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I am breeding an open pollinated landrace of cantaloupe on my farm in Paradise Utah. I am selecting mostly for muskmelon types with orange fleshed fruits and netted skin. Seeds are available to home gardeners, small-scale farmers, and cantaloupe breeders.Why?
- Commercial varieties of cantaloupe have never grown well for me because our nights are very cool, our days are super hot, the air is so dry, and the growing season is so short. By developing my own open pollinated landrace of cantaloupe I am working to insure that I have a reliable source of affordable seed that is especially adapted to growing on my farm and in Cache Valley.
- By growing my own seed on a small scale I am able to taste every melon, and only plant seed from the best of the best.
- If a new pest appears, or the climate changes there is a good chance that some individuals in the population will thrive under the new conditions.
- Producing my own variety of cantaloupe protects my farm and my customers from social, political, and economic problems.
In the 2009 growing season seed was saved from the sweetest, earliest maturing, pest resistant muskmelons that grew on my farm and on five of the neighboring farms. In the 2010 growing season this seed formed the basis of my breeding population. This population was planted alongside about 40 varieties that are famous for their sweet taste or early maturity. They were allowed to freely cross pollinate. Some fruits are round while others are oblong. The breeding program includes seed from the genetically diverse Long Island Seed Project's cantaloupe landrace. An additional 35 varieties of orange muskmelons were trialled during the 2011 growing season.
The earliest, best growing, sweetest tasting fruits are selected each year as seed stock for the following year. I call these seeds "Joseph's Best". Each year a small number of seeds from some new varieties are trialed next to the main cantaloupe patch. If they are exceptional their seed is incorporated into the best-landrace. If they are ho-hum then only their pollen is incorporated into the best-gene-pool. To avoid gene loss due to unusual growing conditions in a single year about 15% of planted seed is from 2 to 3 year old seed.
Seed is also saved and planted from melons that grow well enough in my garden to set seed, but are not early enough, or prolific enough, or tasty enough to make it into my best-genepool. These represent about 10% of the seed that I plant each year. They are grown to maintain genetic diversity and just in case something clever shows up in them with all the crossing that is going on.
To add interest and genetic diversity I am growing a hybrid swarm of Cucumis melo in which I am making open pollinated crosses between my orange cantaloupes and melons from the charentais group, the pocket melon group, the armenian cucumber group, and the honeydew/crenshaw group. In addition to about 30 named varieties, five C. melo landraces also contributed genetic diversity to this part of the project. The F2 offspring of some of these crosses may be incorporated into my orange muskmelon landrace. And some melons may emerge from the hybrid swarm as separate varieties to be stabilized.
Great Harvest in 2011
Harvested 30 baskets in 2011
As an example of how effective my project has been at developing a cantaloupe variety that thrives in my fields, the photos below were taken on the same day. The seeds were also planted on the same day a few feet from each other. Each photo shows one plant. The plant with prolific growth is from my breeding program. The other small plant is typical of how off-the-shelf cantaloupe seeds grow in my garden. This one well adapted plant produced more fruit than a 50 foot row of off-the-shelf cantaloupe.
Joseph's Best Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe not well adapted to my fields
To obtain seed samples send one silver dime to my post office box for each variety desired. That was the retail price of a packet of seeds in 1860 when my great-great-great grandmother started farming in Paradise. I'm still farming in the same village and asking the same price more than 150 years later. Include three dollars cash per shipment to cover the shipping costs. [Please, if you send anything other than paper put it in a padded or bubble envelope.] I am maintaining the following populations
I'd be really pleased if you return a dozen seeds from any exceptionally early or good tasting melons. I love donations or swaps for seeds of orange colored netted cantaloupes, and incorporate many of them into my landrace. I am looking for seeds from the following groups: Cantalupensis, spanspek, chito mango melon, conomon, makuwa.
- Joseph's Best Muskmelons: The best tasting, earliest maturing, and most productive muskmelons in my fields.
- Joseph's Diverse Muskmelons: Seed from muskmelons that grew well enough to produce viable seeds in about 90 frost free days. Includes seeds from the "Best" genepool.
- C. melo: Hybrid swarm. Extremely diverse. Many non-muskmelons.
My Other Landraces
Landrace garden crops
Blog: Mother Earth News -- Landrace Gardening.
Josephs Garden on MyFolia
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