What are you planning to stabilize your landrace projects around?

I’m interested to hear what traits are important to you. What are you planning to stabilize your various landrace projects around?

These are my current plans:

Pepo squashes: I want to stabilize around thornlessness, drought tolerance, powdery mildew resistance, and flavor being tasty both mature and immature. I’ll probably lightly select for being easy to cut, having a long storage life, and being shade tolerant (since anything vining will probably end up shaded out by anything bush).

Melons: I want to stabilize around drought tolerance, sweetness, ability to easily tell when they’re ripe, and having at least a week of shelf life. I’d rather have loads of variation with everything else.

Watermelons: Same thing, except sweetness isn’t as high a priority.

Tomatoes: I want to stabilize around cold hardy, drought tolerant, productive, big sauce tomatoes that I can direct seed.

Beans: I want to stabilize for productivity, taste, and containing no poisons, so I can eat them uncooked. Drought tolerance, too; that’ll be really easy with tepary beans, probably pretty easy with cowpeas, and may be a challenge with other species. Shade tolerance would be nice, but it’s not a top priority.

Peas: I want to stabilize around super duper cold tolerance, so I can grow them through the winter. Winter is our “rainy” season (a.k.a. snow), so drought tolerance isn’t necessary. If they need lots of water, that’ll be just fine.

Brassicas: I want to stabilize around super duper cold tolerance, so I can grow them through the winter, and as many yummy flower heads and stalks (a.k.a. broccoli and kohlrabi) as possible.

Bananas: I want to stabilize around cold tolerance, very fast maturity, delicious sweet flavor, seeds that are easily germinated, and seeds that aren’t annoying when you’re eating the fruit. There are a lot of directions this landrace can go; it’s in its infant stages. I’m starting from scratch with a bunch of seeded wild banana species that are relatively cold hardy. Eventually, I want a landrace that can fruit easily as a perennial in zone 7, and can fruit easily an annual in colder zones. Then I can share it with people who normally couldn’t grow bananas.

I’m sure I’ll develop specific plans for other landraces later, as I determine what I value most about each family / genus / species I grow.

I want tons of variety in colors, flavors, days to maturity, and growth habit with everything. I’ll obviously favor disease resistance anytime it offers itself, and anything else that makes the plants healthier.


All of my random landraces it’s purely - grows well in my garden and flavor - and the goal to keep as much variety as possible with regards to color and growing habits

Tomatoes - how amazing is it sliced with salt and pepper, and fresh. Beyond that different flavors and sizes are welcome

Ground Cherries - Sweetness and quantity of fruit

Blueberries - grows in alkaline soil abundantly, followed by flavor, then speed to fruit. The goal is to keep as much variety beyond that as possible, colors, high / low, etc are all fine and should be kept.

Beans - good as green beans and dry beans

Broccoli - exacltly like the broccolish project

Peas - same i’d love them to overwinter even if just as tiny plants and give abundantly in the spring. Would be cool if we could get growth through the winter slowly to keep roots in the ground and then when it starts to warm up they start throwing tons of pods. Very similar to the broccolish project.

Fava beans - Grows in winter without flowering - want to chop and drop a few weeks after corn has sprouted - chop and drop when it start to flower to maximize nitrogen for the corn

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Oh, yeah! Another trait I want is for as many species as possible to have leaves I like eating. Brassicas, peas, beans, cucurbits, etc. Then that would give me an option for an extra edible harvest, which will be especially valuable when pulling out anything that isn’t good enough to let flower, but is good enough to eat.

Cool short season is pretty much what defines my growing. Also my interest is mainly in “exotic” crops because it just makes it more exciting and challenging when you are breaking new ground.

Tomatoes do quite well here if I choose varieties right. Best dont even have unripe tomatoes at the end of season (late august/early september), but more often even best have some that are green, but are at technical ripeness. My hope is to get as uniform ripeness as possible. At the moment best varieties get 90% to colour change from first ripe in 3, maybe even 2 weeks. Also want them to need as short transplant period, possibly even something that could be direct sown. Breeding I have to/want to do by direct sowing so I’ll see how close I get to. Disease resistance is also important factor.

Ground cherries have similar problem with tomatoes that fruit aren’t as usable before ripeness. So more determinate growth and shorter cropping period would be necessary. Little bigger fruit would also be nice. Going to use direct sowing in breeding, but have to see how well it works if it’s goal in growing or if it’s just little too far.

Peppers and eggplants are easier in sense that they can be used more easily before full ripeness, eggplants preferred use is before full ripeness. So there is not as much need to shorten cropping period, but it still needs to be quite short to have maxium yield. More determinate growth propably comes with higher yields in short season. I have also noticed that better yielding peppers dont have as thick foliage so that might be something to look into, or it comes with better yield also. It would also have the advantage of better airflow late in the season.

Melons, watermelons, cucumber, squash earliness and mildew resistance. Flavour, texture and storage comes after that. Atleast for melons and watermelons plan is at some point divide different sizes and possibly by flesh too. Watermelons also for less seeds, or what I would think reasonable both eating and breeding. This summer had some small/medium watermelons that had 50-100 small seeds, some maybe even little less.

