Sunday, September 11, 2011

Exciting Groundnut update: Flowering LSU variety!

I recently made the long trip across Washington state from WSU to my parent's in the Chehalis Valley and was able to see the results of many of the various experiments I had planted in the spring. I'll be posting on them over the next few weeks, but I wanted to post something interesting I noticed with my groundnut plants.

Before I begin, I should state that I'm not 100% confident this is the case, but I'm near certain it is.

Last year, I planted tubers of an LSU domesticated groundnut variety and a non-LSU northern climate adapted variety (from Frank Kiersbilck) in the same circular bed. I planted them on different sides, not thinking about how groundnut can vine and potentially travel underground.

This year, plants came up on both sides of the circular bed, where I had planted the separate varieties the year before (this was the second year of being in the ground). Nothing came up in the middle of the circular bed, so I'm fairly confident they didn't travel much, if at all.

So, onto the exciting part: as of about a week ago, nearly all of my groundnut plants are flowering. On both sides of the planter, which would include both the northernly-adapted variety (which have flowered before) and the LSU variety. LSU varieties, from what I've heard and seen so far from growing them myself, don't flower this far north. But this one is.

Here's a photo of one of the flowers:

To contrast, here's a flower from the more northernly-adapted variety that flowered last year in its first year it the ground. As you can see, the flowers are more developed:

So, how'd this happen? A few reasons, I believe. First, this is the second year for these plants, so they were already established and may have had more energy in order to flower. The second, and I think biggest reason is that the plants were water stressed. I haven't been able to water them, as I live on the other side of the state, and the garden sprinkler that was watering them wasn't hitting them enough. I noticed some dried foliage on the plants and my mother informed me the plants looked rather wilty at one point in the season.

I think that might have been enough to cause it to flower. Whether it would produce seed is another question; I doubt it'd be hot enough here in the summer to get that far, but potentially in a heated greenhouse, it might. Groundnut is self-incompatible and I suspect the more northern adapted variety might be a triploid, as many from the northern part of groundnut's distribution range are. Considering that's the only other flowering variety I have, any crossing this year would likely be unsuccessful. Next year though, I have some more LSU varieties which I plan on trying a little water stressing out on. Perhaps I can induce flowering in them and see if I can get any seed forming.

Like I said before, I'm 99% sure that I have plants of the LSU variety flowering. Unless the LSU variety plants from last year died, and the northernly-adapted variety traveled underground across the plots coming up in the same spot that the LSU variety plants were and not coming up anywhere else in the plot, I'm confident that the LSU variety is flowering.

This opens up in the exciting possibility (granted - only if seed can managed to be produced) of breeding groundnut here in the Northwest and combining the positive aspects of the LSU varieties (larger tuber size and consolidated tubers) with diploid northern varieties from New England, which would likely have greater climactic adaptation to the Northwest.


  1. Interesting

    I'm sure a combination of diploid northern with diploid southern apios is a route worth following. Good luck! I lost my LSU variety a few years ago. It never flowered in the several years I had it, but then again it was never stressed by lack of rainfall.

  2. I wonder whether Dr Morales would like to send me some tubers too :) Maybe I should ask him.