Miscellaneous

What Does Landrace Mean – Learn About Landrace Plant Species

What Does Landrace Mean – Learn About Landrace Plant Species


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

A landrace sounds a bit like something out of a Harry Potternovel, but it’s not a creature of fantasy. What does landrace mean then?Landrace in plants refers to a traditional variety that has adapted over time. Theseplant varieties are not genetically bred but have, instead, evolved differenttraits naturally. They are not cloned, hybrids, cultivars, or bred with any humanintervention.

What Does Landrace Mean?

Landraces of crops are most closely aligned with heirlooms,being that they are naturally occurring. They are indigenous to a certainregion and developed their characteristics in response to the growingconditions of that area. Landrace plant species are relatively rare becausemany have been supplanted with bredcrops and have died out due to changing climate and human intervention.

Plant varieties aren’t the only species that exist in thiscategory. There are also landrace animal breeds. Landrace plant varieties arecharacterized by origin, genetic diversity, adaptation, and lack of humanmanipulation.

One classic instance is when a farmer saves seed from afavorable crop which had certain attributes. This seed mutated itself toachieve traits that were favorable for its growing environment. The same plantin another region might not develop those qualities. This is why landraces aresite and culturally specific. They have evolved to withstand the climate,pests, diseases, and cultural practices of a locality.

Conserving Landrace in Plants

Similar to heirloom varieties, landraces must be preserved.Keeping these strains increases biodiversity and genetic variation, which iscrucial to a healthy environment. Landraces of crops are often preserved bycontinuous growing but more modernly are kept in seedvaults or gene banks.

Sometimes the seed is kept but other times it is geneticmaterial from the plant kept at a very cold temperature. Many national heritageprograms focus on identifying and conserving landrace plant species.

Individual local organizations preserve landraces specificto the region, but globally several organizations are contributing to theeffort. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an important player in landraceconservation. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food andAgriculture focuses on sharing benefits from different landraces andsustainable agriculture to ensure food security. The Food and AgricultureOrganization of the United Nations has put together a Global Plan of Action forplant genetics.

Preserving landrace species increases biodiversity and canhelp future farmers ensure adequate food supplies.

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Choosing a Meat Pig Breed for Your Farm

First, let’s see how pigs are similar…

First of all, it’s important to know that although there is variance among the different swine breeds, pigs are pigs.

They are monogastric omnivores.

The term monogastric means ‘simple stomach’ while the term omnivore means they consume both plant and animal material. Humans are also monogastric omnivores.

We are actually very similar to pigs in the way our systems work and function. That being said, pigs consume many of the foods that we can. They love many of the table scraps that we have left over. More on how pig anatomy works in another article.

Identifying Meat Pig Breeds

Now, pigs have been bred to create many different breeds to fit many different needs and niches. Each breed has something different to offer.

If you are interested in using artificial insemination on your farm with different breeds, read my post about artificially inseminating pigs here. If you aren’t sure that you want to use artificial insemination, read my article about why you should be using artificial insemination here.

Before we get started, there’s something I want to share with you real quick- Pigs can have ears that are erect and stand up or they can have ears that flop down.

If the name of the breed ends in “-shire”, that means the breed has erect ears. This will help you to identify the different breeds and make sure that you are getting the correct animal.

Color patterns are also important in identifying the breeds.

For more general information about identifying a breed of pig, check out Pork’s Major Swine Breeds.


Bullshitting about cannabis has a long and inglorious tradition. It’s a particular problem among Westerners — not just prohibitionists in the mould of Harry Anslinger or Richard Nixon but also enthusiasts with tall tales brought back from exotic lands. Take the Hippie Trail myth of the ancient hand-rubbed Himalayan charas that even after being buried or lost for years is still mysteriously super-potent. But in the case of one of the most ancient and famous instances of pot nonsense, Hassan-i Sabbah and his hashish-crazed assassins, the responsibility is shared equally by East and West. What the assassin legend likely boils down to is nothing more than sectarian Muslim rivals slagging off their Ismaili opponents as ‘stoners’ and ‘dope fiends’. Too much of a good story to resist, so the myth lives on.

