2023 Little Easy Bean Network - Beans Beyond The Colors Of A Rainbow

heirloomgal

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Every year I have an internal debate with myself on the number of varieties per species to grow with the goal of preserving the chosen varieties. Given a commonly accepted recommendation of at least 10 plants per variety and 20 feet between varieties for common beans, how does one manage to preserve over 120 varieties per season? Do you bag blossoms/plants? Do you find much crossing in the next season's grow-outs? I've always planted taking the isolation distance & population size recommendations into account which then calls for careful mapping; it'd sure make it easier if it turns out 3-6 plants per variety next to each other is enough to maintain a variety's genetics season after season. Thoughts? TIA.
My personal belief and experience has been that the commonly accepted recommendations fail entirely to take into account the diversity that exists within the circumstances that people garden in. The vast majority of beans that I've grown in the last 3 years were from home gardener's, some of whom do isolation distances and some who don't and without a doubt you can get crosses in both groups. Even with highly isolated plants. But crosses are still rather rare for me in acquired seed; in 400-450 plants I might see 2 plants that don't come true, even in the many network beans I've grown.

Isolation distances only provide as much protection as a bee can fly, and they can certainly fly quite a ways. So, purity has much more to do with your pollinators than any distance that can be thought up. Some people have more pollinators, some less, and that will be the ultimate determination for crossings - much more so that how far apart you plant things.

In my garden I actively discourage flying things that could cause me problems - no borage, no more lamb's ears, etc. Only mildly attractive plants that will distract bees if they do appear. I also garden against a large expanse of wilderness, which I believe helps. I don't garden in an open agricultural area, which I consider a plus. I can count on one hand how many home grown crosses I've seen - one pole bean and a few cherry tomatoes, and I have lots in my collection. Could there be crosses hidden in my cache of seeds? Maybe. But of the many, many packets I've mailed out these last 2 years I've never heard back about a cross - except for @Branching Out here on the forum, who found a few black seeds in some Rio Zape beans. And I'm not sure if that is due to the variable genetics of that bean, or if it was indeed a true cross. If it is a cross it's only the second one in years, and I consider that good odds.

That said, I do isolate by growth type because @Bluejay77 prefers his growers to do that, but I also like the order of that system. I am also presently avoiding growing runner beans, because they do draw more pollinators than I'm comfortable with. I think before people limit themselves they need to experiment and see if those distances really do apply to their growing conditions, because they may not. If I had limited myself to those iso recommendations I'd never have the collection I do today.
 

flowerbug

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...Thoughts? TIA.

while i do want to maintain a variety within the definition of it as it was given to me i have not practiced isolation techniques here. what i have found so far is that beans sold to me or given as samples can have crosses, etc. within them so i don't get true to type results for all plantings. sometimes i cull plants and other times i find interesting outcrosses, mutations or reversions to parental types.

without being able to sequence a large number of beans from a variety i may not really be able to tell what has happened nor can i realistically tell what amount of genetic diversity is present within a sample or how many plants i'd then need to plant to maintain that diversity.

for me it has been the bees doing crosses and that i'm quite happy to find them especially if they are giving me results i'm after. since i try to plant as many beans as possible it may still take me several years to get those crosses to show up as new seed coat patterns. then it may take several more years to evaluate them and get them to become stable enough.

this year i think the bees may be absent for crossing, i won't know until the squash, melons and beans start flowering before i can tell, but so far i'm seeing a real lack of bee species diversity. :( so, yes, i'm worried...

there's no way i can isolate by space or by bagging blossoms or other methods for as many bean varieties that i'm growing and so i'm willing to accept and work with what nature provides. so far most bean varieties are stable enough that i can cull out the odd results. a few have not been stable enough and i've not continued to grow them. i don't need any more chaos than i already have. :)
 

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My personal belief and experience has been that the commonly accepted recommendations fail entirely to take into account the diversity that exists within the circumstances that people garden in. [...]

yes, for sure, as many people claimed that beans do not easily cross, but within a few years of growing beans i had a few dozen oddities showing up regularly and my best methods for getting even more to show up were to interplant and let the bees do their thing.

now that i have plenty of projects i'm not interplanting as much as before and i'm happy with the trends i'm seeing and hoping to keep going as much as i can.

if you have targets in mind you can often do things to encourage those crosses and so far even for a very stable bean i did get some crosses to show up in the fourth season. it took thousands of plants to get there, but i did it. :)
 

Branching Out

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Could there be crosses hidden in my cache of seeds? Maybe. But of the many, many packets I've mailed out these last 2 years I've never heard back about a cross - except for @Branching Out here on the forum, who found a few black seeds in some Rio Zape beans. And I'm not sure if that is due to the variable genetics of that bean, or if it was indeed a true cross. If it is a cross it's only the second one in years, and I consider that good odds.
The Rio Zape out cross became the highlight of my summer garden. I just love the notion that I grew something new, and intriguing. The second and third generation Rio Zape could yield even more surprises--or not-- either way I can't wait to see what pops up with them in the garden this summer. The first seedlings sprouted today!
 

heirloomgal

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The Rio Zape out cross became the highlight of my summer garden. I just love the notion that I grew something new, and intriguing. The second and third generation Rio Zape could yield even more surprises--or not-- either way I can't wait to see what pops up with them in the garden this summer. The first seedlings sprouted today!
Yay! I'm so curious to see what you'll get! When I found my first pole bean cross last summer👇- (I believe Tarahumara Purple Star X Forelle Fleiderfarben), I was shocked and yet thrilled at the same time. And I thought, hey! I could have some fun with this! I've even shared this out with a few people in case they want to have a kick at the can with it to see what they get. I can see how this could become addictive!
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Zeedman

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Isolation distances only provide as much protection as a bee can fly, and they can certainly fly quite a ways. So, purity has much more to do with your pollinators than any distance that can be thought up. Some people have more pollinators, some less, and that will be the ultimate determination for crossings - much more so that how far apart you plant things.
Agreed. But there are several philosophies for reducing cross-pollinations.

