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Seeds, seeds everywhere . . .

 
Tracy Wandling
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Okay, so, I had thought that ‘open pollinated’ seeds would be the best to use, because they're . . . you know . . . open pollinated.    For some reason I thought that this meant that they would have more genetic diversity in them, not less. But it seems I may be mistaken about that.

I get the deal about Heirloom seeds being inbred for many generations to retain specific qualities, and how that has eliminated genetic diversity in the plants grown from them. But can these seeds still be used to mix and match genetics for a landrace?

So, I guess my main question is, what type of seeds are the best to get if I want to create a landrace, and increase genetic diversity while selecting for certain traits such as taste, drought and frost tolerance, earliness, and whatever else I want? Or does it matter? I am thinking that any seeds I can get my hands on, as long as they’re not GMO, would be good to throw into the mix at the beginning of a landrace experiment. But perhaps I am mistaken. It’s happened before . . . 

(I’m hoping Joseph or R will jump in here any minute now, and lead me gently down the path of seed-saving enlightenment . . .)

Cheers
Tracy
 
K Putnam
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I just want to second interest in this topic.  If you're trying to get genetic diversity, where does the newbie start? 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I like starting with whatever seeds that I am currently growing. Saving seed from them, and maybe next year testing a new variety in the same field. And if it  does well, adding the seed to my population. If it does poorly, then perhaps it contributed some pollen. But if I only plant the new variety as about 10% of the patch, then not much harm can be done, even if the new variety does poorly, and contaminates my crop with it's pollen. Perhaps in 2 or 3 generations, some trait that the poor performing variety contributed will prove valuable.

In the seed industry, the term "Open Pollinated" has come to mean just the opposite of it's plain, common sense meaning. The common sense meaning is "promiscuous". In actual truth, "open pollinated" means that every trick known to science is used to prevent the seed from crossing with anything else. But even then, open pollinated varieties have DNA in them, that may prove useful when combined with different DNA from other varieties. And not all heirlooms and OP seeds are equally inbred. Some varieties contain more diversity than others.

I use any seed that's available to me when starting a seed-saving project: hybrid, open pollinated, heirloom, modern varieties, propagules from the grocery store or farmer's market. Sometimes I might get rambunctious  and include wild relatives. There are some crops like beets, carrots, brassicas, and onions, in which the hybrids are made using male sterile plants. And that sterility is passed on through the mother, so all of it's descendants are also sterile. When I see plants that don't have anthers, or that don't produce pollen, I just chop them out. (At one time, 70% of my carrots were male sterile.)

Tracy wrote: I am thinking that any seeds I can get my hands on, as long as they’re not GMO, would be good to throw into the mix at the beginning of a landrace experiment.


That's my strategy exactly. And I don't have to do it in one growing season. I can start with one variety, and  test a new variety for inclusion in the landrace each year, or I can start out with many different varieties and let them duke it out early on. I've done it both ways. Either way works fine...  With some crops, for example beets, any variety that I plant will grow acceptably here. I only have to watch out for male sterility. With spinach, about 50% of varieties that I trial here will fail. No big deal, that means that 50% will thrive. With tomatoes, the failure rate on my farm is around 95%. With runner beans the failure rate for the first 4 years was 100%. I finally got seed the 5th year. I attribute that to importing a genetically diverse landrace from a farm with hot/dry summers, which is similar to my summers. The 6th year I harvested less seed than went into the ground, but that was two generations that had produced seed on my farm. So finally in the 7th growing season the runner beans produced abundantly. This summer is looking like another super-abundant year for them.

I finally built this summer's runner bean trellis about a week ago:




 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Some crops have been a joy for me to work with because they are inherently genetically diverse.

It seems to me like okra has retained a lot of genetic diversity. If I plant a "variety" of okra there tends to be a lot of differences between plants within the variety.

Tomatillos are self-incompatible, which means that they can't be too closely related to each other, or they won't make seeds. They are another crop that has been a joy to work with.

