Farm-based selection and seed production of varieties of bread wheat, spelt, emmer, and einkorn adapted to organic systems in the Northeast

Final Report for LNE12-318

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $196,743.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Mark Sorrells
Cornell University
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Project Information

Summary:

Over three years, the grant team conducted 7 workshops, 10 field days, gave 6 conference presentations, 5 surveys, and produced one webinar. During this grant, we engaged at least 1346 farmers, several seed companies, and researchers in improving seed production, seed quality, and breeding of organic small grains. A total of 140 advanced breeding populations of winter and spring wheat and ancient grains were distributed to and selected by 11 farmers according to priority traits for organic production. New York Seed Improvement collaborated with several organic farmers to produce quality assured seed of improved Red Fife that was resurrected by the Cornell Small Grains Breeding program. Six additional heritage wheat varieties have been head row planted and purified to produce organic seed stocks for distribution. In this project, 362 farmers participated in seed production training and 45 indicated they would produce seed of project varieties. A total of 272 farmers attended selection workshops and 11 famers established early generation breeding populations. Eleven farmers participated in early generation selection and 12 populations have been advanced to larger on-farm plots. Gary Bergstrom’s lab at Cornell has developed a PCR screening technique that farmers can use to screen seed lots for loose smut, a primary seed borne disease of small grains in the Northeast. Information on the project was distributed through several workshops, newsletters, conference presentations and field days.

Introduction:

Northeastern organic farmers are interested in diversifying to high-value grains and face a lack of adapted varieties and certified organic seed. Farmer interest in organic grains in the Northeast is clear from increasing participation in organic grain projects and high attendance at workshops and field days on organic grains for the past several years. These events regularly draw more than 50 participants and produce continuing requests for information on organic grain production. Although organic wheat acreage approximately doubled in recent years, production of high quality food grains does not yet meet market demand. To take full advantage of increasing market opportunities for locally produced organic grains, farmers need reliable supplies of seed for varieties adapted to their farming conditions. There is growing interest in producing bread wheat, spelt, emmer and einkorn in the Northeast, however there are very few sources of organic seed and most varieties of these crops are either developed for conventional systems or for different ecological regions such as the Midwestern or Western US and Canada. This project addressed these related problems by providing training in seed production to organic growers in New England, NY and PA, and by starting the process of developing varieties adapted to organic agriculture in this region through on-farm selection with experienced organic farmers. Information from ongoing USDA-OREI and SARE projects evaluating existing varieties under organic conditions in the northeast and discussions with farmers were used to determine priorities for seed production and for deciding on parents for developing breeding populations. Certified seed production workshops for organic growers were conducted in the first two years of the project, and technical support was provided to farmers interested in producing organic certified seed of varieties identified as top performers for agronomic performance and quality in previous Northeast SARE and OREI projects. Organic seed treatments reported in the literature for the control of Tilletia spp. were found to be ineffective and this continues to be a major challenge to seed production in organic systems. Breeding populations were developed in the first year by the research team at Cornell by crossing selected varieties of bread wheat, spelt, and emmer varieties and seed increases were grown for distribution and selection. Selection workshops with growers were held in the second and third years of the project to discuss criteria for selection and to provide training in evaluation of small plots and segregating populations.

Performance Target:
  1. 1000 farmers in ME, NY, PA and VT learn about the project through newsletters, information given out at field days and mailings (Summer and Fall 2012). This target was exceeded with at least 1346 farmers learning about our project. This is likely to be an underestimate because all communications recipients could not be tabulated.
  2. 60 farmers participate in seed production training and learn about the key production, processing and legal aspects of producing certified seed. 30 of these farmers indicate they will produce seed of project varieties (Winter 2012-13 and Winter 2013-14). By the end of the grant, 25 farmers produce organic seed that passes state certified seed requirements (Harvest of 2015). . In this project, this target was exceeded with 362 farmers participating in seed production training and 45 indicated they would produce seed of project varieties. It was not possible to determine exactly how many farmers produced organic seed that passed state certified seed requirements but at least 10 were successful.
  3. 120 farmers attend selection workshops and 10 farmers establish successful trials with early-generation breeding populations (Summer 2013, Summer 2014). This target was exceeded with a total of 214 farmers attending selection workshops and 11 famers established early generation breeding populations.
  4. 40 farmers participate in selection of early-generation breeding populations (Summer 2013, Summer 2014), and 10-20 of the most promising populations are advanced to larger on-farm selection trials (Summer 2015). Eleven farmers participated in early generation selection and 12 populations have been advanced to larger on-farm plots. Although 272 farmers were trained in plant selection methods, only 11 actually participated in this project. We are aware that other farmers were involved in early generation selection, but they did not participate in this project most likely because of other time commitments.
  5. A data-sharing system for on-farm selection is established and used among states. A sustainable model of collaboration is developed so that on-farm selection can continue after the termination of the grant (throughout, to be completed before harvest 2015). This target was met with a seed sharing online system developed by the Organic Grain Resource Information Network and the Bauta Family Initiative.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Phil Atkins
  • Dr. Heather Darby
  • Dr. Michael Davis
  • Dr. Julie Dawson
  • Dr. Elizabeth Dyck
  • Dr. Ellen Mallory

