Bringing Small-Grain Variety Development and Selection onto Organic Farms

Final Report for LNC02-201

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $72,953.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $33,069.00
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Patrick Carr
Montana State University
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Project Information


Wheat and oat cultivars were compared for growth traits on four certified organic farms in Minnesota and North Dakota over a two-year period. Growth varied across years and locations, but high-ranking cultivars for grain yield and quality were top performers at two or more locations in both years. Grain yield and quality generally were inferior for old cultivars compared with modern cultivars. Scoring tools were developed by organic farmers and cooperating researchers that can be used to identify cultivars adapted to organic environments. A working group has formed that is dedicated to crop cultivar development and selection in organic systems in the north central region.


North Dakota leads the nation in planted acreage and production of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L. and T. turgidum L.), oat (Avena sativa L.), and other spring seeded small-grains (NASS, 2004). North Dakota also is the leading domestic producer of organic grain crops (Economic Research Service, 2003). Minnesota is third behind North Dakota and Montana in organic grain production. These three states produced almost 35% of the organic grain crop grown domestically in 2001. Almost 25% of the organic grain crop was produced by Minnesota and North Dakota alone in that same year.

Small-grain cultivar adaptation studies typically are located in environments where synthetic fertilizers and biocides are used. As a result, organic farmers generally grow modern cultivars that were not developed and selected in environments where organic production methods are used. Many of these farmers would prefer to have access to modern cultivars that are developed and selected specifically in organic environments (D. Podoll, personal communication, 2002). However, such cultivars are not available. A few organic farmers grow cultivars developed prior to the widespread use of synthetic fertilizers and biocides because they believe older cultivars are better adapted to organic environments than modern cultivars.

The adaptation of small-grain cultivars under organic management has been considered in Europe. Richards (1988) compared grain yield and other traits of six oat cultivars in a field transitioning to organic management in Scotland during 1987. He concluded that ranking of the cultivars for yield was similar to the ranking in fields managed conventionally (i.e., using synthetic agrichemicals), with one exception. Yield of the shortest and possibly least-competitive cultivar was lower relative to the yield of other cultivars when grown under organic management.

Fourteen barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cultivars were compared under conventional and organic management in Sweden during 1983 (Rydberg, 1986). Weed biomass production was greater when early maturing cultivars were grown rather than late maturing cultivars, but the relative ranking of early and late maturing cultivars for grain yield, protein content, test weight, and kernel weight was unaffected by management system. Results of this study suggest that conducting small-grain cultivar studies in organic environments may be unnecessary since the relative ranking of cultivars for selected grain traits can be extended from conventional to organic systems in some environments.

Nine spring wheat cultivars were compared under conventional and organic management in Poland during 1989 and 1991 (Poutala et al., 1993). No differences in yield occurred among the cultivars when managed organically, while yields were different between some of the cultivars when managed conventionally. However, cultivar selection was not affected by management system since the highest yielding cultivars under conventional management also performed well under organic management.

Small-grain cultivar performance has been compared under organic management elsewhere in Europe (e.g., Samuel and Young, 1989; Storey et al., 1993; Goodling et al., 1999). Cultivars that are adapted to organic environments were identified in these studies. Unfortunately, none of the cultivars are grown in North America. These cultivars probably are not adapted to growing conditions in the north central region. Moreover, some of the studies were conducted at only one location in a single year (e.g., Rydberg, 1986; Richards, 1988) and are of limited scientific value. Other studies compared cultivar performance in fields in transition to organic management and were not in certified organic fields (e.g., Richards, 1988).

No North American study comparing small-grain cultivar performance in environments managed organically has been published, based on a thorough review of the literature. Likewise, no published North American research exists which supports or refutes the belief held by some organic farmers that cultivars developed and selected prior to the widespread use of synthetic agrichemicals are better adapted to organic environments than modern cultivars developed and selected where synthetic fertilizers and biocides are used.

Cultivar adaptation studies that include adequate replication across time and space are needed to test the hypothesis held by many crop scientists that there is no need to conduct cultivar studies under organic conditions since cultivars are developed for wide geographic regions and generally perform well regardless of the management system.

Project Objectives:

Develop scoring tools and skills needed for cooperating farmer and university researcher/educator teams to assess small-grain cultivar performance in purchased low input/organic environments.

Identify small-grain cultivars from existing germplasm that are best adapted to purchased low-input/organic environments.

