The Organic Seed Alliance partnered with four farmers to develop new seedstock for hardy organic broccoli, sweet corn, and red kale. The three crops include an open-pollinated, early maturing broccoli; a sugary enhanced (SE) sweet corn which flowers earlier in the spring; and an open-pollinated curly red kale with desirable overwintering traits including improved downy mildew resistance and good growth under cool winter and spring conditions. Each population was grown on an organic farm and selected using recurrent selection techniques for general adaptation to organic growing conditions as well as specific farmer-identified desirable traits.
The breeding program resulted in progress towards new vegetable varieties, but breeding continued after the grant cycle to create the most desirable plants possible. Two of the four breeding projects have already resulted in a variety or “population” that is in production on the participating farm, Morton’s corn and Huber’s kale. These two populations are not uniform enough for marketing or releasing as a finished variety but are still valuable to produce. The red kale did well but the plants were too short and did not have enough red pigmentation. The broccoli seedlings were hardy, but did not produce large enough heads to harvest for market. The corn did well, germinating in cold soil conditions and was sold by Gathering Together Farm during the grant. This project also inspired new participatory plant breeding (PPB) projects and educated on PPB methodologies.