Organic Seed Alliance’s (OSA) 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference drew a record turnout last weekend, with more than 500 participants attending the event in Corvallis, Oregon, from February 4 – 6, 2016, and an additional 330 people joining the conference via live webinar. Participants represented 34 states, 10 countries, and 20 universities. Conference co-hosts included Oregon State University, Washington State University, and eOrganic.
The biennial conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America. More than 80 experts presented on specific topics under the categories of organic plant breeding, organic seed production, enterprise development, and policy.
Organic Seed Alliance released four new reports for California organic seed producers and farmers today. These include three organic variety trial reports from on-farm research conducted over the 2013 — 2014 growing season and proceedings from the first California Organic Seed Summit held in February of 2015.
Organic Broccoli Trial Report
This report is the result of a variety trial conducted in 2013 and 2014 by Organic Seed Alliance and Coke Farm in northern San Benito County, California. The trial included 13 varieties of open-pollinated, public domain broccoli that were grown and evaluated for plant size, rate of growth, maturity date, head quality, side shoot production, and plant health. The report includes trialing materials and methods, results and discussion, and conclusions.
Download the California Organic Broccoli Variety Trial 2013-2014 report here.
Wheat fields in Northern California. Photo credit: Organic Seed Alliance
UPDATE 12/11/15: The USDA officially announced that it will require permits for all future GE wheat field trials.
Thanks to the organizations and businesses that signed our comments calling for these permits and strong containment conditions.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a policy change that should provide more oversight of genetically engineered (GE) wheat planted in experimental field trials, though major improvements to regulations and oversight are still desperately needed.
The amount of acreage growing experimental varieties of GE crops is a long-standing concern of the organic community. Thousands of acres of experimental crops are planted each year.
We know seed and pollen cannot be fully contained in an open-air environment, and that GE traits are found in organic and other non-GE seed, crops, and food, creating a burden and financial risk to those who find their products contaminated. The USDA released data this month on some of these costs, finding what we already knew: that contamination is costing organic farmers millions of dollars. Contamination events sometimes involve experimental crops, as we saw with GE rice in 2006 and with GE wheat in 2013 and 2014, to name just two examples.
Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and Greenbank Farm released a new variety trial report today. The Greenbank Farm Organic Seed Project: 2015 Western Washington Trial Report is the result of on-farm variety trials conducted in 2014 and 2015 by organic farmers in Western Washington with technical advising support from both OSA and Greenbank Farm. The report includes descriptions of trial goals, trial methods, and trial result data of six on-farm variety trials conducted on four participating farms in Western Washington in 2015. Trials included varieties of tomatoes, dry pole beans, popcorn, radicchio, chicory, snap peas, and bush yellow snap beans.
On-farm trials are a valuable tool for farmers to learn first-hand how varieties grown under their specific environment and growing practices perform. A great deal of information can also be gained from sharing results with other farmers. In 2015, Greenbank Farm’s Organic Seed Project, in partnership with OSA, offered organic farmers in Western Washington the opportunity to conduct on-farm variety trials. Participating farmers selected the crop and varieties of their choice. They identified the trial goals, managed the trial, conducted all trial evaluations, and prepared written trial reports. Farmers were asked to share their results so performance data could be made available to other farmers in the region.
Download the report here. Continue reading
Organic farmer Scott Park, Student Farm Director Mark Van Horn, Plant Breeding Center Director Charlie Brummer, and OSA’s Jared Zystro
Photo courtesy: UC Davis Plant Breeding Center
Re-posted with permission from UC Davis
A new effort to provide California growers with seeds for tomato, bean, pepper and other crop varieties that are specially bred for organic farming has been launched at UC Davis.
The organic plant-breeding project was developed in direct response to California organic growers, who have reported that the scarcity of seeds for cultivars that meet the needs of organic farming can seriously impact a farm’s bottom line.
“Seeds bred to account for the difference between growing organically and conventionally could improve farm yields and marketing potential for produce, yet organic seeds available to farmers are rarely developed with these organic management considerations in mind,” said Charlie Brummer, director of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Center and coordinator of the new organic breeding project.