By Katie Bedgood
What does cross pollination mean and what does it do? Cross pollination is the process of applying pollen from one flower to the pistils of another flower. Not only is cross pollination used on flowers, but farmers use cross pollination to get the perfect varieties of produce. For example, pollen from a Gala apple tree can go and fertilize a golden delicious apple tree and result in a red and yellow or a smaller apple from the golden delicious apple tree. What exactly happens when another plant cross pollinates with another plant is that the two plants’ genetic material are combined and the resulting seeds from that pollination will have characteristics of both varieties and is a whole new variety.
So, is it true that strawberries and blueberries can cross pollinate? No, that is not true. For a plant to cross pollinate they must have similar enough genetic material like in the apple example, or you could cross pollinate different types of pepper to each other.
Not only do farmers use cross pollination but florists do too. They can cross pollinate flowers that can result in different colors, or they could make a flower hybrid. Our local extension agent from the LSU AgCenter, Randall Mallette, had this to say regarding cross pollination:
“Cross pollination is beneficial in production agriculture, however home gardeners should be aware of issues that can arise from cross pollination in their gardens. For instance, peppers can cross pollinate. This will not affect the pepper fruit, however if the gardener plans to keep seed for replanting, the plants that grow from that seed will not be true seeds, they will be a hybrid. Squash varieties, including zucchinis, can cross pollinate as well. The biggest problem that gardeners can encounter is with sweet corn. Varieties of sweet corn can cross pollinate each other and result in altered tastes, textures, and ear size and structure.”