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Modifier eXtension Articles,News,Faqs,Events- organic production (anglais)

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NRCS EQIP: What You Need to Know About the Organic Initiative

mer, 2019/04/17 - 14:07

eOrganic authors:

Sarah Brown, Oregon Tilth

Ed Zaborski, University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

David Lamm, NRCS East National Technology Support Center

Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota

Michelle Wander, University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) program is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and is available in all states and all counties. The program provides assistance for new and existing organic producers to implement  conservation practices new to their farm, including conservation crop rotations, cover cropping, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, and forage harvest management. The 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative provides financial and technical support to help producers plan and implement conservation practices to support their organic operations in being more environmentally sustainable.

NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative Factsheet

When are applications due?

EQIP applications are accepted continuously, with deadlines established for individual "rounds" of funding. Applications submitted after the deadline are held for the next round. Contact your local District County office to verify the application deadline in your state.

Who is eligible?

 The Initiative will focus EQIP financial and technical assistance to:

  • Certified organic producers
  • Transitioning to organic production, or
  • Organic producers exempt from certification (selling less than $5,000 of organic products annually)
Enrollment details
  • The intent of this initiative is to help organic growers incorporate new conservation practices into their farming operations. Producers participating in the Organic Initiative are limited to financial assistance up to $20,000 per year and a total of $80,000 over a 6 year period for implementing conservation practices. EQIP payments are set up by a contract that can last several years.
  • Payments are made for the adoption of new conservation practices and in some cases, the enhancement or improvement of existing practices. Certified organic producers who have already been using organic and conservation techniques might not meet the criteria for new practice adoption. For these producers, the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program might be an attractive option.
  • Payments for the implementation of conservation practices are determined at the regional and state level. In most cases payments are by the acre but is some cases they are per farm or some other unit of measurement. Talk with your district conservationist to ensure that your contract reflects payments most appropriate for your farm. In many cases, organic payment scenarios are available that account for the higher cost of implementing conservation in accordance with the NOP rules. Make sure you understand what the costs are for practice implementation before signing a contract.
  • Organic producers who are interested in conservation practices that will cost more than the $20K/$80K limits of the Organic Initiative may participate in regular EQIP. The competition increases, but the maximum payment could rise to $300,000 over a 6 year period. It could even rise to $450,000 if you can justify it as of a unique and significant environmental benefit.
  • In addition to the usual contract requirements for EQIP, producers agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an organic system plan per provisions established in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) and to standards established in the National Organic Program (NOP) Act (7 USC 6501-6522). For more information see the Self-Certification Worksheet that you'll be required to sign. If terms are not met, the EQIP program contract may be terminated and producers may be responsible for repayment of benefits received and possible assessment of liquidated damages.
What kinds of conservation practices are eligible?

The 2012 Organic Initiative provides support for a range of practices.  NRCS has identified 64 eligible practices but these are adjusted by state. Your local office should be able to provide you with a list of eligible practices and explain what they each entail. Eligible practices can assist you in the following:

  1. Developing a conservation plan
  2. Developing a transition to organic plan focused on conservation practices
  3. Establishing boundaries and buffer zones
  4. Improving soil quality and organic matter while minimizing erosion
  5. Improving pest management
  6. Developing a grazing plan and improving grazing resources
  7. Improving waste utilization and composting 
  8. Improving irrigation efficiency
  9. Enhancing cropping systems and nutrient management 

Consult the 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative Practice List and National Organic Program Rules Correlation Matrix to determine how conservation practices relate to your organic system. For more information on practices addressing the NRCS resource concern categories of soil quality, soil erosion, domestic animals, plant condition, water quality, and fish and wildlife consult NRCS practice standards. Keep in mind that each state has very specific standards and specifications for why and how practices are implemented before making a payment. Make sure to be clear on what these expectations are and ensure that they will meet your needs. Below are a few examples with links to the national NRCS standards.

Conservation Crop Rotation

This practice is used to control erosion, manage pests and nutrients and increase soil organic matter by alternating crops grown in a sequence. It serves as the foundation for improving the soil resource on a farm, and fits well with NOP requirements.

NRCS Conservation Crop Rotation Practice Standard:

Cover Crop

This practice is used to control erosion, improve soil quality, manage nutrients, increase biodiversity, and suppress weeds. It can be used in concert with a conservation crop rotation to maximize the resource benefits that can be achieved.

NRCS Cover Crop Practice Standard:                                                                                                                                                          ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/NHQ/practice-standards/standards/340.pdf

Nutrient Management

This practice is used to control the amount, type, timing and placement of nutrients to support crop production. Nutrient application rates are based on the use of a nutrient balance sheet that determines the crop nutrients needed to produce a realistic yield goal using soil test, manure analysis and accounts for nutrient credits from legumes, composts, etc.              

