self reliance mastery hugelkultur article pdc dvd greenhouse of the future home medicine 101
Permies likes forest garden and the farmer likes Landrace Gardening permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login
permies » forums » growies » forest garden
Bookmark "Landrace Gardening" Watch "Landrace Gardening" New topic
Forums: plants permaculture forest garden organic homestead small farm
Author

Landrace Gardening

Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 300
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  12
I don't think this is the right forum for this thread, but there doesn't appear to be one for plant breeding, so I'm sticking it here until the authorities decide whether to create something more appropriate to move it into. I'm curious if anyone has tried landrace gardening. There's a guy named Joseph Lofthouse in Utah who has written a fascinating series of blog entries on the subject at Mother Earth News:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/search.aspx?tags=+Joseph+Lofthouse

For some time I've been aware that no one in the establishment is really breeding anything appropriate to my location. We settle for stuff bred for Canada and other places in the deep south, but these cultivars are a compromise for us and often don't perform. Joseph's approach to this situation is to focus on developing local landraces--genetically diverse populations that may produce less and be more variable, but are more robust and reliable and require fewer inputs. The rationale is that modern breeding centers around factors not necessarily relevant to the goals of guys like him and me. It's a very interesting concept and it sounds like his results have been impressive. I think I'm going to pursue this strategy myself. Anybody else try it yet?


Vic Johanson

"I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake
Meghan Orbek


Joined: Apr 23, 2013
Posts: 41
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
    
    1
Hi Victor,
I too am interested in landrace gardening and I started a thread on it here:http://www.permies.com/t/26015/plants/Landrace-seed-gene-pool-preservation

It seems some folks are intentionally breeding some plants with very high genetic diversity in the same spirit as landrace development. The people over at Oikos are doing a bit of that. You may want to check them out.
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  88
I've read a bit about landraces but I'm still confused; the definitions seem to be a bit fuzzy.
I'll go and see what Suzanne Ashworth has to say.
So if I save seed from species x from season to season, and it becomes more and more awesome in my climate...
I'm helping to create a landrace, right?
I've finally found the last piece in my tomato-puzzle: a huge, tasty preserving tomato that ripens in my climate.
Maybe one day I can call it 'Petone Potentate' or something (Petone's my suburb's name...)
Is Judith's blood peach a landrace?
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 1424
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  36
Leila - as I understand it a landrace is more than just a single heritage breed that has been selected further in a given location. You assemble a much more diverse set of genetics through multiple random crosses of varieties then select on the qualities you want. Vigor, early ness, flavour...
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  88
Michael, that's what I thought, but then I was reading about landraces in species that basically don't cross, like tomatoes...
so how does that work?
I've never seen tomatoes cross; although it appears the 'wilder' varieties do to an extent.
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 1424
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  36
I think he started by deliberately hybridising loads of different varieties. Some older varieties of tomato do outcross (something to do with the shape of the flower/position of the stamen).
Meghan Orbek


Joined: Apr 23, 2013
Posts: 41
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
    
    1
From what I understand, a landrace has extremely wide genetic diversity and the ONLY selection being done is by survival of the fittest. You don't fertilize, you don't water, you don't protect from pests. What lives stays in your landrace gene pool, what doesn't make it- bites the dust. This way, you get plants that are truly adapted to their environment. You even keep the weird, less tasty ones around because they may contain genes that help your crop survive a drought one unusual year or something similar.
A landrace has MANY varieties and somewhat unpredictable outcome because of its diversity. You can name a landrace... but if there is a specific predictable variety with a name then it is most likely not a landrace itself, though it may come from one.

Any time you select for something you are making your landrace less landracey.
Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 300
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  12
Leila Rich wrote:Michael, that's what I thought, but then I was reading about landraces in species that basically don't cross, like tomatoes...
so how does that work?
I've never seen tomatoes cross; although it appears the 'wilder' varieties do to an extent.


Read all about it:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/landrace-gardening-promiscuously-pollinated-tomatoes-zbcz1401.aspx
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  88

Thanks Victor, apologies for derailing your thread a bit :P
Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 300
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  12
No worries--I don't think posing relevant questions constitutes derailing at all!
Brian Vagg


Joined: Oct 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
I think that applying landrace techniques to select for varieties that do well in your environment is key. So many of us buy seed from sources (good sources mind you) that pull from varieties located all over the place. With access to so many different varieties, I wonder if it is more or less beneficial for landracing? Intuitively I think it would be much more beneficial to increase the diversity. Just applying good observation techniques should help determine what is successful and what is not. I believe increasing diversity would accelerate the process of creating a cross that was well suited for your environment. But is there a transition zone where you might introduce too much diversity? Maybe where you introduce one variety that is a much better pollinator than others and it ends up blocking a cross that might have occurred that would have eventually led to a variety that is best suited for your environment? Or, will it just work itself out in the long run and having the increased diversity is highly desired?

I imagine that before the days of seed catalogs, most seed was passed between people within a short distance of each other. Many cultures seem to have a deep history with seed swapping. As the seeds (genetics) traveled they would cross and become new varieties. I bet in the not too distant past, the genetic diversity of a species being cultivated by humans was significantly more diverse. But the access to all of that diversity would have been much lower than the access we have today.