Form a multi-state farmer-to-researcher working group on breeding and selecting small-grain cultivars for purchased low-input/organic environments.


Materials and methods:

A limited number of modern barley, hard red spring wheat, and oat cultivars selected by organic farmers along with university scientists were compared on four organic farms in western Minnesota and North Dakota during 2001. In part, this initial comparison was done to determine if standard experimental protocol could be used when conducting cultivar adaptation studies in organic environments. Some crop breeders and other university scientists expressed a belief that cultivar studies would become infested with weeds in certified organic fields, resulting in a need to abandon the studies. Results of the field experiments in 2001 indicated that traditional experimental protocol was suited for cultivar comparisons in organic environments. Site visits by organic farmers were made and there was strong support for continuing and expanding this effort.

Modest funds awarded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Wheat Subcommittee of the North Dakota State Board of Research and Education allowed the cultivar adaptation studies to be continued in four certified organic fields in 2002. As part of this effort, organic farmers and others received a questionnaire inserted in the winter 2002 issue of the quarterly newsletter of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS). The questionnaire was used to identify organic sources of seed of small-grain crops, the cultivars of each crop grown, and the relative interest for cultivar studies among the different small-grain crops. The questionnaire also was used to help identify plant growth traits of interest to organic farmers.

Answers to the questionnaire were used at a meeting attended by organic farmers, crop scientists, seed curators, and others in early March 2002, to identify small-grain crops and cultivars that were of greatest interest to organic farmers in Minnesota and North Dakota. Efforts were made to obtain an adequate amount of high quality seed for potential cultivar entries, but this was not always possible. As a result, priorities during 2002 not only included continuing cultivar comparisons in certified organic fields, but also increasing the amount and quality of seed for cultivars that were of interest to organic farmers. Grow-outs of old and other hard-to-get cultivars occurred to ensure that adequate amounts of seed were available for on-farm adaptation studies.

Results of the cultivar adaptation studies in 2002 were presented at a symposium on organic farming at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in that year, and published on a compact disk along with other papers that were presented. Results of the studies also were presented at the 2003 winter meeting of NPSAS. Organic farmers expressed strong support for continuing adaptation studies for wheat and oats. However, there was little interest in continuing comparisons between barley cultivars in environments managed organically.

Funding for this project by NCR-SARE allowed continuation and expansion of cultivar adaptation studies in certified organic fields during 2003 and 2004. Vegetative and reproductive traits of 17 spring wheat cultivars were compared in certified organic fields on commercial farms near Comstock and Fertile, both in northwestern Minnesota, near Fullerton in southeastern North Dakota, and near Richardton in southwestern North Dakota in both years. Likewise, ten oat cultivars were compared. The small-grain cultivars represented different eras of development, crop development programs, and contrasting growth characteristics. Cultivars developed prior to the widespread use of synthetic fertilizers and biocides were included along with modern cultivars. Eleven of the 17 wheat cultivars evaluated were released on or after 1995. In addition, conventional (i.e., produced using agrichemicals) and organic (i.e., produced following certified organic standards) sources of seed were included for a few cultivars so the impact of seed lot on cultivar performance could be determined.

The experiments were located in fields prepared prior to sowing by the participating organic farmers using standard practices on their farms. Plots were at least 4 by 20 ft and arranged in a randomized complete block with cultivar treatments replicated four times in each experiment. Grain yield and quality were determined for cultivars at all four locations. Other reproductive and growth traits also were determined for cultivars at some but not all locations in both years.

Analyses of data collected in the field experiments were conducted using procedures available from SAS. The GLM procedure was used in the combined analyses where years were considered random but locations and cultivars fixed effects. Individual locations were analyzed separately when an interaction between years and locations or a three-way interaction between years, locations, and cultivars were detected. Stepwise regression was used to determine the relationship between selected growth traits and grain yield and quality factors.

Summer tours occurred at the Minnesota and North Dakota locations included in the project. Attending organic farmers, crop researchers, and others interested in the project were given a questionnaire which evaluated opinions on the importance of conducting cultivar adaptation studies in certified organic fields shortly after arriving on-site. Participants then were divided into groups and asked to evaluate the small-grain cultivars visually for growth and reproductive potential using a relative ranking system (1 = poorest growth and reproductive potential, 9 = greatest growth and reproductive potential; letters could be used more than once or not at all). The cultivar identities were not revealed. Groups were given approximately 40 minutes to complete their ranking and then numbers were tabulated.

