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Topics - Ryan M Miller

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Grains / Perennial Foxtail Millet (Setaria parviflora)
« on: 2020-12-13, 08:20:44 PM »
I have been spending some time reading about the wild relatives of foxtail millet (Setaria italica) since grasses in the Setaria genus seem to be the most common edible weedy grains in my region next to Lamb's Quarters. Most species in this genus seem to be alien annual weeds that are not native to North America with a few exceptions. There are about half a dozen perennial species of foxtail grass native to the southwestern United States, but the species Setaria parviflora seems to be the only perennial species of foxtail grass native to the eastern and central United States.

Based on a journal article by Daniel F. Austin (2006) ( there is a possibility that Setaria parviflora was at one time domesticated in mesoamerica before the widespread cultivation of maize. If this foxtail grass has a high potential for domestication, then it could be used to develop a perennial variety of foxtail millet that does not need to be replanted every season.

Grains / Intermediate Wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium)
« on: 2020-11-10, 12:52:41 PM »
A while ago, I read an article on the domestication of intermediate wheatgrass Thinopyrum intermedium for use as a perennial grain crop. Given the fact that the project started in the 1980s and that this plant now has domesticated strains with reduced seed shattering and increased grain size, I've been suspicious that CRISPR technology may have been used. I found one article documenting a few details of the process here: ( If anybody has any further information on this project, please let me know. I'm hoping that if the domestication process was done without direct gene editing that it could be replicated for other plants, especially other perennial grains.

Note: The parties involved in the domestication project for intermediate wheatgrass seem to have either pattented their strain or applied for PVP under the brand name Kernza. If their procedure does not use CRISPR, then I would prefer if the resulting cultivars from a newly domesticated plant were not pattented to avoid monopolies on the supply of that plant or legal disputes from accidental cross-pollinations.

Over the past three years, I have begun an attempt to breed common lamb's quarters for improved germination rate and increased seed quality. This year, I only got one out of several hundred seeds to sprout after soaking the seeds in water over night. The resulting plant yielded about 100 g of seeds depending on how much chaff was left over after winnowing. If seed yields like this are consistent for every plant, then I would expect grain yields to approach at least half that of maize when planted at the recommended density for quinoa. Here is a link to a video where I harvest the seeds:

In spite of the impressive seed yield for this plant, most of the seeds were not even 1.0 millimeter in diameter from the one plant that sprouted. Strangely, I found much larger seeds from a weedy plant that sprouted out of one of my compost piles nearby. Most of the seeds from this wild plant were the typical 0.75 to 1.0 millimeters in diameter, but a few hundred seeds were at least 1.5 millimeters in diameter since they frequently got stuck in my sieve while I was attempting to remove the chaff from them. Hoping that this trait would carry on to the next generation, I saved these exceptionally large seeds in a packet to plant again next year. I'm hoping a plant with larger seeds will have a more consistent germination rate, be easier to winnow, and have a higher value as a grain crop.

Only in the past four years have I discovered that common lamb's quarters is closely related to quinoa. There is very little information available about growing quinoa online, but there is some agreement that quinoa has a poor tolerance of heat compared with other lamb's quarter species and amaranth. Since common wild lamb's quarters grows wild in North America and thrives well into the heat of summer, I'm assuming it can be bred into a heat-tolerant alternative to quinoa to grow for it's seeds as well as its nutritious greens.

Cucurbits / Vining Yellow Crookneck Squash
« on: 2019-09-25, 04:41:04 PM »
Since almost all yellow Cucurbita pepo Summer squash has a compact bush growth habit, I have been trying to breed a vining cultivar of Yellow Crookneck squash. Although yellow crookneck squash has been bred with a compact growth pattern to save growing space, I have found ironically that this growth pattern actually uses up more space than a climing, vining growth pattern since I trellis my squash whenever I grow it. Additionally, the compact growth of yellow crookneck squash leaves the plants vulnerable to attacks from squash vine borers and makes the plants less suitable for companion planting in the three sisters method.

If anyone wants to se my progress so far this year with this breeding project, I have already started a thread documenting my efforts on

For the first part of this breeding project, I crossed a yellow crookneck squash with a vining non-bitter ornamental gourd. After a few false starts, I was finally able to make the cross pollination with the yellow crookneck as the male parent and the ornamental gourd as the female parent. Not long after the cross pollination, the yellow crookneck plant finally died from squash vine borer damage by the middle of August. Thankfully, I was still able to successfully recover over 200 viable F1 seeds from the cross pollinated fruit from the ornamental gourd by the end of the month.

The next part of this breeding project will be finding willing participants to pollinate a few F1 plants with other F1 plants and growing out as many of the F2 plants as possible to begin the selection for vining phenotype and large, yellow fruits. In my original research, I deternined that the gene controling compact growth habit in squash is determined by only one dominant gene so it should at least require two generations to restore vining growth habit into the phenotype of the plant.

For more information about the status of this project, you can visit the link to the original thread on the permies page.

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