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.
Investigator: Michael Mazourek, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
Project location: Cornell University’s 30 acre certified organic Freeville Organic Research Farm, located 10 miles north of Cornell’s Ithaca, New York main campus.
Coordinator: Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, WA
Project locations: Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, Minnesota
The purpose of this project was to identify varieties of quinoa, buckwheat and spelt optimally adapted to organic farming systems in Washington State. Quinoa varieties have been identified that perform well in both Eastern and Western Washington. The multi-location quinoa variety trials have led to the establishment of a robust organic quinoa breeding and agronomy program, with multiple students incorporating genetic, agroecological and social aspects into their research.
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.