Research

Materials and methods:

Survey of Needs in organic wheat breeding 

A participatory breeding methodology was employed to select wheat, spelt, emmer, and einkorn genotypes for organic farms of the Northeast United States. Regional researchers and extension personnel nominated eleven organic farmers to participate in wheat breeding. After learning about the project objectives, all farmers agreed to participate. Farms include a diversity of sizes, production systems, and climates of the Northeast. Through semi-structured interviews, farmers ranked the traits that they found to be most important in a wheat variety. Most farmers valued several traits in common (weed competitive ability, height / straw quantity, and lodging resistance for spring wheat; Fusarium head blight (FHB) tolerance, protein content, baking quality, and flavor for winter wheat), although many farmers emphasized traits that were uniquely important to their operation (white grain color, resistance to leaf diseases, high number of seeds per head, and performance under low nitrogen conditions).

 

Selection for priority traits

Direct selection for some traits of importance was costly or not feasible. Consequently, we used indirect selection to identify traits that are strongly correlated with the trait of interest, yet have higher heritability and are easier to evaluate in the field. The most important trait among farmers, particularly for spring wheat, was weed competitive ability (WCA). Correlated traits that indirectly select for WCA include ground cover and leaf width of young seedlings, and mature plant height (Huel & Hucl 1996; Ogg & Seefeldt 1999; Rebetzke & Richards 1999; Worthington & Reberg-Horton 2013). For the six farmers who ranked WCA as a priority trait, plots were space-planted so individual plants could be identified, and best individuals were flagged in each plot between third and fifth leaf stage. Researchers also used screens to select the largest seeds, which have been correlated with WCA (Rebetzke & Richards 1999; Cousens & Mokhtari 1998), from farmer-selected seed.

The second most important trait for farmers was FHB tolerance. During selection of best phenotypes, farmers avoided infected spikes. This method is likely not effective in selecting for tolerance, as FHB infection is related to the alignment of a genotype’s anthesis to rainfall events, which change year to year. Consequently, researchers selected for FHB tolerance on an inoculated FHB nursery in Ithaca, NY.

Farmers’ third highest ranked trait was protein. Protein is a highly heritable trait (0.72-0.85), but is generally evaluated destructively (Loffler et al. 1972; Bhatt & Derera 1975). For farmers who selected protein as a priority trait, our single seed non-destructive NIR machine allowed the selection of 50% of spikes with highest protein. The graduate researcher calibrated the NIR instrument using a partial least squares model calibrated to a destructive nitrogen test (LECO TrueMac N), obtaining an r2 of 0.87. One hundred and ninety two seeds each from six wheat varieties from a range of protein contents and color classes comprised the calibration set.

Height was the fifth highest ranked trait, which was exclusively valued by spring wheat farmers. As height is a highly heritable trait (0.80) (Loffler et al. 1972), farmers who desired tall plants selected tall plants. As height is pleiotropic with early vigor (Worthington & Reberg-Horton 2013), selected tall genotypes should also be more competitive with weeds.

Selection for lodging resistance is challenging due to environmental variability in weather conditions, soil moisture, and wind eddies. Consequently, indirect selection for correlated traits was implemented. Berry et al. (2003) and Zuber et al. (1999) found the diameter of the stem at the first internode to be the most effective indirect selection parameter. After farmers selected plants of interest in a plot, each selected stem was measured with a pair of calipers. The largest 50% of stems were selected for the next generation.

 

Breeding methods

Researchers at Cornell University and The University of Vermont crossed parental varieties showing promising traits for organic production. Eleven participating farmers planted bulked F3 biparental families from winter wheat crosses in the fall of 2014 and/or F4 biparental families of spring wheat crosses in the spring of 2014. Each farm established two replicates of five biparental family plots and one check variety commonly grown by organic farmers in the region: ‘Warthog’ winter wheat or ‘AC Barrie’ spring wheat. Plot sizes varied from 4.65 to 9m2, depending on the size of regional planting equipment. Farm-specific selection protocols facilitated the selection of phenotypes best suited to the priority traits of each farmer. With the help of the graduate investigator, the farmer visually separated each biparental family plot into four quadrants and selected the 10% of plants or spikes that best met priority traits in each quadrant. The graduate investigator also randomly collected the same number of spikes from each biparental family plot to form F3:F4 winter wheat and F4:F5 spring wheat baseline populations to track gains in selection. Selected seed was pooled from the two replicate plots of each biparental family at each farm for a second year of selection on farm. The same plot layout was repeated during the second year of selection, with the addition of adjacent plots seeded with randomly collected baseline populations for each biparental family. 

In tandem with on-farm selection, researchers selected biparental families on research stations for the most important regional traits. For spring wheat, researchers screened 210 head rows of F2:F3 individuals for the trait of most importance to spring wheat farmers in the region: weed competitive ability. Flagged plants and head rows with the highest early vigor (1-5) and leaf width (1-5) at third to fifth leaf stage advanced to the second year of selection in 2016. 

