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Landrace tomatoes

 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Luke Welsh wrote:Hi Joseph!

My question feels pretty basic. I think I understand the philosophy but not the application. I bought varieties of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes from my local community garden organization. I understand that I'll use the seeds from their tomatoes as next year's tomato generation. But can I just take the tomatoes that the squirrels pull down and leave them on the ground for next spring? Do I need to collect the seeds in the summer and put them out the following spring, or start them inside even earlier?

Will the various breeds of tomatoes interbreed naturally by cross-pollination? Will I end up with a mix between a cherry tomato and a heirloom tomato that could be delicious or mediocre?



A lot of great questions here....

One of the basic principles of landrace gardening, is that you get what you select for....

In this case, if the next generation of tomatoes is grown primarily from squirrel picked fruits, then you will be (inadvertently) selecting for tomatoes that are preferentially picked by squirrels. That could be a wonderful thing, if the squirrels are acting as a dispersal mechanism to move tomatoes through the ecosystem. It could be a bad thing if it encourages the squirrels to pick every tomato fruit and carry it off. In general, small birds and mammals prefer to eat fruits that are proportionally sized with their bodies. Smaller fruits being favored by smaller animals. Allowing squirrels to disperse the fruits might result in the fruits becoming smaller, so that they are more easily carried off.

I have a flea beetle species in my garden which favors eating tomatoes. Therefore, I almost never see a volunteer tomato. This year, I direct seeded  20,000 tomato seeds, hoping to find a few that can survive the flea beetles. I would love to be able to grow tomatoes by planting seeds directly into my field, about two weeks before the last frost. Again, we get what we select for. People have been selecting for tomatoes that have to be transplanted, for so long, that it seems like it's the only way to do things. A Santa Fe chile grower told me that peppers should always be direct seeded because transplanted peppers "son imbeciles", they are imbeciles, they forget how to grow. This year, I also direct seeded 10,000 pepper seeds, and 10,000 eggplant seeds. I really want to be able to direct seed these crops instead of transplanting. I whole-heartedly believe that you get what you select for. I want to stop selecting for tomatoes that have to be transplanted.

In general, if you cross two varieties, the offspring tend towards traits that are mid-way between the traits of the parents. So if you start with adequate tomatoes, you get adequate offspring.

The cross-pollination rate of domestic tomatoes averages about 3%, which is mostly found in the beefsteak and cherry tomato types. If you pay attention to the natural crosses, you can run a landrace development project with small crossing rates like that. However, even if domestic tomatoes cross, there is so little genetic diversity between them that it doesn't matter. That was my frustration with tomato breeding. If you cross a tomato with another tomato that is essentially a clone, you don't get the genetic diversity necessary for robust local adaptation. That is why my focus with tomatoes shifted to introducing promiscuity, and genetics from wild ancestors.  

The thing that surprised me most about the interspecies tomatoes, is the flavors. People describe the flavors as tropical, fruity, sea urchin, xxx, melon, guava, plum, tropical, citrus. Amazing flavors that are nowhere to be found among the domestic tomatoes. Sure, we also introduced flavors described as bitter, sour, yuck, bleck, bland, watery. Year by year, we are selecting in favor of awesome, and against dreadful.



 
pollinator
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I decided to direct seed tomatoes this year in the dry garden area. Only one germinated, and it succumbed a few weeks ago (I think a gopher got it). I'll try again. Some of my best tomatoes in the past have been "bird gifts," and black solanum is naturalized so I know it's possible to have naturalized tomatoes as well
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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We have a variety of Solanum pimpinelifolium, current tomato, that has been growing feral in my community for decades. I grow seed from it, but it hasn't become established in my main field.
 
pollinator
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I've been intentionally direct seeding tomatoes for five years now. This being the fifth year. Last year I direct seeded a early version of the promiscuous project so I know it can be done. Though Joseph sent me better seed and nothing elite enough segregated out of the direct seeded row. So this year I direct seeded the elite material from last year.

This all started in 2016 when I noticed two volunteers that barely produced a couple tomatoes. I thought: what if I was more deliberate about this? I started this thread for my 2017 garden: https://permies.com/t/62189/Direct-Seeding-Tomatoes-Frost-Free Joseph sent me some seed that contributed to the project. I read Joseph's posts about exsertion and open tomato flowers. I found some exserted tomatoes in my 2017 garden- I used them as mothers!