NRCS Nutrient Management Practice Standard:
Job Sheet:

Pest Management

This practice is used to prevent and mitigate pesticide and pest suppression related risks to natural resources. While it does not pay for the implementation of IPM, when risks (or potential risks) are identified it can help you develop an IPM plan based on Land Grant University guidance.                                                                                                                                                                  

NRCS Pest Management Practice Standard:
Job Sheet:

Prescribed Grazing

This practice requires producers to manage their pasture according to a prescribed grazing plan. The plan contains information related to forage quality and quantity and animal numbers to develop a grazing schedule based on a forage-animal balance. It also includes a contingency plan and monitoring activities, and can be used by organic livestock producers to comply with NOP grazing requirments for ruminants.

NRCS Prescribed Grazing Practice Standard:

Forage Harvest Management

This practice is for the timely cutting and removal of forages from the field as hay, green-chop or ensilage. Harvest is conducted at the proper stage of maturity for planned quality and quantity of forage, and to maintain healthy plants to lessen incidence of disease, insects and weed infestations.

NRCS Forage Harvest Management:

How can I apply?

To determine program eligibility, discuss conservation options on your farm, and fill out an application contact your local district office.

In addition to meeting criteria for the EQIP Organic Initiative, you will need to meet criteria related to the determination of Highly Erodible Land, wetland conservation/compliance and the Adjusted Gross Income determination. To start this process you need to go into your local Farm Service Agency office and get a farm number and tract number.These criteria apply to all USDA programs not just EQIP, so if you have never been in the USDA Service Center before this is the place to start. This takes time and can be a barrier to program enrollment if you are not prepared.

For background information on the program, including ranking dates, states contacts, eligible practices, etc visit the NRCS National EQIP Organic Initiative website.

Applications for the EQIP program are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application “cut-off” dates for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. At the time of application, you will also be provided with a copy of the Contract Appendix, explaining EQIP contract terms and conditions. Review the contract appendix up-front so that you know the contract terms and conditions. Retain copies of all forms and documents that you submit to the NRCS and FSA.


Farmer Allen Williams Discusses Pros and Cons of EQIP Organic Initiative from ASAP Illinois on Vimeo.

Additional Resources Success Stories Organic Vineyard Success Story | Arizona NRCS


Success Story - Illinois NRCS


Conservation Showcase - Organics | Missouri NRCS


Conservation Showcase | Massachusetts NRCS


Oregon's Conservation Showcase | Oregon NRCS


Conservation Showcase | Washington NRCS



This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 4134

Simple Methods for Market Growers to Assess Culinary Quality with Consumers

mer, 2019/04/17 - 03:39

eOrganic authors:

Kitt Healy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lane Selman, Oregon State University

Alex Stone, Oregon State University

Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Consumers expect superior flavor, texture, and appearance from fresh produce. This is especially true of produce grown organically and purchased from local farms (Bonti-Ankomah and Yiridoe, 2006). Farmers selling direct to local markets value these qualities when choosing varieties, but they may not have a way to systematically evaluate them. This article discusses simple methods for doing culinary quality evaluations, so farmers can make informed decisions about the best varieties for their farms and markets. In this article, we define culinary quality as flavor, texture, appearance, and any additional desirable attributes for cooking or fresh eating, which may vary by crop.

Although many vegetable breeders consider flavor when developing vegetable varieties, end users are not often engaged in the evaluation process. This means that breeders may miss out on particular traits of interest to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers, chefs, or other local food consumers. Gathering information on which varieties customers prefer not only helps farmers choose varieties, it also generates important feedback for plant breeders working in organic systems. More farmers trialing and evaluating the culinary quality of vegetables means more information to guide breeding decisions. The information you gain from a quality evaluation can be shared with other farmers and your customers to help you choose varieties. It can also be shared with your seed sources, particularly if the seed companies you work with are connected to the breeders of those crops. Many of the independent seed companies serving organic systems are either involved in plant breeding or are in close connection to the breeders of the seed they are selling. They are very interested in getting feedback on culinary quality!

Brief Background

The methods in this bulletin were developed by two programs working with end users to evaluate the culinary quality of vegetables and small grains: The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative (SKC) and the Culinary Breeding Network (CBN). Both organizations draw on recent research in rapid sensory evaluation, reviewed in Dawson and Healy (2018) and several years of experience testing and refining methodology with chefs and farmers.

The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative is based in Madison, Wisconsin and is a program of the Urban and Regional Food Systems Group in the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Founded in 2014, SKC conducts vegetable variety trials under organic management on research stations in Wisconsin and works with farmers in the Upper Midwest to evaluate varieties in on-farm trials. As part of the trials, SKC staff evaluate flavor in all varieties and coordinate monthly tasting events with a group of 7 to 10 chefs. Each event focuses on one or two crops, from fresh tomatoes in August, to storage potatoes in March. Criteria for the evaluations are developed collaboratively with the chefs and plant breeders or the seed companies who contributed varieties.. All the produce for the evaluations comes from university-led variety trials conducted at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Culinary quality and agronomic information from the trials are distributed to plant breeders, seed companies and local farmers to help farmers choose the best varieties for their farms. Each year in the late summer or early fall, SKC hosts an annual event, called Farm to Flavor, which highlights outstanding varieties from the program. More information on SKC and Farm to Flavor can be found at https://seedtokitchen.horticulture.wisc.edu/.

