[permaculture] New Tools for Organic Farmers Teach DIY Plant Breeding! | Organic Farming Research Foundation

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Fri Aug 29 16:34:31 EDT 2014

New Tools for Organic Farmers Teach DIY Plant Breeding!
     Karen Adler | Aug. 26th - 4:35pm

Organic farmers are always on the lookout for better ways to combat weeds,
insects, and disease, and produce an abundance of the healthiest and
best-tasting crops. Having plant varieties that are suited for organic
systems may be key to producing higher yields and better quality crops, and
could play an important role in increasing organic farmers’ success.
However, few plant breeders are working on varieties specifically targeted
for organic systems, and there are almost no such varieties available. How
to fill this void? One of the groups best suited to do organic breeding
work is organic farmers themselves.

Four new resources from Organic Seed Alliance
<https://www.seedalliance.org/> (OSA), developed and produced with funding
from OFRF
and Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters <http://www.seedmatters.org/>
initiative, provide a wealth of information for farmers who want to learn
the art and craft of plant breeding. The comprehensive manuals walk farmers
through the methods of breeding new crop varieties on the farm.

*Introduction to On-farm Organic Plant Breeding*
provides farmers with an overview of basic genetics, farm-based
experimental design, and breeding techniques appropriate for organic farms.
This guide lays the scientific foundation for the instruction provided in
the three crop-specific guides: *How to Breed Carrots for Organic
*How to Breed Sweet Corn for Organic Agriculture*
and *H*
to Breed Tomatoes for Organic Agriculture
Each manual provides step-by-step instruction, from identifying good
breeding material to maintaining a new variety for quality and uniformity.

“To increase organic farmers’ success, we must increase the number of
varieties bred for organic systems,” says Organic Seed Alliance Executive
Director Micaela Colley. “One of our goals is to empower organic farmers to
breed their own crop varieties. The methods described in these manuals can
immediately be adopted by farmers to improve their skills in plant
breeding, and, ultimately, improve their operations through seed varieties
that are well-suited to their farms.”

Breeding work that was once mostly done in farmers’ fields is now conducted
almost exclusively by large seed companies and on state-run agricultural
experiment stations, and breeders focus their attention on the big seed
markets, developing varieties for high-input, conventional farms. These are
varieties that depend on external chemical inputs, which are not used in
organic agriculture, to produce optimal yield and quality. Organic systems
differ from conventional in many ways, including the timing of nutrient
availability, the variability of field conditions, and the degree of
insect, disease, and weed pressure.

The manuals support a growing number of organic farmers want to bring plant
breeding back to the farm. Sixty percent of certified organic farmers who
participated in OSA’s national organic farmer seed survey said they are
interested in conducting on-farm crop improvement and breeding, especially
if training and economic incentives are available. Many university and
industry professionals would also like to expand their work with farmers.
Since the manuals are geared toward farm-based projects, the methods also
support formal breeders who are looking to engage farmers in their plant
breeding programs.
*Download the guides to learn about on-farm organic plant breeding:*
- See more at:

More information about the permaculture mailing list