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Messages - Joseph Lofthouse

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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: Yesterday at 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.

Plant Breeding / Re: Breeding with wild tomato species
« on: 2018-10-26, 09:54:25 AM »
Here's a photo of a tomato that showed up among the progeny of [domestic X habrochaites]. I think it is self-compatible. It had closed flowers, so it doesn't match the project goals. It is a tasty fruit. The largest so far from the cross. And the most productive. It was early. The most unusual trait was that it is hollow, sorta resembling a pepper inside. 

Because it produced so much seed, I gave it a name, and intend to include it in my seed catalog this winter.

Fairy Hollow Tomato

A couple days ago, I sent a bunch of the interspecies tomato seeds to a collaborator in a warmer climate. They are making crosses and  F1 hybrids for me during the winter. I'm hyped about that.

I have been pleased with the progress that we have made towards domesticating wild species. I was working with a population that I was calling corneliomulleri. Originally, the fruits were the size of peas. This year, one plant had fruits the size of a grape. Woot! And there were plants that produced tasty fruits, and plants that produced yucky fruits. So yup, I think there is a lot that can be done with plain old selection. So next year, I'm intending to plant a lot of seeds from the grape-sized fruits, and from the lovely tasting fruits.

I still find myself struggling sometimes with the meme of "gotta keep things pure". For example, I've been growing a population that I suspect was 75% habrochaites, and 25% domestic. I call it BC1. This year, I found some fruits with 3 locules in the population, which is  more of a domestic trait than an habrochaites trait.  It took me a good hour of thought to finally merge BC1 into the general habrochaites population. But now, it is done, and cannot be undone. And I grew the [domestic X habrochaites] and [domestic X pennellii] progeny only 20 feet away from the habrochaites patch, hoping that they will cross-contaminate each other. However, I just couldn't bring myself to screen the habrochaites fruits for taste!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bleck! I'll do that when some non-habrochaites fruit types start showing up.


That article showed up on the forums I participate in just before I started harvesting my seed corn. Sitting here at my computer, I intended to screen every patch of corn for areal roots before harvest. Then I'd get to the field and harvest by my typical selection criteria. Therefore, of the 8 patches of corn I grew, I only harvested seed from the air-rooted plants in 3 of the patches.

All of my landraces have the air-root trait to some degree. It was highest in the progeny of the South American corns. The high-carotene flint corn had the highest percentage of air-roots. I saved a lot of seed from air-rooted plants.

The air-root trait produces a root ball that is dense and fibrous. It doesn't break up readily while tilling, and it doesn't decompose easily. I can understand why the trait has been selected against in North American commercial strains.

Plant Breeding / Re: Salanova lettuce Questions
« on: 2018-10-23, 03:01:40 PM »

One of the patent numbers listed for Salanova lettuce is: 5977443. That patent is for resistance to aphids. The filing date was 1996-11-12. Therefore,  that patent expired two years ago.

That makes the following Salanova® varieties available for plant breeding: Green Incised, Red Incised, Green Sweet Crisp, Red Sweet Crisp.

Plant Breeding / Re: Salanova lettuce Questions
« on: 2018-10-23, 02:01:16 PM »

I wanted to mention that a friend received a packet of seeds with a message on it, something like: "protected by patent number blah, blah, blah". So not available for plant breeding eh? Well, when we looked up the patent number, it was for something like the glue in the packaging that was patented. The patent had nothing to do with the seeds.

Plant Breeding / Re: Salanova lettuce Questions
« on: 2018-10-23, 01:07:41 PM »
It's like the wheat called Kamut(TM). I call it by it's 10,000 year old name of Khorasan wheat, and not by the trademarked name belonging to The conglomerate.

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