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I am breeding an open pollinated landrace of cantaloupes 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 promiscously 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 and cantaloupes 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. Susan Oliverson of Cache Valley Idaho collaborated closely with me on this project as we selected for varieties that thrive in our valley.
The earliest, best growing, sweetest tasting fruits were selected each year as seed stock for the following year. Each year a small number of seeds from one or a few 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. From these seeds I may one day develop sister landraces with traits like huge fruits, or 'bush' growth habit.
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, dated 1964 or earlier, 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. I accept other denominations of silver coins dated 1964 or earlier, and modern silver eagles that are 0.999 fine. Include four 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, or tape dimes securely to a piece of cardstock inside an envelope.]
Seeds from Lofthouse-Oliverson Landrace Muskmelon are currently available under the terms of The Open Source Seed Initiative Pledge: You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.
My Other Landraces
Landrace garden crops
Blog: Mother Earth News -- Landrace Gardening.
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Photos/Writing by Joseph Lofthouse by Joseph Lofthouse are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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