For winter wheat, selection protocols focused on FHB tolerance, high protein content, and desirable baking and sensory qualities. From the same winter wheat biparental families planted on farms, researchers planted 302 head rows of F2:F3 individuals and the parental varieties at Freeville, NY and in a fusarium head blight nursery in Ithaca, NY in the fall of 2014. At the disease nursery, head rows were inoculated at anthesis with fusarium spores, and screened for FHB index (infection rate x severity). Other metrics of head row evaluation included average height, leaf disease severity (1-9), glume blotch severity (0-3), and date at which 50% of heads emerged. Index selection provided a quantitative way to select the 30% best head rows, weighted strongly against fusarium index, and to a lesser extent, against late heading, very tall height, leaf disease, and glume blotch (Equation 1). For baking and sensory quality, the third most important trait ranked by winter wheat farmers, the index added points to crosses with parents that have desirable quality characteristics. Researchers collected seed from 10 individual plants in each selected head row. Eight seeds from each plant entered NIR evaluation for protein content. The 50% of plants with highest protein from each selected head row were planted in the same head row nurseries in the fall of 2015. 

Index Score = IF(FHB index>10,-20,0)+(50/FHB index))+(IF(Heading Day after May1<38,0, Heading Day after May1*-0.5))+IF(Height<110,0,(Height*-1/20))+IF(RC(leaf disease<7,0,leaf disease*-1)+IF(leaf disease<5,(8/leaf disease),0)+IF(glume blotch=3,-5,IF(glume blotch=0,5,IF(glume blotch=1,3,0)))+(5 to 10 for parents with good qualities) Equation 1. (Excel 2013) 

 

Gains in selection

We evaluated gains from selection using various methods. In 2015, weed biomass present in plots of farmer selected F5 populations was compared with plots of randomly collected F4:F5 seed from the same biparental family. Weed biomass was clipped from two 0.25 m2 quadrats in each plot, dried at 55°C, and weighed. This process was repeated at Orono, ME in 2016, comparing F4:F7 randomly collected and F7 selected populations. These plots were overseeded with a mustard surrogate weed species (Brassica sp.) to facilitate evenness in weed competition. Multienvironment Trials (MET) at eight locations in NY, VT, and ME tested 21 advanced spring wheat lines for yield, fusarium head blight, canopy cover, heading date, and early vigor in 2016. In 2017, 50 to 63 advanced winter wheat lines will be tested for yield, heading date, test weight, protein, winter hardiness and fusarium head blight in NY, WI, and IL.

 

Free threshing ancient grains 

The most commonly cited barrier for farmers in the Northeast to growing ancient grains is dehulling. In the spring of 2015, superior varieties ‘Lucille’, ‘ND Common’, and ‘Red Vernal’ were crossed with the free-threshing emmer variety, ‘Debra’, that is poorly adapted to the Northeast, in addition to a free-threshing emmer relative, Kamut®. While the genetic basis of the free-threshing trait in ‘Debra’ and ‘Kamut® is not fully understood, there is a possibility that orthologous genes of the recessive tg allele in Triticum aestivum L. (Jantasuriyarat et al. 2004) and/or the APETALA2 (AP2) gene in Arabidopsis thaliana (Faris et al. 2003) may be causative agents of threshing free from the glume. In the greenhouse, F1 progeny were backcrossed to each parent during flowering in the summer of 2015. After selecting the seed from the BC1 generation that thresh free of glumes, we grew out the selected seed in the greenhouse. During flowering, the BC1 generation were backcrossed to the recurrent parents ‘Lucille’ and ‘ND Common’. The BC2 seed that threshed free were selected in the spring of 2016 and planted in head rows for agronomic evaluation. 

In the fall of 2014, einkorn and spelt seeds from various F3 biparental populations that most easily separated from the hull were selected. After rolling in a simple rubber tube, small portions of the hulled seed broke free of the glume. These seeds were planted in F2:F3 head rows at two sites for winter hardiness, heading date, height, and FHB tolerance. In the fall of 2015, we repeated this process, selecting the most easily dehulled seed from superior performing head rows. This selected seed were replanted as F2:F4 in the fall of 2015 for another year of FHB and agronomic evaluation. In the fall of 2016, the most easily dehulled F5 seed from top-performing head rows were selected. Crosses will also be made between top performing einkorn varieties, such as ‘TM23’, and ‘AC Knowles’, a free-threshing einkorn cultivar developed in Ontario, Canada. 

 

Quality Assured seed

After consultation with members of the project’s farmer advisory committee, it was decided to begin a pilot project for the production of quality assured seed of heritage wheat, focusing first on the variety Red Fife. A quality assurance standard rather than that of certified seed was selected because many heritage varieties do not meet the eligibility requirements for varieties as outlined by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies. Red Fife was selected because of consumer interest in this variety, the lack of uncontaminated Red Fife seed in our region, and the development of an “improved” Red Fife by the small grains breeding program at Cornell University through multi-year selection of a Red Fife population to conform to the earliest-recorded descriptions of the variety.

