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Topics - Steph S

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Guess it's time to post some notes and pics.
I got a little overexcited at seed planting time, due to having two probable/presumed stable OP's this year, in my favorite line.   With the prospect of actually "finishing" something, I went through my binder looking for side crosses and anything determinate that got sidelined, and before you know it I had started seeds for way more projects than I have room for in the greenhouse.   They all germinated around March 24th, and got planted out a bit late, in the middle of May.
With only a 12X28 ft greenhouse, the default number for exploring a line in a given year is usually six plants.  Six can be lucky, it can also be unlucky, so the search is somewhat desultory and a lot of projects end up on the back burner, as the most promising get space to be pursued forward.

1) Skipper Pink and Skipper Brown F7 - sibling determinates from (Napoli Fiaschetto X Black Cherry) det black F2 X (Zolotoe Serdtse X Black Early F1)  These are very similar large 2-3 locule cherries with gf/gf, but the plants are more different than the fruit.  Skipper Brown is a much larger plant with longer clusters and thus more productive of the two.  But it has shown a tendency to get some foliage disease before all the fruiting is done, where the smaller plant Skipper Pink is hassle free all season long. Untroubled foliage is a key trait in the majority of plants from these lines.  This year I'm experimenting with larger containers/more nutes for SB to see whether that is enough to stop those foliage concerns.  One each of SB/SP will be planted outdoors when the time comes, to check performance in the raw, while the others expect to be kept in the no bee zone for seed production.
2) Rodney F5  This is a sibling line to the Skippers from the same original cross.  Small beefs with a smooth texture, this particular selection had a unique taste which I'm hoping to find again.
3) ORFI F2  From a larger fruited determinate F1 of the cross  Orange-1 X (Napoli Fiaschetto X Black Cherry F1).  These could be Beta orange, half Beta, red, black or even pink, granted that recessives pop up when you're not expecting them.  The plants look rugged and I really like the growth habit so far.
4) Yellow Project - whew.  This rambling project has gone everywhere but not where I wanted it.
Kimberley X Zolotye Kupola, later crossed to Medovaya Kaplya and then to v Desyatku to get determinate,
I have 3 yellow fruited determinate F3's and 5 F4s, planted into 3 gallon pots just searching for the delicious fruity yellow taste I had in a crazy large indeterminate plant with susceptible foliage.  I also fished out a cross between that indeterminate yellow F2 and the determinate cherry from (NaF x BC) to maybe try a rescue cross with the most promising F3 or 4.
5) (NaF x BC) determinate black F2  X Winter Sky F2 (Zolotoe Serdtse X Indian Stripe) F1.  The Winter Sky was a Beta/- orange with a great taste, but I grew out half dozen of F3 and again 6 of the F4 but didn't find a single determinate. So I was thinking there was no determinate there and sidelined it.  This F1 I managed to squeeze two plants in, one year, both of which were indet red cherries, no Beta.   These went into even smaller pots (maybe a gallon or a half?) and nearly got given away except for one that I kept for a fruit to get F2 seeds.  When to my surprise yesterday as I was shuffling plants around I discovered that three of the plants in small pots are Determinates!!!  Very pleased about that, I will have to find em space though.
6) I also have a few indeterminates - F1's with determinate cross.
Indeterminates don't meet my criteria for low maintenance tomatoes.  So I made a couple of crosses last summer, to a determinate minibeef F6 in the Skipper line.  1) My favorite early low maintenance bicolor, that is Oaxaca Jewel PL.  I've tried to use this plant as the female in the cross many times and all failed.  This time it was pollen donor.  2)  An indeterminate line involving PI120256.  [(Eva Purple Ball X PI120256) F1  X (Stupice X Black Cherry) mini beef F2]F2. Both the F1 and the F2 of the 4 parent cross were early and productive, selected the largest and tastiest red ruffled fruit in the F2.  I'm hoping to get some more regular ruffled shapes in the determinate cross.
Both of these F1s have shown some superior heat tolerance compared with my other lines, there are no blossom drops on them from our couple of scorching days, as there are on practically every other plant..
I have one more indeterminate, the only OP I managed to squeeze in is Amish Yellowish Orange Oxheart, a first time grow for me, and growing it for the tt tangerine, will probably cross to Rodney to get a determinate line with tt and larger fruit.  Oh and  Datlo (a tt cherry) crossed with NaFBC F2 determinate.  So assuming I get the seeds and the cross, I will have two alternate tangerine lines to play with.