Sweet potato I would first need get them produce seed, then it’s quite obvious challenge with climate. I would be happy to get anything that grows here more easily than they do now. Everything else comes after that.

Some other project I have are more or less without any particular direction.

I really want to grow sweet potatoes from true seeds. I have read and reread Mark Reed’s thread about that in the Open Source Plant Breeding forum kind of obsessively. I love sweet potatoes, and those sound like a crop I really want to grow from true seed and breed my own locally adapted population. I’m excited for when he’s ready to distribute them.

Once I’ve got some to work with, I’d like to focus on – well, all the same traits he’s been focusing on! (Grin.) Plus I’d love to have a population that can keep its roots alive through my zone 7b winter without having to be dug up and brought inside. Then I can treat them like carrots and Jerusalem artichokes, and just dig up a few to eat whenever I feel like it.

In theory I’d like to plant new seeds every year, but I’d also be delighted with plants that perennialize themselves by staying alive through the winter and starting again every spring. That would be great.

Actually, I’d love for ALL my plants to work as both annuals and perennials . . . which is probably not very realistic for some species (cough cucurbits cough fruit trees), but I’ll try to encourage it with everything I can, anyway!

I think perennializing sweet potato in zone 7 is a bit too far away to be realistic. Tubers themselves dont tolerate extented periods of under +10C and will get cold damage that will ruin it in long term. Also they dont cure well if they are exposed to cold so taste is affected even if it still looks ok. Personally I’m happy to harvest and cure them all at once, they store so well and easily in right temperature. Easier than carrots and I think easier than any other tuber/root crop. This year I ate last of last years harvest in june and could have waited a bit longer easily. I store them in my apartments coolest spot where it stays mostly between 13-16C that is perfect for them. Late spring and summer it gets warmer, but they just srink and possibly sprout. Taste is just as good. Although this year i had variety “carolina ruby” that doesn’t store well. It wasn’t supposed to store well, but quite suprised how big difference there was. So that’s probably something I have to consider atleast in long term. At the moment if they make it untill march is enough.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard about sweet potatoes . . . but let’s just say I don’t like the word “impossible” and will probably leave some tubers in the ground from my favorite varieties anyway, because it’s a trait I’d love to see, and the only way I’m going to notice if it pops up in my landrace is to try.

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Especially since I plan to deep mulch everything. I don’t know how much difference that makes to soil temperature, but it probably makes some.

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I dont think it’s impossible, but it’s closer to growing mangoes in zone 7. There are more radical changes that need to happen than in some other crops and even compared growing sweet potatoes during cooler growing season. Maybe possible to have them survive in somewhat cooler climate, but I would be doubtful of having them palatable after winter. Had to look up your weather averages to have sense of what kinda winter you have. Do you get permanent snow cover or does fluctuating temperatures melt it? Ground temperatures depend on so many things. Here I think +8C is baseline very deep down and futher south it’s higher so it will resist cooling more. So if there is snow cover protecting cold snaps and coldest temperatures dont last long then maybe some dont spoil. Might need to have growth habit that makes tubers fairly deeb. But some of the colder winters might be too much.

I did forgot something; my corn. Based on this summer I need select for squirrel resistance. Atleast I think it was squirrel as I found some acorns under my mulch (greedy buggar). Never remember it being this bad in a decade that I have grown, of which 4 has been in the same place. Not sure if there is something I can do with breeding, but atleast some flint corn have husk open from the top that might be invitation to have a go at it.

The coldest temperature we’ve had here in the last decade was 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
Winter is our “rainy” season, so we get snow for about a week at a time, and then none for another week, during which time it all melts in 40 degree day temperatures. Then more snow falls and the temperature drops again. Our winter tends to hang around 10-45 degrees. It’s rarely colder than 10 during night, and it’s rarely warmer than 45 during the day.

I find that when it’s 10 degrees at night and 40 degrees during the day, I can dig in the dirt in my garden beds just fine. Only the top inch or so is frozen. The rest isn’t even really all that cold, just chilly. So in theory, I suspect the soil doesn’t get any colder than your average refrigerator once you’re a few inches down. I know sweet potatoes are supposed to prefer 55-60 degree temperatures for storage, but 40-45 doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. Especially if I have deep mulch on top, which will provide a fair amount of protection from temperature fluctuations.

That’s my theory. I’ll have to see what happens in practice!

Even if the flavor is affected and they aren’t palatable after being stored outside, as long as they can stay alive in the ground through the winter and resprout in spring, and thus act like perennials, I’ll consider that a win.

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About the corn – ouch! Have you gotten any corn from Joseph Lofthouse’s landrace? I seem to recall he was selecting for corn that was squirrel resistant.

