Autumn Newsletter: Cultivating Resilience

mic-orcas-fieldRegistration for the 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference is now open. We hope you’ll join us for the largest organic seed event in the nation where you’ll learn from more than 60 experts in the fields of organic plant breeding, seed production, seed policy, and more.

We’re honored that Cary Fowler is attending as our conference keynote. Fowler is a pioneer in seed conservation who first inspired me with a book he co-authored on the devastating loss of genetic diversity (Shattering) and has continued to inspire me through his ongoing work to establish policies that address the dire state of public seed collections around the globe. His legacy is captured in a new film, Seeds of Time, and also fits our conference theme of “Cultivating Resilience.” Adapting to changing climates, environmental conditions, and the needs of our farmers and the people they feed can and should begin with seed. There’s much work to do to establish resiliency in our local ecologies, communities, and economies — but, together, we’re making progress.

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Organic Silage Corn Trials Featured at Upcoming Field Day

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OSA’s organic silage corn trial in 2014

Titus Dairy and Organic Seed Alliance will host a variety trial field day to showcase the 2015 local organic silage corn variety trials. The field day will be held on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at Titus Dairy in Ferndale, 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 might perform 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 challenges. First, the Ferndale 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 releasing varieties with genetically engineered (GE) traits.

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Colorful and Cutting Edge: New Carrot Varieties Take Root

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Carrots harvested as part of the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project

Our research team recently joined Washington State University (WSU) researchers for a Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) field harvest and evaluation. CIOA is a long-term breeding project that is helping farmers and plant breeders find existing carrot varieties – and develop new varieties – that are well suited for organic farming systems. The project prioritizes some important traits, like improved disease and nematode resistance, better weed competitiveness, higher nutritional content, and superior flavor.

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Upcoming Organic Seed Trainings in Western Washington

AB_spinach_021Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and partners will host four organic seed trainings for farmers throughout Western Washington over the next eight weeks. These events are co-hosted by Greenbank Farm’s Organic Seed Project.

Growing Spinach, Chard, and Beet Seed  |  August 31, 2015  |  Greenbank, WA
OSA and Greenbank Farm will host an in-depth course on growing spinach, chard, and beet seed in the Pacific Northwest region on August 31, 2015. These are three crops ideally suited to our Northwest Maritime climate. Participants will learn production methods from planting to harvest, including timing of planting, horticultural management techniques, and timing and tools for harvest and post-harvest cleaning. The event will be held at Greenbank Farm located at 765 Wonn Road A201 in Greenbank, Washington, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register for this event here.

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Learn How to Breed Crops for Organic Agriculture

IMG_2551The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) will host a two-day classroom and field based course on plant breeding next month. Nationally renowned plant breeders from University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, Oregon State University, and Organic Seed Alliance will lead a Fundamentals of On-Farm Plant Breeding course at Colorado State University on September 11-12, 2015. Participants will learn basic principles to evaluate, develop, improve, and maintain plant varieties for their farm. Instruction will include how to conduct variety trials, set breeding goals, develop breeding plans, and choose parents. Participants will also learn techniques and examples for breeding cross-pollinating and self-pollinating crops.

NOVIC plant breeders are developing new varieties to serve the needs of organic farmers. This national team of researchers is also teaching farmers how to save seed and breed new or improved varieties on their own farms through accessible, field-based breeding methods. Knowledge of plant breeding empowers farmers to develop varieties that are adapted to their local growing conditions, perform well under organic production, and hold superior market qualities, like flavor and beauty to appeal to their consumers.

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