So that is the list of plants that are crammed in the unheated greenhouse June 10, while snow is covering the ground.  2 days ago we were close to 27C and today the temperature has been steady near 3C while it rained, dropped to 1C at this hour as it changed to snow, and expected to snow until midnight.   The greenhouse high was 58 F up from 55 early this morning and currently 50 F.  I don't expect it'll be too bad tonight since it isn't windy and the glazing looks to be covered with snow.  Should be nothing the plants can't handle, but I am glad I didn't put them outdoors earlier when the weather was fine.

Grains / history of lateral gene transfer in grains
« on: 2021-04-28, 06:48:52 AM »
Apparently a long history of gene exchange between species.

Plant Breeding / research on seed microbiomes
« on: 2021-04-28, 06:45:08 AM »
Thought you may find this interesting:

The study found that microbiomes varied with genotype as well as environment.  Although the work is on canola, it very likely applies to other crops as well.  The implication is that genotypes selected in the breeding process also select for the microbiome that accompanies the seed.

Asters / Sunflowers for seeds to eat
« on: 2021-01-19, 10:24:16 AM »
I've been shopping around looking for a good eating sunflower that is not too tall.
I haven't grown sunflowers for many years - my few adventures ended sadly with plants prone on the ground.  Much too windy here.  I can imagine structure that would support something up to 5 or even 6 ft tall, but 4 ft or shorter would be even better...
I'm not sure that what I'm looking for exists, but it may be possible to cross 'too tall' with 'seeds too small' and get something that works.
EARLY is another trait that would help.
So here are a few of the varieties I've looked at and thought may be worth a trial.
Sunspot is a short one with about 8 inch flowers and 'seed for birds'. 
Titan, Mongolian Giant and similar are probably out of my league just too tall.
Veseys has one called Early Russian which is 6-8 ft tall.
Snack Seed (Renees) and Super Snack Mix (Burpee) are said to be 7 or 5 ft.
Annapolis has one called Standfast which is said to be a bit earlier than others.

Your comments about seed quality, height, earliness, ease of shelling etc of these or any sunflowers would be appreciated.
I didn't find any other dwarf types that promised to bear seeds, there are too too many pollen-free varieties in what I scrolled through, so further knowledge of edible types would be helpful.

In terms of a breeding process, I suppose it could be done manually to ensure transfer between the desired cross. I would rather not need a ladder for that.

Plant Breeding / new work on heterosis
« on: 2020-06-13, 06:18:41 PM »
Latest work reports that heterosis steadily increases with genetic divergence of the parents, but only if they are adapted to the same conditions.

According to the article, this dataset is freely available.

Community & Forum Building / "Lost Crops"
« on: 2019-12-27, 06:53:04 PM »
Saw this article today, and made me wonder if I've been looking in the wrong place for feasible animal feed.   Sorghum, millet and other grains used for chicken feed elsewhere are not well adapted to the northern climate and short season here.  But what about these lost crops?

"Mueller discovered that a polyculture of goosefoot and erect knotweed is more productive than either grown separately as a monoculture. Grown together, the two plants have higher yields than global averages for closely related domesticated crops (think: quinoa and buckwheat), and they are within the range of those for traditionally grown maize."

Here is a link to the abstract of the original paper:
"Since the 1930s, archaeologists have been accumulating data on the lost crops of eastern North America. These are a group of annual plants (Chenopodium berlandieri, Hordeum pusillum, Iva annua, Phalaris caroliniana, and Polygonum erectum) that were cultivated by Indigenous societies for thousands of years. No published written or oral histories attest to the methods used in their cultivation, and their domesticated forms are thought to be extinct. "

We certainly have some Chenopodium weeds here that produce seed soon enough.   Not sure about Polygonum erectum.

Greens & Brassicas / Brassica crosses
« on: 2019-11-29, 08:16:21 PM »
I had to start a few Michihili for our winter greens, so I picked a pack that was most likely to have crosses, planted 14 seeds, four of them are crossed.   Michihili is B. rapa and so were many of the possible crosses, but there is an obvious Red Russian Kale cross there too (B napus).

One thing I noticed with the Michihili is that the growth rate/vigor is really variable (not just this seed lot but the previous years as well).  You pot up two seedlings that look about the same and one grows much faster than the other.   I  see that the crossed seedlings are more vigorous compared to the selfed Michihili.   So maybe there is some inbreeding depression there, which is relieved in the crosses.  Or maybe it is the genetics of growth rate, which could lead to a faster growing cabbage.

