Seeding the future, while cracking the seed code(coat).

In part 3 of 6 of our Yaupon(Cassine) blog series, we are going to fast forward to what was suppose to be our last blog of the series. In part 4 we will return back to our look at the naming of Yaupon(Cassine) through time and continue to build our case to change the scientific name. We experienced some unexpected events this past week that altered our plans and torn into time we normally dedicate to writing our blog, research and writing, hence the change up.

While making and selling Yaupon(Cassine) tea is one of our pillars within our business, we foresee a bright future ahead of establishing this industry permanently. One of the clear huge advantages we have over competition is the knowledge and understanding of horticulture. We know how to propagate plants and grow them efficiently to give us the highest return for investment. While some may see this as bragging, this is not the case, it is just another example of how we are unique compared to our competitors.

As we continue to evaluate cultivars of Yaupon(Cassine) for their tea qualities, we are doing so in the “traditional tea tasting” method by tongue tasting and consumer feedback. In the future we will incorporate more analysis, but we know we have an excellent product now and will build on top of it.

We have a prominent widely used cultivar in landscapes as our main source of leaf as of now, but we can see were crossbreeding and creating new cultivars will replace it in the future. While the cultivar we currently use is a male, there is a female cultivar that gives more caffeine and has a dense growth habit. A female hybrid of the too, would be one of the new cultivars we are looking for in future breeding. In addition to evaluating new cultivars we develop for tea, we are liable to come across other new cultivars to introduce to landscapes as well. So unlike research and development programs of other businesses that focus one aspect, we have the ability to generate revenue for those cultivars that didn’t make the tea aspect goals.

For those who are not familiar with plant breeding or propagation, there are some challenges you can face with seed propagation. While we are going to keep this short as possible, we are going to assume that all pollen crosses will be done by hand in a controlled environment. Some people will say that is a daunting task, but it is a task that can be implemented and accomplished with an increased number of trained people pollinating.

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Yaupon(Cassine) produces drupes and not berries, while the outer two layers of the pericarp (encompassing body of the seed, exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp) is fleshy, the inner layer (endocarp) is hard, just like Stone fruits, peaches, plums, apricots. Research from Texas A&M has shown that extracts of the outer two layers contain plant growth inhibiting compounds. Other seed propagation research has shown that the use of acids to crack to seed cote yield 60% germination. There has also been mentioning of hypotheses that there is an “afterriping of the embryo” or the need for a cold-warm stratification. A propagation researcher hypothesized that cold-warm stratification was not needed at all. Other research and literature has long noted that when seeds are planted without treatments, it takes between 1 to 2 years for germination and growth to occur. Unfortunately, we don’t have research evaluating what the germination is in the wild, post animal consumption or if it fell out the bushes in the wind.

I have had numerous individuals tell me, at it always seems to be mid-winter, when one of a number of bird species come through looking for food, that their Yaupon(Cassine) plants get picked dry. There is roughly 18 different known species of birds that consume Yaupon(Cassine) drupes. The consense of mentioning when the birds flock to Yaupon(Cassine) and the varying of published information, has led me to think about what treatments I could employ to see if I can speed up the process.

So I have thought about other known plants that have these deep long dormancy periods and hard seed coats. The one that stands out to me is Peonies. I know some people in the peony business overseas and they shared with me a trick that they have used to get around the dormancy issue. The trick is related to the cold-warm stratification periods. Traditionally when we put things into a cold stratification, it gets bagged up, goes into cold storage and gets pulled when a particular amount of time passes. Through many years of research, they found out that altering, cold to warm periods over a particular amount of time, leads to germination after planting. For example, and yes this is an example 5 days in cold, than 5 days in warm, then 5 days in cold again, back and forth over time. This makes sense, because I could see where this enhances decomposition of inhibitors or promotes microbial organisms that exude acids to digest the seed coat.

While our seed germination study this year is only preliminary study, we are conducting it from an ecosystem simulation approach. We cannot tell if undigested drupes due in fact germinate, but we can’t assume they don’t. So while we will conduct this study with quite a few variables that in a normal experimental setting would be a statistical nightmare, we are hoping to see some consistent results through a set of treatments. So here is the framework to this year’s experiments.

  1. We will harvest drupes from various specimens at varying points of time between now and when we notice the birds have consumed or are consuming the drupes. It is hard for us to tell the biochemical development or breakdown, but the assumption is that once the birds start consuming the drupes, they are technically “ripe”.
  2. We will test similar treatments against macerated and non macerated drupes, this is not a clear substitution for researching bird consumed seeds versus non consumed, we feel this is a reasonable simulation with the hypothesis that bird digestion is required in the natural setting.
  3. We will incorporate an acid treatment to digest or crack seed coat.
  4. We will incorporate a hot water treatment to break down the presence of growth inhibitors in non macerated drupes and to soften the seed coat of macerated.
  5. We will incorporate the use of gibberellin acid treatments at various levels to counter any “after-ripening” issues and to promote cellular elongation of the embryo.
  6. We will use a similar method of altering cold and warm stratification treatments like Peonies. We will model this method around traditional climatic data for the native range of Yaupon(Cassine). Our goal is to achieve some particular benchmarks in the hopes of replicating natural occurring environment on a shorten scale of time.

We do plan on conducting the experiment next year. While we may refine the process depending on results or lack therefore of, we will replicate our final methodology over three years within a statistical significant model, otherwise we will not know for sure if the results would be consistent in the future or useful in our breeding program.  We could get lucky or it could be some time.

Before we go, we do want to share this picture from the first round of this year’s germination study. It doesn’t show a lot, but it does show that we are serious about reaching and obtaining our goals of shortening the amount of time it takes to get Yaupon(Cassine) to germinate. We may not have every piece of equipment we desire to do these experiments, but then again looking back through history, many researchers had to built their own equipment to conduct their experiments. So until next time, please “Like and Share” this page, but most importantly don’t forget to,”Grow Forward.”

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#Yaupontea #Hortfire #GrowForward #CassineTea #Hollyprop #plantpropagation #YauponHolly #plantbreeding

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