New OSA Classes and Cultivars Underway

Organic Seed Alliance Publishes Seed Production Tutorials

OSA’s seed production tutorials are now available! These multi-media tutorials teach you professional techniques for organic seed production in the following categories: Beets and chard; brassicas; carrots; lettuce; onions; wet seeded crops; seed climatic considerations; and seed disease.

The tutorials are based on presentations given by organic seed experts at the 2011 Organicology conference and are funded through Western SARE. Click here to access the tutorials.

WSU Distance Learning: Organic Plant Breeding with Dr. John Navazio

Our new online Organic Plant Breeding class (Crops 443) starts August 22, and covers the basic principles of crop improvement for organic production with a strong emphasis on “on-farm plant breeding.” This is a multi-media course with PowerPoint presentations and audio, interviews with farmer breeders, a virtual spinach breeding project, and a chance for students to design their own projects. Students must be enrolled with Washington State University (call OSA for details).

Northern Organic Variety Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC)

In the field, OSA’s breeding work continues to involve a new Nantes carrot variety that grows tall tops to better compete with weeds and enough cold-hardiness to withstand western Washington winters. We’re currently producing seed of our carrot breeding lines in the greenhouse for the second year. We are bagging the flowers and introducing houseflies to do the pollinating for us. This will produce self-pollinated seed on each carrot plant. Once the seed matures, we will save the seed from each plant in separate bags. This summer we will plant individual rows from each bag of seed. Finally, after a winter on the Olympic Peninsula, we will evaluate and make selections on the roots.

In California, a new open-pollinated sweet corn is being developed. The sweet corn will be a sweet and tender sugary enhancer type, with cold vigor and resistance to pests and disease. After fighting through cold, wet soil this spring, the corn is up. Right now the corn populations have been thinned and selected for cold vigor. In a little over a month, we will begin pollinating, with a goal of making over 1000 self-pollinations. When complete, the new carrot and sweet corn varieties developed through NOVIC will be among the first bred for the challenges of organic agriculture.

The NOVIC trials are also continuing this year on seven different farms in our area. In the trials we are evaluating carrots, broccoli, sweet corn, snap peas, and winter squash. As the Butternut squash that we grew last year in these trials didn’t mature here in our cool climate we decided to switch to Delicata types. We are now evaluating 10 different Delicata varieties. (We can’t wait for the taste test!) We have also included a dry bean trial this year due to the popular demand of our local growers. Dry beans are very popular as many of us think about ways to supply ourselves with staple foods that are easily stored for the winter. An unusually cool, wet spring has slowed our progress, but we hope summer finds us this year.

Columbia Foundation Supports Outreach to Northern California

OSA’s work in California has been bolstered thanks to support from the Columbia Foundation. The foundation is supporting OSA outreach in northern California, including workshops and stakeholder meetings. Come to one of the following OSA seed saving workshops in California (more details on our events page):

Santa Rosa (at the Heirloom Expo) on September 13 – 15
Richmond on September 12
Berkeley on October 4

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