In NY, two farmers who have been growing Red Fife for more than four years and who are interested in crop seed production began work with the research team and the NY State Seed Improvement Project (NYSIP) on the pilot project. The farmers were first made familiar with NYSIP’s process and requirements for the production of quality-assured seed. After having signed onto the process, the farmers each planted 2 bushels of improved Red Fife in the spring of 2015. The two fields were inspected by NYSIP and harvested in accordance with NYSIP’s instructions…

 

Quality Assurance Program participation

Three farmers planted the Breeder class seed of Improved Red Fife for the purpose of producing the QA Parent generation of seed. The Improved Red Fife on these farms then underwent field inspections by NYSIP personnel. The inspections included:

  • meeting isolation requirements
  • varietal purity assessment
  • genetic off-type assessment
  • observation of weed species
  • assessment of loose smut and common bunt diseases

These fields have been harvested and the seed is stored at the NYSIP seed cleaning facility at Cornell.

(Spring and summer of 2015). Upon cleaning, packaging and a suitable lab report, NYSIP issued QA Parent labels for this seed. The QA Parent seed was made available in spring of 2016 to farmers who wish to plant the next generation, QA seed, of Improved Red Fife. (spring and summer 2016)

            In addition to Red Fife, 12 other heritage varieties were grown and single spikes were selected in 2015. Those single spikes were planted in head rows that fall and in 2016, the head rows were screened for trueness to type using the 1922 USDA Bulletin describing them. The rows that were true to type were harvested in bulk and a breeder seed increase was planted in the fall of 2016. These heritage varieties will enter the QA program and made available to farmers.

Research results and discussion:
  1. 1000 farmers in ME, NY, PA and VT learn about the project through newsletters, information given out at field days and mailings (Summer and Fall 2012).

 

Journalist coverage of our organic wheat breeding program and June 2016 field day.

  • Kissing Kucek, L, Darby, H, Atkins, P, Bergstrom, G, Russell, J, O’Dea, J, Rogosa, E, Wayman, S, Sowing the Future of Organic Wheat. Ithaca, NY, June 2016.

38 participants (including farmers, millers, bakers, journalists, and researchers) engaged in wheat breeding, seed improvement, wheat pathology, and selection.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. and Sorrells, M.E. “Designing an Organic Wheat Breeding Program for the Northeast United States” 8th Annual Organic Seed Growers Conference. Corvallis, OR, February 2016.

50 farmers learned about organic wheat breeding

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. “Four Years of Ancient, Heritage, and Modern Wheat Research in the Northeast” Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Winter Conference. Aberdeen, SD, January 2016.

45 farmers learned about ancient grain variety trialing and breeding for free threshing

  • Darby, H. SARE Administrative Council Annual Meeting. The university of Vermont hosted the SARE Administrative Council annual meeting and tour at the end of July 2016. There were 50 people from all over the Northeast.
  • Kissing Kucek, L “Participatory Plant Breeding: Engaging farmers and gardeners to build resilient food systemsYale Food Systems Symposium. New Haven, CT, October 2015.

40 participants (including farmers, students, and food processors) learned about the coevolution of crops and humans, the importance of involving more people in breeding, and examples of participatory plant breeding.

  • Halloran, A. The New Bread Basket, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015.

Various chapters cover researchers and farmers involved in the organic wheat selection program

  • Kissing Kucek, L and Atkins, P “Small Grain Variety Selection and Seed Production Workshop” University of Maine. Orono, ME, July 2015.

30 participants (primarily farmers) learned about the basics of small grain genetics and experimental design for on-farm breeding. Phil Atkins introduced the basics of seed certification and how to save quality seed on farm.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. Variety Evaluation for Sourdough Baking and Sensory QualityNOFA-NY Dairy Field Crops Conference. Syracuse, NY, March 2015.

50 farmers learned about evaluation of varieties for sensory quality and receive an introduction to the participatory breeding program.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. “Breeding Wheat for Organic SystemsGreat Lakes Wheat Workers. Cornell University, March 2015.

20 wheat breeders and researchers learned about traits of importance to organic farmers and participatory methods for selecting improved genotypes for organic production.

30 researchers and farmers at this symposium, held prior to the country’s largest gathering of organic farmers (Midwest Organic Agriculture Research and Education Conference).

Results were peer-reviewed and published open access online.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al.A Grounded Guide to Gluten.” Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Conference. Montreal, Quebec, November 2014.

Methods of the SARE grant were shared and exchanged with many Canadian organic seed growers and researchers guiding the continents largest participatory plant breeding program (Bauta Family Initiate on Seed Security)

  • Two of the farmer cooperators participated in the field inspection of their Improved Red Fife seed production. They learned what the NYSIP inspector was looking for during the inspection. Factors for successful seed production as well as factors that would disqualify a field from certification were discussed. August 2015
  • Elizabeth Dyck, Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN), introduced participants to the project and discussed methods of seed increase, organic management, and post-handling for high quality seed of rare heritage and ancient wheat varieties at the following events:

Thoughts on small grain production and processing for Restoring the Musconetcong River Valley Meeting, Washington, NJ, February 2016.

Growing and Processing Grains Profitably in Our Region, Annual Hobart Farmers’ Conference, Hobart, NY, March 2016.

