Current research projects

Tomato high tunnel and field variety comparison trials

We are in the fourth season of trials comparing tomato varieties in high tunnel and open field production. We compare yield and disease incidence in the high tunnel and field on the research station and also have on-farm trials. We are conducting taste evaluations with chefs, farmers and members of the public. Funded by USDA-North Central SARE.

Tomato Organic Management and Improvement: Breeding tomatoes for better flavor and disease resistance

Field trials include breeding lines in the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement project, seeking to combine exceptional flavor with resistance to late blight, early blight and septoria. Lori Hoagland, Purdue University, PI. Funded by USDA OREI.

Potato Seed Production and Breeding:

Ruth Genger, PI. We conduct on-farm trials of potato varieties, including heirloom, specialty and new potato lines. We also trial seed potato production on-farm, tracking tuber health and economics, and teach farmers to make potato crosses and trial the progeny. Funded by USDA North Central SARE, CERES Trust and Wisconsin Specialty Crop Block Grants

Potato Mulching Trials

Ruth Genger, PI. This is our sixth year of trialing straw mulch as a weed management approach in organic potato production. Straw mulch, applied at emergence, has proved as effective for weed suppression as mechanical cultivation and hilling, and suppresses a late flush of weeds as potato vines die back. In addition we have seen an increase in potato yields and tuber size, especially in drier years. Funded by Ceres Trust.

Developing better methods of using germplasm resources in plant breeding

We are screening the entire USDA carrot germplasm collection with Phil Simon’s research group. We will then test our ability to use data on carrot varieties collected in organic systems and genomic fingerprints of the USDA collection to predict which accessions will be most useful to use as parents in organic breeding programs. This will be compared with direct selection based on the phenotypes collected in a conventional system (a typical situation for breeders trying to start an organic breeding program). Funded by USDA-AFRI Foundational plant breeding program.

We are also working with Phil Simon’s group on a Specialty Crop Research Initiative project to develop breeding populations and genomic tools in carrot.  The goals of this project are to identify favorable phenotypes in diverse carrot germplasm and breeding stocks for traits important for growers and consumers; generate a genomics database for that germplasm; develop a platform to deliver phenotypic and genotypic information for carrot breeders to tap into the breadth of carrot genetic diversity; and establish a science-based foundation for long-term carrot improvement.  We will be conducting genome-wide association analyses on priority traits for carrot breeders using data from the USDA-NPGS collection and breeding lines. Phil Simon, USDA-ARS and UW Madison, PI.  Funded by USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA 2)

Phil Simon, USDA-ARS and UW Madison, PI.  This project aims to meet the needs of organic growers by developing carrot varieties adapted to organic growing conditions and with market qualities demanded by consumers. Weed competition, nutrient acquisition, nematodes, and disease pressure are particularly critical challenges in fresh market carrots. Plant breeding is a long-term effort and the CIOA2 project builds on prior research to deliver new, improved carrot cultivars and breeding lines; developing new breeding populations that combine critical traits identified during CIOA1. Funded by USDA OREI