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Imagejoseph
Nov 6, 2010 1:34 PM CST
Name: Joseph
Cache Valley Great Basin
Landrace: locally-adapted diversity
I use the term land-race to describe several different varieties of a vegetable being planted and harvested as a group rather than as individual varieties...

In the case of mostly self-pollinating plants like peppers, tomatoes, beans, wheat, and peas a land-race may be thought of as many distinct varieties growing side by side. My current land-races of these types of things consists of 4 to 100 unique varieties. There is a tiny amount of cross-pollination, but only like 2% to 10% per year, so new varieties appear from time to time, but mostly the same varieties are represented each year.

In the case of out-crossing plants like cantaloupe or corn, a land-race can be thought of as an open pollinated population with tremendous genetic diversity. Most of the seeds in an out-crossing land-race end up being unique F1 hybrids. In my land-race sweet corn there are something like a million-trillion possible varieties.

For example in my land-race cantaloupes I planted around 90 different varieties of cantaloupe over a three year period. I planted the first packet of seed, and then the next packet, etc without keeping track of which varieties went where until the whole field was planted. Some varieties were entirely destroyed by soil microorganisms before they germinated. Some varieties were entirely eaten by bugs before they were an inch tall. Some varieties grew slowly and didn't produce a fruit in my garden. Many varieties grew passably and produced fruit by the time the plants were killed by frost. A few individual plants grew vigorously, and produced lots of fruit, and some fruit ripened weeks before first frost.

So I collected two types of seed from my cantaloupe patch... The first group contains only the best producing and the earliest cantaloupes. The second group includes seed from every plant that produced mature seeds including from the best and earliest.

I do something similar with tomatoes... The first of season fruits from 6 to 10 plants are saved as "Joseph's Earliest Landrace Tomatoes" pretty much regardless of how they taste or what they look like. Then I save a group that are canning/slicing tomatoes that produce abundantly during my main harvest season. I plant maybe 10 new varieties per year... If any of them produce as good or better than my current land-race then they are added to one of my gene-pools. If they don't produce very well then they end up in the booby-prize gene pool which I call "Oddballs"

It is possible that some varieties could end up in several gene pools. For example an early slicer might still be producing heavily when I collect the "Main Season" seed.

To avoid genetic loss due to unusual growing conditions or pests, etc, I plant a few seeds each year from two or three years old seed. I grow a few new varieties each year to keep the genepool fresh. And I swap seeds with the neighbors to enhance local adaptability.

More details available on my web site:
http://garden.lofthouse.com/adaptivar-landrace.phtml

Regards,
Joseph


Author of Mother Earth News Blog about Landrace Gardening: http://www.motherearthnews.com/search.aspx?tags= Lofthouse

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