Author Topic: Cucurbita moschata selection for seed and storage  (Read 114 times)

S.Simonsen

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Cucurbita moschata selection for seed and storage
« on: 2019-01-31, 04:59:40 PM »
Here are the results of my Cucurbita moschata breeding trial. In our subtropical zone we have a semi-feral strain of jap pumpkin that is incredibly vigorous and productive and tolerates our heavy melon fly pressure. One plant self sowed last summer in the middle of a weedy paddock and produced over 40 fruit. It's main downside is very thin skin that leads to poor storage qualities. Half the crop ends up rotting in storage before we can use them. My family doesn't really like eating pumpkin flesh but we love roasted pumpkin seeds. The flesh goes to the goats, so smaller fruit are ideal so they can be completely processed one per day. So my aim was to trial a range of moschata clones with an eye for melon fly resistance, seed size/quality and storage life. The idea is to grow a large crop, gradually process the flesh for our goats and keep the seed for roasting. I sourced twelve different heritage strains, focusing on the Central American and old Native American lines from Pumpkin Paradise on ebay (Guatemalan blue banana, Anasazi, Jumbo pink banana, seminole, upper ground sweet potato, Lakota, Hidatsa, bohemian, xochitlan pueblo, survivor, blue Hubbard and green Hubbard). Given the limited amount of seed I sowed them in tube pots and got them going in a greenhouse. They were then planted out in an old goose pen in October. There was about half a centimetre of goose manure on the surface and no weeds at the time of planting, and they got a couple of weeks of hand watering to settle them in. I planted them about 1 m apart in a square grid, too close for optimum production but I wanted to stress them to see which ones performed. I interplanted a little grain amaranth as well. We had a little rain through to December but January was almost completely dry, with our heavy clay cracking under the crop. The plants got no irrigation and were growing in fairly poor soil on the flat top of a hill. Watermelons direct sowed in November managed to crop modestly at the same time as the pumpkins were maturing in late January. Today I harvested the fruit as I need to bring the geese back in soon and the weeds are finally getting away on me. As I went I took photos of fruit, opened fruit and seed. The plants were labeled but because they had vined through each other it was impractical to use them, but luckily the strains could be identified by their fruit shapes. In the end Seminole (B) ended up the best all round, with several small fruit, fairly large seed that were easy to clean with few blanks. This variety is from Florida, that has a very similar climate to us. Blue Hubbard (A) set fairly well but had relatively few seed and lots of blanks. Xochitlan pueblo (C) set many small fruit and had incredibly hard shells, but the seed were fairly small. It might make them good for storage but opening them was a pain. I kept spare fruit of these three varieties to see how long they last in storage. Bohemian (F) only set one fruit but it was quite large and had a large number of very large seed. A fruit of Hidatsa was rejected since the seed quality was so poor. Several other varieties grew well and fruited but were completely destroyed by the melon fly. These seed will be direct sowed next season down on my more fertile creek flats, mixed in with the local weedy jap pumpkin, for a bigger trial. They may well have picked up genetics from some of the other varieties that didn't get to set seed but I am happy with a bit more diversity. Selecting for seed qualities is much easier than fruit or vegetative qualities since the size and abundance of the seed does much of the selection for me. Hopefully in another 5-10 years I will have stabilised a strain that meets my needs.

Raymondo

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Re: Cucurbita moschata selection for seed and storage
« Reply #1 on: 2019-01-31, 08:55:12 PM »
Do you think you’ll keep adding to the mix over time or are you happy to work with what you got this season?
Ray
Mildly acidic clay loam over clay and ironstone; temperate climate modified by altitude (1000m); avg rainfall 780mm; usually wet summers and dry winters.

S.Simonsen

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Re: Cucurbita moschata selection for seed and storage
« Reply #2 on: 2019-01-31, 09:00:02 PM »
I think I probably have enough diversity at this stage. Winnowing down the progeny of outcrossing pumpkins from what will be five seed parents (and up to 13 pollen parents) will be a lot of work but I don't think I ever want it to be as uniform as a commercial variety. Maybe in time if some other interesting genetics cross my path I might do a small trial but by then I should have about a hundred seedlings each season working on from this years crop. Any strains with a touch of weediness are always of interest. I think I will probably grow the moschata in parallel with my C. maxima (from Qld blue mixed with jarradale). I am already pretty happy with them but depending on the season one or the other species does much better, though I am unsure what particular aspect of the weather favours one over the other.