The mostly inbreeding crops like peas and common beans are interesting. Because if they self-eliminate in the first growing season, then it's unlikely that they have crossed with anything else, and the genes just get lost. But that also means that a tremendous amount of selection can be done in a single growing season. If I plant 50 varieties of beans, and 15 of them thrive here, they are likely to continue thriving. I don't worry about the 35 varieties that didn't measure up. I watch the beans very carefully. Anything that looks like it might be a naturally occurring hybrid gets a special spot for a couple of years.

This spring, I planted 2 cowpea landraces: One from Minnesota, and one from Texas. I also planted the "variety" that I have been selecting on my farm for the past few generations. They are the row on the left which is about 150 feet long. The row next row to the right are F2 hybrid common beans.

 
Tracy Wandling
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Ah, that's where I went wrong - using common sense. So, the term 'open pollinated' is a misnomer; but open pollinated seeds can still be useful in creating landraces. That's very good to know. Thanks, Joseph.

This is just the first year of my new garden, so there wasn't much in the way of planned promiscuousness going on, but I am definitely getting a grip on the subject, and look forward to putting my knowledge to use next year. I've read Raoul A. Robinson's Return to Resistance, and Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener, and will be picking up her Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties soon, so I hope to have a small catalog of information in my noggin to help me set my plan in motion. And, of course, I read your Mother Earth News articles, and the stuff you share here on permies.com, so I'm feeling much more confident, and very excited about watching it all unfold. Way cool stuff.

Anyway, I have some more questions, but it's past my bedtime, so I'll post them tomorrow. Thanks again for being so open with your information and experiences. It is ever so helpful.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Miranda Converse
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I use any seed that's available to me when starting a seed-saving project: hybrid, open pollinated, heirloom, modern varieties, propagules from the grocery store or farmer's market. Sometimes I might get rambunctious  and include wild relatives. There are some crops like beets, carrots, brassicas, and onions, in which the hybrids are made using male sterile plants. And that sterility is passed on through the mother, so all of it's descendants are also sterile. When I see plants that don't have anthers, or that don't produce pollen, I just chop them out. (At one time, 70% of my carrots were male sterile.)


Just curious, why do you chop the sterile plants? If they're sterile, won't that prevent them from producing anyway? And if their male, it's not like you will get sterile seeds from them and have diminished rates of germination. Just wondering if I'm missing something...
 
Casie Becker
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My understanding is that the lack the necessary structure to produce pollen. If there is a male fertile plant around they will still produce seeds that will keep the malformed flower gene in the next generation. If this is a dominate trait (which it sounds like) then over time you will be getting fewer and fewer plants capable of cross pollinating other plants, and a corresponding reduction in viable seed.
 
Miranda Converse
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Ah so we are talking about plants that have both male and female flowers! I don't know why, I was thinking of plants that had only male flowers (I have no idea which do and which don't have both). Makes sense now!
 
R Ranson
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Miranda Converse wrote:Ah so we are talking about plants that have both male and female flowers! I don't know why, I was thinking of plants that had only male flowers (I have no idea which do and which don't have both). Makes sense now!


I think we are talking about plants that normally have perfect flowers (both male and female in the same flower).

Some plants have been bred so that there are no male parts in the flower so it doesn't produce pollen.  This is, as far as I can tell, deliberate to prevent people saving their own seeds.  These genetically castrated flowers are ones to look out for.  I haven't seen any myself yet, but I hear they are out there.


Some plants have only male or only female flowers per plant.  Squash have separate female and male flowers, but on the same plant. 
 
Casie Becker
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Actually we're talking about plants that have both male and female parts on one flower. The female parts work (and so develop seeds if exposed to pollen) The male parts are nonfunctional and produce no pollen.

I think all the same information would apply for plants with separate male and female flowers, though. I think that's actually how a lot of the non allergenic landscaping trees are developed. They just keep cloning a mutated plant that doesn't produce pollen.
 
R Ranson
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Tracy Wandling wrote:

So, I guess my main question is, what type of seeds are the best to get if I want to create a landrace, and increase genetic diversity while selecting for certain traits such as taste, drought and frost tolerance, earliness, and whatever else I want? Or does it matter? I am thinking that any seeds I can get my hands on, as long as they’re not GMO, would be good to throw into the mix at the beginning of a landrace experiment. But perhaps I am mistaken. It’s happened before . . . 

