Farmers who save and improve seed are innovators in their own right. Their seed decisions impact the quality of the food we eat, the health of our environment, and the diversity of seed available for future generations.
Yet too much of our seed is owned and managed by a handful of chemical and biotechnology companies with no interest in the role farmers play in saving and improving seed — farmers like Theresa and Dan Podoll of Prairie Road Organic Seed.
“The changes in the seed industry have included dramatic consolidation and monopolistic control,” says Theresa. “This trend strikes a devastating blow to the biodiversity of our food and agriculture system, and narrows seed diversity. Our seed system is ecologically brittle.”
Announcement Follows Report that Identifies Severe Gaps in Public Breeding Infrastructure
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) has announced that it will host a symposium this spring to identify opportunities and priorities for advancing organic plant breeding in the Pacific Northwest.
“The long-term goal of this symposium is to increase farmer access to regionally appropriate vegetable, grain, pulse, and forage seed well-suited for organic production,” says Micaela Colley, executive director of OSA. “Farmers who follow organic practices must focus more on prevention and resistance because they have fewer inputs at their disposal. They need crop varieties developed specifically for low-input systems – crops that mitigate pest and disease pressures, and that are adapted to their Pacific Northwest conditions and climates.”
Arcata, CA – Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) has published a report that details results from a silage corn variety trial. The trials were conducted in the North Coast of California to help the region’s farmers identify which organic and other non-GMO varieties perform best in their climate and under organic conditions. This is the only organic silage corn trial in Northern California.
The North Coast of California has a strong dairy industry, including organic dairies. The climate and soils of North Coast deltas, river valleys, and flood plains allow dairy farmers to graze cows on pasture for most of the year. Still, supplemental feed is required, including grain, hay, and silage corn. Silage corn is corn grown to near maturity that is then harvested as a whole plant, chopped, and fermented to increase its digestibility.
There are very few varieties of silage corn that mature early and yield well in the cool, coastal maritime climate of the North Coast. This led OSA to test 10 promising varieties in 2014 through rigorous and replicated trials, looking at yield, maturity, and silage quality. The trials were conducted at Warren Creek Farms, a certified organic farm in Arcata.
North Coast silage producers face a dearth of choice in seed appropriate for their region for two main reasons. The first is that the region is drastically different from the major corn producing areas.
John Navazio, Jared Zystro, Adrienne Shelton, and Bill Tracy. Photo courtesy of High Mowing Organic Seeds.
The variety is the first in a series of open-pollinated sweet corn releases
Organic Seed Alliance and the University of Wisconsin–Madison are proud to announce the release of a new sweet corn variety called ‘Who Gets Kissed?’. The open-pollinated variety is the first in a series of organic sweet corn releases developed through participatory plant breeding, where farmers and formal breeders collaborate on farm-based breeding projects to improve agricultural crops.
“Our approach to plant breeding is what sets ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ apart from other sweet corn varieties in the marketplace,” says Micaela Colley, executive director of Organic Seed Alliance. “’Who Gets Kissed?’ was not only bred under organic farming conditions, but organic farmers were equal partners in the breeding effort.”
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) will host a “Fundamentals of Seed Production and Variety Improvement” course on Saturday, January 10, 2015, at St. Stephen’s Church in Sebastopol, CA.
OSA’s Jared Zystro and Steve Peters will teach this daylong course where participants will learn fundamental skills for developing seed varieties for organic farms.
Topics of instruction include: the biology of seed production, seed harvesting and cleaning, choosing appropriate seed crops for your farm and climate, maintaining the genetic integrity of varieties with appropriate population sizes and isolation distances, conducting variety trials, and basic on-farm plant breeding techniques. Prior experience in basic seed growing is recommended.