A couple of weeks ago we have successfully reached a very important milestone of our breeding program: the first interspecific hybrid was flowering. As of today we are in the middle of a sister hybrid flowering with at least 4 others approaching the same stage. Also, the initial F1 plant is already showing the next 2 inflorescenses which might indicate a very active flowering trait.
So what have we done since the F1 flowering commenced and what are the next steps going to come?
First of all on the very first pollinated hybrid we have 5 fruits developing well. They have all been manually pollinated with various non-toxic pollen donors over 3 weeks ago. In addition, this hybrid provided pollen to a most promising non-tox variety luckily flowering at exactly the right time. So we have 3 BC1 (first generation back cross) fruits developing.
The second hybrid which is in the middle of an extensive multi-week flowering processes right now has opened 13 female flowers so far over the last 5 days. They have all been manually pollinated utilizing 4 different pollen sources. This flower shows a lot more buds that are going to open more female and a lot of male flowers over the coming days. The very delayed process of individual flower openings is extremely helpful (obviously a trait crossed into the JcL from the other Jatropha species used), as it increases the chances of many interesting successful cross pollinations.
For this type of interspecific F1 hybrid we already have over 50 samples deriving from 8 genetically different JcL accessions. This type of crossing will become a standard process step with all new JcL accessions we aquire. Currently we have over 25 proven distinct accessions growing with initial flowering expected between 1 and 10 months out. About 1/3 tested as non- or low-toxic.
Some of the readers might have by now identified the other Jatropha species used in this hybrid. Actually this route of hybridization has been described in scientific reports several times in the recent past. The more we are surprised how little information is publicly available about the characteristics and various crossing options it offers. It seems, that so far nobody explored this hybrid in-depth instead of rushing on to the next generations. Seeing the huge potential I find this a bit astonishing. It seems to be the result of many research projects being tied to limited time and funding. As it takes 18-24 months to get a flowering F1 hybrid and most public research funding today is on a 3 year basis, we can understand, how the project time remaining was running out. Therefore, we might very well be the first breeding program that has the capability of scratching a little deeper into the vast potential variability of that F1 generation. This will of course quickly lead to hundreds or even thousands of plants in the first generation alone and result in millions of plants one or two generations further down the road. So we are already looking for ways to reduce those enormous numbers.