(I’m hoping Joseph or R will jump in here any minute now, and lead me gently down the path of seed-saving enlightenment . . .)



Me?  I'm still a novice, especially when faced with Joseph's awesome experience.

But I'll do my best.

From my reading, I suspect that even open pollinated varieties that have gone through a bottleneck usually have more genetic variation than a hybrid and many of the modern seeds produced for high input commercial agriculture. 


If one wants to maintain an open pollinated variety, one way to gain genetic diversity is to buy seeds of the same cultivar, but from different sources.  Sometimes there can be quite a wide variation even in the same variety.  Grow them all together, select seeds from the plants that grow best for you and/or meet the 'breed standard'. 


what type of seeds are the best to get if I want to create a landrace


I think, ones that already have some of the traits you are looking for in your final landrace and that taste good to you.  No point starting with bad tasting plants.  Other traits might include the ability to survive and reproduce in your conditions, size, shape, colour, things you like.  For example, I want giant kale, so I didn't get any dwarf varieties when I acquired my starter seed. 

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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When I first became aware of the habit of mega-ag of selling male-sterile hybrid plants, I checked my carrots, and found that 70% of them didn't produce pollen. I don't like that trait for philosophical reasons. If I'm going to grow something, I want it to be a perfect example of it's species, and not so defective that it can't produce pollen. I have received a number of reports from people that tried to grow carrot seed from male-sterile hybrids. So their carrot patch didn't produce any pollen. Therefore any pollen in the patch came from wild Queen Anne's Lace, and they got terrible carrots the next year. Pollination is a very localized event, so if their carrot patch was producing pollen, they would have gotten very high rates of great carrots instead of 100% junk.

Normal carrot flower: Very Male!Defective carrot flower: Emasculated.




I don't mind starting with bad-tasting parents, IF they are the only representative of the species that will grow on my farm. My first requirement is that a crop has to reproduce. Then, I can worry about traits of secondary importance such as taste, color, shape. But if I can start with something close to what I want, then selection is easier later on.
 
John Weiland
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I poked around a bit for an answer to something I've wondered for some time now:  If any of you are growing "Golden Bantam" open-pollinated sweet corn, to what extent does my 'Golden Bantam'--genetically speaking---look like yours?  If what we call 'Golden Bantam' has been around since ~1900, has gone through several hands, and has been raised in myriad locations, to what extent does any one's 'Golden Bantam' look like, and share genetic similarity to, the original stock? (see first photo below)

This gets at the heart of the larger question:  For heirloom varieties of all different types of crops, what kind of genetic diversity exists *within* any given variety?  It may be that, by chance, 'Amish Paste' tomatoes, irrespective of whose garden you go to, are genetically quite similar not only within the US, but across the globe.  By contrast it may turn out that, in a random sampling of gardens that harbor 'Brandywine' tomatoes, the genetic diversity between the different gardens (and therefore, seed lots) is quite high.  What can be said is that heirloom *tomato*....as a concept and across many varieties....appears to be rather diverse. (second photo below). Even a high-inbreeding crop like bean can, under localized selection, maintain rather high diversity across a region (third photo below).

Information that I'm finding is difficult to track down is the extent of "de novo" mutation in introducing and maintaining diversity in things like heirloom crops.  Anytime you put a seed into the ground and it grows into a plant, there is the potential for genetic change.  The "proofreading" mechanisms within the cell prevent anything catastrophic from happening, but it's the small changes over time that can be expressed as minute differences from plant to plant, accumulating one year to the next, sometimes manifesting in increased cold tolerance, squash bug resistance, increased fruit size and sweetness, etc.  Hopefully, with all of the renewed interesting in heirlooms and their contributation to crop diversity and food security there will be some efforts to measure the diversity in these holdings.  This could inform greatly any program or home operation that is starting from ground zero in helping to decide which varieties  to introduce into their permie "starter home".

