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Your wildest plant breeding aspirations?

 
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When I first realized you could breed your own varieties of plant, I remember trying to figure out what I might even want to do. I realized that new traits were mostly a matter of luck, so focused in on what sorts of existing varieties I might cross to look for useful combinations. At the time, I didn't know the world landrace, but I did consider a few landrace sets.



One idea I had (and am still quite fond of) was the idea of working to cross a moon and stars watermelon with a white sugar lump and work for a few generations trying to create a white-fleshed moon and stars watermelon. I can't say the pairing would have any practical value, but the idea of a watermelon variety I could call Moon and Stars: Winter Night strain ticked me. Perhaps one day when I have the space and time, I may try seeing if I can make it a reality.



Anyway, as the title says, I'd like to hear some of the wild and atypical breeding ideas people have considered when they have thought about doing their own plant breeds and varieties?
 
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I fantasize about:

Tomatoes that are 100% out-crossing.

Direct seeded tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Fruity tasting tomatoes with exciting aromas.

A watermelon that turns yellow when ripe.

Garlic that can be grown from seed in a single growing season, like onions.

Frost tolerant beans.

Winter hardy kale, lettuce, spinach, and bok choi.

Tepary beans with larger seeds.

New seed coat colors in tepary beans.

Fava beans with patterns on the seeds.

High carotene, sugary enhanced sweet corn.

A sweet corn that is green at the fresh eating stage.

Nitrogen fixing corn.

A squash that combines that wonderful flavor of maxima with the vine-borer resistance of moschata.

 
D. Logan
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:A watermelon that turns yellow when ripe.



Could the Royal Golden Watermelon work as a base for this? As I recall it is a vibrant yellow when ripe. I haven't grown them myself, but seems like a good start for your breeding stock since they have yellow skins.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Nitrogen fixing corn.



I have no idea where you'd get ahold of the seeds, but there's a corn that would make an excellent baseline for starting to breed these. If I understand right, it is a naturally occurring cultivar that developed a method of symbiosis with nitrogen fixing bacteria. The article below might give you some ideas where to procure seed samples to start your own attempts to refine and cross the trait.

Article About Nitrogen Fixing Corn

I kind of love the list you have. I could get behind almost all of these without hesitation!
 
D. Logan
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Found another place working with the same corn.

Mandaamin Institute
 
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I'd love to be able to turn all my fruits and vegetables into perennials. Or even just self-sowing annuals. I have a tomato that self-sows pretty aggressively, so that's a start.

I want a pumpkin so sweet you could use it as a sugar substitute, with good-tasting hull-less seeds, and also excellent disease and pest resistance.

I want a watermelon that is ridiculously sweet, but without sacrificing that old-fashioned watermelon flavor, and grows in a short season.

I want peas that grow tall enough the pods are chest-high on me, but without needing anything to climb on, and that taste like childhood summer memories.

I want a sunflower with the seed size of a "Mongolian Giant", the dyeing power of "Hopi Black Dye", and the 5' stalk height of commercial oilseed sunflowers.

I want an edible bamboo that grows in my area (zone 4), has sturdy canes big enough to use as building material, but doesn't spread more than a foot or two per season.

I want a flour corn with the flavor of Magic Manna, that is completely immune to corn earworms and corn smut, has 100% tip coverage, turns the ears upside-down to dry when ripe (like modern field corns do), and fills out every single ear.

I want a sweet orange tree that can handle harsh winters and still produce.

I want seaberries sweet enough to eat fresh.

I want hazelnuts and chestnuts that repel squirrels.

(This list keeps getting longer the more I think about it. I'd better stop there, or I'll be adding to it all day.)

Some of the things on this list are works in progress. Some are on my list of "someday projects". Some I wouldn't even know where to start.
 
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Not sure this is my wildest plant breeding dream, but I do want to make rewilded squash.  I'd love to bring a guiding hand to a population of self seeding, tree climbing C. pepo squash that make an excellent nutty zucchini when immature and make excellent long pie pumpkins when matured.  I dream of them invasively spreading all over the place.   If, in future years, zucchini plants start climbing your trees and taking over....I'm sorry!  (but I hope you love them)
 
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Shade tolerant potatoes is my current goal (to be able to grow in forest semi-shade). In my dreams this strain/landrace would also be hardy enough to go a bit feral in my area (Scandinavia). Don't know exactly how to achieve this, but I suppose either through a bit of frost tolerance or by breeding for varieties that put a few of the tubers deep enough to escape the frost. (Does anyone know if it's possible to find true seed of some tetraploid, decently frost tolerant potatoes anywhere?)

