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I inherited a community plot this summer along with a sprinkling of second-season plants which were overlooked at harvest in the fall. I have one beet which is currently bolting (do you say bolting for beets?). I was planning on collecting the seeds, but then I read online that beets can wind pollinate with chard from up to 2 miles away!

I did a search to find out what possible chard-beet hybrid might result, but I couldn't find any descriptions.

I understand that the results of cross-pollination are unpredictable, but what might I expect? Less tasty/sweet roots? Smaller roots? More chard like foliage? Is it just not worth taking the risk, and should I just buy more carefully cultivated seeds?

  • I wonder what your tolerance is for unpredictable results in your garden? How disappointed would you be if half a row ended up being good as chard, but didn't bulb? – michelle Jun 13 '17 at 21:11
  • @michelle My feeling is that I would want an eatable plant (either root or leaves). I would not be thrilled with a plant with no bulb and few leaves, but when I ask about risk, what I'm really worried about is a small, weak, or unhealthy plant. I have no experience with saving my own seeds, so I don't know how likely this is. – Cecilia Jun 13 '17 at 21:17
  • As it is F1, weak is most likely not going to happen. The expected result is intermediate for both root and leaves. But you can eat beet leaves too, so if you don't mind having chards, I don't see the problem. The ancestral plant is not poisonous either. It's even called wild spinach. The chances of it spontaneously becoming a poisonous beet are the same as for any other beet. – user10810 Jun 13 '17 at 23:59
  • @jbcreix Your comment would make a good answer. :) – Cecilia Jun 14 '17 at 16:13
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I've had both beets and chard naturalize in my garden, and the resulting hybrid is always more chard-like than beet-like. The chard grows like a weed, and is hard to stamp out, but the beet is more delicate. When I collect seeds from beet varietals that I have planted from bought seed that season, the seed always produces a more chard-like plant -- long tapered woody roots, and more chard-like leaves. The leaves are delicious, but more bitter and less sweet than the beet leaves. I've also noticed that the naturalized chard in my garden looks like a cross of nearby wild chard (I live in the San Francisco bay area, and we have wild chard all over the place) with my planted variatals. Even so, each year I have all colors of chard appear, and I usually let my favorites bolt while cutting as many of the rest so that they tend to predominate the next year too. But no matter how much of newly planted beets I allow to go to seed, none of the naturalized plants ever produce a good beetroot or leaves as sweet as those of beets.

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Using one's own seed from their vegetables will always be iffy. I don't know about chard and beets, I'd say that would be iffy and I'd go look up a lot more information. Doesn't affect the plant grown from the seed you planted.

Seed in packets is grown in sterilized, air controlled rooms with positive pressure to keep the errant pollen out. Plants grown without exacting conditions will always have seeds with genetics you'll never know.

Another problem is the GMO crops being grown. That pollen will also fertilize your plants and you will have GMO genome which is worse than spending money on good seed, storing seeds for later. When seed is unavailable well, worrying about the genome won't be at the top of anyone's list.

When you purchase seed look for NON-GMO labeling. When suppliers have NON-GMO products, produce and seeds it behooves them to label because buyers are becoming more aware. NON-GMO labeling is not required anymore...sigh. I get my seed from Territorial Seeds. Very big on NON-GMO. Get ready for more expensive seed! Whoa. But worth the money!

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    I plan to save my own seeds in general. This is not as unusual as your answer might lead people to expect. You certainly do not need a positive pressure room in most cases. You simply bag the plants that you want to protect from stray pollen. This is not possible in my case because I only have a single plant, so it would not be fertilized if I bagged it. – Cecilia Jun 13 '17 at 22:36
  • The other part of your answer, about GMO's, is a better answer to my stated question, "what might be risks of uncontrolled cross-pollination" – Cecilia Jun 13 '17 at 22:37
  • Another important thing to note, is that cross-pollination of GMO crops is only a risk for a small number of plants (Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar beet, Yellow summer squash / zucchini) according to nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo, so seed-saving should not be disregarded across the board because of risk of GMO contamination. Tomatoes, for example, are low risk, as are many other common veggie garden staples. – Cecilia Jun 13 '17 at 23:01
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    "Seed in packets is grown in sterilized, air controlled rooms". Are you sure? My experience is that they are done regularly (and in the pack there is a notice about probability of extraneous seeds). I think just the very expensive seeds could be done as you write. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 14 '17 at 6:05
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    Oh, I find your answer useful. The reason I posted the link about GMO's from nongmoproject was because your answer prompted me to do additional research about what plants are at risk for GMO cross pollination, and I wanted to share what I found. – Cecilia Jun 14 '17 at 16:15
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I use often my seeds, and usually you get good results. The specific characteristic are maintained.

Just that you bought a certain variety and you will get possibly an other form. I found that usually they tend to the standard old varieties, but often you still see much of the original characteristic.

Personally I never put all eggs in such seeds, but I use it for late harvest (and backup in case of frozen). I use original seeds or directly seedlings for main harvest.

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