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Landrace Seed Saving and Chemicals  RSS feed

 
Renay Newlai
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Location: Canada Zone 5a
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Landrace gardening is a new concept to me and I can't wait to jump in! I've been collecting seeds from friends and local farmers this summer to start trying to build diversity next year. My question is this, if I get seed from produce that has been treated with herbicide, pesticide, or other chemicals, will I be adding in undesirable traits to my gene pool? Has anyone tried this, and if so, what kind of results did you get?
 
Walt Chase
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Just a guess here, but I would say no.  Most all commercial seed, or rather the fruit/veggie they seed comes from, has been sprayed with something and a lot of land races start off with commercial sourced seed from the seed rack.  Some commercial seed is also treated.
 
Renay Newlai
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That's what I thought too. And it makes sense that a lot of landraces start with what's available.

When I started talking about it to another farmer, she was very convincing that I would be doing harm. She insisted that the only way to go was organic. When I started thinking about it, I wondered how plausible it was that it could negatively affect the offspring. Or worse!
 
William Schlegel
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Carol Deppe breeds her vegetables without any inputs to control disease and advocates that students of her works should not either.

Conversely many certified organic systems use numerous inputs everything from BT sprays to diatomaceous earth.

Conventional systems can use all kinds of chemicals.

Over time a variety, landrace, or strain should adapt itself to it's growing conditions if the genetic variation exists within the population to withstand whatever it disease pressures exist. If that variation doesn't exist it doesn't matter the result will be the same- the disease will run it's course destroying the crop.

Many organic seeds are limited in scope- less selection and many older heirlooms. Heirlooms are great but they may lag behind modern varieties in terms of inclusion of genetics derived from modern breeding programs. Modern breeding programs have incorporated gene sequences from many wild crop relatives.

So for me when I was looking for genes last winter for landrace breeding with tomatoes one of the things I did was start with modern hybrids. Sungold F1 (actually sungold f2- I saved seeds), summer girl F1, Tumbler F1, and Baby Boomer F1. My primary criterion was earliness as I live in a region with relatively low disease pressures on tomato and I was interested in doing a direct seeding experiment. I also bought seed from Joseph Lofthouse and other sources online as well as a few packets of organically grown seed from the local seed co-op.

Variation is not magical- you can get lots of variation from a single hybrid. A Sungold F2 was a surprise winner in my experiments in early tomato growing this summer. So a few packets of hybrid tomato seed, seed saved for a couple generations, could make a fine tomato landrace. If you grow those tomato offspring under your growing conditions for generations and save the best ones you should be selecting tomatoes that will do well for you.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My theory is that if seeds come out of a system in which many generations of ancestors have depended on chemicals or other inputs  (rather than on genetics) to protect them against diseases and pests, then I expect that many genetic traits may have been lost that would make a variety a good candidate to be the progenitor of a landrace. Many of those modern varieties fail dramatically when they arrive in my zero-treatments garden.

Modern varieties that depend on chemicals for survival, also tend to be highly homogeneous genetically, so again not good candidates to be the progenitor of a landrace. If a highly homogeneous variety crosses with itself, it's still basically a clone of itself. Gotta have diversity before you can have selection and local adaptability.

My strategy is to include some modern homogeneous varieties, and some hybrids, and some heirlooms. Then let them creolize, without applying fertilizers or crop protection chemicals, until they become locally adapted.
 
Renay Newlai
Posts: 6
Location: Canada Zone 5a
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William Schlegel wrote:Carol Deppe breeds her vegetables without any inputs to control disease and advocates that students of her works should not either.


One of her books is enroute to me as we speak. I can't wait to read it!

William Schlegel wrote:I also bought seed from Joseph Lofthouse and other sources online as well as a few packets of organically grown seed from the local seed co-op.


I can't seem to find landraces in Canada and more specifically, my growing conditions. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong spot! The farmers at the local farmers market are almost all using some form of conventional inputs. The local organic seed seller uses lots of extra inputs, plastic mulch, and irrigation.

I already grow with very little intervention on my part, but my seed needs more diversity! I have difficulty with many crops when adversity hits them. Probably due to the fact that I was sold on the idea that keeping heirloom strains was the only way to go. And now my gene pool is shallow from selectively taking only the best from such a small selection to begin with.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
My strategy is to include some modern homogeneous varieties, and some hybrids, and some heirlooms. Then let them creolize, without applying fertilizers or crop protection chemicals, until they become locally adapted.