On the more far-fetched side, I've been fantasizing about turning Tilia sp. (basswood/linden) into a nut tree. Theoretically it should be possible, given that they have oily seeds of a decent size that aren't toxic (at least not that I'm aware), but I suppose it would take quite some time.
 
D. Logan
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Eino Kenttä wrote:On the more far-fetched side, I've been fantasizing about turning Tilia sp. (basswood/linden) into a nut tree. Theoretically it should be possible, given that they have oily seeds of a decent size that aren't toxic (at least not that I'm aware), but I suppose it would take quite some time.



That sounds like a generational goal, but one that would be an absolutely amazing one to accomplish. Adding a whole new food source to the common diet is no small thing.
 
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May not sound very wild to the veteran growers... but I fantasize about just having some basics for each season that grow, fruit, and don't succumb to pest pressure. Cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplants, kabocha, potatoes, broccoli, daikon, cabbage, chinese cabbage... As long as they're edible and don't taste horrible I'd be fully satisfied for some time. As it is, I barely have a harvest so the pest resistant garden feels like a pretty wild aspiration.

On another side, if I suddenly came into enough sunlit land to experiment I'd like to try breeding citrus - something new like a Tosa Buntan mixed with Ruby Grapefruit. If I could ditch the Buntan's tough segment membrane and combine the color and some of the flavor from the grapefruit that would be a fantasy fruit for sure.
 
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I'd like to cross Canada Thistle with Artichokes and have them take over my pasture like the thistle does.

If quinoa would cross with my garden lambsquarter and still retain the nutritional and caloric value of the former, it would not even require seeding in the spring.

"Baseball"-sized brussel sprouts from which you could pick the sprouts in the fall, leaves throughout the winter and it would then produce a broccoli head in the spring.....

If we're getting close to putting humans on Mars, is this too much to ask?? :-)
 
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I love this thread. Ellendra's list is particularly enviable -- high-sugar pumpkins! Frost-hardy citrus! Yes!!!

My own daydreams, in order from active projects to absurd fantasies:


-radishes with huge, colorful, fragrant flowers (and a corollary project: making some decorative crucifers {stock and honesty} easier to use as food)

-capsaicin-free versions of delicious spicy peppers

-convincing traditional warm-season crops to function as cool-season crops in zone 9 (especially phaseolus)

-a drought-tolerant stone fruit grex, starting with a bunch of zaiger interspecific prunus hybrids

-filling in some of the gaps in the citrus hybrid triangle (doesn't it look like there's room for a lemarine?):

          + crossing tasty citrus with the notoriously nasty, but cold-tolerant trifoliate orange

-red-fleshed (teinturier) seedless table grapes, and american-european grape hybrids with novel flavors (vitis labrusca has a lot of "fruit candy" flavor in its genome)

-selecting cucurbita squashes into sweet melon-like fruits that can be eaten as a raw dessert

-low or no-tannin olives (an oily fruit you could eat out of hand, like an avocado)


Plus a big pile of interspecific dream crosses: fragaria vesca x fragaria viridis (maybe then forced into tetraploid form with colchicine??), various crosses in the capsicum genus, experiments with mentha, growing out the f2 of the "paradox" black walnut x english walnut hybrid...
 
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My aspirations are nothing too wild unfortunately, and many of them actually seem doable within my lifetime, but here they are:
- A cold-hardy citrus (not very original, I know!) that has the hardiness and wicked thorns of trifoliate oranges so they can be living fences that also give sour, juicy fruit with tasty zest without much trifoliate funk that can be used as lemon/lime substitutes
- A hardy pomegranate that thrives in Tennessee's summer humidity and winter dampness
- Gooseberries that don't just tolerate summer heat, but truly THRIVE in it
- In the same vein as the last, I'd like to select wild gooseberries and currants for larger and more numerous fruit
- Genetically diverse herb landraces, since not a lot of breeding work has been done with herbs
- A pepo squash with flavor and pest resistance comparable to a moschata
- Sunflowers that don't instantly get devoured by slugs the second they sprout
 
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My "wildest plant breeding aspirations"?

Well, there are quite a few wild ideas / projects that I am planning on working on or playing around with in the future!

May as well start with the most far-fetched projects.



Lardizabalaceae interfamilial hybrids.

Holboellia, Akebia, Decaisnea - even Lardizabala biternata and Boquila trifoliolata.

Many Lardizabalaceae species have a wide range of flavors - "chocolatey" - "honey" - "pineapple" - "fruity". Boquila trifoliolata has leaves that can mimic just about any leaf - could work out very nicely in a permaculture setting. Flowers are also quite ornamental. Holboellia species have very large fruits!

Unfortunately chromosome counts are rather problematic.



Cucumis hybrids would be very interesting!

I am talking about C. melo, C. sativus, C. anguria, C. metuliferus and perhaps a few others.

