Organic Plant Breeding

The success of organic agriculture depends on the success of organic farmers. And that success begins with seed. Yet we have only seen a minor investment in organic plant breeding compared to other sectors of seed research. Seed is the critical first link in the food production chain, a fundamental input – and living, natural resource – that demands careful management and improvement. Our vision is an organic food industry based on a foundation of organic seed.

 

Our research embraces the participatory plant breeding model. In this model, organic farmers work collaboratively with university, non-profit, and private industry plant breeders to breed and improve seed for organic farms. Participatory breeding empowers farmers to take a lead role in seed development by combining their practical experience with the technical expertise of formal plant breeders. This decentralized model of breeding is resulting in more high-quality organic seed, and more farmers gaining skills to develop their own varieties.

 

In many ways organic plant breeding is in its infancy. With further multi-year investments we will see more varieties that are adapted to a wider range of regions and organic farming needs with enhanced flavor and nutrition. Through our participatory research, we have already developed a number of new varieties that are adapted to organic farms (see  Breeding Projects).

 

 

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“OSA is a convener, partner, and leader in creating the alternative -- a regionally based seed system by us and for us. Collaboration in their spinach breeding work has given me hands-on experience through which I've gained both skills and confidence as a seed grower.”

 

Julie Puhich

Common Ground Farm

Olympia, Washington