According to the experts, different localities has different genetics but it's still Greek to me after reading several pages of the effects of inbreeding and outbreeding and so forth.
Have you ever dug ginseng in places that you would think it should have been impossible for it to grow? It probably would be impossible for say ordered seed from cultivated stock to grow there.
I really think this is the reason growers have such a hard time getting a good stand of ginseng from ordered seed even in ideal soil for any length of years.
My background is in this \"area\" of science. Especially with a slow growing, slow spreading plant like ginseng there is no doubt quite a bit of genetic variation. Think about it, how long would it take a favorable gene from one plant at the northern end of the range to get into the plants at the southern end? Obviously that depends on many factors, but assuming an optimal generation time of three years and lets say moving a few meters every generation. To go 1000 miles would take half a million years. Of course the reality is probably more optimistic than that, and now we have trade in ginseng that can move genes from one end of the range to the other in mere hours, but it wasn't always this way. The moral of the story is try to get wild seed or wild derived seed from fairly local sources if you can. It'll probably provide advantages for your particular area that other sources won't.
Also consider the work done by John Young of the USGS. He had a graphic which showed three overarching genotypes of ginseng. One along the eastern side of the Appalachians, one along the western side, and one along the Ohio River valley. Add to this work done by folks like Dave Devinny, who posit that ginseng genetics currently suggest the possibility of one -or very few- very large populations covering many thousands of square miles geographically. With the increase of deer predation, and loss of habitat, populations were broken up and became geographically isolated. Because of the selfing nature of ginseng, these local populations begin to specialize if you will in their local environments. For instance, a patch of a dozen plants on this side of the hill might be genetically different from a dozen plants in a patch on the other side of the same hill less than a half mile away. Mind you, these differences are really not that much different at all to us.
As for the source of seed, allginseng plants originated from wild stock. That some of the seeds from commercially grown plants find their way back into the woods in my mind -and in my experience- does not make the resulting plants cultivated. Are there genetic differences? Almost certainly their are. However, just because you find a seed dealer near you, doesn't mean his or her seeds are not from commercial sources. Nearly all if not all of the seed available in any quantity on the market originates from cultivated fields. It is just too time consuming to actually harvest seeds economically from true wild or wild simulated operations.
I was working on a project on this topic early in the year, but as the year has progressed, I've had to leave it sit for the time being until my time frees up once again.
You seem to have an understanding BCastle. It makes sense to me. Speaking that most are commercially harvested, do the seeds and eventually plants (commercially harvested) do well in a wild simulated method? Or are wild berries by far better with greater germination rates and higher quality? Kinda like the first time you try fresh grown, organically cultivated veg. Fish emulsion, compost the whole nine yards. With my expierences in cultivation, different companies have different results with quality and germination rates. Kinda like Tomatoes for example. There are hundreds of strains and varieties, but all are tomaotes. Is this the same for seng? Or from what your saying there are 3 American strains. Hopefully I'm making sense. I'm trying to gain better knowledge of the genetics of seng. Also, I'm trying to figure out the best avenue for genetics. Thanks for everybody's input.
I ferreted out the study BCastle is referring too and from what I can see the understanding of ginseng genetics isn't that good. It was more of a population genetics study where your looking at how different the DNA in various populations is rather than looking at the DNA and the traits associated with the populations. Something I found interesting is that American and Chinese ginseng are more closely related then American and Dwarf ginseng.
I can't speak for everyone's seed, but I know the seed that I plant is commercially raised seed and it does exceedingly well in wild simulated situations. In fact, a couple years ago I posted some pictures of 6 year old woodsgrown plants which were left over after a bed was dug as 2y transplants, and compared them with 8 year old wild simulated plants. Everyone preferred the woodsgrown roots to the wild sim roots. Both had exceedingly desirable wild character even though the seed they sprang from was in a commercial farm.
I think everyone mostly agrees that locally wild plants tend to have better disease resistance. The larger concern of those who are studying ginseng genetics is that these locally adapted populations could potentially lose their unique genotypes if out-crossed with cultivated genes. Consider the issue that some disease or strain thereof shows up 20 years from now. Maybe this is three generations removed from the seeds I plant from cultivated sources. If the resulting crosses lose specific adaption for this particular disease the theory is that all the ginseng could be lost. The overarching concern is of out-cross depression in subsequent generations This must be tempered with empirical evidence which confirms robust hybrid vigor in F1 ginseng crosses. Further, that lack of genetic diversity is recognized as one of the larger concerns for wild ginseng populations. Currently there is no scientific evidence that crossing truly wild populations with cultivated seed will result in negative outcomes.
I think your comparison of tomatoes is accurate to a point. We certainly do not see the drastic differences in ginseng that we see in tomatoes. However, it is possible that some of the sectional differences in ginseng is more because of genetics rather than growing conditions.
Personally, I think based on my observation and experience that cultivated seed does well in good environmental situations and I know for a fact it can reestablish naturally reproducing populations. Only time will tell how it does in the long run. In the short term, however, I think having more ginseng in the ground making seed and establishing new populations is better than waiting for nature to do so from depressed geographically isolated populations.
Ittiz, you might also want to look up the work by Marla McIntosh in Maryland. She did a series of studies with Larry Hardin's stock.