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Landrace Gardening

 
Michael Cox
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If barley is grown in your area already then you can probably find some feral plants. Look for roadside verges/hedgerows/edges of fields where barley has been grown before. Ferals will already be heading down the path of naturalising to your local conditions.
 
R Ranson
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Michael Cox wrote:If barley is grown in your area already then you can probably find some feral plants. Look for roadside verges/hedgerows/edges of fields where barley has been grown before. Ferals will already be heading down the path of naturalising to your local conditions.


That's a great idea.

In the late 1800s there was a lot of barley grown here for a local brewery - in fact, the brothers that grew the crops and ran the brewery are responsible for some of the most invasive species in our area. Scotch broom being the worst of the lot, but apparently makes a decent hops substitute. Rumor has it one of their hops plants are still alive and growing up a telephone poll. I wonder what time of year I can make baby hops plants from an old hop plant.

I'll have a look around where their farm was, but I don't have high hopes of finding barley as it's too close to the city now. The verge along the road is well manicured as leaving any weeds long during the drought is considered a fire risk. But perhaps a nature park near the area would have a few grains growing wild. Definitely a fun adventure to investigate.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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R Ranson: Great project...

I find that the cultural methods that I use have big influence on when grains mature... They mature earlier if given less irrigation. I haven't messed with timing of fall plantings, but I bet that earlier planting leads to earlier harvests. Earlier plantings may also be more susceptible to winter kill. Plants mature earlier on fields with a more southerly exposure or if less shaded.

The no weeding criteria works well for a lot of grains that can be fall planted and escape the annual weeds. That doesn't work so well for escaping competition from perennial grasses. Around here, the areas where grains thrive without cultivation is in places that are too dry for perennial grasses to grow well. Taller plants tend to be better at out-competing weeds. I echo Michael Cox's sentiment of looking for grains that have already gone feral. Older strains tend to be taller. One of the things that the green revolution did to grains was shorten them significantly so that they are easier to harvest by machine, and so that they don't blow over so easily in the wind. They got poisons to deal with the weeds. Rye is the dominant species along some of the roadways around here, even though it hasn't been grown on purpose in decades.

What are you hoping to use as a summer grain? Can that be planted a month before you harvest the barley?

 
R Ranson
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I don't know what my summer grain is going to be yet. I do know what criteria it needs to meet to fit with our rain schedual - but haven't yet found a grain or crop that comes close.

As Fukuoka style already has white clover growing with the grain, a legume won't be necessary - but it is still possible option.

Winter rain starts between Oct 12 to 15th - on a usual year. Sometimes as late as Oct 18th on a dry year. We have a couple of weeks dry and cold in Jan or Feb, but for the most part, our daytimes are above freezing, and our nights frosty. Rain stops sometime during the last week of April or the first week of May - usually May 1st or 2nd. We have a few showers the last week of June and a few heavier showers the last two weeks of August, neither enough to germinate weeds, level on actual crops. The biggest problem with growing summer crops without irrigation is that the frost dates are more or less even with the rain dates. So, our last expected frost date is April 17th, which gives us a little over a week of frost free rainy weather before the drought happens.

For a two crop per year field I need:

Winter crop
- Plant sometime in the fall. Mid to late Oct is ideal as the wild birds and animals have other food to eat and aren't interested in grain buffet.
- Harvest last week of May to first week of June.

Summer crop
- Broadcast the seed in among the winter crop 4 to 6 weeks prior to harvesting the winter crop - the plant needs to be able to tolerate being trampled while I harvest the winter crop. Also needs to be not too tall when the winter crop is harvested, because I plan to eventually harvest with scythe.
- Plant Mid Mar to Early April.
- Harvest time not so particular, but needs to be finished before the rains hit - Preferably not harvested the last two weeks of August or first week of Sep as that's usually wet and busy. Harvest end of Sep would be perfect.
- Can withstand some mild frost while young.

It would also be nice if both crops produced some sort of straw like matter that can be spread back on the field once the harvest is finished.

Any thoughts on what might fit this?


 
siu-yu man
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how about amaranth?
i sowed some into a small plot of camelina and they're just chillin right now at about 2-3 inches high waiting for sunlight.
lots and lots of biomass after harvest.
not sure if the timing will be right though.
that's a tricky set of conditions you have.
 
