Very little sweet corn grown commercially today is open pollinated. Farmers who wish to save their own seed have few if any good choices of varieties to grow. Today’s hybrids have been developed for conditions that are different from those found on most organic farms. Organic sweet corn growers deserve better choices.
The purpose of this five-year breeding project is to reduce transgenic contamination of organic maize grown in the USA by maintaining the integrity of organic maize seed. Organic farmers are not required to produce transgene-free crops, but they must plant seed that is free of transgene. An important objective of this project is the education of seed producers and organic farmers on how to use these “Organic-Ready” varieties for reducing the incidence of transgenic contamination.
Organic farmer interest in on-farm plant breeding has been on the rise due to a lack of available germplasm adapted to organic systems, a growing awareness of the value of regionally adapted varieties, and consolidations in the seed industry that have led to a decline in varietal offerings.
Investigator: William F. Tracy, Dept. of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin,
Project locations: Wisconsin, Minnesota
Participatory plant breeding to improve sweet corn for organic farmers
In the upper Midwest, fresh market sweet corn is an important part of many diversified organic vegetable operations. Many organic farmers consider sweet corn crucial for attracting customers to their market stands or to their CSAs.
Project title: On-farm management of cutworms in organic no-till corn
Investigator: Jeffrey Moyer, Rodale Institute Experimental Farm, Kutztown, PA
Project location: Kutztown, Pennsylvania
Investigator: Steve Tennes, Country Mill Farms, Charlotte, Michigan
Project locations: This project will be conducted at seven farms in southern Michigan over a total of three summers (2009-2011). The farms include organic, conventional and mixed operations.
Coordinator: Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, WA
Project locations: Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, Minnesota
Investigator: Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm, Williams, Oregon
Project location: Oregon
Maintaining our own seed allows the farmer to adapt seeds to his or her location and growing methods. Seed saving requires open pollinated varieties. Development work in the last 50 or more years has been almost entirely based on hybrids. While hybrids have advantages in creation of corn that is both uniform and productive, we can create open pollinated varieties that are better than any op’s now available.