Monday, 6 June 2011

Have Hopniss, Am Happy

Seeing as I am already in possession of several hopniss varieties, I ought to rephrase that: more hopniss makes me happier. I'm talking about the pleasure I'm experiencing from sowing the seeds of northern adapted plants and savouring the resultant increase in the genetic diversity of my hopniss collection.  Aside from anything else, it's always exciting when seemingly inanimate seeds burst into life. These diminutive seedlings seem to be vigorous and healthy. In fact, they're actually a little too vigorous and are now spiralling (always anti-clockwise) out of control.  Untangling this lot could prove an intellectual challenge and it ought to sharpen my hand-eye coordination as well.

It's not the first time I've grown hopniss from seeds.  Back in the early 1990s, I obtained a batch from Bill Blackmon at the Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  They had themselves a serious breeding project, which was going great guns and was all set to catapult this plant into the mainstream when, horror of horrors, funding was withdrawn; Apios slithered back into the swamps of Louisiana and beneath the waters of oblivion.

To be honest, the Louisiana seedlings grew very poorly for me.  This is hardly surprising considering their provenance: more Clifton Chenier and crawdads than clotted cream and pasties. But the lure of a nitrogen fixing root crop proved too much and well, here I am again, sowing hopniss seeds and hoping for a different outcome. Madness - perhaps, but fun - certainly.

Unlike the LSU seeds, these are from plants in various parts of New England and therefore might be more suited to our climate. In fact, the "Deerfield River" accession was collected at what is currently the world's most northerly known location of wild diploid plants; this is a clean fifty miles further north of any other sites, near Charlemont MA and not far from the Vermont border. Thanks are due, once again, to Bryan Connolly, who very generously keeps me supplied with seeds and site information.   Triploid plants occur right up into Canada, but these are sterile, so present Radix with some problems when it comes to a breeding programme. They are, however, hardy and particularly vigorous, as polyploid plants often are.

As to these diploid seedlings, I have no idea as to whether their northerly origins will equip them any better for the rigours of our climate, but it might just make breeding better varieties a possibility. There's only one way to find out - so come on now hopniss and let the bon temps rouler.

3 comments:

Catofstripes said...

oh well done. I'm pleased for you. My single hopniss plant didn't show any signs of life at all this year until the last week of May, thought I'd lost it but it's up now. If any of your seedlings show promise I'd be happy to trial some here in Normandy.

Mark said...

Good news, the National Academy Press have made all their publications FREE to download as pdf's. They have not covered north american crops such Hopniss or Talet but they have covered Andean crops(>80Mb) and African crops, and microlivestock.
Talet had to be moved due to excessive lack of sunshine due to huge amounts of cloud and rain. Even with their tolerance to shade it was wee bit much, they are now doing well.

Rhizowen said...

Hi Catofstripes

If any show any promise, I will certainly let you know. How do they normally do for you in Normandy?


Thanks Mark - my dog-eared copy of Lost Crops of the Incas is due to fall apart any day now.....

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