Our overall goal is to increase the proportion of US agriculture that is managed organically by increasing the availability of vegetable varieties that are adapted to organic systems over a wide seasonal window. Secondary goals are to enhance compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP) requirement for use of certified organic seed and to create a robust multistate network among researchers working on organic vegetable breeding and trialing.<P> To facilitate these goals, the project has two main objectives: 1) to breed vegetables for adaptation for production in organic systems, and 2) to establish a variety trialing network through the Northern tier of the U.S. <P>Outputs from the program include germplasm developed and cultivars released of vegetables (with priority on broccoli, peas, sweet corn, carrots, and winter squash). Additional outputs are to create in eOrganic, a relational database of all published organic variety trialing results, host variety trial field days and participatory plant breeding workshops, contribute to plant breeding content on eOrganic, and to develop publications on quality organic seed production, and variety trial results.
Non-Technical Summary: We wish to create a robust national network of organic vegetable breeders working collaboratively with each other and regional growers to benefit the organic community with improved vegetable varieties that are adapted to organic systems combined with disease resistance, nutritional and flavor quality, and contemporary productivity traits crucial to modern markets. We will focus on four hubs in the Northern US because of the similarities of our growing environments. Five crops that span a growing season were selected that integrate grower needs and plant breeding expertise: pea, broccoli, sweet corn, carrots and winter squash. Variety trialing and evaluation of material at various stages of development will provide key information regarding adaptability and will be ideal for soliciting regional participant grower input regarding their evaluation of the suitability of the vegetables to their needs and guidance for further improvement toward cultivar development. This engagement will take the form of trialing material at various stages of development along with existing varieties as well as engaging in participatory breeding. Outreach activities will make the results of this work more accessible. Graduate student training and summer internships at each hub will be key aspects of the work. Workshops will be conducted and media will be developed to reinforce grower collaborations regarding the breeding, trialing and seed saving methods for each crop. <P> Approach: All breeding and trialing activities will be conducted in organic production systems. Four regional hubs with research farms will cooperate with local fresh market organic farms. Traditional breeding methods appropriate to the specific vegetable crop will be used. Farmers will be involved in all aspects of breeding activities, from deciding what traits are relevant, to growing and making selections, to participating in seed production and release. Advanced lines will be trials at the four regional hubs to identify lines with broad adaptation. Varieties will be joint releases among institutions. Variety trials will be conducted using a mother-daughter trialing approach where replicated trials at the regional hubs (mother sites) will be supplemented with single rep trials grown on multiple organic farms (daughter sites). We will assess progress in our breeding material in comparison to existing cultivars through replicated trials on research farms and working organic farms across the northern US and comparison to existing cultivars. Hub sites will be subjected to standard analysis of variance (ANOVA) individually and across locations in each year, and across environments with accumulation of data by year. Farmer sites in each region will combined in an analysis, and will be analyzed separately from hub site data as a randomized complete block design where each farm represents a replicate. Farm-derived data will also be examined across years and locations. We will focus outreach activities on delivering education and information to organic farmers while also providing useful information, dialog, and research models for agricultural professionals and university research and Extension personnel. Outreach activities will include developing eOrganic outreach materials; hosting variety trial field days; hosting workshops on participatory organic plant breeding, on-farm variety improvement, and organic seed production; and developing a series of publications, training modules, and brochures to promote participatory plant breeding, testing of varieties under organic conditions, and production of high quality organic seed of vegetables.