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Northern Canadian C. moschata Landrace Breeding

I am looking to landrace/swarm breed some large, early, cold night tolerant, resilient Curcubita moschata with the end goal of a loveable butternut flavor.
A good crop of butternut squash is a difficult thing to achieve in many northern Canadian gardens even with shorter season varieties. On top of that, shorter season varieties achieve this by breeding for smaller fruit but other species of squash can be grown in our climate without sacrificing size. There is very little research into growing crops for northern Canadian zones and I would like to contribute. To try to find a solution to this I am starting a project to develop landrace/swarm bred butternut type squashes that are adapted to the cold nights and short summers of the northern prairies. I have acquired several types of grex/ landrace C. moschata seeds and I am hoping to mine genetics from them and other short season varieties based on their performance. These will then be combined and trained over a couple generation into at least one reliable landrace type crop. Selection or segregation for fruit shape and other qualities may take place in later steps. The first step is to trial different germplasm and I am looking for people in Canadian communities with short growing seasons who want to participate in grow out trials this year. I am generally looking for gardeners in zones 3 and below. If you are unsure if you qualify, feel free to contact me. I am putting this out there to judge interest, I do not think we need a huge amount of people to make this happen but the more we have the better the outcome should be. I have limited amount of seed but would like to have as many participants as possible. NOTE: I have been getting a lot of interest by posting on social media gardening groups and will likely do a lot of the project in person with these volunteers. I will post updates here however.
Researcher background
I am a young, experienced gardener that grew up on a farm in zone 2a. I am excited by the idea of bringing diversity and new varieties back into our food systems and helping to stabilize northern food systems by contributing plant breeding efforts. In a growing changing world we must have more resilient and diverse crops. I have a background in biological sciences and work as a horticulturalist.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
How many volunteers do you need?
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Volunteers will be asked to grow out as many seeds as they are able to and keep track of statistics such as first fruit set date, anomalous weather (drought/wetness/cold), days to maturity, exposure to pest and diseases as well as the final yield. These will aid in selecting the gene pool for the swarm breeding in later years.

They will be asked to self cross each plant so that seeds can be saved from the most productive and pooled for the swarm breeding. They will be asked to return seeds from this selfed fruit to the project. Any hand crosses between productive plants will also be appreciated but not required.

More detailed instructions will be provided to anyone who signs up.
Other requirements of volunteers?
All levels of experience are welcome. Some experience with squash is helpful and remember that squash need space! Soil type is not important as long as it can grow quality squash or amendment can be done to do so.

I am generally looking into zones 3 and below. If you are unsure if you qualify, feel free to contact me. For a ballpark idea, this includes Edmonton and area north in Alberta, and Prince Albert and North in Saskatchewan (although being in the heart of the city microclimate may affect things).
Is this a multi-year project?
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course
Anything else?
Anyone who may have C. moschata seed that is northern Canada adapted and is willing to share some, please feel free to contact me at I would love to add as much genetic diversity to this project as possible.
Researcher Location

T9N 2H9

Project Updates

Summer 2018 Project Update

project update by
Saturday, August 25, 2018 - 10:28

The project is now posted at

Participants who received seeds this year have been sharing photos on a communal Facebook page. Most varieties are performing well. Many of my own plants have set at least 1 or 2 fruits. They will likely have to be ripened off vine.

The photo submissions and information from the participants will be published on the website mentioned above along with harvest photos and results come the end of the season. Some parts of the northern prairies have started to experience frost and many participants struggled with the record breaking heat waves we have had this year.

Again, If you are interested in participating next season, lease contact me at I will also attempt to contact those who joined this project through experimental farm network.