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Growing 2 (or more) popcorn varieties together?

 
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We grew Cherokee longear popcorn last year, and I wanted to replant the seeds.  In retrospect, I probably didn't save enough seeds to maintain genetic viability in the long run.  My wife bought seed for a different multi-colored popcorn variety.  If we planted them near each other, will crossbreeding lead to problems?  I know that "modern" corn varieties are weird hybrids that do not reproduce plants of like kind, and saving the seeds is worthless, but if we grew 2 old varieties of popcorn, would any crosses be garbage, or would they be akin to having mixed breed chickens - maybe not ideal, but still functional.  Thanks for advice.
 
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I am not an expert. I grow dent corn, and have grown popcorn. My understanding is that corn needs to be 400ft apart?  One thought is that the best way is to find out is to grow the seed on and determine for yourself the viability/characteristics of the offspring? Could be interesting!
Regards
Lesley
 
Thomas Dean
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lesley verbrugge wrote:I am not an expert. I grow dent corn, and have grown popcorn. My understanding is that corn needs to be 400ft apart?  One thought is that the best way is to find out is to grow the seed on and determine for yourself the viability/characteristics of the offspring? Could be interesting!
Regards
Lesley



I understand that, but I think I WANT to let them cross for genetic viability, at least at some level.  I am just wondering if that is a bad idea (letting them cross)
 
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That distancing sound about right. If seed purity is important you.

If you are just wanting Popcorn, right next to each other will be fine. Hybridization will occur on some kernals, but you will get popcorn from the seeds when you replant next year.

Joseph Lofthouse really freed my thinking about this category. In one of his posts he said that any time he plants a potato, it grows a potato. I entered the seed saving concept thru the Seed to Seed book . The book certainly has its place, but only if you are concerned with seed purity. I rarely am these days.
 
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Update and still looking for advice.
We are continuing to plant seed from our Cherokee Longear popcorn (and the potentially crossed kernels) as well as our other variety (Carousel, I think).  There might also be "contamination" with other varieties (long story, not necessary for right now).
Our harvest was good this year.  I just got done shelling the popcorn (5 quart jars full, in addition to what we sold on the ear as decorations)
I saved 1 quart jar of kernels from the best 24 ears (full ears, good variety of colors)  I have no intention of plant all of them next year.  
I plan to mix seed from 2019, 2020, and 2021 in the Cherokee longear patch, and purebred Carousel seed nearby (treated seed, YUCK).

Questions:

Is 24 ears a good enough gene pool to go forward in the long run?  Considering that I will be planting seeds from past years mingled with these, there will actually be more ears represented in what I plant.  How many ears should I save from each season?

When the Cherokee longear crosses with the Carousel, I should still expect the next generation to be decent popcorn, right?  Just with traits from each variety potentially popping up?

 
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Thomas Dean wrote: Questions:

Is 24 ears a good enough gene pool to go forward in the long run?  Considering that I will be planting seeds from past years mingled with these, there will actually be more ears represented in what I plant.  How many ears should I save from each season?


If your intention is to save a "pure" variety conventional wisdom is that 24 ears is not nearly enough although having seed from different ears from prior years will help.  If your intention is to grow popcorn that is adapted to your garden and climate, planting mostly crossed seed, assuming you can identify them, will result in a stronger more diverse gene pool and greatly reduce the number of ears needed. The more different varieties the better.

Thomas Dean wrote:
When the Cherokee longear crosses with the Carousel, I should still expect the next generation to be decent popcorn, right?  Just with traits from each variety potentially popping up?


If both parents are good popcorn there is every reason to expect the offspring will also be good popcorn. If other traits, like color, ear size and so on vary between the two varieties you might see a good amount of variation there. If pollen from still other popcorn varieties sneaked in along the way, all the better, so long as they are also good popcorn.

 
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Thomas Dean wrote:I saved 1 quart jar of kernels from the best 24 ears (full ears, good variety of colors)  I have no intention of plant all of them next year.

[...] How many ears should I save from each season?

When the Cherokee longear crosses with the Carousel, I should still expect the next generation to be decent popcorn, right?  Just with traits from each variety potentially popping up?



How many plants are contributing pollen to those 24 cobs? If it's hundreds or thousands, then no worries. There is a lot of wisdom in the Hopi way of saving seed from every cob, because they are all our children. And we really can't predict if a runt this year will have exactly the genes necessary to thrive next year.