The Culinary Breeding Network is based in Portland, Oregon and was founded by Lane Selman of Oregon State University in 2010. Selman noticed that while plant breeders often evaluate in-progress varieties for flavor, they do not usually involve end users in the process. After conducting an inaugural culinary quality evaluation of sweet peppers involving Portland-area chefs, farmers and plant breeders, she launched CBN. Her goal is to ensure that breeders benefit from the perspectives of farmers, chefs and eaters, and farmers and culinary professionals benefit from varieties selected with them in mind. CBN hosts an annual event called the Variety Showcase at which chefs, bakers and brewers partner with plant breeders to highlight new and novel varieties in dishes designed for the event, which is open to the public. More information on CBN can be found at https://www.culinarybreedingnetwork.com/.

Raw and pureed samples of winter squash at a Culinary Breeding Network event. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

How to Set Up an Evaluation and Who to Involve

There are many ways to evaluate culinary quality, from informal taste tests with your crew in the field, to more formal evaluations with a group of culinary professionals. No matter where your evaluations fall on this spectrum, controlling for certain variables will help ensure reliable results.

Environmental Variables

Many of the same environmental factors that influence the productivity of crop plants can also influence culinary quality. These include temperature, rainfall, soil quality, wind direction and pest or disease pressure. It is important to design culinary quality evaluations to account for these factors. First, try to evaluate crops at peak maturity and during a stretch of average weather. If you evaluate sweet corn that is slightly past the harvest window, or tomatoes after a big rainstorm, the flavor and quality will not be representative of how that crop performs under ideal or typical conditions.

Second, it is important to account for variation within the field. At their research station, SKC uses a randomized complete block design in our trials to account for field variation. If you are interested in doing a variety trial on your farm in addition to a culinary quality evaluation, there is more information in the The Growers’ Guide to Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials (2018). Culinary quality evaluations can be done on varieties you are growing for market that are not part of a variety trial on your farm; however, to ensure that you are evaluating flavor differences due to variety and not due to soil type or management, all the varieties should come from the same field. Pick samples of the same variety from multiple parts of the field and combine them to ensure that no single fruit, root, or leaf is considered singularly representative of the variety being evaluated. Take note of the parts of the field where water tends to collect, where the soil may be more compact, or where pest or disease pressure is particularly bad. Be sure to avoid focusing your evaluation on these spots.

Minimizing Bias

Once samples are collected, the evaluation process should be designed to be as objective as possible. There are several ways to do this. First, it is a good idea to disguise the names of the varieties you are evaluating. Variety names are often catchy, so evaluators may subconsciously favor a variety if they like the name. Labeling varieties with a three-letter code instead of the variety name can prevent name bias. Just be sure not to lose the key linking codes to variety names! It’s best to avoid common three letter acronyms like IRS or OMG. These can also induce unconscious bias. Second, have evaluators try samples in a random order. People often have stronger reactions to the first variety they taste than to subsequent varieties. Having all the evaluators try samples in a different order reduces the influence of tasting order on results. Third, ask evaluators not to express their opinions in any way until the evaluation is over. Hearing how a friend feels about a variety or seeing someone scrunch up their face can easily sway an evaluator’s opinion. Offering earplugs to evaluators is a good way to keep them from talking to each other or getting distracted by ambient noise.

In general, it is a good idea to make the evaluation environment as comfortable as possible, so evaluators can focus on each sample. Evaluators should be in good health on evaluation day; a stuffy nose will greatly affect a person’s ability to taste.

Pepper samples are prepared and presented uniformly to minimize evaluator bias. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

Involving the End User

Flavor evaluations are a great way to generate valuable information while also conducting outreach to current and potential customers. Doing a taste test at a farm tour or farmers market can generate enthusiasm among general customers. Engaging culinary professionals in an evaluation can help farmers select particular varieties for high-end markets and potentially build new sales relationships. Who participates in an evaluation will influence how the evaluation is structured. As a general rule, a baseline of reliable information can be obtained either from a large group of untrained evaluators, or a smaller group of professional evaluators (Frost et al., 2015). In a large public group, extreme data points will cancel each other out to reveal general trends. In a small professional group, much more precision can be expected from tasters, so fewer data points are needed to make trends apparent. A large group of professional evaluators is, of course, ideal! The Culinary Breeding Network often involves chefs, plant breeders and experienced produce growers together in evaluations.

Chefs are highly experienced tasters, as well as potential local food customers. Take advantage of chefs’ expertise by evaluating traits important to them. For example, the general public might be interested in how a winter squash tastes roasted, but chefs might also be interested in the taste and texture of a raw, shaved squash for salads. Chefs might also be interested in single serving sized fruits, or more powerful flavors (like bitter greens) and their preferences may influence culinary trends.


