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Vining Yellow Crookneck squash

 
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Has anyone ever tried to breed a vining yellow crookneck squash? I am aware that there are already vining varieties of Summer Squash available like Homs Kousa landrace (https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/products/homs-kousa-summer-squash), Hopi Pumpkin (https://www.nativeseeds.org/products/ep044), and Tatume (https://www.rareseeds.com/tatume-squa/), but I am interested in yellow crookneck because of its strong similarity to small-fruited ornamental pepo gourds. I even found one ornamental gourd that strongly resembled a crookneck squash. Based on what I have learned about the Eastern Agricultural Complex, ornamental gourds and crookneck squash (Cucurbita pepo var. ovifera) were the main squash varieties originally domesticated in North America rather than central Mexico. Aaron Thatcher on Youtube even found some wild or naturalized squash (C. pepo var. ovifera) growing nearby his property in Eastern Tennessee ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDSRkyIEIIM)

I am currently cross-pollinating a crookneck squash with ornamental gourds from seeds I collected from a fruit that strongly resembled a crookneck squash to develop a vining yellow crookneck squash. Unfortunately, I do not have enough space in my yard to plant out all of the resulting F1 seeds from the cross and then pollinate the all of the plants to get F2 seed that could potentially yield a plant with a vining habit so I will have to send some of the seeds to other gardeners with more room in their yards and plenty of experience with plant breeding to get any promising results.

Yellow crookneck squash is delicious and very productive, but the compact bush-vines cannot be easily twined up a nylon trellis and they hog precious garden space in a square foot garden. I hope that the resulting cross will combine the taste and productivity of Yellow crookneck squash with the vining habit of ornamental gourds. Vining squash is also more suitable for growing using the traditional three sisters method and twining up trees in a forest farm. In my experience, I find vining squash plants are also more resilient to squash vine borer damage than compact bush plants. The narrower vines make them less favorable targets for depredation, and when using the three sisters method, the vine can be burried again with soil to encourage secondary rooting one a SVB has already damaged a vine.

I will post pictures as soon as possible.
 
garden master
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Ryan, I'm up for growing some out next year for your project if you'd like.  If so drop me a PM and we can review a plan.  I can't grow out a massive number, but I can do perhaps a few dozen.  If we follow Joseph's advice we could screen a lot more to the early seedling stage and screen out the ones with toxin genes by dabbing cut off cotyledons to our tongues!  :)
 
pollinator
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If you must have the gourds in the mix. Wait till the F2 to taste them for non-bitter traits. The F1 will have it uniformly. Also you can wait till the F2 to do a big grow out. Consider using a non-bitter pollen parent like that landrace you linked. Even if you have to wait until next year, you'll save a year of selection on the bitter trait alone.

Joseph used to have a Yellow Crookneck population, he may still. I might have a packet of it somewhere in my gigantic seed stash. Curious as to what he may say about it, he may have a vining type already in it.

First step of any veggie breeding project should be to sample the diversity already available and there may be a vigorous vining type yellow crookneck out there somewhere.

If I were looking for this, I would dig through my seed stash and see if I can find that packet from Joseph (if it exists). Then grow it out. I have a packet of Lofthouse zucchini somewhere but couldn't find it fast enough when I was planting so its not planted. If I can find them I may just put all the summer squash types together Mandan, Lofthouse zucchini, and Lofthouse Yellow Crookneck and see what shakes out of the population. No gourds though and the naked seeded and spaghetti need to keep separate.

 
Ryan M Miller
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I just want to clarify that the variety of ornamental gourd I am using is non-bitter. I was even able to sautée a five day old fruit like crookneck squash. The ornamental gourd fruit from which I got the seeds was also non-bitter. I always try to taste ornamental gourd fruits before saving seeds from them because there is always a potential risk of them cross-pollinating with wild squash.

I'd also like to share some pictures I have of the project so far.
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Five day old ornamental gourd fruit is only four inches long.
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The inside of young fruit resembles crookneck squash.
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Young ornamental gourd sautéed like crookneck squash
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The fruits where I got the seeds
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Taping male flowers shut
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Taping female flowers shut
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Ripening crookneck fruit as of July 24, 2019
 
Ryan M Miller
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As of now, the crookneck squash pictured above still does not seem ripe enough for seed saving yet. Although the fruit makes a hollow sound when thumped, the skin is still soft enough to pierce with my thumb nail and the stem is still green and flexible. I may have to wait another month before the fruit fully ripens.
 