The groups then received a questionnaire which asked for the ranking of 13 different growth traits along with grain yield, grain quality, straw/stubble production, and the impact on succeeding crops in order of importance (1 = unimportant, 5 = very important with no more than five traits receiving the same number) when selecting a cereal cultivar. Group members were encouraged to walk through the field experiments and compare different cultivar entries while determining the ranking of growth traits and other factors. The questionnaire was collected when all groups had completing the rankings.

Finally, the identities of the cultivars ranked in plots were revealed. Growth characteristics, grain yield and other factors attributed to the cultivars by plant breeders and other scientists were presented and compared with the four group rankings. A final questionnaire was given to farmers and scientists where again they were asked about the importance of cultivar adaptation studies in organic environments and how the studies should be managed.

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1
Comparisons of answers provided on pre-training and post-training questionnaires completed during summer tours indicated that the training increased farmer appreciation for the value of cultivar adaptation studies in certified organic fields. Farmers also valued the scoring tool that was used to rank cultivars for their adaptation to local environments managed organically. The scoring tool seemed to provide users with the ability to identify top- and low-performing cultivars in the trials. The tool was less useful in differentiating between cultivars that ranked near the middle of those included in the experiments. Some farmers suggested that the tool included too many traits to rank cultivars and should be simplified. Work is underway to develop a simplified version of the tool.

Objective 2
Interactions were detected between years and locations for seedling vigor, plant stand, plant height, spike density, grain yield and quality. For example, the ranking of the four locations for grain yield across all cultivars was Comstock (51 bu/acre), Fertile (35 bu/acre), Richardton (30 bu/acre), and Fullerton (19 bu/acre) in 2003, while Fertile ranked highest for yield in 2004 (55 bu/acre), followed by Comstock (37 bu/acre), Fullerton (36 bu/acre), and Richardton (21 bu/acre). The interaction for grain yield between years and locations reflects differences in environmental conditions that occurred at the four locations during the two years of the study.

Differences between cultivars were detected for grain yield and quality traits in the combined analyses. Differences also were detected for four of five growth traits evaluated at Comstock, Fertile, and Richardton in both years, with one exception. Differences in plant stand were not detected between cultivars. Seedling vigor, plant stand, plant height, and spike density data were not collected at Fullerton in 2004 and so this location was not included in the combined analyses for these traits.

Interactions between years and cultivars were detected for eight of nine traits for spring wheat across the field experiments. No interaction was detected between years and cultivars for plant height at physiological maturity, although an interaction was detected for height when plants were at the 2-leaf growth stage. Interactions between locations and cultivars were detected for only four traits (seedling vigor, plant height at both growth stages, and crude protein concentration of grain). These data indicate that environmental differences across years had a greater effect on the relative ranking of cultivars than differences across locations.

Interactions between years, locations, and cultivars occurred for five of nine traits, including grain yield. These interactions indicated a crossover in rankings of some cultivars for the traits that were considered. For example, Alsen was among the highest yielding cultivars at Fertile in 2004, but there were four cultivars (Walworth, Oklee, Ingot, and AC Cadillac) producing more grain than Alsen at that location in 2003. Stoa was among the highest yielding cultivars at Comstock in 2003, while there were six cultivars (Walworth, Oklee, Ingot, AC Cadillac, Alsen, and Dapps) that produced more grain than Stoa at Fullerton in 2003.

Trends exist in the rankings of several cultivars for traits across years and locations even though interactions between years, locations, and cultivars occurred. For example, Walworth produced equal or greater amounts of grain compared with other cultivars at all four locations in each of the two years. Other cultivars that produced relatively high yields in a majority of the experiments included Oklee (six experiments) and Reeder (five experiments). Ingot, AC Cadillac, and Alsen produced equal or higher yields compared with other cultivars in four experiments. These data indicate consistency in the ranking of six cultivars as relatively high yielding in at least half of the experiments included in this study. Consistent performance was not limited to grain yield; Glupro produced grain with high protein concentration compared with other cultivars in all eight experiments. These results add credibility to the hypothesis that adapted cultivars are developed for wide geographic regions across various management systems, including environments managed organically.

