Saving seeds versus buying new seeds

Integral to the reason that Terminator technology was developed is the decision farmers make to save seeds or buy seeds for planting the next season.

Saving seeds
Saving seeds from the current harvest to plant the following season is the traditional practice. It works especially well for self-pollinating crops such as cotton and wheat, because inbred, self-pollinating lines tend to reproduce true to type. The progeny seeds, when germinated, will produce plants very much like the parent plants. The farmer can continue to grow the same variety year after year without spending money on new seeds. For these crops, a seed company must offer improved varieties each year to attract repeat customers. A wealthy farmer may choose to try new varieties from time to time, but an impoverished farmer will buy once and save seeds from year to year.

Buying seeds
Hybrid corn is the model for a seed crop that, by its nature, attracts repeat customers each year. Hybrid corn seeds are the product of a carefully orchestrated cross between two widely different parent lines. Hybrid seeds have more desirable characteristics than either parent line alone, and the progeny of hybrid seeds quickly lose the combination of characteristics that make the hybrid superior. Farmers know that if they save seeds from a hybrid corn harvest to plant the following year, the resulting harvest will be poorer and poorer from year to year. Of necessity, they buy new seeds each year to obtain the combination of qualities that a hybrid seed offers.

Noting the financial success of hybrid corn, seed companies have tried for years to develop hybrid systems in other crops, but with only moderate success. Many varieties of major crops, such as cotton, wheat, and soybeans, still consist of inbred, self-pollinating lines that the farmer can buy once and then easily save from year to year.

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