Ryan M Miller
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Based on a few plant breeding journal articles I found and a post from the Long Island Seed Project on their vining zucchini breeding program, it seems that bush growth in squash is controlled by a single, partially-dominant gene. This suggests that in the F2 generation plants, there should be distinguishing characteristics in the phenotype of heterozygous bush plants carrying normal vining genes that set them apart from homozygous bush plants. This also means that it shouldn't take very many generations to select against bush growth from yellow crookneck squash.
Here are the articles I found:
http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/cgc/cgc24/cgc24-22.pdf
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00023060
Here is the article from the Long Island Seed Project:
https://www.liseed.org/trailzuc.html
 
Ryan M Miller
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Unfortunately, I found Squash Vine borer holes on my crookneck fruit this evening. I picked the fruit and harvested the seeds this evening before the fruit could get moldy. The fruit had only been on the vine for about a month. In case all the seeds turn out wispy and papery, I will try to make a second F1 cross with the ornamental gourd as the female parent.

By the way, is there any significance to the seeds floating or sinking when being washed? I found that more than half of the seeds sank to the bottom of the bowl when I was washing them.
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Squash Vine borer hole
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Branch killed by Squash Vine borers
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Still only nine inches long
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Seeds drying
 
Ryan M Miller
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Based on a youtube video I watched on saving yellow straightneck squash seeds, it looks like the fruit needs to stay on the plant at least a month so there is still a chance for the seed to be viable:
 
Ryan M Miller
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If all else fails with my attempts at crossing a crookneck squash with an ornamental gourd, I was still able to successfully cross a crookneck squash with a tatume squash. I was not very impressed with the tatume plants this year though. They only bore one fruit out of all the plants the whole year. The immature female flower buds kept aborting before I could even pollinate them. The one favorable trait that the tatume squash did have was vining growth habit. Unfortunately, this means even more traits will have to be selected against in the following generations of breeding order to get the desired phenotype. In addition to fruit shape, I will have to select for vine yield per plant. I will wait until September to decide on which seeds to hand out.

Thankfully, I found this blog post on Cucurbita pepo fruit shape genetics. It give some of the basics on the genes for fruit shape and cites some journal articles in its source material further explaining the inheritance in detail:

http://the-biologist-is-in.blogspot.com/2013/11/genetics-of-squash-shape.html?m=1

http://the-biologist-is-in.blogspot.com/2014/02/genetics-of-squash-shape-22_9.html?m=1
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Fully Ripe Tatume squash
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Green Tatume Squash are eaten as a Summer Squash
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Ripe Tatume Squash cut open revealing the seeds
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Inner pulp removed from the fully ripe squash: The flavor of the fully ripe fruits is comparable to spaghetti squash.
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Cooked fully ripe Tatume squash
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Tatume seeds prepared for cleaning
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fully dry tatume seeds
 
Ryan M Miller
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Before I make my next post, I would like to know how many male squash flowers are needed to pollinate a single female squash flower. I have been using at least five male flowers per female flower, but I'm wondering if this is too many. I want to save some flowers for the squash bees to have food.
 
Ryan M Miller
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According to this youtube video, I could get away with using only one male flower as long as the flower is loaded with pollen:



I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that I was able to find one female flower on the ornamental gourd pland and one male flower on the crookneck squash plant that will bloom tomorrow. The bad news is that all of my seeds from the crookneck fruit I posted earlier are thin and bendy so I don't think they're viable.
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Ornamental Gourd female flower
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Crookneck Squash male flower
 
Ryan M Miller
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I have more good news mixed with bad news. The good news is the ornamental gourd plant accepted the pollen from one crookneck squash flower and now the fruit should be mature by the end of September.

The bad news is I tasted one of the fruits from one of the ornamental gourd plants and it was soapy and bitter. I spat out the bitter fruit and threw it away before I could get toxic squash syndrome. Thankfully, the plant I pollinated for the crookneck/ ornamental gourd cross did not have bitter fruit since I ate a fruit from that particular plant this evening and it was fine.

This means I will have to either cull out any bitter-tasting ornamental gourd plants for at least two years or replace my entire breeding stock with Aaron thatcher's squash.
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Successful cross pollination with crookneck squash
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The ornamental gourd on the right is bitter.
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Almost ripe ornamental gourd fruit pollinated with six different flowers. It may have gotten pollen from a bitter plant.
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the non-bitter gourd I ate still on the vine earlier this evening
 
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Ryan M Miller wrote:The bad news is I tasted one of the fruits from one of the ornamental gourd plants and it was soapy and bitter. [...] This means I will have to either cull out any bitter-tasting ornamental gourd plants for at least two years or replace my entire breeding stock with Aaron thatcher's squash.



There may be other options. For example, if you cull the bitter plant now. And don't use pollen from it, then any manual crosses you make using flowers from non-bitter plants will be OK.

If you already used pollen from it, you could go ahead and plant the seeds anyway next year. I bet that the cotyledons of affected seedlings will taste nasty bitter, so you could cull them shortly after germination.

Or you could cull mid-season next summer:  Let the first flush of fruits form. Taste them. Cull entire plants of anything that is bitter. Cull any plants that haven't yet set fruit. Then cull all the fruits, and  let them form a second flush of fruits that will all be sweet.