Garden diversity "starter pack"...I like that idea!.....
GoldenBantam.JPG
[Thumbnail for GoldenBantam.JPG]
HeirloomTomato.JPG
[Thumbnail for HeirloomTomato.JPG]
HeirloomBean.JPG
[Thumbnail for HeirloomBean.JPG]
 
Tracy Wandling
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Excellent conversation!

R: I like to read your take on things because we're growing in a similar area, you're doing what I am going to be doing, and experimenting in a way that I want to be experimenting, and you seem to speak my language.

~

The male-sterility thing is definitely an important conversation to have. Just another thing that we are not made aware of when purchasing 'mega-ag' seeds, and that's pretty shabby, if you ask me.    But now that I know, I can watch for that.

So, if I want to make sure to eliminate the male-sterility problem and grow viable seeds, do I have to just keep trying seeds until I find a variety that has male flower parts that produce pollen, or is it something that I can select for, or somehow know beforehand if a variety is male-sterile? What I mean is, within a variety that is male-sterile (say, one packet of carrot seeds), are there likely to be at least some male flower parts that produce pollen, or will there be no functioning male parts at all within that group of plants? I don't mind looking at each flower individually to see if its boy parts are there and doing their thing. But how can I know if there are likely to be boy parts on some plants, and not on others? I'll sure be putting my Observation skills to the test with this experiment.

It seems to me that any variety that claims to be 'open pollinated' should have both male and female parts that do what they're supposed to do. Is this the case, or is this another thing 'they' aren't telling me on the package? If this is a common occurrence in brassicas, I'll have to take a close look at my broccoli flowers from the plants I want to save seed from.

If I find a variety that I really like the taste of, which grows fairly well in my area, and is a good producer, and I want to start saving seeds from it, and use it in my landrace to increase the genetic diversity, and I then discover that this variety is 'male-sterile' so I can't save seeds from it, how do I fix that? I assume that I would find more varieties that also have traits I like, but which have male flower parts that produce pollen, and then start crossing those varieties and selecting for the traits I want from their progeny. For the male-sterile plants, have they 'done something' to the female flowers that inhibit them from accepting pollen from another variety? I imagine not, but ya never know . . . And I'll probably have to grow all the varieties out and let them go to seed in order to ascertain if they are male-sterile or not, yes? (Right now I'm thinking about broccoli.)

Which brings me to my next question - and I guess this is for Joseph, or anyone who has been creating landraces for some time and have a few that they grow regularly for market (and I'm not entirely sure how to even ask the question): When you grow out your landrace seeds for a particular crop, how varied is the harvested produce? If I'm growing for market, I need to know that every plant is producing food that tastes good. I'm not so concerned with complete uniformity, variation in size is okay, and even in color; but it has to look good and taste great. So, once I've selected for the things I want in my landrace, and it's growing splendidly for me in my garden, how do I both ensure that every fruit or leaf or seed harvested has excellent flavor, AND also maintain genetic diversity, pest and disease resistance, and all of the other things that make a landrace a landrace, and not an 'open pollinated' variety or Heirloom-type that becomes inbred? Does that make sense?

I guess maybe I'm wanting the best of both worlds in the crops grown for market: the versatility, strength, and genetic diversity of a landrace, and the 'uniformity' of production, flavor and, to a certain degree, appearance, of a 'stable' variety. I guess this is my major stumbling block in understanding the creation of a landrace for market garden production. I'm not so concerned with this in my produce grown for home use - well, except for the flavor, of course - but for market it seems more important to be able to ensure that what I'm growing will be not only productive and resistant to local pests, weather, etc. but will also be somewhat uniform in appearance, and very uniform in flavour - as in, all delicious.

The question: When you have finished selecting for the traits you want in your landrace, do you then 'stabilize' it? Or do you keep adding in new genes from different varieties, keeping it diverse, and are never really 'finished'? This is where I get stuck in my understanding.

Sorry for the long, rambling, question-laden post, but I really really want to understand how this all works, because I find it very exciting, and feel it's so important. I want to get it right.

Thanks!
 