Growing Ancient Grains in NYS,” Small Grains for Specialty Markets: Grains for flour, Cornell Coop. Ext Workshop, Hamden, NY, June 2015.

Heritage Grains Resources,” Bailey Farm, Germansville, PA, June 2015.

Growing and Processing Ancient Grains,” Annual Northern Grain Growers Association Winter Conference, Essex, VT, March 2015.

Organic Production and Marketing of Ancient and Heritage Grains,” NOFA-NJ Annual Winter Conference, Lincroft, NJ, February 2015.

“Value-Added Grains: Progress in the Northeast,” Long Island Agricultural Forum, Riverhead, NY, January 2014.

On-Farm Research Networks, Specialty Grain Crops on Farms in the Northeastern U.S., Selecting the Right Grain Equipment,” Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference, Orillia, Ontario, Canada, December 2014.

Integrating Grains and Cover Crops into Regional Food Systems,Farm-To-Table Conference, Weyers Cave, VA, December 2014.

Organic Farmer-Led Research on Value-Added Grains in the Northeast,” Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network Conference, Montreal, Canada, November 2014.

  • Darby, H. et al.Modern and Heirloom Wheat Evaluation and Participatory Development of New Varieties.” Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network (ACORN) Grain Workshop. Prince Edward Island, February 2015. Methods and early results of the SARE grant were shared and exchanged with Canadian organic seed growers and researchers.
  • Darby, H. et al. “Modern, Heirloom, and Ancient Grain Evaluation and Participatory Development of New Varieties for Our Region.” 2015 Growing Organic Farm Conference. Harrisburg, PA, December 2015. Methods and early results of the SARE grant were shared and exchanged with organic growers and researchers in PA.
  • A workshop on breeding wheat was conducted by Lisa Kissing Kucek of Cornell University. The workshop took place at one of the on-farm selection sites (Butterworks Farm) in August of 2014. Other farmers involved in on-farm selection participated, in addition to research project participants from the University of Vermont. Farmers from across the Northeast US and Eastern Canada were also invited.
  • Project results were discussed among farmers and researchers who attended the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network (ECOSGN) Conference in November of 2014.
  • Project methods and updates were presented and published at the MOSES Conference in February of 2015.
  • A workshop on wheat disease identification and prevention was delivered by Gary Bergstrom to 145 participants at the winter Northern Grain Growers Conference held in Burlington, VT during March of 2014. A summer workshop held in Alburgh, VT highlighted grain diseases and strategies for control. There were 225 participants that scouted fields and worked with instructors to identify diseases they observed.
  • A workshop on identification and organic management of wheat diseases and insect pests was conducted by Drs. Greg Roth (Pennsylvania State University) and Elizabeth Dyck (OGRIN) at the annual winter conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) in State College, PA, on February 7, 2014 and was attended by over 45 participants.
  • Seed increase methods for rare seed (i.e., heritage wheat and emmer and einkorn landraces) were presented by Elizabeth Dyck (OGRIN) to over 40 participants at a workshop at the 2014 Kneading Conference on July 24, 2014 in Skowhegan, ME, to over 60 participants at a workshop at the Farm-to-Table Conference on December 2, 2014 in Weyers Cave, VA, and to 30 participants at the Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference on December 6, 2014 in Orillia, Ontario.

 

  1. 60 farmers participate in seed production training and learn about the key production, processing and legal aspects of producing certified seed. 30 of these farmers indicate they will produce seed of project varieties (Winter 2012-13 and Winter 2013-14). By the end of the grant, 25 farmers produce organic seed that passes state certified seed requirements (Harvest of 2015).

 

  • Kissing Kucek, L, Darby, H, Atkins, P, Bergstrom, G, Russell, J, O’Dea, J, Rogosa, E, Wayman, S, Sowing the Future of Organic Wheat. Ithaca, NY, June 2016.

38 participants (including farmers, millers, bakers, journalists, and researchers) learned about seed quality issues and disease pathology.

  • Kissing Kucek, L and Atkins, P “Small Grain Variety Selection and Seed Production Workshop” University of Maine. Orono, ME, July 2015.

30 participants (primarily farmers) learned about the basics of small grain genetics and experimental design for on-farm breeding. Phil Atkins introduced the basics of seed certification and how to save quality seed on farm.

