Autumn 2015 Newsletter

Cultivating a Rainbow of Carrots for Organic Agriculture
Adapting Sweet Corn to the Olympic Peninsula
Developing Quinoa for Organic Growers in California
Evaluating Onions for Winter Storage
Cucurbit Variety Trials Help Identify Resistance in the Southeast
Upcoming Community Field Day and Variety Tasting
Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase a Huge Success
Tell USDA that More Oversight of GE Crop Field Trials is Needed
EPA Must Address Pesticide Seed Coatings to Protect Pollinators
Can You Help Stop the 'DARK' Act?
Find Seed Online with Organic Seed Finder
Welcoming a New Expert to Our Team
Read All About It: OSA in the News
Upcoming OSA Events

 

 
Cultivating a Rainbow of Carrots for Organic Agriculture

Farmers, seed companies, and eaters are asking when they can plant new carrot varieties spanning a rainbow of colors from the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project. We have been sharing carrots from these intriguing breeding populations throughout the summer, including tastings at last week's Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase in Portland, Oregon. The breeding work is not finished, but CIOA collaborators aim to release new carrot varieties bred specifically for organic agriculture in the coming years. A primary goal of the project is to better understand the most important traits for organic agriculture, including weed competitiveness, nematode resistance, disease resistance, and superior flavor and beauty. CIOA is a collaborative project led by Dr. Phil Simon of USDA-University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with OSA, University of California-Riverside, and Purdue University. We are excited to showcase and taste these roots at our upcoming Community Field Day and Variety Tasting on October 14, 2015, at our research farm in Chimacum, Washington. Read more about the field day here and join us on October 14, 2015.

 

Adapting Sweet Corn to the Olympic Peninsula

Growing sweet corn on Washington's Olympic Peninsula is challenging because of the region's relatively cool climate. OSA is addressing this challenge and with much success. This past summer, sweet corn from our Olympic sweet corn breeding project was abundant and matured early at our research farm in Chimacum, Washington. The project, in its second year, is a partnership between OSA, the Port Townsend Food Co-op, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The goal is to create an early maturing, open-pollinated organic sweet corn variety that will thrive in the maritime climate of the Olympic Peninsula. We began this project by working with NOVIC partner and sweet corn breeder Dr. Bill Tracy of University of Wisconsin-Madison to create a number of crosses between elite, early maturing material. This past summer, OSA researchers evaluated over 120 plots for appearance, stalk strength (thanks to a wind storm with gusts of up to 60 mph), texture, and flavor. The best of these plots will be recombined in Bill's winter nursery and returned to our research farm in Washington for another round of evaluation next year. Collaborators aim to release a regionally adapted, open-pollinated variety to the marketplace in the next three to five years.  

 

Developing Quinoa for Organic Growers in California

OSA's California research team recently finished harvesting and threshing this year's Northern California quinoa breeding trial with organic farmer Blake Richards of Wild Rose Farm. The trial included over 70 varieties and breeding lines that came from single plant selections made in 2014 out of a diverse and hardy population that Blake has maintained and improved for many years. We are currently reviewing the trial data and selecting for breeding lines that mature early and have a range of colors and large seed size, and that yield well under high plant populations and resist lodging. Quinoa is an important and emerging crop that has had very little breeding done to it for US organic farmers outside of a handful of dedicated growers and researchers. OSA is excited to be partnering on this participatory plant breeding project with Blake and the rest of the farmers at Wild Rose Farm. 

 

Evaluating Onions for Winter Storage

OSA's Washington research team is conducting winter trials on several vegetables with the goal of expanding access to local produce in the winter and early spring. Onions are a key winter storage crop supporting year-round access to local produce in the region, but the relatively cool, moist growing season on the Olympic Peninsula can make storage onion production challenging. We recently harvested and evaluated onions for bulb quality before placing them in storage to evaluate for winter holding quality. This year's trial had excellent growth and virtually no disease or pest problems, and initial evaluations after curing showed many differences in yield and quality among the varieties. Look for a trial report to be published this winter. This project is supported by the Washington Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

 

Cucurbit Variety Trials Help Identify Resistance in the Southeast

Research partners recently planted a late summer variety trial of melons, squash, and cucumbers in Southern Georgia and Central South Carolina to determine which varieties show resistance to Downy Mildew, Striped Cucumber Beetles, and viruses in the region. The Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit (ESO-Cuc) project is in its second year and aims to identify cucurbit germplasm that performs well under East Coast growing conditions while building a network of organic farmers interested in conducting on-farm variety trials. Partners recently hosted a field day at the Mountain Crops Research Center in Waynesville, North Carolina, where over 80 participants learned about the project and results from 2014 trials. 