Chefs, farmers and plant breeders evaluate tomato and pepper varieties at a Culinary Breeding Network tasting event for the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

Farm to table restaurants and chefs interested in supporting local farmers have had a large impact on the local food movement. Understanding the end users’ priorities will help make evaluation criteria maximally applicable to real world scenarios. The chefs involved in SKC and CBN are interested in finding varieties that work for both their restaurants and the local farmers they purchase from. They do not want a variety that has excellent flavor but is difficult or expensive to grow locally. They have been key stakeholders supporting varieties that combine productivity and culinary quality.

Regardless of the audience, it is important to make the evaluation setting clean, streamlined and attractive with as little variation between samples as possible. Using identical bowls or plates (white or colorless/clear is best; avoid colors or patterns) to display samples and cutting samples in to bite-size pieces in the same way for each variety will reduce bias. Providing clean toothpicks for picking up samples, and offering water and unsalted crackers as a palate cleanser will also enhance evaluators’ abilities to focus on the task at hand. See the reference list for helpful guidelines on food safety considerations when preparing samples.

It is important to taste the crop in the manner in which people are accustomed to eating it. For example, sweet corn tastes great in the field raw, but most consumers eat it boiled a few days after harvest. Varieties can taste and perform quite differently in different applications. When tasting red bell peppers, for example, you would ideally taste them raw, sautéed, and roasted, as all three preparations are common. However, consider the amount of labor required to prepare samples and whether your evaluators can handle tasting that many samples. “Palate exhaustion” is a real concern, especially when working with the public rather than culinary professionals. You may want to focus on just one preparation at a tasting. In addition to the potential for palate exhaustion, any type of cooking takes a great deal of care to ensure that all samples are treated uniformly. Slightly different times in boiling or roasting can drastically change the texture and overall qualities of prepared samples. If cooking, it is best to have someone experience do the preparation, or practice ahead of time. A rule of thumb is to evaluate 6 varieties at a time, with no more than 5 questions about each, in 1 to 2 preparations.

Description vs. Preference

At the beginning of an evaluation event, the host will provide each participant with an evaluation sheet that includes questions aimed at obtaining the desired information about the varieties in question. If the evaluation event is a one-off, it may not be necessary to collect evaluators’ names, but it is necessary to be able to link evaluation sheets from each individual if there are separate sheets for different samples. If the same evaluators will be involved in recurring evaluations, it is important to have the names or some form of identification on the evaluation sheets so you can see whether one evaluator consistently differs from the rest of the group. This may indicate that the one evaluator tastes things differently from the general populace or doesn’t fully understand what is being asked. If it becomes clear that one evaluator is dramatically shifting the trends of the group, consider removing this person’s data from the final analysis. If two or three people differ from the group, they may represent a segment of the population that tastes differently or has different preferences. This can be the case if there are different cultural backgrounds or ages of evaluators. In this case it is important to consider the preferences of the different groups rather than just taking an average across all evaluators.

Culinary quality evaluations fall into two general categories: descriptive and preference-based or “hedonic.” Descriptive evaluations ask the evaluator to objectively rate certain qualities present in the sample. Hedonic evaluations ask the evaluator whether, how much, and why they like the sample. In more scientific sensory analysis, descriptive and hedonic evaluations are generally kept separate, since evaluators may be biased in their descriptions based on whether or not they like something. In practice, for culinary quality evaluations, it is possible to combine these two types of evaluation by asking descriptive questions first, and hedonic questions second. This is not ideal, but it is a balance between minimizing bias and getting enough relevant information. Both types of information are often needed for making decisions, and having separate tastings is not practical.

If you are only trying to find out whether your target audience likes a certain variety, hedonic information is sufficient. If you would like to know what types of varieties your customers like and why, then both types of information are useful. For variety selection it is important to know something about the culinary attributes of each variety and whether that combination is desirable. Over time, if it is clear that certain characteristics are always preferred, you may be able to do just one type of evaluation or the other. In general, when working with the general public, preference data is the most reliable, and easiest to get. When working with professionals, both types of evaluation are possible.

If you are asking both types of questions at the same time, is important to separate the descriptive and hedonic questions in evaluator’s minds. For example, an evaluation sheet might begin by asking for a 1 to 5 rating of sweetness, acidity, bitterness and flavor intensity for each variety. After evaluators have rated all varieties, they may be asked to go back and end with a 1-5 rating of overall liking for each variety. This effectively separates descriptive from hedonic evaluation of culinary quality but does require evaluators to taste samples twice and may increase the time commitment or decrease the number of samples you can evaluate. A secondary option is to do a descriptive evaluation with professionals such as chefs and then using the same varieties, do a hedonic evaluation with the general public at a farmers’ market stand or CSA pickup. How much the evaluation focuses on description or preference depends on the goals of the evaluation and the interests of the end users.

