As homage to my older blog post about pea breeding information, which is an archived copy of my currently defunct website, i wanted to share a few tips and a pea breeding technique that i invented that helps increase the rate of pea crossbreeding success and produces a higher seed per pod ratio than standard “paintbrush” or “scalpel” crossbreeding techniques.
Standard Pea Crossbreeding technique is one that i call the “paintbrush method”. It works, i guess. But i think I’ve found a better way. In the paintbrush or scalpel crossbreeding method you basically find the two pea flowers you want to use. First you select a closed immature flower as the female parent that you then use with a small pair of scissors (lefthand curved embroidery scissors work well for this) to remove all the pollen anthers before they have a chance to release mature pollen and self pollinate. Second, you then take an open mature pea flower to use as the male flower and use a paintbrush or scalpel to collect pollen and transfer it to the receptive style/stigma.
(Above 2 photo’s by Rebsie Fairholm)
Andrew’s Pea Crossing Method:
My method is a bit odd looking at first, but in my experience it works MUCH better. On average from what i can tell you usually get about 1-2 peas per pod with the “paintbrush method”. No more than 4. With my method i’d say you get on average of 4-5 peas per pod, with the potential of a whole pod 6-8 peas depending on your variety. So i’d say I’ve at least doubled the success rate, maybe even tripled it.
First, i’d say get rid of that embroidery scissor. While it works, i find that a combination of pulling off the outer petals with your hands and using a small flat beveled or angled pair of tweezers works fantastically well. Get yourself a pair of tweezers like these. They may be referred to as “eyebrow tweezers”.
Second, find yourself an immature pea flower to use as the female parent. Rip off all the outer petals and remove the immature anthers before it can self-pollinate. Third, find yourself an open mature flower for the male parent. Just cut or rip the whole flower off of the plant, we will need the whole thing. Fourth, use your tweezers to make a small opening in the bottom of the keel petal. Followed by slipping the flower used as the male over the stigma and style of the flower used as the female parent, making sure that the stigma/style gets covered in pollen at the top of the keel petal shown in the picture above. There is a small reservoir of pollen up there that makes for plenty of pollen to go around. Finally, leave this flower covering on there as long as possible. Sometimes they fall off, it helps to try pollinating the flower again during the next few days if this happens.
Why is this technique more successful?
Well, for me i think it’s a combination of things. First and most importantly it serves as a hood or covering for the flower to keep pollen from drying out or being washed away in the rain. In my climate the air can be quite dry and the high altitude with intense sunlight tends to wick away moisture quite easily. These tiny pea styles are quite delicate and seem to dry out so quickly that they can dry out before pollen has been able to set seed. Second, it provides a LOT of pollen over that whole style. I could be wrong, but i suspect that each of the receptive seed ovules mature at different times. If this is true, then it requires enough good pollen to be available over several days for each seed to be pollinated and grow. And finally, it just seems to mimic everything about how a pea flower would naturally self pollinate. Sometimes it’s best to just imitate nature as sometimes nature knows best.
How do you know what age of pea flower to use?
Good question. Here is a good illustration that should help. You need to catch a pea flower used as the female parent very very early actually. The pea flower second from the left is just about perfect because it is big enough to use but young enough it should not have released pollen and selfed yet. The open flower on the far right is about right for using as a pollen donor. If the pollen is too old or not enough, select a similar one that is slightly younger or try one that looks like the third one from the left.
And that’s it. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment. I hope you find it interesting and helpful. Happy Tinkering! 🙂