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Landrace Gardening

Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 266
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  10
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: 37
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
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: 3886
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  80
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: 955
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  25
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: 3886
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  80
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: 955
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  25
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: 37
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
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: 266
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  10
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: 3886
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  80

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


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 266
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  10
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


Joined: Dec 07, 2013
Posts: 282
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
    
    9
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: 266
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  10
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: 23
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    4
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: 98
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: 160
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: 23
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    4
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: 160
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: 23
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
    
    4
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).
 
 
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