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
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
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