Hybrid agriculture / Agricultura híbrida

A hybrid is normally defined as a combination or mixture of two different components of functions. A hybridization in biology is the process of combining different varieties of organisms to create a hybrid. For example a cross-pollination of different varieties of the same plants with the intention of producing some improvement in the plant’s characteristics, like for example improvements in yield, uniformity, color or disease resistance.

Farmers can choose between two types of cross-pollination. One is OPV (open-pollinated varieties) where pollination occurs without deliberate cross-breeding of two separate parent lines and the result is  usually genetically diverse and not very uniform, but over time the plants become well adapted to their environment. The other form is more costly and time-consuming where male flowers and pollen are removed, preventing the plant from pollinating itself, to produce more controlled hybrid varieties. The result is more uniform but have the disadvantage that the hybrid need to be recreated again and again as every generation will loose some of the gained quality.

These are traditional methods that has been used for a long time to create new plant varieties. This is not to be confused with the creation of transgenic plants by the use of genetic engineering techniques in laboratories where new portions of DNA is inserted into the plants own DNA but where origin can be a totally different type of plant, what is also can be called genetically modified plants.  In Mexico where transgenic practices only are permitted in cotton and soy, farmers use the tradicional hybridisation more and more elaborately to produce the wanted characteristics. Large greenhouses with a rigorously controlled environment are used to manually pollinate a great number of plants.

Another common use for hybrid nowadays is in the car industry where cars are produced with two means of propulsion, normally a combination of a gasoline and electrical motor. This can be seen as a step on the way to a full transition, away from problematic fossil fuels, towards cleaner systems.

But the other day I came across a new meaning  of hybrid, where the term “hybrid  agriculture” was used with reference to a combination of ecological practices with more traditional industrial farming methods to create an outcome without waste. Personally I find that the practice of organic agriculture is just a small step in the right direction, which still lacks a more profound and holistic transformation towards a totally new mindset for the interaction of man and environment. Now talking about a hybrid agriculture when you just take a few inputs from organic agriculture and mix it with standard agricultural practices could just be a way to greenwash those practices to basically stay the same  (but with an improved market image), rather than a step on the way to a full transition. Time will tell.