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Creating a Super Vigorous and Productive Pole Bean Landrace

 
Steve Thorn
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I'm hoping to create a diverse and locally adapted pole bean that thrives in our heat and humidity here. I'm selecting for both high vigor and high production. The plants that grew last year all outcompeted most weeds and grew up among my young fruit trees and were an excellent addition to the food forest.

I started with a lot of different varieties, and it seems like two or three of them did the best, but I was excited to see that most of the varieties seemed to at least survive and produce a few seeds and add their genetics to the mix.

I wish I had taken more photos, but here's a few from last year.

Here's a link to my general bean growing thread.

Growing Beans Naturally
Light-purple-and-green-beans.jpg
Light purple and green beans
Light purple and green beans
Some-very-dark-purple.jpg
Some very dark purple
Some very dark purple
Ones-with-mostly-purple.jpg
Ones with mostly purple
Ones with mostly purple
I-really-like-the-purple-flowers-on-some-of-them.jpg
I really like the purple flowers on some of them
I really like the purple flowers on some of them
 
Steve Thorn
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It's been so hard just looking at all of these diverse bean seeds all winter. Excited to finally plant them and see what happens!
Diverse-bean-seeds.jpg
Diverse bean seeds
Diverse bean seeds
 
Lila Stevens
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That's awesome. I am very new to the idea of creating landraces, but I am really excited about it. I've been reading that beans don't cross-pollinate very easily with each other though, because often pollination occurs even before the flowers open? Are you doing something special to encourage them to cross-pollinate, or just planting them close together and hoping it happens? I'd really like to do the same thing you are doing to get the most healthy, productive bean plants adapted for my area. And also just because it seems really fun and exciting to see what variations start appearing.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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In my garden, in the desert, my landrace beans cross pollinate at about 2%. In Carol Deppe's garden, near the woods, in a wet climate, the pollinators are more active, and beans cross-pollinate at about 5%. Cross pollination rates of up to 20% have been measured.

By selectively replanting beans that are natural hybrids, I selected for higher promiscuity rates. My beans used to cross pollinate at about 0.5%

Planting close together, and hoping for natural hybrids is a great strategy. The naturally occurring hybrids tend to outperform the highly inbred heirlooms, so the descendants of hybrids produce more seeds, and become a larger percentage of the population than might be inferred from the low crossing rate.
 
Tom Knippel
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You are doing great, keep it up.  My only suggestion would be to help out your plants by controlling weeds/competition.  Your landrace development will be more successful faster if the plants do not have to struggle to succeed.  Let your landrace deal with competition later on after some diversity and local acclimation has occurred.  Another thing is that the more you plant the more likely you will have wild crosses which will increase the diversity and adaptation of your landrace faster.  When you harvest your seeds, inspect them closely for possible wild crosses, single out such seeds and prioritize them in the mix for planting next season.  The power of observation is how humans can greatly improve landrace development at a much faster pace than what nature can do.  Every winter during my downtime I inspect every single bean seed of the previous harvest and single out the new and unique crosses that I find.  Those seeds are prioritized in next year's seed mix that I plant out, in order to increase their seed quantities so that they have a more equal representation in the mix in future plantings.

Also, be patient.  It has been my experience that landrace diversity starts out slowly.  Often the diversity crashes the first couple years but then increases slowly and then exponentially from then on as local adaption takes hold.  Once your landrace is established then you can start eliminating strains based on negative/undesirable traits that you might come across.  I do this but I find it to be a very small task as most strains end up being decent enough to keep.  I cull out more strains for poor productivity than any other issue.

Photo shows seeds of my pole dry bean landrace.  It is a young landrace, five or six years old, but well on its way.  It has begun the stage where diversity is increasing exponentially.  I do open landraces, where I am constantly introducing new varieties, strains, wild crosses, and mixes into the landrace as I acquire them.  The work of landracing is never finished for me as I always seek to incorporate new genetic material into the mix.  To me there is always landrace maintenance, there is no "done", and I would not want it any other way as it keeps me engaged and keeps my landrace healthy.

My pole dry bean landrace is turning out to be very different from my bush dry bean landrace, which I find to be a very interesting result but I have attached no meaning to it otherwise.  My snap bean landraces are even more different from my dry bean landraces, but I have found this to be a more predictable and expected outcome.  