John Weiland
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@Tracy W: "For the male-sterile plants, have they 'done something' to the female flowers that inhibit them from accepting pollen from another variety? "

No...in fact they rely on the receptivity of the female part of the flower to accept pollen from a donor plant in order to create an F1 hybrid.  Kind of winging it here, but I'm going to guess that, with time, experience, and a bit of seed-saving and observation, you are going to lose any male steriles in your seed lots in a few generations.  I suspect this will be the case because male sterility is generally something that must actively be maintained....with effort....in a breeding scheme.  In general, male-sterility is mostly what is called 'cytoplasmic', in that it is a result of interactions between the mitochondrial genome and nuclear genome in the plant.....the right combination must exist for the plants to be male sterile.  There are specific lines of plants called "maintainer" lines that allow a breeder to "maintain" CMS plants so that the breeder can continue to produce F1 hybrids each year for new seed production.  This will be a common breeding design for lots of company breeding programs, including for the major seed catalogs:

From Wiki:  "Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) is used in hybrid seed production. In this case, the sterility is transmitted only through the female and all progeny will be sterile. This is not a problem for crops such as onions or carrots where the commodity harvested from the F1 generation is produced during vegetative growth. These CMS lines must be maintained by repeated crossing to a sister line (known as the maintainer line) that is genetically identical except that it possesses normal cytoplasm and is therefore male-fertile. In cytoplasmic–genetic male sterility restoration of fertility is done using restorer lines carrying nuclear genes. The male-sterile line is maintained by crossing with a maintainer line carrying the same nuclear genome as the MS line but with normal fertile cytoplasm."
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Male sterility is a complicated subject with lots of caveats, but here's a crash course...

Male sterility is typically only present in hybrids of small-flowered things like carrots, onions, beets, chard, cabbage, kale, broccoli, radishes, brassicas, turnips, bock choi, etc... Open Pollinated varieties typically don't carry male sterility unless they have been contaminated, which sometimes happens.  I typically avoid planting F1 hybrids of these crops. The brassicas have two methods by which hybrids can be made: male sterility, or self-incompatibility. Seed catalogs don't typically specify which method was used. Plants with self-incompatibility produce pollen and seeds, they just need a nearby pollinator that's not too closely related.

Cytoplasmic male sterility is inherited only from the mother. So her descendants will continue to fail to produce pollen. (In some species, a gene from the nucleus may deactivate the sterility.)

Hybrids of tomatoes, squash, and melons are typically made without using male sterility. So I like using them. Spinach, corn, and tomato hybrids are typically fine. Potatoes are seriously afflicted with all sorts of sterility issues.

Beans and peas are not hybridized so they are fine.  Niche crops like spices are typically open pollinated.

Sometimes the male parts are missing. Other times they are shriveled up remnants. Other times they look about normal, but fail to produce pollen.

Packets of commercial seeds tend to be highly uniform. It's unlikely to get much mixed genetics in a seed packet, unless it was intentional like some of the seed companies that put 6 varieties of radish into a "radish mix".

I fixed the male sterility in my carrot landrace by culling. Looking at the flowers on each plant, and pulling up any plant that didn't have normal flowers. The genetics of the mother plants were lost to me... Genes go into a male-sterile family, but they don't come out.

There is no reason that small scale growers couldn't use male-sterility to make their own custom hybrids. The method is well within reach of any amateur plant breeder.

If there is a patch of broccoli that is male sterile, the bees ignore the sterile plants. Because they are not producing pollen, and the nectaries are typically not working either!

I had to make my own customer base for landrace crops... Try getting someone to taste a muskmelon!!! Once they do, they'll either love it or hate it. I have tasted every muskmelon that I save seeds from for 7 generations now. There are not any duds. Every one tastes excellent. I have been taking landrace squash to the farmer's market for a long time now, so people think that's how squash are supposed to look. It helps that I have a good squash vocabulary. So when someone says, "Do you have any ______". I can reply with: This one will taste like a butternut. This one will taste like an acorn squash. This one will taste like a Hubbard. I have also been tasting my squash for years, but the taste of a squash depends on so many things other than genetics... So sometimes I have a dud squash. But even my vine-ripened duds are better tasting that what was raised in Mexico and shipped to the organic health-food store.