R Ranson
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Amaranth is a great summer grain, although I don't know if it will fit into my fukuoka style field. At the moment, my amaranth is over 5 foot tall, about a month ago, it was almost knee height - too tall to recover from being trampled during harvest of the winter grain. I love Amaranth and it is growing well in some of my other gardens - the ones with zero water. So long as they get a good rain the first two weeks of life, they seem to be able to suck up moisture from deep in the ground, and absorb the morning dew.


At the moment, I'm toying with the idea of working with Echinochloa crus-galli . I have a lot of it growing as a weed and it seems to thrive just fine without water. It started coming up mid April, so I'm guessing one would plant it early april or late march. There seems to be a historical precedent for using it as a grain, especially in Asia and Northern Europe - where it was used like millet. The young shoots are also eaten as a vegetable. The timing is right for Fukuoka style grain growing. It grows as fast as amaranth, and in some places is outpacing it. Even in this late stage, when it is going to seed, I can still trample it and it springs back the next day. There are reports that it can be mowed or grazed several times and still go to seed later in the summer. here's another link about barnyard grass



The biggest problem with this is that it is an invasive species that has a negative impact on large scale agriculture. If I were to work with it as a possible grain crop, I would first need to find a way to keep it contained. Even though it's already here and prolific, I still wouldn't want to be responsible for making things worse.

If I were to grow this, I would want the grains to be larger - although volume might make up for the lack of size, 40,000 seeds per plant is a lot of grain. I would also like it to be a bit more upright for ease of harvest with a scythe. And on top of all that, getting rid of any seed dormancy stuff would be a must - I don't want to be like poppies where the seeds can hibernate in the soil for years before growing.

But first some more research. Maybe there is a domesticated cousin of this grass that would like to come here and make beautiful plant children with my weed? The invasive nature of the plant is a major drawback, and also I might find a better crop to grow instead.

If I could get seed, this Japanese Millet, a close relative of my wild grass, would make a very interesting possibility for a wide cross.
 
siu-yu man
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thanks for that link to eat the weeds. i'm gonna walk around the field today looking for grasses with no ligule.

this guy is doing some interesting experiments with grains as well, including millets.
http://www.sherckseeds.com/pages/2014/millets-and-multi-cropping/
http://www.sherckseeds.com/pages/seeds/grains/japanese-barnyard-millet/

also saw this one that might work for you since your summers are arid:
http://www.sherckseeds.com/pages/seeds/grains/teff/
though it might not tolerate a frost, and may lodge if you get a rain right before harvest.

yeah, amaranth's awesome. i'm gonna sow some more today with some clover just for sport as i just cleared out some dead shrubs & invasives yesterday, so we have a patch of bare soil and are expecting a deep hard rain this weekend.

i agree with joseph, it's a cool project you're doing. i really think alt-grains have tremendous future potential to help kick the nasty habit of chemical dependence.
 
R Ranson
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Great links Siu-yu man. Thank you for sharing them. It's a shame that Sherck's site doesn't ship to Canada. I'm really curious if Japanese millet will grow well here.

I've had strange dreams about this grass the last few nights. Almost ten nights in a row now. Never had a plant do that before. There is something about crusgalli that has captured my imagination. Now how to transform those imaginings into food crop? Although, I do want to learn more about this grass before I start.

Back to the barley harvest today. I'm harvesting the grain by hand with scissors because it didn't grow tall enough to get above the weeds. It's hard on the back, but it's nice to be able to pick and choose which plants I save seeds from.



 
siu-yu man
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haha, harvesting barley with scissors...genius...you really got do a utube of that.

methinks you should follow where those dreams are leading you.
how to turn a problem ("noxious invasive") into a solution (edible crop)?
sounds like a well-justified reason to concentrate the plant in one area to me.
that seed is already gonna drop somewhere, even if you choose not to collect it.

you should drop that guy an email nonetheless, if nothing else, you'll probably have tons to talk about.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I love the differences in color, shape, and height of landrace sweet corn:





 
Joseph Lofthouse
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As an example of the types of things I do to develop locally-adapted plants: I have allowed these tomatoes to be snowed on two nights in a row. And they have been growing near freezing at night since they were planted. I'm looking for frost and/or cold tolerance.

 
Su Ba
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Great technique, Joseph!

I'm working on landrace pumpkins/winter squash for my own area. Insects are my issue with them. I just got ruthless a ripped up dozens of vines that were having pest issues, leaving me with several dozen that are still thriving. And I'm getting baby fruits now. How exciting!

