Karen Adler's picture

New Tools for Organic Farmers Teach DIY Plant Breeding!

Organic farmers are always on the lookout for better ways to combat weeds, insects, and disease, and produce an abundance of the healthiest and best-tasting crops. Having plant varieties that are suited for organic systems may be key to producing higher yields and better quality crops, and could play an important role in increasing organic farmers’ success. However, few plant breeders are working on varieties specifically targeted for organic systems, and there are almost no such varieties available. How to fill this void? One of the groups best suited to do organic breeding work is organic farmers themselves.

Four new resources from Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), developed and produced with funding from OFRF and Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters initiative, provide a wealth of information for farmers who want to learn the art and craft of plant breeding. The comprehensive manuals walk farmers through the methods of breeding new crop varieties on the farm.

Brise Tencer's picture

New USDA Research Foundation Appoints Long-Time Organic Advocate to the Board

By Brise Tencer, Executive Director of OFRF

Noting that “every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the formation of a new foundation that will create public-private partnerships to fund agriculture, food, and nutrition research. Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research will seek private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance.

To what degree the new foundation will support organic farming research is not yet known, but the appointment of Nancy Creamer to the new foundation’s initial 15-member Board of Directors is reason to think that organic research will be on the radar.

Karen Adler's picture

Breeding “Organic Ready” Corn

Amidst the controversy over transgene (GMO) contamination—a growing concern for organic farmers, researchers, consumers, and advocates—plant breeder Frank Kutka has been working to develop an “organic ready” line of corn that will maintain its non-GMO integrity. Corn is one of the top three genetically modified crops, alongside cotton and soy. In 2014, 89 percent of the corn acreage in the U.S. is planted in herbicide-tolerant transgenic corn.
 
Kutka has just started his fourth year of an OFRF/Seed Matters-funded research project, Developing “Organic-Ready” Maize Populations with Gametophytic Incompatibility. Corn is wind pollinated and readily crosses with other varieties. However, this breeding work uses naturally occurring genes derived from popcorns and the ancient grain teosinte that create a screen against crossing with transgenic, or genetically modified (GMO) corn. 

 

Rachel Goodman's picture

New Study Shows Organic Crops Contain More Anti-oxidants/Fewer Pesticides

Consumers choose organic foods for many reasons- for example, because the food is produced in a way that is better for the environment. Now, a new comprehensive review of previous studies shows mounting evidence organic crops may also contain more anti-oxidants and fewer pesticide residues.  In a new study published today in the British Journal of Nutrition researchers at Newcastle University in England have found that organic crops overall contain 17% more key anti-oxidants than non-organically grown crops, while some classes of anti-oxidants known as flavinones, were found at a rate 69% higher. Anti-oxidants are components in fighting cancer and are thought to play a key role in preventing heart disease and neurodegenerative disease

Karen Adler's picture

Compost Could Save (Plant) Lives

Each year organic farmers lose time and money when crops are destroyed by diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens that live on the surfaces of seeds. Many of the fumigants and chemically treated seeds that are used in conventional agriculture to control these pathogens can be harmful to our health and the health of the environment. Organic farmers have fewer and often less effective options. Enter the humble but mighty soil amendment, compost, which harbors billions of secret (microbial) weapons against plant disease. New research funded by OFRF is exploring a promising application to harness these weapons to produce a new tool for disease prevention for organic farmers.