The way that I define "best" popcorn has nothing to do with how the cob looks. It is only about how the kernels pop. When I was actively developing popcorn, I would pop, and taste, kernels from every cob, and use the results to determine which cobs to save as seed.

My experience is that when great parents cross, they produce great offspring.



cimg1317.jpg
popcorn
popcorn
 
Thomas Dean
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

How many plants are contributing pollen to those 24 cobs? If it's hundreds or thousands, then no worries. There is a lot of wisdom in the Hopi way of saving seed from every cob, because they are all our children. And we really can't predict if a runt this year will have exactly the genes necessary to thrive next year.

The way that I define "best" popcorn has nothing to do with how the cob looks. It is only about how the kernels pop. When I was actively developing popcorn, I would pop, and taste, kernels from every cob, and use the results to determine which cobs to save as seed.

My experience is that when great parents cross, they produce great offspring.





Thank you for the advice.  Certainly not thousands of plants, not hundreds either (edit... I guess we did grow hundreds of plants.  It doesn't feel like it, but it must have been).  
If I hear you correctly, you're suggesting keeping seeds from nearly every cob - in order to maintain diversity?
This is only year 3 of growing the popcorn.  I saved nearly all the kernels the first season, and I still have them stored with the seeds.  That should give me enough diversity for next season when mixed with this year's seed, and I'll save from more cobs near year.  
We do pop our corn.  It's not nearly so good as the "conventional" popcorn we buy (many more duds that don't pop, smaller puffs).  We sell more for decoration than popping, but we want them to continue to be pop corn.  I don't know that I will pop from every cob, but it is something to consider going forward.
 
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From a logical standpoint I would do some "testing" before going forward.

As suggested, I would do some test "pops" - you have kernels from three years. You may find those from certain yrs perform better (flavour vs. Duds). Based on this, I would determine WHICH years you currently have that perform best. I would be as scientific as possible (100 kernels or some set amount) and have a blind taste taste by those who do NOT know which is which) to ensure there is no bias.

Those that perform best would logically be that which I would hold back for seed. It may also lead to certain combinations if one has better flavour but produces more "duds" perhaps mix those with superb flavour with those with a higher pop ratio?

POPPING CORN 101:
The key is to first determine WHAT or HOW you use popcorn. Ensure you have "eared" corn for savory popped corn and earless or round if you wish to make sweet (candied/caramel) popped corn.

When making candied or sweet corn the ears of "regular" popping corn break off while coating leading to popped fragments rather than round globes of coated popped corn. Round popped corn is less crispy, more "soft" making it LESS ideal for savory purposes; BUT the globe shape is ideal for taking and holding candied coatings, thus preserving the crispness of the popped kernel for a longer period of time, EVEN if originally considered LESS crispy.

Eared popping is what you get when buying "commercial" or "theatre" popping corn. Eared corn is what you want to make perfect popped corn for savory (dusted with salt, nutritional yeast or other powdered flavouring commonly combined with melted butter) purposes. When the water within the kernel forms steam it cooks and the starch causing it to explode into a more "flower" shape creating all sorts of smaller, crisper petals better designed to HOLD those savory toppings.

***I ran a flavoured popcorn store for years in my youth; you name it, we made it from savory flavours such as " Sour cream and Onion" to "Bacon and Egg" and "Curried Chicken". The candied flavours were equally varied from "Chocolate with Peanuts" to "Tutti Fruitti" and good old "Caramel". In all we had at least 30 varieties available at all times.

As to the planting: IF space is no object I would consider multiple areas. One could be interplanted with both varieties commingled; several others plots could be separated by various distances. Sounds like a grand experiment, assuming you have the space, time and patience!!!

Does coloured dried corn pop into coloured POPPED corn?
 
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:
As to the planting: IF space is no object I would consider multiple areas. One could be interplanted with both varieties commingled; several others plots could be separated by various distances. Sounds like a grand experiment, assuming you have the space, time and patience!!!

Does coloured dried corn pop into coloured POPPED corn?



Space is limiting, we have two gardens, but the sweet corn gets the main garden, the popcorn is in the duck pen (ducks are excluded in the summer, they do cleanup in the fall after all the harvests are done, and they have access until we are ready to work the soil and plant in the spring)  So, it's all going in one patch.

Colored corn: the colors seem to all be brownish after popped.  Nothing too exciting.  I am now a big fan of the "throw it in a brown paper sack and microwave it" method.  We were using oil in a pan on the stove, which works, but the other way is so much easier
 
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