I'm also selecting for beans that germinate in cooler soil and produce early. This past month I yanked plenty of plants that were too slow to start or too late flowering compared to their bed mates. While these won't be landrace, I am selecting for the traits I want in the future generations.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Su Ba: Good for you! If there was one thing that I wish that I could convince seed savers to do, it would be to cull plants.... Even if only 20% were culled, it would go a long way towards strengthening the population. I especially enjoy culling plants that are slow to germinate, and that grow slowly as seedlings. They are easy to spot, and little plants require much less remorse than large ones. When I start a new breeding project, I am perfectly happy with cull rates approaching 95% if the survivors are growing quicker and much more robustly than their peers.

A lady grew some squash in my garden last year from a commercial packet of seeds. The bugs devoured them. It was surreal to me. I had forgotten that we even have bugs in this area that eat plants... I used to cull squash plants that attracted bugs, but now I barely remember that they used to be a problem.

With my beans, I typically save seeds from the earliest to mature, and eat the later maturing ones. I haven't intentionally been working on frost/cold tolerance in beans, but last year when I did germination testing, I tossed the pots into the greenhouse, and out of about 100 bean seeds, 3 plants survived the frost. So I grew them out. I really aughta plant them this spring, like a month before the average last frost date, and see if anything survives.

This muskmelon plant produced more melons than a 50 foot row of other melons.


Photo of an average muskmelon, taken on the same day, that was planted at the same time a few feet away. This was one of my first crops of melons, so I hadn't culled the slow growing plants.
 
R Ranson
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Speaking of planting things early...

About an hour ago I was mulling over planting my squash seeds in the ground. Squash are 'suppose' to be started inside here, and planted out towards the end of May. Last year I started mine (gasp and horror) by sewing the seeds directly in the ground, at the end of April! It was a bumper crop, but perhaps planting them in the pile of goat muck might have had something to do with it.

I would love it if I could plant squash during the warm patch at the end of March. I think I'll give it a go and see if anything survives. There will be plenty of time to put more in the ground later if we get a hard frost.

Thanks for the inspiration Joseph.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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R Ranson: I like planting squash three times: Once about a month before anyone in their right mind would ever plant squash. Once at the recommended planting time. And once a month later than that. Sometimes the earlier crop succeeds beyond my wildest imagination. And after the normally planted crop has produced it's crop and expired, the later crop will sometimes put on a glorious harvest.
 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:A lady grew some squash in my garden last year from a commercial packet of seeds. The bugs devoured them. It was surreal to me. I had forgotten that we even have bugs in this area that eat plants... I used to cull squash plants that attracted bugs, but now I barely remember that they used to be a problem.


I have about a dozen curly mustard plants that overwintered during this mild winter and have been exploding with leafy growth for the last month, shrugging off several mild frosts. They are about knee high and each one probably has about five pounds of edible mustard greens if I were to harvest. Instead I have left them all unmolested to go to seed as they are scattered around in my little food forest area -- and they are all just starting to flower now.

Today I noticed that one of the plants had turned dark in color. Upon close examination, it was completely covered with some sort of insect eggs on the undersides of the leaves. I don't know what they are but they look like whatever was chewing up my kale all last summer.

So I looked around. All of the other mustard plants are just fine and egg-free.

It took willpower, but I got out my machete and hacked that huge and beautiful plant all the way down. I know the conventional wisdom is to burn or remove the infested plant material, but instead I spread it out on the ground as a buffet for my local birds (while wishing I had poultry already).

My reasoning is that I don't want that manifestly bug-edible plant to self-seed all over my orchard when I seem to have plenty of less-bug-friendly plants that are fixing to do so.
 
Sam Boisseau
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Dan Boone wrote:

Today I noticed that one of the plants had turned dark in color. Upon close examination, it was completely covered with some sort of insect eggs on the undersides of the leaves. I don't know what they are but they look like whatever was chewing up my kale all last summer.




Aphids?
 
John Weiland
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@Sam B.: "Aphids?"

My guess would be flea beetles. And if they are in Oklahoma now, they will be winging their way northward to our garden in just a few weeks. > Murderous little things on Brassicas....
 
dos zagone
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Man this section was a lot of info. Im getting both of those books now. And I cant wait to start the process of saving my own unique breeds of plants. Lofthouse is a waterfall of information. I love the idea that culling anything that looks bad is the way to go. That should help get the more productive genetics spread in the genetic pool better. Have you ever read Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard. He does what he calls STUN Shear Total Utter Neglect. I think the principle is same for how Lofthouse starts his Landraces. I need to start taking pictures of everything I do too keep track of results being this my first year trying it will be nice to have a start to finish document.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The culling that I do at the start of a landrace development project tends to be different than the culling that I do later on.

