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Best Practices for growing Figs from Seeds

 
pollinator
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Hi to all,

I am on a campaign to plant alot fruit trees from seed this year. I just picked up a box of fresh Mission Figs and another of Black Figs.  Anybody sprout fig seeds recently and can recommend some tricks for success?
Many thanks,

Mike
 
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Good morning Mike! I love all things fig and grow two varieties. I tried growing them from seed once but was unsuccessful. Even the ones I got to sprout didn’t survive long after transplant. Growing them from a six to eight inch cuttings is super easy though. I used to only start cuttings in March or April but have expanded to three seasons here in zone 7.
I’ve had the most success rooting from last season’s growth. Take your cuttings just below a leaf node and stick in a inch of water. Keep in the shade until roots form. Those fresh roots are extremely fragile so handle with care. Once hardened off give them a good home.
Here, they produce abundantly anywhere from 3-10 hours of sun per day.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Hi Scott,

Great on the cuttings which I am somewhat familiar with, having done some other tree varieties in that way, but my goal is to try to produce Fig and some other fruiting plants by the thousands, so I'm going to see if I can not master seed cultivation.

I like figs because they are food producing, create dense shade, are soft and esthetic to look at and can generally take higher temperatures and survive droughty spells better then some temperate fruits (though I realize there are many species with lots of variation.)  I think seed production of figs, if they survive , would be great because 1 fig could potentially be equal to dozens maybe a hundred viable offspring.

But I will store the tips on handling cuttings. Anyway thanks, it all goes into the greater data bank of plant wisdom.

Best, Mike
 
Scott Stiller
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Your post has me interested in trying again. I’m looking at a big harvest and see no reason not to give it a go. If it works I’ll get back to you.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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If you want let's exchange pics on our fig seeds and post and maybe come up with a comparison and contrast for the board. Im cleaning seeds tonight i think I have more than 1500. Ill try to get something up tomorrow.
 
Scott Stiller
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It will be a few weeks before I can start. Some of mine are just starting to turn. I’ll be making my attempts with brown turkey and Chicago hardy.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Great. I have brown turkey and some small dark fig only labeled as "black fig."  I should try to get a better fix on the variety if I can.
 
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I've heard fig trees require a specific wasp to be germinated. Without this wasp, you'll get fruit but not fertile seeds.
Have you tried to purchase seeds?

Edit: the wasp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agaonidae

Edit2: the specific wasp for Ficus carica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blastophaga_psenes
 
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My biggest concern with mass producing figs from seeds is also the wasp issue.  You guys don't have the wasp in West Virginia, do you?  My concern is that dried fruit with viable seeds would have been produced in wasp country and the resulting plants can only produce figs outside of wasp country if the pollen parent has a copy of the persistence gene, which allows fruit to ripen without being pollenated.  If the pollen parent (caprifig) does have the gene then 1 in 4 seedlings will be able to set fruit, but if it doesn't then none of the figs should be able to set fruit.  Maybe there will be a few that somehow still do but I believe it would be a very low number.  Either way it's kind of a low number, though perhaps interesting from a breeding perspective?  My assumption is that the caprifigs used in wasp country probably wouldn't have the persistence gene since it wouldn't be of specific value to them on these fig farms.  I think they are more just in use in fig breeding efforts.  I wonder if you could get lots of seeds from a university doing fig breeding?
 
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Why not recoup your tax dollars and go straight to the USDA experiment station that curates fig varieties. They make hardwood cuttings available, and once you get chatting with one of the researchers there, you can probably wangle a way into getting some seeds to test as well.

I worked with the potato introduction station for several years when I was studying Andean traditional crops back at uni.

https://www.ars.usda.gov/pacific-west-area/davis-ca/natl-clonal-germplasm-rep-tree-fruit-nut-crops-grapes/docs/fig-page/main/
 
Michael Littlejohn
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I appreciate all the great info.

My reading is that Brown Turkey fig, which is one of the two varieties I have does not require pollination by wasps to set fruit.  

I have tried to identify the other fig, which is small, dark with a tannish interior, but I dont have an exact match for it yet.  I will meditate a bit on whether to process its seeds.

I was not aware that dried fig seeds would sprout, Im going to research that again. My subjects at this time are fresh figs.  I appreciate the agricultural station link and I am going to look into it.

