Improving Participatory Trialing Methodology

For vegetable growers, choosing varieties that are suited to a farm’s environment, management, and markets is one of the most important factors in successful production and good sales. Well-adapted varieties are vigorous in the local climate and soils and under the farm’s management practices, withstand environmental stresses, pests and diseases, and meet the demands of the market. We are working to improve participatory trialing methods to increase farmer participation in the variety development process and increase the number of commercially successful varieties available to growers with good performance in the Midwest. This includes a collaboration with SeedLinked on mobile device data collection, testing statistical tools that allow for more varieties to be tested on-farm in an incomplete block design, testing the correspondence between on-station and on-farm evaluations, and involving more gardeners in evaluations, as gardener and farmer ratings of varieties appear to be highly correlated from preliminary data. We are also testing more efficient experimental designs for research station trials and quality evaluations. Funded by USDA WI Specialty crop block grants, USDA-Hatch and USDA Small Business Innovation Research grants (Nicolas Enjalbert, PI). Co-PI Rue Genger.

Tomato high tunnel, caterpillar and field variety comparison trials

We are in the fourth season of trials comparing tomato varieties in high tunnel and open field production, and the first year of a three year project comparing high tunnels, caterpillar tunnels and field production. We compare yield, earliness, disease incidence, and quality on the research station and also in trials on-farm. 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

Lori Hoagland, Purdue University, PI.  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. Funded by USDA OREI.  Webinars have provided information on tomato disease management, seed production and breeding.

Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC)

James Myers, Oregon State University, PI. The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) joins researchers and farmers in Northern U.S. to address organic farmers’ seed and plant breeding needs. Our collaborative includes researchers and educators from Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University, Washington State University, Organic Seed Alliance, and the USDA. Our group is conducting variety trials in Wisconsin, in partnership with farmers to identify the best performing existing varieties for organic agriculture, and breeding new varieties of tomatoes for organic high tunnel production.  We are also collaborating with all project partners to provide education and resources on organic seed production and plant variety improvement.

Potato Seed Production and Breeding

Rue 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

Rue 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.

Strategies to introgress production and quality traits from genetic resources to carrot cultivars

Identifying accessions in genetic resource collections to use for traits of importance to organic systems, or any new breeding objective, can be challenging due to the lack of information on many accessions. 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). Phil Simon, Irwin Goldman and David Spooner, co-PIs. Funded by USDA-AFRI Foundational plant breeding program.

Identifying useful traits in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers

Phil Simon, USDA-ARS, PI. We are 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.  Funded by USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA 2)

Phil Simon, USDA-ARS, 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. Our group is working with chefs on flavor evaluation and characterization of new varieties and breeding lines developed through this project, and on-farm trials of new varieties through the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative.

Overcoming the Obstacles to Hazelnut Production in the Upper Midwest

The goal of this long-term project is to enable more rapid growth of the hazelnut industry in the Upper Midwest by overcoming genetic and agronomic bottlenecks. The Upper Midwest is well suited to growing hazelnuts, being in the center of the native range of the American hazelnut. The existing industry in the Upper Midwest is based on small plantings of seed-origin hybrid C. americana x C. avallana (American by European) plants. Although these seedlings are supporting small scale direct marketing and some aggregated value-added processing, the genetic variability and low average yields have limited expansion of the industry. Hazelnut breeders historically have viewed C. americana primarily as a source of winter hardiness and EFB resistance or tolerance, but we believe it has potential on its own, particularly for markets where kernel size is of less importance. American hazelnuts have excellent flavor and a high potential for local and regional high value markets.  Our objective is to improve yield and kernel size while retaining the winter hardiness and disease tolerance we already have. We are currently seeking to understand the inheritance of key traits in C. americana germplasm through association analysis, in C. americana x C. avallana interspecific hybrids through family-based QTL analysis.  Lois Braun, University of Minnesota, PI, Co-PIs Jason Fischbach, UW Madison Division of Extension, Mike Demchik, UW Stevens Point.  Funded by USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Specialty Crop Block Grants

Multi-Use Naked Barley for Organic Systems

Pat Hayes, Oregon State University, PI. Organic growers need new crops, markets, and rotation options supported by varieties that are developed specifically for organic conditions.  Hulled barley presents a barrier to local food uses because of the need for dehulling and processing infrastructure. The long-term goal of this NIFA-OREI funded research project is to provide organic gardeners, growers, processors, and consumers with an alternative crop, food, and raw material that will be economically rewarding and sustainable.  Our group is to working with chefs and bakers in food quality and flavor evaluation of the promising varieties being developed for organic systems.

Developing high-quality cereals for organic and perennial systems in the Upper Midwest

Crop rotations with cereals such as winter wheat can build organic soil matter, reduce erosion by providing winter cover, break disease cycles, control weeds, and increase landscape diversity. Perennial intermediate wheatgrass shares many of these benefits, with the added benefit of perennial growth which further reduces erosion and production costs for farmers. Organic production can further increase these environmental benefits. This project will increase options for farmers to incorporate high value food grade grains into organic rotations, providing economically viable solutions to diversify rotations. We will increase larger-scale on-farm evaluations of advanced lines of winter wheat, and benefit from farmers’ expertise in evaluation on their farms. We will conduct on-farm trials of advanced intermediate wheatgrass lines obtained from the University of Minnesota and the Land Institute. We will also make new crosses among the most promising winter wheat varieties and breeding lines to continue to develop high quality, Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) resistant winter wheat varieties for organic systems in Wisconsin. To evaluate grain quality and ensure our advanced selections meet market needs, will work directly with bakers and chefs to select the best quality winter wheat and intermediate wheatgrass for high-value markets. These baking evaluations will be done in collaboration with Madison Sourdough and a network of bakers and chefs already established through the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative. Valentin Picasso, PI.  Co-PI Lucia Gutierrez