Producing Organic Vegetable Seed

2004 Annual Report for SW04-115

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $154,293.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Matthew Dillon
Organic Seed Alliance

Producing Organic Vegetable Seed

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. 1) Establish a system of educating farmers in organic seed production by working with experienced producers, university specialists (University of Idaho, Washington State and Oregon State) and seed industry professionals (OSA).

    2) Train new seed farmers and increase the skills, attitudes and awareness of existing farmers in seed production in order to improve the quality and availability of organic vegetable seed.

    3) Create financial opportunities for farmers in a burgeoning and sustainable market.

    4) Strengthen a weak link in organic systems by bridging an information gap in practices of organic seed production.

Accomplishments/Milestones

Summary of accomplishments: The project team (OSA staff of Dillon and Navazio/Producers Brossy, Tipping, and Chichester) and cooperators from university and seed sector designed and hosted four field days in three states on spinach, radish and bean seed production. Educational materials were created, performance parameters were assessed, and participant input was collected. We increased skills, attitudes and awareness of existing and interested producers of seed crops, and shared information on seed economics and marketing. Five producers who had “saved seed” but never had commercial seed crops received contracts for seed production made from contacts with seed company reps that attended field days. Participants determined criteria for crop production improvements to be measured over course of project. Field days had a total of 129 participants, far surpassing our goal of 90.

Educational material in folders for all field days included (some of this material will be developed into crop manuals in year three):
Project Description/Goals
Pre-workshop producer surveys
History and statistics of seed production on cooperating farms
Example of commercial contracts
Crop specific profiles including reproductive basics, cultivation practices and challenges, and disease diagnostics.
Post-workshop evaluations

Field day highlights, specific data, performance parameters:

1)March 23, 2005: 1st Spinach Seed Field Day at Nash’s Organic in Dungeness, Washington (Scott Chichester as Producer-Cooperator )
Number of participants: 42
– 37 farmers, 28 with some seed experience and 9 with no experience. Attending from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia
– 5 non-farmers (WSU extension staff, seed company reps, and WSU Master Gardeners)
Dr. Lindsey DuToit, vegetable seed pathologist was unable to attend due to pneumonia but did send educational materials on seed diseases. We also sent her samples of producers 2004 spinach seed crop and diseased plants from 2005 for assessment. Lindsey attend the second field day to give us reports and give a presentation (see July 21st field day).
Overview: Participants attended morning class on seed cultivation basics, farm history of seed production and economics. They spent afternoon in field where they helped identify disease, learned how to select for ideotypes (roguing for off-types), watched cultivation techniques for appropriate spacing and weeding, and discussed fertility issues. Day attended with presentation from Steve Peters, Manager of Seed Production at Seeds of Change (Santa Fe, New Mexico) on “Seed producer skills from a seed company perspective”
Performance parameters: Producers determined that incidence of disease and off-types were the two improvement criteria to measure over the course of 3 years. Data was taken on each.

2)May 20, 2005: Radish Seed Field Day at Seven Seeds Farm in Williams, Oregon (Don Tipping as Producer-Cooperator)
Number of participants: 25
– 22 farmers, 12 with some seed experience and 10 with no experience.
– 3 non-farmers (representatives from 3 seed companies)
Cooperator-Producer Don Tipping created a “Seed Productivity Chart” detailing the varying crop types and vareities that have been grown on farm, area in production per crop, yield, and productivity (yield/row ft). The chart went back through the 1999 season.
Joel Reiten of Bejo Seed presented on “Seed Quality from a Commercial Perspective”
Overview: Participants attended morning class on seed cultivation basics, farm history of seed production and economics. They spent afternoon in field where they helped identify disease and pests, learned how to select for ideotypes (roguing for off-types), watched cultivation techniques for appropriate spacing, weeding and transplanting roots after selection. In order to demonstrate selection, the group pulled 5000 roots from two very distinct cultivars (a red ball type and French Breakfast type). Ideotypes were discussed and identified and selection occurred, roguing out plants that were showed poor phenotype of root form and color and leaf tops. Transplanting techniques and appropriate spacing were then demonstrated.
Performance parameters: Producers determined that measurable criteria for a improvement during three years should be improving the ideotype (roguing off-types) and yield performance based on differing planting dates.

