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  #1  
Old 11-06-2022, 01:49 AM
katsucats katsucats is offline
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Default How many plants do commercial orchid breeders work with?

Just out of curiosity, how many plants do orchid breeders select from in a typical orchid breeding program? I'm assuming due to the expense of growing tropical ornamentals and time involved, very few would really grow out thousands of plants, do open pollination or keep multiple breeding lines to maintain genetic diversity and vigor, like they might in cash or food crops. With orchids, each generation might take a decade.

On one end of the scale, maybe most breeders just keep clones in their breeding stock and only cross between them. Breeders that grow out outcrosses might select heavily for favorable traits so they don't have to dedicate so much space to one kind of plant.

So my question is, let's say flasks get made between 2 breeding lines of a species, and the goal is to pick out "the best" offspring by some desirable traits (e.g. largest flower, etc.),
  1. How many seedlings does a breeder grow from the flasks in order to have enough diversity to select for the next generation?
  2. How many plants actually get selected for breeding the next generation?

How common or rare are these orchid breeders as opposed to people who just buy and cross awarded clones, self them or send them out to a lab to get meristemmed, or buy flasks and randomly make crosses between siblings (e.g. out of 10-20) without a deliberate selection effort?
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  #2  
Old 11-06-2022, 07:30 AM
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I think your question is akin to “how high is ‘up’?”

Serious commercial breeder DO grow out thousands of seedlings, and meticulous ones keep records and/or have great knowledge about genetics and which plants pass the more desired traits onto their progeny, using that to guide their breeding choices.

Sexual reproduction invariably produces offspring with a wide range of traits. Their desirability is subjective, although organizations do apply artificial “standards” that influence things, whether that be the AOS, AKC or whoever.
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  #3  
Old 11-06-2022, 08:25 AM
katsucats katsucats is offline
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Thanks for the response. There's no doubt that serious breeders are knowledgeable about orchids. I think it's a reasonable assumption that most if not all commercial breeders will breed the traits valued by organizations like the AOS because the awards are where the money is. However, regardless of that subjectivity, breeding for specific traits may cause a disadvantage, and that's another question I neglected to ask (because I conflated two questions I had in the original post).

Hypothetically, suppose a breeder grows out an inordinate amount of plants, let's say 100,000 F1 offspring of two distinct lines. He then selects just 2 of the plants with the biggest flowers and crosses them, and grows out another 100,000 F2 offspring. He selects the 2 best ones and repeats this process, I don't know, 6-7 times. I don't know at what point inbreeding depression becomes a problem, but eventually it should. It doesn't matter how many plants are grown per generation if only genetics from 2 offspring are carried forth to the next generation.

So I guess let me revise my questions:
  1. Is inbreeding depression even a concern in orchid breeding? It may be that the number of plants collected from the wild for some species are so minuscule that it's just a fact of life.
  2. Is there a "best practice" guideline for how many plants that should be grown and how many plants should be allowed to seed to maintain vigor in a breeding line?
  3. Assuming only growers with the most greenhouse space could even pull off such a program, how many plants does the average breeder "settle" for to still be relatively successful? Remember, we're talking about plants of a single species, for a single breeding program. Let's say SVO maintains 30-50 species regularly. I am sure that Fred is an unparalleled expert on what traits different Catasetum species pass on to their progeny. But I am not so sure that SVO maintains thousands of seedlings for every one of their breeding programs. Maybe the hybrids are one-off and they do so for important ones like pileatum's. But I remember their catalog said they waited like 7 (was it?) years for a female lucis flower, so maybe it isn't necessarily always feasible to maintain genetic diversity.
  4. And on that note, I assume rightly or wrongly that SVO keeps a number of clones per each cross with outstanding characteristics, such that if you look at their catalog over multiple years, you could see that some parents (clonal names) are reused in new crosses, often with other similar sounding clones. Some breeders don't bother to name their clones and just use a number system. I think we can distinguish between two methods of selection. In the first, we choose a number of outstanding parents and cross them. In the second, we eliminate the worst performing plants, and cross all of the rest. I would posit that the first is better for commerce, but the second better for conservation. Are there even any orchid breeders that bother with the second method?
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  #4  
Old 11-06-2022, 12:43 PM
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I'm not a breeder but I can take a stab at a couple questions!

1. Orchids seem to be remarkably imbreedable. There are a few genetic problems like crippling, but even outcrossed lines are often not very diverse. Many generations of selfing and sibling crosses are in the lineage of many of our plants.

2. There are farms that clone millions of identical plants for cut flowers and grocery stores, and then there are places like SVO which have a smaller more diverse setup to cater to collectors. I'm sure it depends on what the goal is and how much you can sell.

3. Something to remember is that Fred is in the business of selling seedlings so his huge breeding pool is also what he sells to make money. I'm curious what his process is because he sells most plants before their first blooming. Perhaps he picks out a few vogerous seedlings or otherwise knows what too look for before he sees the flowers.