Old cultivars (Acadia and Red Fife) were lower yielding than modern cultivars like Walworth and Ingot at Fullerton and Fertile in both years, and at Comstock and Richardton in 2003. Acadia was lower yielding than both modern cultivars at Comstock in 2004, while Red Fife was lower yielding than Walworth but similar in yield to Ingot. Differences in yield were not detected between the two old and two modern cultivars at Richardton in 2004, probably because severe drought narrowed differences in yield between cultivars that generally were detected elsewhere under more favorable growing conditions. Overall, old cultivars and even cultivars released through the 1960s and 1970s (Chris, Coteau, and Waldron) were lower yielding than many cultivars released after 1990 at most locations in at least one year.

The modern cultivars Glupro and BacUp were lower yielding than many other modern cultivars, in part because both cultivars were developed and released to meet specific market demand for grain with particularly high crude protein concentration. Glupro and BacUp produced grain with higher crude protein concentration than grain produced by other cultivars, but yield was compromised. Conversely, the old cultivars Acadia and Red Fife not only were relatively low yielding but also produced grain with low crude protein concentration. These results suggest that modern cultivars compare favorably with old cultivars for grain yield and quality in environments managed organically under conditions similar to those encountered during this study. Similar results occurred in comparisons of old and modern cereal cultivars in Europe (M.J. Gooding, personal communication, 2003).

Seed lot selection affected grain yield at some locations in 2003 for both cultivars where seed lot types (conventional and organic) were compared. More grain was produced for the cultivar Stoa when the organic seed lot was used at Fullerton and Richardton in that year. Grain yield also was higher for Parshall when the organic seed lot was used at Fullerton and Richardton in 2003, while yield was higher when the conventional seed lot was used at Comstock. Seed lot selection did not affect grain yield for either cultivar at Fertile in 2003, or at any location in 2004. Results of this study indicate that seed lot selection can affect cultivar performance in some environments. As a result, only high quality seed should be used to ensure optimum performance of cereal cultivars across the range of environmental conditions that can exist on organic farms in the north central region.

The use of low-quality seed may explain partially the relatively poor performance of the conventional seed lot compared with the organic seed lot of Stoa for grain yield in 2003. The conventional seed lot was inferior visually compared with the organic seed lot when treatments were established. Kernels comprising the conventional seed lot were smaller and less vitreous. Unfortunately, this was the only conventional seed lot that was available in 2003. For this reason, a portion of the seed lot was planted at the Dickinson Research Extension Center so an improved conventional seed lot would be available for planting in 2004. This may explain the better relative performance of Stoa when the conventional seed lot was used in 2004 compared with 2003.

Some organic farmers believe that modern small-grain cultivars become better adapted to environments managed without synthetic agrichemicals after first being introduced (B. Schmaltz, personal communication, 2002). Natural selection is suggested as explaining how populations evolve that are better adapted to organic practices than other populations of the same cultivar. Over time, these farmers suggest that seed lots generated under certified organic conditions produce progeny better adapted to organic management than plants produced from seed lots generated in environments where synthetic agrichemicals are used.

Natural selection can occur following the introduction of heterogeneous wheat populations into different environments (Hwu and Allan, 1992). The cultivar Stoa is heterogeneous in genetic composition relative to Parshall and most other modern spring wheat cultivars (S.S. Jones, personal communication, 2002). As a result, differences in performance for Stoa between conventional and organic seed lots may reflect results of the selection process over several years in the field.

Results of our study do not provide evidence that progeny become better adapted to organic production methods because of natural selection following the introduction of a modern cultivar onto a farm. The superiority of the organic seed lot of Stoa was not demonstrated consistently for yield at any location across both years of the study, or across all four locations within either year. Likewise, grain yield was not elevated consistently when the organic seed lot of Parshall was used compared with the conventional seed lot. However, the possibility of wheat populations becoming better adapted to certified organic environments after being introduced was beyond the scope of this two year study. The role of natural selection in the development of cereal crop populations best adapted to organic environments should be explored, particularly since small-grain cultivar mixtures are being considered by some farmers in the north central region (D. Mayer, personal communication, 2004).

Limitations in experimental design prevent a valid scientific comparison between cultivar performance in the field experiments under certified organic management in this study and in similar experiments managed conventionally (i.e., using synthetic fertilizers and biocides). However, qualitative comparisons suggest a similar ranking of cultivars under both management methods. For example, Reeder produced the highest mean grain yield among cultivar treatments at Richardton in both 2003 and 2004. The relative ranking of Reeder and other cultivars at the Richardton location was similar in an adaptation study conducted at the same time but managed conventionally at the Dickinson Research Extension Center, approximately 23 miles west of Richardton. Likewise, rankings of other cultivars included at both locations were similar for other traits.

