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High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds

Report from the High Mowing Breeding & Production Fields: Our Current Breeding Projects - Jodi Lew-Smith, Ph.D - Director of Research & Production

Organic Sweet Corn TrialsOrganic Sweet Corn
Last year was the start of our sweet corn breeding project.  We began by making test crosses between finished inbred lines from the University of Wisconsin sweet corn breeding program to determine which combinations would produce a superior hybrid offspring. This year we grew out all those test crosses and also the inbred lines once more, and were awed by the power of cross-breeding in corn: the hybrid offspring of the test crosses are truly magnificent. They’re not only huge and vigorous, but the crosses with the earliest inbred females are also really early to tassel and silk. In fact the first of them will be ready to harvest and taste the first week of August. (In good conscience I have to confess that they’re this early in part because we grew them on black plastic, which is our easiest method for everything in the breeding plot). We’re hopeful that after this season we will have an early-season and later-season selection for both bi-color and yellow sweet corn hybrids.

Organic Squash
In another of our breeding projects, for squash, we are very pleased with this year’s material and the number of pollinations we’ve been able to get with all the good weather we’ve had. The butternuts are looking excellent so far, and we’re especially pleased with the bi-color butternuts from Cornell, all of which germinated well (unlike last year) and then flowered and set fruit just on schedule with everything else. Last year the mid-sized bi-colors were particularly slow and late, only flowering after everything else was nearly finished. I’m not sure whether the difference is due to the greater heat we’ve had this year or whether the small number of fruit we were able to finish last year then gave rise to plants that were selected for greater earliness. Now the question is just whether these lines will be early enough on a year that doesn’t have the wondrous heat that we’ve had this year.

Organic Zucchini
For zucchini, we’ve completed the work on a hybrid medium green zucchini we’ll release next year as “Cha-Ching F1,” and now we’re working on development of both PMT and spineless lines. We’ve got some good material in the plot and I’m hopeful these will come right along. We’re lucky in being able to work with zucchini without the bacterial diseases that make it difficult to work with further south. We’re also working on some yellow summer squash material, but in truth even the commercial hybrids seem so ill-behaved (i.e. spiny and multi-branched) that I don’t feel particularly excited about that material. Our preference would be to license glabrous (i.e. spineless) material from Brent Loy at UNH, whenever that becomes available.

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