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Breeding for Adapted Varieties  RSS feed

 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Is anyone else considering breeding or actively breeding for varieties that are better adapted to your area? Or even just for better disease and bug resistance or even a specific desirable trait, like color?
Aimed towards open-pollinated or own-root, of course, though of course there are the intermediate stages.
If so, what are you breeding? Tomatoes? Elms? Gooseberries? Mushrooms? etc.
How is your project coming along? (Not asking for parentage or anything like that, unless you want to share.) Is it doing well, or are you frustrated?

I'm considering breeding for tomatoes, and watermelons, and melons that do better in this area. We've had a few successes with certain varieties of these, in a limited manner, but our alkaline, clay-loam, salty soil interspersed with hardpan and weirdly sand, combined with a short season and low rainfall during summers that range from the upper seventies to upper nineties when warm, to low thirties to mid-fifties when cool, and periodic high winds means that these tend to struggle on our soil.
I guess I'm asking because I'm a little intimidated by this. We lived in an apartment for over a decade where saving seed wasn't very practical, so we've only been saving seed for two years now [other than random flowers and chives], and now <laugh> I'm considering outright breeding. Where we are now, we have a lot of sun and pollinators, and I've found that in the years my garden "struggles" other gardens in the area are failing entirely. So I would like to develop varieties that even the most amateur can plant and water and have good success with. Tomatoes and peppers particularly don't do well direct-seeded around here, and that's both annoying and worrying for future viability.

Melons: Selecting for earlier ripening and best flavor from the Old Tennessee

Watermelons: Selecting for best and most consistent texture and flavor from Van Doren Moon and Stars (which was superior, but inconsistent, having pithy spots or spots that were too crisp/not crisp and flavorless or not sweet areas, this was from saved seed, the original seed producing one melon-out of a whole packet of seed-that fit in the palm of the hand, was not at all very crisp, and produced about eight seeds total.); Crossing Moon and Stars x Golden Midget just to see what happens (as the Golden Midget ripened much quicker, but was not very crisp or flavorful)

Tomatoes: Selecting/breeding for good flavor, good texture, consistent production, crack resistance and vigor. <-This feels like a very large undertaking, particularly given how many varieties have outright failed to do well on our soil. We've had at least 30 varieties hit "fail".

Also,
planting apple seeds to see what comes up, survives, and if they are of any use for eating/dessert apples. (The extras to be donated to people who just want a tree.)
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Everything possible.
I save seed every chance I get. These last 2 years have been a bear. Between working non-stop, the long drought, and finally the chickens tearing into the seed bin, I'm pretty much starting over.

My best success was with peas. I abused the hell out of them. Downright hostile I was. Plant them in the winter, let them freeze. Turn around and put the next seed in the ground for the hottest part of summer. Let the seed sit for a couple of years, then see what still grows. I kept this up for 10 years with a strain of Little Marvel. In the third year I added some Early Alaska. The plants would take a couple of hard freezes and mostly come back. This year, after losing all my plants to 2 weeks of hard freeze, I put the last 200 seeds I had into the ground. They showed up, but the bull got out to hunt for a sandwich, came across the peas and mowed them to the ground. 5 plants remain, and they don't look so good. If a miracle happens, I might get a handful of seed. I'll be a couple years increasing the volume, then I'll go back to my wicked ways.

I want a plant that will take the abuse of a destabilized climate and still produce more than what I put into the ground. I want a cultivar that will perform well with my growing methods, in my soil (sand), and in my climate.

Open Pollinated seed is a fine idea, gets my full support. If the seed was developed in my hardiness zone, so much the better. Better still would be locally produced seed. The closer to home, the harder it is to find a commercially available cultivar for a specific plant. Seed Savers Exchange: http://www.seedsavers.org/ has an extensive catalog of cultivars with growers listed by location. As a starting point for your own selective breeding, you can get a good head start with a localized variety.

 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Ooh! Thanks, Ken. I am familiar with Seed Savers, but I didn't realize that they had a list of growers by region. That should definitely help.
I am actually planning to start with varieties that have done passably or well in my garden.

Thanks for replying.
Sounds like you've had a rough year. I've had years like that. Lost well of 70% of my plants to heat one year, and lost half my garden last year to the wasps that were all over it. They didn't eat it, but they certainly kept me out of it. Not that it was a huge loss, since hardly any of the stuff in that area did well enough to produce anything. We had a next of them under the shed that we couldn't get to. Finally sealed up all the cracks they were getting through in the fall.

Good luck with those peas! That sounds like a very good method of breeding for local conditions. "Wicked ways." Heh. <amused and slightly awed> I'll tell my mother that about the cold hardiness of those peas; she'll be interested.

<headsmack> It just occurred to me, I'm always digging in compost and leaves. I need to leave an area unimproved for breeding things to local unimproved conditions on. Or at least for testing them on. <Jots a note.>
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I believe that Seed Savers list by State is only available in the Yearbook. (Members only)
On their forum site, many users list their SSE abbreviation near their username info. Look for any that begin with CO, as that denotes that they (and their seed) are from Colorado.

Looking at my copy of the (2012) yearbook, there are only 15 members listed from CO.
If you buy seed that was grown in your region, you are eliminating at least one step in the climatization process.
A good seed saver will save from the best plants, so you'll know that it should produce for you.

You are buying a Lotto 'Quick-Pick' with anything you get from a major seed distributor.

PM me if you want more SSE info.
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Thanks, John.
 
Andrew Barney
Posts: 23
Location: Northern Colorado
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Yup. Gone are the days when i buy random seed packets at the generic big box stores (or greenhouses for that matter) and hope that they do well here in my Colorado climate (when they were bred in some greenhouse back east or wherever with high amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides).

I've been collaborating / piggybacking off Joseph Lofthouse for a few years now. Had success with Watermelons and Peas. Haven't quite figured out the squash yet. Gonna try TPS for potatoes.
 
Daron Williams
Posts: 138
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I'm planning on developing strains for my site. My ultimate goal is to develop strains that don't need any active irrigation (drip systems, sprinklers, etc.). I'm hoping that by using what I call passive irrigation (swales, hugelkultur, ponds, heavy mulch, etc.) I can capture enough of the fall/winter/spring rains to get my property through our dry summers when combined with locally adapted strains of plants. I'm happy to water new plants when I first plant them but I hope to avoid after that.
 
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