The first year of a landrace development project I typically allow survival-of-the-fittest to be the primary selection criteria. Pretty much any seed that is produced is collected and replanted the next year... I do this for the purpose of allowing cross pollination: To the extent that it is possible for the species. Because even if a plant is mal-adapted to my conditions, it might have some genetics that would prove useful later on when combined with traits from different varieties. The first year I am primarily concerned with testing whether or not the species/variety is capable of producing seeds in my growing conditions. Sometimes I have up to 99.9% failure rates on the survival-of-the-fittest test. Mixta squash and runner beans failed 100% for 5 years in a row before finally producing their first seeds. So I don't want to start off the season eliminating plants until I know that at least something can make seeds. But I still cull. For example if I find a hot-pepper in the sweet-pepper patch.

The second year I do a little bit of culling early in the season, but tend to stay pretty much hands-off. I'll save seeds from anything that produces a seed in the second year, just like in the first, but I save the best in their own seed packet. Then I plant a little bit of everything, and a lot of what did best. Sure, there are traits that are "banned" from my garden, and those plants are susceptible to culling at any time. For example, a tomato that gets blossom end rot, or that is attractive to Colorado potato beetles.

The third year, and all succeeding years is when I tend to get serious about culling. Because by then, any hybrids that were generated the first year are in their F2 state: At maximum genetic expression and diversity. If I can get the culling done before the plants shed pollen into the patch, then that's pleasing to me. If not, then I save seeds only from the fruits that come from plants that are most pleasing to me. I might save a bulk seed lot of seconds. But I replant it in small quantities, like less than 10% of the patch. That keeps the genetics around, but doesn't allow them to dominate the patch.

The first year of the muskmelon development project, I took any fruit that I could get... Even if they were green and had immature seeds when harvested.


In later years I had the luxury of selecting for early ripening fruits.


The pollen to produce these big melons was introduced into the patch 5 years previous to the time that the extra large melons actually showed up in the garden. It took a lot of rearrangement of the genetics for the right combination of traits to be aligned to make them possible. I still ended up culling them, because I am not after big melons, I am after melons that are reliably early. And that means smaller melons.

 
dos zagone
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Lofthouse how many plant species roughly are you landraceing a year. Are there any plants that you do not do this with for any reason? Any species that you spent a lot of time on and feel that the results have not payed off?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Everything that I grow is grown landrace style. Once I saw what a powerful technique it is for me, I committed to converting every crop that I grow into a landrace. Last year, I grew about 70 landraces from about 55 species... This growing season, I am creating a few new landraces of vegetables, and I am adding about 60 species of medicinal herbs. I don't have a clue how many of the herbs will actually make seeds for me, but I'm at least going to try. And next year I intend to add more vegetables, and more medicinals.

As examples: I grow a number of landraces of corn. Five sweet corns, a popcorn, and a grain corn. They share some common genetics, but if I make hybrids between them, I always reselect so that the sweet corn remains sweet corn, and the popcorn remains popcorn, etc... I don't grow every landrace every year. Sometimes I have crop failures, or planning failures, or not enough isolation locations, or whatever.

This year, I am starting landraces of tepary beans, cowpeas, cabbage, beets, and kohlrabi. The third growing season tends to be the magical year for me, when the crop is finally locally adapted enough to thrive. Some crops that are way out of their native range might take 4 to 7 years. Other crops, like turnips fit right into my garden the first year. I am also splitting the moschata squash landrace into about 8 landraces with distinctive traits. For example: small, medium, and extra large fruited... Interspecies hybrid with mixta squash... trombocinos, fig-leaved, jagged-leaved, mottled-fruits, etc.

Also this year I am devoting tremendous time and resources to bringing wild-tomato genetics into my landrace tomatoes... I expect to continue to grow my landrace tomatoes for a couple of years, knowing that I will stop growing them after they have been incorporated into the wild-tomato project.

I tried growing sesame last summer. I harvested fewer seeds than went into the ground. So there is no telling if this will be the year that one of them takes off, or if I will lose the rest of the seed and have to start over. When I grew elephant garlic, the bulbs got smaller each year until they disappeared. I may have had better luck growing them from seeds. But that was a long-time ago, and I wasn't very committed to the species, so whatever. I might try again, perhaps with leeks.

