11 January 2017

Topset onion trials

Topset onions or walking onions or egyptian onions or perennial onions are an old style of onion, that instead (or in addition to)making flowers, produce small bulbs or bulbils at the top of 'flowering' stalks.
The ones I've grown always continue to stay green throughout summer, and only produce tiny green bulbs at the base, like a spring onion (although confusion surrounds this term, too).

I got hold of a topset that also flowers (as part of a crossing project), used my original variety, and a seedling that developed from seed i collected from my original variety when one year it produced a tiny amount of viable seed. I also got a seedling from Kelly Winterton's Green Mountain potato onion that procuced topsets.

I grew out all 4 varieties in a side by side trial.

My original and the seedling from it didn't show any difference. stayed green, produced topsets, and slightly bulbous bases.

Raymondo's flowering topset died back, loosing all green foliage, producing small 2cm lovely red bulbs, and glossy red topsets. One plant produced a few weak flowers, that might produce seed, giving the opportunity of introducing some genetic diversity.

The Green Mountain topsets are the real standout.
The topsets all developed into large pale straw coloured bulbs that ae huge for a topset onion, the size of supermarket onions. The tops senesced, but haven't really shriveled, leaving my a bit concerned about their storage ability. However not one produced any topset bulbils. These will all be replanted this autumn to see if i can get a pile of topsets next year.
This strikes me as a very useful characteristic - the bulbils are easy to look after, and robust in early growth - much as I hope the Amuri Red onions will do.

08 January 2017

Floriferous dwarf tomatoes

Some years ago when i was growing for the Dwarf Tomato Project (which incidentally got me into vegetable breeding) I decided to try to breed a dwarf form of my favourite tomato -Jaune Flammee. I crossed it to an early generation dwarf called Snowy. Snowy didn't turn out great, yielding white saladette tomatoes of no particular note - OK, but not spectacular.

Anyway, i grew out the dwarf JF F1s and F2s, in a somewhat desultory manner, in tiny pots yielding only one or two fruit each. I might have back-crossed them to the JF parent, but i really can't remember.

I didn't progress them for a couple of years, but this spring I found the seed packet at a judicious time, and got a dozen or so plants which went into boxes in the greenhouse.

I'm still not sure of the colour or flavour, since they haven't ripened yet - there looks to be a range of fruit shapes - but surprisingly, most of them have produced multiflora-type inflorescences.

I took a few pics today, and counted one of the trusses - 102 flowers on a branching inflorescence. These aren't all setting fruit - I suspect a few more buzz pollinators might be needed - but the interesting question is where did these genes come from?

Neither of the parents is quite so floriferous - JF has nice full inflorescences, but nothing like this. The fact that it is showing up in most of the dozen or so plants suggests it might be a stable phenotype - when the days are not quite so stoiching, I will try to find time to get out and do a fuller examination.

07 January 2017

Amuri Red Onions - unique reproductive strategy

I was given some bulbils of a very strange  variety of onion, 'Amuri Red'. It has what I think is a unique reproductive strategy - at least I haven't seen it reported before for onions. Instead of flowers, it develops small topset bulbils at the end of stalks. Some leeks will put out 'leek hair' if their flowerheads are damaged or stressed - they develop small bulbs instead of flowers, and the growing leaves of these bulbs form a fuzzy ball at the top of the flowering stem.
But Amuri is different - instead of flower heads, it develops fine stalks with a tiny bulb on the end of each stalk - like weird oniony dreadlocks.

Apart from being a pretty cool looking plant in the vegie garden, topsetting onions offer advantages to the lazy or less attentive gardener. Onions from seeds are slow to develop in their early stages, and can often be overwhelmed by weeds. The extra resources in a topset bulbil means the plants get a head start. Hover, most topsetting onions (also known as walking onions or Egyptian onions or perpetual onions or tree onions) only develop small bulbs, and have a somewhat limited range, at least in Australia. I've grown my variety for years - I can't even remember where I got them. Last year I was given a few different varieties by friends, and I'm currently doing a side-by-side growout of three varieties. By chance, a couple of lines of seedlings that came out the Greeen Mountain potato onion seeds I got developed topset bulbils, triggering my interest in finding the best ones. some are perpetual, never quite dieing off, and remaining green throughout the year. Others die back to smallish bulbs after setting their topset bulbils. All only develop small basal bulbs. A few occasionally set fertile flowers, but this is rare. The colour range is brown and pink, but I think some of the Green Mountains will be white. I'm hoping these Amuri Reds will prove useful, and add to the varieties available for home gardeners - with luck, we will get a big bulbing, red onion with good storage life.