Saturday, December 5, 2015


Yesterday was a busy day and the internet connectivity reeked.  Hence the lack of a post.


I referenced an essay by Gene Logdsdon in the post about global climate change.  In that rant, I went off on a tangent about house size.

The main point of Gene's essay is that farmers have always had to cope with flaky weather.  Historically, there have been some crops that are more resilient to unpredictable weather than others.  Gene points specifically to hay/forage as one of those super crops.  Of course, today, we can add haylage to the list.  Haylage is incompletely dried hay that is stuffed into airtight bags or into huge bunkers and allowed to ferment like grass/alfalfa sauerkraut, thus armoring it against wet weather during the harvest period.

The reason forage is a super crop is because plants are pre-programmed to develop in a certain way.  The seed sprouts, the plant extends and develops a canopy, the plant photosynthesizes and stores up reserves, the plant flowers and, finally if all goes well, the plant sets and matures seeds/fruit.  Hay/forage is "canopy" which is early in the order.  Forage is harvested before the crop must negotiate the long, hazardous path to seeds/fruit.

As a group, cole crops or brassicas are also "super crops" for the same reasons.  The only thing that seems to deter kale is drought...and then it sulks.  All pictures taken outdoors on December 4, 2015 in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

I have been taking my parents dinner on Fridays.  Somewhere they heard that kale is good for eye health.  Kale is their vegetable of choice.  Consequently, I have been harvesting kale on a steady basis and have been looking at many plants.  They show much variation.  Yesterday I selected a few plant to save for seed.

You have to realize that all of this kale volunteered.  These are a genetic swarm of seedlings of seedlings from a bag of deer "brassica" food plot seed mix.  That package listed the cultivar as Premier
Premier - Breeder: Virginia Agric. Exp. Sta. Characteristics: Siberian kale; developed as open pollinated selection out of Dwarf Siberian, appearance is rape kale type, possibly B. napus, smooth, serrated leaves, deep green to blue-green color, long standing kale, slow to bolt in the spring following fall planting. 1983.-  Source of description

This is a very large, bushy plant.  It has close internodes (shown in next picture) and was pushing side buds almost like Brussel Sprouts.  She will be my "Mama" plant.  Color distorted by auto-correct.
"Dwarf" refers to height, not overall size.  "Dwarf" kale has leaf stalks that are close together.  This is a huge plant...but is much shorter than her sisters.
Below the shovel is a "standard", non-dwarf kale plant.  The base of plant in lower left corner of photo, top on right side of photo.   Shovel included in picture for size reference.  The tall plants are more vulnerable to blowing over.
Close up of the crown of the future "Mama" plant showing A.) Closely spaced leaf stalks, B.) Buds pushing like little Brussel Sprouts, C.) Heavy aphid infestation.
Many aphids can reproduce parthenogenetically, AKA: virgin birth, asexually.  I wonder if that gives them an advantage vis-à-vis their predators in colder weather.  I have started to notice aphids hiding in the crinkles of the kale leaves.  There are none on the smooth leaved plants.  I suspect it is because the smooth leaves offer no place for them to hide from the birds and the weather.  That makes smooth leaves a desirable feature for insect free, cool weather harvests.

This is what a smooth leaved selection looks like.  About five percent of the population is smooth leaved.
My plan is to encourage some smooth leaved selections to pollinate with the high vigor, short interstem selection shown at the top.

"Encouraging" entails heaping dirt around the stem so at least the bottom portion of the plant makes it through the winter.  The three best looking smooth stemmed selections that survive the winter will be moved near the vigorous selection after they all wintered-in-place.  Three pollen sources will be used to delay the effects of inbreeding depression.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.