C. hystrix may work well as an intermediate between Cucumbers and Melons (C. melo).

C. anguria x C. metuliferus could hopefully produce a jelly melon with edible flesh and less thorns.

Of course all of these will need intermediates - wild species to act as bridges. Still a lot of barriers even with wild species helping out.


General Solanaceae hybrids / breeding could be very interesting.

There are Solanum sisymbriifolium varieties with larger fruits, sweeter varieties and a variety that has ripe fruit as early as July. Embryo rescue could be used to create hybrids with S. lycopersicum.

S. sisymbriifolium also has a low fruit set unless at least one separate plant is present - meaning that it needs to outcross to a certain extent.

Australian Bush Tucker species are very interesting, hybrids can be made with different species.



Also hoping to grow a few different S. caripense accessions near "wild tomato species" and hybrids. S. caripense can cross freely with Pepino (S. muricatum). S. caripense is closely related to to tomatoes - probably in the same clade. Unfortunately, they don't appear to cross in nature. Perhaps hybrid populations could change things?

Fruity tomatoes, new fruit shapes - ornamental flowers. Lot of potential!


Probably worth noting that the "Tzimbalo Melon Pear" that was being sold by BakerCreek and a few others may not have been the "true species". This is according to a blog called "Unusual edibles and their wild relatives - Rare Pepino cousins (Solanum sect. Basarthrum)"

The leaves and flowers of the "false" species are quite different than the supposed "true" type (the true type looks very similar to S. muricatum in terms of flowers / leaves).

The false type still appears to be edible and quite cold hardy.



Also hoping to convert S. retroflexum - other black nightshades into an edible diploid landrace, with genes from Australian - European - Asian - North / South American species. End goal would be larger fruits/flowers, tastier fruit, high anthocyanin content, cold hardiness, insect resistance, lower solasodine content - probably some other things.

I want the population to be full of diploid converts in order to attempt hybrids with Tomatoes in the future. There are already a lot of incompatibilities that would need to be worked on - seed size differences (embryos), and all sorts of other "fun" barriers. Knocking out uneven chromosome counts while also creating separate breeding populations in the process should be interesting.

Tomatoes currently require light exposure for anthocyanin to show up. How about tomatoes that are deep blue inside and out?


Joseph already seems to be pretty close to the "100% out crossing tomatoes" goal otherwise I would mention that as well.



Perennial (cold hardy), outcrossing beans sound great.


Hybrids between Blitum bonus-henricus, Blitum capitatum and of course Spinacia oleracea would be amazing. Perennial spinach along with edible shoots...
 
John Weiland
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Garrett Schantz wrote:Hybrids between Blitum bonus-henricus, Blitum capitatum and of course Spinacia oleracea would be amazing. Perennial spinach along with edible shoots...



Are bonus-henricus or capitatum perennial through cold climate winters?......Hardy to -30C?  I assumed they were annuals with hardy overwintering seed.  This would be interesting!
 
Garrett Schantz
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John Weiland wrote:

Garrett Schantz wrote:Hybrids between Blitum bonus-henricus, Blitum capitatum and of course Spinacia oleracea would be amazing. Perennial spinach along with edible shoots...



Are bonus-henricus or capitatum perennial through cold climate winters?......Hardy to -30C?  I assumed they were annuals with hardy overwintering seed.  This would be interesting!




Blitum bonus-henricus is hardy to around USDA Zone 4 - which is around -25°F to -30°F.

Good King Henry is the common name for the species.

Blitum capitatum has large juicy red seed pods which are edible.

Spinacia and Blitum  are closely related, no idea how difficult hybridization attempts would be.
 
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I don't think it is really far fetched but I would like my little micro dwarf tomatoes to come in all the colors and flavors of the big ones.  Grow well inside under lights in winter and still make tasty, better for your health tomatoes.

The vision is plants that can "poach" the heat and light you are already using for your comfort to produce tasty and healthy food in your own house.
 
Greg Martin
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Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:The vision is plants that can "poach" the heat and light you are already using for your comfort to produce tasty and healthy food in your own house.


Right on Dorothy!!!  All our indoor winter lights can totally have food growing under them!  
Why the heck not....love imagining what lighting should look like designed with plants as an intended part of the fixtures, and what a home would look like drenched in light feeding the plants that feed the inhabitants.
Stack those functions!  Live luxuriantly while also being extra efficient.  I love that you are thinking this way too.
 
Dorothy Pohorelow
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Greg Martin wrote:

Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:The vision is plants that can "poach" the heat and light you are already using for your comfort to produce tasty and healthy food in your own house.


