Martin Diffley has been growing sweet corn for more than 30 years, but this year he saw something new. In a field trial on his farm, he sampled row after row of delicious high-quality sweet corn – sweet corn that he had bred. Four summers ago, Martin began working with Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the University of Wisconsin – Madison to breed an open-pollinated sweet corn that tasted as good as his best hybrids and still emerged in cold, wet soils. Four years later, the new variety is nearly ready.
There is a strong demand within the organic community for new organically adapted varieties, and farmer breeders like Martin are helping to make these new varieties a reality.
Are you interested in being a part of the new generation of organic plant breeders? If so, your first step should be to register for our 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference to attend the organic breeding track. No other conference brings together plant breeders, farmers, and other seed professionals for two days of immersion into the latest organic breeding projects and techniques. Six 90-minute workshops focus on practical techniques in organic plant breeding. The workshop topics are after the jump.
Intro to Organic On-farm Breeding More and more farmers are starting to breed new varieties for their farms. How can you get started? Our presenters will walk you through the steps you take to create a new variety, and help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Organic Corn Breeding King corn is grown on more acres than any other crop. What is being done to breed corn for organic systems, and how can you take part? This workshop will describe the process of breeding corn for organic agriculture and some of the current organic corn breeding projects.
Organic Wheat Breeding With the explosion of local organic grains, mills and bakeries, organic farmers are looking for wheat varieties that thrive in their systems. This workshop will take you through the process of developing your own wheat variety and showcase current organic what breeding projects.
Breeding Peas, Sweet Corn, Broccoli, Winter Squash, and Carrots as Part of NOVIC The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) is a national project to breed new vegetable varieties for organic agriculture. Participants will learn about the techniques NOVIC breeders are using to develop new organically adapted varieties of peas, sweet corn, broccoli, squash, and carrots.
Participatory Breeding Café Participatory research methods in plant breeding and new crop development provide important tools for organic farmers. This workshop “café” will feature five tables on five participatory research topics.
Hands-on Pollination Workshop Roll up your sleeves, dust off your tweezers, and get ready to pollinate! This workshop will begin with basic floral botany and crossing techniques, and then move to a hands-on component where participants can practice making crosses in a number of common crops.
If you can’t make it to Port Townsend this January, or if you’re simply ready to learn more about organic plant breeding, OSA has a number of resources for burgeoning plant breeders:
- The first step in organic plant breeding is conducting variety trials. Download our variety trial guide at: http://www.seedalliance.org/Publications/
- Our website has a list of publications on organic and participatory plant breeding: http://www.seedalliance.org/OgPPB_PubsReports/
- We regularly teach a class in the fundamentals of organic variety improvement. Visit our website’s event page and follow us on Facebook for updates on these and other events.
- We are working on organic breeding manuals and a participatory breeding toolkit. These will be available for free download in 2012.
For questions about OSA’s resources and events, including the organic breeding track at our 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference, contact Jared Zystro.