Variety trials are important because they allow farmers, plant breeders, and seed companies to evaluate the performance of seed options available. When you conduct a variety trial on your farm, you’re able to see which varieties perform best in your climate and have the quality traits that you value most. Investing a year in a scientific variety trial can minimize the risks of planting a variety you’re unfamiliar with on a large-scale, and can help certified organic farmers identify the best organic seed options available on the market. Variety trials also help farmers, plant breeders, and seed companies find the best varieties to grow out as a seed crop — to increase seed quantities for on-farm use or to sell commercially — and use in breeding projects. Variety trials are a core activity of our research program and a fun way to explore and celebrate crop genetic diversity. OSA’s publication, On-farm Variety Trials: A Guide for Organic Vegetable, Herb and Flower Producers, is the go-to resource for planning, planting, and evaluating a variety trial on your farm.
Micaela Colley is the author of several publications on organic seed and leads OSA’s research and education programs focused on organic seed production and organic plant breeding.