okra cross-pollination

p_mac(7)May 2, 2010

We are okra lovers here at our house and I've got 4 new varieties I want to try this year - Cowhorn, Cajun Delight, Red Velvet and Red Burgundy in addition to the faithful Crimson Spineless. We also have bees out the wazoo for pollinating and I've read that okra will cross-pollinate. I have a 38' x 60' area that I'm already trying to plot the squash & pumpkin to not cross. Any ideas or suggestions as to how I can place this okra? or should I just stick to maybe 2 kinds in different corners? How far apart should the different kinds be?

Dang it....I knew I should have had DH just till-up a whole acre...=)

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elkwc(6b)

Paula,
Most garden crops will cross pollinate. Some more readily than others. I don't have a lot of insect activity here. If I have two rows. I plant both rows the same variety the length required to get the number of plants I desire. Then I change varieties. I try to save seeds from pods in the middle of the row for each variety. In other words if the two rows of a variety were 10 foot long I would save seeds from the pods in the 4-6 foot range. On the varieties on each end of a row I save from the very ends. Here with my low insect activity it works well doing it that way. If I get a cross I might really like it. So not as concerned as some are about it. I also tell anyone I share seeds with I don't bag or use any of the other methods. I do it very similar on everything I save seeds from. On tomatoes I save seeds mainly from the fruit in the center of the plant. There are different means you can use to prevent the chance of cross pollination among varieties. But many take lots of time and lots of space. Not knowing your area and how long of rows you plan to plant of each it is hard to say. But if you save from the center of each variety I would feel you would have a good chance of getting pure seeds. George and Dawn know your area better and might have a different opinion. And I would go with their's if they do. Jay

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 12:47PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Paula,

I think if you follow Jay's recommendations, you'll be okay but there is no guarantee unless you bag your blossoms before they open. It is easy to do. Here's how:

Buy a package of those little organza bags sold to hold rice or wedding favors. I get them on the wedding supply aisle at Wal-Mart, and I'm sure craft stores would have them as well. They come in a package of maybe 10 or 12 and you want to buy bags large enough that it will have room for the opened flower inside it. You also could make your own bags from spun polyester row cover type material or even use the foot of a nylon stocking.

In the late afternoon or early evening, go outside to your okra plants and select a flower that looks like it will open the next morning. Flowers that are ready to open are a little 'fat' compared to younger flowers, and perhaps a little lighter in color. Gently pull the bag down over the blossom. Secure the bag pretty tightly around the stem so smaller insects cannot wiggle through and cause cross pollination. You can use twist ties, rubber bands, a pipe cleaner, etc.

Okra flowers are perfect, so they are self-pollinating, but because they are large and showy, bees and other pollinators like to visit them and that is what causes the cross-pollination. By excluding them from the flower by use of the bag, the okra you've bagged should give you pure seed.

Leave the bag on for two days....the day the flower opens and the entire next day. After that, you can reuse the bag, but wait 2 days before reusing the bag on any okra plant to avoid spreading viable pollen that may be inside the bag. (Okra pollen can remain viable up to 24 hours, so waiting 2 days should be safe.) Be sure that at the exact time you remove the bag, you 'tag' or 'mark' the formerly bagged pod so you'll remember to save it for seed and not eat it. You can tag it with anything that will help you remember...I like to use a brightly colored surveyor's tape.

The other surefire barrier method is to put a screened box, made of wood framing and window screening or spun polyester row cover, over the okra plant you want to save seed from. If you do this, make sure there's no place at the ground where a pollinator can creep, crawl or slide under the cage.

Isolation by distance wouldn't work as a sure-fire method because the different kinds of okra would have to be at least 1 mile from one another. I know you have acreage...but not quite that much.

Okra, by the way is related to roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), cotton and hibiscus, but the pollen of those various plants will not cross with the okra.

To harvest your 'bagged' pods for seed saving, let them mature fully on the plant and then pick them, and lay them in a single layer on something out of the sun so they can continue to dry out. When they are dry enough, they'll split open on their own and you can then remove and dry the seed.

Dawn

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:07PM
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p_mac(7)

Well - got out there and planted anyway today. I read your advice Jay, and it sparked another idea. What I ended up doing was planting a row (or 2) of okra, then zuchinni, anoher type of okra - then yellow squash, after that another row of the last type of okra, then cukes. That type of flight pattern would confuse a pilot (if he were shrunk down) so I'm hoping it confuses the bees. ha!

Whew....I'm tired. Those were almost 15 ft. rows and on top of that, we planted some watermelons, carrots, supa red corn (thanks, Tigerdawn!), pie pumpkins and butternut squash (most on the other side of the 60 ft. area!).

The grandkids were out this weekend and they got their lesson in planting Kandy Korn and our Howden pumpkins in a 2-sister patch. They also got all the other sprouts of wheat from the horse manure dug out in the whole garden aria! (Don't tell the Child Labor Bureau!) All in all, I feel very accomplished for the first weekend in May.

Paula

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:12PM
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macmex

It has sometimes crossed my mind, to try hand pollination of okra, and grow more than one kind. The flowers look as if they would very easily cross. Yet, they also would be very easy to hand pollinate. Paula, take a look at the link below, on hand pollination of squash. I believe you could use the exact same technology with success. Just examine your flowers to see when the pollen is mature (fluffy and easily moved) and by that, determine the best time of the day for hand pollinating.

George
Tahlequah, OK

Here is a link that might be useful: Hand Pollination of Squash

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 8:43AM
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