OSA’s Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro left the Student Organic Seed Symposium in awe of the next generation of organic researchers and inspired by the path forward carved by national and international leaders in organic plant breeding systems. The student-run gathering of graduate students, university and public plant breeders, organic seed advocates, and seed industry is a powerful networking and training for the organic plant breeders and seed professionals of tomorrow.
The four-day symposium provides students with a strong community of like-minded researchers creating models of breeding for the environment, healthy communities, and regional resiliency in agriculture – “systems breeding” as scientist and symposium speaker Edith Lammerts van Beuren of Wagenigen University and the Louis Bolk Center coined it. She challenged participants to remember the “why” of organic agriculture and consider applying the ethical principles that founded the organic movement to our models of plant breeding.
Students from across the country, including Puerto Rico, proudly shared stories of their work while observing plots of their breeding populations in the field at the Cornell research farm. Common food crops including barley, carrots, corn, and squash were grown side by side with cotton, hibiscus, and a Hawaiian malva commonly called slippery greens, just to name a few. The scope of crops being developed in and for organic systems is clearly expanding including cotton, corn, and watermelon from breeders from the Southern U.S.
After four days of stories and field tours, including Bejo Seeds, Cornell, the National Plant Germplasm Center at Geneva, Freeville Organic Farm, Kingbird Farm, Ground Flour, Remembrance Farm, and Fruition Seeds, participants left with ideas and plans intermingled into a web of community, food, and organic futures.