What’s new? Options for organic seed continue to grow
By Jody Padgham, MOSES
As the soil rests under a cover of snow, farmers’ minds drift to planning for next season’s production. Top on the list of “to-dos” is the purchase of seed for upcoming crops. Whether for producing diversified vegetables, organic hay or a row crop rotation, organic seed options continue to develop.
The requirement in the Organic Rule for the use of organic seed (when available) has fueled development of new varieties of organic seeds each year. Breeders have been working to provide seeds that thrive specifically within organic systems.
Ten organic seed companies exhibited at the 2014 MOSES Organic Farming Conference. We asked all of them to give us a sneak preview of new or exciting developments in their product lines, and received the following updates.
Albert Lea Seed
“One of the most exciting developments in organic seed in the past few years have been Aphid-Tolerant Soybeans,” said Matt Leavitt of Albert Lea Seeds. These soybeans are bred with Rag (Resistance Aphis Glycines) genetics to confer some amount of field resistance to soybean aphid; a very economically damaging pest to organically-raised soybeans. There are soybeans with Rag1, Rag2 and stacked resistance with Rag1 & Rag2. Albert Lea currently offers two soybeans with Rag1 resistant genes.
Albert Lea continues research and development of numerous organic seeds:
• Organic soybean varieties with genetics to maximize yields, compete with weeds and succeed under organic management
• Organic corn hybrids
• New forage varieties of small grains including organic winter triticale and organic forage oats, plus organic winter barley with new germplasm to make this a viable crop in the upper Midwest
• Elite organic alfalfa varieties for maximum forage yields, along with the current leafhopper-resistant organic alfalfa
• Organic cover crop seed offerings including Organic Tillage Radish
Foundation Organic Seeds, LLC
“We’re excited about a new product at Foundation Organic Seeds available for 2014, a silage corn mix called COW CANDY,” exclaimed Steve Mohr. A predetermined mix of Waxy Seed Corn, High Oil Seed Corn, Nutri-Dense TM Seed Corn, High Digestible Silage Corn (HDS), and Open Pollinated Seed Corn, this product has higher amounts of available nutrients than normal corn silage. Silage tests from the University of Wisconsin Forage Lab for 2013 determined COW CANDY silage delivered 3,300 lbs of milk per ton. “This product will help farmers get more usable nutrients from the field to the animal,” Steve says. For 2014, COW CANDY is available as a NON-GMO/non-treated seed form, but not yet available as organic.
Foundation Organic Seeds also is offering four new high-yielding organic grain hybrids in 2014. These include OR8513—a 100-day organic hybrid that topped the University of Wisconsin organic yield trials in 2012, and ORG Multi-888—a high-yielding multi-leaf organic alfalfa (grown in the U.S.) that yields like a normal trifoliate alfalfa with the advantage of more leaves, increasing the relative feed value over standard alfalfas.
High Mowing Organic Seeds
“At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we have expanded our selection and availability of organic seeds by increasing the varieties grown on our seed production farm, contracting with organic seed farmers across the country to produce seed for us, and by establishing partnerships with wholesale seed companies that have made commitments to develop and produce organic seed,” said Brigitte Derel.
Some organic “firsts” from High Mowing:
• Organic Curly Roja Kale, ruffled red kale
• Organic Allure F1 Hybrid Sweet Corn, the first organic synergistic sweet corn, combining sweetness with excellent seedling vigor
• Organic Tiana F1 Hybrid Butternut Squash,
• Organic Estamino F1 Tomato Rootstock
• Organic Iron Lady F1 Hybrid Tomato, first in a new generation of triple-resistant varieties from a collaboration with Cornell University and North Carolina State University, exhibits resistance to early blight, late blight and Septoria leaf spot, as well as tolerance to verticillium and fusarium wilt
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
“We’re particularly proud to add Artisan Tomatoes™ to our lineup for 2014. We will be the only provider of the complete collection, with two exclusive varieties to complete the seven-variety group,” said Christine Berube of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. A unique, new kind of tomato, all the Artisans are small in size and striped. Some are an elongated cherry tomato shape, dubbed the julienne tomato. These have Tiger in the name (except Blush). The others are a traditional cherry tomato shape with stripes, known as the Bumble Bees. Over a decade in the making, independent breeders at Artisan Seeds used traditional breeding techniques to develop these tomatoes. Christine said they are some of the most attractive Johnny’s has ever seen—and, they taste as good as they look.
Exclusive to Johnny’s Selected Seeds are:
• Lucky Tiger—a green julienne cherry tomato with green striping and red interior marbling
• Sunrise Bumblebee—a yellow, round cherry tomato with red striping
• Other Artisan Tomato™ varieties include round-shaped, Pink Bumblebee and Purple Bumblebee along with julienne-shaped Blush, Pink Tiger, and Green Tiger. Most varieties are available as organic.
Other new varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds Include:
• New Sweet Specialty Peppers—Aura (tapered, golden yellow fruits) Glow (bright orange fruits)
• Muir Lettuce—Extremely heat-tolerant variety which forms dense heads that can be harvested as a mini or left to bulk up into large, heavy, full-size heads
• Dolly—a high-yielding Genovese basil for field production
Jody Padgham is the Financial Director for MOSES, and Associate Editor of the Organic Broadcaster.
January | February 2014