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A Summary of Recent Evens

Well it has been quite a while since our last update and a lot has happened in the last couple weeks. I don’t think I’ll be able to recall everything that we did to wrap up the field season, but here’s a rough summary of a last few weeks.

We finished harvesting all the heads for this year on October 18 which I think is probably one of the latest harvest dates ever for Team Echinacea! The volunteers at the botanic gardens have now begun inventory on the ~2300 heads from this season.

We burned the new common garden site! The weather/wind direction looked good and so on October 9th Stuart, Dwight, Ilse and I went out and set afire the south field. It was both Ilse’s and my first burning experience and I think both of us found it be hotter and smokier than we were expecting. The burn took roughly 3 hours and was a little patchy in places but overall a huge success and made clearing the rest of the plot and planting a whole lot easier.

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The next step after the burn for the qGen2 crossing experiment was to clear all the trees, saplings, stumps, etc from this new field site and apply another round of herbicide to ensure our prairie stays prairie in the future. After this was completed, Ilse and I then set out to stake (with the GPS equipment) a planting grid. Unlike other common gardens, planting in the south field did not take place in consecutive rows. Instead, we planted along “random” rows in the field in order to ensure that more plantings can take place in future years and so that we can compare different plantings across the field site without worrying about any small scale effects of location.

Prior to planting, however, we x-rayed the achenes down at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. We spent roughly two full days scanning and packaging achenes into glassine envelopes which we were able to subject to very low doses of x-ray and still decipher how many full/empty achenes there were. Unfortunately, some crosses did not yield any full achenes (perhaps these were incompatible?) but the silver lining was that we were able to look at the x-rays, pick out the crosses with only empty achenes, and exclude them from the planting portion of the experiment.

Planting got delayed a bit because of wet and cold weather, but we finally put the seeds on the ground this past Thursday and Friday (Oct 24-25). Ruth Shaw and Katherine Muller came to help out on Friday. We planted achenes from each cross along one meter segments. Planting went smoothly (it was 50 degrees on Friday!) except it was very windy. Even though Echinacea is not normally considered to be wind dispersed, we had be to extremely cautious when planting since large gusts of wind were frequent and could easily blow away the achenes.

And with the gQen2 crossing experiments seeds on the ground, the field season has finally come to a close. Ilse and I departed from Kensington, our home for nearly 5 months, this past weekend and went our separate ways. I came down to Chicago and started working at the botanic gardens this past Monday where I’ll be managing Stuart’s lab until June.

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