The State of World Agriculture
What is hybridization?
The act of hybridization is the cross breeding, so to speak, of plants of different varieties in order to produce a new plant with desirable traits from both parent varieties. (Diamond 179) Less desirable traits also enter the combination, however, so hybridization is usually followed by several generations of selection. (140)This allows breeders to discard undesirable plants, thus creating the "perfect" crop through generations of breeding. (Encarta. "Dairy Farming") Crops that have benefited from this process include corn, wheat, and many others.
Corn in particular had highly increased crop yields after the introduction of hybrids in about 1933. (Logsdon 92) Hybrid corns are stronger than the inbred, or self pollinated, types. (Logsdon 18) However, the increased vigor that is characteristic of new hybrids only lasts for one generation, as it is not passed to its offspring, so continual hybridization has helped to "double U.S. corn yields since the 1940s." (Logsdon 49) This boom in crop yield is so enticing to farmers that "almost all the corn now grown in the United States and Europe is started annually from hybrid seed." (Encarta. “Agriculture”)
One side benefit of hybridization is the ability to increase production of a crop in different regions and climates. For example, a breed of corn with a very high seasonal yield that is adapted to growing in a warmer climate could be hybridized with a staple variety of corn that grows farther north so that the advantage of increased production can be combined with northern hardiness, with the added bonus of hybrid vigor. In this manner crop production and resistance to diseases can be maximized, which is similar to domestication.
Next: What is domestication?