Vic - great post. BTW, the pole beans I got from you at last years Sepp class did extremely well in my garden. By far one of the best pole beans I have planted. I saved a bunch of seeds and plan to give them away to a number of fellow gardeners. Thanks again!
Zach Muller
pollinator

Joined: Dec 07, 2013
Posts: 518
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
    
  23
I don't remember what video it was but one where geoff lawton shows a hoop house nursery area and mentioned breeding site specific heritage varieties. Since then I have really liked the idea and thanks to you I have a keyword to research.

Currently I am going to try to do this with lambsquarter and black nightshade. I had an abundance living with no inputs in my yard and then went about collecting some seeds from those same plants when I'd see them all over town. From what I understand after the survival of the fittest thing goes on for a few years I will have a landrace? So if you keep a landrace around can you select some seeds from tasty plants and take them somewhere else to develop a specific variety?
Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 300
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  12
Brian Vagg wrote:I think that applying landrace techniques to select for varieties that do well in your environment is key. So many of us buy seed from sources (good sources mind you) that pull from varieties located all over the place. With access to so many different varieties, I wonder if it is more or less beneficial for landracing? Intuitively I think it would be much more beneficial to increase the diversity. Just applying good observation techniques should help determine what is successful and what is not. I believe increasing diversity would accelerate the process of creating a cross that was well suited for your environment. But is there a transition zone where you might introduce too much diversity? Maybe where you introduce one variety that is a much better pollinator than others and it ends up blocking a cross that might have occurred that would have eventually led to a variety that is best suited for your environment? Or, will it just work itself out in the long run and having the increased diversity is highly desired?

I imagine that before the days of seed catalogs, most seed was passed between people within a short distance of each other. Many cultures seem to have a deep history with seed swapping. As the seeds (genetics) traveled they would cross and become new varieties. I bet in the not too distant past, the genetic diversity of a species being cultivated by humans was significantly more diverse. But the access to all of that diversity would have been much lower than the access we have today.

Vic - great post. BTW, the pole beans I got from you at last years Sepp class did extremely well in my garden. By far one of the best pole beans I have planted. I saved a bunch of seeds and plan to give them away to a number of fellow gardeners. Thanks again!


I think the idea is to throw a bunch of genetics in a pile and shuffle the deck, allowing natural selection to occur. One should select those genetics to some degree, though, without being obsessive about it. Pollination is something to definitely consider...many modern hybrids share a trait called "cytoplasmic male sterility." This isn't something one wants; it's a defect which makes hybridization easy, since self-pollination is impossible. The creepy thing about it is that it is sometimes achieved through cell fusion, a form of genetic engineering, yet many "organic" seeds carry this characteristic, and not many people are talking about it. Using hybrid seed to form a landrace can be useful, but issues like CMS need to be considered. We want plants that are sexually potent and promiscuous. There is more info on CMS here: http://seedambassadors.org/2013/06/24/why-cell-fusion-cms-cybrid-seed-is-creepy/

Glad the beans did well, but are you sure you got them from me? I don't remember bringing pole beans to the workshop. I haven't grown them much here because they're usually not early enough, but last year I got a good crop, thanks to hugelkultur.
Brian Vagg


Joined: Oct 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Location: Northern California - Zone 9b
Victor Johanson wrote:
I think the idea is to throw a bunch of genetics in a pile and shuffle the deck, allowing natural selection to occur. One should select those genetics to some degree, though, without being obsessive about it. Pollination is something to definitely consider...many modern hybrids share a trait called "cytoplasmic male sterility." This isn't something one wants; it's a defect which makes hybridization easy, since self-pollination is impossible. The creepy thing about it is that it is sometimes achieved through cell fusion, a form of genetic engineering, yet many "organic" seeds carry this characteristic, and not many people are talking about it. Using hybrid seed to form a landrace can be useful, but issues like CMS need to be considered. We want plants that are sexually potent and promiscuous. There is more info on CMS here: http://seedambassadors.org/2013/06/24/why-cell-fusion-cms-cybrid-seed-is-creepy/

Glad the beans did well, but are you sure you got them from me? I don't remember bringing pole beans to the workshop. I haven't grown them much here because they're usually not early enough, but last year I got a good crop, thanks to hugelkultur.


That is a great link. I hadn't heard about the cell fusion cms seeds. One more thing to pay attention to. This is another reason to promote and support seed swapping with people that you trust to provide "clean" seeds.

Too funny on the pole beans. There was so much seed swapping going on that day I could have easily mistaken who I got them from. Whoever I got them from, many thanks ;-)
raoul dalmasso


Joined: Jan 15, 2014
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    7
About growing from true seeds and breeding adaptive cultivars (landraces) I strongly recommend Raoul Robinson's “Return to resistance”. You can find all of his books for free here: return to resistance. The main concept explored is horizontal resistance in plant breeding.

About specific species I have found very interesting the work of Ted Jordan Meredith and Avram Drucker about “Growing garlic from true seeds” (the blog: Garlic Analecta.

