25 October 2016

tomato cages

just a quick post on my tomato cages constructed last week - weldmesh, wine barrels, and fine galvanised mesh covering to keep the rats and possums off.

20 September 2016

Short, Stumpy Coloured Carrot Progress

I have been very remiss in my posts.
With spring well and truly here, the Autumn sown coloured carrots needed lifting so i can repair the bed, and move the selected plants to an out of the way corner to set seed over summer.
This project has proceeded with considerable neglect.
I originally planted Lobericher Yellow, Belgian White, a few plants - 2 or 3 I think, of 3 Colours Purple (sourced from Diggers Seeds, so who knows what it really was), and Paris Market orange carrot, allowing them to mass-cross, with the intention of creating a mix of multi-coloured, little round carrots. Why? For fun, and so growers like me, who always struggle with growing long root crops, could grow some multi-coloured carrots.
This was an exercise in extreme optimism - I had no idea about carrot genetics.
Other projects got priority, the seeding carrots got neglected, and seed packets got left in the hothouse for months at a time.  I was probably selecting robust seed, but not intentionally.
I dug a big patch of promising lookng roots a few years ago, then forgot to do anything with them for a couple of weeks, and many of them rotted. Seed produced from the few survivors was also neglected, but last autumn i planted a couple of square metres of bed, thinned them over winter, removing anything with normal foliage stems, leaving anything with purple blushes to the base of the stems.

After 3 or 4 years of selecting for short roots, I'm getting close to the goal - or at least one of the goals.

The first handful I pulled was a revelation: I couldn't believe the colours, and the stumpyness!

As I'm beginning to realise, in plant breeding the results often lead you off into different directions.
I think I now have 4 coloured carrot breeding projects!
I couldn't believe the luminescence of these magenta gems.

My original idea of multi-coloured round carrots is a bit difficult - it would mean isolating different colours, collecting seed separately, then re-mixing the seed to get different colours in the same batch, I don't really have the room or inclination.

So I think I will proceed with a Purple Paris carrot, selecting for shortness, rounded shoulders, and rounded ends - not as purple as i would like, but i think i might be able to reselect for this in subsequent seasons

Then there's a Red Wedge selection, bigger more robust carrots, broad shoulders, good colour, short roots without the round tip - well at least not as pronounced.

Then a Magenta Candles selection - narrow roots, good deep magenta colour, variable shoulders and tips.

And finally a short white  selection - but the numbers are small for this, so we will see which direction it goes in - Snow cones, or White Paris, not sure what will happen with these - and there is a bit of pale orange in the mix...

so, celebrate carrot diversity...

22 February 2016

Portable seed winnower

A couple of seasons ago I built a seed winnower from a design published at Real Seeds U.K. . It took a bit of work to get it right, and I never got mine to work very well with lettuce seed. Additionally, it took up a fair bit of room, and to set it up I had to dig out the household vacuum cleaner, and string a power cord outside.
Looking around the 'net a week ago, I came across some seed cleaner machines built by canary fanciers, to clean husks from seed - I think because birds tend to eat seed and leave the husks, meaning a lot of good seed gets thrown out with the husks. Google them on youtube if you want to see.
I had a bit of a think, played with the design and came up with a slightly modified one that is useful for the small batch seed cleaning I need.

Advantages of this one over the larger Real Seed one is that it's much smaller, and lighter making it much easier to set up, and therefore much more likely for me to bother using it. It has a variable speed, which is handy for different seed types, and it runs off a small 12 volt battery, so i can set it up almost anywhere.

So, here is a short video showing the design. Hope you like it.


06 October 2015

Seeds for Sale - UsefulSeeds.com site launch

I've been very quiet here lately - mostly concentrating on finalising a few breeding projects, growing out enough seed lots to distribute, and setting up a row or two of plants at a couple of friend's gardens both as insurance crops and to bulk up the seed supplies.
To facilitate distribution, and let's face it to turn a few dollars, I've finally got a website up and running, to distribute some of the product of this research and breeding effort.

You might like to drop in at www.usefulseeds.com and add a few shares and links, let's get these lines distributed, so i can move on to some new breeding projects.

04 July 2015

Jupiter purple snow progress

A quick update to document the progress on the greenhouse-grown Jupiter purple snow peas.

02 June 2015

"Good data never goes stale..."

Such was the advice from my thesis supervisor, regarding record keeping back in the eighties. She was right, and 20 years later I got a published paper after reworking my data on grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea sp) and fire inspired by a technique used to analyse lichen (Rhizocarpon sp) on rockfall debris in New Zealand. Go figure.

So, plant breeding? Wasting water in the shower a few days ago my mind drifted to new vegetable breeding projects. With my purple snow project well advanced, I was musing on possibilities when I recalled some of my suspended projects. In 2011 I crossed Sugarsnap Bush with Purple Podded. After a few intermittent growouts, I got two lines of purple thick podded (snap) tall peas, that unfortunately seemed to have fibre. I was contemplating crossing these back to the original Sugarsnap parent, but that would mean extensive growouts to re-find the three purple genes again so I put the project on hold.

But in the shower I had a lightbulb moment - why not cross the fibrous purple snaps to my now stable low fibre purple snows? The low fibre genes from the purple snows could be carried across to the snaps, the hard to catch dominant purple genes would be present in both parents so would be stable, and the recessive thick pod gene from the snaps wouldn't be too hard to recover. Genius.

I had been compartmentalising the projects - thinking of them as separate projects, when much of the work done in each could complement the other. A quick look through the record book confirmed my thoughts. Luckily I had kept well-labelled bags of all the stages of each breeding program, so finding the correct parents was only a matter of going through the various slightly disorganised plastic tubs in the seed fridges (yes, I now own two dedicated bar fridges for seed storage), and extracted the parents.

Ten seeds each of 4 purple snap siblings, and one selected tall purple snowpea are now soaking on the bench. With luck I will be able to grow these out over winter in the greenhouse, perform some crosses, and get F1 seed for a late spring growout. This would give me F2 seed to recover full purple fiberless snaps in Autumn 2016.

An added bonus is the slight possibility of getting large pods into a sugar snap pea. The gene for thick pod walls is very close on the chromosome to the gene for pod size - the genes are said to be tightly linked. [Edit: I went back to the original paper by Baggett et al, where I first saw mentioned the connection between thick pod walls and short pods. My memory had failed me, it's not linkage, the thick pod wall gene n is actually pleitropic  rather than being linked. That is, the gene doesn't just do one thing, rather it has effects on a number of other traits. Ah, precision...So the following dream might just be that...] Since the original sugarsnap with thick pod walls was on a small podded pea, no one has yet been able to breed a big podded sugarsnap. Although it is a low probability, my cross just might produce a big podded snap. But I'm not holding my breath.

26 May 2015

First of the Jupiter pods

It's now 72 days after sowing, and the first of the little purple pods are forming on the greenhouse plants - the outside plants despite being about half the size, are only a week or so behind. The greenhouse plants are also showing signs of multiple branching beginning.