Different Methods: Rating, Description and Comparison

There are many ways to design an evaluation questionnaire. The simplest is to use a rating system. The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative uses 1 – 5 or 1- 9 (1 is typically “low”) rating scales to describe culinary quality elements such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness, umami (savory flavor), and flavor intensity (Figure1). The Culinary Breeding Network also uses a 1-9 scale, advising evaluators to use only the odd numbers and reserve the evens for truly intermediate scores. Rating scales are also used to describe hedonic perceptions such as overall liking.



Tester Name:_____________


1) For appearance, rate how appealing each variety looks: what is the likelihood you would purchase this variety at a market?

2) For texture, this is a subjective score, 1= poor, 5 = excellent

3) For each flavor category, note the strength of that particular flavor component. Try to be objective, without thinking about whether you like the strength of that component.

4) Umami is a savory flavor component. It is present in foods like mushrooms, soy sauce and tomatoes. Only score for tomatoes.

5) For intensity, 1=flavorless, 5 = very intense. This should relate to the degree of the characteristic vegetable flavor of this crop, not to any off flavors. Try to be objective, without thinking about whether you like the degree of intensity.

6) For overall category, give your global appreciation (1= poor, 5 = excellent) of the flavor of each variety, excluding the appearance of the variety. Do this at the end, once you have filled out the rest of the datasheet.

7) For unusual flavors, note any particularly strong flavors or anything that tastes “off”. Write in what you are tasting, and leave blank if you do not taste anything unusual.

1=low/poor 2=moderately low 3=moderate 4=moderately high 5=high/excellent   

Appearance             Texture             Sweetness             Acidity             Bitterness             Umami             Intensity             Overall flavor             Unusual flavors            

Figure 1. Each 3-letter code corresponds to a different sample on the SKC culinary quality evaluation form

CBN and SKC also use sets of dyads to pair flavors or textures perceived as opposites and ask evaluators to place samples on the continuum between the opposites. The dyad approach to evaluating can provide a nuanced picture of the overall flavor experience, akin to a description of wine or coffee. Some flavor and texture traits such as sweetness, acidity and crunchiness may be applicable to multiple crop species while others are more crop-specific (such as earthiness for beets). Normally, a set of 4 to 5 traits is suitable for an evaluation. An example of a dyad approach is given in Figure 2. CBN has worked with culinary professionals to develop highly nuanced lists of flavor descriptors, and used those to create details dyads for evaluation. See Figure 3 below for Lane's tips on creating a flavor vocabulary for the crop you are interested in evaluating.

Variety name/code

Kale Quality Rating

Please circle where each sample falls on each continuum

Tender- Tough









* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *

Figure 2. Seed to Kitchen Collaborative evaluators rank kale samples along each continuum presented here. The words in the dyads were chosen in consultation with farmers to describe the most prominent flavors and textures in kale. CBN has used a similar score sheet with different words to describe the culinary attributes of winter squash.

Lane's tips on creating a flavor vocabulary*
  • Gather a group of professionals to develop a flavor vocabulary. When working with chefs, we often select participants with a minimum qualification of a culinary school degree, or five years of experience as a chef or culinary educator. Wine (sommeliers and importers) and coffee professionals are perfect candidates since they have a lot of practice identifying flavors.
  • Offer recipes or prep guidelines. If evaluators are working in their own kitchens, provide details about how samples should be prepared to ensure that the flavors detected are the result of variety differences rather than preparation differences.
  • Minimize distractions. Noise and ambient temperature are the factors most likely to impede an evaluator’s ability to taste accurately. Also be sure there are no strong aromas in the air. Tasters should close their eyes and wear earplugs to minimize sensory distraction.
  • Ask the right questions. Rather than simply asking participants to describe flavor, texture and aroma, ask “what does this remind you of?” and “what else does it taste like?” Then, using that simple prompt, ask people to brainstorm flavor words freely without additional guidance.
  • Look for varietal differences. Once the vocabulary brainstorm is complete go through the results and identify words that were common across varieties, and words that could be used to differentiate varieties. Focus on the words that differentiate varieties for future flavor evaluations.

* Drawn from experience developing a comprehensive sensory vocabulary for winter squash, in collaboration with Dr. Alex Stone and Chef Timothy Wastell. More information is available at https://www.eatwintersquash.com/

Figure 3. Lane's Tips on Creating a Flavor Vocabulary

Sometimes, a comparison of sample varieties is more useful than a description and rating of each variety in its own right. Comparing varieties helps determine which characteristics most differentiate the varieties. These methods can sometimes be easier for tasters, since they focus on differences and similarities, rather than on each attribute of each sample. Classifying samples based on their degree of similarities and differences is a method that is fairly intuitive to most people.

For comparison methods, tasters sort the samples into groups based on the characteristics that are most relevant to them. After sorting samples into groups, tasters should label each of the groups to explain how samples in that group are similar to each other and different from the other groups.

To make the process more straightforward, if something about the important flavor characteristics is known, sorting can also be done in a hierarchical manner. This involves putting samples into groups based on the characteristic that most differentiates them, then sorting within groups by secondary attributes. For example, if sweetness is known to be a major contributor to differences in flavor, tasters could group varieties into sweet and not sweet or less-sweet categories, then within categories group samples together based on their degree of acidity or based on their savory flavor. Sorting can also be done for a limited set of characteristics, to get more detail on those particular factors. For example, tasters could be asked to sort based on texture only, regardless of other flavor attributes.