I hope you will find it interesting

http://ortomontano.wordpress.com
Dan Tutor


Joined: Feb 22, 2014
Posts: 103
Location: Zone 5, Maine Coast
    
    6
I think there is a distinction between an acclimated local cultivar or hybrid and a landrace plant. A landrace plant to me is either a wild native or a feral exotic gone native. There is no human intervention in the landrace process. That means no greenhouses, garden beds, selection for taste, appearance, or speed to ripen. And so you get great genetic diversity.
but if you want some of the characteristics of a domesticated fruit, herb, or vegetable, you have to be willing to put in the work of artificially selecting and breeding a cultivar to suit your wants. That large gene pool means lots of variety, so you will be doing a lot of selecting from large pools to find what you are looking for. Essentially winnowing the gene pool down again.
So you undo to redo, equals lots of work.
On the other hand, acclimating heirloom or commercial strains by starting large batches of seed and selecting for vigor under your conditions and open pollinating the winning offspring every year is a tried and true method of saving seed and adapting strains to your specific conditions.

Oh, and for the OP

Seed company producing seed in Alaska - http://www.denaliseed.com


The devil haunts a hungry man - Waylon Jennings
Isabelle Gendron


Joined: May 07, 2013
Posts: 171
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
    
    1
Again, another great topic.

Didn't know about this until this morning. but when you think about it, that makes a lot of sens. Actually, I heard for tomatoes that normaly you have to separate the cultivar if you want to collect seeds, so I guess cross polinisation is possible? but I will go read the trend.

Don't understand everything from this method, But the tread about the garlic (landrace) is quite interesting. but got to read more about the male sterilisation or sterility if somebody want to explain with simple words (I am french) you are welcome...how do you know they are stirile?

Nice topic.

isabelle
raoul dalmasso


Joined: Jan 15, 2014
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    7
Hi Isabelle, I am not an expert but:

Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) occurs when male sterility is inherited maternally. It is also called “Terminator technology”. In a hybrid crop you cross a female with genetic cms and a fertile male in order to obtain: 1 a specific cultivar with known characteristics and 2 a plant with sterile or no seeds. It means that if you want to grow that specific cutivar you have to buy the seeds from the producer company each year.

Also: plants that can be propagated by cloning, like potatoes and garlic, have been selected in ancient times for their production and quality. From Raoul Robinson's book “Return to resistance”:

Ancient cultivators would have known that you can increase the yield of the vegetative parts of a plant if you remove the flowers. This is because the flowers and, to an even greater extent, the seeds, constitute a physiological ‘sink’, which takes the lion’s share of nutrients away from other parts of the plant. If those cultivators came across a clone which did not form seeds or, even better, did not form flowers, they would preserve that clone very carefully.

This is why we have selected not-seed-producing potatoes and garlic (this is true for other clonally reproduced crops as well). For hybrid plants that produce seeds anyway you know if they are sterile only by sowing them. It can happen as well a cross pollination with wild species, for example carrots (usually CMS) and Queen Anne's lace, that produces a middleway between carrots and wild carrots.
Isabelle Gendron


Joined: May 07, 2013
Posts: 171
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
    
    1
Thank you Raoul.

So if I left carrots in the ground last fall with th intention of harvesting the seeds, I will probably fail....will see.

I will do the test with my garlic. I have 2 varieties: Music and Northern Quebec. I will let a couple of bulbs do flowers and maybe seeds.

Isabelle
raoul dalmasso


Joined: Jan 15, 2014
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    7
Isabelle: your garlic will never produce true seeds. There are only few very uncommon garlic cultivars that can set true seeds (one for example is "aglio rosso di Sulmona" - red Sulmona garlic), all the others can be reproduced only by cloning (i.e. from cloves).
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68

Ha... I just discovered that you guys were gossiping about me and my methods before I joined the forum. So here's my take on landrace gardening...

I got into landrace gardening specifically because commercial suppliers of seed were not breeding anything specific to my environment... I grow in a high altitude desert. The humidity is very low. The radiant cooling at night is intense. The sunlight is brilliant. The frost free season is short. I can't trust Days-To-Maturity figures provided by seed catalogs, because they are totally inaccurate when applied to my garden.

I could have gotten by with commercial seeds. It would have required me to run variety trials, and to plant varieties that are known to do well here. Some of the mom-n-pop nurseries in my valley have done that testing, so the seeds they have to offer are generally acceptable. They have somewhat been tainted by peer pressure, because they also offer seeds that do poorly here (Brandywine tomato for example) because they are so popular in other areas. Depending on species, about 50% to 95% of commercial varieties plain old fail to produce a harvest in my garden.

The first landrace crop that I grew was Astronomy Domine sweet corn, which was developed by Alan Bishop of Pekin Indiana. It was descended from a couple hundred varieties of heirloom and hybrid sweet corn. I immediately fell in love with it! The colors and tastes captivated me! It grew robustly when planted on the same day as our valley's second favorite sweet corn that failed to germinate. I planted it in a area where corn doesn't belong, right next to some huge poplars, but nevertheless many plants thrived and produced an abundant harvest.

Astronomy Domine Sweet Corn.


Back then, we were using the terms "Grex", or "Mass Cross" to describe our work. And that was a good description at the time, because it was all about mixing up the varieties and then sharing them with each other. Then we noticed something had happened to our seeds. As they spread out to different growers in different regions the make up of the populations changed dramatically. The seeds got intimately intertwined with the farmer that was growing them and with the land they were growing on. Seeds that went to a farmer in Oklahoma came back to the project brilliantly colored. Seeds that came to me went back to the project with 10 day shorter days to maturity. When we searched for the vocabulary to describe what was happening, the term "landrace" was the most appropriate. The seeds and the farmers and the land were becoming deeply connected to each other.