I wish you success in your endeavors.

 
Nancy Reading
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Tom Knippel wrote: My snap bean landraces are even more different from my dry bean landraces



This is an interesting point for me. I'm just starting on my landracing project having not grown annual veg for many years. So I'm growing fava beans (which should do OK here if I can get pollinators some shelter) and scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) which prefer it a bit warmer and less windy, but I'm hoping to adapt. I think common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) whether pole or bush will really struggle outside. I've grown them in the polytunnel quite successfully though and am going to give it a go outside at least this year.
So the question is: how much can one achieve with a single land race? Is it possible to have good drying and green beans in a single landrace? I'm expecting to need to select dwarfing strains for short season fruiting, but these are likely to be less productive than climbing strains, so maybe these need to be separate also? Should I just wing it, or try and make a decision as to what I'm aiming at before I start?
 
Steve Thorn
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Lila Stevens wrote:Are you doing something special to encourage them to cross-pollinate, or just planting them close together and hoping it happens?



Yes, I have them planted together all mixed up, and a lot of the vines are intertwined with other ones, with flowers from different vines just inches apart in a lot of places.

I also have most of them planted in my food forest with lots of wild plants that are flowering, so there always seems to be a lot of pollinators present which I hope increases the chances for crossing.

I'd really like to do the same thing you are doing to get the most healthy, productive bean plants adapted for my area. And also just because it seems really fun and exciting to see what variations start appearing.



I'm excited to see the new variations also!
 
Steve Thorn
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Nancy Reading wrote:I'm expecting to need to select dwarfing strains for short season fruiting, but these are likely to be less productive than climbing strains, so maybe these need to be separate also?



I bet that you could have a vigorous climbing bean that still produces early. One of the varieties I used seemed to be one of the most vigorous and still seemed to produce early. It grew so fast that it got big quickly and started producing a lot of beans.

Should I just wing it, or try and make a decision as to what I'm aiming at before I start?



I'd say just have an idea of what your general goals are, and then just see what fun things happen and adapt as needed. That's what I'm doing currently at least, and it's been fun so far.
 
Lila Stevens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:In my garden, in the desert, my landrace beans cross pollinate at about 2%. In Carol Deppe's garden, near the woods, in a wet climate, the pollinators are more active, and beans cross-pollinate at about 5%. Cross pollination rates of up to 20% have been measured.

By selectively replanting beans that are natural hybrids, I selected for higher promiscuity rates. My beans used to cross pollinate at about 0.5%

Planting close together, and hoping for natural hybrids is a great strategy. The naturally occurring hybrids tend to outperform the highly inbred heirlooms, so the descendants of hybrids produce more seeds, and become a larger percentage of the population than might be inferred from the low crossing rate.



That is good to know! Where I am, east of Austin, Texas, there are SO MANY wildflowers So I am thinking there must be a healthy pollinator population to match them. I want to go around with my kids and count all the different things blooming wild just on our 3 acres; I'm guessing there are probably 20 or so different kinds of blooms, most very tiny, but all amazing.

I'm going to put in an extra bed of mixed pole beans along the fence, and maybe an extra bed of mixed bush beans too, and give it a go. Nothing to lose by growing more food.
 
denise ra
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Lila Stevens, this is off topic from the op, but I really like iNaturalist app for documenting all the plants at my place. If I only input observations from my place into inaturalist, then I have a list of what grows there that I can add to every year.
 
Lila Stevens
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Thank you Denise, I will check it out!
 
Jenny Wright
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:In my garden, in the desert, my landrace beans cross pollinate at about 2%. In Carol Deppe's garden, near the woods, in a wet climate, the pollinators are more active, and beans cross-pollinate at about 5%. Cross pollination rates of up to 20% have been measured.

By selectively replanting beans that are natural hybrids, I selected for higher promiscuity rates. My beans used to cross pollinate at about 0.5%

Planting close together, and hoping for natural hybrids is a great strategy. The naturally occurring hybrids tend to outperform the highly inbred heirlooms, so the descendants of hybrids produce more seeds, and become a larger percentage of the population than might be inferred from the low crossing rate.


Ooooh! I always wondered at the fact that my beans seemed to stay true even though I plant a dozen varieties each year!
 
