Author Topic: Climate Change Breeding  (Read 1587 times)

William S.

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Climate Change Breeding
« on: 2018-11-25, 08:01:11 AM »
https://www.yahoo.com/news/federal-climate-report-predicts-least-190224698.html

Lots of news reports out about a new publication on climate change. 3 to 9 degree fairenheit temp increase by 2100.

I've been thinking a lot about things like this since becoming a father recently. My little one will be in his 80's when 2100 hits. I would like him to have regular meals between now and then.

I think Nabhan, Deppe, and Soloman have some answers in their books Growing Food in a Hotter Drier Land, Resilient Gardening, and Growing food in Hard Times.

The Lofthouse modern land race approach may help. As might speed breeding.

From a breeding perspective we can shift genes north from more southerly regions. For instance in the arid Western U.S. Native Seed Search's collection might be a potent source of resilience that we can cross with more northerly vegetable strains to produce new varieties, grexes, and landraces.

One specific example might be to take Painted Mountain corn developed for my area and some similar corns like Papa's Blue derived from it and cross them with similar varieties from Native Seed Search. This might need to be done repeatedly as the climate keeps changing. I intended to start something like this this year with Lofthouse moschata and a native seed search moschata but didn't get it planted early enough and got no fruit. Next year I may try again. Joseph talks about doing landrace maintenance by bringing in new genes at a certain level say 5% perhaps with some isolation to prevent mistakes. Depending on the speed of change the level of gene flow might need to be higher. Though a variable population should be able to adapt for quite awhile without additional input and even narrow genetic based but widely adapted conventional varieties should be good for quite awhile if they are already grown much further south.

From a natural food plants perspective we can shift good edible wild and native plants north. For instance I just planted a few pinyon pines on my land.  Similarly with domestic fruits we perhaps should plant a few warmer climate things. Though I remember Deppe saying something about going with hardier strains zone wise which has always been my mom's advice, fruit trees on the edge of their hardiness seem to do poorly. Still trying new kinds of fruit trees is fun anyway and we may find that the languishing apricot that used to bear only occassionally because of late frosts may suddenly become a better producer.
« Last Edit: 2018-11-25, 08:09:18 AM by William S. »
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

rowan

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #1 on: 2018-11-25, 11:24:36 AM »
I agree that this is an important issue. I am trying to develop potatoes that will sprout sooner in cooler and wetter conditions so they can be harvested before the need for irrigation in my area. One problem with that is that they will then have to be able to be stored longer. The ones I am having success with as far as growing faster in cooler conditions are diploids which don't store long enough to make it to the next growing season.
At least if the farmers get one crop before irrigating and then have plenty of time to put in at least one more irrigated crop they have saves some water and cost.
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Carol Deppe

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #2 on: 2018-11-25, 12:48:00 PM »
People assume "global warming" means their garden or farm will be warmer. Not necessarily. Climate change is probably most important to us plant breeders because it involves changes in wind and ocean current patterns that can give us abnormal erratic unpredictable weather and more extreme weather events. The average planet temperature going up or down by a fraction of a degree per decade is not the problem.

And water matters as much as temperature. The Little Ice Age started with a string of five years with more rain in Europe making the land too wet to plant in spring, and more storms that caused ripening grain to lodge and rot. The result was massive famines and then plagues. Winters were colder too, but that wasn't really the problem. It took a couple hundred years and complete transformation  and diversification of agriculture  on many levels to adapt  to the Little Ice Age. To assume that what you need in  the future is plants more  adapted to heat is a misunderstanding. Here in the NW, for example, changes in wind patterns could mean we get our weather from Canada instead of the Pacific ocean. In other words, continental, not maritime weather. That would mean fruit trees with more cold hardiness, not less cold hardiness in the past. We occasionally already get winter blasts from Canada that drop temperatures into single digits. Just a bit more extreme would wipe out many of our fruit trees. Including anything more south adapted. The rootstock needs to be adaptable to greater extrenes in both directions. But we can more easily afford to experiment with grafted branches, including varieties that need more heat than we now have. If they don't ripen, we just lose the fruit from one branch.