Some people say that landraces arise only by natural means. My response is that landraces are always domesticated, and domestication only happens because farmers select among this year's crop for the traits that they hope will show up in next year's crop. In my garden purely natural selection plays a huge role. With moschata squash in my garden, 75% of the varieties I planted failed to produce fruit. That is natural selection at it's finest. I planted runner beans 5 years in a row before a variety finally produced a harvest. Again that is a natural selection process that had little to do with the farmer other than trying new varieties until something finally took. In any case, I think that it is impossible for a farmer to save seeds without having an influence over the genetics of the population.

Some people say that landraces have to be ancient, and that it would therefore be impossible to create modern landraces. My experience with growing grexes is that it takes about 3 years for a genetically diverse mix of varieties to become really integrated with the land, the climate, the bugs, the soil, the farmer's habits, and the clientele at the farmer's market.

My definition of "landrace" requires genetic diversity and local-adaptation. The best landraces are not only regionally adapted, they are hyper-locally adapted. By that I mean that they even adapt to each individual farmers habits. For example, take a landrace of tomatoes and send half to a farmer that grows on plastic with drip irrigation, and send half to a farmer in the same village that grows in plain old dirt with overhead sprinkle irrigation. Ask them to save their seeds for 5 years and then swap. I guarantee that both farmers will complain about how poorly the other farmer's seed grows.

I love swapping seeds with people in similar climates: For example the central valley of California, or the high plains of Colorado. They do better for me than seeds grown in Oregon. But the best seeds are locally-adapted genetically-diverse strains that are being grown by other farmers in my valley.

Even if a landrace is not locally-adapted to my place when it arrives, there is often so much diversity that a few plants will thrive, and they can form the foundation of a new population that does well here.

I don't care about uniformity or stability. I harvest every fruit by hand. I prefer that my harvests come for an extended time rather than all at once. I like my food to be flavorful. Better yet if every fruit doesn't taste just as bland as every other. One thing that pleases me the most about landrace growing is how deeply personal the varieties become. My muskmelons are heavenly to me. They have become perfectly attuned to my taste buds, my likes in aroma, my preferences regarding texture.

Landrace gardening requires genetic diversity... Sure I can plant 100 kinds of (mostly inbreeding) beans, and 80 will fail the first year leaving me with 20 that I can call a grex. But the real magic happens when a 1 in 200 natural cross pollination occurs. The offspring of that cross bring lots of new varieties into my garden. And many of them will do really well because their ancestors have already shown that they have what it takes to thrive here. Then I can call them a landrace. Even the most "self pollinating" crops occasionally cross. I watch for those and give them a special place in my garden. The diversity that can arise from even one crossing event are astounding.... With tomatoes, I am working on a project to return my tomatoes to their original state of being a mostly cross-pollinating species.

Formation of a bean landrace: All these are descended from one bean that got cross pollinated.


In my climate, irrigation is required for every warm weather crop. So my landraces are not selected for drought tolerance. They are selected to be able to deal with low humidity, but not drought. I don't apply pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or fungicides to my crops, so it's survival of the fittest for those traits. I don't weed much, so again it's survival of those that can outgrow the local weeds. But I'm constantly doing selection... If one tomato plant out of 100 is attracting flea beetles, then it gets chopped out. It might have produced seed. But I don't want that kind of seed in my garden. I select for quick early growth... If a variety is slow growing when it's a seedling then it will continue to grow slowly for the entire growing season. It won't out-compete the weeds, so I might as well help it out of it's misery. Chop. Chop. Chop. In my world view, Landrace growing is an intimate relationship between the location, the farmer, and the genetically-diverse seed.

I have occasionally introduced too much diversity... For example: Pocket melons are the same species as muskmelons, but they are intensely bitter and grown for fragrance instead of for eating. I included those one year in my muskmelon planting. I abandoned all the seed from that year rather than risk that some pollen had contaminated my seed crop. A collaborator complains about introducing white fleshed watermelon because they were thin skinned and explode when the sun heats up the fruits.

I am thrilled with our current ability to collect together DNA from all over and recombine it to meet today's growing needs. Some of the inter-species hybrids are particularly exciting to me: For example, I'm hyped about some of genetics that are being incorporated into tomatoes from closely related species. I'm working on creating a new species closely related to watermelon.

Sometimes I split my landraces based on traits... For example my sweet corn and my flour corn share many of the same ancestors, but they are now separate landraces. Anytime I find something that really appeals to me I can separate it out, and select for uniformity. I can select for uniformity in one trait while allowing other traits to float, for example my muskmelons always have orange flesh and netted skin. The fruit size can vary from 2 to 6 pounds. Smaller fruits tend to be earlier.

I am constantly screening my plants to eliminate cytoplasmic male sterility. I'm a landrace farmer... I suppose that getting down on my knees and looking closely for male parts on a flower is part and parcel of the intimacy that I share with my plants.

Raoul Robinson's “Return to resistance” was instrumental in shaping my attitude towards growing. Carol Deppe's book "Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties" also had a strong influence.

