Author Topic: Wild Onions & Breeding with them  (Read 715 times)

reed

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Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« on: 2019-03-14, 08:11:15 AM »
Last summer I found some wild plant that I can't really say for sure if it is onion or garlic but I think it's onion. We have a lot of wild onions and I'v tried cultivation before in effort to get flowers and maybe cross with larger bulb types but without success.

This plant however along with lots of bulbils had seeds. I'v been looking around and found this website http://wildfoodshomegarden.com/WildOnion.html which has a picture of just what they looked like when I found them except the seeds were already mature so I don't know what the flowers looked like and the ones I found had many more bulbils. Also on this same web site it says, concerning transplanting.   
Quote
The plant bulb can be fairly deep, so you will need to go about 25 cm or 10 inches deep.
and that also matches exactly with what I found. The site identifies this plant as Allium canadense. Is anyone familiar with this plant? Might I be able to cross it with my walking onions or potato onions to make a larger better flavored strain that can just grow mostly on its own?

When I search images of Allium canadense I find wild variation in the resulting images and conflicting identification on whether it is onions or garlic.   I'm sticking with onion, it is very mild flavor but more like onion too me.

« Last Edit: 2019-03-14, 08:26:08 AM by reed »

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #1 on: 2019-03-14, 09:05:51 AM »
It is said that  Allium canadense has 14 sets of chromosomes, and that Allium cepa has 16 sets. Different numbers of chromosomes generally makes inter-species crossing very difficult.

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #2 on: 2019-03-14, 01:47:00 PM »
Aw, shucks that's too bad. On the other hand just cause it's said don't mean it's true. I wonder what all those different looking ones are that show up in an image search. A lot of variation in the species, a lot of people who don't really know? It don't matter I love these little onions and glad to add them to my collection. if some how they cross with something else that will just be a bonus.

I love wild onions in general, there must be 1/2 dozen different looking ones just in my yard. Some make tight spheres of tiny bulbils, some are similar but the bulbils are pointed. Some have little harry leaves on the bulbils, some make curly cues like a garlic scape. Some don't do anything at all except spread, I don't know how.

They are all not just hardy but evergreen and they all taste good used like chives, cut up in salads on baked potatoes or in soups. These I found last year are the only ones I'v ever seen that bloom and make seeds. If they can do that then there is hope. 

Carol Deppe

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #3 on: 2019-03-15, 03:01:24 PM »
Go ahead and try it, different chromosome numbers or not.

What interspecific crosses will take is very unpredictable. It can vary with individual, so try more than just two plants as parents. Difficult crosses frequently go better if the plant has a choice to either accept your cross or not reproduce sexually at all. So remove all flowers that arent your cross. Difficult crosses often go better if the pollination has more time to take, such as if female flower is pollinated in bud stage or earlier than usual, then pollinated again at ordinary time.

Different chromosome numbers between parents can produce a hybrid that has low germination of seeds or even complete sterility. However, such hybrids may reproduce clonally just fine. (Since vegetative reproduction is all mitosis, it doesnt matter that the chromosomes dont pair, since chromosomes replicate independently without pairing in mitosis.) If you want to continue to develop the project via sexual reproduction and seeds, where the hybrid has parents with different chromosome numbers, it usually works better to backcross to one parent instead of going to an F2. (F2 may give no viable seeds, while backcross often gives a workable fraction of viable seeds.)
« Last Edit: 2019-03-15, 03:06:22 PM by Carol Deppe »

Walt

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #4 on: 2019-03-16, 01:42:04 PM »
The above replies are true, but sometimes different chromosome numbers have little effect.  One example are the aril iris.  The section  is divided into two subsections, regelias and oncocyclus.  Oncos have 10 pairs, regelias 11.  F1 hybrids have 21 chromosomes.  Egg cells can have 10 or 11 chromosomes.  Viable pollen have 10 chromosomes.
F1 plants may have low seed set, but in a couple of generations fertility is nearly normal.
Other such examples exist.  You don't know until someone tries.  Even then, results may be different under different conditions.

