Does Open-Pollinated Corn Have a Place on Today’s Organic Farm?

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $6,008.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Stanley Smith
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Stanley Smith
Stanley Smith

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Animal Production: feed formulation
  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection

    Proposal summary:


    With imports of corn continuing to flood the organic market at record volumes the prices received by local growers is below cost of production. Today a unit of hybrid corn from my supplier costs $235 for 80,000 kernels. This means a cost of over $100 per acre. If open pollinated corn can compete in a feed ration the cost per acre could be slashed in half. Organic open pollinated corn sells for between$95 and $131 per bag. Cost per acre for seed of $50 or less. The seed could be saved from the field resulting in a cost of only $3 an acre.

    Is it sustainable buying seed from seed producing corporations when they ship it in from South America? Every year they sell a different hybrid so it is difficult to know if it will do well on your farm.

    Using inbred corn lines eventually may lead to problems of diseases striking throughout a major geographic area as a majority of the corn would be closely related with only a few controlling the seed genetics. Using and selecting for a good open-pollinated corn would provide a safe alternative.


    This project will first be looking at several open pollinated corns to find one that is well adapted to southeast Minnesota. This will include two plots, one growing following alfalfa hay and the other grown on land that grew soybeans last year. In September a yield check will be taken and a feed nutrient sample will be taken to find the best variety for this area. My selection would be based on not just yield but also the value of the corn in a livestock ration. If successful in finding an open pollinated corn that can compete with today’s hybrids then I can start selecting within the population to improve results.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Use yield data and nutritional value to compare open pollinated corn to a hybrid of similar maturity to see if the lower cost of open pollinated corn will offset the loss in yield.
    2. Benefit the environment by growing local seed, which reduces the use of fuel for transportation from distant growers and therefore reduces carbon foot print.
    3. Benefit farmers economically by keeping local seed prices lower.
    4. Create the social benefit of lifting confidence and enabling younger and small farms by modeling self-reliant and sustainable farming.
    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.