A new brand of canna-bullshit has developed in the last year or so with the recent influx of purveyors of landrace seeds. Their more modern fabrications involve creating a fictitious mystical aura or sense of ecological urgency around landraces. To what exent these market-savvy ‘strain hunters’ believe their own stories it’s hard to say. But I suspect there’s an element of consciously swamping the online landrace space with misinformation. Sellers benefit from having a customer base that’s confused or clueless. In this disoriented state, people are much easier to punt seeds to.

A self-described Indian group of collectors have recently put about the idea that flooding and drought on the Ganges Plain pose an existential threat to its ruderal Cannabis, which grows more or less everywhere north of the Ganges River and into the Himalaya. Whether they believe it themselves, this is a very convenient narrative as it means they can offload seeds easily collected from the ruderal stands rife in and around every north Indian town or field. What these recent batches sold for I don’t know, but prices at some landrace sites and communities range up to 200 USD for a few seeds. There can be no doubt of the importance of wild-type Cannabis populations as stores of genetic variation and adaptation. But this looks a lot like cynical money-grubbing. It’s dishonest to present what’s just north Indian ‘ditch weed’ as in any way endangered [arguably wrong, see here], as anyone who’s visited or lived in these regions knows.

The online influx of misinformation has hit ethnobotany too. A prominent new Instagram strain hunter recently claimed that the name Nanda Devi should only be used for strains from the Chamoli District of the Garhwal Himalaya. This is a minor instance among more serious misinformation put about by these groups (e.g., that Parvati Valley populations are unaffacted by introduced hybrids or that the Sheelavathi mafia hybrid is an authentic landrace), but getting to the truth behind this claim leads us deep into Himalayan cannabis culture on a journey that I figured is worth sharing here.

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Dati, a multipurpose Kumaoni landrace in its native environment

Several years ago, I gave the name Nanda Devi to a charas landrace that’s specific to a handful of villages on the eastern flank of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary in the Kumaon Himalaya, which neighbours Garhwal. I did this because the farmers have no name for their strain. This is typical in the Himalaya. For most villagers, any plant is just ‘bhang’, Cannabis, and that’s about as far as naming normally goes. In so far as the Himalaya has anything akin to strain names there are terms that serve to differentiate multipurpose domesticates (for fibre, seeds, and resin) from specialised charas domesticates. In some areas of Kumaon, multipurpose strains or types are known as ‘dati’. In Parvati Valley I was told by a farmer that the name ‘bagicha’ is sometimes used, though this may have been a misunderstanding [the term means ‘garden’ in Hindi etc. apparently it may be used by these farmers in the sense of ‘domesticate’, see comments below]. I named the charas landrace I collected simply so that collectors could identify it. Because the Goddess (Devi, Nanda Devi, Durga, Kali) plays a major role in the Kumaoni way of life and landscape, ‘Nanda Devi’ seemed an obvious choice. The peaks of her sacred mountain are visible on the skyline throughout most of Kumaon. The ancient Nanda Devi temple in Almora town is one of the most important in the region. The shakti peeth (power place) at Dunagiri is renowned among sadhus as a centre for practices focused on the Goddess. There are innumerable village shrines throughout these mountains dedicated to Kali and Durga.

But this collector insisted that because the mountain is situated in Chamoli district then its name could only be used for strains that are from there. He went on to claim that farmers in Chamoli use the name Nanda Devi to refer to female Cannabis plants. On his own terms, his complaint didn’t make much sense: This was not a strain name, it seems, but something more like a term of endearment or reverence for female Cannabis plants. Still, he said he was from Joshimath, an important town in Chamoli, so in that respect at least his opinion carried a certain weight.

‘Nanda Devi’, a specialised charas landrace outdoors in Europe

But I’ve been going to Chamoli over the years, including to famous and obscure villages, and never once encountered a farmer referring to female Cannabis plants as ‘Nanda Devi’, so I questioned him. He escalated to a new level: Because Nanda Devi is worshipped as a local goddess (devata) in Chamoli then this name can only be used for strains from this area. Now this story, which still didn’t quite make sense, had developed to include the idea that devatas are a factor in Himalayan cannabis culture.

