Ulluco is a plant with a demographic challenge. As far as we know, all of the existing ulluco varieties are old. I haven’t seen any studies that attempt to determine the age of the major cultivars, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could be hundreds of generations old. It probably isn’t even unthinkable that they could be part of an asexually propagated line going back more than a thousand generations.
We broke that chain this year, having now gotten 10 seedlings from true ulluco seed (plus two more grown by my friend Philip from our seed).
And now we have taken the second step on what will hopefully be a long and productive journey:
This is the first ulluco seed collected from one of our seedlings. It is the cross OC-15-CB7x01 x OC-15-CB7x02; that is, a flower on the first of our ulluco seedlings hand pollinated with pollen from our second seedling. Contained within is the possibility of a second generation of ulluco from seed.
So far, our seedlings have not proven to be any better at setting seed than the existing clones. Actually, that is not strictly true; more than half of our clones have never set a seed here. Compared to the clones that do set seed though, our seedlings aren’t standing out from the crowd. The champion seed producing variety BK10425.2 is forming quite a few seeds right now, while the rest are just beginning to form one or two per plant.
It has been a tough year for ulluco so far. It has been freakishly warm and dry for the coast of Washington and the ulluco doesn’t like those conditions. Ulluco thrives in foggy weather, but we haven’t seen much fog this year. Hopefully that will change as we move into fall and the rate of seed formation will increase.
The great hope is that we will find an improved germination rate in these second generation seeds. Based on our results so far, there is roughly a 1% chance of germination in 1st generation seed, but I think there is a good possibility that the germination rate in the second generation will be much better. We’ll know in about eight months!