OSA Partners on Organic Wheat Trials in California

Organic Seed Alliance and project partners have just finished planting organic wheat trials in Northern California. On three beautiful mornings this spring, farmer John LaBoyteaux towed his vintage International Harvester grain drill out to plant eight different varieties of wheat on three organic farms in the area. LaBoyteaux, Jared Zystro of Organic Seed Alliance, and David Lewis of University of California Extension–Marin are conducting wheat variety trials in organic fields at Marin Roots Organic Farm in Marin County, Front Porch Farm in Sonoma County, and College of the Redwoods Organic Farm in Humboldt County.

These are large replicated trials intended to help identify wheat varieties that will thrive on organic farms in the rainfed environments of northern California. Organic wheat production is taking off in Northern California and organic farmers have specific challenges that make it important to identify the best varieties for them. These challenges include weed competition and less readily available nitrogen.

The trial includes soft white and hard red spring wheat varieties, with a mixture of heirloom and publicly developed modern varieties represented. Researchers are comparing the performance of the varieties based on traits including maturity, disease resistance, height, resistance to lodging, yield, and protein content. At the end of the season, the results from the trials will be published and made available in the Organic Variety Trial Database.

In addition to the on-farm trials, this project includes a survey of small grain production in the Northern California counties of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Humboldt. This project is supported by a grant from the California Wheat Commission.

If you are a farmer growing small grains in any of these counties, contact Jared Zystro to participate in the survey.

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