Right on Dorothy!!!  All our indoor winter lights can totally have food growing under them!  
Why the heck not....love imagining what lighting should look like designed with plants as an intended part of the fixtures, and what a home would look like drenched in light feeding the plants that feed the inhabitants.
Stack those functions!  Live luxuriantly while also being extra efficient.  I love that you are thinking this way too.



The theory/plan is not my original idea but came from another member of the Micro Tomato Diversity Project.  I really do agree that this could be one way of doing things in the future.  But first we have to breed the plants that will excel in our living conditions.  Not just tomatoes, there needs to be other single serving plants or cut and come again plants that will work  under our normal living conditions.  Of course these could also make great plants for a space station...
 
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As I was contemplating the upcoming task of hauling in my big, razor sharp pineapple plants for the winter, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to have a cold-hardy pineapple so I could take that chore off my to do list forever. So add that to my idea pile!
 
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My not so wild breeding plans are

A pink California poppy - this has been done before, and one has popped up in my yard after selecting for the whitest and reddest flowers in the garden for years. This started when a white flower volunteered itself in my garden.

A large, tasty fava bean that is resistant to aphids and disease and adapted to my garden.

A dehybridized Sungold tomato that produces early and abundantly in my garden.

A red/purple dinosaur kale

My more wild breeding dreams are:

Hardy lemon, orange, and chocolate trees. When society collapses I will miss my chocolate and citrus greatly. 🍫



 
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John Weiland wrote:I'd like to cross Canada Thistle with Artichokes and have them take over my pasture like the thistle does.

If quinoa would cross with my garden lambsquarter and still retain the nutritional and caloric value of the former, it would not even require seeding in the spring.

"Baseball"-sized brussel sprouts from which you could pick the sprouts in the fall, leaves throughout the winter and it would then produce a broccoli head in the spring.....

If we're getting close to putting humans on Mars, is this too much to ask?? :-)


Oh artichokes that spread like thistles! You made me laugh! If I could survive on thistles, no one would ever starve with the amounts that I battle every year. I heard you can peel and eat the stalk... Well I tried and maybe it's edible but it is truly nasty and doesn't taste at all like artichoke.

Quinoa with lambsquarter would be awesome too. Any spot the thistles spare in my garden was kindly taken care of by the lambsquarter. And yet the quinoa I planted didn't even sprout. In that vein, how about lady's thumb with a seed as big as buckwheat. The lady's thumb did much better than the buckwheat I planted.
 
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Jenny Wright wrote:In that vein, how about lady's thumb with a seed as big as buckwheat. The lady's thumb did much better than the buckwheat I planted.



Can you eat lady's thumb seeds? I always cultivate a patch because they make a vibrant colorfast golden dye, but I haven't thought about eating the seeds.
 
Jenny Wright
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C Lundquist wrote:

Jenny Wright wrote:In that vein, how about lady's thumb with a seed as big as buckwheat. The lady's thumb did much better than the buckwheat I planted.



Can you eat lady's thumb seeds? I always cultivate a patch because they make a vibrant colorfast golden dye, but I haven't thought about eating the seeds.



You can eat the leaves, stems and flowers but I've never actually seen the seeds so they must be pretty small. They are it buckwheat family. I keep meaning to check out the seeds but haven't been on top of it to catch them.

I know a lot of leaves and flowers that I can eat but I think it's something I need to explore more- eating foraged seeds/pseudo grains.
 
Jenny Wright
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C Lundquist wrote:

Can you eat lady's thumb seeds? I always cultivate a patch because they make a vibrant colorfast golden dye, but I haven't thought about eating the seeds.



I looked it up and yes, you can eat them and they are TINY! The zoomed in photo I saw they look like miniature buckwheat seeds  
 
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Hmm things that would be cool to breed 🤔 ….

Some caterpillar resistant kales

Garlic and potato varieties that reliably grow from seed, as well as cloves/tubers

Hardy, will grow through frost unprotected, salad leaves. I know there are hardy varieties, but it’s always advised to cover them and as far as I know they don’t actively grow through winter.

Hardy outdoor tomato that will survive a northern British winter and regrow next spring.

Hardy outdoor chilli peppers that will also survive my winters. Got a Rocoto pepper outside now that may be a contender for this, as this winter has been mild so far.

Drought resistant anything for all the times I forget to water in summer. Also handy for global warming and future proofing in the event of possible water shortages.



 
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Ha, Heather, I thought when I saw this thread again that I might revisit it to mention a crazy project of mine (which I have started preparing for), but you beat me to it! It's the tomato one, but with the ambition of surviving norwegian winters... Will post on the forums once the first steps are taken, if it seems like it might go somewhere. (My idea involves some pretty iffy interspecific hybridization, so most likely it will fail miserably.)
 
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