Devatas, in this context, are gods or goddesses specific to areas, villages, and homes. They’re usually more akin to what Westerners would think of as spirits or ghosts than grand Hindu deities such as Shiva. In the Himalaya, a village might even live in some fear of its devata, making sure to placate it with offerings at the right time and in the correct form so as to avoid its wrath and any consequent misfortune. A Kumaoni friend went as far as to say that farmers are in effect enslaved by their village deities, squandering desperately needed wealth and resources to keep the spirit happy. By contrast, a devata such as Golu Dev, whose name adorns motor vehicles throughout Kumaon, has a more respectable reputation, a revered general now raised to the ranks of an incarnation of Shiva.

Devata culture likewise plays a major role in the life of Parvati Valley, where if you wander through the mountains you may well chance upon mountain shrines soaked in the drying blood of a recent animal sacrifice or even see an unfortunate sheep, goat, or buffalo meet its end. Parvati is famed for its charas, of course. But I’m yet to encounter devatas there that are connected with Cannabis cultivation. The same is true in Kumaon and Nepal. There’s as little link between these local deities and cannabis as there is between whisky and Scottish Presbyterianism.

Durga, mountain shrine, Kumaon Himalaya

But the collector went on to name Malari, a charas village that I’m yet to visit. Now, it may be that in Malari the farmers – or a farmer – fondly refer to female plants as Nanda Devi. But that’s still a long way from a strain name. And it’s rather unlikely, given that in the Himalaya farmers assign pistillate Cannabis plants (‘females’) to the masculine gender. Regardless, the fact is that in the Himalaya there’s not a sophisticated seed market as there is in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where you can choose from several different cultigens such as Mazari or Watani. For most Himalayan farmers, Cannabis is just Cannabis, one of the various crops they grow, and at most they can choose whether to focus on charas or a range of potentially saleable products including fibre and seeds. Of course, each geographic region of the Himalaya has its strain and variations on that theme from village to village, field to field, along a valley. But there’s no necessity for farmers themselves to differentiate as the diversity in the Nepali and Indian Himalaya is essentially region-specific. These are pot landraces, the names of which, with few exceptions, are created by and for outsiders – as the strain hunter in question eventually noted himself.

For ethnobotanists, to fully understand the place of Cannabis in the Himalaya, it’s important to realise that in regions such as Kumaon the crop does not feature in major Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja, despite the crucial importance of both the Goddess and the plant. This contrasts with India’s greatest centre of Goddess worship, West Bengal, where Cannabis does have an ordained role at Durga Puja, and celebrants will partake of bhang drinks, at very least taking perfunctory sips. But in Kumaoni villages Cannabis has historically been absent from this ritual, despite Durga Puja occurring at the peak of the charas season, essentially as a harvest festival. Attending celebrations in remote villages, I’ve seen men tell other attendants to stop smoking their charas bidis because it’s inappropriate – though smoking and drinking cannabis are of course distinct issues.

Historically, Cannabis cultivation in Kumaon has, as noted in the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, been confined to ‘the lowest classes of cultivators, being considered beneath the dignity of the higher castes. So much is this the case that the phrase “May hemp be sown in thy house” is one of the commonest of abusive imprecations. […] The principal cultivators appear to be the Khasias or Tabhilas, a class of people above the Domes and below Rajputs in the social scale, who do not wear the sacred thread. If a Brahman or Rajput wishes to cultivate hemp, he engages a Khasia or Dome to work for him’. As the Victorian authors of the Commission went on to speculate, the reason for this association with low social status could conceivably be found in the earliest origins of Cannabis cultivation in the Himalaya.

