I've been spending a lot of time studying corns this year (that's nothing new), I should elaborate on that, other corn options.
Particularly while working on Astronomy Domine, it's various selections, as well as new crosses I have been also working on a new Dent Corn variety called Amanda Palmer (yeah, after the infamous Dresden Dolls lead singer) for use as a feed for my poultry flock as well as for human consumption and for sale as an ornamental or wildlife type feed. There are a lot of criteria that must be met.
-Stalk Strenght, if it lodges it's worthless in the midwest.
-Productivity, mass selection is getting me where I want to go
-Protein, 8-13% in various selections at the moment
-Looks, if I'm going to sell secondaries as human food or ornamental stock it's got to look nice, the germplasm that I have used in breeding has met my expectations and exceeded them.
-Tolerance to Stewards Wilt as well as Rust of which I've not yet had any issue (knocks on wood)
-Good, tight all encompassing husk. This is necessary to keep corn insects out.
-Standability, important to me because all of this corn (usually about 3 acres) will have to be harvested by hand which means that sometimes it stays in the field a bit longer than reccomended
-Storability, getting where I want, Slowly.
At first, like with Astronomy Domine, I was ussing reccurent mass selection, now days I have converted to Ear To Row selection, a method which works much better at increasing yeilds and slecting for traits which we want/need. The varieties that were included in the original genepool of this material are
-Daemon Morgan's Kentucky Butcher (the source of the large kernal and chinmark traits I am selecting for)
-Cherokee White Eagle
-Boone County white
-Lancaster Sure Crop
-Reids Yellow Dent
All of these varieties are near the exact same DTM and plant types and the yield is very similar as well, it would have certainly have been easier just to rely on one of these varieties, but no individual accession met all my needs and what fun would it be to rely on an old standby when I can breed something new and innovative for both myself and for others. This new genepool/synthetic/composite will be available from Face Of The Earth Seed company when it launches in Fall of 2010
Other areas of corn interest now days I can attribute directly to my friends Alan Kapuler and Carol Deppe who have really inspired me to look into alternative type corn crops for my health (which I am trying to improve, attempting to quit smoking as we speak and placing an order for a bicycle) and the health of my parents as well as creating a niche market for corn of a type other than sweet in the local area.
As an example. I have never in the past had much of an itnerest in parched corns, locally at historical fairs they usually use sweet corns for parching, not a ton of flavor but covered with a ton of salt, increadibly unhealthy and not very tasty. I have been missing out. True parch corns are all flour corns with a soft texture and sweet/almost nutty flavor making them worth seeking out and introducing to a wider audience, there also hasn't been a ton of breeding work done in this area which leaves the opporotunity open for developing novel new germplasm lines. I recently placed an order for a 1/2 pound of Supai Parch which was selected by Kapuler and Deppe, this will give me a heads up on my breeding by giving me a fixed variety for home use and for sale at market as an alternative crop, sure I'll have to develop a market and educate about parch type corns, but that's part of the fun. Plus supai apparently makes a great flour as well. Many flour corns were bred and maintained by the Native Americans (along with dents and flints.) and Kapuler and Deppe grew out several of them back in the mid 90's, initially selecting and increasing 8 of them.
I am also playing around a bit with Painted Mountain corn and Bear Island Flint for various reasons, some of which detailed below.
I am thankful to friends at Homegrown Goodness who have helped me to track down some painted mountain corn, it is greatly appreciated.
A few notes about selective breeding and the project I am working on regarding painted mountain.
One reason for seeking out such early germplasm for a climate such as mine in Southern Indiana where we can actually grow really long season corns is to hedge bets against climate change (no, not supposed global warming) such as was experienced in 1816 via the year without a summer. Feeding ourselves and our livestock will be of utmost importance.
I have in the past grown painted mountain, mostly for fun, but I haven't been particular about selecting and as such I needed some more germplasm and for that I think my friends.
While speaking with Carol Deppe we talked a lot about selective breeding and how one genetically dierse variety can become many individual varieties, we also talked a lot about the cullinary quality of vegetable varieties and targeted breeding regarding cullinary quality, her insights in this are were particularly revealing and I look forward to reading her new book, the section on potatoes alone will deal with a lot of Tom Wagners varieties and their various uses and I think will come in handy for many of our friends here.
Regarding corn she revealed to me that the Alleurone color, pericarp color, and kernel color in general can have a lot of influence on taste. This is something I have picked up on in the past and we discussed a bit the "muddy" flavor that painted mountain tends to impart. Carol herself has been working with Abernaki (Roy's Calicas?) corn for a few years selecting individual color lines with high cullinary quality which she should be releasing in conjunction with her book this August. This comes in handy for many reasons, for one these varieties could be grown in blocks side by side and still be maintained,even with minimal crossign, as individual varieties, or even as one whole varieties, in other words your not going to change the DTM or agronomics of the crop through a bit of crossing between the four individual lines, my plan is to do the same thing with painted mountain, selecting for flower and hard meal properties as well as parching ability (should it be present in the crop). Eventually I plan to release four-six varieties from painted mountain alone.
At the same time I will be evaluating Bear Island for the same qualities.
I also placed an order for some Mandan and Hopi germplasm of flour types via the USDA GRIN system recently for breeding/selection material.
This of course coincides with my collection from Grin of some SE+ or EH sweet corn inbreds for developing some SE varieties for the home garderner. I also pulled out a few Supersweet or SH2 varieties for future work.
Anyhow, if you have some time this week I suggest checking out Corn among the indians of the upper Missouri
located Here (blogger still won't let me link for some reason)