osp -Organic Seed Partnership

The Organic Seed Partnership will enhance and expand a set of existing complementary, regionally-focused activities to create a strong national network aimed at developing and delivering improved vegetable varieties selected for superior performance in organic systems. Achieving this goal requires both new varieties and improved capacity to produce large quantities of commercial grade seed. This project integrates participatory farm-based crop breeding and selection activities in organic systems, supported by regional research centers that ensure the early engagement of growers, consumers and seed companies. The focus of this project is on vegetable species because of the paramount importance of vegetables in organic farming systems and because of the relative value of these products for the businesses that engage in organic agriculture. Vegetable germplasm for this project will originate from small businesses (e.g., farmer/breeders and regionally focused, smaller seed companies), non-profit organizations and from public sector research institutions including universities and the USDA. Appropriate procedures to manage the transfer of these materials between breeders and to our trialing networks are in place that preserve the originators' rights, if desired.

Our national trialing network has been setup to consist of a series of hubs representing key production areas and regions, each supporting farmer-based trialing networks similar to those already used successfully by our Public Seed Initiative, funded by the USDA IFAFS program. Trials conducted at these hubs and farmers' trials linked to each hub will occur on certified organic ground or land in transition, and will be organically managed in every case. Unfunded partners include seed companies with a history of serving the organic agriculture community and with the capacity to produce commercial vegetable seed organically. Particular emphasis has been placed on serving diverse regions in the U.S., particularly those where minorities are well represented among small farmers.

This federated approach builds upon a successful model for integrating public sector research/education with the capacity offered by farmer-based non-profit organizations and small businesses. Furthermore, curriculum development opportunities that arise as a consequence of basing our trial hubs at schools will be addressed by cooperators who will be able to demonstrate to students trialing strategies, organic agricultural production and farmer-based participatory trialing and selection. Our goal is to develop the Organic Seed Partnership as an effective strategy to harness national research and education capacity for locally- and regionally-defined needs of organic agriculture.

This project is funded through the CSREES
(Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service)

L Robertson
Dr. Larry Robertson, USDA-ARS, PGRU showing the Physalis collection at the Geneva, Workshop in September 2005.
B. Davis
Briana Davis with her Purple Haze Carrots.
Velvet Roller
John Oughterson demonstrating the velvet roller at the NOFA Summer Conference 2005.
D. Sharman
Dave Sharman (USDA-ARS, PGRU) talking about the squash collection at the Geneva Workshop 2005.
E. Henderson
Melon Tasting
NOFA 2005
Geneva Workshop participants looking at the Tomatillo (Physalis) collection at PGRU.
Elizabeth Henderson looking for fruit set in her pepper field.
Melon tasting at New Mexico State University.
People gathered at the NOFA Summer Conference to watch a tomato seed processing demonstration.
We acknowledge support from the USDA, CSREES, Organic Research and Education Initiative Award No. 2004-51300-02229.
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Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative

This project is a collaborative effort of Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin, USDA- PGRU (Geneva, NY) and Organic Seed Alliance (Washington) and will help continue and expand our organic vegetable breeding and outreach here at Cornell. We will create a robust national network of organic vegetable breeders working with each other and regional growers to benefit the organic community with improved vegetable varieties that are adapted to organic systems combined with disease resistance, nutritional and flavor quality, and contemporary productivity traits crucial to modern markets. We will focus on three hubs in the Northern US because of the similarities of our growing environments. Five crops that span a growing season were selected that integrate grower needs and plant breeding expertise: pea, broccoli, sweet corn, carrots and winter squash. Variety trialing and evaluation of material at various stages of development will provide key information regarding adaptability and will be ideal for soliciting regional participant grower input regarding their evaluation of the suitability of the vegetables to their needs and guidance for further improvement toward cultivar development. This engagement will take the form of trialing material at various stages of development along with existing varieties as well as engaging in participatory breeding. The deployment of soil health tests developed at Cornell that measure biological and physical properties, in addition to traditional chemical tests, will allow a more detailed understanding of plant performance at each site. Outreach activities will make the results of this work more accessible. Graduate student training and summer internships at each hub will be key aspects of the work. Workshops will be conducted and media will be developed to reinforce grower collaborations regarding the breeding, trialing and seed saving methods for each crop.
For 2010 we will continue our breeding efforts in squash and pea and our trialing and outreach efforts in all six crops. We will be soliciting grower input at all stages of the project. We are looking for participating growers for our on-farm trials of pea, broccoli, sweet corn, carrots and winter squash and most likely late blight tomatoes. In each case we will have about 9 varieties in each trial. Please contact Michael Glos (mag22@cornell.edu) if you are interested in participating. We have funding to support growers efforts for the on-farm singled replicated trials.