05 November 2011

The pea parents

In early September I planted the following coloured peas as parents for my breeding program
Purple Podded (Select Organics)
Angela's Blue
Purple Podded (Diggers)
Purple Podded (The Lost Seed)
Golden Podded (Diggers)

And these edible podded peas:
Melting Mammoth (Eden)
Delta Louisa (Green Circle Organics)
Dwarf Sugar Snap (Eden Seeds)
Oregon Spring (from littlegarden, a member at ozgrow)
and 4 other unknown snowpeas from other members at ozgrow, one just called chinese snowpea, and another labelled by me as USPPR - Unknown Snow Pea Powdery Resistant from a research collection which had survived the powdery mildew chamber of death.

By chance I had some Melting Mammoths growing for a food crop - a slice of luck since they are double flowered, and one aberrant plant had purple flowers and double flowers. It had purple colouration in the leaf axils, another indicator that it was a carrier of the A gene, responsible for anthocyanin production in peas.

So why all these parents?

Pisum breeding 101 (Skip this if you are familiar with pea genetics) Rebsie Fairholm's daughterofthesoil blog has a much more detailed account)
Peas are inbreeders. A pea flower pollinates itself (most of the time) so its genes can only combine with itself. Handy if you want to keep a line of peas pure from generation to generation - you just do nothing, and collect the seed at the end of the season.

But if you want to combine some characteristics from another variety of peas - edible pods for example, or a different pod colour, then you have to manually cross the varieties by hand. Early one morning when the pea is in bud and the flower hasn't opened, you sneak out with some fine forceps, ease the unopened petals apart, split open the keel that contains the reproductive parts, and gently pluck off the pollen bearing stamens before they have had a chance to shed pollen and self-fertilise the flower. Then go to a more mature flower on the other variety of pea, open it in the same way, and pluck or scrape some pollen onto your forceps. Back at the emasculated plant, you gently place the pollen on the end of the female reproductive part, the stigma. You then fold the petals closed, and wait to see if your pollination has been successful.

But how do you decide what to cross with what?
That's about pea genetics, another post I'm afraid.

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