For comparison methods, record the samples that were grouped together and terms that were used to describe each of the groups for each taster. Then calculate how many times a pair of samples were in the same group or in different groups, and create a list of terms used to describe/differentiate each sample (Figure 4.).

Taster Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 1 Sample 1, 2; sweet Sample 3, 4 rich, savory Sample 4 bitter 2 Sample 1, 2; sweeter Sample 3 stronger none 3 Sample 1, 2; mild Sample 3, 4 savory Sample 4 metallic 4 Sample 1, 3; sweet/savory Sample 2 acidic none 5 Sample 1, 2, 3; nice flavor Sample 4 strong, bitter none 6 Sample 1, 2; sweet, bland Sample 3, 4 strong, harsh none



Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Sample 1





Sample 2





Sample 3





Sample 4





Figure 4: Top. Example of hypothetical data sheet for a grouping exercize with four samples and 6 evaluators. The groupings are first listed, either by the evaluator after finishing the tasting, or by the researcher if the evaluators do the grouping on a piece of paper or table top and leave them for the researcher to tabulate. Bottom: The times the same samples appear together are then counted and put in a table. The number of times samples grouped together is above the diagonal, and the number of times they grouped separately below the diagonal.

For the hypothetical comparison example above, it appears that samples 1 and 2 are very similar and are described as sweeter or milder. Sample 3 changes groupings the most, and might be similar to other samples for different aspects of flavor. It appears to have a stronger, more savory flavor. Sample 4 is the most different, and may have some undesirable flavor components.

No matter which quantitative approach is employed, it is often useful to also include a few qualitative questions, or a space for evaluators to write notes. Evaluators often have important insights that are not captured in the questions on the evaluation form, such as unique culinary applications for particular varieties, or additional descriptive vocabulary for the crop in question. Having a space for write-in comments also avoids evaluators trying to fit their observation into one of the other categories, where it can skew responses. For example, if there is a metallic aftertaste to a variety, this may get incorporated into the ‘bitter’ category if you don’t provide space for comments, even though it is distinct from a true bitter flavor. Capturing these details can help differentiate between trial varieties and can help the trial leaders develop better questions for future events.

Making Sense of the Results

At the end of an evaluation, you may be left with a lot of numbers. There are many ways to turn these numbers into usable information. One option is to simply read through each of the evaluation forms and summarize the most important points from each. Which samples had the highest or lowest numbers in multiple categories, and which were most strongly preferred? If there are a lot of evaluators, however, this approach is likely unfeasible. The easiest way to begin making sense of evaluation data is to enter the data into an electronic spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel or an equivalent program. Check the spreadsheet for numbers that fall outside of the expected range, and do not include information from tasters that did not follow the instructions.

Once all the data is entered summarize the data by calculating averages for each trait evaluated on each variety. Though averages may be swayed by extreme responses, they can provide a general picture of how each variety performed for each quality being evaluated. Using the spreadsheet to calculate standard deviation will also help you see if there is a wide range of responses to a particular question, or if the evaluators were relatively aligned in their perceptions. If there appears to be a wide range of responses (standard deviation is high), check for whether the evaluators fell into two distinct groups, or whether there are single tasters that don’t align with the majority. Outliers may be caused by individual evaluators who do not understand what they are being asked to do, or who taste things differently from the rest of the group. Knowing why an outlier is present can help you decide whether to keep that response in the data set or not.

Once you have an idea of the general responses to each question, think about what information will be most useful to the target audience of the evaluation. If the purpose of the evaluation is to help farmers select varieties that will appeal to culinary customers, then highlight results demonstrating which varieties chefs favor, or which qualities tend to be present in chef favorites. Findings can be presented anecdotally (a short written description) or visually (using graphs, tables or more creative graphics). How you display results should be determined by how you expect the results to be used. Once you’ve finished displaying the results, be sure to store the data in a place where you can find it again!

The Organic Seed Alliance offers a useful online tool for keeping track of variety trial evaluations and analyzing results. Though not all culinary quality evaluations stem from variety trials, this tool can be useful for organizing, storing and interpreting culinary evaluation data. It allows you to generate a data sheet in excel and analyze your data including means, standard deviations and pairwise comparisons of varieties. The tool can be found in the On Farm Variety Trials Toolkit for Risk Management for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers.


Evaluating culinary quality of vegetable, grain, and other specialty crops can help growers determine which varieties are best suited to their customers’ needs. As with any other project or experiment, it is easy to over-complicate things when the goals of a culinary quality evaluation are not clear. Being extremely specific about the type of information you are hoping to obtain, and the intended audience of that final information will help keep the evaluation focused on the desired outcomes.