Tom Knippel
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Nancy Reading wrote:So the question is: how much can one achieve with a single land race? Is it possible to have good drying and green beans in a single landrace? I'm expecting to need to select dwarfing strains for short season fruiting, but these are likely to be less productive than climbing strains, so maybe these need to be separate also? Should I just wing it, or try and make a decision as to what I'm aiming at before I start?



Yes I think it is possible to have good drying and snap beans in a single landrace but I think doing so creates some issues, plus I question the overall quality of product as well as yield (no garden space is saved as you would have to plant twice as much to get the same harvests of dry and snap beans that I get because I treat them as separate food plant types and plant amounts accordingly).  I have found that working with dual purposes usually creates mediocrity, that is why I separate things out.  That is also why I do not think I have true landraces but I do not care, it is just semantics and I use the term for the sake of convenience and understanding.  I think you need to do what works best for your needs and your situation regarding climate, soil, garden space, growing characteristics, etc., just think it through regarding the pros and cons.  Know your plants and what must be done for the different types for them to thrive.

I would never combine bush, semi vining, half runner, and fully vining P. vulgaris types into one landrace, because my climate creates issues that need to be addressed differently for those different plant types.  It would create one big dysfunctional mess.
 
Mark Reed
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I'm blessed with an abundance of bumblebees which in my garden are the far most frequent to bean flowers. Years ago, I grew beans primarily for snaps and rarely saw a crossed bean. When I vastly expanded planting for dry use crosses became common. I also grow pole types almost exclusively, harvest goes on for weeks, just picking whatever is ready on a given day and by shelling them pretty much individually rather than thrashing a new or odd-looking bean is easy to find.

I also am careful to plant different ones adjacent, so they intertwine, putting the flowers in very close proximity. This I think helps by encouraging the bees to move between the different kinds rather than one single type and then on to the next.

My primary landrace type is large pole beans, but I've been breeding for intermediate sized vines. Ideally 4 to 6 feet and branchy, but still a true climber is what I'm after. The intermediate or semi-runner landrace is not quite as diverse yet as the larger vine type but making good progress. I do grow a few bush beans too and by planting them in close contact I have found a few vining plants in their offspring.

My bean landraces include
Large Vine Pole (dry)- being phased out
Semi-runner Pole (dry)- moving into the primary spot
Subsets of each of those, selected out for snaps but these are still in the dry landraces as well, also a hand full of pure "heirlooms" and one stabilized cross that I grow in a purer state because of the unique flavors, these also are in the landraces as well
Bush Bean, both dry and subset of snap - both being phased out because in my climate bush beans have serious issues that don't affect pole beans
 
Steve Thorn
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Here's a picture of my favorite looking seeds from one plant last year, and for some reason the name mocha cream came to mind.

I didn't seperate these, but just mixed them in with the others, but I kinda hope to see more like these next year.
I-call-thee-mocha-cream.jpg
I call thee mocha cream
I call thee mocha cream
 
Steve Thorn
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Just wanted to document for my future self that the bean seeds in the jar above was about a third of the ones I saved.

This third in the picture had longer and fully filled pods, so I'm thinking these may have contained more crosses, due to the better pollination. Another third I saved from most of the other plants in the Fall. I still had quite a bit leftover this Spring that were still hanging on the vines, and seem to be especially resistant to rot.

I plan to mix up all of these in some areas but hopefully also have another area where I plant each of these separately to observe them and the results.
 
Steve Thorn
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What do you all think about the possibility that the full pods with bigger/healthier looking seeds are cross pollinated due to the vigor from more genetic diversity.
 
Jenny Wright
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Steve Thorn wrote:Here's a picture of my favorite looking seeds from one plant last year, and for some reason the name mocha cream came to mind.

I didn't seperate these, but just mixed them in with the others, but I kinda hope to see more like these next year.



First thought, "so pretty!"
Second thought,"they look like jelly belly candy!!! " 😂
 
Lila Stevens
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Steve Thorn wrote:What do you all think about the possibility that the full pods with bigger/healthier looking seeds are cross pollinated due to the vigor from more genetic diversity.



That would be neat if it is true, because it would give you a way to identify beans with a higher likelihood of crosses even before planting them out. If you were to plant a bunch of those in a separate area, and you got a higher percentage of obvious crosses (due to appearance of plants and beans), that might give you an answer. Unless someone who has been doing this for a while knows the answer already.
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