Harvest Season in California

wheat-CaOSA’s organic wheat trials are coming to a close for the year in California. This month we harvested the commercial trial in Upper Lake, which included many spring wheat varieties. We’re also hosting a wheat field tour this Friday. See our events page for details.

This year we began working with Northern California organic farmer Blake Richards of Wild Rose Farm to improve his diverse quinoa variety. Quinoa is an important and emerging crop, with relatively little breeding yet done for U.S. organic farmers outside of a handful of dedicated farmers and researchers. We recently harvested seed from over sixty excellent quinoa single plant selections from Blake’s 16-acre quinoa field. Next year we will plant plots from each of these plants in a trial to refine Blake’s stock seed.

This month we are harvesting onion and red peppers from our variety trials with Phil Foster of Pinnacle Organic Produce. Our trial is set to find onions that yield well in Phil’s organic system, and have good flavor, resistance to pink root, and excellent storing ability. We are evaluating Italian-type red peppers for their yield, leaf canopy, disease resistance, flavor, and wall thickness. We will also be working with San Francisco Bay Area chefs to find onion and pepper varieties with excellent culinary qualities.

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A Letter From Our Director

Mic-fieldOSA recently bid farewell to staff member and friend Dr. John Navazio, who is re-locating cross-country to work as a plant breeder for Johnny’s Selected Seeds. After serving more than ten years as our senior scientist, we’re sad to see him go, but excited for the opportunity before him.

We can’t thank John enough for his years of service to OSA. As a visionary co-founder of the organization, he helped establish organic plant breeding as a professional field and philosophy. His expertise and leadership shaped our organization’s research and education programs, which in turn have supported the expansion of the industry he now enters. We couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments.

Thankfully John’s departure comes at a time when our research team is growing, which includes three additional staff members with plant breeding and seed research expertise. Our plant breeding program is expanding with breeding work on the ground through research partnerships with seven universities and dozens of farmers across the country. In 2015 our first public variety release, ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ sweet corn, will become commercially available through High Mowing Organic Seeds. Our second release,  ‘Abundant Bloomsdale’ spinach is currently being offered to seed companies for trial.

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Upcoming Organic Silage Corn Variety Trial Field Day

silage-corn-4weeksJoin Organic Seed Alliance and Warren Creek Farms at a variety trial field day to share results from the 2014 local organic silage corn variety trials. The field day will be held on September 17, 2014 at Warren Creek Farms in Arcata, CA.

Field day participants can expect to learn about the goals and methods of the trial, how to conduct their own on-farm variety trials, and which trial varieties performed best in the area.

Although silage corn is just a small part of the diet of local dairy cows, it is nonetheless an important local crop. Local silage producers face a couple of challenges. First, the Arcata area has a drastically different climate from the major corn producing areas. There are few varieties that are able to mature in the area because of the cool summers. Second, for the past decade or more, the major corn breeding companies have focused on varieties released with genetically engineered (GE) traits.

In order to provide coastal dairy farmers with better information about silage corn variety choices, Organic Seed Alliance is conducting a silage corn trial in 2014. This is a rigorous, replicated trial of 10 promising non-GE silage corns. Researchers and farmers will be looking at yield, maturity, and silage quality. This is being conducted in the Arcata Bottoms in partnership with Warren Creek Farms, and supported by UCCE-Humboldt, CCOF, Columbia Foundation, and Gaia Fund.

Warren Creek Farms is located at 1171 Mad River Road, Arcata, CA 95521. The event will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

For additional questions, please contact Jared Zystro by email at jared[at]seedalliance[dot]com or by phone at (707) 502-9984.

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From the Field: Carrot, Spinach, and Onion Seed

We're noticing some differences in plant health and suspect we’re seeing varying levels of resistance to Xanthomonas (a bacteria that causes black leaf spot). The red plants are the ones that have likely succumbed to infection and the green ones are those most likely carrying some resistance. OSA's plant breeders will be selecting seed from strong plants this fall.

Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) trial. Copyright OSA.

Last month we shared some notes from our carrot breeding work happening at Midori Farm as part of the collaborative Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project. This week we noticed some differences in plant health and suspect we’re seeing some varying levels of resistance to Xanthomonas (a bacteria that causes black leaf spot). The red plants (see picture to the left) are the ones that have likely succumbed to infection and the green ones are those most likely carrying some resistance. We’ll be selecting seed from strong plants in late August or early September.

Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) weed competitiveness trials. Copyright OSA.

CIOA weed competitiveness trials. Copyright OSA.

You’ll notice some big differences in top size and a few weeds in the photo of our CIOA weed competitiveness trial to the right. We are looking at the rate of growth and the fullness of canopy as a way to quantify the ability of carrot varieties to compete with weeds. Later this season, we will combine this data with plant and weed biomass and yield measurements to see how the weeds affected plant growth and root yield. Each plot is split in half with one half that is actively weeded each week and the other left to the weeds. We are proud to be collaborating on this work with researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

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Upcoming Carrot Field Day in Washington State

carrot-colored-tasting-stone-barns_smallJoin us for the upcoming “Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture Field Day” to be held August 15, 2014, at the Washington State University Extension Research Farm in Pasco, Washington.

The field day will include a presentation on the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project by Dr. Phil Simon of USDA ARS and University of Wisconsin – Madison. CIOA is a collaborative breeding project that addresses the needs of organic carrot farmers. The project focuses on developing orange and novel colored carrots with improved disease and nematode resistance, improved weed competitiveness, and improved nutritional value and flavor.

The event will also include a field tour of research plots at the Washington State University Extension Research Farm. The field tour will include research on: spider mite control of sweet corn, fungicide seed treatments on sweet corn, plant population studies on sweet corn, insect control on potatoes, and onion thrips control on onions.

The field day will be held at the Washington State University Extension Research Farm located at 2280 N. Rd. 80 in Pasco, Washington (see map below) from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday, August 15, 2014. The event is free and open to the public.

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