I am collaborating with Ted Jordan Meredith and Avram Drucker on growing new varieties of garlic... It's really the only way to develop a truly locally-adapted garlic. So far I have grown 8 varieties that are genetically unique to my farm. We are finding that the ability to produce seeds in garlic has a strong genetic component. But environmental factors also play a role. A particular environmental pattern might trigger flowering or seed set in a particular variety that rarely makes seed.

After so many years of growing my own genetically-diverse locally-adapted landraces, I can't imagine ever going back to planting average seeds from the mega-corporations.



Silt/clay, high-altitude, super-arid, sun-drenched, irrigated-desert garden. Cold radiant-cooled nights. ~100 frost free days. Grow most of my own locally adapted landrace seed. GDD10C ~1300. Author of Mother Earth News: Landrace Gardening Blog. http://www.motherearthnews.com/search.aspx?tags=+Lofthouse
John Weiland


Joined: Aug 26, 2014
Posts: 59
Location: RRV of da Nort
This is a good discussion and hopefully can find some cross-posting (cross-pollination? ) outside of the "forest garden" category.

In brief, my wife and I have simply tried many varieties that look interesting, kept seed of those that garner the most interest from our taste buds and storage capabilities, and continued to adapt those varieties over time by selecting not only the best performers, but also keeping a range of size/shape/yield in the genetic pool. To us, it does not matter that we had originally purchased hybrid seed. Irrespective of whether or not it's self-pollinating or an obligate out-crosser, eventually you see things that stabilize for your garden and area.

As for genetic diversity, I work with several plant breeders in row crops and cereal crops. In some programs, they are using wide crosses with wild varieties in search of novel traits pertaining to disease resistance, stress tolerance, harvesting characteristics, etc. But interestingly in other programs, there are some pretty knowledgeable and seasoned plant breeders who insist that they are pulling "new" traits out of "elite" (inbred) varieties. This is actually understandable from the standpoint that no species or cultivar is "static": With each planting a new plant grows and offers a chance for mutation to occur naturally that simply contributes to diversity even within relatively inbred crops. Then it's just a matter of having some aspect of the environment provide the right selection pressure for the (astute) observer to see a difference in their rows. A celebrated case is wheat stem rust that was wiping out a huge amount of the barley and wheat crop in the northern plains of the US in the 1940s. A single barley plant was found on one farm that was still green in the midst of the remaining decimated plants. This plant was giving to the local university where they crossed it to get the resistance back out and into subsequent generations of barley. But there is of course no reason why observant gardeners can't do this with their own seeds, and in fact is likely the basis for the diversity in many heirloom varieties.

A corollary to this concept which I posted on elsewhere is that one may, in regions closer to the poles, wish to plant certain leafy green varieties indoors for winter harvest. These would probably have a different adaptation requirement versus what that same gardener wishes to plant in their garden in the summer. And this brings up another approach that was made known to me in one of the major crop industries. In that industry, there are regions of the US where that crop is grown across enormous acreage, but in a rather localized way. There are other parts of the US where that crop is grown on small acreages, but still lucrative enough to make it worth while. Add to this the fact that the companies producing seed for this crop are all European, so their plant breeders favor the large acreages of Europe first with their efforts, then concentrate on the large acres of the US. When it comes to the small acres of the US, they don't do any breeding at all for that market...it's simply too small to be worth their efforts. What is the solution? They simply test *every* variety that they sell....irrespective of whether it was bred for southern Italy or central Michigan.....in that small US region. It is likely that at 3 - 5 of those varieties will perform adequately for the industry's needs. In the same way, a home gardener who, for example, REALLY likes dry beans may wish to plant the amazing diversity that exists within dry bean varieties and see which ones not only do well in their particular garden spot, but satisfy their palate and storage regimes. From there, it's just saving seeds each year as it become even more adapted to your own area. In the same way as indicated at the start of this paragraph, we currently are testing which kale varieties are best grown in a south-facing window (started under lamps) in winter and comparing that to our garden favorites to see if they are the same or different.

But just to say that, in the end, genetic diversity in home gardens is good for the gardener and good for the population at large. The great lesson we learn about is that of southern corn leaf blight [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_corn_leaf_blight ] that decimated corn in the US in the early 70s due to widespread genetic homogeneity in the US maize crop during those years. A clear example that such lack of diversity is a sitting duck for an opportunistic disease.
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68

It has also been my experience that selection of landraces is very method specific... Starting with the same seed someone that grows in a raised bed might end up with genetics much different than someone that grows in the dirt. Growing with lots of mulch might result in different genetics than growing in plain old dirt. One time when I trialed a lot of new tomatoes, I noticed that plants from my saved seed grew differently... Because my vines tended to arch upwards to keep the tomatoes out of the dirt... Since I don't stake tomatoes I only save seeds from tomatoes that are not touching the dirt and rotting. So I had inadvertently been selecting for genes that keep the tomatoes suspended in the air without staking. There's so many nuances like that... The plants adapt to everything around them... Even my customers at the farmers market are influencing the genetics of my plants due to their eating preferences, and the seeds they return to me, and the seeds they gift to me.

