26 April 2014

Green Mountain Spud Onion F2 seedlings

I collected seed from my Green Mountain plants, well, from the few that flowered. An interesting phenomenon is the number of these F2s that are chloritic - lacking or low in chlorophyll. I noticed it in the first batch I sowed a month ago, but my recent sowing shows a considerable proportion with charateristic. Of the 16 or so plants I grew from Kelly's original seed 2 plants were chloritic, and succumbed at about the pencil stage.
In this generation, 15 out of 34 emerged seeds are yellow. This will only be a problem if they fail to thrive, so it will be interesting to see what eventuates.

Purple snows and snaps - autumn 2014 growout

Progress on the purple snows has been slow, but steady. Locking in 3 dominant genes from one parent (all the purple colouration ones), and two recessives(the snow pod genes)  from the other is an exercise in playing the numbers - the more you plant the greater the chances of all five turning up in one or more individuals.
I did three crosses in spring 2011 - Purple Podded X  Purple Flowered Mammoth (Yakumo), Purple Podded X Delta Louisa, and Purple Podded X Chamber of Death.

These have produced three projects - Tall Purple Mammoth and Tall Mauve Mammoth  a large podded tall purple (or mauve) snow without resistance, Delta Purple a short purple snow with some resistance and double flowers, and Resistant Purple Chamber of Death, a highly resistant purple snow.

The TPM project is now at F5, with 15 seeds each of 2 promising lines in the ground. It has been hard to fix both purple pods and flavour - sweet parents have given chalky offspring, but hopefully the F5s will have settled down a bit. Both of these lines show promise of being homozygous purple, a hard ask with three different dominant genes to fix. Well, two actually since both parents carried the A gene for anthocyanin production.I could have just taken a chance on this - growing out lots and waiting for them to stabilise, but a smarter approach is to plant a number of seeds from each purple plant from the previous generation. By growing 6 plants of the subsequent generation, if each of these show a particular dominant trait, it's about 80% certain that the parent was homozygous for that trait. This is good to know, particularly if you wish to perform additional crosses. I will probably do this - once I have a purple snow that is homozygous purple and snow, if it doesn't taste great - and this has been hard to lock in -I can cross it to a good tasting snow parent,  knowing that the snow characteristics are stabilised, and only needing to reestablish the purple.

The Delta Purple lines are at F4 seed stage, and I haven't planted any this autumn - no room.

From the spring growout of Purple Podded X Sugar Snap F2 lines, 2 plants showed full purple, sweetness, thick pods, and no fibre - an absolute blinder of a result in the F2. So half the F3 seed from each of these plants has been sown. Since thick pods and no fibre arer recessive genes, if I can lock in the purple, I'll be well on the way to a purple snap pea.

One problem with growing multiple lines from different parents is the problems of record keeping - It's a nightmare. More on that in a future post.

Yellow snows - Autumn 2014 growouts

After a hectic few years, the coloured podded pea project is settling down a bit. I don't mean I've got to the end, but some goals are in sight, and clearer pathways to achieving them apparent.

I've learned a lot about what is achievable in a year - two generations is about all I can get with any reliability. And with the multitude of lines I'm growing, a smarter approach would have been to concentrate on doing one thing properly, before taking on a new project.

A good. yellow podded snow pea has been the easiest to achieve. My Tall Yellow Snow (TYS) project, a cross between Golden Podded what I think was Yakumo has produced 2 sibling lines that show promise.  The tentatively named Pixie Moon line is a tall yellow snow, with long and wide fibre free pods, and a cute curl in the bracts that subtend the flower and pods.

Pixie Moon on right

The other line, tentatively named Joni's Taxi is  big and yellow, on a robust plant, with a very long peduncle that holds the pods away from the stem, making them easy to see and pick. And JT seems to have one of the multi-flower genes, which is a bit of a bonus.

Half of the F5 seeds from each plant have been sown to allow for further selection, and to see if the traits are stable. I've held back half of each seed stock in case of calamity. With around 20 plants from each of the parents I should have sufficient material to judge for stability and select for the best plant from each line.

Here's part of last spring's F4 crop.

Another line of yellow snows is the Golden Spring project, resulting from a cross of Oregon Spring (which was a donation from a fellow grower, and which I can't find much information on) with Golden Podded. Here I was looking for a disease resistant, multi-flowered, short yellow snow. This has become the material being explored in our cooperative breeding program the Golden Spring Project. Keen readers can follow progress at the Ozgrow Australian Gardening forum.

Golden Spring is being grown from south east Queensland to western Victoria, so should be subject to a good range of selection pressures. We are growing the F3 generation this autumn.

One further line of yellows is Delta Gold, a cross of Golden Podded with Delta Louisa, a David Murray variety, which is short and disease resistant. Some of the Golden Spring growers got some F2 as a bonus - I miscalculated the number of growers for the Golden Spring, and had to make up a shortfall.

All of these are now growing in the garden, having been sown over the last month or so, so fingers crossed for some stable F5s.

22 April 2014

A Snow and Snap Pea Trial

I started my coloured snow pea breeding in a flurry - I didn't think through the parentage particularly, just happy to do crosses and see them work. But now as the fifth generation of crosses are in the ground, hopefully producing pods in a month or two, I've begun to think about flavour. I know, a bit late into the project, since I am trying to grow food, but there you go.

Flavour in vegetables is driven by both genetics and soil - think of the idea of terroir in wine growing. Weather also comes into it, but I don't have any control over the weather. I can amend the soil to introduce the right soil nutrients, but these will only work if the right genes are in the peas.

I'm after sweetness - I want a fibre-free pod, long and wide, with a sweet flavour. And it would be nice if that sweet flavour persisted as the pods developed, so that the baby peas inside were also sweet. Carol Deppe mentions a variety Oregon Giant Snow Pea that has sweet pods and peas, that can be used like sugar snap peas even as the pod fills. While the pod presumably doesn't have the thick walls of a sugar snap, it also doesn't have the genetic linkage to short pods, which is why we don't have (yet) a really large podded sugar snap pea.

So this week I sowed every snow and snap pea in my collection, including a few accessions from a seedbank. I'll be doing an autumn/winter taste test, tagging the varieties that taste the best, with the potential to cross these into my coloured snow and snap lines, if they prove to have poor taste once I stabilise them.
Here's the planting bed, followed by a list of the varieties sown.

12 April 2014

Parsnip Progress

I grew three batches of parsnip last season, a growout of 50 plants of Kral original seed, a patch of Halblange Weisse F1X mass cross, and a patch of Kral F1X mass cross. Eaxch of these was probably only 1.5 metres square, so relatively low numbers of parents. These patches were allowed to cross at will, the two mass cross beds were next to each other, and relatively synchronised in flowering starting in spring and still going on this autumn,, but the original Kral bed was about 3 metres away, and had a very extended flowering period, right through last winter, spring and summer.
Since the Kral originals were grown from plugs and transplanted, I didn't assess the roots since the transplanting was likely to have distorted the shapes.
And I didn't assess the mass cross roots before harvesting the seed - there just weren't enough plants to risk digging them up.

But after harvesting most of the seed from the mass crosses over the last month or two, I pulled the plants up.
Here is the result, Halblange F1X on the left, Kral F1X on the right. Garden fork for scale.