Watermelons have been difficult for me. And continue to be difficult. Even though I can grow watermelons, they are not reliable enough, and consistent enough to sell as a market crop. With so much diversity, it's hard to know when to pick them. I can give them away, and if they are not ripe enough, then no big deal... It was a free melon.

Popcorn has been hard for me to grow as a landrace. Because the characteristics that make for a good popping kernel are very specific, and it's hard to get the necessary consistency. However, even if my popcorn has a lot of old-maids, the flavor is the best I have ever tasted in a popcorn.

Landrace tomatoes:

 
Mick Fisch
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Not wanting to disrupt or hijack a truly instructive thread, but I think we can use the term 'landrace' more broadly and I find it stretches my thinking.

The term "landrace" is also applied in animal breeds to denote locally evolved/developed breeds.

I read somewhere about how "landrace" varieties of plants and animals effected population expansion. Used to be, most plants and animals were local developements, or even family/village developements. When folks married they would bring in seed/ animals from both families. More kids survived to adulthood in groups with more productive/nutritional plants or animals that were better adapted to the environment/ farming practices. Leading to eventual expansion due to better nutrition(if the other groups didn't adopt the plants/animals/farming practices). Not trying to justify any particular dominance of one group or another, just trying to follow the logical thought process. In evolutionary theory, more successful long term reproduction = winning.

Our thinking and customs, hopefully, eventually become adapted to the local area and become another kind of "landrace". I read somewhere that it was around 60 years before the first european descended baby survived in Brazil, partly because of the portuguese custom of swaddling babies in lots of blankets was ill adapted to the climate of Brazil. I wonder what mental baggage we carry that may have been well adapted to another time and place, but not to the here and now?

Please return to the discussion of landrace plants. I feel I am learning a lot and think that Joseph's insights and practice are probably going to help me avoid a lot of mistakes when I start on my own landrace projects.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Society and culture are absolutely tied together with landrace growing!!! The plant, the farmer, and the society are all intimately entwined in landrace growing. The plants evolve to thrive in a specific culture and with a specific farmer. Society and the farmer also evolve to meet the plants in the middle. A good example would be my muskmelons. They have a fan-club. A group of people that love the smell, texture, odor, taste, and fragrance of my muskmelons. Did I mention how smelly they are? I frequently hear comments along the lines of "I can't even eat a cantaloupe at a restaurant any more because they are so bland and hard!". Even what we call them has evolved... I started out growing cantaloupes. But over the years, they became so gloriously fragrant and odoriferous, that the name was a disservice to them, so they were renamed to "muskmelons". They are exactly the odor and taste that I love in a melon. And a society is forming around them because of their smell and glorious taste.

Sometimes someone will say to me, "What's a muskmelon?", my reply is typically, "Like a cantaloupe but really sweet and really smelly and tasty". That often elicits a response of, "Oh. I don't like cantaloupes". In my mind, the product offered by grocery stores with the name "Cantaloupe" isn't even the same product as one of my vine ripened muskmelons. No wonder people don't like them. I don't like them.

I often hear comments along the lines of, "Yours are the only cantaloupes that have been successful for me since I moved to the valley." That's another social aspect of the variety... If people can't grow a crop here, then it's harder to be part of the local customs. Essentially, a local growers club has formed around my muskmelons. I love it when seed comes back to me from some of these growers. It helps maintain the genetic diversity, and helps with local-adaptation.

For example, I am now able to grow okra... People around here barely know what okra is. More than any other vegetable I take to market, people ask the question, "How would I use it?" And then there are agricultural considerations. Okra transplants very poorly. But with my cold springs, and ravenous bugs, it pretty much has to be transplanted to survive. So the farmer is adapting his methods to meet the needs of the plant. And along the way, I am selecting the okra for better transplanting ability. I look forward to watching the development of an okra sub-culture in this area.
 
R Ranson
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I'm very interested in landrace animals. I didn't even realize there were landrace plants until I stumbled on Joseph's writing on Mother Earth News.

It was joyful this morning. The first thing I read was someone else interested in landrace animals! I was beginning to think I was the only one.

This topic really deserves its own thread. I'm just having trouble figuring out where to put it. The closets forum we have is 'critter care' but it doesn't look like a fit for this conversation.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Once I saw what a powerful technique it is for me, I committed to converting every crop that I grow into a landrace.


This has been a major commitment for me that seriously disrupted how I farm. At the most basic level, landrace gardening means that I have to grow my own seed for every crop. (Or acquire if from a nearby neighbor that grew the seed.) This has saved me more than $1000 per year on seed costs. There isn't any way of determining how much extra labor it takes... In other-words, when I stopped buying seeds, I was forced to localize my garden.

