early 30's is when F1 Hybrids first came into existence to be sold by seed companies.
So to be considered an heirloom a variety has to be around for awhile. I think most people would say at least 50 years. So for a F1 hybrid to be considered an heirloom, it would have to be from the 1930's to 50's. That is not a large time frame, and not many F1 hybrids produced then are still around today for sale. F1 need to be produced by a company to keep going as opposed to OP seed when can be perpetuated by home gardeners. So an heirloom hybrid would be have to be a very popular variety. Silver Queen corn would be a good example of this. It has been around since the 50's and is still very popular with home gardeners.
There is nothing wrong with a F1 hybrid being considered a heirloom. All OP varieties were F1's at some point. OP's are dehybridized which means seed saved from the babies of the original cross (seeds from F1's) were grown out, and the ones that were the most desirable looking/behaving like F1 had seeds saved from them, and so on until a stable from seed variety is obtained. (Of course some F1's for sale are more complex crosses like Sunsugar tomato and grow outs to duplicate it have been unsuccessful so far, but for simplicity's sake, it is as described above.)

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

Since it's a marketing advantage, I'm sure seed companies will use the most generous definition of an heirloom, which seems to be any variety more than about 50 years old.

Personally I prefer a narrower definition of heirloom: age>100 years, no hybrids, no GMOs. So I consider Golden Bantam corn an heirloom, Golden Cross Bantam not. Furthermore, 1001 years from now, Golden Cross Bantam still wouldn't be an heirloom. How do you define an heirloom?

That's not to take away from Golden Cross Bantam's importance in corn history, being introduced in 1933 it became the very first commercially successful hybrid corn.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

Not sure if I'd consider "Golden Cross Bantam" to be an heirloom, although that definition has evolved a bit since its inception. There are, for example, many OP vegetable varieties which were once strictly commercial, with just numbers for names. Having been dropped in favor of hybrids, they were preserved by seed savers & are now considered to be heirloom.

Yes, it meets the generally accepted age criteria for an heirloom. However, "Golden Cross Bantam" is not an OP variety that can be passed down. It is a hybrid that has never been available outside of commercial sources. IMO, that disqualifies it as an heirloom. Maybe we need a new term... Venerable Hybrid?

Regardless of what we choose to call it, it is a remarkable achievement for any variety to persist so long in modern agriculture.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

ok plants can be both hierloom and hybrids...hierloom simply means gaurunteed NON-GMO thank god! Hybrids are normally grown crossed with other plant species. GMO's are terribly wrong wheras they have DNA/gene spliced with non- plant usually cross species. EXAMPLE'S (which have already been done for years VIA bio-tech MONSANTO< DUPONT DOW N OTHERS)
Tomatoes cross dna w flounder fish, potatoes w mosquito dna,
frankenfish salmon cross dna w other salmon type and an eel like creature,cats and chickens cross dna w jellyfish glow dna,goats w spiders to create spider silk from utters..all true and terrible...this is just a small example of your terrible biotech co.'s Sugar beets 90% GM w ?, cotton w?, soy 90% with ?,wheat w ?, corn w roundup grown right into seed...roundup ready is 50% agent orange so your eating that. Corn back in early 1990's started Genetic mod. w cross dna w tomatoes but ive even heard they are creating edible vaccines. Such as corn grown with HIV already into it how sick is that! If you dont believe me do the research yourself! some info comes from BBC news and natural news website, Dr mercola etc. Take a stand and require labeling for gmo's.......this is just whats in the media now....think of the things they
've been doing years ago under national security umbrella....monsanto does its own safety studies as other biotech do to get approved by fda. This is ordinary bussiness allowed by our FDA, no independant studies required. The independant studies done show with gmo's by third generation all lab animals become completely sterile Period! big bio-tech wont tell that part! Our government and bio-tech are in bed together...monsanto had one researcher who did study to get an gmo product approved then got hired by FDA and approved it himself..hmmm nice ha?

Here is a link that might be useful: The Gaurdian

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

Alright, lots of information on this thread, but there are a few minor details that need ironed out...

An HEIRLOOM is a seed that will grow true, whose descendents (assuming proper precautions have been taken) will grow true to type.

A Hybrid is a cross between two different plants of the same type, IE Jalapeno crossed with a Habanero.

The F# indicates how many generations since the cross occurred. With pepper plants (my primary crop) you need to reach the 8th generation to have 99% chance of the seed growing true.

After F8, a pepper seed is generally viewed as being stable, and thus can be labeled heirloom.

An F1 hybrid that has been around for 90 years is still a hybrid, and not an heirloom. Basically in order for you to get that little baggie of seed, they had to cross two varieties in their green house (or field with corn), then de-seed the pod that forms, dry them, and place them in the baggie for shipping to the vendor... IE while the variety may be 90 years old, f1 still means its in its first generation... If you took the seed from the F1 hybrid, and grew a couple hundred plants out each year, selecting for the plants that most resemble the F1 parent, in 8-10 years (if you are lucky, longer if not f4 can be tricky) you can stabilize the hybrid, and thus have an heirloom.

The reason they make hybrids is because they produce significantly more product than their stable counterparts.

Plus, in order to have the exact same product, you have to buy/trade for more F1 seed every year.

I dislike hybrids because they are not sustainable.

An heirloom theoretically can be GMO. GMO scares the pants off me.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Tue, May 1, 12 at 23:24


: a piece of property that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property

: something of special value handed on from one generation to another

: a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals

Many of the early hybrids are gone.
I looked at my late mothers old gardening encyclopedia to see what it said of corn and beyond Golden cross Bantam all the others listed are gone.
Each hybrid had the word "cross" in the name.

The old hybrids have the corn taste I like that too many of the new cloyingly sweet ones lack, so to me they are heirlooms as the definition says.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

Burpee hasn't corrected the packet for 2013.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

RpR, take a look at the indian type corns and similar--they are 'old fashioned' in that they have an 'old time' corn taste in the sweet stage of growth/development that you might like.

Good luck!

GMO--remember, folks, this takes place in a lab, directly manipulating the genetic material, and not by traditional crossing and grow-out methods. Good old fashioned selection of traits through crossbreeding is NOT GMO.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

I think "Heritage" or a similar word would be a good description for hybrid varieties that have survived for a long time and have some historical significance. Some of the old hybrids are better than varieties being promoted today, or have different characteristics.

I also prefer reserving the word "heirloom" for OP varieties, and would prefer that they be old ones. Some people also call newly-introduced OP cultivars "heirlooms" -- sometimes before the cultivar has even been stabilized. They could also be lumped into the "heritage" category, since most of them are bred from heirlooms and thus have a fine heritage.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

I noticed this too and a friend showed me this thread. I normally don't buy Burpee because I simply don't trust them as a seed provider. I want to be able to save seeds for next years' grow. But I was in a pinch and I went to Menards to get a pack of "heirloom" corn and noticed this very thing. I decided to go elsewhere and buy from Seedsavers. You pay more, but you get better seeds IMHO.

RE: When do Hybrids become Heirlooms?

This may not be the right thread for this question, but it is about the Golden Cross Bantam Corn. A friend gave me some seed. I also have some True Platinum Corn from Seeds of Change.

Should I plant both these varieties in my garden? This is my very first year gardening, I am doing a three-sisters garden with my kiddos. I am hoping that the experience is rewarding enough that we all want to do it again next year. We're in a community garden.

Thanks for your help!

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