You can avoid growing plants which attract pollinators... and restrict the gardens to only self-pollinating plants which are not especially attractive to bees. Those who grow only beans & tomatoes do so, and (usually) get minimal crossing - if there are no other pollen/nectar sources nearby, and no nesting sites on/near the property. If you want to grow squash, cucumbers, fruits, berries, or other plants which require insect pollination, that will likely increase crossing.

An alternative philosophy is to allow pollinators, but try to control their movements. Barrier crops are one means of doing so, because they give bees places to constantly "wipe their feet" as they work their way across the garden. An effective barrier crop should be in bloom at roughly the same time as the crop being protected, and ideally should be a better nectar/pollen source. Taller is also better, so trellised barrier crops are more effective. Climbing members of the gourd family are very effective - and there are many to choose from. Pole limas are good barrier crops too, because they are good nectar sources. Tall sunflowers, or rows of cosmos, zinnia, or other high-pollen flowers are other possibilities.

That said, barrier crops are most effective for bees that forage widely, such as bumblebees. Honey bees tend to feed on only one species at a time though; so if honey bees are the main pollinator, barrier crops may not be as effective. It pays to actually spend a little time observing which pollinators are present, and how they work their way across the garden.

The last method - and most labor intensive - is full isolation. This involves covering the flowers by any means which excludes insects. That could be blossom bagging, covering whole plants with a breathable barrier (such as screen or spun polyester row cover), or growing indoors. Beans (and most peppers and tomatoes) can self pollinate in the absence of pollinators. Some self-pollinating plants require the flowers to be shaken though, or being "tripped", to physically move the pollen to the stigma. Runner beans (and a few peppers & tomatoes) fall in that category. Other plants (such as all gourds) would require hand pollination.

The chief advantage of blossom bagging & other isolation techniques is that you can save pure seed from as many varieties within a species as you wish, regardless of pollinators, limited only by the amount of labor you want to put into it.
I am also presently avoiding growing runner beans, because they do draw more pollinators than I'm comfortable with.
Runner beans are really not that attractive to most bees, because small bees are unable to reach the nectar (unless they chew through the blossom). In my area, bumblebees are their most likely pollinator (and bumblebees are one of my main pollinators). I see a lot of hummingbirds on my runner beans too, but their effectiveness as pollinators is questionable, and they are not attracted to anything else. Although I do use runner beans as one of my barrier crops, IMO runner beans only increase the likelihood of crossing with other runner beans. But I'll make a point of observing pollinator behavior on my runner beans this summer, and will post my observations.

Limas - especially pole limas - are much more attractive to most bees, since they are good nectar sources. I like to sit in the shade of my pole limas when they are blooming, and listen to the hum of bees working the flowers. It's almost musical, with multiple species all feeding at the same time.
 

heirloomgal

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My main concern with the runner beans these last two years is how many large bees were repeatedly visiting the blossoms. The trellis they were on is central to the yard so I was always walking past it, and at least half the time I passed by there seemed to be a bee or two present, I have never grown more than one runner bean in a year, so I wasn't worried about other runner beans, but a few times I watched as these bees flew off the runner bean trellis down into P. vulgaris bean rows. It seemed like the runner beans drew them in, and when they moved off they went places I didn't want them going. I don't usually see bees in the P. vulgaris rows, but the runner beans really seemed to be changing that. I'm not 100% certain there is reason for concern, but I'd rather create a new set up for the runner beans elsewhere just in case. 🤞
 

heirloomgal

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This is the weirdest thing I've ever seen in beans. All 4 of the Llaminera beans, and one of the network beans Turkey #1 displayed pure white leaves. I almost threw all 5 of them out, as plants with albinism don't survive. But I waited...just in case. And they're going green again! I don't know why, but I'll take it!

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You can see here that even the cotyledon leaves seemed a bit washed out. Maybe this expression had something to do with being brought in and out of doors during early summer. Even the Turkey #1 plant seems fine now.
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It's probably a little bit silly to post this on a bean forum, but something about this purple and green sprout is such happiness to me. ☺️ After this crazy hot spell of weather we've had and that gnawing worry about what's going on underneath that soil it's a HUGE relief to start to see a bunch of little sprouts come up! I think the beans made it through the heat, and the weather is finally cooling down too. Not counting my eggs before they hatch, but it looks good.
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flowerbug

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This is the weirdest thing I've ever seen in beans. All 4 of the Llaminera beans, and one of the network beans Turkey #1 displayed pure white leaves. I almost threw all 5 of them out, as plants with albinism don't survive. But I waited...just in case. And they're going green again! I don't know why, but I'll take it! [...]

hmm, a few possibilities, transplant stress, cold stress or heat stress (we've had both cold and hot stressors in the past few weeks).

i've seen albinism in peas that i planted - once it ran out of energy from the seed it died.

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