I have been working on a project that joined two of my landraces together, and now I am selecting among plants on the fringe for individual plants that combine specific desired traits into a new landrace. I am converting a strain of my garden peas into winter peas that I hope will grow in the desert during the winter and produce a very early harvest while there is still moisture in the ground. My winter peas were not acceptable because they were way too long season and couldn't produce a harvest before it was too dry... My earliest short season peas were not acceptable because they couldn't survive the winter, and also couldn't produce a harvest in time if spring planted. But a pea crop -- that could be planted in September and flower as soon as it warmed up in the spring -- might be possible. All I need now is to find peas with thorns or poisonous leaves so that they won't be so tempting to grazers.

Isabelle Gendron


Joined: May 07, 2013
Posts: 171
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
    
    1
Thank you Joseph for you informations. A lot to digest for me. I will have to re-read your text to be sure I get everything (since I speak french). Started collecting seeds last year after reading this post. Strangely, I was kind of afraid doing it. Afraid to loose them, not doing it properly. My husband is kind of discourage of my garden on raisde beds where evrything lools cahotics instead of a clean garden like is parent's. Can't say that I got big yield in regards of what I planted. Can't seems to have carrots? Go figure... got a lot of tomatoes last year but almost no beans.

Will follow the path and hope to see some good results someday.

Thanks a lot

isabelle
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68
Isabelle: Don't worry about doing it wrong. The basics are:

Plants produce seeds.
Seeds can be saved for planting next year.
Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents.

The beauty of landrace growing is that you don't have to worry about purity, or isolation distances. You can let plants be promiscuously pollinated.

elle sagenev


Joined: Jun 13, 2014
Posts: 1015
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
    
    7
So what is the chance of adapting corn to be more drought tolerant? We'd really love to grow corn but it is almost impossible here. I try year after year and never get anything. Short season, strong winds, drought. Kinda sucks.


Come join me at www.peacockorchard.com
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68
elle sagenev wrote:So what is the chance of adapting corn to be more drought tolerant? We'd really love to grow corn but it is almost impossible here. I try year after year and never get anything. Short season, strong winds, drought. Kinda sucks.


Dave Christensen has been breeding Painted Mountain Flour Corn in Montana without irrigation for 30 years. Have you tried it? There is a sweet corn derivative of it called Painted Hills put out by Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds. One of the projects that I am working on is to select for corn that is more frost tolerant. That way I can get it into the ground while there is still more soil moisture left over from the winter snows. Part two of this project will be to select for shorter season. I found the frost tolerance in a Hopi corn, but that is very long season, so I don't gain anything.

elle sagenev


Joined: Jun 13, 2014
Posts: 1015
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
    
    7
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:So what is the chance of adapting corn to be more drought tolerant? We'd really love to grow corn but it is almost impossible here. I try year after year and never get anything. Short season, strong winds, drought. Kinda sucks.


Dave Christensen has been breeding Painted Mountain Flour Corn in Montana without irrigation for 30 years. Have you tried it? There is a sweet corn derivative of it called Painted Hills put out by Alan Kapuler of Peace Seeds. One of the projects that I am working on is to select for corn that is more frost tolerant. That way I can get it into the ground while there is still more soil moisture left over from the winter snows. Part two of this project will be to select for shorter season. I found the frost tolerance in a Hopi corn, but that is very long season, so I don't gain anything.



Thank you for pointing me in that direction. I shall have to give it a go now!
John Weiland


Joined: Aug 26, 2014
Posts: 59
Location: RRV of da Nort
@elle, RE: Corn. I'm assuming you meant sweet corn, or?...... First, if you are not picky, you may wish to scout for the nearest corn fields near you and see of you can't get some seed from there. Yes, it will likely be GMO hybrid, but it would be a place to start with something that grows in your region and you can begin selecting out of that population. As Joseph Lofthouse indicated, lots of good sources out there for sweet and other types of corn that are open-pollinated and just waiting for adaptation by the grower. I'll give one link here of Victory Seeds from Oregon that specializes in heirlooms and open-pollinated varieties: http://www.victoryseeds.com/corn_sunshine.html .
That particular web-page is for an old sweet corn 'Golden Bantam' that was re-selected and then given a new name. Since this extra work was done in our virtual back yard of the North Dakota Ag experiment station, I was eager to try it and pleased with the results. If you navigate on that page back to other corn varieties and other crops, you may find other gems.

As an aside, with regard to cold tolerance, since the big breeders in corn have been able to produce maize for production up north towards Winnipeg, and I'm pretty sure this is not by using a GMO trait, then there's a pretty good chance to find cold tolerance in maize for use by the gardener or small producer. I've witnessed whole neighboring fields look to be burned to the ground at the 4-leaf stage by a late frost....then bounce back within a few days of return to warm weather.
Heather Ward


Joined: May 03, 2015
Posts: 35
I'm working on a landrace of overwintering brassicas for New Mexico. Our winter is not that cold but is very windy and dry and has no snow cover, so many brassicas that overwinter easily in the Northeast just dessicate here. I am only one year into the experiment and started by letting those few collards, Tronchuda, and kale plants that over wintered without care go to seed last summer, with "hybridization" courtesy of the bees. This year I'm growing out the mutt seeds to see what I have. My hope is to end up with some high-desert hunger-gap greens, and worst case, my goat will eat very well. Comments and suggestions welcome!
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68
Heather Ward: That's my general plant breeding strategy... To start a project, I allow anything that can survive my growing conditions to cross-pollinate with anything else that can survive. Then they get subjected to the same routine year after year until I end up with something that really thrives here. The first year or two I am not all that particular about taste. I want something that survives long enough to reproduce. Then once that can be done reliably, I start selecting more heavily for taste.

