Tissue Culture Instead of Seedlings

ATTENTION: Potential Saskatoon Growers!!!

It concerns me that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding planting tissue culture saskatoons instead of seedlings.

There are some suppliers of trees in the marketplace that are suggesting that seedlings are somehow inferior to tissue culture. We feel very strongly that this is not the case! We also feel that these comments are nothing short of fraudulent advertising on their part to stimulate sales. Their claim is that seedlings come into production later and produce less in the long term, which is completely false. there has never been a study done which has even looked at this issue. Leading saskatoon researchers say that there is little difference. The proof is in the pudding! The facts are that we have successfully supplied over one million trees to growers all across the prairies who are delighted with the results! Comments contrary to this, come from tissue culture suppliers, not from actual growers. One study indicated that we supplied 85% of all the saskatoons being planted on the prairies.

Seedlings are not widely variable as some people would suggest. Seedlings are almost entirely self pollinating and what flowers are not pollinated internally are most likely pollinated by the flower immediately adjacent ie. same cluster or same branch or same bush.

Technical people have in fact had poor results in intentionally crossing saskatoons because they are so self fertile. The result is that saskatoons are almost entirely identical to the parent. There is some evidence to suggest that Thiessen may be slightly more variable. However, Northline, Smoky and Honeywood appear to be exceptionally true to type. Occasionally a bush may exhibit traits that may be slightly different than the parent but the actual percentage of these deviants is very slight. We have also seen a similar percentage of superior saskatoons. We make the assumption in making these remarks that great care is taken to collect and grow quality F1 seed.

Much of what people have seen as deviation or variablilty is saskatoon seedlings is in fact sloppiness on the part of grower in seed collection time. I have said many times "a few berries in the wrong pail account for most of what people call variability in saskatoon seedlings". More potential for mixups can occur along the way to producing the finished seedlings. We take meticulous care to insure that this does not happen at The Saskatoon Farm.

From the hundreds of thousands of saskatoon seedlings that have been distributed from our farm and have gone into orchards all across Canada in the last eight years, we have had nothing but glowing reports back to us! People report high quality fruit, uniformity and generally excellent results. To my knowledge there has never been any objective research done to even prove what the variability of seedlings is. We have talked to hundreds of growers over the years and in conjunction with our own 52 acres of orchard, we feel qualified to make the comments mentioned.

We must also therefore conclude, that the exaggerated claim about variability are simply sales tactics to deceive people into thinking that they should pay more for tissue culture for an advantage that does not exist. Some labs have gone to the extent of saying seedling orchards are less productiove and come into production later, which is 100% unethical to state and completely false. I personally believe that a long term orchard that might be around 70 to 100 years should not be entirely 100% genetically identical. A more natural and long term advantage is in fact to use seedlings. Even the tissue culture experts agree that maybe they should be using multiple strains, so why not use what nature has intended, quality F1 saskatoons grown from seed!

Please call me if you wish to discuss this issue further.

Paul Hamer


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