My favorite way of growing onions, was to buy 30 pounds of onion sets from Texas, and plant them to grow both green onions, and storage onions. I couldn't do that any more when I took a vow to raise my own. So I had to learn how to grow onions all over again. It was a tough road... I had to develop new methods and ways of doing things. I had to learn how onions really grow. I had to explore new species, and using old species in different ways... Basically, I am growing Egyptian onions as scallions, and I am starting cepa onions from seed in about January to transplant into the garden as storage onions. This year, I am exploring Welsh onions, potato onions, and shallots to see if they will be more useful to me. This summer, I intend to explore growing my own onion sets. In the meantime, I'm buying onions to eat.

The biennials have been hard for me. Because I have had to learn how to get them through winter in order to make seeds. So I basically stopped growing cabbage, and beets, and turnips. I really miss turnips, so I gathered together the volunteers last fall, and am intending to grow an honest seed crop this year.

The rewards are glorious to me. I get varieties that grow really well here, and have exactly the tastes, textures, smells, and colors that I love.
 
John Weiland
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@Joseph L: "The biennials have been hard for me. Because I have had to learn how to get them through winter in order to make seeds. So I basically stopped growing cabbage, and beets, and turnips."

As I'm sure you are aware from the history along the Wasatch front, beet and beet sugar have a legacy there, not only for production (failed....you know the area south of of downtown SLC called "Sugarhouse"?) but also for breeding. I don't know how effective mulching would be in your garden, but a fall planting of beets (or brassicas), either from seed or as seedling transplants, might be mulched for deep winter and then uncovered in the spring. I'm pretty sure you do not need to grow these all of the previous summer in order for them to overwinter. The winter vernalization should be sufficient to get them to bolt. Where this may not meet your needs would be in being able to take exactly a root type that you have in your hand and want to get seed from that root....cuz if you are planting in the fall, you will just be going on faith that you want the seed from the plants that survive and bolt in the spring. Note that if you are interested, the "monogerm trait" that was brought to (discovered in??) the US by the Savitsky's from the Soviet Union allows you to plant one seed to get one beet plant.....most 'red beet' seed and swiss chard seed is 'multigerm' with multiple sprouts per seed ball, but I have begun to see some red beet seed offered as monogerm.

Re-- Landrace animals. We were told our chickens would not survive in our region without a somewhat warmed building for them to roost in for the -20 F weather. We've already observed selection for hearty ones....while some are in the warmer quonset, another group is in an open shed, just in cardboard boxes with some hay. They are out on the frozen/snowpacked driveway in midwinter picking up the grain that is scattered for them. And they've 'adapted' to the dogs getting into their nests in the spring....now they locate them in novel areas that even *we* can't find! They are on their way to becoming a "domesticated pheasant"....
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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John W: I inadvertently selected for winter hardy turnips... Because I grew my own crop of seed in 2010, and tens of thousands of seeds didn't get harvested, and some of them survived the winter. And they have have continued to reproduce as weeds in my garden. Occasionally I have chard survive the winter, and it is the same species as beets, so there might be some hope for a beet that could overwinter in the ground here. I really wouldn't need them to survive every winter. One winter in 4 would be sufficient, if i intended to grow seed every year, and most years failed, but they occasionally succeeded, then that would be good enough. Young turnips survive the winter here better than large turnips. Perhaps the same applies to beets or cabbage.

I till the turnip weeds in the fall. Some of them sprout in the spring. I yank them up, and examine them, and replant the ones I like as a seed crop. I could do the same with beets.

With something like cabbage, I'd feel very content attempting to overwinter young plants... Even if I can't evaluate them for head characteristics. I might be able to select for winter hardiness, which may be a more important trait in my garden.

The one time I planted monogerm beet seeds, they were male sterile, so didn't produce pollen, and thus no seeds either. I was way disappointed!!!


 
Mick Fisch
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The reason we domesticated mainly annuals and biennials is because of the short turn around.

perennials are hard to root out, so if you want to get rid of it and plant a new variety you would have to use new ground to be sure your experiments weren't mixed.

Not many really domesticated trees out there. We plant thousands, find one we like and graft off it because breeding would take too long.