4. Fred has a huge greenhouse full of his stud plants. I'd be curious about how he chooses what he keeps and doesn't.

He also has to deal with the lag of growing plants out. He talks about what the "themes" are for the year, but in reality he made all those crosses years ago. He does it every year so he has a steady inflow of new material.
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Old 11-06-2022, 06:57 PM
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For SVO, you will note that many of the parents are awarded. So Fred selects the best of the best to breed on. I don't know how many stud plants he has, it's a lot. I recall him mentioning in one of his talks that,he saves only a couple hundred of the strongest seedlings from a cross, at most. (The rest get dumped) And of those, some will bloom so that he can further select what he keeps. But many seedlings do get sold before they bloom... and other people get awards on them later - a frequent occurrence.
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  #6  
Old 11-06-2022, 07:07 PM
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Seed grown plants are a crap shoot. Some are good, some are really bad, and most are indifferent (in terms of AOS standards).

Few breeders keep more than 50-100 plants for themselves for evaluation. It is simply too expensive to allocate bench space to larger quantities.

In one specific case I was involved in, I learned that H&R produced 1100 seedlings of a specific grex (Dendrobium). This gives you some idea about the scale of their total production.

Most breeders look to produce quality offspring, of plants which the average hobby growers are interested in buying (and to hell with the AOS awards). Producing gigantic Cattleyas with 7" flowers is not a commercially viable option in todays market, only miniatures & compacts sell.

Finally, you have to distinguish between orchids that can be meristem propagated, and those that can't (Paphs & Phrags).
  • For Cattleyas, Oncids, Dendrobium, etc., it is not necessary for the breeder to keep plants for evaluation. They can wait for plants to get AOS awards, and then buy back a division from the owner. At that point, they can produce as many meristems as they wish.
  • For slippers, which cannot be reliably meristem propagated, you must bloom out a number of plants to find the good ones (to breed on with). However, this approach is still subject to cost/space limitations. I spoke with one breeder, who told me that he keeps 50 seedlings of anything he wants to select from.

I should add that I am doing some speculative breeding of spotted Cattleyas. However, due to space limitations, I only produce about 100 seedlings of each such cross. Once the seedlings are established, I will select some 10-15 plants, which I will keep for evaluation. The remaining 80-85 plants will be offered for sale, as I need to produce some income from the project.
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  #7  
Old 11-06-2022, 07:54 PM
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It appears to me some breeders may send seed to flasking companies, and the breeder may request a certain number of flasks from the output. The flasking company may produce more flasks of this same cross and sell them to other people.
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Old 11-27-2022, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estación seca View Post
It appears to me some breeders may send seed to flasking companies, and the breeder may request a certain number of flasks from the output. The flasking company may produce more flasks of this same cross and sell them to other people.
To protect against this, no breeder ever tells the flasker what the cross is. Only what genera it is, so they can adjust the medium accordingly.
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Old 11-28-2022, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fairorchids View Post
To protect against this, no breeder ever tells the flasker what the cross is. Only what genera it is, so they can adjust the medium accordingly.
a year ago i was asking similar abstract questions...not fully understanding the market and the processes. now, a bit further into the game and actively talking to flaskers and other orchid professionals it seems as if there is an interesting schism in the whole production world.

clearly the professionals (people with labs and greenhouses and actual experience) hold the power and dictate terms, while us home/hobby breeders are subject to those terms and conditions. please note, this is NOT a rant or complaint.

the couple programs i have spoken to or researched into, require the names of both parents (better if progeny is known), as well as high quality, close up photos of the flowers. they all emphasize the need for buyers to know the plants parents and see the flowers in order to generate interest and sales. ok, i can see that.

i guess i take a turn when they say you need to buy the plants back (also fine) and any unsought plants become their exclusive property to do with what they choose. you, the breeder, then have no rights to any of those plants.

like, ok, i get it. they (the flasker) are taking all the work and risk, so one should pay for their product. but, as new breeders, how can one excel or gain ones own reputation if many of your crosses are sold blindly without giving credit to the breeder?

i liken it to source coding or other intellectual property rights. sure, eventually if one has enough skill and the planets align right they may get recognized for their work. but, perhaps a good cross is making some corporation rich off of the intellectual (and physical) work of some unnamed breeder. i know....such is life, suck it up, you ain’t all that....all those true sayings apply. but, yeah, it’s a tough world out there for home breeders.

i wish you (the breeder) had the option to say, i want 2 flasks and a guarantee you have destroyed the rest. or, we will give you 5%commision on any sales. or, somehow have a system of showcased breeders and hype them up on the websites. i dunno, not just a hard wall of gimme this much money and we own any you don’t buy no questions asked.
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Old 12-06-2022, 10:13 AM
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Whoever you spoke with is selling flasks. In that case the parent details are obviously needed.

Most labs simply do contract work. Grower sends them a seed pod (announcing only the genus), and how many flasks he wants back. The lab is then supposed to destroy any excess production.
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