They weren’t being very photogenic, small green things on a grey background, but most of the asparagus I posted about a few days ago are in the garden. Wow, 30 varieties!
The germination rate of the seeds was phenomenal! Nearly 100% for most accessions. I wonder if the folks at GRIN use magic pixy dust or something. I’ve never had that good a rate of germination from asparagus before. It’s not unusual to get a rate of 0%, maybe more often I spend a lot of money for a package of 10 seeds, and 2 germinate. These packages were labelled 50 seeds, and the very worst yielded 8 plants in the end, which is enough.
One company I bought asparagus seeds from this year had 10 seeds per packet. I figured I would order 3 packets for about 3 euros a package, just in case of low germination, and none of them germinated. I was very annoyed.
Well you can do the math — 30 packages of 50 seeds, with a say 90% germination rate gives 1350 asparagus seedlings. Needless to say I didn’t have space for them all. It was more than I expected, and had to change gardening plans a bit to find space for about half of them. It’s a problem of luxury we gardeners have sometimes. After the first year I should have crowns to transplant, and I’ll probably be able to do some initial selections then. I probably don’t have enough space for 30 different varieties…
In most of Europe we have to bag our own groceries in supermarkets. If we don’t provide our own bags, we need to buy them.
It’s been a battle for some years now. Supermarkets always want to offer free bags as a convenience. They don’t usually like it when customers bring their own backpacks and the like, for fear of shoplifting.
In recent years a number of EU countries have started to impose bag or packaging taxes, presumably in order to further reduce the use of plastics in supermarkets. Now suddenly GMO plastics have started to replace petroleum based plastics, and national governments are beginning to exempt GMO plastics from these taxes, in effect subsidizing their use.
The Netherlands has a tax scheme that strongly favors GMO plastics, taxing them at a lower rate. Germany has exempted GMO plastics from their bag tax completely. In other countries like Ireland, governments are being lobbied to scrap their taxes on GMO plastics.
Here’s a bag I bought from a local supermarket a few days ago:
Notice the logo in the upper corner:
It says ‘This bag is made from corn and fully compostable’. I bought another bag from a natural foods store a few days ago, and it had this on it:
On the bottom is says ‘This bag is biodegradable’. The clerk who sold me the bag said it was made from potatoes.
Is it a coincidence that the only two GM crops approved for planting in Europe are a ‘high starch’ potato and a corn variety? I don’t think so. We’ve been told for years now these two varieties are not destined for human consumption.
For the record I want to say to both Marqt and Ekoplaza that I’m very disappointed they would sell GMOs to their customers in this way, especially as they are not even clearly labelled for what they are. This is a very misleading and dishonest thing to do.
The argument goes that plastics are a huge environmental problem — so far I guess we all agree. Therefore compostable or biodegradable GMO plastics are better — I guess this is where the agreement ends.
The argument is not unlike how expensive mercury filled bulbs imported from China are supposed to be better for us than cheaper locally made standard light bulbs. The argument is not complete and not accurate.
Here in the Netherlands the argument goes that we are a coastal area, with canals that carry water out to sea. A percentage of litter falls into these canals, and ultimately contributes to the ‘big plastic soup’ in the oceans. What’s missing of course in this argument are actual statistics or studies that show how much this is as a proportion of the plastics in the sea, if there aren’t better ways of managing the problem for example filtering the water as it leaves land, and any sort of proof or explanation as to why GMO plastics are in any way better for the environment.
Certainly, if you as a consumer properly dispose of your waste and don’t throw it in the ocean, the entire argument of GMO plastics being better vanishes.
Compostable or Biodegradable
Biodegradable is a legally defined term, that indicates something will break down into naturally occurring components. Compostable is a looser term, that simply means it will break down into something supposedly harmless, but not necessarily naturally occurring.
In either case, these plastics do not break down at all, except in industrial processes. You can’t compost these plastics at home in your own garden, and there is no guarantee they will breakdown in the environment in any sort of reasonable time frame. Once they do break down, all we have is the word of the manufactures that they will break down into something harmless. In particular, it seems unlikely they would breakdown quickly in the cold dark oceans.