Sharing the results of your culinary quality evaluation will help make the seed system and local food system stronger. Successful evaluations provide seed companies, farmers and end users with meaningful information on what they can expect from a variety. This information in turn helps farmers equip chefs and other consumers with a better understanding of what a variety will taste like or how it can be used in a dish. One of the most commonly asked questions at a farmers’ market is “Which tomato is best?”. The answer is invariably “it depends”. What does the consumer like in a tomato? What are they using it for? If a farmer has an accurate description of the variety, they will be able to more accurately advise their customers. When results are shared, one afternoon’s worth of work conducting a culinary quality evaluation can ripple into multiple season’s worth of benefits for farmers engaged in the difficult work of feeding communities and stewarding their land.

References: Additional Resources


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 28495

Certification of Organic Farming Systems

lun, 2019/04/01 - 18:00

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic T869

New Modules for Teaching Undergrad Students about Organic Agriculture

lun, 2019/04/01 - 17:28

Join eOrganic for a webinar by Randa Jabbour of the University of Wyoming on new modules she developed for teaching undergraduate students about organic agriculture. The webinar is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. 

Register now at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dU7qqhNEQWKSy2Vvx2MYXw

About the Webinar

This webinar will highlight the outputs of a recent NIFA OREI education project focused on developing introductory modules for teaching undergraduate students about organic agriculture. The target audience for this webinar are agricultural educators interacting with students at high school or college levels. Randa Jabbour will discuss the resources created as part of this project and different ways to incorporate them into both online and face-to-face teaching. The lessons within each module are independent of one another, and all components can be “plugged in” to classes as relevant – for example, one could consider using a lesson from the pest management module within an Integrated Pest Management class not specific to organic agriculture. Most resources referenced in these modules are open-access or freely available, and the modules can be downloaded from the website of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Associate (http://www.sustainableaged.org/teaching-resources-library/). Several lessons are built around an original film series “Organic Producer Perspectives” (bit.ly/orgproducer) created as part of this project that consists of interviews with certified organic farmers and ranchers.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Organic Grass-Fed Dairy Standards Webinar

lun, 2019/04/01 - 17:14

Join eOrganic for a webinar on new organic grass-fed dairy standards, on April 16 at 2PM Eastern Time, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time. It's free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. Attendees will be able to type in questions for the speakers.

Register now at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_spL0LHo3Tx-AVrFu2-xekw

About the Webinar

This webinar will focus on new grass-fed standards, which are designed for dairy farms that are already certified organic. Presenters will give an introduction to grass-fed dairy farming: what it is, and how it differs from other dairy management systems. Organic standards are set nationally by the USDA; however grass fed dairy labels and standards are newer, and there are several. The standards, as well as some of the accreditation information will be discussed, so that viewers can understand the 3rd party accreditation and certification process.

Presenters: Heather Darby, University of Vermont; Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting; William J. Friedman, Organic Plus Trust; Rachel Prickett, Earth Claims

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 33332

Growing the eOrganic Community: Annual Report 2018

ven, 2019/03/22 - 19:12


eOrganic Annual Report 2018

In 2018, eOrganic celebrated its ninth year as the Organic Agriculture Community of Practice of eXtension, at http://www.extension.org. Our goals are to engage farmers, agricultural professionals, and other members of the organic agriculture community with timely and relevant science-, experience-, and regulation-based information in a variety of formats; and to foster a national organic research and outreach community. Through articles, videos, webinars and conference broadcasts, we make organic research available and accessible to the public. A complete list of all eOrganic publications through 2018 is available here. 

eOrganic launched in 2009 with funding from the USDA NIFA OREI. Since 2011, our work has been funded by subawards on NIFA OREI, ORG and other federal research grants. More than 300 eOrganic members and collaborators have actively contributed to eOrganic by authoring and/or reviewing articles, producing or reviewing videos, answering Ask an Expert questions, presenting webinars, or attending outreach and leadership events. Read about our accomplishments in 2018 and our upcoming plans for the 2019 season.

Outreach to Farmers and Agricultural Information Providers

To help spread the word about eOrganic and the resources we provide, we had booths at several farmer events in 2018, including the Organic Seed Growers Conference and the Small Farms Conference at Oregon State University. Special thanks to eOrganic staff member Cindy Salter for staffing the exhibits.

For the first time in 2018, eOrganic sponsored a Student Competition and Planned Oral Session at the American Society for Horticultural Science conference along with the ASHS Organic Interest Group. Students submitted an article to be published on eOrganic for the general public about their research, and 5 winners were awarded funding to attend the conference and the opportunity to present their work at the session. In addition, Alex Stone of the eOrganic Leadership Team introduced the participants to eOrganic resources and publishing. The winning articles were published, and due to the success of the event for all involved, another competition was held for the 2019 ASHS conference. In this session, we plan to include a presentation on writing for a farmer audience.