A few weeks ago I started a project to domesticate a wild brassica that grows in the desert around here. It dies back to below the soil for the summer, and lies dormant during the winter, then sends up new shoots in the spring. It tastes like kale.

Caulanthus crassicaulist: Thickstemed Jewelflower



Heather Ward


Joined: May 03, 2015
Posts: 35
Fascinating, Joseph. I don't think we have the thick-stemmed jewel flower around here, but I don't know what brassicas we do have other than the annual mustards. I will work on finding out. Your point about breeding for survivability first, taste later, is well taken. I did that with my brassicas but didn't consciously articulate the principle.
John Weiland


Joined: Aug 26, 2014
Posts: 59
Location: RRV of da Nort
Heather and Joseph,

I waded out into the Red River Valley muck the other day and plucked some young lambsquarter for an omelette.....not bad actually and probably full of nutrients. Talk about something well adapted to the northern exposure! But maybe you guys could work on getting Canada thistle weediness and durability traits into artichoke so that we might have a prayer of growing them up here. And while yer at it, can you do something with papaya, mango, and pineapple?
Heather Ward


Joined: May 03, 2015
Posts: 35
No problem, John Weiland, and visit my stable of unicorns whenever you like! But seriously, be careful about wishing for frost proof tropical fruits, because Monsanto just might come up with one...
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68
Someone asked me if I have any advice for starting landraces in a climate that is way different than mine. Here is part of my response:

-----------

There are some crops in my garden, that it doesn't matter what variety I plant they are going to grow well for me. They are things like peas, beets, and turnips: Cool weather crops that I plant first thing in the spring. I haven't spent much effort on them. With these crops I have mostly just planted a few varieties together, and saved seed from them, and did only minimal selection. Most of my landrace development efforts are geared towards being able to grow crops that are near the ecological edge of their habitat: Warm weather crops that would really like a bit more heat and a longer season than my garden can provide. I haven't put much effort into adapting damp loving crops that can grow in my low humidity environment.

There's two type of annual or biennial crops: The (mostly) inbreeders, and the (mostly) outcrossers.

The outcrossers are a joy to work with, because the successful plants produce lots of variation early on, and the promiscuous swapping of pollen soon leads to populations that get locally adapted really quickly, as long as there was a generous amount of diversity to start with. These are things like corn, squash, melons, cucumbers, spinach, brassicas, onions, carrots, parsnips, fennel.

With intensely inbreeding crops, I get instant selection among varieties and within varieties, but local adaptation is much slower. I can choose varieties that do OK for me, but it takes a long time for them to become great varieties. These are crops like common beans, peas, lettuce. I suppose these would include clones of named varieties of trees, shrubs, grapes, garlic, potatoes. Selection among these crops really benefits from manual cross pollinations, and from watching for the appearance of natural crossing events and giving the offspring a place of honor in succeeding generations.

There are some marginally crossing crops like tomatoes, peppers, runner beans, wheat. The small amount of crossing they do, can lead to mixing genetics in large enough volume that progress is reasonably quick. Manual cross-pollination is also helpful, or doing things like inter-planting different varieties every other plant to enhance whatever natural crossing is going on.

I really like planting fruit-to-row, which is also called sibling groups. Save the seed from one mother into a packet of seed, and then plant groups of siblings in short rows, and compare how the different sibling groups perform. We might not know who's the daddy, but the strengths and weaknesses of the mother might jump right out at us. This is one of the most powerful techniques available to me.

My hardest landrace projects have been: Garlic, because it sets seed so rarely that I basically still have a collection of clones. Clones that do decent here, but still clones. Watermelon has been extremely slow for me. Even though I started with more varieties of watermelon than any other species, I am just way out of the comfort zone for watermelon. This year might finally be the year that I become proud of my watermelon landrace (in the 7th year).

It was only in the 5th year of trialing mixta squash that I finally had a decent harvest. The first 3 years I harvested zero viable seeds. The fourth year I think I harvested one mature fruit.

Landrace development requires diversity. The easiest way to get that is to plant a few varieties and let them cross to the extent that they will. If the varieties are already suited for the locality, or if they have a lot of inherent diversity, then progress is quicker. So starting with varieties that are already known to do great in a particular regions is a good way to make quicker progress.

Sometimes I have went to the wild side, and included the wild relatives of plants that I am growing. That can bring in a lot of powerfully useful genetics. It can also bring in some junk. For example, with watermelons I brought in a trait for "hard seed" that doesn't germinate very well. I put a lot of effort into the melons this year to eliminate that trait as much as possible. One time I threw away a whole year's worth of muskmelon seed, because I had went so far astray that I included a plant with a gene for bitterness in the planting. Ooops. Can't risk that pollen getting into the genepool. I daydream all the time about domesticating weeds.

