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I was just at the Kingston Seed Summit and was very inspired by Raoul's (and Arvana's) work. I'm a CSA farmer and I was extremely discouraged by the cucumbers this year. Cucumbers always seem to be a challenge but this year because it was so wet I think there was a large cucumber beetle population. Most of the first planting was killed by leaf damage from cucumber beetle alone and then of course there was the mildew later on.

I thought that I might like to try something with cucumbers similar to what Raoul did in Kenya with potatoes but I don't know where to begin. How do you select varieties for such a trial? Or would it be a case of needing to developing new varieties through crossing? I know cucs are not self pollinating, does that make it more difficult because I can only try one at a time? I guess I have a lot of learning to do over the winter. I'm going to start by reading Return to Resistance but any suggestions are welcome.



Great to have you here on the site -- I'm sorry I only got to wave to you at the end of the Seed Summit and we didn't have a chance to talk. I thought it was an excellent conference and was very uplifted by all of the great work that is going on.

I don't know very much about cucumbers, but I would suggest that your first step would be to collect a number of heritage varieties so that you can grow them all together. Then you can remove the ones that seem more susceptible, and let the better ones naturally cross-pollinate.

If you do some research on cucumber breeding, it would be great to have your findings posted here on the site -- you are welcome to create a wiki section on cucumbers, and we can add a cucumber breeding forum as well if there are more people who want to work with you on them.

Hi Emily,

I have never worked with cucumbers and have hesitated to reply for that reason. However, Arvana's comments make a lot of sense. It seems to me that the biggest problem is the size of the plants, because a large screening population would take up a lot of room. I would suggest planting your screening population at two, or four, or even eight times the normal planting density, expecting to cull the most susceptible individuals fairly early in the season.

Another problem is choosing the male parents; their pest/disease resistance may be visible, but their fruit quality may not. This means that you should do your crossing only after the first fruits have formed so that you can get a fair idea of fruit quality before choosing the parents of the next screening generation.

Remember also that all your assessments of resistance must be relative measurements. This is because of parasite interference. The most resistant individuals will have considerably more resistance than is immediately apparent.

Thanks for the ideas!

Hi Emily!

Are you in Canada or the US? Have we met before? Perhaps at Seeds of Change?

I just joined up with a farmer near Vancouver BC and will be transitioning to organic mixed veggie and blueberry production. We are interested in breeding cultivars in this wet, cloudy climate.

Zac Helmberger
White Rock Natural Farm
Surrey, BC Canada

Since I just found the spot to talk to Raoul Robinson, a man who does not know me but had a major influence in my life, might I ask him if he thinks it would be worthy to work with ( bear with me I am french) the ''bitterless'' gene at the cotyledon stage? Not sure of the terminology here, sorry...

I am trialing a lot of cucurbits, mostly melons. I had 352 cultivars started last spring, treated them like a bitch, transplanted half of them, the survivors of my bad treatment (outside at 5+ degrees at the cotyledon stage in the spring) in the field.

Somehow, after 25 years of cucurbits growing in many different fields and soils, I do not know exactly how to deal with them when it comes to insect or disease resistance. I am not sure insect resistance is achievable with them. I know disease resistance is also very very so so, I have grown loads of Stokes or else so called resistant melons only to find them no better than many old heirlooms.

I have a friend who breeds melons for Seminis and he kind of agrees about the relativity of disease resistance with cucurbits. I would add than apart c.moschata, a pretty tough customer, resistance is pure poetry with the others. I might be very wrong, if so I would gladly be redirected on the right track...

In the melon arena, the toughest I have seen up to now is the LUNÉVILLE melon, a freakishly healthy beast of a melon, a son of a 150 years old or so cross of NOIR DES CARMES and PRESCOTT.

It's got to be protected against cucumber beetle, although it will recuperate faster than any other I have seen, but it is the most disease resistant one I have seen.

2 years ago, I transplanted it 2 weeks after the other 100 melon cultivars, having received the seeds late from France, and it got eaten at the 4 leaf stage by cucumber beetles, while the others were more mature. It came back with a vengeance, soon becoming by far the beef of the melon patch (the same thing happened in Burgundy, France, to the grower with whom I had shared the seeds).

In september, long after the others had died of sudden death syndrome, caused by cold nights, it was looking beefier and healthyier than all the others at the end of July. The onlly other survivor was PRESCOTT,its daddy, looking healthy but producing only one small melon, while LUNÉVILLE had 6 big ones.

People would come to the garden and marvel at the size of the plant in September, looking at all the other dead melons vines ( but Prescott).

If anybody here can teach me something about true disease resistance in cucurbits, I will welcome learning like crazy...