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #5 on: 2019-03-16, 02:17:03 PM »
Well, I'm gonna give it a try. My old walking onions are great but extremely hot flavor, have to be careful how they are used in the kitchen the leaves are really the best part. These new little onions are extremely mild and wonderfully delicious but very small. A cross might make something really really nice.

The Allium canadense that I found and the ones I saw pictures of just have three or four flowers per plant, sticking up among the bulbils. Shouldn't be too hard, fat stubby fingers and bifocal glasses aside to just emasculate all the flowers and remove most of the bulbils too. I'll dump on pollen from what ever else happens to be blooming, hopefully it will be the old top sets but anything in the other patch will do in a pinch.
« Last Edit: 2019-03-16, 02:22:24 PM by reed »

Carol Deppe

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #6 on: 2019-03-17, 06:23:20 PM »
Well, I'm gonna give it a try. My old walking onions are great but extremely hot flavor, have to be careful how they are used in the kitchen the leaves are really the best part. These new little onions are extremely mild and wonderfully delicious but very small. A cross might make something really really nice.
You might also try a cross of your walking onions to Allium fistulosum, the Welsh onion. Those are extraordinarily mild. And supposedly walking onions themselves are a cross of Allium cepa, presumably a hot variety, and Allium fistulosum. So that cross would actually be a backcross.

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #7 on: 2019-03-17, 10:50:45 PM »
I thought that I would try recreating the Egyptian Onion cross by interplanting Allium fistulosum and Allium cepa. They flowered at completely different times. So to attempt the cross, I'd need to store pollen, or shift the flowering times. My A cepa are a genetically diverse landrace, so there is diversity in flowering times. The A fistulosum were an inbred variety, so I might explore different cultivars  of A fistulosum that might flower at different times.

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #8 on: 2019-03-18, 06:23:11 AM »
I didn't know what Allium fistulosum is so looked it up and I think we already have some over in the woman's flower garden, I'll bring some over to plant by the walking onions.

My main bulbing onion patch is a mix of potato onions from a grower in Minnesota and Joseph's landrace mix, and some that evolved from store bought bulbs that I just planted one fall to see what happened. I'v selected them all for winter hardiness and ability to self propagate by whatever means they choose. Most make seeds, a few make top sets and most multiply by clumping of little bulbs. 

The best flavored are light pink color and kind of oblong shaped, pretty sure they came from Joseph's seeds. They make very nice clumps of pencil sized bulbs that grow a lot bigger if divided and replanted in spring. If done in fall they rot and start over with a new clump of three or four little ones. They are the only ones I'v singled out into their own little spot cause they tastes so good. Larger ones harvested for storage don't keep at all, bummer. 

I guess I just have a fascination with the wild ones and hope mostly to get some crosses to them. All the rest can just keep doing what they want and I'll keep planting the seeds. I don't really save seeds, I plant them pretty much immediately when they mature and keep the ones that are still alive the next spring. These wild ones I found since they just have a few flowers per plant will be the easiest for me to try actual hand pollination and surely something else in the patch will bloom with them.

I have got a few seeds from my old walking onions in past few seasons and wonder if pollen form some of the others is responsible for that. I figure any really cool new ones will reveal themselves eventually.
« Last Edit: 2019-03-18, 06:55:44 AM by reed »

Walt

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #9 on: 2019-03-19, 01:10:45 PM »
From 1978 through 1981 I was in charge of 14 hectares of onions being grown for seed, in Rep. du Niger.  During that time I made the cross A. fistulosum x A. cepa 'Violet de Galmi'.  The hybrid was extremely vigorous, and did produce seed when open pollinated near The field of V. de G onions.  Three years is only 1.5 onion generations so I don't know anything about the presumed backcros and/or F2 seedlings.
About 1983 USDA Beltsville MD. released 'Beltsvill Bunching' onion, an amphiploid of cepa and fistulosum.  I don't remember which was the seed parent.  It was vigorous and was nearly evergreen in zone 6.  It was perennial and I had it for some years.  I didn't take any when I moved, thinking it would be easy to get seed again.  WRONG!  It seems it never caught on with gardeners.  No companies were selling the seed.  Beltsville didn't have more seed.  No one in SSE offered it or responded to my post about wanting it.
Beltsville Bunching had a swelling where A. cepa would have a bulb.  A. fistulosum x 'Violet de Galmi' had a much bigger swelling there.  Almost a bulb.  But being more or less evergreen, it didn't need a bulb.
I have often thought about remaking the cross, using a bigger gene base and selecting for bulbs.  Too busy so far.
The cross is easy.  Just get them to bloom together.  Or maybe saving pollen would work.  I never tried saving onion pollen.

