Author Topic: Novel domestications in neglected plant families  (Read 154 times)

S.Simonsen

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Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« on: 2020-09-30, 04:13:13 AM »
Can you think of any plant families that currently lack domesticated species but have potential for novel domestications? For example if I asked this question a century ago Ericaceae (blueberry) and Proteaceae (Macadamia nut) would be correct answers, though I wonder how many people would have successfully guessed. I would suggest the following:
Alismataceae- Sagittaria
Doryanthaceae- Doryanthes
Pontederiaceae- Pontederia
Commelinaceae-?
Balsamaceae-Impatiens
Cleomaceae- Cleome (one edible species in South Africa C. gynandra)
Urticaceae-Urtica
Eleagnaceae-Eleagnus (half domesticated already)
Lardizabalaceae-Akebia (some work in Japan)

William S.

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #1 on: 2020-09-30, 10:52:29 PM »
Sagittaria I think I've read that the indigenous people cultivated it, perhaps building rock shelves for it. I think some plants like Malus sieversii/Malus pumila kind of just come to us already extremely useful. I wonder if the vast span of time sagittaria has spent coevolving with humans already along with some other pacific NW indigenous staples hasn't already strongly affected it? Or if not why not?

Interesting that you mention the Urticaceae. Here in Montana USA there is an annual plant named Parietaria pensylvanica. Apparently is edible but when I saw your post I thought of it and that it must be. I first encountered it two years ago and finally identified it this year. I thought it must be in a family with more species. It would make sense as a domestication project.

My thoughts on novel domestication tend to run towards more familiar groups. Like making a nice hybrid swarm of white oaks.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

S.Simonsen

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #2 on: 2020-10-01, 04:52:34 AM »
Sagittaria seems interesting since there are 30 odd species and hybrids are known. Hybridisation normally preceeds domestication. Maybe being a water plant limits its utility due to difficulty of mechanisation (and before that the traditional difficulty rulers experience trying to subdue marsh dwellers).
I probably should have added Typha in the Typhaceae as well, but it is another wetland tuber crop with similar logistical issues (though I am planning on doing some hybridisation with it soon.....though wondering how feasible it will be to clear out small paddies of old stands to make way for new ones if I am growing seedling hybrids). Maybe a temporary wetland rice crop to allow any old Typha I missed to be caught would help.
Oaks are in Fagaceae along with chestnuts, which are miles ahead in ease of domestication. I suspect the genetics from some of the minor US chestnut species will become significant in domesticated hybrid chestnuts long before oaks get close to domestication.
Interesting to hear there are other leafy greens in the nettle family. There are quite a few interesting tropical nettle relatives as well with some potential for improvement.

Andrew Barney

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #3 on: 2020-10-01, 06:17:40 AM »
I imagine any plant species could be looked at in that fashion if one could imagine eating or using them in some useful way.

The first that came to mind are Opuntia cacti. To some degree many already cultivate them. But I dream of the day when either a mutant is found (maybe from radiation breeding?) or CRISPR modification can be done to eliminate the glochids. If such an Opuntia were to exist I would probably set up a commercial operation immediately. And if not a commercial one, then a personal one for sure.

Typha

Lathyrus tuberosus - one i keep attempting to grow. Just learned there is great breeding potential with 6-fold increases observed in one experiment. Hossaert-Palauqui, M.; Delbos, M. (1983). "Lathyrus tuberosus L. Biologie et perspectives d'amélioration". Journal d'Agriculture Traditionnelle et de Botanique Appliquée (in French). 30 (1): 49–58. doi:10.3406/jatba.1983.3887. ISSN 0183-5173.

much like blueberries i think there may be many other berries that have good potential.

Lonicera caerulea

Amelanchier alnifolia
Amelanchier obovalis
Amelanchier grandifolia

I am working on Rubus deliciosus
Rubus parviflorus
Rubus leucodermis
Rubus odoratus
Rubus chamaemorus

For flowers I just purchased rare Mertensia seeds. Apparently their center of diversity is near me in the Rocky Mountains. I am planning a hybrid swarm at some point. Perhaps a future hybrid of mine may become a newly cultivated variety?
« Last Edit: 2020-10-01, 06:32:08 AM by Andrew Barney »

William S.

