As California’s dry winter continued through the spring, the future climatic challenges the state faces become ever more immediate, and the need for diverse and resilient agricultural seed systems becomes ever more evident. OSA continues, crop by crop and farmer by farmer, to help organic farmers access more diverse, adapted, and adaptable varieties.
Thanks to generous support from Columbia Foundation, Gaia Fund, the California Wheat Commission, CCOF, Organic Valley, and the USDA Organic Research and Education Initiative, we have a number of projects growing in California.
Vegetable variety trials: In cooperation with Coke Farms in San Juan Bautista and Riverdog Farms in Guida, OSA finished evaluating vegetable varieties for winter and spring regional production, including broccoli, carrots, beets, spinach, kale, and rutabagas. We will be publishing a report from our 2013 and 2014 trials in the coming months. We have more variety trials in the ground for this summer, including specialty red peppers, lettuce, onions, and carrots. See our 2012 California Organic Variety Trials Report for results from our 2012 variety trials.
Silage corn trial: The North Coast of California has a strong organic dairy industry. Many farmers use locally produced corn harvested as a whole plant that is then fermented before being fed to animals. This type of corn is called “silage corn.” There are very few varieties of silage corn that can mature and produce high quantities well in the cool, coastal maritime climate of the north coast. OSA is testing 10 promising varieties to provide local farmers with more silage corn choices.
Wheat trials: OSA is continuing trials of promising wheat varieties for organic farmers in Northern California. These trials include a mix of modern and older varieties that will be evaluated for their height, yield, baking quality, and flavor. In addition to these larger trials, we have a nursery where we are evaluating and saving seed of over 100 varieties of wheat, including some ancient wheat, such as emmer and einkorn. See our 2013 California North Coast Organic Wheat Trials report for results from last year’s variety trials.
Organic sweet corn and carrot breeding: Thanks to OSA’s participation in two national organic breeding projects (NOVIC and CIOA), we are working with California organic farmers to develop new, organically bred varieties of sweet corn and carrots. The sweet corn is a high-quality, open-pollination variety that is vigorous in its growth, disease-resistant, tender, and sweet. The carrots will also provide high-quality options that are vigorous, nutritious, and disease- and pest-resistant.