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Messages - Joseph Lofthouse

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I grow one clone each of O polyacantha, and O humifusa. They seem to be self-compatible.

Plant Breeding / Re: Hybrid Beans
« on: Yesterday at 03:10:05 PM »

The last couple days, I cleaned and sorted the bean seed. A good number of these are recently descended from hybrids. I "normalized" the population, like I do most years, to plant more of the rare seeds, and fewer of the most common. Since I'm growing for seed for people in exotic places, (any place more than 50 miles away), I want to keep as much diversity in the population as possible. If I only planted bulk seed, some varieties would come to dominate the population (pinto beans, pink beans). Sorting the beans, also helps me to find varieties that might be new F1 hybrids. So I try to capture unique beans into this population as well. For example, how about those purple beans along the right edge of the photo? And the bean right above it is a type that I know, but the seed size is much larger than I have seen before. Those plain brown/gray beans make my eyes bug out trying to sort. I'll also plant bulk seed, to compensate for sorting errors. I was almost done sorting when I noticed several new types that had escaped my gaze previously.

Joseph , how many plants/fruits would you save from on average with this landrace?


To help maintain diversity, I also plant seeds from several previous years. And I incorporate pollen from new-to-my-garden varieties.

When I first started the landrace, I planted some varieties that were supposed to produce monster fruits. I didn't get any fruits like that, until about 5 years in, when larger fruits (12 pounds) started showing up. I've been culling them, cause earliness remains a high priority to me, and larger fruits take a few weeks longer to ripen.

Richard: I bet that you have old landrace varieties in New Zealand. It's just a matter of scrounging around to find them.

Oh, and the grocery stores are bringing in tons of melons, intended for eating, but they have viable seeds in them. You might try collecting those, and growing them out, and selecting for a variety that does great for you.

Nicholas:  Thanks for the comments and grow report.

4 plants in 30 might be about typical of the bush trait.

As far as I have paid attention, I don't have any insect predators on muskmelons. Deer and mice do plenty of predation. There is a bug that lives on the squash, but it coexists with them, so I don't pay much mind to it. However, when collaborators bring new varieties into my garden, they get decimated by the bug. Seems like locally-adapted plants get along better with local bugs.

Language is so fickle, and so variable from place to place. What the grocery stores here are selling with the name of "cantaloupe" perhaps shouldn't even be called food. They are too hard and too bland to even be palatable. But the local prosecutor isn't interested in enforcing anti-fraud laws.

OSSI pledged varieties / Lofthouse-Oliverson Landrace Muskmelon
« on: 2018-11-14, 08:09:40 PM »
Lofthouse-Oliverson Muskmelon

My first breeding project, and still my favorite was cantaloupes. I gathered seeds from perhaps 60 varieties of cantaloupes and planted them together in a field. Many varieties died young. Many grew poorly and didn't produce fruits. A few did marginal and produced seeds. I saved the seeds and replanted. About the third year, I was harvesting a hundred pounds per picking.

The first couple years, the only selection criteria for the cantaloupes was, "Must produce viable seeds, no matter how immature". Once the cantaloupes were reliably producing mature seeds and ripe fruits, then the selection criteria changed to must taste and smell great. For years I have been tasting every fruit before saving seeds. The fruits must be sweet as can be, and smelly as anything. I realized after a few years, that I was calling my cantaloupes by the wrong name. They should be called muskmelons! They bear little resemblance the hard, bland "cantaloupe" sold by stores. So these days i only take muskmelons to the farmer's market. They have a loyal following of people who crave the glorious taste and wonderful smell. One day, I put a couple baskets of muskmelons in the cab of the truck with me. That was a fragrant ride!

And, they actually grow in my cold mountain valley. One lady told me that she's been trying for years to grow muskmelons here in the valley, and mine was the first ripe fruit she ever harvested. If I accomplished anything with my farming, that's about as nice a compliment as I can imagine getting.

While developing this variety, I collaborated closely with another grower in my valley. We each grew muskmelons, and swapped seeds with each other for a number of years.  Each of us contributed our last name to the variety.

This is what a typical variety of cantaloupe looks like when grown in my garden, if it even survives this long.

This is what my variety looks like when planted and photographed on the same day, growing a few feet away.

100 pounds of melons per week!

Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.

An example of a low-performance recessive trait in an out-crossing landrace would be the sweet corn gene contaminating a patch of flour corn... In general, sweet corn isn't as productive as flour corn. The sweet phenotype isn't good for making flour.

