The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced 20 new research grants through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), with over $2 million to be awarded to Organic Seed Alliance and our collaborative partners for four projects that ultimately aim to meet the organic seed needs of farmers.
OSA Executive Director Cara Loriz thanked NIFA for making organic seed research a priority in 2020: “At a time of historic demand for seed, these projects will provide timely research and education to increase the diversity, quantity, and quality of organic seed available to farmers throughout the U.S.”
“One of our funded projects will help us better understand seed production barriers and gaps in order to advance organic seed systems,” says Loriz. “Another of the newly funded projects will support the growing network of gardeners and farmers interested in breeding and growing seed in the Upper Midwest,” Loriz adds. “A third project will support the Student Organic Seed Symposium, a project that OSA fiscally sponsors. This project serves as a critical investment in the future food future, because it supports the next generation of organic plant breeders and researchers.”
OSA’s Jared Zystro will be leading “Planning for Organic Seed Production Research,” a project to assess organic seed production needs and current research through surveys and other analysis. The project will lay the groundwork for a multi-year research and education project to expand organic seed production in the U.S. Zystro will also serve as a lead researcher in a project headed by Dr. Charles Brummer at University of California-Davis, “SCOPE 2: Refining Organic Breeding Pipelines to Produce Improved Varieties and Workforce.” This second round of OREI funding allows this organic plant breeding project to continue for another four years with the goal of releasing public cultivars of tomatoes, peppers, and beans (learn more about this project here).
The annual Student Organic Seed Symposium, a project OSA fiscally sponsors, will be extending its reach in 2021 through an OREI conference grant to provide networking and professional development opportunities to graduate students studying organic seed. This OREI project, “Connecting Community to Strengthen Organic Seed Breeding and Research,” will bolster the next generation of researchers by investing in the development of new organic seed practitioners.
OSA is collaborating on a fourth OREI project with Dr. Julie Dawson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and SeedLinked. The project, “Collaborative Plant Breeding Network Development for Organic Systems in the Upper Midwest,” will engage organic farmers, independent plant breeders, seed companies, and organic certifiers in plant breeding and trialing on organic farms, developing and field-testing new data sharing and networking tools, and releasing new varieties of sweet peppers and tomatoes adapted to the Upper Midwest.
In summarizing these important grant awards, Loriz stated that “the scope and variety of these projects – from marketing pipelines to plant breeder networks to professional development of young organic researchers – represents OSA’s holistic approach to growing a sustainable food system that begins with organic seed.”