  • Four of the eleven participating farmers in on-farm selection are organic seed suppliers for regional seed companies. These farmers received training on quality organic seed through farm visits with researchers and workshops. Moreover, they will serve as direct connections with regional organic seed companies to distribute new varieties and landraces developed through the on-farm selection program.
  • Two farmers participating in on-farm selection have decided to become seed producers, and are seeking further training.
  • All three farmers growing QA Parent seed in 2015 produced QA seed from the Parent seed in 2016. In addition, NYSIP planted another, larger, QA Parent generation of Improved Red Fife in 2016 to satisfy the growing demand for this variety.
  • Through the use of a mobile grain-processing unit, farmers Kit Kelley (Montour County, PA), Ron Springer (Chemung County, NY), Andy Nagerl (Tioga County, NY), and Walter Riesen (Schoharie County, NY) developed expertise in the use of a gravity table to produce seed-quality grain.
  • Farmer Henry Beiler (Northumberland County, PA), who participated in the project-sponsored seed-cleaning shortcourse at Ernst Seeds (Meadville, PA) in September 2014, continued to increase seed of three promising winter einkorn landraces obtained by OGRIN from the GRIN collection— from 160 lb (2014 harvest) to 2000 lb (2015 harvest) to over 20,000 lb (2016 harvest). Results from tests of two of these landraces by the Pennsylvania Seed Testing Laboratory in 2016 showed germination to be 95% or higher, pure seed at 99.66% or higher, and no weed seed (noxious or otherwise) present. Seed (2470 lb total) was sold to 30 customers in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states in lots ranging from 1 lb to 700 lb at a gross profit of $6727 for the farmer.   At farmers’ request, OGRIN has instituted a trial in Fall 2016 to compare the landraces increased by Beiler to those collected by farmer Nigel Tudor (Austrian and German varieties) and farmer Lamar Stauffer (Italian and Israeli varieties) to continue the effort to identify and disseminate high-quality winter einkorn varieties to growers in the Northeast.
  • Farmer Kit Kelley further increased seed of the “Chocolate” black emmer variety to over 1000 pounds and of five French heritage varieties, which were seeded in planter-width x 40 ft strips in Fall 2015.   After evaluating the varieties for yield, straw strength, and resistance to bird attack, in Fall 2016 Kelley planted a preferred variety in a quarter-acre plot and has donated seed of the remaining varieties for use by farmers.  
  • Farmer Omar Beiler (Lancaster County, PA), in consultation with OGRIN and other farmers working with the project, in 2014-2015 purchased an air-screen cleaner, indent separator, and gravity table to process his seed and has increased seed of three heritage varieties from the NY State collection sufficiently to plant 1 or more acre fields of each.
  • Farmer David Freeman (Steuben County, NY), one of those participating in the Red Fife Quality- Assured seed project, has committed to producing increased acreage of improved Red Fife seed for the project in 2016.
  • During a field day at the Freeville Organic Research Farm in July of 2014, Dr. Gary Bergstrom conducted a training on wheat disease identification to around 40 farmers and researchers.
  • Methods and equipment necessary for the production of seed-grade quality wheat and other small grains were demonstrated by Calvin Ernst (Ernst Conservation Seeds) at a shortcourse on seed cleaning at Meadville, PA, on September 20th, 2014 to over 35 participants.
  • In 2013-2014, two farmers (Jon Ronsani in the Hudson Valley of NY and Omar Beiler in Lancaster County, PA) increased seed of three heritage wheat varieties (from 0.5 pounds to over 25 pounds per variety). These varieties have been distributed to 2 other farmers for increase and experimentation. In 2013-2014 a farmer in Northumberland County, PA, Henry Beiler, increased a winter black emmer variety from 15 to 1200 pounds and three einkorn landraces from 1.5 to 160 pounds. This material has been distributed to 6 farmers in NY and PA for further increase and observation. A farmer in Montour County, PA, Kit Kelley, has planted ‘Chocolate’ black emmer and six varieties of French heritage wheat that was ready for assessment and further increase in 2015.
  • Johnson, S. “Seed Laws and Certification” presentation at the 2013 Maine Grain Conference, March 1, 2013, Bangor, Maine. 77 attendees.
  • In Winter 2016, results of analysis by the South Dakota State Seed Testing laboratory of samples of organic seed lots of three spring wheat varieties offered for sale by a Midwestern seed company showed that one variety was infected by loose smut (Ustilago tritici) and all three with common bunt (Tilletia laevis). A subsequent test of seed grown on a PA farm that was obtained from an organic seed company in Alberta, Canada, was free of loose smut but contaminated by common bunt. While symptoms of loose smut in spring wheat fields have been observed in multiple years and locations in the Northeast, common bunt has not been observed in spring wheat grown in our region. Further testing is needed to determine whether bunt infection is common in seed lots sold into or grown in the Northeast. The Midwestern seed company is in discussion with state seed certifiers about the feasibility of adding inspection for loose smut infection to the certification process of organically managed spring wheat seed.

 

  1. 120 farmers attend selection workshops and 10 farmers establish successful trials with early-generation breeding populations (Summer 2013, Summer 2014).

 

  • 11 farmers participated in selection of early generation breeding populations during 2015. Farmers made selections based on priority criteria for their organic operation, including weed competitive ability, straw quantity, height, fusarium head blight tolerance, etc.
  • 30 farmers selected early generation populations established at University of Maine during a field day in July of 2015.
  • 38 participants (including farmers, millers, bakers, journalists, and researchers) engaged hands-on in wheat selection during a field day: Sowing the Future of Organic Wheat. Ithaca, NY, June 2016.
  • 42 farmers participated in a grain workshop held at the University of Vermont in July 2015 and participated in selecting early generations that had been established at the research farm.
  • A workshop on breeding wheat was conducted by Lisa Kissing Kucek of Cornell University. The workshop took place at one of the on-farm selection sites (Butterworks Farm) in August of 2014 and 27 attended. Other farmers involved in on-farm selection participated, in addition to research project participants from the University of Vermont. Farmers from across the Northeast US and Eastern Canada were invited.
  • A farmer selection workshop was led by Julie Dawson with assistance by Lisa Kissing Kucek as part of The Grain Research Tour in Vermont June 27th, 2013. Sixty-six participants attended and engaged in learning about crop genetic improvement, crop ideotypes, and how to make selections for breeding.