Ferdzy

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #10 on: 2019-03-20, 06:21:44 AM »
@Walt, this is interesting. I have had a little patch of fistulosum for years, and never worried about whether they were blooming at the same time as onions or shallots. They have just about died out - the few that were left bloomed last year but formed no seed. I don't think they would have contributed much to our onion gene pool as they are about 200 feet away from where the onions usually are. Not sure what I will do with this info, but maybe something. Thanks.

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #11 on: 2019-03-29, 03:09:52 PM »
Wow, the Allium canadense that I found and brought into my garden are taking off like crazy. When I found them they had nearly dry seeds and the leaves were mostly dried and brown. The bulbs I dug were just little single things not much bigger than a nickel and each one had just a single flower / bulbil stem. I figured that might be all they did and the pictures I found kinda looked like that too but they are bunching into multiple distinct sets of leaves, even the tiny bulbils that I thought hadn't lived are doing it.  There is variation in flavor, cant figure that out, seems like they should all be pretty much the same but some are soooo good and some don't have much taste at all. Have only eaten the leaves so far. Looks like I'm gonna have a pretty good supply, if the bulbs turn out the same I might cull the no flavor ones.

Man if I can cross these to my old larger bulbed but terribly hot walking onions or any other larger bulbed onions I'll be tickled for sure.

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #12 on: 2019-04-25, 03:21:16 AM »
Three of four of the Allium canadense that I transplanted as larger bulbs are growing bloom stalks, those from the little top sets are not. Most of my old walking onions and about half of my mixed up  onion patch are in about the same stage as the Allium canadense. Yea! wont't be long till I find out if I can attempt a cross.

The Allium canadense only have a few flowers per stem and they are a bit larger than other onion flowers, I'm just gonna try emasculating them and dumping on pollen from what ever else is available. Also gonna try pollinating the old walking onions with what ever is available from the other patch.

All involved have proven they are perfectly happy over wintering in my garden and a mixed up perennial onion adapted to it is what I'm after. Then in coming years I can sort out those with best flavor and bulb size into individual breeding patches.

Most of what ever seeds I get will be planted as soon as mature rather than saving them till spring. I like doing it that way, it's how nature does it so why not? Only drawback is they have to be watered a lot till cooler weather arrives.

Ferdzy

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #13 on: 2019-05-14, 07:01:14 AM »
I've been thinking about this thread for a while and it turns out I might be able to go and dig some wild leeks (ramps; allium tricoccum) and plant them in our yard. So now I'm thinking... I have a "shallot" I grew from seed that divides very well and comes up very early in the spring - if it even dies down - and has been providing some excellent spring greens. Could they be crossed?

I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of using wild leeks in breeding, given their extreme popularity and their extreme slowness in reproducing. Has anyone tried using them, or know anything about anyone trying to use them?

reed

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Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
« Reply #14 on: 2019-05-15, 05:57:23 AM »
I'm not much familiar with ramps. I know they grow in the state forest around the lake where I like to fish but have never been there at the right time to find any.
Looks like very soon now, I can attempt crossing the Allium canadense as it and several others are about to bloom. I was messing with some fence to build bean trellis and accidentally broke one of the bloom stems, leaving just three. I ate the bloom/bulbil growth and it was delicious. Definitely onion flavor but also had a very detectable sweetness. This morning I noticed a bunch of ants clustered on the broken stem. If a person could accumulate a big enough patch of these, those tops would be a true delicacy in my opinion.