After a plant has grown to maturity it will aim to produce an abundance of seed in order to create a new generation of plants. Annual plants complete this process then die within a year, biennials require 2 years to complete their life cycle and perennials can survive for many years.
Not only do seeds perpetuate the species into the future, more importantly they create a variety of individual seedlings. Some of these individuals will be more successful at surviving changes in the environment and as a result the species is able to adapt to new environments.
Plants grown from cuttings are essentially clones of a parent plant. This is a very useful feature when plants are grown as crops, but a serious weakness in the wild. The reduced ability of clones to adapt to changes in the environment increases their chances of becoming extinct. Hence in nature seed production is vital to the survival of flowering plants.
Over long periods of time seeds that are the result of sexual reproduction will allow for the evolution of new forms of plants and eventually new species. This process is happening at the moment throughout the world. This allows the plant world to replace the species that could not adapt to climatic and environmental changes leading to their extinction. Many plant species are close to extinction for natural as well as man made reasons and these are classified as endangered.
Practical use of seed production can be made on the hobby farm. Apart from growing crops the farmer can also be a hobby plant breeder. I plan to do this with olives. Each year I plan to grow a large number of seedlings and select some according to their foliage. Eventually I may find a seedling that will have the type of foliage I am looking for and this plant can be developed into a new ornamental olive variety. The same principle can be used when developing new olive fruits, but the process will take much longer as there is a need to wait until the seedlings produce a crop.
Another interesting area of seedling production is in the production of plant hybrids. These can be produced when two closely related species are cross-pollinated. This may result in a new plant with features of both parents. An example of a hybrid is the plumcot. This was produced when an apricot and plum were crossed. This process also takes a long time in order to assess the features of the hybrids, but this is an important activity carried out by plant breeders in research centers. I have always wanted to cross a cherry and a plum in order to come up with a cherry- plum hybrid that is easier to grow in Melbourne then the current cherry varieties.
Maybe you can be the proud breeder of a new mouth watering fruit or vegetable and possibly make some money from royalties. Make up your plan, be patient and persistent, set your imagination alight!