 

  1. 40 farmers participate in selection of early-generation breeding populations (Summer 2013, Summer 2014), and 10-20 of the most promising populations are advanced to larger on-farm selection trials (Summer 2015).

 

  • 11 farmers participated in selection of early generation breeding populations during 2015. Farmers made selections based on priority criteria for their organic operation, including weed competitive ability, straw quantity, height, fusarium head blight tolerance, etc.
  • 38 participants (including farmers, millers, bakers, journalists, and researchers) made selections of winter wheat breeding lines during a field day at Cornell University in June of 2016.
  • 30 farmers selected early generation populations established at University of Maine during a field day in July of 2015.
  • Advanced winter and spring populations were entered into MET trials in Maine, Vermont, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York in 2016 and 2017.
  • 42 farmers participated in a grain workshop held at the University of Vermont in July 2013 and participated in selecting early generations that had been established at the research farm.

 

  1. A data-sharing system for on-farm selection was established and used by several states. A sustainable model of collaboration is developed so that on-farm selection can continue after the termination of the grant (throughout, to be completed before harvest 2015).
  • The Organic Grains Research and Information Network established a web site where organic growers can find information about sources of organic grains varieties.
  • Cornell University hosted a visioning session during a field day, Sowing the Future of Organic Wheat, where organic farmers, food processors, and researchers established priorities, needs, and structure for the future of organic wheat breeding in the Northeast.
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Journalist coverage of our organic wheat breeding program and June 2016 field day.

  • Griffiths, H M, Experts Talk Breeding Wheat for Organic Lancaster Farming, July 2016. Journalist coverage of our organic wheat breeding program and June 2016 field day.
  • Kissing Kucek, L, Darby, H, Atkins, P, Bergstrom, G, Russell, J, O’Dea, J, Rogosa, E, Wayman, S, Sowing the Future of Organic Wheat. Ithaca, NY, June 2016.

38 participants (including farmers, millers, bakers, journalists, and researchers) engaged in wheat breeding, seed improvement, wheat pathology, and selection. We received extremely positive feedback on the field day, and had an article published about the event.

50 farmers learned about organic wheat breeding.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. “Four Years of Ancient, Heritage, and Modern Wheat Research in the Northeast” Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Winter Conference. Aberdeen, SD, January 2016.

45 farmers learned about ancient grain variety trialing and breeding for free threshing.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. “Participatory Plant Breeding: Engaging farmers and gardeners to build resilient food systemsYale Food Systems Symposium. New Haven, CT, October 2015.

40 participants (including farmers, students, and food processors) learned about the coevolution of crops and humans, the importance of involving more people in breeding, and examples of participatory plant breeding.

  • Halloran, A. The New Bread Basket, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015.

Various chapters cover researchers and farmers involved in the organic wheat selection program

  • Kissing Kucek, L and Atkins, P “Small Grain Variety Selection and Seed Production Workshop” University of Maine. Orono, ME, July 2015.

30 participants (primarily farmers) learned about the basics of small grain genetics and experimental design for on-farm breeding. Phil Atkins introduced the basics of seed certification and how to save quality seed on farm.

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. Variety Evaluation for Sourdough Baking and Sensory QualityNOFA-NY Dairy Field Crops Conference. Syracuse, NY, March 2015. 50 farmers learned about evaluation of varieties for sensory quality and receive an introduction to the participatory breeding program.
  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al. “Breeding Wheat for Organic SystemsGreat Lakes Wheat Workers. Cornell University, March 2015.

20 wheat breeders and researchers learned about traits of importance to organic farmers and participatory methods for selecting improved genotypes for organic production.

Methods and preliminary results from the SARE project were peer-reviewed and published open access online.

Methods and preliminary results from the SARE project were presented to 30 researchers and farmers at this symposium, held prior to the country’s largest gathering of organic farmers (Midwest Organic Agriculture Research and Education Conference).

  • Kissing Kucek, L. et al.A Grounded Guide to Gluten.” Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Conference. Montreal, Quebec, November 2014.

Methods of the SARE grant were shared and exchanged with Canadian organic seed growers and researchers guiding the continent’s largest participatory plant breeding program (Bauta Family Initiate on Seed Security)

  • Kissing Kucek, L. Customizing small grain varieties for your farm. 2015 UMaine Sustainable Agriculture Field Day, July 16, Stillwater, Maine.

45 attendees.

  • Methods to increase rare seed (i.e., heritage wheat varieties and emmer and einkorn landraces) and organic production methods for these crops were presented by Elizabeth Dyck of OGRIN to over 200 participants at workshops and field days held in NY, PA, NJ, VA, and eastern Canada in 2015.
  • Mudge, S., S. O’Donnell, and E. Mallory. 2015. Customizing spring wheat varieties through on-farm selection. 2015 Maine Grain Conference, March 13, Bangor, Maine.