I have noticed that direct seeded breeding material can be good at volunteering in subsequent years. I suspect that a direct seeding protocol could eventually lead to tomatoes that don't have to be planted- just weeded around a bit. I don't have any plants that have been consistently direct seeded for more than about 4 out of 5 generations. Those four year plants are some seeds of a variety I call exserted tiger. Specifically the parents (one striped and one exserted), F1, F2, and F4 generations. Which I direct seeded for the fourth (F4)  time this year but grew from transplant last year (F3) for a seed grow out (available from snake river seeds). I mixed them with Joseph's Big Hill and some leftover seed from the direct seeded rows of Joseph's promiscuous project.

I did notice a few flea beetles this year probably taking out some seedlings. Also I have black nightshade which attracts Colorado potato beetles which sometimes predate a few tomato seedlings. I noticed one year some volunteers that dissapeared when I didn't weed around them promptly and I think they were eaten possibly by arthropods such as flea beetles.

I am also in the second year of growing a different Solanum habrochaites accession that is a known source of arthropod resistance. It will be interesting to see if I can use it as a habrochaites cytoplasm mother in the promiscuous project- it might introduce needed flea beetle resistance so more people can direct seed with the success I've known. I have planted it from transplant as I consider pure habrochaites too long season for direct seeding and I do have exserted tiger, big hill, and promiscuous project plants right next to it. Hope to find F1s to plant next to it next year. Which should facilitate back crossing into the habrochaites cytoplasm if it hasn't already occurred last year or this.

Another note, in 2019 the year I grew out the F2 that led to Exserted Tiger I did it without ever watering. It was an exceptional year for good rainfall in my locale but I think it possible that maybe aside from some occasional help with enough water for germination, that tomatoes could be direct seeded and dry farmed in many semi arid climates. I documented that year here: https://permies.com/t/99150/Dry-Farmed-Direct-Seeded-Tomatoes

In 2020 I grew only the promiscuous tomatoes direct seeded but alas saved no seed because they were all wild type and the transplant tomatoes from Josephs selections from the same cross were elite.

So now in 2021 I have four rows of the elite promiscuous project tomatoes direct seeded and about seven rows of the mix of big hill, exserted tiger, and promiscuous. Though the big hill I used for this like the tomatoes I planted in 2018 https://permies.com/t/84929/Direct-Seeded-Tomato-Breeding-Project were exposed to pollen from other varieties including wild species- so its really about finding more F1's. The Big Hill seed was grown in 2018 and 2019 gardens and not isolated. So this project should probably keep me busy for another decade or so!
 
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Hi, How can you find local seeds if not your own? Thanks!
 
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I'm happy to see there are more and more people trying to direct seed tomatoes - and starting from this year I'm one of them! I have maybe total of 15 plants, from 7 varieties, at the moment - ones that sprouted and didn't get eaten until now.
As for the rest of tomatoes I managed to get my hands on seeds for some 25 named varieties plus two that I saved seeds last year plus I was given few plants of some local variety that is from the nearby (relatively) island. My style of growing in general is to intermix everything - different varieties of same species, different species of veggies, different flowers and herbs... let the nature run wild and then collect some seeds at the end of growing.

My long term plan is to have different tomatoes that are adapted to the Mediterranean islands climate which can be very brittle. Succesfull direct seeding tomatoes. Also overwintering tomatoes and possibly even for them to go back to being perennial - with just a little help during colder winter days.
I had one volunteer last year that appeared in September (!!!) - I left it to overwinter without any help. It was all good until February and two different cold days with very strong, dry and cold NE winds that did it. But it gave me hope that with just a little help for those extremes that mostly come during February I could have at least biennial tomatoes (doing happy dance)!

This year I managed to have some 23 varieties of tomatoes growing, in average several plants from each, all interplanted. I'm very curious what I'll get this growing season, esp. because I've never grown most of the varieties I got this year and some of those are new varieties from diferent breeders. For on or two of those even the description is that they have a lot of genetic diversity and are appropriate for further breeding projects!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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nancy oliver wrote:Hi, How can you find local seeds if not your own? Thanks!



Snake River Seed Cooperative is located in Boise Idaho. All the seed they sell was grown nearby.

Giving Ground Seed grows all of their own seed near Fort Hall, Idaho.

Both are great sources for locally grown seed. Giving Ground pays more attention to landraces and  locally-adapted seed.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mare Silba:

There is indeed hope for a perennial tomato. Some of the promiscuous tomatoes that I have been working with can freeze to the ground, and then re-sprout. Some of them are much more cold tolerant that domestic tomatoes.

Good luck with your endeavor.

Love,
Joseph

 
Mare Silba
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Thank you very much Joseph.
Your experience and all the information that you give us here on permies, other articles etc. has been really encouraging to finally start doing landraces on purpose, instead of just mixing everything and keeping seeds from everything I can. It is so refreshing when you stumble upon people that share your unconventional ideas. I feel like I found my long lost tribe :-).
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