Best, M
 
Erik van Lennep
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You are right, Brown Turkey is self-fertile. Many of the commercial varieties are also so, probably more true for those in the US than in the Mediterranean itself.
There are also fig-growers groups on FaceBook, where lots of trading goes on.

erik
 
Greg Martin
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Michael Littlejohn wrote:I appreciate all the great info.

My reading is that Brown Turkey fig, which is one of the two varieties I have does not require pollination by wasps to set fruit.  

I have tried to identify the other fig, which is small, dark with a tannish interior, but I dont have an exact match for it yet.  I will meditate a bit on whether to process its seeds.

I was not aware that dried fig seeds would sprout, Im going to research that again. My subjects at this time are fresh figs.  I appreciate the agricultural station link and I am going to look into it.

Best, M


Michael, what I've read is that common figs (a.k.a. persistent figs) don't require pollination to set fruit but they do need pollination to set viable seeds (though you might get a rare viable seed).  The commercial dried figs are usually still pollinated though, which is thought to produce better flavor.  I can confirm that dried figs can have very fertile seeds....I've started 100s of them hoping to find zone 5 hardy seedlings that I could cross to Gillette to hopefully create zone 5 hardy persistent caprifigs.  So far no luck for me....they've all died in their first winter.  Oh well, fun anyways.  Hopefully I'll try again soon.
 
Abraham Palma
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One thing is the fruit, another thing is the fertile seed. If you want to landrace your fig trees, i.e. adapt it to your local climate, then you will need that your new fig trees can reproduce by seed, which is not feasible without the wasp. Landrace trees are obtained by successive seeds from trees that have succeeded the climate, the more generations the better. If the only thing you want is fig fruit, then you don't really need to propagate them by seeds, since it goes really well by sticks.

Actually the fig fruit is a conglomerate of flowers. The flowers are all turned inside up, so only the wasp that is able to get into the fruit is able to pollinate the flowers. You can still eat the fruit even when it has not been pollinated, but it will not produce viable seeds.
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Thanks Erik, I'll check them out, I appreciate that knowledge. Mike
 
Abraham Palma
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To my understanding, when they say self-fertile, it means that you don't have to plant male and female specimens, but you can do with just one tree. This happens when the male and female flowers are located in the same tree. But you still need something to carry the pollen from male to female flowers.
If you look at Brown Turkey profile, it says 'Propagate by hardwood cuttings' (here: https://www.gardenia.net/plant/ficus-carica-brown-turkey). Not seeds.

Had it be self-pollinated or wind pollinated, that would be a different thing.
 
Erik van Lennep
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Self-fertile fruiting can also be the result of apomixis, the spontaneous development of unfertlized ova (immaculate conception). These produce clones of the mother plant or animal.

Interesting article here: "The Genetic Control of Apomixis: Asexual Seed Formation"
https://www.genetics.org/content/197/2/441
 
Greg Martin
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Figs typically set and then wait for pollination and if that does not occur then they fall from the tree rather than ripening.  A mutation called the persistence gene causes the fig to ripen without pollination of any kind.  Figs with that mutation are called "common figs".  Figs are oddballs and aren't self pollinating to produce fruit without a second tree.  The persistence gene is lethal to the egg, so even though common figs have one copy of the gene they cannot transfer it to their offspring, so the persistence gene must come from the pollen parent.  Gillette is one fig that can set pollen and has the persistence gene and is relatively hardy.  Pollen can be transferred manually.
 
Erik van Lennep
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Greg Martin wrote:  Pollen can be transferred manually.



So that must be how new varieties get bred. Have you tried it yourself?
 
Greg Martin
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Erik van Lennep wrote:

Greg Martin wrote:  Pollen can be transferred manually.



So that must be how new varieties get bred. Have you tried it yourself?


I intended to, but haven't found the hardy genetics yet that I'm hoping to work with.  There are some pretty good instructions online though.  Here's someone with a good knowledge base trying for the first time:

Hopefully he'll have an update video in a few months to show how things went.  
 
Erik van Lennep
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Brilliant! Thanks
 
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Nearly all figs grown in the US are female plants that produce fruit without being pollinated.  So, no viable seeds.  There are some types grown in California that produce seed if you have male and female plants.  Here is a place you can read more about fig reproduction.  http://figs4fun.com/links/FigLink006a.pdf
 
Scott Stiller
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Super interesting Amy. Thanks for posting!
 
Michael Littlejohn
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Thanks Amy!
gift
 
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