Or do manual pollination between plants that are known to bear sweet fruits.

 
Ryan M Miller
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Another plant I could try to use for this project would be Zephyr hybrid squash. It is an F1 cross between a delecata/acorn squash and a yellow squash. I would expect there to be some sprawling habit in the F2 generation, but I would also expect some fruits with ribbing and stripes like acorn and delecata squash as well.

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/vegetables/squash/summer-squash/zephyr-f1-yellow-summer-squash-seed-2217.html
 
pollinator
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The more genes, the merrier!  Should keep things interesting!  Neat project!
 
Ryan M Miller
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Since Joseph Lofthouse was able to breed multiple generations of tomatoes indoors for his auto-hybridizing tomato project, I've been wondering if anyone on this forum has the resources to grow the F1 generation of the squash plants over winter. It is expensive to mail the seeds internationally so I would have to look for someone with free greenhouse space or a frost-free Winter. The F1 generation should display compact bush phenotype so they shouldnt take up too much space in a greenhouse as far as I'm aware. Here is a video I saw of someone growing zucchini in a greenhouse on youtube:

 
Ryan M Miller
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I have just hit the cutoff for pollinating squash for seed this weekend simce I have a month and a half before the average date of first Fall frost in southwest Ohio. Thankfully, the largest fruited ornamental gourd this year just set out two more female flowers. They should bloom tomorrow morning so I taped it up along with five other flowers, all from the plants that yielded edible fruits.
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Female squash flower
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Male squash flower next to almost fully ripe fruit
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Male squash flower from non-bitter plant two
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Wonderful selection and crossing!

Averages are just that... Averages. Your first frost might be weeks behind average. The plants might survive the first frost and produce for another 6 weeks. I have found that seeds are typically viable much sooner that I would have thought.

I can't predict the future, and have pretty much stopped trying.
 
Ryan M Miller
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In order to prevent the squash vine from prematurely aborting the fruit I pollinated, I harvested the other nearly mature squash on the plant. Based on my photograph records, it seems that the fruit was on the vine for at least 45 days. The blossom end had a firm rind, but the neck still had slightly soft skin. I am currently drying the fruit next to a dehumidifier in my room.
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Ripe fruit from non-bitter ornamental gourd vine (about 6 inches long)
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The dehumidifier
 
Ryan M Miller
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It has officially been one month since I successfully cross-pollinated my ornamental gourd with pollen from my yellow crookneck squash. The vine holding the fruit is dead, but I need to decide whether I should cut the fruit off the vine to cure indoors next to my dehumidifier or leave the fruit hanging on the dead vine for two more weeks.
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Current appearance of ornamental gourd with F1 seed.
 
Ryan M Miller
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Ryan M Miller wrote:I need to decide whether I should cut the fruit off the vine to cure indoors next to my dehumidifier or leave the fruit hanging on the dead vine for two more weeks.



It looks like the dead plant answered my question for me. The fruit snapped free from it's calyx on the vine some time early this morning. Thankfully the rind is already quite hard so the seeds should be ready to harvest after two weeks of curing the fruit off the vine. I'l let everyone know how many seeds I got once I collect the seeds

The brittle calyx appears to be a primitive trait since wild squash from the Ozarks often snap free from their vines when fully ripe according to what I have read.
https://ethnobiology.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/JoE/13-1/CowanSmith.pdf
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The ripe fruit is small.
 
Ryan M Miller
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I collected the seeds from both squash last evening. I found it ironic that the larger squash fruit that I pollinated with six flowers yielded fewer seeds than the smaller fruit that I pollinated with only one male flower. This might be related to the fact that I pollinated the larger squash during a warmer part of the year. Squash pollen often goes sterile in hot weather.
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Large ornamental gourd cut open
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Only 53 seeds in the larger ornamental gourd.
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Seeds drying in a room with a dehumidifier
 
Ryan M Miller
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Greg Martin wrote:Ryan, I'm up for growing some out next year for your project if you'd like.  If so drop me a PM and we can review a plan.  I can't grow out a massive number, but I can do perhaps a few dozen.  If we follow Joseph's advice we could screen a lot more to the early seedling stage and screen out the ones with toxin genes by dabbing cut off cotyledons to our tongues!  :)



It looks like my seeds are dry enough to ship now, but I want to see if I can find a few other volunteers who are willing to help with the project. At most, I can grow three plants from the F1 seeds from the ornamental gourd cross this year and I would need to keep an eye out for squash vine borers if I grow some of the F1 seeds in my garden next year. I got a little over 200 seeds from my cross, but since the F1 cross was done with only two plants, I might not need to plant very many plants to get the desired results.
 
William Schlegel
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True, F1 growout needn't be large. F2 is the fun generation.
 
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