Definition - What does Cross Pollinate mean?
Cross pollination, often hyphenated as 'cross-pollination', occurs when one plant variety pollinates another plant variety to form a new variety of plant. This is done either naturally or on purpose by gardeners. The genetic material of the two plants combines, and the resulting seeds from that plant will contain characteristics of both of its parent's varieties. The seeds will grow into a new variety.
To cross-pollinate, pollen must be transferred from the stamen of one plant to the stigma of another plant. This process allows fertilization to occur and can help to create a healthier and more varied plant species. This process may also be known as cross-fertilization.
Cross pollination can only occur between plants of the same variety. It cannot occur across different plant species. For example, a tomato cannot be cross-pollinated with a cucumber, as they are different plant species.
MaximumYield explains Cross Pollinate
When a plant is cross-pollinated, its offspring will have characteristics from both of the original plants. This is particularly important as this process can help create more genetically diverse plants that are more resistant to disease.
It should be noted that cross pollination does not have an effect on the same year's fruit, rather, the cross-pollinated varieties will only show up as the fruit of any seeds planted from that fruit.
The two most common ways that cross-pollination occurs is through the transfer of pollen by insects or by the wind. Bees, for example, collect pollen on their bodies from one flower and transfer it to another flower as they fly from plant to plant.
However, humans can also cross-pollinate a plant on purpose to create a special plant hybrid. This is often done on purpose to create new varieties that are superior to their parents. Tomatoes especially are cross-pollinated in our never-ending search for disease-resistance and for new flavor experiences.
Some inexperienced gardeners worry about cross-pollination ruining a crop, but in fact there is nothing to worry about. A grower only needs to worry about preventing cross pollination from occurring if they plan on saving seeds.