Pollen evidence from upper Garhwal now points to the crop first being sown in these mountains from around 500 BCE. This was an era during which nomadic horse tribes from Central Asia were crossing the Indus River in their multitudes, some of them apparently settling in the western Himalaya. These Iranic warrior clans will have been from outside the anointed Brahminical realms of Vedic Hinduism, as was then evolving following the Persian conquest of northwest India in 513 BCE. Finds from Nepal dating to a similar era suggest that Cannabis may also have been arriving in the Himalaya from Central Asia by another route, namely the Kali Gandhaki Gorge. The prime suspects for bringing Cannabis cultivation to the Pahari Himalaya are the tribal federations that Westerners know best by the name ‘the Scythians‘. This is a term of convenience for the various nomadic and semi-nomadic Iron Age dope fiends such as Herodotus described in this very same era on the Black Sea steppe getting out of their heads by throwing cannabis on braziers in tents.

In the temples of Kumaon such as Katarmal the legacy of these Scythians may yet be apparent in the steppe clothing of the Sun gods, deities of Iranic origin, with their long hats, overcoats, and riding boots. But more than that, as the Victorians noted, the main castes involved in Cannabis cultivation in Kumaon have historically been the Khasias, or Khas, better known today as Paharis, the people of the alpine Himalaya. In Kumaon, the name ‘Khas’ is now largely seen as insulting. But according to Nepali Khas communities, who embrace their ‘Khas Arya’ identity, their ancestors were originally one such Scythian-type clan among these teeming steppe multitudes, their origins variously guessed at as being Xinjiang or Bactria, around what’s now northern Afghanistan. Onetime rulers of the ‘Khasadesha’ and ‘Khasamandala‘ of the alpine Himalaya, their fall from aristocratic grace through centuries of Brahmanisation has ended with the Khas becoming, in the words of an Indian historian, the ‘menial people’ of these mountains. Conceivably, the fields of Cannabis around their settlements followed, evolving into a sign of low, non-Brahmanical status that still, some two millennia later, no self-respecting high-caste Kumaoni would wish to be shackled with. The Khas castes themselves would then have in turn internalised this prejudice, leaving their stash at home when they go to pay homage to the Goddess.

Whether Devi herself is of truly ‘Aryan’ lineage is another story, but apparently — in a strictly Hindu sense of the word — Himalayan Cannabis is not.

Shines at Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora District, Kumaon Himalaya

NOTE: All of the above is of course highly speculative. As likely is that the Himalayan stigma against being a Cannabis farmer developed in the Persianate era, with the development of the charas economy and export to the urban centres of north India such as Lucknow. The prejudice against being a Cannabis farmer can be found in Bengal too, where the main crop is ganja, likely a more recent form of domesticate which developed during the Islamic era, spreading across South and Southeast Asia in conjuction with tobacco. Regarding tales of the ancient Khas now in circulation in Nepal etc., caution is advisable because dubious colonial-era ethno-histories have likely long informed popular and academic thinking on such issues. And with regard to differences between Durga Puja in Kumaon and West Bengal, sacramental cannabis customs in Bengal probably arose in the Persianate era, Turko-Persian cannabis culture influencing rural folk custom and radical yogic practice such as Shakta tantrism, which is where cannabis first appears in Indian asceticism, quite late in the medieval era.


Heirloom And Landrace Cannabis Strains

By Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education, Harborside Health Center

Original landrace and other heirloom strains are often lost in today’s hyperkinetic world of breeding. ‘Landrace’ refers to strains that are indigenous to an area, such as Red Congolese. ‘Heirlooms’ are strains that were collected worldwide during the 1970s and propagated in Hawaii and Northern California. Our constant desire for new strains leads breeders to continually cross and re-cross existing strains looking for the next big thing. There is, however, a small but growing contingent of cultivators who’re returning to our cannabis roots and propagating old landrace and heirloom strains. Varieties range from pure African sativas to Afghani indicas, collected by world travelers on the infamous Hippie Trail (also referred to as the “Hashish Trail”).