The last prolonged period of global warming was characterized by decade-long droughts in the maritime NW. (Tree ring data) One recent year a high pressure area sat over Oregon most of the winter, causing the winds that usually come from the Pacific to split and instead go to California and Washington. They got "our" winter rains and horrific flooding. We got a winter drought instead of our winter rainy season. I put an entire chapter on gardening in an era of wild weather and climatic change in The ResilientGardener

One major approach is to focus on short season crops to allow replanting or avoid late season disasters. Thus my short season corns. And Eat-All greens ready to harvest in 8 weeks. Another is to grow potatoes. Generally they are affected by weather the opposite of the grains. Dry fruit and root crops and livestock and forage may be part of the picture. And crops with wide adaptations are especially valuable. And overall diversification is paramount, especially for the main staples you are depending on for most of your calories and protein.


« Last Edit: 2018-11-25, 09:13:51 PM by Carol Deppe »

Nicholas Locke

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #3 on: 2018-11-25, 02:51:48 PM »
I think the mere act of saving ones own seeds year to year will give a pretty good resilience to these changes. More so using the Lofthouse Landrace approach. By delaying, planting early, not watering, watering to much, to push things out of their comfort zone you can add a more "erratic" weather adaption to them.  come to think of it thats pretty much how things happen for me anyway...  :o   
"Maybe" said the farmer...

reed

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #4 on: 2018-11-25, 06:17:41 PM »
The biggest thing I'm counting on is short season maturity so I can harvest something during the hospitable periods between extremes. Planting early worked pretty good for last several years but last two my early plantings were destroyed by late cold snaps. Potatoes practically ready to bloom turned to mush by one or two night in the teens and too late to replant. Potatoes and peas are rapidly dropping off my list of things to grow unless I can do it in the fall instead of spring. It gets hot early now, beautiful clumps of daffodils burned to crisps in a single 90 degree afternoon with Santa Anna like winds, in March. Still snaps as cold or colder than it ever got for the time can't be ruled out. Native trees in bloom or fully leafed out frozen back to bare branches. Same with grapes loaded with tiny fruits, most of the vines flat out killed.

Fall seems more reliably late, it's almost December and we have not had a real hard freeze. Lots of greens, lettuce, mustard, chard, perennial onions and garlic, volunteer dill, carrots all doing pretty well right now.  We will have good fresh salads till it finally does freeze hard and that might not be till January.

Short season though, like I said is where it's at for me. For staples that can be easily stored, seed to harvest in 100 days or less for corn, squash, sweet potatoes and dry pole beans.  I want to add barley and oats but have had poor luck with them, some kind of fungus or something in the seed heads.
« Last Edit: 2018-11-25, 06:28:11 PM by reed »

William S.

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #5 on: 2018-12-01, 06:37:40 AM »
Binge reading Carol Deppe's books. Finished Tao, and picked up a used copy of Resilient. Reread the chapter on Wild Weather (checked it out from the library in 2012).

Particularly with tomatoes I've been trying direct seeding the last two years. It worked surprisingly well for me, but that could change. Direct seeding seems to me like something that could increase resilence. I worried it might be being bred out of tomatoes. Now I am almost certain it has not been, and I think we would probably need to raise tomatoes by transplant for many many more generations before tomatoes incapable of being direct seeded in the right conditions dissapeared. My thought with direct seeding tomatoes here is to use very short season varieties and to do one sowing 20 days before the date of expected last frost (may 15th here, and a second sowing on the date of expected last frost. A year with a dry spring could make this untenable, but the last two years I was able to do this without watering for some time.

To me I've been thinking that a super short season direct seeded dry farmed tomato might be the ultimate tomato for resilience. However some of these things might counter one another. Some of the shortest season tomatoes are determinate or even determinate dwarfs. A larger plant has some advantages for dry farming.
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

reed

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #6 on: 2018-12-01, 07:39:19 AM »
I don't know if my experience is of much value because of our climates being so different but tomato volunteers are extremely common in my garden. I most often do not keep them because if they were left to rot in the garden it is probably cause we din't like them for some reason. I got more interested in them recently because sometimes they sprout while it is still cold and some seedlings have survived frost. 

I haven't done much as far as direct seeding in spring as in doing it in the specific spot where they will grow but I start my tomatoes in cold frames. I used to prepare the bed in the frame and direct seed in the ground and literally pull the plants to transplant. I still pull to transplant but have started using large partially buried pots cause it is easier to keep the varieties identified that way.

