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General Category => Plant Breeding => Alliums => Topic started by: reed on 2019-03-14, 08:11:15 AM

Title: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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 (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.

Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Joseph Lofthouse 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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. 
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Carol Deppe 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.)
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Walt 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Carol Deppe 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Joseph Lofthouse 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Walt 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Ferdzy 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Ferdzy 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?
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed 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. 
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed on 2019-06-02, 04:24:03 AM
Well my attempt to cross my new wild onions has failed for this year. Three of the four larger plants have not bloomed, instead they are growing second and third tiers of smaller bulbils, I din't notice any of them doing that in the wild patch I found. The fourth plant made just two flowers and I am pretty sure my attempts to emasculate them destroyed them instead. O'well the smaller plants should probably bloom some next year and I'll have more flowers to try again.

I might get seeds from my old walking onions though, they are acting weird. Blooming more than they ever have, a couple stalks have no bulbils at all just flowers and they almost all have more than normal flowers.

In the other patch which is a mix of potato onions from a friend in Minnesota and Joseph's onion mix there is lots of interesting stuff. All these were started from seed and have survived two or more seasons largely on their own. Most are clumped with about 1/2 of them looking more like top set onions but better flavor than my old ones. A couple have no flowers at all. Two other plants which I'm guessing came from Joseph's only have one stalk, maybe they are more bulbing type? They both have lots of flowers and no bulbils. The other 1/2 of this patch are much smaller with clumps of up to about a dozen, they are not blooming or making bulbils but they taste fantastic. After collecting what ever seeds I get here I'm going to divide and transplant all of them into my new permanent perennial patch outside the fenced garden.

So I'll have four or five types that are hardy and productive and I'll move some of the little wild ones into each patch as well. And I'll plant all the seeds I get this fall and let winter cull out any wimpy ones.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Steph S on 2019-11-21, 06:21:14 PM
I have a couple of plants in my shallot patch which look like a cross with a wild allium, maybe the same one Allium canadense.  They have flat leaves, which sets them apart from the shallots, paler and almost a lime green in color, and very small shoots in a very dense tuft.  One is very dwarf and bore no seeds, while the other was larger and produced a few seeds from mostly incomplete flowers.   We don't have wild alliums here, but the seeds came from somewhere in Canada and maybe some wild pollen crossed into her shallot patch.   I plan to move them in spring, and I will be on the lookout for any deep bulbs - this could be a big advantage for us since shallow planted shallots don't do well planted in the fall.    Besides, now that I read what you think of them, I'm hoping they would be tasty.  :)   Anyway, a different type of bulb belowground would confirm it was some kind of cross.
I've also tried to get seeds from my Egyptian Onions but nothing came of it.
Incidentally, there is another cross of A cepa and A fistulosum on the market, called "Guardsman".   It originated in the UK but is widely available in the US at present. 
I will post a couple of pics of the tiny 'tuft', certainly looks "yellow-green", flower buds light brown and shaped like the shallot buds, flowers reduced and mostly petals - this pic from the larger of the two plants but they were basically the same only smaller on the teeny tuft.  If anyone recognizes the likely parent of this, I'd love to know.
 
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Chance on 2019-11-21, 06:55:53 PM
I got some onion wild relative seed this year, psekemense and altaicum.  I saw that psekemense is closer to oschaninii than other species, so naturally I thought about crossing them.  I havent grown the Griselle shallot/oschaninii, does it even flower ?
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-11-22, 05:57:21 AM
Chance, the consensus is that no, oschaninii does not flower or produce seeds.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed on 2019-11-22, 06:17:07 AM
I moved a bunch of my onions into a new permanent patch the other day. It consists of top set types that came to me as seeds from Joseph and my friend in Minnesota and my old variety I've had for a long time. The new ones as a rule are much better flavor than my old ones. Also included are those that clump or make small to medium sized bulbs. This second group. I think are heavily influenced by potato onions and or shallots, a lot of them have pretty blue shade to their leaves and pinkish/red in the small bulbs. They also came from the same seed origins I mentioned before and they all also taste great. And last, some of the wild  Allium canadense.

