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HYB: The Gene Pool -- long

From: Sharon McAllister <73372.1745@compuserve.com>

O.K.  Fingers poised over the DELETE key?  I found an old newsletter
article I wrote about the Gene Pool.  It's a bit long, but I think it will
answer recent questions.

The Gene Pool -- Not Just for Hybridizers

For hybridizers, the Gene Pool is a "sure thing" because it saves time and
money in getting up-to-date breeding stock.  John Holden's Gene Pool aril
seedlings helped me get started, so when my own program matured I continued
the tradition by putting together Gene Pool Collections of arilbreds for
the Aril Society Plant Sale.  These have been extremely popular-- so much
so that I've come to realize hybridizers aren't the only people who are
interested in these collections.  

Why should anyone else buy seedlings?  Because it's something like playing
the lottery!  There's no guarantee, of course, but there's an excellent
chance that one of the seedlings in your collection will later be

To look at the odds -- perhaps 5 out of 100 fertile arilbreds make it into
the Gene Pool, and 1 or 2 of them will ultimately be introduced.  It would
be reasonable to expect that each collection of 5 seedlings would contain
at least one of them.  The only question is which one, and when.  There's
no way to "fix" the game, though, because no one knows the answer to that
question when the Gene Pool Collections are assembled.

But perhaps if I explain the process itself in greater detail, this will be
easier to understand.  If you've visited the garden, you've probably
noticed the color-coded labeling system I use for seedlings.  Every
seedling gets a number when it is lined out.  All start with black labels. 

On maiden bloom, I start the evaluation process by dividing the seedlings
into three categories:
1)      "YES" seedlings are the ones I consider to be the most likely
candidates for introduction; they get red garden labels to signify that
they are under "watch". 
2)      "NO" seedlings are eliminated completely; they go into the arroyo
to help with erosion control.
3)      "MAYBE" seedlings are kept for at least another year; they keep
their black labels.
Each year, I re-evaluate the seedlings.  I watch the "YES" seedlings the
most carefully.  Often, one that was impressive on maiden bloom is
disappointing in later years.  (Remember the old rule:  never, Never, NEVER
register an iris on the basis of its first bloom!)  The "MAYBE" seedlings
also get their share of attention.  Some will earn red labels, while others
are exiled to the arroyo.  

By the time the individual evaluation process is complete, perhaps 5% of
the crop remains in contention.  All of them have been judged to be worthy
of introduction and are ready for the final step -- checking their
performance against that of other seedlings who've also survived the same
initial screening.  This is where the Gene Pool comes in -- material for it
is drawn from the fully fertile seedlings in this group of "finalists".

Finally, I should explain two more factors that improve your odds:  1) the
exceptionally strong performers are not only more likely to be among the
final selections, but will also contribute a larger number of rhizomes to
the pool; and 2) if the demand outpaces the supply, I draw on some very
special stock to make up any shortage.  Some of these are seedlings that
have already been selected for introduction, but have not yet been named --
others are slated for introduction if their offspring prove to be

Sharon McAllister

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