I was thinking this year I might try direct seeding by preparing a row, planting a lot of seed and covering with plastic. Basically the same as I have always done except the cold frame would be long and skinny, and instead of puling and replanting I would just thin. Maybe do the same thing only with out the plastic to see difference in sprouting and maturing time.

As far as dry farming, for the most part that has always been the norm for me. It used to work fine but in recent years it has become a problem. I'v debated with myself on whether I should upgrade my ability to water or if I should try to let my crops adapt, so far I'v mostly done the latter. For better or worse I think that is what I will stick with because it is easier, cheaper and I think IF but ONLY IF, for reasons below, diversity is high enough it has the best chance of succeeding.

I don't know that we get any less rain on average than we ever did in my memory but seems like now instead of a nice rain weekly or so we get a huge rain one day and none again for weeks. Four or six weeks of hot 90 F sunshine can really have and effect but some stuff does still produce, I guess because there is still residual moisture down deep. I figure watering might be counter productive in keeping root growth near the surface so if you do it once you can't stop.  Breeding specifically for that though won't work because in last few years we have also starting having weird cloudy wet periods in summer. 2015 I think it was it went from the hot dry in July to highs in the 70s and rain nearly every day in August. Climate change ins't "it was one way, now it's another" because it is still in progress.  So, I think breeding too specifically for a particular set of conditions  in my garden would be a mistake. I'm going to try to accumulate maximum diversity and not cull something just because it failed in one season cause it might be the only one to thrive in the next.

I do consider short season maturity the most powerful tool for increasing chances of a successful harvest because the weather within a particular season can change so dramatically from week to week or even day to day.
« Last Edit: 2018-12-01, 07:46:00 AM by reed »

Doro

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #7 on: 2018-12-01, 11:28:21 AM »
Climate change worries me a lot and I have no idea how to prepare for it in my area. It's getting colder or hotter depending on the year and it's not predictable what it's going to be until after planting.
Just 10 years ago we could count on last frost mid May, first frost mid August and in the time between frequent rain at least once a week. I grew anything in sand soil without ever needing to water. Summer days were 15-25C and nights around 10C. Perfect conditions for roots and tubers, brassicas or peas, all the cool weather crops did great.
In recent years we either got even colder summers with endless rain and temperatures hardly ever climbing above 20C or hotter summers with absolutely no rain and over 30C for months. We already got a lot of 25-30C days in the beginning of May. Winter and then dry summer, spring was missing this year.
I've been watching lupine flowers the past years, which are a good indicator for the weather here. They used to be perfect in time for midsummer decorations. 2018 they were done flowering 3 weeks before midsummer, 2017 they just started flowering 2 weeks after midsummer. 5 weeks difference in growth is a quite worrying range. I'm not sure if any crop can be diverse enough to really thrive in both extremes.
2017 we had frost in june and a lot of flooding. 2018 we had forrest fires, drinking water saving restrictions and wet areas falling dry which had never been dry before. Now in november they just reached normal levels again. Farmers had to drastically reduce their stock in summer already because no grass was growing and feed would not last through winter.
My attempt to deal with these unpredictable extremes is to widen the range of things I grow. Growing cool season crops and warm season crops. The potatoes, peas and cabbage suffered, radish and salad bolted, the broad beans just keeled over and wilted. But I got great tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplants and tomatillos. 2017 was the opposite.
Will see what 2019 brings. I hope not another heatwave ;) I like my potatoes.

Richard Watson

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #8 on: 2018-12-01, 12:24:35 PM »
This country would be the most maritime influenced climate on the planet and that we sit on the edge of the 'roaring 40's meaning regardless of what direction the wind flows are coming from they are always coming off ocean waters. How will a rapidly changing climate effect our weather long term?, i believe it will be so different to what you continental's will have to deal with, a warming ocean should mean greater evaporation = higher rainfalls?, though the last 20 years of readings show we are getting drier, now below 500mm 19". There's just not enough certainty on what the changes will be in the future, to say i'm going to select for 'this or select for that', just dont know. For me turning over the generations as quickly as i can should be the best way to achieve adaptation of my seed lines to what ever climate change brings, deal with it when it comes.
Changeable year round climate with warming winters - just under 500mm average yearly rainfall. 20 years of soil improvements plus sub soil top soil reversal means my garden beds are about half metre deep. Below that is 100's of metres of alluvial out wash from the Southern
alps.

