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  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society

October Meeting

October 5, 2006 at 7 pm

Jon Weeks

"Salicornia, The Sonoran Desert Succulent That Could""

Jon will open the eyes of succulent lovers and introduce a plant that manages to withstand almost anything. You must attend to get the real picture.

Nearly one third of the arable land on earth has a significant salinity problem.  Not only does this reduce crop yields for a hungry planet, but the situation is most critical in the poorest countries which often experience poor harvests.  The consequences of this are not only hunger but also include profound social and political consequences as hungry people migrate to other regions.  From 1980 to 1992, Jon worked on the Halophyte Project at the Environmental Research Laboratory of the University of Arizona.  There are approximately 400,000 species of plants in the world of which about 10,000 are believed to have some degree of salt tolerance.  The objective of this research was to investigate as many as possible of the estimated 10,000 species of halophytes which occur mostly in coastal habitats worldwide to determine if any of the species possessed the features required to be a successful crop plant that could be irrigated with low quality brackish water or seawater.   After reviewing several hundred species of halophytes, the Lab settled on a widespread western hemisphere halophyte, Salicornia bigelovii.  This species occurs intermittently along the coastlines of the United States and Mexico as isolated ecotypes.  These ecotypes have features which make them attractive candidates for a halophytic crop as well as numerous features which are barriers to becoming a crop plant.  This research focused on condensing the required characteristics of a crop plant into a bred selection while simultaneously breeding out the characteristics which would prevent the type from being successful as a seawater irrigated crop.  The research also included developing the farming techniques for a species which had never before been farmed.  As is often the case in research, Jon started out with some ideas that appeared to make sense at the beginning but during the course of the work got an education from the plants which he claims are a lot smarter than he will ever be.  The research  also included traveling extensively throughout Mexico

Jon was born and raised in Stratford, Connecticut. He received a B.A. from Gettysburg College in 1971 and in 1975 started Landscape Cacti, a desert nursery devoted to growing cacti and agaves from seed fro landscape use. In 1986 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and worked as a research Scientist for the University from 1986 to 1992 while living along the coast of Sonora, Mexico. Jon collected halophytes and was farming them in Kino Bay at Puerto Penasco, Sonora. Since 1992 to the present Jon has operated Landscape Cacti where he grows landscape cacti and agaves.  Be sure to join us for Jon's experience in growing landscape cacti and his talk on the Salicornia.



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  TCSS Officers and Board Sonoran Conference
  TCSS reserves the right to change dates and/or program should it be necessary.