All during the 1970s and early 1980s, cannabis aficionados of all stripes traveled the world smoking the finest cannabis and hashish available. From Nepalese temple balls to the famed Mazar-i-Sharif Afghani Black, the Hashish Trail was filled with exotic delights. The trail rolls on through Lebanese Red to Moroccan Kif, with stops in Bangkok for Chocolate Thai, and Columbia and Mexico for their infamous golden strains. Many of these intrepid souls also collected seeds during their travels. It was these landrace strains that became the basis for the nascent cultivation culture that eventually sprang forth in both Hawaii and Northern California.

Talk with any cannabis connoisseur old enough to remember these legendary strains and you’ll come away with tales of their epic strength. Equatorial sativas from Africa to Vietnam flourished in Hawaii’s tropical dreamscape of cannabis cultivation. Indicas from Afghanistan were more at home in Northern California’s cooler climate. I was fortunate enough to live on the Big Island of Hawaii from 1993 to 1997, and I can attest that the best cannabis I have EVER smoked was grown in volcanic soil on the slopes of the largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Loa. By the time I got there almost everything grown in Hawaii was some combination of genetics, no longer a landrace. Yet a few of the old-timers still had access to the classic ’70s strains, making for a wonderfully unique and diverse smoking experience.

From Nepalese temple balls to the famed Mazar-i-Sharif Afghani Black, the Hashish Trail was filled with exotic delights.

The scene in California at this time was slightly different. Northern California, as beautiful as it is, ain’t Hawaii. The Emerald Triangle rests approximately on the same parallel as Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains. While Southern Californians could grow Columbian and Mexican sativas, their northern counterparts found the stocky indica plants much better adapted for their climate. Shorter flowering time allowed harvest to occur before the fall rains came with their mold-inducing downpours. These short and chunky plants produced the infamous skunkweed that became Northern California’s calling card. Again, anyone old enough to remember this cannabis will never forget the pungent, almost rancid, skunk-like aroma. I remember going to parties in the early ’80s with this herb double-bagged-and still being outed minutes after walking in. “Yo man, I know you’re holding, share the love!” Our own Steve DeAngelo also has memories of this era, saying that to this day he’s not seen cannabis like what he saw from Northen California in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

So what does all this nostalgia mean for modern patients and cannabis aficionados? Well, several breeders have also recognized the value in these old-school strains. Ace Seeds, CannaBioGenn, Reeferman Seeds and Tom Hill, as well as the one-and-only Neville, are all selling a wide variety of landrace and heirloom seeds. Look for some of these to be available at Harborside in the near future. Growers who’re looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive environment are turning to these varieties. For patients, many of these strains offer powerful relief in a different fashion than some of the more modern varietals. It’s not that they’re necessarily better, just different, and perhaps more effective for some patients’ specific conditions or needs. In any case, they’re strains definitely worth checking out.

Harborside Health Center frequently has landrace/heirloom strains. Red Congolese is a regular African landrace we feature. Chocolate Thai, Afghani, and Columbian/Acapulco Gold also often grace our shelves. The future will bring many more of these classic gems to Harborside. Be on the lookout soon for an entire heirloom line which will be packaged in its own special jar. If you’ve never tried any of these strains, please consider them next time you stop by. I think you may just enjoy these unique choices as much as I do.


Landrace Gardening

posted 7 years ago
  • 7

  • 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:

    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?

    "I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake

    posted 7 years ago
    • 1

  • Hi Victor,
    I too am interested in landrace gardening and I started a thread on it here:https://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.

    posted 7 years ago

  • posted 7 years ago
    • 1

  • Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/treatmentfreebeekeepers/

    posted 7 years ago

  • posted 7 years ago

  • Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/treatmentfreebeekeepers/

    posted 7 years ago
    • 3

  • 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.

    posted 7 years ago

  • 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.

    "I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake

    posted 7 years ago
    • 1

  • posted 7 years ago

  • "I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake

    posted 7 years ago
    • 1

  • 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!

    posted 7 years ago

  • 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?

    posted 7 years ago

  • 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.

    "I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake

    posted 7 years ago
    • 2

  • 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 -)

    posted 6 years ago
    • 1

  • 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

    posted 6 years ago

  • 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.