William S.

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #9 on: 2018-12-01, 12:51:24 PM »
Greater year to year variability is what Carol writes about in her wild weather chapter and that seems to be the case here as well. I wonder if the solution is not just our own breeding but also in increasing our germ plasm exchange rates. That in effect we need less locally adapted stuff because we never know what climate we will have in a given year. Trading seed gives us access to seed adapted to a variety of climates. Trading can include just buying- that's a form of trade, as is gifting.

Or we could grow our own seed but use our climatic variation to keep the diversity high. Say we have a good selection year and get seed back from only 10% of a seed crop. That seed crop just got pushed in whichever direction that wild year was. Perhaps we should grow seed crops of a variable population. Then freeze them with labels, then use that seed just a bit at a time. Some years we would get good selection for various extremes, others we might get an abundant harvest.

We can also spread our risk by planting lots of varieties. These don't need to be pure varieties. Instead of planting one kind of corn we might plant six, each adapted to a different extreme.

Carol talks about spreading risk by growing multiple very different species like potatoes AND corn. Joseph talks a good bit about growing as many squash species as possible.

I collect and grow lots of short season varieties that are shorter season than I really need them to be, that means I have growing season days to spare, which sometimes means I would still get a crop even in say a bad tomato year.
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

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #10 on: 2018-12-01, 09:29:22 PM »
I attribute some of the success of my plant breeding to the variability of weather from year to year. Especially on varieties which are way outside of their native range in my garden, and which failed as a species, year after year, until a summer came along that was more to their liking. But then, once they had reproduced successfully the first time, then succeeding generations did better.

Specific species that I am thinking of in my garden are runner beans, argyrosperma squash, and lagenaria gourds. They grow reliably now, but I did a lot of failed plantings before something finally took.

Carol Deppe

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #11 on: 2018-12-01, 11:22:20 PM »
Joseph, when you are growing stuff you know is outside it's comfort zone, do you direct seed, or start it in a greenhouse?

I'm suspicious that some, maybe most of what we experience when we adapt varieties to our region is epigenetic rather than genetic change. I speculate that most plants have a basic adaptation that is fairly wide, but this adaption is narrowed and optimized for any specific environment by heritable epigenetic modifications. Essentially a program on top of a program. I speculate that what gets you from one epigenetic subprogram to another is a serious shock of some sort. Heat shock, cold shock, etc. Something extreme enough to make the plant stop growing for a while but not so extreme it kills the plant. Maybe the nature of the shock induces a specific change to the correct alternate epigenetic program. Or maybe it just causes the plant to try a different one of it's epigenetic programs at random, with some plants hitting the right one.

If something like this is going on, Joseph's transition year might be the year that causes enough of a shock to trigger change in epigenetic program but not so much it kills unaltered plant first.

So if all this speculation was actually truth, we might be able, for example to get a tomato variety to become more freeze-hardy by subjecting seedlings to cold shocks and then saving seeds. Shades of Lysenko. However not for the reasons he supposed. No inheritance of acquired characters. Just an environment induced epigenetuc program change.

This is all speculation. I set it out because it we can test these ideas. And they have a whole lot of plant breeding implications.

A little later after a couple hrs reading about plant epigenetics on internet. Lots of people have approximately same ideas as outlined above, with much work on biochem of epigenetic changes on DNA. And there is much enthusiasm for potential in plant breeding. And much work happening attempting to get plants to produce "epilleles".. However there seems to not be a single variety developed based upon an epigenetic change yet. 
« Last Edit: 2018-12-02, 12:34:07 AM by Carol Deppe »