If they are disposed of properly, they are certainly of no added environmental benefit. In a landfill they would still take up the same space as normal plastic, and if incinerated they would also break down in a similar way as ordinary plastic. There are unlikely to be more or better recycling possibilities when compared to ordinary plastic. In fact the presence of even a very small amount of GMO plastic can contaminate a batch of traditional PET or other plastics and undermine recycling efforts.
It’s highly unlikely GMO plastic can be produced with less impact to the environment as ordinary plastic. This is the tiresome argument of biofuels, which take more energy to produce than is in the resulting product.
GMO crops still need chemicals and fertilizers, which are based on fossil fuels and impact the environment.
In Europe there are labelling laws requiring the labelling of most GMO foods. Packaging and plastics should not be exempt! Consumers should have the right to choose alternatives.
Like on the leaves above, from time to time I have problems with sun scald on tomato plants, both on the leaves and fruits. This is especially true the last few years as the ozone layer has been thinning over Europe.
One of the things Tom Wagner mentioned when I visited him, was with the new blue tomatoes, the blue pigment reacts to sunlight not only to intensify the blue color, but also to protect the plant against sun scald!
The tomato here was close to the one above, but you can see instead of getting scalded, it’s acquiring blue pigment in the leaves. This is one of Tom’s Helsing Junction Blues tomatoes. The seeds he gave me were F2 or F3, so still very variable. If you’re growing the same tomato, it might look different. Also, I have a few others of the same variety, and they are also different.
To be honest, I hardly bother to grow tomatoes anymore. There are just too many instantly fatal things that can happen with them, the most serious being the blight we get every year. I was interested in trying a blue variety, and I’m also growing one of Tom’s blight resistant Skykomish tomatoes next to it, so the blue variety is sort of acting as a control plant.
I’ve been growing asparagus for a few years now, and we are finally getting a reasonably good harvest each year.
Anyway, I decided this year to do a big asparagus expansion, and trial a number of different kinds. I purchased some seeds and crowns for different wild and purple asparaguses, and I also ordered 30 genebank accessions. The later of which came the other day, just in time for planting. I’ve tried to get ‘at least one of everything’.
A big thank you goes out to the people at GRIN-ARS at Cornell, who made it possible to get these seeds! They’re really providing an important service. On the customs declaration they modestly declared the combined value of the seeds as US$1, and indicated if the package was undeliverable it should be considered abandoned. In a commercial sense it’s true, but they’re worth a lot more than that to me.
Now I have 30 last minute trays of numbered asparagus seeds waiting to germinate:
It’ll take a few years of course before they are mature enough to eat, but I think it’ll be interesting to explore the differences, and perhaps try to create my own variety out of the best of the varieties I’ve received.
One of the varieties I’ve purchased is a very modern one from a local commercial asparagus breeding company. It’ll be interesting to see what they think are good traits.
Anyone else have experience asparagus breeding or collecting, maybe with varieties or experiences to trade? I’m not in contact with anyone who has specific asparagus breeding experience.
Like I’ve posted about before, I’m working on Tim Peter’s perennial rye, making selections and trying to get improved seed.
With normal annual rye, it dies off at the end of the year so you don’t have to worry about killing it. In my case, out of the 300 or so plants I started with, I selected about 20 for transplant to another place to save. I had to kill the remaining plants, so I first cut them down to about 50cm high to make them easier to manage, then covered them with woven black plastic. I did this last fall.
I’m busy preparing garden beds, so I just pulled the plastic back. I was a little amazed at what I found. The ground was covered with very good quality and clean straw. If I had wanted to use it where it was, it would have been no problem to just plant right into. In my case, I needed mulch for my garlic, and it was very easy to just rake up and move. I sometimes use plant debris for mulch, but honestly I buy a lot of mulch (mostly straw from local farmers) because it’s just easier. I’ve never grown any plant myself that made such good quality mulch in useful quantities.
In the picture you see a few weeds poking through. This is mostly because I used overlapping pieces of black plastic and some weeds grew through the edges.
After I raked up the straw, I had another surprise. My camera didn’t take a good picture, but underneath was very rich chocolate brown and crumbly dirt. I’ve never seen anything like that in my garden before either. My garden is on top of an old peat bog, hundreds of years old, mixed with a lot of clay. The deep roots of the rye plants (these can get to about 2m deep) pulled up lots of great nutrients and even some of the color of the peat. The dirt also had a great smell! Don’t you just love the smell of rich dirt?!