So, add what I can and let the weak fail? Just get as much diversity in as possible? 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Renay Newlai wrote:So, add what I can and let the weak fail? Just get as much diversity in as possible? 


That's my strategy. I can't tell if varieties are very much genetically different from each other just because they have different names, but I try to include an assortment of different looking varieties, and allow them to promiscuously pollinate as much as they will, then select among them for what thrives in my garden. Some people that visit my garden are horrified with me. I'll yank a full grown tomato plant out of the ground because a fruit has blossom end rot. I'll go through a row of seedlings, and chop out 20% of them that germinated slow, or are growing poorly. People that think that every plant should be coddled may not do all that well as landrace gardeners. I figure that my contract as a farmer is with the species, and not with named varieties, or specific plants.


 
William Schlegel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

People that think that every plant should be coddled may not do all that well as landrace gardeners.



They might do ok. Might slow things down but selection should still progress simply because some of the most productive plants will naturally set more and better quality seed.
 
Brandon McGinnity
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Location: Winston-Salem, United States
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William Schlegel wrote: A Sungold F2 was a surprise winner in my experiments in early tomato growing this summer.


Interesting. I have always wondered about saving hybrid seeds. Did you see a lot of variation in the resulting plants from the saved seed? I grow for market sales so I buy seed unless it's heirloom that I can easily save, like heirloom tomatoes mainly at this point. I've saved things like dill, spinach, cilantro, basil, and the like in the past, from much smaller home gardens.

Note: I know almost nothing about what a landrace even is so I'm here to learn and understand. But I'd love to save on costs, if it were possible to save hybrid tomatoes, peppers, and stuff like that. Plus I do like the idea of locally adapted plants
 
William Schlegel
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Brandon McGinnity wrote:
William Schlegel wrote: A Sungold F2 was a surprise winner in my experiments in early tomato growing this summer.


Interesting. I have always wondered about saving hybrid seeds. Did you see a lot of variation in the resulting plants from the saved seed? I grow for market sales so I buy seed unless it's heirloom that I can easily save, like heirloom tomatoes mainly at this point. I've saved things like dill, spinach, cilantro, basil, and the like in the past, from much smaller home gardens.

Note: I know almost nothing about what a landrace even is so I'm here to learn and understand. But I'd love to save on costs, if it were possible to save hybrid tomatoes, peppers, and stuff like that. Plus I do like the idea of locally adapted plants


I didn't see huge variation in my F2 sungold but I really only have two plants of the cross. One of the plants has more grape shaped fruits than the other which has round fruits. Both taste similar but are a little larger than sungold fruits. I decided to save the seed late last fall after reading about interesting things Joseph had found in Sungold. I didn't save much / plant much. The direct seeded plant tied with Sweet Cherriette a 35 DTM variety in the March planted block of my experiment. I've already saved the seed again but I mixed the seed of the two plants and they may vary on earliness.- I may save more seed I just the direct seeded plant when I get home.

Saving seeds of hybrids is always a bit of a breeding project. The resulting progeny will be variable. You would probably have to taste and sort these results and market them in different ways depending on their quality. I think lots of people would buy "mixed" tomatoes with little hesitation.
 
Angelica Harris
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Location: Statesboro, GA
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Renay Newlai wrote:So, add what I can and let the weak fail? Just get as much diversity in as possible? 


That's my strategy. I can't tell if varieties are very much genetically different from each other just because they have different names, but I try to include an assortment of different looking varieties, and allow them to promiscuously pollinate as much as they will, then select among them for what thrives in my garden. Some people that visit my garden are horrified with me. I'll yank a full grown tomato plant out of the ground because a fruit has blossom end rot. I'll go through a row of seedlings, and chop out 20% of them that germinated slow, or are growing poorly. People that think that every plant should be coddled may not do all that well as landrace gardeners. I figure that my contract as a farmer is with the species, and not with named varieties, or specific plants.




I'm interested in landraces as well and while it does sound a little painful to whack off undesirable plants, I'm sure it gets easier over time. With that being said, Joseph what is your system to encourage such "promiscuous pollination"? I would think close plantings would help but would not be the end all be all. Would one need to hand pollinate as well? Or enclose the experimental plants altogether in a greenhouse or something? However, in the hopes of getting some truly open-pollination just from the wind or visiting pollinators, would closing plants off in greenhouses really help encourage diversity or hinder it? These are just some thoughts of mine. I'm here to learn as well.
 