Doro

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #12 on: 2018-12-02, 03:46:37 AM »
I have seen this happen in some of my varieties, but not in all of them.
For example pepper plants and eggplants and their light requirements. I do not like to waste electricity on lighting when starting seedlings early, they get some low watt LED help the first weeks and then they have to grow with whatever dim and short winter daylight we have. The first years they are usually very leggy and grow very slow, but after about 4 years of saving seed from a variety they seem to adapt to the conditions and grow better. At least some of them. With just a little selection help by me, I sow twice the amount I need and just keep the best 50% of the seedlings. When trading seeds with people who use heavy artificial lights on their peppers it's usually a leggy disaster for me and they get squat ground cover plants out of my seeds the first years.
Other examples are short day tuberizing potatoes, they should not tuberize good in long day summers ending early. And usually the first years harvests are no good. But if I continue to grow them for some years the harvest sometimes gets better. Still not a great harvest but at least enough to eat some and keep growing them.
For cold hardiness in tomatoes I noticed that they start flowering earlier and ripening earlier after just a few generations. All I do is saving seed from the first ripe fruit per variety. In the beginning I had two varieties always beating all other varieties in setting fruit in early spring and ripening first. A couple of years later most of my must have varieties that I grow every year flower at the same early time. Misshaped fruit because of cold weather, I think it is called catface? in English, is getting less too.
I do not test for frost hardiness because if I loose the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers or eggplants, there is no time to start over. But spring nights in my greenhouse get down to 3C before the emergency heater is starting.
The hot and dry weather events have not been frequent enough to observe changes there.

William S.

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #13 on: 2018-12-02, 09:19:28 AM »
There has been a lot of discussion about epigenetic change in Tomatoes over on the homegrown goodness forum and possibly another forum like tomatoville especially in regards to Darrel Jones initiated cold/frost tolerant tomato breeding project, Josephs trays full of frosted seedlings, some Russian tomatoes, and the wild tomato species with better cold and frost tolerance.

In 2018 I got no spring frosts after planting tomatoes. However in 2017 I got two frosts after transplanting at least the latter of which impacted much of my direct seeding experiment as well. Most plants that were frosted twice died. Most plants frosted once survived by resprouting from the base. One Peruvianum complex plant survived both frosts with top growth intact. Habrochaites survived by resprouting.

I included some of the Russian genetic strains in this. They did not impress particularly if they had resistance I think it must have been epigenetic and inactive in 2017. It's possible that the shock of being frozen once or twice may have activated some epigenetics.

A few rare plants planted between the two frosts survived with top growth intact despite every plant surrounding them succombing. These results were pretty nonsensical. For instance one Blue Gold plant a Brad Gates variety not chosen for frost tolerance survived with top growth intact while many many frost or cold hardy strains succombed and every other Blue Gold individual. However the frozen to the ground plants resprouted and did set fruit as well.

I also learned that most inch high tomatoes direct seeded survived.

I also direct seeded more tomatoes the next day. Ultimately I had too many tomatoes in 2017.

I am pretty willing to flirt with that last spring frost or two because I now know I can reseed immediately, that most tomatoes will survive being top killed once, and if there are epigenetics at play they may be being activated, and soil moisture is great I can transplant without watering anything but the flats or direct seed without watering, which means I may not need to water until July.

In 2017 my fall killing frosts weren't very telling. A single big very hard fall frost killed everything. 2018 I had weaker fall frosts and they took out domestic tomatoes first then wild tomatoes like Peruvianum complex and habrochaites lived longer both from top growth and resprouting. Though even domestics were sometimes killed in layers.

It would be interesting to have a bit of an experimental facility to test and play with both epigenetic and genetic cold and frost tolerance in tomatoes. A dedicated refrigerator would work for cold tolerance- Darrel Jones suggested that a refrigerator test would quickly separate strains there by turning non-cold tolerant strains to mush. However freezing is trickier. It would be nice to be able to freeze tomato plants under controlled conditions. Darrel also explained go us that the moisture with the frosts is important- leaf dry vs. Leaf Wet frosts.
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

Andrew Barney

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Re: Climate Change Breeding
« Reply #14 on: 2018-12-02, 09:54:30 AM »
I think epigenetics has a bigger role to play than people think,  and perhaps in extreme cases can increase the rate of mutation in the genetics portion in order to adapt and survive.

But a good poor example of this phenomenon for me would be the blacktail mountain watermelon variety. Despite being bred in Idaho for short northern conditions it has never done well for me here in a similar enough climate. I attribute this to loosing its epigenetic advantage by being grown and sold from farms in Missouri and the deep south. Watermelons bred for the north should only be grown in the north. If I ever develop my own variety I will put such a notice on it specifically as the watermelon storage facility for GRIN is located in Georgia.