Preliminary attempts to identify a strong correlation between vegetative growth traits (e.g., seedling vigor) and reproductive growth traits (e.g., grain yield) were unsuccessful. These attempts concur with experiences of some cereal crop breeders to link selected early-season growth traits of plants with grain yield (M.S. McMullen, personal communication, 2002). More rigorous analyses are underway to determine if any of the early and mid season growth traits considered in this study are correlated with grain yield and/or quality. If correlations are established, then development of the scoring tool described in this section under Objective 1 can be enhanced by focusing on vegetative traits that best translate into superior grain yield and quality.

Preliminary analyses of results for oat cultivars indicated similar trends as those observed for wheat cultivars. A thorough evaluation of oat data will be conducted following completion of analyses on the wheat study included in this project.

Objective 3
Public and private plant breeders, other crop scientists, and organic farmers convened for a two day meeting in Fargo, ND, in October 2004. An important objective of the meeting was to build upon the results of what was learned from this project. At that time, preliminary results of the project were presented and discussed. Following considerable small group deliberations, a consensus emerged that work should begin that is dedicated to the development and selection of cereal cultivars adapted to environments managed organically in the north central region. A mission statement was developed for the working group of farmers and crop scientists. The Bush Foundation was approached about funding this effort. A full proposal was requested following a favorable reply from personnel at the foundation. The proposal was submitted and the effort described presently is under consideration for funding.

Literature Cited
Economic Research Service. 2003. Organic production. Economic Research Service – USDA. Available at [verified 10 Jan. 2005]

Goodling, J.J., N.D. Cannon, A.J. Thompson, and W.P. Davies. 1999. Quality and value of organic grain from contrasting breadmaking wheat varieties and near isogenic lines differing in dwarfing genes. Biol. Agric. Hort. 16:335-350.

Hwu, K., and .R.E. Allan. 1992. Natural selection effects in wheat populations grown under contrasting tillage systems. Crop Sci. 32:605-611.
NASS. 2004. The 2002 Census of Agriculture. Available at census/ census02/volume1/us/st99_2_024_024.pdf [verified 3 March 2005]

NASS. 2004. The 2002 Census of Agriculture. Available at census/ census02/volume1/us/st99_2_024_024.pdf [verified 3 March 2005]

Poutala, R.T., J. Korva, and E. Varis. 1993. Spring wheat cultivar performance in ecological and conventional cropping systems. J. Sust. Agric. 3:63-83.

Richards, M.C. 1988. The performance of six spring oat cultivars grown without synthetic chemical inputs. Ann. Appl. Biol. 112 (supplement):106-107.

Rydberg, T. 1986. The response of barley varieties in conventional and biological growing. p. 310-316. In IFOAM International Scientific Conference: the importance of biological agriculture.

Samuel, A.M., and R.J. Young. 1989. Yield, grain quality and disease incidence of milling wheat varieties grown organically. Ann. Appl. Biol. 114 (supplement):172-173.

Storey, T., R. Hogan, and J. Humphreys. 1993. The growth, yield, and quality of winter wheat and winter oats grown under an organic conversion regime. Aspects of Applied Biol. 36:199-204.

Research conclusions:

Spring wheat and oat cultivars best adapted to local organic growing conditions in Minnesota and North Dakota were identified as a result of this project. This information already is being used by organic farmers and certified seed producers in both states, as well as neighboring states in the north central region and in other regions (e.g., Montana). Some organic farmers have indicated that cultivar choices for their operations changed and will change because of the results of this study.

Results of this study demonstrated that cultivar adaptation studies can be conducted in certified organic fields following standard experimental protocol. Concerns about the development of infestations by weeds proved unfounded in the fields where experiments were located. This project demonstrated that certified organic fields are suitable locations for conducting cultivar adaptation studies, provided that well-planned crop rotations and other appropriate management strategies are followed. Some crop breeders expressed a willingness to locate cultivar adaptation studies in certified organic fields in the future, in part because of the positive results generated from the project and the experiences of organic farmers and the crop scientists who were involved.

