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Open bean flower, ready for pollination

From Asturias in northern Spain, I got a nice tasty big white dry pole bean. But it’s a bit late, and for that reason not prolific in my garden. I’ve tried three varieties of this Asturian bean, none of them full-fill my wishes. Two of them I had sent directly from a gardener in Asturias. It’s the earliest varieties they have in Asturias.
The only way ahead is to breed my own pole bean of this type.

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Bean Fabada da Asturias

Fabada da Asturias was the first pole bean of this type that I tried in my garden. I got it from Gerhard Bohl, Germany. Since I had Andecha, which is also a pole bean, with even bigger white seeds, from Anselmo in Asturias.

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Bean Andecha

What cultivars should I cross them with? It should of course be an early bean, as the only thing I’m unhappy with is that they are late maturing.
An obvious choice could be an early bush bean, but I want a pole bean. Pole beans yield so much more than bush beans. In my garden, I can easily find poles to support the beans.
Therefore I will cross to early maturing pole beans that do well in my garden.

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Bean Carré de Caen

Pole bean Carré de Caen proved to do well in the wet summer last year. It grew, flourished and set lots of beans almost endlessly. It has some similarity to the Asturian beans, being white and delicious, but the beans are very small. This I will use for crossing.

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Bean Chabarowsk

Pole bean Chabarovsk grows really well in my garden, and is the first pole bean to ripen dry beans every year. It is a borlotto-type, but because of its earliness I will use it for crossing.

Normally beans self-pollinate before the flower opens. Therefore I have to pollinate before the flower opens. But when? I looked it up in Carop Deppes book “Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties”. She is not sure, but suggest beans behave like peas in this matter. Mother-plant flower must be quite undeveloped and small. Father-plant flower opened naturally the same day.

Both stigma and stamens are tightly wrapped in a conch-like spiral of the lower petals, the keel. As long as the stigma and stamens are sitting inside the keel, it is impossible to cross them. The keel has to be removed. I ruined three flowers learning how to do it. The conch-like keel is visible in the second image from the top (Fabada da Asturias). In the top image the keel has been twisted out of the keel.
Of course it is even more difficult with the mother-plant’s flowers, because they must remain on the plant. I pulled accidentally the flower of the plant several times – that makes no good cross. But even that I learned.

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Bean flower stigmas hooked together

First the father-flower is prepared, since pollen is more robust than the stigma. Pollen is able to withstand a trip around the neighbourhood in bodily hairs on a bee! When both flowers are ready, there are several possibilities. Either the usual hand pollination, transferring the pollen directly from the stamens to the stigmas. In beans, usually self-pollinating, it’s possible use the pollen attached to the father-flower’s stigma. Stigmas ends in a spiral, so they readily hook together. I wonder if the pollen is released as the father-flower’s stigma dry out and wilt? Carol Deppe writes, that this hooking method is significantly more successful than the usual hand pollination. I played safe, used the stamens as brushes to paint a miniature of yellow on the stigma, before I hooked up the two stigmas.

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The pollinated bean flowers
A: Carré de Caen x Andecha
C: Andecha x Chabarowsk
F: Chabarowsk x Fabada da Asturias

To protect the stigma and style from drying out in the summer sun, I put masking tape around. Note that the tape adheres to the remnants of the petals, but don’t touch the sepals. The tape hopefully come off along with the petals when the pod grows lengthwise. If the tape is adhering to the sepals, the tender pods may break when growing. Another bit of masking tape is sitting on the pedicel so it does not fall off with the flower. It must indicate that this flower is crossed. Finally, I write a letter with a waterproof pen on the pedicel tape, and break of any older flowers in the same cluster, so they do not take the all energy resulting in the abortion of my cross.
Now I can just wait and pray, and hope to see the pod develop in a week or so. Nothing more to do before harvest.


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Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ Vicia faba

‘Crimson Flowered’ is a very old heirloom. Red more about it at Daughter of the Soil.

This season I have planted a single seed of the variety ‘Crimson Flowered’ into my breeding project for purple seeded fava. Crimson Flowered has iridiscent green seeds. I want to combine the beautiful red flower with the purple seeds of my breeding project. It’s up to the bumblebees to do the pollination, the are better at it than I.

