Winter Hardy Crops Put to Test, NOVIC Update, and More

OSA’s Research and Education programs are working to create the next generation of organic seeds and seed stewards by breeding organically adapted carrots, trialing new varieties for winter hardiness, and producing new organic seed and breeding publications.

NOVIC Breeding and Trial

Our research with the Northern Organic Variety Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) enters its second year this spring. The carrots we planted last summer from our winter carrot breeding work are ready to be dug, selected and replanted into the greenhouse to make a new crop of seed to plant this summer. Our tough winter this year should tell us which carrots are best suited to winter production. We will also expand our NOVIC trials to include Delicata squash varieties and short season dry beans by popular demand of our local farmers.

Local Winter-Hardy Trials

We have had a rollercoaster of a winter this year with low temperatures near 14 degrees Fahrenheit very early (before Thanksgiving) and very late (late February) for the Puget Sound, which put our winter hardy crops to the test! (Remember, these trials are done without plastic.) The great news is that we confirmed the toughness of a couple of our favorite green chards, which include Alba, our farmer selected strain of Fordhook, and our own Magenta Magic, which has proven to be very cold-hardy, delicious, and beautiful.

Another success story is our cold-hardy radicchio trials, where we found several Italian open pollinated (OP) varieties to be much more cold-hardy than the popular Dutch hybrids. We found multiple Rossa di Verona, Variegata di Chioggia, and Castle Franco varieties that are cold-hardy, beautiful, and some even mild-flavored – for those eaters who prefer less bitter greens. These radicchios have lots of variation in traits both visible and invisible. This variation can be selected from as part of on-farm breeding to create varieties adapted to organic agriculture. At least half of the 12 Purple-Sprouting Broccoli varieties that we are evaluating – thanks to support from the Organically Grown Company – survived the cold weather. As we write this, the survivors are sending up sprouts, so we’ll have more to tell you about the best of these and about all of our winter trials at our website in the coming weeks.

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