Results from this project should be publishable in scientific journals. This may not seem of particular value since many studies summarizing results of cultivar evaluations in certified organic environments already have been published. However, virtually all of this research has been published in European journals, most of which have only a limited readership in North America. Publishing our results in journals with a large audience in North America (e.g., Crop Science) will demonstrate to many crop breeders and other crop scientists that properly designed and well managed cultivar adaptation studies can occur in certified organic fields. This should add credibility to plans by researchers to develop and select crop cultivars in certified organic fields.

This project demonstrated that farmer-directed research efforts can be successful. Farmers initially asked university researchers about conducting cultivar adaptation studies in certified organic fields, not the other way around. Farmers developed the objectives of the project, using university scientists primarily as consultants. Farmers chose the cereal crops that would be included in the field experiments, and also selected many of the cultivar entries that were compared. Farmers provided most of the seed lots that were used to establish cultivar treatments in the experiments. University scientists were responsible for ensuring that field experiments were established and managed following acceptable scientific protocol, but farmers were responsible for plant nutrient and pest management aspects of the research. Researchers were responsible for data collection and analyses, although farmers collected at least some of the data along with scientists at some locations. Finally, farmers helped researchers interpret results following analyses of the data.

Results of this project can be used to encourage greater adoption of farmer-directed research in SARE-funded research and demonstration projects.

Economic Analysis

Detailed economic analyses were beyond the scope of this project. However, results of this project included identification of wheat and oat cultivars that are best adapted to local organic environments. Reactions by organic producers to presentations of these results indicate that cultivars presently grown on many farms are not as well adapted as some of the cultivars that were included in the field experiments, in terms of grain yield and quality. Alsen is a popular spring wheat cultivar presently grown in the north central region, but results of this study suggest that substituting Walworth for Alsen on only 60 farms could generate an additional $540,000 annually, assuming that grain was sold for $6/bu, that wheat was grown on 500 acres within each farm, and that an average yield increase of three bushels resulted from the substitution (the 3 bu/acre yield advantage for Walworth reflected the difference in mean yields between the two cultivars across all locations in both years. Over $1 million in additional revenue would be returned to growers on these farms over a two year period.

Farmer Adoption

Results of this project were presented at both the 2003 and 2004 annual meetings of the NPSAS, as well as during summer field tours in Minnesota and North Dakota. Attendance during the 2004 winter meeting of the NPSAS was over 100 individuals alone, and included a contingent from Manitoba, Canada. Conservatively, we would suggest that farmers representing over 100 separate operations have been exposed to the results of this project directly by attending one of these events. Several hundred additional farmers probably are aware of the project from going to the web page of the NPSAS, where results of the field experiments included in the project can be accessed.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

H. J. Kandel, P. M. Porter, P.M. Carr and S. F. Zwinger. "Producer Participatory Spring Wheat Variety Evaluation for Organic Systems In Minnesota and North Dakota." Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2007. Manuscript number: RAFS-D-07-00042R1.

P.M. Carr, H.J. Kandel, P.M. Porter, R.D. Horsley, and S.F. Zwinger. "Wheat Cultivar Performance on
Certified Organic Fields in Minnesota and North Dakota" The Journal Crop Science 46:1963-1971. 2006.

A video of the summer field tours in Minnesota in 2004 was developed. A copy of the video was provided to staff at the NCR-SARE office in Lincoln.

Results of many of the individual field experiments have been provided on the web page of the NPSAS (, as analyses of data have been completed. These results are available to anyone who accesses the web page. Results of this project were published in university reports, and presented during summer tours and at winter meetings.

Project Outcomes


Areas needing additional study

This project identified spring wheat and oat cultivars from existing germplasm that were best adapted to environments managed following certified organic methods. This is an important outcome and one desired by organic farmers. There is a similar need to identify cultivars of other cereal and non-cereal crops that are adapted to environments managed organically.

Demonstrating a need to develop and select cereal cultivars in environments managed organically was beyond the scope of this study. However, circumstantial evidence generated from this study and similar research completed elsewhere suggest that results of adaptation studies in fields managed conventionally can be extrapolated to similar environments managed following certified organic standards. Some organic (and conventional) farmers may consider a scientific study which demonstrates that management (organic vs. conventional) affects cultivar development and selection only an intellectual exercise, but we argue that this is not true today with shrinking agricultural research budgets and fewer university personnel working in applied agriculture fields. Rather, there is great need to maximize the application of the limited agricultural research that can be conducted. A prudent strategy is to first demonstrate the need to have simultaneous cereal breeding programs under conventional and certified organic standards, before resources are used to develop both programs.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.