Next year I expect a few plants with flowers of a muddy color. That will be the plants resulting from crosses between Crimson Flowered and my purple seeded material. I will be exited to see how many (if any) red flowers that will show in two years, and if any of them will have purple seeds?

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Roottrainer with dwarf selection of purple seeded fava bean. Each row contains 4 plants from one unique motherplant

This year I decided it was time to separate dwarf plant from tall plants. To have the dwarf plants flower before the tall plants, I decided to start them in a roottrainer. I never tried a roottrainer before, but it is supposedly supporting better root development. I thought that big seeds would favor a special treatment. Ordinary trays probably would retard the root growth. Only one seed out of 28 didn’t sprout.

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Dwarf selection of purple seeded fava bean. Each pot/box contains plants from a single motherplant.

Today I have transplanted to pots or boxes. Some plants are taller than others. Maybe the tall plants are tall because they were first to sprout, or maybe they are not dwarf, and thus shall not be allowed to set seeds or pollinate other plants. I will just wait and see how tall they grow. As long as I’m in doubt, I will remove any flowerbuds, and if they grow tall I can remove them completely.

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Fieldpea ‘Biskopens gråært’

At the seed meeting there was a major seed exchange on the first evening (and during breaks the following days) I would like to introduce some of my new friends.

‘Biskopens gråært’ is one of the rare solid purple seeded pea varieties. It is a greypea, the oldfashioned fieldpea being a stable food in northern Europe in very old times. Now with famine well at distance the deserve a revival. I hope a famous chef will take courage to dicover it and serve it in modern ways. We have saved a treasure of these old peas.
This particular greypea is a swedish heirloom, passed on by SESAM, the swedish seed savers.

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Russian heirloom ‘Goroh’

The pea ‘Goroh’ is an old russian heirloom from Kalmutskaya region in Russia. It has white flowers and rather small round green seeds, drying yellow. Originally from Dr. Tatiana Veronina (Moscow), via Seed Savers Exchange and a norwegian seed saver to Denmark. It can be eaten both as a snowpea and as a delicious and quickly boiling soup pea.

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Wax pole bean ‘Gold of Bacau’

This wax pole bean has long broad yellow pods, and is an early romano-type. It’s an heirloom from the Bacau in northern Romania, passing Seed Savers Exchange on its route to Denmark. It’s said to have a gorgous taste, I look forward to the season.

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Russian bush drybean ‘Bean 04-2006′

UPDATE february 2011 – I had a look in the original seedsamples, and noticed, that this and the following photo had been misplaced, now they show the correct cultivar.

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Russian bush drybean ‘Bean 05-2006′

These two russian heirlooms Frøsamlerne has got from Lothar Juffa in East Friesland, Germany. They originates from volga-german families, settled near Omsk in Sibiria. Zarina Katharina the Great called in a lot of german peasants to settle on land she gave them on the Volga river. Later Staling executed a lot of them and resettled the rest in Sibiria, where they have lived since.
Both are early and prolific drybeans, the latter a bit earlier and slightly taller. I’m about to develop a weakness for these Volga-german varieties, as I have only good experiences with them – they have stand the test of time and hardship.

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Now I have found pictures from 2006 and added them in the post:

Purple Fava Bean, one of my breeding projects

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2007 purple seeds of fava bean.

In autumn 2003 I recieved 10 seeds of ‘Estnisk Fava’ from a seedsaver in Sweden.

By the harvest 2004 I realised that it would be impossible for me to maintain the genetic balance in the highly variable landrace of favabean, since I started out with only 10 seeds, and no knowledge of this specific landrace. Also I didn’t know if the seeds had been selected for color (variation) before i had them. I could not honestly tell others, that what I am growing is true ‘Estnisk Fava’. This fact on the other side presented a freedom to select according to my own will, just remembering to call it something else.

I set the goal to create a breed with purple seeds.

In 2004 I also had a dwarf fava ‘The Sutton’ in my garden. Later it appear to have crossed in to my young breeding project.

In 2005 I sow the 9 purple seeds harvested the year before. The rest of the seeds (not purples) we cooked. From these 9 seeds 5 plants had purple seeds in variable amounts and sizes, and 4 plants had green seeds with black eyes, extremely identical in colour and size.

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2005 The harvest of purple seeds, sorted by motherplant. Apart from these, 4 plants had green seeds with black eyes.

