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Information on hybrid vegetables

These days Hybrid vegetables like cabbage, brocolli and watermelon are popular. These crops produce a good yield and many may like to go for it. Here is a paper on hybrid vegetables written by Kinlay Tshering and Karma Tenzin of the horticulture sector on information about hybrids that should be of use to our extension agents.

Vegetables play a major role in increasing household income, improving the nutritional
standards and in providing employment to many Bhutanese farmers. With rising incomes, population and urbanization in Bhutan, the domestic demand for quality vegetable is increasing with time and the production is not keeping pace with rising demand. Besides low production, vegetable production not only varies from year to year, but also varies from season to season. In Bhutan, there is acute shortage of vegetables in winter and the supplies to the market are significantly reduced because of heavy frost and cold temperatures.

Therefore, the imports of vegetables have increased steadily over the past five years. In contrast, in our neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh, there is acute shortage of vegetables during summer due to extreme temperatures, excessive humidity and frequent and intensive flooding which provides export opportunity for Bhutanese farmers. Therefore, there is a need to look into enhancing the production and to combat seasonality of the vegetable production in Bhutan.

The research and developmental activities on vegetables should focus on increasing the yield, improve the quality and ensure year round production for domestic as well as export market. Realizing the potential of both domestic as well as export market, farmers have demonstrated their interest to go for commercial and export oriented production. Therefore, it was discussed during the last Horticulture Research
Coordination Meeting and Research Management Committee Meeting that the farmers should be given the option to cultivate both hybrid and open pollinated vegetable varieties to increase quality production and accordingly the import of hybrid seed was allowed.

Since hybrid seed is a new issue to our farmers as well as extension colleagues, this report is an attempt to bring out few important issues with regard to both open pollinated as well as hybrid varieties.

There are two types of varieties; traditional and improved varieties. Among the seed propagated crops, traditional varieties are open pollinated varieties. Many commercial seeds are those of improved varieties, which usually, but not always pass the criteria of a variety.

Improved varieties of vegetable crops can be broadly categorized into open pollinated and hybrid. Although hybrid seeds (vegetables & field crop) have been introduced for testing, all the cultivated species currently available in Bhutan are open pollinated. In the past, there has been some reservations from Ministry of Agriculture in use of hybrid seed because of the following reasons:

• No technical capability within Bhutan to produce hybrid vegetable seeds
• No inbred lines for crossing are available within Bhutan
• Hybrid seed production demands lots of investment and resources

Till date, Bhutanese farmers have been cultivating only the open pollinated varieties and the advantages of open pollinated varieties are:

• Easily assessable
• Natural selfing/crossing
• Easier in seed maintenance
• Open pollinated varieties usually give a reliable performance with little help from
the farmers but are low yielding.
• Open pollinated seeds are cheap

However, the open pollinated varieties do have a number of disadvantages and they are:

• Open pollinated varieties can be so variable that it may not meet the three criteria
of a variety i.e. distinctiveness, uniformity and reproducibility.
• Open pollinated varieties are low yielding compared to hybrid varieties, thus the
production per unit area is low
• Open pollinated varieties may produces low quality and highly variable produce,
thus limited export market.

Therefore, to meet the domestic demand and to exploit the export potential during summer, the importation of hybrid varieties was allowed. In the recent past, hybrids have been increasingly used worldwide to meet the demand of increasing population. Most of the commercial hybrids of vegetable crops are F1 hybrids and the advantages of cultivating F1 hybrids are as follows:

• F1 hybrids gives vigorous seedlings which are easy for crop establishment in the
• F1 hybrids produces highly uniform plants which makes the management easier
• F1 hybrids gives high yield. There will be increase in the yield per unit area per
unit time, or increase in yield per unit fertilizer with the development of varieties with high
yield potential, early maturity, improved plant architecture, and high harvest index.
• F1 hybrids have wider adaptability to various environment
• F1 hybrids gives reliable performance year after year because they may have
been bred which possess stress resistance and tolerance.
• F1 hybrids gives high quality produce
• Some F1 hybrids possess special traits like drought tolerance, frost tolerance, etc

However, the hybrids also possess a number of disadvantages and they are:

• Hybrid seeds costs higher than open pollinated seeds and it may put off
subsistence farmers
• Difficult in obtaining parental inbred lines
• Difficult in maintaining inbred parental lines.
• Lastly, the superior characters of F1 hybrids plants, unlike that of open pollinated
varieties, cannot be maintained by saving their seeds for growing the next crop. The
uniformity, vigor, and overall performance of the hybrid is lost during seed multiplication. Therefore, growers need to buy seeds from the seed producer every time they want to plant.

However, past experiences on the hybrid vegetable seeds indicate that it is profitable to go for hybrids. The possible recommendations may consist of a short-term strategy and a long-term strategy. The short-term strategy can be as follows:

• Link our seed producing agencies with the hybrid seed companies in Nepal, India,
and Bangladesh. The advantages are as follows: Firstly, the hybrid seeds from our
neighboring countries are cheaper than the ones from other countries like Japan and
Denmark. Secondly, the hybrid varieties with our neighboring countries would have been researched and they would have found the potentiality and suitability. Since we have similar climatic conditions, the chances of the available varieties performing well in our environment are higher. Thirdly, it will be easily assessable to buy hybrid seeds from our neighboring countries.
• Link our seed producing agencies with breeding institutions. Although it will be
quite expensive, their produce will have guaranteed quality.
• After the importation, all the imported hybrid seeds from seed companies should
be tested once in the research centres to test their potentiality and suitability in Bhutan. Then only, it should be commercially sold to the farmers.

The long-term strategy is as follows:

1. Built strong institutional linkages with vegetable breeding centres/institutions.
2. Built the hybrid seed production technical capability within Bhutan.
3. Allocate adequate resources for the establishment of hybrid seed production
4. Utilize the available breeding lines from AVRDC for the production of hybrid seeds
5. Explore the option to buy few inbred lines.

In summary, it is recommended that potential hybrid seed varieties especially for crops like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbages and Watermelon should be used for commercial cultivation. Nevertheless, our potential open pollinated varieties should be maintained and made available to farmers for nutrition gardens, organic farms and small scale growers. The research on testing the potentiality of hybrid varieties and on the evaluation and identification of open-pollinated varieties should be continued for their production potential, disease resistance and stress tolerance like water logging, drought, etc. At the same time, the provision to develop our own hybrid seeds needs special attention.


Publication date: 6/7/2007


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