I have talked about sweet potatoes with professional breeder and he said any extented period of under 10C (50F) would great risk for cold damage. Some said that it’s possible to go down to 8C (around 48F I think), but that might come with chance of damage. If ground is not more frozen with those cold spells there is probably some residual heat from deep and snow cover that stops it freezing more so it might be significantly warmer just 10-20cm deep. But even if you are just happy with it perennializing, there might be problem with them growing the mother root instead of new crop. Atleast what I have heard it’s not palatable in it’s second year. So you might need to breed out second year tuber growth and have them concentrate on growing new tubers.

I haven’t got Joseph’s corn, but I remember reading something about his breeding. Dont recollect squirrels specifically, but remember something about growing them tall that might have been the reason. Not sure if growing them tall is as much of a option as my season would favour shorter growth. Our temperatures are that much lower and especially start might be quite slow. I’m not sure if it’s even that necessary as squirrels generally don’t go far from trees. This might be some younger individual whose luck runs out some time. Still have to keep an eye on useful traits. Flint corn I only saved those that hadn’t been touched, but sweet corn I felt like I have to save from some of the better that had been nibbled. Hopefully next years I have more options to save from and squirrels would do the selection if they are still problem.

Makes sense. It sounds like them working as a perennial root crop probably isn’t the most likely scenario to succeed – but of course, I’ll still try it. :stuck_out_tongue:

Even if my main hope doesn’t work, sweet potatoes that can perennialize in my climate have other possibilities. One of them is to eat the leaves, which are nutritious and taste good. Another option, if the flowers are beautiful, is to use them as a carefree, edible ornamental in my front yard.

Either way, I could save seeds from them and cut off slips from them that I plant in other sections of my garden for my root harvest, thereby keeping a useful trait that may eventually lead towards a population that still has tasty roots after cold weather hits.

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  • cucurbits: I want squashes with very good tase, who can store for a while and can be direct seeded so, as next year I will be in the f1 year, for maxima, moschata and pepos I will direct seed all, too dense, and cull the slowest. And that will be it as far as selecting traits. Next years I will select more for taste.

  • melons and watermelons: I have been working on these populations recently and have chosen the same approach for both: create 2 different landraces of each, one centered on earliness and one centered on its storage capacity (long shelf life), so Ihave been busy looking for varieties either early or with long shelf life. As I have already done a first year grex of watermelons (which worked very well), I will simply add the new “early” varieties from transplants (mainly americans, russians, japaneses and ukrainians) to this f1 seeds that I will direct seed too dense, and culling the slowest. The 3 others will be mainly first year grexes that I will settle through transplants.

  • cucumbers: same story: f1 grexes, too dense direct seeding and culling of the slowest…

I want plants to grow fast and"jump" from their beds because I will do these sowings post cover crops,
which leaves a thick layer of vegetables on the ground. Thus the micro-climate of the soil post cover-crop is much colder than on bare soil. And, as I intend eventually to give no manure at all I need plants that are able to rapidly work with endophytes. It is no standard place for plants that have been used to grow on bare soils for generations!!!

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Here’s a thought that may be useful to keep in mind.

In one of her books, Carol Deppe mentioned the plants that seem slowest to germinate might actually be germinating at the same time, and focusing on root development before they send up leaves. Plants that do that tend to be the strongest, healthiest, and most drought tolerant, so if you cull the ones that seem the slowest to germinate, you may accidentally be selecting for weaker plants.

I believe what she suggested was to wait to thin until they’re all a few weeks old, so you can see which ones are acting like weaklings. That’s a better time to know which ones deserve culling.

Plus, of course, what you really want is squash that give you fruit more quickly after being planted, right? So it may actually be better to cull the slowest plants to flower. If something is a few days slower to germinate but grows twice as fast as afterwards, you may still want it.

She also said that for her, bush squashes tend to look less vigorous at first than vining squashes, so she tends to cull all the bush squashes unless she waits long enough to see what the growth habit of each plant is. Since I favor bush squashes, that’s a useful thing for me to know.

That said, of course, if anything sprouts several weeks late, sure, cull it!

Anyway, just a thought. It may be helpful wait to cull until you can be sure which plants are really the strongest and which are really the weakest.

Also, the two different landraces of melon and watermelons sound like a great way to have more time to enjoy those fresh! How are you planning to keep those populations separate?

Hi Emily, thank you for sharing that piece of thoughs. Would you say, then that a general rule could be no culling before the first flowers appear ?

I look for productivity, disease and insect tolerance, freak weather tolerance, great flavor and all the other regular stuff, but a single thing I look for in all of my crops is short season maturity.

My frost-free season is reliably 150 days and often more, but I still want the fastest maturity possible. I set an over-all goal of 100 days or less. I want both a harvest and mature seeds, from direct seed, not transplants, in that time. To encourage that I save seed from the earliest fruits, even if the plant continues producing for weeks following.

Another thing I like with crops where it is possible, is to turn them into self-regenerating, semi- feral populations. I have some tomatoes, radishes, dill and a few other things that do that. A few others like beans can be planted just by throwing them in the weeds but they do not self-seed the next year.

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I encourage semi-feral too! Those are the best! No work and usually impervious to diseases. I have a few crops that became semi feral in my place on their own and I’d love to encourage many more to do so.