Because of limited space, I didn’t sow all seeds, but some seeds from alle plants, and then more from plant 2 and 6, since they made the best harvest by weight. From plant 6 I sowes alle the seeds, since they had a good size

2006 I sowed seeds out from all plants with purple seeds, but planted extra seeds from the better plants. This year the rate of green seeds decreased from aprox. 50% to aprox. 25% this year. It’s sliding the right way, and I conclude that the gene for purple seeds is dominant to green color. Now I must act carefully to insure it will be an attractive new varity. Purple seeds alone is not enough to me.

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2006 Seeds after motherplants 2A to 2E

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2006 Seeds after motherplants 3A to 3B

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2006 Seeds after motherplants 4A to 4F

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2006 Seeds after motherplants 5A to 5B

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2006 Seeds after motherplants 6A to 6F

A few dwarfed plants showed up in the motherplant 6 line.

A few dwarf plants showed up in the motherplant 6 lineage two years after the cross took place, indicating the dwarfness to be recessive to normal height. I realise, that the cross has taken place, and that I’m not making a selection of ‘Estnisk Fava’, but the busy humblebees has brought genes for ‘The Sutton’ into the material. Interesting – but now I decide if I like or not the dwarfness. Decision making is the most important part of plantbreeding. What is best depends on the eyes – will I have the same eyes in 5 years as today?
I decide to bring the dwarf gene in to future generations, later seperating it or roughing it out. At this point I want to nurse the genetic variation for future recombination.

2006 is also the year I realise that ‘Estnisk Fava’ is a swedification of ‘Estisk Fava’ collected in Estonia by Lila Towl, chaiman of Frøsamlerne, the danish seed savers.

In 2007 I sow out, so 4 of 5 plants from 2004 is still represented in the material. No green seeds are allowed. More seeds are sown from attractive motherplants. You could say I deliberately slow down the selection process. It’s a technique to end up with a more favorable strain in the end of the process, by balancing selection and variation.

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2007 Front plants have inherited the dwarfness from ‘The Sutton’ and purple seeds from ‘Estisk Fava’.

This year I’ve registred several treats of the 40 plants I will be selecting the next generation from.
My registration of 40 fava plants for breeding
Coding under the following pictures refer to this list. First parentplants name, ex. 6A, followed by plant number, ex. 1. So 6A1 is plant 1 with the motherplant 6a, witch again had the motherplant 6, seed in the picture from 2005.

After thinking, I’ve decided it’s time to grow a seperate dwarf line. They could be usefull potgrown in small gardens and on patios. I can possibly isolate them in the greenhouse or with netting. Growing them in pots would also avoid pods getting in contact with the ground, with risk of rotting.

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2007 Here are the seeds of the dwarf plants selected for breeding, top left 6A1, 6A3, 6B4, bottom left 6B7, 6C32 og 6C40.

Not all the dwarfs are deep purple, and one had only a small harvest, but the latter is very dwarf (20cm), but again I want more variation before a strong selection.

Among the tall plants I’ve selected for a good harvest, large seeds and purple seeds. I’ve decided to let a single greenseeded plant continue into next generation because it resprouts so well with pods. It is a treat wich could lead to a variety with a very long harvest period. A treat wanted by private gardeners favoring eating fresh favaseeds on a daily basis during summer. Out of genetic and aesthetic curiosness I will introduce a plant of crimson flowered ‘Crimson’, to learn if I can have red flowers and pruple seeds in my material. It might take some years to se a result of this, but I’m only happy waiting.

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2007 Tall purple fava, top left 5A9, 5A10, 5A11, bottom left 6D13, 6D14 og 6E15.

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2007 Tall purple fava, top left 3A20, 2A27, bottom left 2B29 og 2B30.

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2007 Tall purple fava, top left 6C34, 6C36, bottom left 6C37 og 6C39. a one euro coin in middle.

In the next years I still expect to have some plants with green seeds in every generation. It’s the price I pay to have better resprouting and introducing red flowers. With the latter treat I must be alert, and notice if the trait for purple seeds work different than the trait for greens seeds. Purple seeds and red flowers are different ways of expressing anthocyanins in the plant tissues.

Now is the time to thank the busy bumblebees. Without them it would be troublesome to cross favabeans. Thank you smalle friends, see you when spring comes again.

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