Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gardening: Selection Opportunity or Dumb Seed Luck?

I'm mostly typing this here because I have a tendency to lose my garden notes.

So, several weeks ago I planted some Oregon Giant Sugar Pod ("OSU 706", and what does that mean?) peas. I knew it was probably too early, but it seemed worth a try. Three twelve-foot drills, eighteen inches apart. Four to five seeds per foot, so 4.5 X 36 is about 160 seeds. I also covered the area with that spun row cover stuff. I uncovered it this week expecting to confirm my suspicion that I had a complete crop failure, and found that six of those seeds had come up.

At first, that seemed like a possibly interesting breeding selection opportunity--six seeds out of 160 is 1/27, so maybe those six seeds were genetically special--more able to sprout in early spring cold and damp. And the earlier a seed will sprout the better, if I'm trying to dryfarm--I want the plants to get a nice start while the ground is spring-wet.

So I marked "early" on six little popsicle sticks and put each stick a couple of inches to the right of a plant, hopefully far enough that I didn't disturb its roots in any significant way. That would allow me to distinguish those plants from the ones that will hopefully come up after today's replanting, and save seeds from them.

Then I realized that five out of the six winners were on the "uphill" drill--the three drills sloped downhill juuust a little bit. And all the poking around for replanting made it clear that that uphill drill also had more compost--it was substantially lighter and better-drained than the other two drills. The sixth plant was in a slightly raised part of the middle drill. So those seeds weren't competing with all 160, but just with their peers in conditions of better drainage.

So we're not really talking about six special seeds out of 160, but more like five special seeds out of 60, or one out of twelve. One happy seed out of twelve seems like it could easily just be dumb luck--those seeds could have just been poked in a little shallower or gotten a better pocket of dirt.

But I left the popsicle sticks there, and I'm tentatively still planning to save some seeds. That means that I need to save seeds from some of the other plants, if I want to stage a trial next year.

I'm also debating whether I should save seed from the sixth, middle-drill, plant, giving me three separate populations of seed. No reason why not, really.

Anyway. That is all.

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