 
Jamie Chevalier
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I usually see landrace used for varieties that are selected by local non-professional farmers over a long period--true varieties with fairly predictable traits and usefulness, but not uniform enough for a modern American seed company or large-scale ag. For example, native American farrmers in some localities had two or three different types of corn that were very distinct--large white ears versus small purple ears. Each constituted a landrace variety, and each family's strain was full of variation, with even more variation between strains of different families in an area. A friend from Guatemala who works with traditional corns described landrace varieties in this way. The very wide and varied populations that have not yet stabilized out into "strands" or varieties, I would call a genepool or a grex, which is defined as all the progeny from a cross.

I just thought to look up "landrace":
A landrace is a domesticated, regional ecotype; a locally adapted, traditional variety of a domesticated species of animal or plant that has developed over time, through adaptation to its natural and cultural environment of agriculture and pastoralism, and due to isolation from other populations of the species--Wikipaedia

So there is a distinction between a landrace and a feral or naturalized variety that has no care or selection. Arguably the most sophisticated and successful plant breeding accomplishment in history ws the creation of domestic corn by native farmers. Those landrace varieties were varied, but very intentionally and knowlegably cultivated.
 
John Weiland
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Mick F.: "I wonder what mental baggage we carry that may have been well adapted to another time and place, but not to the here and now?.....How many stupid ideas we currently hold that run counter to the findings of thousands of years of field results"

There may be much and many. An older example: If you are convinced that you can't live without beer, there's no end to what you will do to try to get barley to grow.

http://sciencenordic.com/vikings-grew-barley-greenland

The Viking immigrants to Greenland could not shake the mental baggage that they *needed* their own crops and food sources, all the while rejecting/ignoring the indigenous Skraeling (Thule) diet and adaptations to those regions already 100s of years in place.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skr%C3%A6ling

@Jamie C: " Arguably the most sophisticated and successful plant breeding accomplishment in history ws the creation of domestic corn by native farmers. Those landrace varieties were varied, but very intentionally and knowlegably cultivated."

Agreed.
 
John Weiland
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@Jamie C. "... and due to isolation from other populations of the species"

Yet one of the perks of having pollen from nearby ferals in the vicinity of your garden may be the inadvertent introduction of genes from the feral into your domestic; genes which may provide improved adaptation to one's specific locale.

http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1003477

Given concerns regarding patented plant varieties and gene flow from those varieties into the wild, much research has focused on that one direction of flow. Less work has been done to detect flow in the other direction (e.g. from wild mustard to domestic Brassicas, from wild oat to domestic oat, from wild rye to domestic rye, etc) except under experimental situations. Given the opportunity afforded by many small gardens across numerous locations with varying feral relatives nearby, it is not inconceivable that occasional introgression of alleles occurs in these cases, which may contribute selective advantage to that grower's breeding program.
 
Jamie Chevalier
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Good point; that is known to be the case with traditional corn fields and teocinte. It seems to also happen with potatoes in Andean terraced fields.

However, it is important to understand the risks. For example, even one plant of wild gourd can contaminate a whole field of domestic squash (Cucurbita pepo) with a persistent gene for terrible--as in make you retch--bitterness. The bitterness will not be in all the squash, but it will be like Russian roulette, and can destroy a farmer's reputation. This happened to a large seed crop of Delicata squash a few years ago, and it took a lot of work to locate and multiply uncontaminated strains after the problem was identified and traced.... Our ancestors worked for centuries to select the plants that have become our domestic crops, and one way to honor those many generations of work and care is to continue with as much judgement and finely-tuned observation as they did, if we can.
 
Jenna Ferresty
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When planting landrace seeds, do you still rotate planting spaces or do you plant in the same place and hope to breed pest resistance?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Jenna Ferresty wrote:When planting landrace seeds, do you still rotate planting spaces or do you plant in the same place and hope to breed pest resistance?


Either way works fine...

Personally, I pay little attention to crop rotation. It seems pointless on small farms where the pest propagules are right next to the old planting, and the new planting, even if things are rotated. What? A beetle can't hatch out and travel 100 feet to find it's preferred host? A virus doesn't blow around on the wind? And it would be a huge bother to make maps of my fields to insure that I wasn't planting something in the same place that I planted it last year. I'm growing 120 species of food producing plants. I don't want to waste time on crop rotation paperwork.

However, because I grow my own seeds, I grow a tremendous amount of vegetable weeds. So on some crops, I pay some attention to where I plant the seed crops, to put them in an area where there won't be a lot of weeds from the same species. For example: I don't want sweet corn growing with popcorn weeds. I don't want the turnip seed crop growing with bok-choi weeds. I don't care at all if I have sweet corn weeds growing in the sweet corn. I don't care if bean weeds grow in the beans.



