HOW THE USE OF HYBRIDS HAS INFLUENCED THE PROCESSING TOMATO INDUSTRY IN CALIFORNIA
Until that time, all varieties commercially used were open pollinated. Much of the seed available was cannery recovered and this almost always resulted in abundant availability. The competitive atmosphere then produced quite reasonable seed prices.
When hybrids were introduced in 1971, they found growers, processors and the industry in general, very slow to accept.
Primary reason for this was, the higher cost of seed.
Hybrid tomato seed production costs are quite high.
The production program requires hand emasculation and pollination in order to produce seed.
Basically this necessitated planting both the male and female parents in separate areas of a field. When blooming begins, the pollen is collected from the male plants by picking mature flowers and shaking loose the pollen granules into a container that serves as the vessel to transport to the female plants. The female flowers must be hand emasculated to remove the male pollen bearing parts before self pollination can take place. The pollen previously collected from the male plants is then applied to the style of the emasculated blossom on the female plant.
The pollinating process must be repeated on a daily basis until bloom is completed.
The cost factor necessitated a considerably higher price for hybrid tomato seed as compared to open pollinated seed. In California this resulted in hybrids costing (5) times more per pound or kilo than open pollinated.
Why then did growers purchase hybrid seed?
The acceptance of hybrids came after growers evaluated test plantings. The expected benefit was increased yield but other benefits were also derived.
Open pollinated varieties can many times equal hybrid yields or perhaps at times excel. The difference was in reliability. A given high yield for a hybrid can be better expected year after year without the fluctuation that can sometimes occur with open pollinated varieties.
The advantage stems from hybrid vigor. The natural phenomena, that occurs in certain species when two different parents are crossed, results in vigorous growth. This can be exhibited in different stages of plant growth and ultimately in the ability of the fruit to hold well in the field; better with standing adversities of the weather. Growers express this as insurance to their farming operation. The hybrid technique has also afforded breeders the opportunity to quickly incorporate disease and insect resistance into new varieties.