Use hand pollination to controll pollination of your plants. Hand pollination can be used to ensure that a certain variety of chilli will self pollinate and grow true to variety or can be used to cross two different varieties of chillies to create a hybrid variety.
The most important aspect of this process is to ensure that the possibillity of unintended pollination is excluded. So one needs to enure that none of the flowers that will be used in this process have been exposed to pollen from another plant.
To do this, we are going to be dealing with flowers that have not yet opened. Unopened flowers are not at risk of pollination as the Stigma is effectively sealed off to the open environment by the petals that surround it. And while the flower is still closed the Anthers will not have any viable pollen that can pollenate the Stigma.
We have included a simple diagram for reference purposes.
PLEASE NOTE: This procedure should be performed on the plant. For ease of demonstration, we are showing flowers that have been removed from the plant.
This proceedure should be used in an isntance where you want to make absolutely sure that your plant self pollinates. Ensuring self pollination will ensure that any seeds from pods from this plant will grow true to variety. You will want to be certain that the plant you choose is a stable variety and not a hybrid in itself.
For this proceedure we will be looking at one plant. This plant will serve as both male and female donors. We will require a plant that has lots of flowers - closed flowers.
1) Locate a flower on the plant that has not yet opened. This is going to be our pollen donor. For the pollen to become available, this flower will need to open.
To avoid any possibility of contamination from other pollen, we will isolate the closed flower with a Blossom Bag. For this, we will place the Blossom Bag over the unopened flower and tie the bag off to ensure no foreign pollen can get into the bag.
2) The closed flower will open inside the Blossom Bag and will usually start producing pollen late afternoon (the hottest part of the day 12:00 - 15:00).
Note the size of the pollen bag versus the flower. The flower has lots of room. If your Pollen Bag is too small it will stifle the flower. Temperature surrounding the flower may rise and a tendancy for flower drop may increase. Ensure your bag is no smaller than 10x10cm!
We will now be able to harvest the pollen from this flower!
3) Carefully loosen the Blossom Bag around the donor flower and taking an unused earbud, gently pick up pollen from the open flower on the plant. For this to happen, you will need to brush the earbud against the Anthers.
Pollen is a very very fine dust that will appear as a white to off-white dust.
|4) Now locate another closed flower on the same plant. This will be the female receptor of the pollen you have just collected.|
|5) Using the tweezers, carefully remove the outer petals of the closed flower. A steady hand is required. Remove all the petals so you are left with the Stamen and the Stigma in the centre.|
|6) Using the tweezers carefully remove all of the the Stamen surrounding the Stigma - making sure not to damage the Stigma in the middle. Once all the Stamen have been removed, all that will be visible is the Stigma coming out from the top of the Ovary.|
7) Take the earbud with the pollen on it and very very gently brush the Stigma of the flower you removed the petals and stamen from.
NB: You can use the same earbud for different flowers on the same variety. But, never use the same earbud between different varieties as you will efectively be transferring pollen from one variety to another ie cross pollinating varieties.
8) Once done, tie a loop of twine around the stem of the pollinated flower. Do not tie the twine too tight. The twine should be loose. This serves only as a marker so later when the pod starts fruiting, you can tell (and know) which pods were derived from flowers that were self pollinated. Plants have flowers that open every hour of the day so it is not feasible to catch them all before they open. This way you will be able to distinguish the hand pollinated pods that will be guaranteed self pollinated.
All tings being well, the Ovary will swell and a pod will develop.
Repeat this process on multiple flowers on the plant. The more the better. Some manually pollinated flowers may drop - this is annoying, but quite normal. All things being well and the pollination having taken, the Ovary should swell and develop into a pod. The seeds in this pod will be 100% true to variety - with the proviso that the plant used was a stable variety.
All seeds derived from pods that were self pollinated will produce plants with pods that are simillar to the parent plant. Should there be any significant variation in the next generation of plants or pods, this will have been as a result of the parent plant not having been stable.
If you are intending to cross two varieties to create a new hybrid, you will need to follow the same proceedure - but in this instance the pollen will be taken from another plant. So, as opposed to our previous process we will have to different varieties that will be the mother and father plants. Follow steps 1 - 8 as above except your pollon donor flower will be from another variety.
Once you have completed the pollination process, you will want to label the flower with a small tag that will have the names of the varieties crossed. So at a later stage you will know what varieties you have cross pollinated.
Remember, the pods that appear after cross pollinating will always look exactly like the pods on the mother plant - the plant that received the pollen. So unless you label as you go, you will never be able to tell which pods have been crossed with what.
The physical variables attributes of the cross will only become visible in the next generation of plants' pods ie pods on plants derived from the seeds of the crossed pods.