I'm perfectly willing to guarantee the taste of my produce... If someone don't like it, they can ask for a replacement. Honest feedback is more important to me than a free squash.

I taste every tomato that I save seeds from. I think that tomatoes are a generally horrid tasting fruit. But even the worst tasting tomato from my landrace tastes better than the cardboard-like tomatoes from the grocery store... I don't try to grow Roma/Paste tomatoes on my farm. Because performance is pitiful. So I let the chemical farmers grow those for my community. I grow fresh-eating tomatoes.

I keep the Crookneck Squash fruit shape very uniform: This squash has a strong emotional hook into me due to my early childhood experiences. I'm always going to grow it. I might let the leaf shape, or days to maturity be whatever it is, but shape and color of the fruit are the defining characteristic of this variety.


I keep the Buttercup Squash fairly uniform, but allow more flexibility in color/shape. Taste has to be that  perfect buttercup taste.


I figure that one tomato is as good as any other, so lots of diversity there. But no cardboard tomatoes allowed.


Anything goes with beans.


I'm growing okra for my market. Okra is a crop that was way out of it's comfort zone. Often times,  any okra that I take to market, no matter how bad, is still the only fresh okra available in my valley. Perhaps one of these years, I will start selecting okra by taste. For now, it's good enough that I'm selecting it for survival.

Broccoli grows pretty good here, but I can't stand to eat it because it's highly sulfurous. I have resolved the issue to my satisfaction by not growing broccoli. I really should grow broccoli just for taste testing, and get that bad taste issue taken care of. All broccolis can't be equally distasteful when grown by me in my garden.

I'm constantly adding small amounts of new genetics to my landraces to increase genetic diversity (5% to 10% per year). During selection, I tend to be generous with what I save seeds from. There are some traits like "POISON" that are culled automatically, and "tastes meh" is culled automatically on well established crops. During development, I might allow a meh tasting plant to remain if it has a trait that I really like. For example, for years, the earliest muskmelon tasted mealy, but I kept saving seeds from it because it was early. Then one year I didn't. I'm glad it's gone. I didn't look forward to that first mealy cantaloupe.

At any time, I can start inbreeding a variety, if I find a trait that I really want to be fixed. In my own garden, I have never felt inclined to turn a landrace into a variety, I always go the other direction towards more diversity. My landraces are constantly evolving and constantly in flux: some more than others. I have on a number of occasions split landraces. For example, due to customer requests, my moschata squash landrace was split into small-fruited, medium, and extra large. I grow them in separate fields so that fruit size is predictable. Within a few years, I expect to stop growing my tomato landrace and replace it with a promiscuously pollinating landrace that is currently being developed. As another example of splitting a landrace, some years ago I made hybrid swarms containing hundreds of varieties of corn, and then hybridized the swarms. Since that time I have reselected to get a sweet corn, a flour corn, and a flint corn.

MediumExtra Large


 
Tracy Wandling
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Brilliant. I do believe that I'm getting the picture.

I think that we (as in, people in general) tend to complicate things, or 'mystify' them so much that we feel they are beyond our grasp - too difficult or complicated or scary for the average person to do. Thanks for helping to demystify this ever so important subject, and put it into the hands of 'the people'.

Of course, I have more questions, but will mull them over while I make dinner, just incase I already know the answer. It's been known to happen . . .
 
Thomas Ziminski
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Tracy - I have just started multiple landrace breeding projects. So I guess I am one step ahead of you.

I am working on a fall landrace garden. Arugula, cabbage (red, green, savoy, and napa), beets, carrots and turnips.

I bought every single OP variety I could find of the above species. I haven't added any hybrid seeds as of yet as I am afraid of CMS. I’m afraid I wont have the time to check the flowers. I feel like the more varieties the better, once they cross I can select for any trait I want because the genetic pool is so diverse.

