Production Of New Varieties





Besides the gratification that always accompanies the growing of plants,

there is in plant breeding the promise that the progeny will in some way

be better than the parent, and there is the certainty that when a stable

variety of undoubted merit has been produced it can be sold to an

enterprising seedsman for general distribution. In this way the amateur

may become a public benefactor, reap the just reward of his labors and

keep his memory green!



The production of new varieties of plants is a much simpler process than

is commonly supposed. It consists far more in selecting and propagating

the best specimens than in any so-called "breeding." With the majority

of the herbs this is the most likely direction in which to seek success.



Suppose we have sown a packet of parsley seed and we have five thousand

seedlings. Among these a lot will be so weak that we will naturally

pass them by when we are choosing plantlets to put in our garden beds.

Here is the first and simplest kind of selection. By this means, and by

not having space for a great number of plants in the garden, we probably

get rid of 80 per cent of the seedlings--almost surely the least

desirable ones.



Suppose we have transplanted 1,000 seedlings where they are to grow and

produce leaves for sale or home use. Among these, provided the seed has

been good and true, at least 90 per cent will be about alike in

appearance, productivity and otherwise. The remaining plants may show

variations so striking as to attract attention. Some may be tall and

scraggly, some may be small and puny; others may be light green, still

others dark green; and so on. But there may be one or two plants that

stand out conspicuously as the best of the whole lot. These are the ones

to mark with a stake so they will not be molested when the crop is being

gathered and so they will attain their fullest development.



These best plants, and only these, should then be chosen as the seed

bearers. No others should be allowed even to produce flowers. When the

seed has ripened, that from each plant should be kept separate during

the curing process described elsewhere. And when spring comes again,

each lot of seed should be sown by itself. When the seedlings are

transplanted, they should be kept apart and labeled No. 1, No. 2, No. 3,

etc., so the progeny of each parent plant can be known and its history

kept.



The process of selecting the seedlings the second year is the same as in

the first; the best are given preference, when being transplanted. In

the beds all sorts of variations even more pronounced than the first

year may be expected. The effort with the seedlings derived from each

parent plant should be to find the plants that most closely resemble

their own parents, and to manage these just as the parents were managed.

No other should be allowed to flower.



This process is to be continued from year to year. If the selection is

carefully made, the grower will soon rejoice, because he will observe a

larger and a larger number of plants approaching the type of plant he

has been selecting for. In time practically the whole plantation will be

coming "true to type," and he will have developed a new variety. If his

ideal is such as to appeal to the practical man--the man who grows

parsley for money--and if the variety is superior to varieties already

grown, the originator will have no difficulty in disposing of his stock

of seed and plants, if he so desires, to a seedsman, who will gladly pay

a round price in order to have exclusive control of the "new creation."

Or he may contract with a seedsman to grow seed of the new variety for

sale to the trade.



It may be said, further, that new varieties may be produced by placing

the pollen from the flowers of one plant upon the pistils in the

flowers of another and then covering the plant with fine gauze to keep

insects out. With the herbs, however, this method seems hardly worth

while, because the flowers are as a rule very small and the work

necessarily finicky, and because there are already so few varieties of

most species that the operation may be left to the activities of

insects. It is for this reason, however, that none but the choicest

plants should be allowed to bloom, so none but desirable pollen may

reach and fertilize the flowers of the plants to be used as seed

producers.





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