75 attendees.

  • O’Donnell, S. 2015. Producing quality assured foundation seed of Cornell improved Red Fife spring wheat. Rusted Rooster Farm Tour, July 23, 2015.

18 attendees.

  • Project methods and updates were presented and published by the 7th Annual Organic Seed Growers Conference in Corvallis, Oregon on January 30th, 2014.
  • A workshop on wheat disease identification and prevention was delivered by Gary Bergstrom to 145 participants at the winter Northern Grain Growers Conference held in Burlington, VT during March of 2014.
  • A summer workshop held in Alburgh, VT highlighted grain diseases and strategies for control. There were 225 participants that scouted fields and worked with instructors to identify diseases they observed.
  • A workshop on identification and organic management of wheat diseases and insect pests was conducted by Drs. Greg Roth (Pennsylvania State University) and Elizabeth Dyck (OGRIN) at the annual winter conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) in State College, PA, on February 7, 2014 and was attended by over 45 participants.
  • Seed increase methods for rare seed (i.e., heritage wheat and emmer and einkorn landraces) were presented by Elizabeth Dyck (OGRIN) to over 40 participants at a workshop at the 2014 Kneading Conference on July 24, 2014 in Skowhegan, ME, to over 70 participants at a workshop at the Farm-to-Table Conference on December 2, 2014 in Weyers Cave, VA, and to 30 participants at the Ecological Farmers of Ontario Conference on December 6, 2014 in Orillia, Ontario.
  • Project results were discussed among farmers and researchers who attended the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network (ECOSGN) Conference in November of 2014.
  • Project methods and updates were presented and published at the MOSES Conference in February of 2015.
  • During a field day at the Freeville Organic Research Farm in July of 2014, Dr. Gary Bergstrom conduced a training on wheat disease identification to around 40 farmers and researchers.
  • Video of the field inspection process for quality-assured Red Fife seed was recorded at a NY farm and will be edited and made available on the web in 2016 as one in a series on organic production of high-quality grain seed.
  • Over three years, the grant team conducted 7 workshops, 6 field days, gave 6 presentations, 5 surveys, and produced one webinar (see milestones above). At least three newsletters were distributed each year as hard copy through mailings to more than 500 addresses and also on 4 web sites. Attendance was assessed and reported above under milestones. Our outreach targets were exceeded in each milestone.

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

  • As a result of this project, three farmers have started a Quality Assurance program for production of Cornell improved Red Fife spring wheat seed for local markets. In 2015, these farmers received training and one-on-one guidance from the New York Seed Improvement Program manager and grew quality assured seed for Cornell’s Foundation seed program. In 2016, these farmers purchased Foundation seed from Cornell and produceds seed for a local seed company.
  • Discussions among the project coPI and farmer advisory board members in Maine led to the re-activation of the state’s small grain certification program. The project provided opportunities for Maine’s small grain inspector and the Director of the Animal and Plant Health Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to educate farmers and Ag service providers about the small grain certification program. One thousand acres of small grain seed were certified in 2014.
  • The Maine team used the selection skills that they developed from participating in this project to begin adapting a promising Danish spring wheat population (Dalerne Mix) to central Maine.
  • Eleven farmers are were trained in-depth in participatory plant breeding and have successfully selected advanced lines of spring and winter wheat lines. Over 200 other farmers have also been trained in selection through workshops.
  • Through semi-structured interviews, farmers ranked the traits that they found to be most important in a wheat variety for their organic farms. Most farmers valued weed competitive ability, height / straw quantity, and lodging resistance for spring wheat; Fusarium head blight tolerance, protein content, baking quality, and flavor for winter wheat
  • 57 spring wheat, 63 winter wheat, and 20 einkorn and emmer advanced populations have been developed by organic farmers and researchers in the Northeast. After further testing these populations in 2017, the superior varieties will be available for variety release. Once released, these varieties can immediately boost performance, sustainability, and profitability of organic farms in the region. Moreover, the varieties will help build local grain economies that are emerging throughout the Northeast.
  • Through workshops, project presentations, and field day talks we have educated hundreds of farmers about wheat diseases and how to produce high-quality organic crop seed in this region.
  • In an approach that complements the Quality Assurance program outlined above, the project has helped a farmer to increase and produce winter einkorn seed that meets the PA state standards for seed certification, with the result that high-quality winter einkorn seed is now available for sale to growers throughout the region.

Economic Analysis

This project was not designed to assess farm income or the impact on farm viability. We know that many of the organic seed producers were successful in marketing their varieties. Most businesses consider information about their income to be confidential. Organic grains are important in organic systems as a rotation crop with vegetables and serve to break the cycle of weeds, diseases, and insects.

Farmer Adoption

Farmers were very interested in our project as indicated by attendance at field days, workshops, and conferences. It was clear that farmers who received training and information, adopted the new techniques. The farmers involved in the participatory wheat breeding were enthusiastic and committed to organic variety development.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Additional research is needed on organic seed production methods for control of seed-borne diseases because there are no organic seed treatments that control these diseases. A followup study on the new varieties developed in this project would be of considerable interest.

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.