Relax the current punitive genotype restrictions
The current guidelines on using local genotype seed from within a 25 mile radius is punitive in the sense that it limits our ability to design diverse communities, and illogical in the sense that it defies the very premise of sexual reproduction. I highly recommend the current genotype restrictions be revisited and revised.
Restrictive genotype specifications emerged and were put into place by the native seed growing industry, and not by an authoritive intellectual agency. The restrictions that incurred favor the native seed growers instead of the “species”. I was once an advocate of the restrictive genotype concept. I have “yellow tag” seed production plots on our farm. . As a seed producer, I encourage the use of local genotype seed. I own several yellow tags that are perfect for the Minnesota metro area; however, as an ecologist I’ve become aware of the flaws associated with this concept, which I share in the following text.
The restrictive genotype specification limits the ability to design diverse mixes. In some extreme cases I’ve witnessed under strict state regulation; ecologists are limited to 2-3 species. Relaxing these standards from 25 miles, or worse, county of origin, to 200 miles could capture 150 species. If we are championing the restoration of functional ecosystems over the preservation of static genotypes, then we should consider increasing the space scale of origin.
Restrictive genotype specifications are designed, as stated in agency documents “to prevent genetic contamination”. What can we say about this statement when the whole point of sexual reproduction is to enhance “genetic contamination”? Inbreeding is not conducive to building resilience populations. A static genome is an extinct genome. There are cases of non-fertile seed coming from protected “local genotypes”. We need to restore the processes by which genetic diversity is “contaminated”.
Restrictive genotype specifications assume the concept of the species is a taxonomical law. Instead, we need to realize the species concept is a human construct, based formerly on morphological differences and currently on parsimony of nucleotide base pairs, where the observer declares their particular preference. In my career, I have witnessed numerous nomenclature changes in genera, species, sub-species, and variants. The more I research the taxonomy, the more I realize the ambiguity between authors and regions, and the more I understand plant reproduction, many of which are polyploid and many of which conduct both sexual and asexual reproduction, the more I embrace the concept of dynamic “races” or “strains” to help reference the construct of the species. The concept of dynamic strains has allowed me to more freely assigned “species” from outside the 25 mile radius; and the pollinators rejoice.
Restrictive genotype specifications often force us to select from a single source population. Many “yellow tag” seed lots are derived from a few individuals in an isolated population. If the single source is composed of closely related individuals, it may produce offspring in the f1 generation that are less able to produce a fertile f2 generation, and unlikely to produce a fertile f3 generation. Sexual reproduction has evolved many methods to deny inbreeding. Even the most primitive flowering plants, such as the lilies, exhibit a process whereby the female component will abort pollen tube formation if she recognizes a genome to similar or to distant. Perhaps the plants are better at deciding with whom they will with fertilize than are we.
It seems like there numerous reasons we should revisit and revise the current restrictive genotype regulations. Instead of creating static pools of inbreeding populations by restricting genetic movement we should instead be restoring the dynamicity of gene flow in order to build genetic resilience to withstand future changes. Instead of trying to preserve isolated sub-species we should do everything we can to facilitate the emergence of new races: after all, this is why sexual reproduction became so successful (the probable precursor to the Cambrian explosion). To do so, we should without any pain expand species ranges to encompass 200 -250 miles. We should also actively seek to bring in several seed lots from different localities in attempts to mess it up good. This can be accomplished by selecting seed from two or more native seed companies, or by conducting multiple seed rains over a period of several seasons (a good idea onto its own), or by requesting the seed vendor to choose from several lots.
In This Series
A Plan For A Better Future: Creating a Unified Pollinator Ecology
Premise 1: Pollinators are grazers
Narrative 2: The most powerful terrestrial ecosystem on earth, the Grazing Lawn
Premise 3: Cool season species are cool too
Premise 4: Decrease grass seeding rates, but increase graminoid diversity
Premise 5: Functional groups, niche theory, and seed mix design
Premise 6: Relax the current punitive genotype restrictions
Premise 7: High density patch planting
Premise 8: Nitrogen pollution is a serious threat to pollinators
Premise 9: Make hay, not war
Premise 9: More pollinator habitat through more frequent fire.
Premise 10: Afforestation, an unknown but significant threat to pollinator survival