I wanted a good bolt-resistant summer Arugula, so I bought almost every OP arugula variety I could find and then sowed a bunch of it about a month ago. Maybe half of the seeds came up, the soil temp is at least 80 degrees F. We had about a 2 week period of low to high 90's F (pretty rare around here). I didn't weed the bed, and it got inconsistent watering. It's August 2nd and still no sign of bolting. I'd call it a riveting success already. (My original variety bolted in late April, way before the really warm temperatures hit, and lasted maybe 2 weeks before flowering). This will be my summer arugula landrace. I will also be growing winter, spring and fall arugula landraces as well. For the arugula I sow all my varieties, 10 total each month, and select for my desired traits.

I started 150 cabbage plants yesterday. 6 seedlings each from 25 different varieties. I will select the best seedlings (there is only room for 100 of them) and then plant them out and trial them and see what grows well here and what doesn't. I'm selecting for good growth, pest resistance (there are cabbage moths everywhere this summer), good storage ability, taste and cold resistance. I'm gonna try and overwinter some of them outside and some inside. I want to replant the winners in the spring for a seed crop.

Winters are weird here and highly erratic. Sometimes it is mild with a few days just below freezing. Other winters we can have 3ft of snow cover from December to March and no above freezing temperatures for months at a time. Other winters there is no snow cover but it goes below freezing often. I look forward to whatever the weather throws at me, maybe I can overwinter some of the fall veggies, maybe not. Survival of the fittest.

Buy some seeds, plant them, observe, take notes, select for your desired traits, and you’ll be well on your way to creating something awesome and amazing!
 
Tracy Wandling
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Hi Thomas;

Sounds great! It's a pretty exciting venture, isn't it? I'm just about to start a bundle of seeds for the fall garden as well, and hope to incorporate as many varieties as possible. But I'm short of space, so the real planting bonanza will start next year. As it is, I will be saving seeds from whatever makes seed: tomatoes, zukes, lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, parsley, cucumber, kale, etc.

Next year I will have much more space, so can put more varieties in the garden.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Anne Miller
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R Ranson wrote:I think we are talking about plants that normally have perfect flowers (both male and female in the same flower). 


My question is about saving seeds from this kind of flower.  In a Compostitae (Sunflower Family), I am assuming that the disc flower is attached to the pappus which is attached to the fruit or seed.  So when I dry these I can throw away the disc flower + pappus and keep just the seed.  I may be making this harder than is necessary but I am trying to learn about the different kind of flower heads.  I assume that the pappus is the male part of the flower and makes the pollen and the seed is the female part.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Anne Miller wrote:My question is about saving seeds from this kind of flower.  In a Compostitae (Sunflower Family), I am assuming that the disc flower is attached to the pappus which is attached to the fruit or seed.  So when I dry these I can throw away the disc flower + pappus and keep just the seed.


Typically seed separates readily from the pappus and from the disk. If not a little bit of rubbing facilitates the separation. I rub seeds and chaff between my hands. Gloves help if the plant is spiny.

 
Anne Miller
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Joseph, thank you very much for the reply.  I already separated most of the seeds.  I put them in a bowl and just bounced them around and used a clothes pen to push to separate from the receptacle [disk].  On the tv show Cheyenne, I saw how he rolled the flower in his hands to separate. The pappus was attached to some after separating and wanted to make sure that it was ok to separate.

This is a Mexican Sunflower we received in a package of unidentified free seeds.  The butterflies and hummingbirds love it so we want to plant it again next year in a more appropriate place. Very large plant about 3-4 ft tall and needs water!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Anne Miller wrote:This is a Mexican Sunflower we received in a package of unidentified free seeds.  The butterflies and hummingbirds love it so we want to plant it again next year in a more appropriate place. Very large plant about 3-4 ft tall and needs water!


I'm smiling... Here's a photo of my sunflower patch from a few weeks ago.  It needed more water than my sprinklers could provide, so I watered it with a 4" hose!

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Sunflowers.
 
Anne Miller
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Those sunflowers are gorgeous, I assume they have edible seeds?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Anne Miller wrote:Those sunflowers are gorgeous, I assume they have edible seeds?


Thanks. Yup. Biggest sunflower seeds I ever saw. The kernel inside though is normal size. I like them because they are super easy to remove from the disk. And the heads when mature hang horizontally, so that birds can't access the seeds. And, it's just plain cool to be growing the tallest sunflowers in my village.



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