Building the Nurseries
By Olivia Steinmetz | May 22, 2023
In the greenhouse
Every winter we tinker away in the greenhouses, testing our newest experimental alfalfa varieties against all the major alfalfa diseases (see “Winter in the Greenhouse” for more). This is important for data collection, but also for moving our breeding program forward. Every time we do a disease screen, we keep the plants that survive that disease because we know that that individual plant has the resistance gene(s) for that particular disease. By the end of the winter, our greenhouses are full of thousands of plants, ready to move forward in our program.
One plant at a time
By mid-May we begin to empty the greenhouses, one plant at a time… Our selection nurseries are out in the field, and we build onto them every spring. Individual plants are hand transplanted into the selection nursery on a grid so that we can build a map and keep track of each plant’s pedigree and disease resistance, and then take more phenotypic notes as time goes on. Our grid system also means that every individual plant is growing in a highly competitive environment, this practice makes us unique in comparison to how some of our competitors manage selection nurseries. We want to be sure that years down the road, when these plants are being selected for future variety development, they are the highest performing individuals under a realistic, competitive environment (see “Selecting the Next Generation” for more).
Our nurseries are a bit like a ‘genetic library’ for our program. Many different lines at different stages of development are being held in the nurseries for different future projects. It is an exhausting process to hand transplant all of these alfalfa plants, but it is very exciting to witness the growth of our program and continue to develop the most excellent alfalfa varieties on the market!