A Challenge and Invitation: Part 1
However, for science to take the level of interest that can give us proof there will have to be an economic incentive that will cause industry to finance a university or other researcher(s) in a project to obtain ‘proof’. To date this hasn’t really happened (not to any level that will help us start a breeding project on ‘proven facts’), nor is it likely to happen any time soon, because daylilies just don’t have the economic force to justify it to the money people (industry). Now some may make a pretty penny on their daylilies, but compared to real commercial species such as petunias or maize, daylilies are a tiny drop in a huge ocean and mainly benefit a handful of hobbyists, rather than any large sector within the overall plant industry. With that being the case, I would strongly advise you not to hold your breath waiting on a study to answer all the questions and give you ‘permission’ to proceed.
Now, before you start sighting studies to me, I would point out that all the studies done so far have been small and have provided us with little practical and applicable information. The kind of information that a hobbyist can use in breeding is rarely what a researcher will be interested in, and vice-versa, their interests rarely translate to an average hobby enterprise. The studies we have seen so far have given us some indications, a finger pointing us in a direction, but little more.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the peer-review process isn’t important or valid. It is. I am only saying it is not that important or valid to the act of hobbyist breeding. That is why I went out of my way in the beginning of this series to specify the differences between the two things. We as hobbyist breeders are not looking for peer-reviewed ‘proof’, but rather for results and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to show us that breeding for resistance to rust in daylilies is possible. All we have to do is actually do it.
I have often heard criticism of the American Hemerocallis Society for not ‘doing more about rust’. I wonder though if their fairly hands-off approach has not been a blessing in the long run. I say this because I would be very leery of set parameters of ‘acceptable resistance’ or ‘acceptable breeding styles’ that were codified. To me, the truth of the matter is that rust is too vast and complex a problem for AHS to have dealt with it effectively and when I hear people proposing that they should have, I actually hear, “Why didn’t someone else do all the leg work so I don't have to?”
For AHS to put their name on any claims, those claims would need to be vetted and proven, and we have discussed proof here in previous posts. It would take years and lots of money to make such determinations, and then a new strain of rust could come along every year and destroy their well-vetted ‘facts’. I therefore feel that dealing with rust, breeding for rust resistance or not, falls firmly at the feet of the breeders. The fate of all domestics has always fallen at the feet of the breeders, in the end. Why would the daylily be any different? Scientists can help us, but we can’t expect them to swoop in with all the answers. Organizations designed for registry and promotion are not capable of the kinds of projects that could make hard and fast determinations that we might want, so who else is left to do this, if not we the breeders?
Furthermore, there is a great deal of anecdotal, gathered information about breeding for rust resistance in daylilies. You just need to listen to those who are doing it, rather than listen to the fear-mongers who insist it can’t be done, most likely because they don’t want to bother with doing it or are afraid to try (or more likely afraid of trying and failing, or perhaps of just having to shift their focus for a generation or two). All you can do is ignore the naysayers and proceed. If you fail, you are no worse off than you are now, and all the evidence points to those who try being somewhat successful.
In the next post we will pick up where this one left off and look at some tips and pointers I have for hobbyists, collectors and breeders who wish to pay any attention at all to rust resistance in daylilies.