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #4 on: 2020-10-01, 07:45:09 AM »
I would say Quercus has been successfully used for food and cultivated in an indigenous form of permaculture since time immemorial in the U.S. and does not need to be domesticated further particularly to be an extremely useful food source there are lots of hybrid swarms available in nature and from nurseries. Also low tannin acorn varieties are available though tannin removal is a process that is very possible. Samuel Thayer's treatise on use is extensive and authoritative.

In Canada Amelancier is already a domesticate and some of those cultivars are readily available in the states.

Lonicera caerulea is also already a domesticate with improved cultivars.

Mertensia: some species are easy to come by, for others you may need to track down populations and seed collect.

I've wondered about Salvia columbariae, Salvia carduacea and then the complex that includes Claytonia perfoliata, patviflora, and rubra could be a much more diverse salad green if more of its existing diversity could be brought into cultivation.

Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian silty clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A with 100 to 130 frost free days

Garrett Schantz

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #5 on: 2020-10-01, 09:10:22 AM »
"Domesticated" is an odd term though, I wouldn't count something that is simply edible or "foraged" to be domesticated for example, they need to be sellable, easily prepared. We probably need something that can actually be marketed to the general if we are making new things or trying to introduce healthier foods to the public.

Lardizabalaceae seems like a decent one. I wonder if some of the species are close enough to attempt crosses? The pulp seems to be the only edible things in this family though.

Lonicera villosa is native to North America and apparently edible. Seems similar to Lonicera caerulea. The only other "edible" honeysuckle that I can recall at the top of my head.

Amelanchier species could be worked on a bit as well. Seems to be in the same boat with Medlar though, probably needs  to ripen for awhile, as a result doesn't last long on shelves. Also the almond taste you get from them is cyanide - or rather your body makes it into cyanide. That could be touched up on a bit.

There are a ton of Vaccinium species similar to blueberries that could be worked on. Lot of diversity there, the problem is that most are sort of bitter / tart. Suppose people could attempt hybrids if they wanted to... No idea how well it would work. 

Ribes could be cultivated a lot more than they currently are. Higher shelf life would be a big thing to look for. Jostaberry could be something nice to start off with for hybridization. Unsure if it could be a "easy" bridge between European and north American species.

Good bit of Prunus species could be domesticated but need improved shelf life. Maybe more hybrids could be attempted.

Lycianthes can probably be hybridized and used to make better domesticated crops.

There are a bunch of Cyphomandra species that are somewhat cold hardy - one is hardy down to 15F. These factors would greatly increase the market, there are also species with larger fruits. Longer shelf life would be nice as well.

Jaltomata have a wide range of flower types, colors, fruit color, taste, fruit size. So there is a lot of potential there. They are already selected out from common weeds by farmers.

Asimina or Annonoideae in general could be improved on. There are dwarf Asimina species, shelf life and flowering time need changed up to really make it marketable as its only available for a few weeks or so. Desert, dryland species exist. The regularly grown species loves water and moisture, shade. Also it is usually used when ripe or overripe so that might be a negative.

Carica is a pretty broad genus, some species are decently cold hardy for "papayas".

And yeah Urtica is a huge genus. Lot of nettles that are edible, some don't sting as much or at all. Some have natural variegation. Leaf size and shape seem to greatly vary as well.

Rheum has a ton of "edible" species. There is already a hybrid on the market, so making more should be possible. Finding a species with really low oxalic acid would be nice. Maybe it would taste edible, leaves and all. A lot of them are already decently cold hardy as well.

Quercus is an interesting one. There are already a bunch of hybrids available within groups. Quite a few have nicer wood, acorn size, sweetness. Could probably be improved on - stabilized a bit so that grafts aren't overly used. Wouldn't want a newly domesticated oak to be a large disease site in the future...

Castanea and Juglans could be further looked into as well.

Chenopodium species are already edible but might need further selections. Native Americans used these a good bit. The types they grew might be lost though. So we might have to try and recreate some.

Melothria is a decent genus as well. Could probably be added to salad mixes found in stores. Again maybe shelf life? They seem to last a good while already for me though. They can get a bit sour/bitter if you let them go without being watered. So that might need touched on. Oh yeah and one species is a laxative when overripe.

Ocimum

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Re: Novel domestications in neglected plant families
« Reply #6 on: 2020-10-01, 12:41:05 PM »
In Morocco there are populations of sweet cork oaks (Q. suber), of which all the acorns are picked and sold, similarly to chestnuts. I don't know if they are domesticated.

How can the use of underutilized species be promoted (which goes hand in hand with the domestication of new ones)? Public research is underfunded in this domain.