French Breakfast Radish…not going to seed
Well, this isn’t a story of triumph or abundance…yet. It is more the story of learning, wondering and head scratching, with a lot of “to be continued.” We had planned on the “french breakfast” radish below going to seed this late spring/early summer. But it has other ideas. In fact, about 25% of this crop has other ideas. They have started to rot at the root base and then completely rot out from the inside out. The first signs were in the wilted leaves. Once we started to pull them up for closer inspection it was obvious there was no recovering from this.
At the moment we have not made any convincing conclusion to know exactly why this is happening, only that it is. It could be disease, it could be a variety issue, it could be a pest or extended we soil issue.
We are growing out two varieties of radish (“french breakfast” and “sora”). Both were seeded at the same time, selected and replanted at the same time. The only difference other than variety is that the “french breakfast” is growing on our farm in Naples and the “sora” on land that we lease in Branchport. The “sora” by the way is thriving.
Here are some of wilting and yellowing leaves that is a clear sign the root has already begun to rot.
While waiting anything can happen
It is equally fascinating and sometimes daunting how we can have a perfectly edible, delicious, and hearty plant at its typical harvest stage for eating, but then have to let it grow thought that stage into seed development. By the time many of our crops are making seed they may have been exposed to numerous additional weather, pest, and disease pressures. Leaving us wondering if we will get the quality of seed we had planned for. If produce farming is the art of living with and trusting in the unknown while you work your tail off, than seed farming asks the same of you, plus a whole lot more over a longer period of time.
In the first week of April, the radish started out with great germination and strong vigor. Here are the seedlings below before they were thinned.
In late April We had a great harvest and selected the best radishes based on size, shape and vigor. In the picture below with the six radishes on a washboard you can seed the difference between radishes we selected for seed production and the radishes we put in our salad. The radishes on top are much less uniform and do not have the even cylindrical shape we want in this variety. The row of three on the bottom were saved and replanted for seed.
If we were just growing radish for market we would have been very pleased with our crop. But the seed story does not end there.
Planting the roots, not the seed
After we selected the best radishes we cut the top leaves except for the inner most 2-3 leaves. We then placed them in the fridge for about a week (labeled in plastic ziplock bags). This process of vernalization helps spring radishes go to seed more uniformly (usually). When we planted the radishes out around the 8th of May we again made a final selection. Any that looked like they had scars, cuts, bruises, felt pithy, or leaves discolored were not planted and went into the salad bowl and neighbors dinner plates. We planted the remaining stock on 10″-12″ spacing.
And now five weeks later since replanting the roots they have filled out with leaves between 5″-8″ and roots 6″ long and about 1.5″ wide. Although many still look healthy as time passes we are noticing more wilting and then root rot. We have pulled any of the roots that even look like they might be turning.
So here is what we are trying to figure out
Why is the “sora” thriving and the “french breakfast” rotting in the field? Is it a disease, pest, soil, moisture, varietal or some other factor that the “french breakfast” was a great radish for eating, but may not make seed this year. We have a call into Cris Smart our friend and invaluable disease detective. She is a plant Pathologist with Cornell, when we hear back from her I will update the blog.
Radish “should” be one of the easier seed crops
Radish planting and seed saving tips
Above is the planting and seed saving card we put in each seed pack. Our friend Glen Curtis was visiting the farm the other day and shared with us the accidental radish seed in his garden. He plants radish mainly for the leaves, not the root. He loves pesto and radish leaves are a great way to make a spring pesto before parsley, basil and even sometimes arugula are ready to harvest for pesto. Because he has been leaving the roots and only taking the leaves some of them have matured long enough to start flowering and getting ready to go to seed. Way to go Glen! You can have your pesto and seed it to!