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Topics - Steph S

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Plant Breeding / new work on heterosis
« on: 2020-06-13, 06:18:41 PM »
Latest work reports that heterosis steadily increases with genetic divergence of the parents, but only if they are adapted to the same conditions.

https://phys.org/news/2020-06-parents-genetically-divergent-similar.html
https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/24/eaay4897

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According to the article, this dataset is freely available. 
https://phys.org/news/2020-01-climate-backyard-dataset.html

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Community & Forum Building / "Lost Crops"
« on: 2019-12-27, 06:53:04 PM »
Saw this article today, and made me wonder if I've been looking in the wrong place for feasible animal feed.   Sorghum, millet and other grains used for chicken feed elsewhere are not well adapted to the northern climate and short season here.  But what about these lost crops?
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-lost-crops-fed-maize.html

"Mueller discovered that a polyculture of goosefoot and erect knotweed is more productive than either grown separately as a monoculture. Grown together, the two plants have higher yields than global averages for closely related domesticated crops (think: quinoa and buckwheat), and they are within the range of those for traditionally grown maize."

Here is a link to the abstract of the original paper:
https://bioone.org/journals/Journal-of-Ethnobiology/volume-39/issue-4/0278-0771-39.4.549/Experimental-Cultivation-of-Eastern-North-Americas-Lost-Crops--Insights/10.2993/0278-0771-39.4.549.short
"Since the 1930s, archaeologists have been accumulating data on the lost crops of eastern North America. These are a group of annual plants (Chenopodium berlandieri, Hordeum pusillum, Iva annua, Phalaris caroliniana, and Polygonum erectum) that were cultivated by Indigenous societies for thousands of years. No published written or oral histories attest to the methods used in their cultivation, and their domesticated forms are thought to be extinct. "

We certainly have some Chenopodium weeds here that produce seed soon enough.   Not sure about Polygonum erectum.
https://archaeology.uiowa.edu/erect-knotweed

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Greens / Brassica crosses
« on: 2019-11-29, 08:16:21 PM »
I had to start a few Michihili for our winter greens, so I picked a pack that was most likely to have crosses, planted 14 seeds, four of them are crossed.   Michihili is B. rapa and so were many of the possible crosses, but there is an obvious Red Russian Kale cross there too (B napus).

One thing I noticed with the Michihili is that the growth rate/vigor is really variable (not just this seed lot but the previous years as well).  You pot up two seedlings that look about the same and one grows much faster than the other.   I  see that the crossed seedlings are more vigorous compared to the selfed Michihili.   So maybe there is some inbreeding depression there, which is relieved in the crosses.  Or maybe it is the genetics of growth rate, which could lead to a faster growing cabbage.

Pic at the bottom is the normal Michihili phenotype.   First two crosses  RRK is obvious and Bok Choy as well, in the leaf shape.  The second two have some mustard blood in them (I nibbled.  RRK cross tasted like a rich romaine, Bok cross mild, the other two are kaley/turnipy).



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Allium / A diverse patch of shallots
« on: 2019-11-13, 04:31:52 PM »
I have a lot of questions about shallots, not just genetics but also cultural practices, so all and every advice will be appreciated.
Two years ago I received a pack of about 100 seeds from someone's shallots that had bolted, in our (Nicky's) annual Canadian swap.  I started them in February and planted out in May about 4" apart.   Spring was looking okay until we had two weeks of winter in June (snow on ground and daytime highs below freezing).  About 20-25% of the shallots did not survive.  None bolted (perhaps all too juvenile).  The survivors all divided into clumps, but they did not form any bulbs before the end of season.  I thought they were goners.
When the next spring came around I was lamenting their demise to a friend when much to my surprise we found the green tendrils spiking up through their self-mulching leaves.  In late spring I transplanted some of them to give a more even spacing to the survivors in the same bed.  By midsummer they were all putting out flower buds.   It was only in this second year of growth that the diversity of the 73 individuals became obvious.  Variable traits included bud size and color (red purple, dark purple, pale purple, shades of brown to pale tan) earliness of flowering (although most began to flower within a week or so of midsummer), plant height (25 to 55 cm), clump size, leaf color (dark blue-green to medium green and a couple of lime green outliers) color at the base of the stem (yellow, red, shades in between, none).   There also appeared to be initiation of bulbing at variable time - I mean the spreading of shoots beginning to curve outwards around a central gap.   This did not turn into actual bulbing, unfortunately.  I was too engaged in the whole flowering diversity thing to do any selection or try to get bulbs by nipping buds.   :-[  It seemed too fortuitous to have this grand patch of flowers for the bumblebee queens, at a time when there isn't much else in the garden.  :-*  So the main event was the flowers (pretty awesome) and of course the seeds.  I saved all the seeds, partly in fear of a "feral shallot" thing - I would rather plant them where I want them than have them popping up at random.  Since I had data on plant height, I made up batches of seed in three height groups 30 cm or less, 30-40+ cm, and 45 cm or taller, and shared back to Nicky's swap - I just heard from her that all 30 packs were spoken for by the time my package arrived, so there are 30 gardeners across Canada who may select their own shallot from 200+ seed packs, and I still have lots of seed.
I am also expecting that the plants in the original shallot patch will survive the winter as they did before, and will want to flower whether I decide to let them or not.
It occurred to me that if we had a reliable method of producing shallots from seeds here, it would be very convenient to have a patch that produces seed every year for the purpose, and never worry about an "onion crisis" - onion is totally a staple food for us.
I've done some searching online, and discovered that I originally planted them too far apart.  Spacing at 1-2 " with the goal of producing one bulb per seed is recommended at Cornell and at a British allotment site - wider spacing and they will divide as mine did instead of bulbing.  Spacing of true seed shallots in an Indonesian study was tested at 100 and 150 plants per square meter.  Obviously much tighter than my first try.   There is also the possibility of growing sets for the following year, at even higher density.
There is another possibility, assuming that they do survive as expected, to dig and divide the clumps that have established, or take a few, and replant them in a suitable spacing and location for bulbing.
My general thought was to dig and move/distribute the small plants 30 cm or less and those with unusual flower/bud traits in spring, for use in ornamental flower borders.  And keep the larger plants together that may produce bigger bulbs.  But I don't actually know if there is a correlation between plant height and bulb size.
I also don't know if the color traits will be correlated in any way with bulb traits.   All of the flowers were shades of mauve when fully opened which in onions would be a red bulb afaik.    The outliers were lighter pink or darker purple, with the most unusual (two plants) having only partial flowers much paler in color and only one of them produced a few seeds.
So I would be very grateful if anyone with shallot experience would tell me whatever you know or have learned about them.
We do have a really short and cool season here, and I know they respond well to heat by bulbing - I don't know how much of a problem that might be.   The only thing I know for sure is that we can get them to produce seeds.  :o

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