 
John Weiland
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@Joseph L.: "It seems pointless on small farms where the pest propagules are right next to the old planting, and the new planting, even if things are rotated. What? A beetle can't hatch out and travel 100 feet to find it's preferred host? A virus doesn't blow around on the wind?"

Crop rotation is a pretty old concept and I don't think it hurts to practice it as much as one is able. As you noted, there are many above-ground disease/predation agents that will scoff at micro-rotation, but even in windy areas, the below ground rhizosphere will reflect the previous crop and not see the same sort of organism migration that is seen above ground. Further, I see it as diversity over time.....allowing the soil to "see" a different rhizosphere every now and then. There is ample evidence that this can benefit the cropping system in helping to reduce disease, but the notion get's murky when perennials are introduced into the discussion. Even in certain prairie biomes where there is localized monoculture of one or another type of grass, those grasses can establish some type of relationship with the soil over numerous years that, in addition to natural evolved disease resistance in the grass species, rebuffs invasion by root, foliar, and head disease organisms and insects.

Getting back to annuals, although it's almost heretical to mention it, the photo below is testament to the ability to raise "wheat on wheat" and still avoid disease. It's likely that the plot shown below has developed a "suppressive soil", one that initially may have built up pathogen load a few years into development of the plot, but which also saw an increase in the populations of beneficial bacteria and fungi over time as a component of the wheat rhizosphere that developed from annual, unrotated planting. I'm not sure if and how the plot may be fertilized, but given the location, it will be a highly fertile soil and not in need of irrigation.
ContinuousWheat.JPG
[Thumbnail for ContinuousWheat.JPG]
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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One of the books that most informed my current philosophy towards growing was Raoul A. Robinson's Return to Resistance: breeding crops to reduce pesticide dependence. One of the take-away messages of the book to me was to conduct plant breeding in the most disease and pest infested areas that can be found for each species. That way we can select for plants that are naturally resistant, rather than depending on -cides... On a side note, I think that one of the reasons that commercial seeds tend to do so poorly for me, is that they are typically produced with the use of crop-protection chemicals, which I don't allow onto my farm, so varieties that are possible only because of -cides tend to do very poorly in gardens where people don't want to poison themselves or their ecosystem.

I think that there is a lot that is unknown about the beneficial interactions between plants and micro-organisms. Do the tomatoes that thrive in my garden do so in part because they have forged symbiotic relationships with specific strains of bacteria or fungi that are found on my farm? Do I have mycorrhizae that are specific to specific crops at my farm? And if I plant in the same place every year, is it easier to maintain those relationships? Are those relationships disrupted by crop rotation? When I send my seeds out into the world without their specific soil-born germs, are they at a disadvantage?

I have one field in which I only plant squash. The squash bees love that field!!! If I rotated out of squash one year, it would seriously disrupt the ecosystem in that garden.



 
Ferne Reid
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I read the whole thread and got inspired, so I planted a winter squash landrace the other day. It's on a bare slope that needed to have something planted there. The soil is mostly red clay, but at some point a previous owner had some sand hauled in, so there are little sandy pockets here and there. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

One thing I don't struggle with is culling. We raise rabbits, and they'll eat anything that grows. It's easier to chop down a plant if you know it's gonna feed someone.
 
John Weiland
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@Joe L.: "(1)Do the tomatoes that thrive in my garden do so in part because they have forged symbiotic relationships with specific strains of bacteria or fungi that are found on my farm?.....(2) When I send my seeds out into the world without their specific soil-born germs, are they at a disadvantage? "

Relating to question #1, there are clear genetic effects in plants, and the specific example linked below of tomato, for "receptivity" to beneficial rhizosphere bacteria. This likely extends to mycorrhizal relationships as well.

http://www.pnas.org/content/96/9/4786.abstract

With respect to #2, if you are sending out "seeds" versus one seed and you are making an effort to keep decent genetic diversity in your seed lots, then (a) yes, they may well be *initially* disadvantaged but (b), due to the diversity within the seed lot, will shift with the adaptation to the new location. This is the basis for many of the publicly-available germplasm accessions that plant breeders use.....such a breeder is often dismayed at the genetic heterogeneity of the seeds that arrive, but realizes that without that heterogeneity, they might end up with a seed lot that is no good at his/her location. Usually they've requested the seed due to some trait of interest that they wish to introduce into their own breeding stock. Having to winnow out the genetic "chaff" from the wheat is the bread and butter (so to speak) for these breeding programs.
 
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