William Schlegel
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In regards to encouraging cross pollination. I am often to busy or lazy to cross pollinate things much. I bought a tomato pollinating tool this year when it was on sale and then used it almost exclusively on tomatoes that already have handy exserted stigmas (Joseph's posts led me to scour my garden for such special exserted stigma tomatoes).

Mostly what I do is just plant things really close together. Depending on the crops natural breeding system it may naturally be an out breeder or an inbreeder or in some cases could be both. Plants are rule breakers when it comes to norms in those regards. Also most crops have some kind of outbreeding rate. Close plantings plus time should lead to some crosses. If things stubbornly refuse to cross eventually I may break down (if I ever have time at the right time) and do some crossing. I would like very much to know if my peas are crossing at all on their own or not. If not I want to cross them (if I ever have time).

Encourage native bees by planting a good variety of pollinator plants. Sometimes native bees are very good at crossing things. So if you can get a good variety of bees you may also get good natural crossing. I keep hoping for a legume specialist bee to arrive to mix up all my legumes! Hmm maybe if I plant a row of the local native lupine in my garden it's pollinators will come with!

If I have neither luck with natural crossing or the time to make crosses I will just keep trading for and buying more diverse seeds and growing them in mixtures.

Though I think most plant species should eventually hybridize into an more evolving landrace type population. It's all just a matter of time, pollinators, and maybe the occasional paintbrush or tomato pollinating tool.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The variation in the offspring of hybrids depends on how different from each other the parents were... Sometimes differences are readily apparent, sometime I can't tell any difference.  I grew about 72 F2 sungold plants last year. About ten percent of the fruits were red instead of orange (cross pollination or segregation?). One plant of the 72 had exerted stigmas. The size of the fruits varied from a little smaller than F1 to a bit larger. About 4 generations into a similar project in years past, orange fruits were appearing that are about 2 inches in diameter.

Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents, so if a great hybrid produces seeds, the offspring will tend to be great. The family resemblance will be very strong in future generations.

The nice thing about encouraging promiscuous pollination is that some percentage of the crop each year will be naturally occurring hybrids. In corn that might be 30-70%. In modern tomatoes it might be 5%, or up to 10% in older varieties. Natural hybrids are wonderful, because they have hybrid vigor, and rearranged genetics, so they can constantly be adapting to new conditions.

Because of hybrid vigor, the offspring of hybrids will tend towards producing more seeds than their more inbred heirloom ancestors, so in a mixed population (especially with farmer directed selection for productivity), the trend will be towards higher populations of hybridized families than might be expected just from the statistic that "xyz species has a 5% natural cross pollination rate".

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mathematically, pollination is typically highly localized. A plant is most likely to be pollinated by it's closest neighbor. So if I grow different varieties intermixed with each other, they are more likely to be cross pollinated.

In beans/peas in my garden, the natural cross pollination rate is about 1 in 200. I plant a lot of beans all jumbled together. I find about 6 new hybrids per year. I sort the harvested seeds very carefully looking for new hybrids. And I watch the plants while growing for new traits. Then I give the found hybrids a special place to grow next year. A friend that lives nearby plants rows of different types of beans side by side. He finds a few hybrids every year. His method seems easier to me, cause the hybrid beans are clearly visible. Mine end up jumbled in with all the other varieties. I'm sure that I'm generating more varieties than I can identify, 

I have another friend that lives on the edge of a swamp in a damper climate. She has tremendous numbers of pollinators. Her cross pollination rate on beans is closer to 5%.

I don't do hand pollination in my garden, except for special cases where I really want a certain pedigree. Mostly that is limited to inter-species crosses.

In the case of something with a higher cross pollination rate, such as tomatoes (5% in modern varieties), a number of natural cosses are expected each year. I can often identify them as seedlings, so I keep the natural hybrids for myself, and share the inbreeds with my community. The hybrids tend to do better for me, so I tend to save seeds from the hybrids. So the offspring of the hybrids tend to become more common in my garden, and the natural cross pollination rate tends to increase over the years, because I am selecting from among plants that had more promiscuity in their ancestry. I am currently doing a long term project to achieve a 100% outcrossing rate on tomatoes.  But in general, by simply growing in a meme where promiscuous pollination is encouraged, I am selecting for more promiscuity.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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William: An easy way that I found to identify natural crosses in peas is to plant a row of peas with white flowers near a row of peas with colored flowers. Colored flowers showing up in the white-flowered row will be crosses (if they are not volunteers or mixed-up seed).
 
