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Daniela’s Beans

June Garden Update:

Have you ever wondered how climate change might be affecting our plants? Many folks have been thinking about this for a while which is why we are now in our third year of planting “Daniela’s beans.” Daniela Soleri is a researcher at UC Santa Barbara who we met at the Heirloom Expo years ago. Those of us with seed libraries always came together with other seed librarians to share ideas about systems that were working well, brainstorm solutions to some of the challenges, and to garner strength from the power of a nation-wide network of seed savers and seed librarians. It was at one of those meetings that we met Daniela and agreed to be participants in some planting trials that she was organizing up and down the state in order to try to understand plant adaptation in the face of climate change.

The plant that is being trialed is a type of red kidney bean with a bush habit (Phaseolus vulgaris) that we affectionately refer to as “Daniela’s beans.” At the end of May we planted 40 seeds in one of our raised beds. Each of the last two years we have grown between 30 and 60 plants and have saved 3 dried pods from each plant to send to her at the end of the growing season. Here is what she has to say about the project:

"The California community seed research collaborative is a project that investigates the question posed by a number of community seed groups – “How do we define local adaptation, and how is this occurring in the crop populations we are managing as community seed stewards?” A small group of dedicated seed stewards has been growing the same population of kidney-type Phaseolus vulgaris in our gardens each of the last three years. This original population was assembled by UC Davis Phaseolus experts to contain equal parts of ten different kidney lines that vary in their season length, photoperiod sensitivity, and resistance to Bean Common Mosaic Virus. The beans themselves look pretty similar, and in some ways this population is like a diverse heirloom variety. After three years we will be able to trace changes in each gardener’s population genetically, and understand more about how diversity changes under garden management, what that means for the gardeners stewarding that diversity, and how/if the changes represent greater adaptation in the eyes of those gardeners.”

We don’t know what the results will be, but it has been exciting to take part in this larger project.

Daniela’s beans growing in 2021.

Dried bean pods bundled and ready to be sent to the research project.

Another person interested in climate change and its effect on plants is Joseph Lofthouse ( Lofthouse is an author and speaker, seed saver and plant breeder who lives in the high desert of Utah—a locale noted for its harsh weather and short growing season. Lofthouse’s approach is to allow varieties of plants to cross pollinate and follow a survival-of-the-fittest regime to develop what are called landraces. These landrace varieties are filled with genetic diversity from all of the open cross pollination and are able to adapt to their local conditions. The idea is that the characteristics that can adapt and thrive, will be the characteristics that can survive to pass on to the next generation.

This year we are going to be growing a landrace variety of sunflowers from some of his seeds. We do not know what they will look like or even if they will all look the same (they may not). All we know is that we have to continue to keep genetic diversity alive and well in the seed garden so that our plants have a fighting chance to thrive within the variable and sometimes extreme conditions that we see playing out in our local microclimate.


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