Organic farmers need access to more organic seed, and they need that seed to be adapted to their organic farms and regional climates
Sign up for our quarterly newsletter for updates on upcoming events, and visit our library of publications, which includes links to webinars and other resources to support your research in the field and classroom. Learn about organic plant breeding, our research projects, and regional seed networks in the tabs below.
Organic plant breeding is the science and practice of developing new varieties in and for organic production systems. This research is often participatory in nature, where farmers, formal plant breeders, and members of the seed and food industry collaborate on setting breeding priorities and evaluating the results. Participatory plant breeding combines the practical experience of farmers with the technical expertise of formal plant breeders, resulting in more high-quality organic seed and more farmers with skills to develop or improve their own varieties. Two success stories coming out of our participatory breeding work is ‘Abundant Bloomsdale’ spinach and ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ sweet corn.
OSA collaborates with farmers and universities in cutting-edge organic plant breeding projects across the US. Our national projects include: Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA), the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), and the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement Project (TOMI). These projects are furthering the scientific field of organic plant breeding, delivering finished organic varieties to farmers, and training the next generation of organic plant breeders and seed producers. Learn about our regional projects.
We believe the best approach to building a robust supply of organic seed is by fostering seed systems that are regional, responsive, and resilient. A healthy seed system is decentralized, with many decision makers at the table: farmers, breeders, consumers, chefs, seed and food businesses, and others. OSA regularly delivers organic seed education across the US to support regional seed systems, and we have active research projects on the ground in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast, and Intermountain West.
Why Organic Seed Matters
Research shows that crops bred under organic conditions perform differently — not surprisingly, better — on organic farms compared to farms that don’t adhere to the same practices. Because organic farmers don’t use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which can substitute for important plant traits like disease-resistance, they rely that much more on the genetic power within each seed to help defend their crops against pests, diseases, and other challenges. Learn more.
Science, Seeds, and Stewards
Organic Seed Alliance is working to embrace the full potential of organic seed — from farm to fork — through collaborative research projects that closely engage farmers, university researchers, and food and farm organizations and businesses. We take a regional approach to breeding and seed production. Our collaborative research projects focus on:
- Science: Organic plant breeding is a growing scientific field that is changing how we farm and what we eat.
- Seed: Collaborative research ensures that more organic varieties get into the hands of farmers.
- Stewards: Farmers and researchers are learning how to steward seed through innovative and independent research models.
We hope you’ll join us! Get involved in your region, sign up for our quarterly newsletter for updates on upcoming events, and visit our library of publications, which includes links to webinars and other resources to support your research in the field and classroom.
“OSA is a convener, partner, and leader in fostering regionally based seed systems. Serving as a collaborator in their spinach breeding work has given me hands-on experience through which I’ve gained both skills and confidence as a seed grower.”
– Julie Puhich, Common Ground Farm, Olympia, Washington