A while since I posted - gardening takes time.
Finally the seeds on my Short Fat Parsnip parents are ready. The Halblange and De Gurnesey have set seed synchronously, but the Kral, and the late-planted Melbourne Whiteskin have been tardy. This has implications for parsnip breeding, since the trigger for flowering is presumably day length - manipulating these varieties so that they flower together will take a bit more thought than say for corn, where you can stagger planting times. Don't think that will work for a biennial. But I think there has been sufficient overlap in flowering to allow some cross pollination.
But this difference in flowering times has further implications. Accepted advice when seed collecting is to harvest the best seed. In the case of parsnips, it looks like the first umbels have the best seed. And recall that parsnips need a big gene pool for a healthy breeding population. So in a perfect world I would collect the seed from the first umbels of all four varieties I'm growing. But the first umbels on the early flowerers won't have crossed with the later varieties. So I've seperately bagged the seeds from what I hope are contemporaneous seed heads - the earliest from the Kral and Melbourne Whiteskin, and the second pick from HLW and DG which started flowering earlier.
On another note, the second sowing of Kral which took place in early Spring has survived the record dry, but a number of plants have started to send up flower spikes. This presents me with a dilemma - do I havest this seed (which might develop too late in the season anyway) or do I reject this seed, since it comes from individuals that are prone to annualism rather than biennialism? I don't wish to encourage genetics that allow the parsnips to bolt in one season - I might end up with a population of bolters, giving lots of early seed, but no parsnips to eat!
Below, a picture of the DG (left) and HLW (right) parsnips I pulled after harvesting the seeds.
The HLW has tubbier tubers, so closer to my desired target.