Learn more about the project and watch for published trial results. 

 

Upcoming Community Field Day and Variety Tasting

Join us for a community field day and variety tasting on October 14, 2015, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at OSA's research farm in Chimacum, Washington. The event celebrates the first autumn harvest at our new research farm, which was established earlier this year to serve as the hub of our Pacific Northwest organic plant breeding and variety trial program. Partners from Washington State University (WSU) will share progress on the OSA-WSU Organic Germplasm Consortium. WSU will also report on local quinoa breeding efforts. We'll take a closer look at variety trials in the field and taste the most successful varieties of colored carrots, winter squash, red peppers, Swiss chard, onions, and quinoa (and possibly other crops). In addition to tasting individual varieties, chefs from the Olympic Peninsula will create appetizers that showcase the culinary potential of the vegetables grown in the trials. Finnriver Farm & Cidery will open its new tasting room for no-host tastings and purchases of pints and bottles of cider. We are offering this event free of charge. We hope to see you there!  


Learn more and RSVP today. 

 

Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase a Huge Success

Plant breeders from across the country showed off their best and most interesting varieties for chefs and farmers at the second annual Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase in Portland, Oregon, last week. OSA showcased carrots, chard, and sweet corn from our Pacific Northwest breeding program, as well as 'Who Gets Kissed?'  sweet corn. Chef Stacey Givens from the Side Yard Farm Café in Portland served our regional sweet corn stuffed in a roasting pepper on a bed of mole sauce, doused with fresh green coriander and cotija cheese. Chefs were dazzled by the variety of colors and flavor represented by carrots from the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project. They were eager to learn when and where they could source the roots from farmers. We also shared an array of chard from our breeding program that ranged in color from magenta to deep red to striped, and invited feedback on the qualities and colors chefs and farmers want the most. OSA is a collaborator in the Culinary Breeding Network led by Oregon State University with the mission of bridging the gap between breeders and eaters to improve agricultural and culinary quality in the Pacific Northwest. 

 

Tell USDA that More Oversight of GE Crop Field Trials is Needed

Following two genetically engineered (GE) wheat contamination events, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing to regulate GE wheat trials under its permit system versus the ubiquitously used notification process, where companies simply notify the agency of experimental trials and largely self-regulate themselves. Here's our take on the proposal. Permits should provide more oversight of trials, but these permits must include strong contamination prevention requirements and hold developers accountable if complete containment is not achieved. The USDA is collecting comments through October 26, 2015, on this proposal, including input on permit conditions. We plan to tell the agency that GE wheat trials should still be halted given ongoing gaps in regulation and oversight. At the very least, the USDA should move forward with its proposal to require permits for developers of GE wheat. These permits must include strong contamination prevention requirements and hold developers liable for testing costs and losses that could result from these trials.   

 

EPA Must Address Pesticide Seed Coatings to Protect Pollinators

The EPA recently asked for comments on a policy proposal aimed at mitigating exposure to bees from toxic pesticides. Unfortunately the proposal fails to recognize a major route of exposure: seed coated with pesticides; in particular, neonicotinoids (or"neonics"). Science is mounting that neonics have a detrimental impact on pollinators. With approximately 200 million acres of neonic-treated seed planted in the US each year, the impact these seed coatings have on pollinators must be addressed. That's why OSA recently submitted comments telling the EPA that it must consider seed coatings a major route of exposure. We also asked the agency to consider the effects of pesticides on wild and "unmanaged" bees, which are largely ignored by this proposal. Without a healthy population of pollinators, flowering plants in agriculture would not be adequately pollinated, including seed production fields, causing potentially devastating consequences for our seed supply. We asked that existing alternatives to pesticide seed coatings be expanded and further developed to protect our seed systems.  