    Seed company producing seed in Alaska - http://www.denaliseed.com

    The devil haunts a hungry man - Waylon Jennings

    posted 6 years ago

  • 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?

    posted 6 years ago

  • 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.

    posted 6 years ago

  • 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.

    posted 6 years ago
    • 2

  • posted 5 years ago
    • 15

  • Ha. I just discovered that you guys were gossiping about me and my methods before I joined the forum. So here's my take on landrace gardening.

    I got into landrace gardening specifically because commercial suppliers of seed were not breeding anything specific to my environment. I grow in a high altitude desert. The humidity is very low. The radiant cooling at night is intense. The sunlight is brilliant. The frost free season is short. I can't trust Days-To-Maturity figures provided by seed catalogs, because they are totally inaccurate when applied to my garden.

    I could have gotten by with commercial seeds. It would have required me to run variety trials, and to plant varieties that are known to do well here. Some of the mom-n-pop nurseries in my valley have done that testing, so the seeds they have to offer are generally acceptable. They have somewhat been tainted by peer pressure, because they also offer seeds that do poorly here (Brandywine tomato for example) because they are so popular in other areas. Depending on species, about 50% to 95% of commercial varieties plain old fail to produce a harvest in my garden.

    The first landrace crop that I grew was Astronomy Domine sweet corn, which was developed by Alan Bishop of Pekin Indiana. It was descended from a couple hundred varieties of heirloom and hybrid sweet corn. I immediately fell in love with it! The colors and tastes captivated me! It grew robustly when planted on the same day as our valley's second favorite sweet corn that failed to germinate. I planted it in a area where corn doesn't belong, right next to some huge poplars, but nevertheless many plants thrived and produced an abundant harvest.

    Astronomy Domine Sweet Corn.

    Back then, we were using the terms "Grex", or "Mass Cross" to describe our work. And that was a good description at the time, because it was all about mixing up the varieties and then sharing them with each other. Then we noticed something had happened to our seeds. As they spread out to different growers in different regions the make up of the populations changed dramatically. The seeds got intimately intertwined with the farmer that was growing them and with the land they were growing on. Seeds that went to a farmer in Oklahoma came back to the project brilliantly colored. Seeds that came to me went back to the project with 10 day shorter days to maturity. When we searched for the vocabulary to describe what was happening, the term "landrace" was the most appropriate. The seeds and the farmers and the land were becoming deeply connected to each other.

    Some people say that landraces arise only by natural means. My response is that landraces are always domesticated, and domestication only happens because farmers select among this year's crop for the traits that they hope will show up in next year's crop. In my garden purely natural selection plays a huge role. With moschata squash in my garden, 75% of the varieties I planted failed to produce fruit. That is natural selection at it's finest. I planted runner beans 5 years in a row before a variety finally produced a harvest. Again that is a natural selection process that had little to do with the farmer other than trying new varieties until something finally took. In any case, I think that it is impossible for a farmer to save seeds without having an influence over the genetics of the population.

    Some people say that landraces have to be ancient, and that it would therefore be impossible to create modern landraces. My experience with growing grexes is that it takes about 3 years for a genetically diverse mix of varieties to become really integrated with the land, the climate, the bugs, the soil, the farmer's habits, and the clientele at the farmer's market.

    My definition of "landrace" requires genetic diversity and local-adaptation. The best landraces are not only regionally adapted, they are hyper-locally adapted. By that I mean that they even adapt to each individual farmers habits. For example, take a landrace of tomatoes and send half to a farmer that grows on plastic with drip irrigation, and send half to a farmer in the same village that grows in plain old dirt with overhead sprinkle irrigation. Ask them to save their seeds for 5 years and then swap. I guarantee that both farmers will complain about how poorly the other farmer's seed grows.

    I love swapping seeds with people in similar climates: For example the central valley of California, or the high plains of Colorado. They do better for me than seeds grown in Oregon. But the best seeds are locally-adapted genetically-diverse strains that are being grown by other farmers in my valley.