Pic at the bottom is the normal Michihili phenotype.   First two crosses  RRK is obvious and Bok Choy as well, in the leaf shape.  The second two have some mustard blood in them (I nibbled.  RRK cross tasted like a rich romaine, Bok cross mild, the other two are kaley/turnipy).

Alliums / A diverse patch of shallots
« on: 2019-11-13, 04:31:52 PM »
I have a lot of questions about shallots, not just genetics but also cultural practices, so all and every advice will be appreciated.
Two years ago I received a pack of about 100 seeds from someone's shallots that had bolted, in our (Nicky's) annual Canadian swap.  I started them in February and planted out in May about 4" apart.   Spring was looking okay until we had two weeks of winter in June (snow on ground and daytime highs below freezing).  About 20-25% of the shallots did not survive.  None bolted (perhaps all too juvenile).  The survivors all divided into clumps, but they did not form any bulbs before the end of season.  I thought they were goners.
When the next spring came around I was lamenting their demise to a friend when much to my surprise we found the green tendrils spiking up through their self-mulching leaves.  In late spring I transplanted some of them to give a more even spacing to the survivors in the same bed.  By midsummer they were all putting out flower buds.   It was only in this second year of growth that the diversity of the 73 individuals became obvious.  Variable traits included bud size and color (red purple, dark purple, pale purple, shades of brown to pale tan) earliness of flowering (although most began to flower within a week or so of midsummer), plant height (25 to 55 cm), clump size, leaf color (dark blue-green to medium green and a couple of lime green outliers) color at the base of the stem (yellow, red, shades in between, none).   There also appeared to be initiation of bulbing at variable time - I mean the spreading of shoots beginning to curve outwards around a central gap.   This did not turn into actual bulbing, unfortunately.  I was too engaged in the whole flowering diversity thing to do any selection or try to get bulbs by nipping buds.   :-[  It seemed too fortuitous to have this grand patch of flowers for the bumblebee queens, at a time when there isn't much else in the garden.  :-*  So the main event was the flowers (pretty awesome) and of course the seeds.  I saved all the seeds, partly in fear of a "feral shallot" thing - I would rather plant them where I want them than have them popping up at random.  Since I had data on plant height, I made up batches of seed in three height groups 30 cm or less, 30-40+ cm, and 45 cm or taller, and shared back to Nicky's swap - I just heard from her that all 30 packs were spoken for by the time my package arrived, so there are 30 gardeners across Canada who may select their own shallot from 200+ seed packs, and I still have lots of seed.
I am also expecting that the plants in the original shallot patch will survive the winter as they did before, and will want to flower whether I decide to let them or not.
It occurred to me that if we had a reliable method of producing shallots from seeds here, it would be very convenient to have a patch that produces seed every year for the purpose, and never worry about an "onion crisis" - onion is totally a staple food for us.
I've done some searching online, and discovered that I originally planted them too far apart.  Spacing at 1-2 " with the goal of producing one bulb per seed is recommended at Cornell and at a British allotment site - wider spacing and they will divide as mine did instead of bulbing.  Spacing of true seed shallots in an Indonesian study was tested at 100 and 150 plants per square meter.  Obviously much tighter than my first try.   There is also the possibility of growing sets for the following year, at even higher density.
There is another possibility, assuming that they do survive as expected, to dig and divide the clumps that have established, or take a few, and replant them in a suitable spacing and location for bulbing.
My general thought was to dig and move/distribute the small plants 30 cm or less and those with unusual flower/bud traits in spring, for use in ornamental flower borders.  And keep the larger plants together that may produce bigger bulbs.  But I don't actually know if there is a correlation between plant height and bulb size.
I also don't know if the color traits will be correlated in any way with bulb traits.   All of the flowers were shades of mauve when fully opened which in onions would be a red bulb afaik.    The outliers were lighter pink or darker purple, with the most unusual (two plants) having only partial flowers much paler in color and only one of them produced a few seeds.
So I would be very grateful if anyone with shallot experience would tell me whatever you know or have learned about them.
We do have a really short and cool season here, and I know they respond well to heat by bulbing - I don't know how much of a problem that might be.   The only thing I know for sure is that we can get them to produce seeds.  :o

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