Renay Newlai
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I planted things closer together this year, so close that I am having difficulty identifying which plants are thriving as opposed to mediocre. (It's easy to tell which plants are succumbing to the pests or environment) My squash are all criss-crossing their vines over each other and are so intertwined it looks like different squash on the same vine. My tomatoes grew up, fell over on each other and grew up again. My beans are clumped together as large bushes. I can't make out individual plants. I can't tell which I should keep for seed...
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Renay: I figure that plants all jumbled up together tend to sort themselves out...

For example: Over the years, I have planted many hundreds of varieties of dry beans in my fields. They grow all jumbled together. Some varieties don't make seeds. Some varieties make an adequate number of seeds. Some varieties thrive.  Two of them, which started out as a couple of dozen seeds in a field of beans have done so well here, that they have come to dominate the population. (A pinto bean, and a pink bean which are about 20% each.)  I sorted out two lots of 100 seeds into like-types to demonstrate which do the best here.  The varieties with only a few seeds might be brand new hybrids, they might be old varieties which are not thriving. Either way, those that are thriving are more likely to be more productive next year. For the sake of maintaining diversity, and retaining more new hybrids, and old favorites, I sort seeds prior to planting, in order to plant more of the rare types, and fewer of the most common types.

When I first started, those pink kidney beans and beige canary beans were about half the population. My how things change over the years.

Similar things apply to squash. A plant might produce three fruits while another produces one. Even without being able to tell which is what, the math will tend to favor the more productive plant. Early in the growing season is a great time to cull. A plant that germinates a month late will typically self-cull at my place because of the short growing season. I still feel like a more clever farmer if I cull it myself...

landrace-beans-histogram.jpg
[Thumbnail for landrace-beans-histogram.jpg]
Landrace Beans, sorted by type
 
Sara Rosenberg
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So apparently what I'm trying to do has a name, landrace. Good to know. I've been collecting seeds left and right from my chemical free wannabe garden for the last year and planting the seeds from the previous crop.

Question is, are there any current landrace participants in North Texas that can sell me some diverse seeds? I'm zone 7/8 in North fort Worth.

If I can get a jump on diversification sooner.. the better and faster my own hybrids will emerge.

Already playing with marigolds, basil, tomatoes and peppers. I might soon add muskmelons to the list.

I spent year one preparing a hugel bed and have local neighbors hauling me over organic matter continuously.

I have this really bad habit of collecting and sewing seeds on any available space of land just to "see" what I'm going to get.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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If you get propagules from your local "producers only" farmer's market, or community garden, they will at least be varieties that have survived one growing season in your climate. The odds of finding something workable are greater than picking random varieties from a full color seed catalog from a far away company.

Some the varieties that I am currently growing only happened because I imported landraces from far away, and there was enough genetic diversity in them that a few types in the population also worked under my conditions.



 
Maureen Atsali
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To me, landrace development really comes down to survival of the fittest.  Whatever does the best contributes the most seed into the gene pool.

My first years in Kenya I imported all my favorite heirloom varieties at great expense from seed catalogs in the USA.  Even though I selected varieties that should have been well suited to this climate, EVERYTHING failed.  Everything was stunted, puny, failed to germinate, failed to flower or fruit... or appeared to do really well only to be completely overrun by disease and pests. 

Then, while my squashes were getting fungus and fruit fly larvae were rotting the fruits... I see my little old lady neighbor with squash vines running amok.  No disease.  No bugs.  Big wake up call for me.  I started begging my seeds from elders in the village market.  I have absolutely no idea what I am planting.  Ask the old ladies and they will just roll their eyes and tell you they are all "pumpkins".  They don't differentiate.  They aren't interested in the squash, only the leaves, which they eat as a vegetable.  The squash are practically a waste product.  Most of them don't taste great, so I have been trying to refine my landrace for better taste, and better texture.  Each season I usually buy a handful of mystery seed to mix in with my saved seed, just for genetic diversity... and you never know when you might happen on a "prize bull" for breeding purposes.  This last season I stumbled upon a variety that had very soft, tender, tastey leaves.  Since we eat the leaves as much or more than the fruits, that was awesome.  Downside was the soft leaf variety barely set any squash... one per plant.  So I will throw those seeds in with my super vigorous but tough leaved variety and see what happens.  Its fun to see what turns out.

 
Renay Newlai
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Maureen Atsali wrote:They aren't interested in the squash, only the leaves, which they eat as a vegetable.


I would never had thought of squash leaves being edible! It's really amazing how many different ways there are to use the same plant.
 
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