Self-Pollination versus Cross-Pollination: Advantages and Disadvantages of Pollination Types

Pollination is an important part of the plant reproductive process, as it is the process by which pollen grains are transmitted from male plants to female plants. There are multiple types of pollination, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Read more: What is Pollination?

Self-pollination occurs when pollen grains from the anther are deposited on the stigma of the same flower or another flower on the same plant. On the other hand, the transportation of pollen grains from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower on a different plant of the same species is referred to as cross-pollination. This article will explain the differences between the two methods, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each pollination process.

Table of Contents

Self-Pollination Process

Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Pollination

Cross-Pollination Process

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cross-Pollination

Self-Pollination Process

Self-pollination occurs when pollen grains from a flower’s anther are transmitted to the stigma of the same flower or other flowers within the same plant. For example, the self pollination process happens when a flower’s stamen, the male reproductive part, and carpel, the female reproductive part, have matured at the same time and are positioned in such a way that pollen can effortlessly be transported.

Pollinators are not commonly required for self-pollination since pollen grains are usually transported by falling naturally onto the stigma. This method of pollination is most common in flowers that are small, have little to no odor, and have no nectar. This includes:

  • Wheat
  • Peas
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Peanuts 
  • Beans

Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Pollination

Advantages of Self-Pollination

The advantages of self-pollination includes the following:: 

  • Self-pollination has the potential to reduce pollen grain wastage. Because this method does not require the long travel of pollen transportation to another plant, it results in a lower chance of losing and wasting pollen grains along the way.
  • Self-pollination conserves the plant species’ characteristics. Because self-pollination allows a particular plant to pollinate itself with its own pollen grains, the characteristics of the eventually reproduced plants are completely maintained and preserved.
  • Self-pollination requires less effort from the plants. Since the self-pollination method commonly does not require the help of pollinators, the effort to produce attractive scents and colorful petals is unnecessary. 
  • Self-pollination does not rely on pollinators. This can save some plants from the threats of extinction due to the declining population of major pollinators, such as bees and other insects. 
  • In vegetable gardening and farming, self-pollination ensures a standard harvest quality. Self pollination allows the offspring plants to produce the same quality features of their “parent” plants, allowing crops to meet production standards. For example, beans and peas are both self pollinating crops whose offspring match the quality characteristics of the original plant.

Disadvantages of Self-Pollination

Here are some examples of the disadvantages of self pollination:

  • Self-pollination reduces genetic diversity. The disadvantage of having genetically identical progeny plants is that it lowers the adaptation and survival when a plant disease or environmental changes occur. This might wipe out the whole population of genetically identical plants that are unable to withstand such catastrophes. More genetically diverse plant communities have a higher chance of surviving because some plants may have genetic features that allow them to thrive while others in the community die off.
  • For example, New Zealand’s kiwifruit has been bred and cultivated for over a century to provide consistent harvest quality. PSA bacteria, also known as the bacterial canker of kiwifruit, contaminated plants throughout New Zealand in 2010, destroying a significant quantity of kiwifruits and costing the country’s industry over NZ$400 million. The impact is caused by kiwifruit’s limited genetic variety, which makes them unable to adapt to harmful bacteria or various environmental disasters.

Cross-Pollination Process

Cross-pollination occurs when a pollen grain is transported from a male anther of a flower to a female stigma of a flower from a different plant of the same species. Typically, this pollination method requires the assistance of pollinators, such as animals, humans, or wind and water.

Cross-pollination usually occurs on flowering plants that are naturally colorful and fragrant, such as:

  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Lavenders
  • Heathers
  • Sunflowers

Cross-pollination is sometimes done intentionally in gardening to develop new varieties of crops which may be bigger, smaller, or sweeter depending on consumer demand. This approach is commonly used in fruit plants or trees, such as:

  • Tomato plants
  • Apple trees
  • Pear trees
  • Blueberries
  • Orange trees

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cross-Pollination

Advantages of Cross-Pollination

Advantages of cross-pollination include the following:

  • Cross-pollination has the potential to produce healthier plants. This method increases plant species’ genetic variety, which improves their capacity to adapt to environmental changes and withstand plant diseases.
  • New varieties of plants and crops can be developed through cross pollination. For example, there are some fruit varieties that require cross pollination in order to be produced. This includes apple varieties such as:
    • Spigold apple
    • Jonagold apple
    • Roxbury Russet apple
    • Mutsu apple 

Disadvantages of Cross Pollination

There are also several disadvantages of cross-pollination, such as:

  • Cross-pollination has a higher chance of pollen grain wastage. Since it relies on the help of pollinators with the risk of long transportation, there are no assurances that the collected pollen grains will actually reach the other plants.
  • Cross-pollination requires plants to expend more effort and energy to produce flowers with stronger scents and colorful petals in order to attract more pollinators.
  • Cross-pollination means that plants are dependent on pollinators. If a plant species’ primary pollinator goes extinct, the plant population will not be able to reproduce.
  • Cross-pollination could also increase the probability of unwanted genetic mutations in plant species. This may happen when pollinators bring an invasive plant’s pollen grain into certain areas, which could trigger mutations or toxicity in native plants.

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