In January 2005, as part of Tourne-Sol farm’s very first seed order, I ordered some Purple Top White Globe turnip seeds. The seed was dirt cheap – about $5/lb. Since we only grow a handful of rows of this turnip every year, we still have some of that original pound of seed left, and it still has a high germination rate. As such this turnip has never been high on my seed-saving priorities.
During the spring of 2009, we had a lot of beautiful turnips in the cold room. On a whim, I decided to plant some out for seed. (Last post I wrote about saving turnip seed.) I’ve been offering the turnip seed I saved in our seed catalog; but when we seed in the field, we’ve been using both the original bought seed and our seed without paying attention to which rows were which.
This year, Emily grew out a row of the bought seed beside a row of our seed. When she started harvesting the turnips, she came and found me to show me them.
There was a noticeable difference between the turnips in both rows. The turnips from our seed had a more vivid purple top and much smoother skin than the turnips from the bought seed. Our seed had produced much nicer turnips.
The two turnips on the left are from our seed and the two on the right are from bought seed.
Why was there a difference?
I imagine that little effort was put into selecting the roots for seed that would only sell for $5 a pound.
When I took the time to choose the best roots for seed, I eliminated some unfavorable gene combinations thus improving the variety.
Where to go from here?
Previously, I have seen differences comparing plants grown from seed we’ve saved with those grown from the original seed – better cold and disease resistance, spicier hot peppers, changes in leaf shape or color. But the difference in the turnips really struck me because I hadn’t seen the previous seed as inferior. In fact, I hadn’t really paid much attention to them because we grow so few every year. But now I wonder what other crops we can quickly improve.
This change was after one generation of simply choosing what I liked. Imagine what 2-3 generations of selection can do? Or even 10-20 generations?
Have any of you noticed similar improvements in varieties you save seed of?