On-farm Organic Soybean Variety Trials

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $199,153.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Robert Battel
MSU Extension
Daniel Rossman
Michigan State University Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: soybeans


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    In the winter of 2011, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) published an information bulletin titled “Organic Seed: An Emerging Industry, A Pressing Need” (Number 18), in which Dillon states that despite the significant improvements in organic production methods, organic seed systems have struggled to survive, much less celebrate success. Michigan has significant organic food grade soybean production—385,000 bushels in 2010. Non-GMO soybean varieties—both food grade and feed grade—are becoming more difficult to find. Many Michigan farmers are using varieties developed 10 to 20 years ago and are missing out on potential yield and agronomic advances that newer varieties could offer. Michigan State University (MSU) and Dechun Wang, soybean breeder from MSU Crop and Soil Sciences, have an extensive soybean breeding program evaluating hundreds of non-GMO soybean varieties. Currently, resources and equipment are committed to conventional soybean production where yield is the primary goal. Since organic farmers market their soybeans differently than conventional farmers, they are required to have specific protein and oil content. Older varieties meet the organic requirements, but they are often lower yielding and have less vigor for weed and disease management. Dr. Wang has developed many new soybean varieties that show promise in organic systems. These varieties need evaluation under field conditions. MSU Extension has worked with the organic community for more than 10 years and has helped organize the Mid-Michigan Organic Farmers group of 50 organic farmers representing over 20,000 acres of certified organic farmland. Year in and year out, this group’s priority is new organic seed varieties. This proposal addresses the pressing need of developing an organic soybean breeding program for organic farmers in Michigan. We expect the development of an organic soybean variety testing project will become sustainable and provide other states with potential high quality varieties. ?

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Outcomes.
    The following short-term outcomes are expected from this project:
    1) Farmers will increase awareness of new and improved varieties to meet organic soybean production goals.
    2) Data from this study will motivate organic farmers to select superior soybean varieties for the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons.
    3) Five farmers will test new varieties at the field scale on their farms.
    4) Seed companies are engaged in organic soybean seed identification and supply.
    5) The organic soybean brokers increase awareness of new varieties and expand the market for organic soybeans produced in Michigan.
    6) Soybean varieties with potential for use outside of Michigan in the northern regions (MI, IA, IL, OH, MN, SD, ND and NE) will be forwarded to the Soybean Uniform Test at Purdue University for further evaluation.
    The following intermediate-term outcomes are expected from this project:
    1) Quality, sustainability, competitiveness and profitability will be improved for organic soybean producers.
    2) Increased selection and availability of organic adapted varieties from seed companies.
    3) On-farm organic variety testing is self-sustaining after three years.
    4) Thirty-five percent of Michigan organic soybean production will be based on varieties from these trials.
    5) Organic soybean production improved in the NCR through varieties evaluated and recommended by the Soybean Uniform Test.
    The following long-term outcomes are anticipated from this project:
    1) Improved economics for organic soybean producers as new varieties sustain and expand markets.
    2) Retention and expansion of organic soybean production and practices will lead to environmental benefits.

    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.