Adjacent to that is a patch of little plants from the seeds that I collected this year. It has pretty much all those mentioned before except for the Allium canadense that did not bloom very good or make any seeds. There is a chance that it might have provided a small amount of pollen but it's a pretty slim chance.

In any event, even though I didn't get confirmed crossing with the wild ones I'm pretty happy with my onion patch. It has lots that have survived both severe cold without snow cover as well as hot dry without watering. In the case of cold, some selected themselves out early on by freezing and rotting. In case of hot, dry most go dormant and start growing again in fall.

I'm mostly focused on establishing a "assisted wild" onion patch that can be harvested pretty much any time instead of producing a crop of bulbs for storage. I think it is about ready to leave it to it's own but I'll keep a very close eye of the Allium canadense for any opportunity to cross it into the others.

[add] I remember discussion but could find it again about the concept that just growing things in close proximity can encourage the different things to somehow become more compatible. Some kind of chemical or genetic transfer by a mechanism other that flowering.  I don't remember the actual term. Also not entirely sure I believe it but on the off chance something will come from it I might move some of the many other wild onions that grow around here into the patch as well.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Richard Watson on 2019-11-23, 11:28:45 AM
What interesting looking flowers they have
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-11-23, 11:49:50 AM
No success for me neither. I planted my favourite shallot next to some wild leeks (ramps) and immediate problem became clear - they don't flower at the same time.

I doubt I will be able to do anything next year as we are going to Great Britain in April, but I guess the next step is to see if I can start the shallots going early. My guess is it would be pretty tricky and involve lights (day length triggers?) so in addition to possible genetic incompatibility there's that. Whoo. Ain't holding my breath.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Johann Kuntz on 2020-09-02, 12:59:06 AM
I got some onion wild relative seed this year, psekemense and altaicum.  I saw that psekemense is closer to oschaninii than other species, so naturally I thought about crossing them.  I havent grown the Griselle shallot/oschaninii, does it even flower ?

I received and grew out Allium oschaninii seed from the USDA collection this year (accession # Pl 292163).  It must flower and produce seed if they're able to distribute the seed.  I had an okay germination rate on it too.  I'm planning to cull the smallest bulbs and grow on the largest bulbs to let flower and collect the next round of seed.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Americ on 2020-09-02, 02:23:15 AM
This year I planted seeds of Allium oschaninii. A majority of the seedlings are currently blossoming. I am interested to see if they blossom so late next year as well.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: Willy on 2020-09-14, 08:27:08 AM
Oschaninii does indeed bolt/flower with only the French Grey being different and not bolting. The bolting "mutant" of the French Grey was called Grisombelle.

I'm not sure where to find Grisombelle seeds. Otherwise I'm growing out a few Oschaninii varieties to see what happens. I also have a large amount of French Grey bulbs from my harvest earlier this summer.
Title: Re: Wild Onions & Breeding with them
Post by: reed on 2021-06-13, 05:38:20 AM
Been a good bit since I posted on this topic. Like many of my projects I guess I lose interest or rather focus especially with something like dealing with the tiny flowers and few seeds of a species like this one. My Allium canadense plants however have been plugging along and increasing nicely.

I've interplanted with walking onions, potato onions, bunching onions and onions from the store but haven't paid a lot of attention to them otherwise. They always make a few seeds along with the little bulbils and I have planted those seeds in the same mixed up patch. By planting I mean just to make sure they get into the ground at the same time they would have done it themselves.

The little bulbils they make are absolutely delicious and while gathering a few the other day I discovered something interesting. Up till now all I have ever seen are very spherical in shape and bright green. Now this plant shows up. It has much more pointed bulbils and until outer skin started drying it was a nice reddish/purple in color while the spherical ones were the typical green. The two clusters in the photo are on two different plants.

I can't say for sure that these plants came from seed rathe than bulbils as both are just growing together and I don't know that such variation isn't just part of the species but still, it's interesting. I'm gonna make sure these bulbils get planted rather than just leaving them to their own devices as customary for me.