 

Can You Help Stop the 'DARK' Act?

This past July the House passed what has been dubbed the 'DARK' act, a bill that would deny voters the right to pass state bills to label genetically engineered (GE) food. The bill would  also make mandatory labeling at the federal level impossible. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. Thankfully Senator Boxer and Congressman Defazio reintroduced their bill to require mandatory, nationwide labeling of GE food (the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act). Call and email your senators today and tell them you oppose the DARK act (HR 1599) and support mandatory labeling. Contact the Capitol switchboard to find your senators at (202) 224-3121 or send an email here

 

Find Seed Online with Organic Seed Finder

Seed catalogs will soon arrive on your doorstep, but don't forget about the online resource, Organic Seed Finder, as a tool for searching varieties of organic seed. The website provides variety listings free of charge to farmers and gardeners looking to source organic seed. Interested in selling your organic seed through this website? Have feedback about the website? Contact AOSCA today.

 

Welcoming a New Expert to Our Team

We're thrilled to welcome Brook Brouwer to the OSA team as our newest research and education associate. Brook has a PhD in crop science from Washington State University where he studied barley and dry bean production, genetics, and plant breeding for regional food systems. He has worked on diverse livestock farms and conducted nitrogen cycling and botany research in mountain, floodplain, and island ecosystems. In his work with OSA he is assisting with research and education and convening stakeholders to strengthen plant breeding for organic production. Brook currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington, where he is surround by two of his favorite things: mountains and oceans.

 

Read All About It: OSA in the News

NPR Do Organic Farmers Need Special Seeds and Money to Breed Them? "Private companies and university researchers spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year breeding better genetic varieties of food crops. But organic farmers say those programs have a big blind spot when it comes..." read full article.

In Good Tilth Organic Seed Breeding: An Artful Science "Kristina Hubbard...says, "We recently heard from one organic seed company that there are so few organic seed suppliers that a single crop failure can mean the complete absence of that variety for the year because, at times, there are no..." read full article.

 

 

Upcoming OSA Events

Community Field Day and Variety Tasting | October 14, 2015 | Chimacum, Washington Join OSA for a community field day and variety tasting on October 14, 2015, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at our research farm in Chimacum, Washington. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more and RSVP today
 
Seeds of Time: Film and Community Discussion on Seed Conservation | October 25, 2015 | Port Townsend, Washington Join OSA and Washington State University (WSU) for a screening of Seeds of Time at the Rose Theater in Port Townsend. The film will be followed by a reception and discussion with OSA's Micaela Colley, WSU's Laura Lewis, and local seed growers about topics raised in the film. Learn more

 

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Annual Conference | November 6-8, 2015 | Durham, North Carolina Join OSA's Kristina Hubbard at this year's Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Sustainable Agriculture Conference. We'll be presenting findings from our current State of Organic Seed project, an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed systems in the US. Learn more
 
Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference | November 13-15, 2015 | Spokane, Washington Join OSA's Kristina Hubbard at this year's Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference. We'll be presenting findings from our current State of Organic Seed project, an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed systems in the US. Learn more

Fundamentals of Seed Production and Variety Improvement | November 15, 2015 | Watsonville, California Join OSA's Jared Zystro and Steve Peters for this daylong farmer training on how to develop and adapt varieties to your organic farm. Prior experience in basic seed growing is recommended. Learn more
 
Montana Organic Association Annual Conference | December 3-5, 2015 | Bozeman, Montana Join OSA's Kristina Hubbard at this year's Montana Organic Association Annual Conference. We'll be presenting findings from our current State of Organic Seed project, an ongoing project to monitor the status of organic seed systems in the US. Learn more

8th Organic Seed Growers Conference | February 4-6, 2016 | Corvallis, Oregon Registration is now open for our next Organic Seed Growers Conference to be held February 4-6, 2016, in Corvallis, Oregon. Here's what past participants say about this one-of-a-kind event. Learn more

 

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“The resources that OSA has made available to the larger seed community are amazing. Having an advocacy organization dedicated to seed education and organic seed production makes my job as a seed producer so much easier.”

 

Rowen White

Sierra Seeds

Nevada City, California