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Thoughts on hybridizing (part 2)

  • Subject: [IGSROBIN] Thoughts on hybridizing (part 2)
  • From: "Roth, Barry" <BRoth@BROBECK.COM>
  • Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 17:04:32 -0700

(continuing ...)

The simple math of Mendelian genetics means that you may have to raise quite
a number of seedlings - even just to get two characters from different
parents to combine (which is often what beginning breeders see as a goal).

Many of the varieties in the trade today have complex hybrid parentage.
Therefore their offspring can widely vary among themselves - some being real
"dogs".  This, also, means that you may have to raise a large number of
seedlings to get one that comes near your goal.

There is no denying the fun of seeing one's progeny come into flower, and
perhaps propagating them, and giving cuttings to the neighbors.  But before
attempting to place a new cultivar in the trade, some critical thinking is
appropriate.  Does the new seedling add anything that is not already
available in the marketplace?  There are numerous cultivars available, not
all of which are worth growing.  If you develop, say, a nice single crimson
zonal, you should buy as many other single crimson zonals as you can locate
and grow them alongside yours, and then - being brutally honest now! -
evaluate whether yours really represents any improvement over the others.
Perhaps other hobbyists will help by growing your variety under their own
conditions and candidly reporting the results.

Any serious hybridizing program should include keeping good records.  This
helps you learn what's happening and helps you use the resulting seedlings
in future crosses.  Besides, we owe it to future breeders to let them know
the ancestry of our best products, so that they can (perhaps) improve on
them in turn.

Along with record keeping go procedures to ensure that you really know what
the parents of each seedling are.  These include (1) removing the anthers
from the seed parent before they open (to prevent self-pollination); (2)
using sterile forceps (or other tools) to transfer pollen, and sterilizing
or replacing them before moving on to another pollen parent; (3) removing
the petals of a pollinated flower (they will drop soon anyway if
fertilization takes place, and you don't want them attracting insects which
might bring extraneous pollen to the stigma; petals that hang on increase
the risk of botrytis); and (4) labeling as necessary.  I devised small,
lightweight labels from a scrap of plastic tied around the pedicel of each
pollinated flower with a strand of picture wire, each label stating the
pollen parent and date the cross was made.

This is as good a point to stop as any, before I wear out my welcome.

Barry Roth

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