    Even if a landrace is not locally-adapted to my place when it arrives, there is often so much diversity that a few plants will thrive, and they can form the foundation of a new population that does well here.

    I don't care about uniformity or stability. I harvest every fruit by hand. I prefer that my harvests come for an extended time rather than all at once. I like my food to be flavorful. Better yet if every fruit doesn't taste just as bland as every other. One thing that pleases me the most about landrace growing is how deeply personal the varieties become. My muskmelons are heavenly to me. They have become perfectly attuned to my taste buds, my likes in aroma, my preferences regarding texture.

    Landrace gardening requires genetic diversity. Sure I can plant 100 kinds of (mostly inbreeding) beans, and 80 will fail the first year leaving me with 20 that I can call a grex. But the real magic happens when a 1 in 200 natural cross pollination occurs. The offspring of that cross bring lots of new varieties into my garden. And many of them will do really well because their ancestors have already shown that they have what it takes to thrive here. Then I can call them a landrace. Even the most "self pollinating" crops occasionally cross. I watch for those and give them a special place in my garden. The diversity that can arise from even one crossing event are astounding. With tomatoes, I am working on a project to return my tomatoes to their original state of being a mostly cross-pollinating species.

    Formation of a bean landrace: All these are descended from one bean that got cross pollinated.

    In my climate, irrigation is required for every warm weather crop. So my landraces are not selected for drought tolerance. They are selected to be able to deal with low humidity, but not drought. I don't apply pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or fungicides to my crops, so it's survival of the fittest for those traits. I don't weed much, so again it's survival of those that can outgrow the local weeds. But I'm constantly doing selection. If one tomato plant out of 100 is attracting flea beetles, then it gets chopped out. It might have produced seed. But I don't want that kind of seed in my garden. I select for quick early growth. If a variety is slow growing when it's a seedling then it will continue to grow slowly for the entire growing season. It won't out-compete the weeds, so I might as well help it out of it's misery. Chop. Chop. Chop. In my world view, Landrace growing is an intimate relationship between the location, the farmer, and the genetically-diverse seed.

    I have occasionally introduced too much diversity. For example: Pocket melons are the same species as muskmelons, but they are intensely bitter and grown for fragrance instead of for eating. I included those one year in my muskmelon planting. I abandoned all the seed from that year rather than risk that some pollen had contaminated my seed crop. A collaborator complains about introducing white fleshed watermelon because they were thin skinned and explode when the sun heats up the fruits.

    I am thrilled with our current ability to collect together DNA from all over and recombine it to meet today's growing needs. Some of the inter-species hybrids are particularly exciting to me: For example, I'm hyped about some of genetics that are being incorporated into tomatoes from closely related species. I'm working on creating a new species closely related to watermelon.

    Sometimes I split my landraces based on traits. For example my sweet corn and my flour corn share many of the same ancestors, but they are now separate landraces. Anytime I find something that really appeals to me I can separate it out, and select for uniformity. I can select for uniformity in one trait while allowing other traits to float, for example my muskmelons always have orange flesh and netted skin. The fruit size can vary from 2 to 6 pounds. Smaller fruits tend to be earlier.

    I am constantly screening my plants to eliminate cytoplasmic male sterility. I'm a landrace farmer. I suppose that getting down on my knees and looking closely for male parts on a flower is part and parcel of the intimacy that I share with my plants.

    Raoul Robinson's “Return to resistance” was instrumental in shaping my attitude towards growing. Carol Deppe's book "Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties" also had a strong influence.

    I am collaborating with Ted Jordan Meredith and Avram Drucker on growing new varieties of garlic. It's really the only way to develop a truly locally-adapted garlic. So far I have grown 8 varieties that are genetically unique to my farm. We are finding that the ability to produce seeds in garlic has a strong genetic component. But environmental factors also play a role. A particular environmental pattern might trigger flowering or seed set in a particular variety that rarely makes seed.

    After so many years of growing my own genetically-diverse locally-adapted landraces, I can't imagine ever going back to planting average seeds from the mega-corporations.


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