Evaluating Corn, Soybean and Wheat Varieties in Organic Farm Systems in Michigan

2007 Annual Report for FNC06-639

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $17,608.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:

Evaluating Corn, Soybean and Wheat Varieties in Organic Farm Systems in Michigan


Each farm is conducting trials using common and/or organic seed varieties of corn, wheat and soybean. Each farmer grows the varieties on their farm, using their system of soil management, crop management and selling to their markets. Our goal is to see which varieties work best in Michigan in organic systems in three not identical environments. Therefore these variables are taken into consideration when selecting the seed. Six varieties of wheat were planted in the fall on the Hunt and Saddelberg (Thistledown Farm) in Snover, MI and at the Hunt Farm in Lake Odessa, MI. The wheat all looks good and will be evaluated for the enclosed criteria (see data sheets attached). [Editor’s Note: To see copies of the data sheets, please contact NCR-SARE at ncrsare@umn.edu or 1-800-529-1342.]

A conference call was held in April to make the final decisions on the corn and soybean varieties. Dan Rossman, Vicki Morrone and the three farmers; Ivan Morely, Jim Sattelberg and Mike Hunt participated in the 1.5 hour call. Please note the agenda with notes is also being included as an attachment.

Each corn and soybean variety will be replicated three times in each field at least 8 of the 10 varieties will be replicated at each farm. Two varieties will be chosen by each famer based on preferences (such as protein level and maturity length). Two conventional varieties are being grown as checks against the organic varieties.

Twelve plus varieties of corn have been identified and organized by each farmer. Since the smaller companies could not afford to donate 100% of the seed, a 50% payment to each company was made. The organic seed companies are all from the North Central region and do not YET have a large volume of sales.

Eight to ten varieties of soybeans will be grown at the Saddelberg and Hunt farms. Their market is primarily soymilk and tofu so the varieties are chosen for their protein level, days to maturity, organic varieties and production yield. The soybeans will be planted after May 15th to assure soil temperature is high enough.

The farmers have received their cameras and data sheets to help with data collection and recording of events. A checking account was set up by Ivan Morley, Project Coordinator to allow for ease of payment of items for the project.

Observations from conversations with seed companies.
The seed companies have difficulty finding organic growers with adequate land to produce organic seed. Companies that own parent seed stock have limited research on parent seed stock, especially these days. Lately, there has been more work on stacking varieties due to the need of seed companies to turn out a product. Ivan Morley has noted that in the Caro area (in the thumb of Michigan) there is a large seed producer that has grown organic seed on rented ground. The problem with this is that the soil is not great thus quality seed is not produced. Ivan Morley suggests a collective of organic farmers that live close enough to grow seed and share the specialized harvest equipment needed to harvest seed. This information will be discussed during our next conference call which is scheduled after the corn is planted at each farm.

Agenda for Conference Call-April 1, 2008
For Organic Wheat, Corn and Soy trials (SARE project)

1. What varieties do we want for …
Corn and Soybean (Record on table provided)
2. Where can we get these varieties?
3. What quantity do we need of each?
4. With regard to the data sheets, what changes should be made to them?
5. Finance and account
6. Report on wheat from Thistledown and Hunt (Record on table provided) Wheat varieties:
• Pearl
• Caledona
• Rhone
• Aubrey
• AC Mountain
• Hopewell

Was a soil Test done? How were fields prepared?

7. Other items to discuss