Farm-based selection and seed production of varieties of bread wheat, spelt, emmer, and einkorn adapted to organic systems in the Northeast
1) Summary: 100-300 words
Information on the project was distributed through several workshops, newsletters, and field days. Crosses were made between promising wheat, einkorn, emmer, and spelt parents and advanced populations were distributed to farmers for selection. A participatory breeding methodology was developed and used to train farmers on how to select wheat, spelt, emmer, and einkorn genotypes for organic farms in this region. Workshops on wheat disease identification and prevention were delivered at the winter Northern Grain Growers Conference held in Burlington, VT, at a summer workshop held in Alburgh, VT and at the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) in State College, PA. A workshop on seed increase methods for rare seed was presented at the 2014 Kneading Conference on July 24, 2014 in Skowhegan, ME.
Crosses were made between promising wheat, einkorn, emmer, and spelt parents in greenhouses at Cornell University. F1 and F2 populations were bulked in the greenhouse. F2 winter wheat populations were grown in a high tunnel and harvested by individual F2 plant during the summer of 2014. Five promising spring wheat F4 populations (developed at the University of Vermont) were distributed to farmers participating in the project.
A participatory breeding methodology was employed to select wheat, spelt, emmer, and einkorn genotypes for organic farms of the Northeast United States. Researchers conducted structured interviews with eleven participating farms to identify crop ideotypes and rank priority traits for selection. The interview results were used to design plot layouts and selection protocols tailored to the breeding objectives of each farm. Five F3 or F4 populations were replicated two times along with a regional check variety that is commonly grown in the region. Bulked F4 populations of spring wheat were established on 5 farms in Maine, New York, and Vermont in the spring of 2014. Bulked F3 populations of winter wheat and spelt were established on 6 farms in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania in the fall of 2014.
Although each of the 11 farmers identified a distinct set of priority traits, two predominant characteristics were critical to participating farms for spring wheat: weed competitive ability and straw quality. Wheat genotypes with superior weed competitive ability were selected through early vigor, planophile growth habit, and yield under uniform weed conditions. To select for straw quality, a farmer-established ranking system was used to identify superior stalks and tall height. Selection on certain farms also included kernel color, protein, and performance under wet soil conditions. Tolerance to lodging, fusarium head blight and preharvest sprouting are priority traits that will be evaluated in advanced yield trials once populations have reached homozygosity (~97%) in the F6 generation.
The farmer and regional extension personnel evaluated each priority trait at the time of year when the trait is most noticeable in the field. Each farmer selected 10% of individual plants that best expressed phenotypes for priority traits. For example, early vigorous growth for weed competition was evaluated between the three and five leaf stages. Selection was guided by an Early Vigor Score Sheet developed by Lisa Kissing Kucek. At harvest, the farmer and researchers selected the 10% of spikes that best represented priority characteristics in each plot. To evaluate the impact of farmer selection on the early generation populations, researchers collected a random sample from each population, in addition to the 10% of individual heads/plants selected by the farmers.
To complement on-farm selection, a regional experiment station breeding program has been set up to select for traits prioritized by farmers in the program. 312 F3 winter wheat headrows from unique F2 winter wheat plants were planted in two locations on experiment stations (Ithaca and Freeville, NY) in the fall of 2014. Young plants were screened for early vigor and emergence. At one site (Ithaca), the headrows will be inoculated with fusarium and given prime conditions to develop fusarium head blight. The headrows will be screened for tolerance to fungal infection in the summer of 2015. Headrows of einkorn and spelt F2 plants were also planted at one site. At two sites (Freeville and on farm in Penn Yan), 58 F3 einkorn headrows and 32 F3 spelt headrows were planted from unique F2 plants.
- 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).
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 will be 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.
- 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).
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.
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 should be ready for assessment and further increase in 2015.
Three of the eleven participating farmers in on-farm selection are organic seed suppliers for regional seed companies. These farmers are receiving training about 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.
- 120 farmers attend selection workshops and 10 farmers establish successful trials with early-generation breeding populations (Summer 2013, Summer 2014).
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 invited.
Cornell (Lisa Kissing Kucek) developed a protocol for farm-based selection. Grant collaborators identified eleven farmers to host on-farm selection plots in the spring and fall of 2014. A semi-structured interview was conducted to gather information on farmer’s ideotype of wheat and ancient grains.
- 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 2014. Farmers made selections based on priority criteria for their organic operation, including weed competitive ability, straw quality, height, fusarium head blight tolerance, etc.
- 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).
Farmer training in breeding methods will ensure that farmers can continue to breed new varieties after the grant ends in 2015. The workshop conducted in August of 2014, in addition to personal visits by researchers to each farm twice during 2014, established a strong base for farmer training. Project collaborators have collaborated with the coordinators of on-farm wheat, potato, and oat breeding programs at the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This project is getting a lot of attention from organic farmers who want to produce organic seed of varieties that are difficult to find. Many breeding populations of wheat, emmer, einkorn, and spelt have been developed and distributed to farmers for on-farm selection. We recruited and trained ten farmers for the on-farm participatory breeding activity. Through workshops, project presentations, and field day talks we have educated farmers about wheat diseases and how to produce high-quality organic crop seed in this region.
Postdoctoral research associate
417 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072551197
New York Seed Improvement Project
103C Leland Lab
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072559869
Founder and Coordinator
1124 County Rd 38
Bainbridge, NY 13733
Office Phone: 6078956913
Associate Professor of Agronomy
278 S. Main Street
St. Albans, VT 05478
Office Phone: 8025246501
assistant professor and extension specialist
University of Maine
495 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04469
Office Phone: 2075812942
48 Sayward Lane
Willsboro, NY 12996
Office Phone: 5189637492