My strategy for dealing with undesired recessive traits is to cull plants that have them whenever I find them... Over the generations, that reduces the frequency of the recessive alleles, even if the plants have already shed pollen into the patch.  While I'm saving seed from my flour corns, if I see sweet kernels on the cob, then I cull the whole cob.

I've been doing the same thing with watermelon flesh color. Constantly selecting for the colors I want, and eliminating colors I don't want. The population moves closer to my ideal phenotype with each generation.

Recessive alleles that cause problems with vigor tend to self-cull.

Community & Forum Building / Re: OSSI Varieties forum?
« on: 2018-11-11, 05:32:46 PM »
I think that an OSSI Varieties forum would be awesome!

Plant Breeding / Hybrid Beans
« on: 2018-11-11, 01:14:01 PM »
For years, I have loved playing with hybrid beans. I watch my fields closely for naturally occurring hybrids, and plant them preferentially the next year. Collaborators send me hybrids they find in their gardens. I love them!!!

Andy B has been hand pollinating beans and sharing the seed with me. The past few years, I have grown F1, F2, and F3 tepary beans that he shared with me. What a wonderful way to select for local adaptation! The segregating hybrids have been very productive for me. With every seed being genetically unique, it is like trialing hundreds of varieties each year.

This year Andy also shared F1 interspecies hybrid bean seed with me: Common beans X Runner beans. The cotyledons were located mid-way between typical of common beans and runner beans. The flowers were scarlet, but paler than is typical of scarlet runners. The bean pods looked like runner beans. The seeds looked like runner beans. They were almost too long season for my garden. The night before hard frost, I collected pods to try again next year. The pods were very green. Some of them produced seed that looks viable.  There is a nice stash of seed.

Some years ago, Tim Springston of Oxbow Farm shared hybrid common beans with me. I reselected for bush type, and they have been part of my landrace ever since. One of my favorites I call Oxbow Farm Black Anasazi in my personal notes. The other beans in that photo also came from Tim's hybrid.

Plant Breeding / Re: High Outcrossing Peas (Pisum Sativum)
« on: 2018-11-08, 10:28:49 PM »
Nicollas, over on Alan Bishop, has just posted about an outcrossing bean which achieves this, not by open keels, but  “delayed anther dehiscence”.

When I was doing hand pollination of pea flowers, I was startled that the flowers were shedding pollen long before the petals opened. The natural cross pollination rate in my garden is about 1 in 200, even with heavy predation of the flowers by pea weevils.

Community & Forum Building / Re: OSSI website
« on: 2018-11-07, 02:08:30 PM »

One thing that would be easy to do, is to promote this forum via the OSSI email list. I'm not feeling very creative about writing that email. Anyone wanna help?

Plant Breeding / Re: Breeding a perennial dryland squash
« on: 2018-10-27, 09:41:07 PM »

I grow C ficifolia. It seems to be day-length sensitive, so the plants grow huge, and don't flower until just before my fall frosts arrive. Just before is good enough. So this year, I only saved seeds from the first fruits to form. I don't know how susceptible the day-length genes are to selection pressure, but I figure that I aughta at least try. I have successfully grown two generations now. Next year will be the third generation, which often turns out to the the magical generation where projects seem to thrive.

I am growing C ficifolia in the same field as other common squash, and with the interspecies hybrids. I haven't yet seen any obvious hybrids, but I keep watching for them.


As a plant breeder, I select for what people want to grow. This year, that happens to be plants with areal-roots. It's like when people come to the farmer's market, and then ask me, "What do you do with XYZ vegetable?" The most accurate and honest response is: "I sell it at the farmer's market!"

To be fair to the corn, I spent less than 15 minutes paying attention to the air-root phenomena this summer. The day I inspected them, the few that I inspected, were not covered in mucus. There were a lot of plants, and a lot of environmental conditions that I didn't inspect. I did notice however that root-tips which hadn't penetrated the leaf yet were moist. Perhaps providing a place for the nitrogen fixing bacteria to thrive.

Traditionally, air roots have been favored by some plant breeders because they may provide increased anti-lodging, or anti-predation (same basic trait, if an animal can't pull a plant down, it might move along).

I think that in my hyper-arid garden, that the occurrence of gel is environmentally driven. Perhaps more likely to occur during irrigation. Dew or rain are extremely rare here.

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