3)July 21, 2005: 2nd Spinach Seed Field Day at Nash’s Organic in Dungeness, Washington (Scott Chichester as Producer-Cooperator )
Number of participants: 29
– Returning participants from 1st field day: 9
– Producers: 26 (18 with some seed experience/8 with none)
– Seed company reps: 3
Field presentation on spacing during period of bolting and seed set, seed harvest and cleaning techniques.
Dr. Lindsey DuToit, vegetable seed pathologist at Washington State University/Mt Vernon, gave a 3 hour classroom Power Point presentation on the seed disease basics for dry seeded crops including favorable disease conditions, green bridges, disease assessment, prevention, and treatment. All producers were provided with a very intensive seed disease guide including color photos of leaf and root diseases of vegetable seed crops (CD included in hard copy of this report)
Lindsey also reported on the seed assay that she conducted from the producers 2004 spinach seed crop. We will be monitoring this seed crop for seed borne disease throughout the three years of the project as one of the performance parameters. The following is a summary of her findings:

Seed assay protocol
Percentage of 400 seed infested/infected with:
Cladosporium variabile
Stemphylium botyrosum
Other Cladospo-rium spp.
Colletotri-chum
Fusarium spp.
Verticillium spp.
Surface-sterilized
0.50
1.25
0.00
1.00
0.00
0.00
Non-sterilized
0.75
0.75
1.75
1.00
0.75
0.00

At the field day we took samples of plants that appeared to be infected in the field and these were also tested for disease. Cucumber mosaic virus ( CMV) subtype II, and beet western yellows virus (BWYV) were found. As CMV can be seed transmitted in spinach, it will also be monitored and heavily rogued in coming years.

4)July 27, 2005: Bean Seed Field Day at Bryant Ranch in Shoshone, Idaho (Fred Brossy as Producer-Cooperator)
Number of participants: 33
– Producers: 25 (19 experienced/6 non)
– Seed Company Reps: 3
– University and/or State Seed Foundation staff: 5
Overview: Participants attended morning class on seed cultivation basics, farm history of seed production, and economics.
History and background of Bean genetics presented by bean breeders Dr. Jim Myers of Oregon State University and Dr. Shree Singh of University of Idaho.
Presentation and field practicum on selection by Dr. Kathy Stewart Williams from Idaho Foundation Seed Program.
Presentation from Steve Peters, Manager of Seed Production at Seeds of Change (Santa Fe, New Mexico) on “Seed producer skills from a seed company perspective”
Bean crops will be monitored for yield and off-types during course of project.

Leveraging Funding:
A staffer from the USDA-RMA program heard good reports from our field days and contacted us with the suggestion that we apply for an RMA grant to further develop educational materials regarding managing seed crop risk. We wrote a proposal “Weather Related Risk Reduction Guidelines” and received funding for $9,629. In 2006 we will incorporate these guidelines into the WSARE field days and educational materials. Field day participants will receive copies of the guidelines with practical techniques for mitigating loss in dry seeded crops in years of adverse harvest weather.

Note on change in outreach for Year 1:
We had hoped to conduct 6 field days. The second field days for radish and bean were scheduled for September but were canceled. The field days were canceled due to our primary project educator, Dr. John Navazio, being diagnosed with cancer and beginning chemotherapy and radiation. We met with producer-cooperators Tipping and Brossy and decided that we could reach a broad audience at the January 2006 “Organic Seed Growers Conference” in Troutdale, Oregon. Producers will cover topics that field day participants requested additional info on. Brossy will cover “On Farm Seed Economics” and Tipping “Integrating seed crops into a Diverse Farm.” Navazio will present on “Environmental Considerations for Seed Crops”. We will also have an outdoor tent with seed harvest and cleaning equipment and demonstrations. The conference has reached full registration with 160 participants.

Work left to do:
Continue field days in 2006 drawing in new and repeat producers. We will continue to track criteria for crop production improvements. Educational materials will evolve and in 2007 become crop specific production manuals. In 2007 we will host winter workshops and present seed production information for a wide range of crops as well as distribute the finished manuals. All educational materials will be made web ready for distribution beyond field day participants.

Collaborators:

Fred Brossy

fbrossy@magiclink.com
Producer/Major PI – Organic Seed Farmer
Bryant Ranch
Box 424
Shoshone, ID 83352
Office Phone: 2088862902
Scott Chichester

Producer/Major PI – Organic Seed Farmer
Nash Huber Farms
4701 Sequim-Dungeness Road
Sequim, WA 98382
Office Phone: 3606836561
John Navazio

john@seedalliance.org
Major Particpant
Organic Seed Alliance
Box 772
Port Townsend, WA 98368
Office Phone: 3603857192
Website: www.seedalliance.org
Don Tipping

sevenseedsfarm@yahoo.com
Producer/Major PI – Organic Seed Farmer
Seven Seeds Farm
220 E Fork Road
Williams, OR 97544
Office Phone: 5418469233