I do a lot of culling... I cull if a plant grows slowly. I cull if it gets attacked by mold. I cull if a seed germinates a month later than the rest of the patch. I cull tomatoes and potatoes that attract Colorado Potato Beetles. I cull if the leaves on a plant turn yellow. I cull if a plant lodges in a wind storm. I cull if I don't like the looks of a plant for any reason. I don't weed much at all, which culls plants that can't out-compete the weeds. I cull based on taste. And I cull for lots of other reasons such as blossom end rot, frost sensitivity, deformities, sunburn, aphids, squash bugs, skunks, piking, spines, helmet heads, poor flowers, shape, color, fruit touching the ground, etc. I might grow 10,000 genetically different varieties of sweet corn each year. I don't care at all if I cull 1000 of them...

Earlier today I was thinking that I should start a new thread... "What's Wrong With My Plant?". I must see some variation of that question several times per day on the various forums. I don't ask that question in my garden. If a plant looks bad for whatever reason then it's chop, Chop, CHOP!!! And with any luck it's dead with the first chop so that I don't have to strain a muscle by CHOPPING.

Landrace Garbanzo Beans:


The start of my moschata squash project: 75% of the squash failed to produce any fruit at all, and those that did were harvested very immature.


4 growing seasons later, every plant produces fruit, and many of them are vine ripened before frost.

elle sagenev


Joined: Jun 13, 2014
Posts: 1015
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
    
    7
So I think I have a land race lettuce. Or at least an adapted lettuce. I planted it 3 years ago. I haven't done anything to it since. It has reseeded and grown with 0 intervention for 3 years now. I'll have to be better about collecting the seeds this year.
R Ranson
pollinator

Joined: Feb 05, 2015
Posts: 313
Location: Left Coast Canada
    
  47
Joseph, do you ever sell any of your landrace seed?


Be Nice;
One Straw Barley Experiment; Harvesting Seeds From Your Groceries
Dan Boone
volunteer

Joined: Jan 24, 2014
Posts: 999
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a) ~39" rain/year
    
  87
R Ranson wrote:Joseph, do you ever sell any of your landrace seed?


I happen to have his link handy, so I'll post it here until or unless he has some different answer for you: http://garden.lofthouse.com/seed-list.phtml


Pecan Media: food forestry and forest garden ebooks
Now available: The Native Persimmon (centennial edition)
Joseph Lofthouse
pollinator

Joined: Dec 16, 2014
Posts: 461
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
    
  68

Mostly I share seeds at the farmer's market. It's what motivates me to keep going to the farmer's market... People rarely come back the next week to say how glorious the green beans tasted, but I get a lot of feedback about how happy someone was to finally harvest a ripe watermelon in our valley.

R Ranson
pollinator

Joined: Feb 05, 2015
Posts: 313
Location: Left Coast Canada
    
  47
Harvesting my first year of landrace barley this week. I'm very excited about this project and it's going better than I expected.

My goals are:
- To have a barley that I can plant in Oct and harvest at the end of May - first week of June at the latest.
- Tastes good as cooked grain, flour, and beer
- Also tastes good to chickens
- Cooks at the same time - Some grains, even within the same kind, need different cooking times.
- Is willing to grow without irrigation. Our rain stops the last week of April.
- Can grow Fukuoka style -No cultivation of the soil, no chemical fertilizer or prepared compost, no weeding by tillage or herbicides, and no dependence on chemicals.
- Is beautiful
- Is tall enough to compete with the weeds.

I don't mind if it's two row, or four, or six. Purple, brown, beige, yellow or black - all fine, but a mix of the colours would be nice. I'm not yet decided on how I want the barley hulls to be - easy to remove would be nice for cooking, but not necessary for beer making.

For the first year, I planted three main plots of barley. The first plot was quite large and grown Fukuoka style. Basically I chose a section of lawn, broadcast the barley and covered with straw and manure. I talk about it more here. This barley was organic feed grade barley for livestock. I have no idea what kind of barley it is, but most of the seeds that grew from this had two rows - and a few of them grew into oats.

The second plot was an overwinter barley called Alba Winter Barley, and nothing else. Just an attempt to bulk up some seed.

The third plot was a mixture of several kinds of barley. Many of them came from the bulk food store, but the ones I did buy as seed were from Salt Spring Seeds and include Winter, Lompoc, Sheba and Purple.



I harvested when about ten percent of the grains were dry enough that my thumbnail couldn't make a dent in them. Because there are so many different types, that means that about 30 percent of the barley were still quite green - so I don't know how well they will dry down for seed.

I've noticed that SaltSpring seeds, my most local high-quality seed supplier, has a few new barley for sale this year. Bere Barley and Himalayan Barley both look interesting. The Bere is especially intriguing as it's use to longer days and shorter growing season. I hope to add some of each to next year's mixed barely patch.

The barley needs to be ready for harvest about a month earlier than it is this year if it's to fit my two grain crops per year on the same field plan. I don't know how to make the barley ready earlier except maybe by selecting the earliest each year. I've read of barley that is ready in May, but I haven't found any seed for this kind.

I hope to keep about two thirds of the seed and dry them for long term storage. The remaining third, I would like to mix the batches together and plant in the second half of Oct this year. I have a bit of land that has few weds and was until recently chicken pasture. The soil might be a bit rich, but it's what I have and any landrace of mine has to deal with whatever soil I plant it in. The soil will probably be tilled in the spring, but at the very least I'll be able to select for overwintering.
 
world domination gardening
 
subject: Landrace Gardening