To keep researchers, educators, service providers, and farmers aware of our published resources and webinars, as well as other online resources of interest to our community, we publish the eOrganic Updates newsletter. More than 12,000 people received these notices in 2018. In addition, eOrganic maintains an active presence on social media sites such as Facebook, where we have 4600 followers; and Twitter, where we have over 3,000 followers. In 2018, eOrganic pages at extension.org attracted over 599,000 page views. Our YouTube channel attracted over 390,000 views, leading it to surpass 3.1 million views.

eOrganic Webinars and Conference Broadcasts

Since December of 2009, we've offered our popular webinar series, attended by farmers, Extension educators, researchers, organic inspectors and certifiers, nonprofit staff, government agency researchers, master gardeners, and agriculture professionals. These webinars, which contain information on the latest organic research and practical farming techniques, allow people from all over the world to hear a presentation, view the presentation slides, and type in questions—all without having to leave their farms or travel to conferences. Presentations are recorded and made available for viewing at any time from eOrganic's YouTube channel. To date, eOrganic has delivered more than 200 webinars attended by over 23,000 attendees, of which, on average, approximately 30% were farmers. In addition, eOrganic broadcasts selected presentations from national organic conferences live online and archives the presentations on YouTube.

The 2018 season featured 3 days of live presentations from the Organic Seed Growers Conference, as well as 18 webinars on diverse topics such as organic tomato seed production, conducting variety trials, abrasive weeding, organic IPM, and tools for farm biodiversity. Many of the webinars were based on new research from USDA NIFA Organic Research and Extension Initiative and Organic Transitions Program projects. We also collaborated with the Organic Farming Research Foundation on 2 webinar series about soil health and organic farming. We have many more webinars scheduled for 2019 on grass-fed dairy farming, corn breeding, and organic farming practices for soil health. You can find all eOrganic upcoming and archived webinars and live broadcasts at http://www.extension.org/pages/25242.

Highlights of the 2018 Webinar and Conference Season Webinar Evaluation

In 2018, 2,450 people attended eOrganic webinars and live conference broadcasts. Across all webinars, approximately 48% responded to post-webinar evaluation surveys. Of these, approximately 29% were farmers, 10% were Extension personnel, 9% were university researchers and educators, 5% were from nonprofits, 12% were agriculture professionals, 9% worked for government agencies, and 5% were organic inspectors or certifiers. Survey respondents' geographic affiliations were: 28% Northeast, 21% Central, 11% South, 22% West, and 18% other named regions or countries. Across all webinars, 97% said the webinars improved their understanding of the topic to some degree, and 3% said "not improved". 74% of respondents planned to apply the knowledge they gained in the webinars a lot or somewhat, 20% said "a little" and 5% said "not at all". 82% said the technical level of the webinars was "just right", 6% thought they were too technical, and 12% thought they were too basic. 79% would recommend the webinars to others, 17% might recommend them, and 4% would not. 97% of respondents thought access to the webinars was easy, 2% said it was somewhat difficult, and 1% said access was very difficult.

Webinar feedback from attendees in 2018:

"I was able to listen to the webinar while working at top dressing my garlic! It was thought provoking to be working in the soil while learning about it."

"New to farming, I have struggled to grasp some of the concepts of building and maintaining good soil. The 'light' went on while watching this webinar."

"I know next to nothing about organic farming methods. Thank you for providing a free program that is easy to attend. Even after just the introductory lecture, I can see that organic farming is an active process. There is more to organic methods than not using chemicals."

"Love, love, love the Merlin Bird ID and also the Cool Farm Tool possibilities. I have shared the Merlin Bird ID app with many already."

"The material was well presented, and made a good addition to undergraduate curriculum, and I think would be easily understandable for farmers, too."

Online Courses

The eOrganic Dairy Team continues to offer its asynchronous online course, "An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production" which was funded by the NIFA OREI project "Development of Technical Training and Support for Agricultural Service Providers and Farmers in Certified Organic Dairy Production Systems" USDA NIFA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) project. Course developers and instructors included: Cindy Daley and Audrey Denney, California State University-Chico; Heather Darby and Deb Heleba, University of Vermont Extension; Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting; Sid Bosworth, University of Vermont; and Karen Hoffman, USDA NRCS. The course is composed of 10 modules addressing a range of topics related to certified organic dairy production, including certification, soil health, pasture and forages, herd health and nutrition, milk quality, and calf management. Each module has required readings, a narrated PowerPoint presentation from an expert on the topic, and recommended additional resources. CCA CEUs are available. Find a full description and a link to the course at http://www.extension.org/pages/69299.

In 2018, the eOrganic dairy team published a second online course. "On the Ground: A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils" is a self-directed online course designed for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, as well as farmers and students who want to move beyond the basics and better understand how healthy soils lead to healthy livestock feeds. It is a follow up to "An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production", which is a prerequisite for taking this course. Find it here.

eOrganic also continues to offer the Organic Seed Production course, in which approximately 275 people have enrolled. The course consists of a set of tutorials covering the fundamentals of seed production for onions, beets and chard, brassicas, carrots, and wet-seeded crops, as well as climatic requirements for seed crops, important diseases, and seed quality. Find more information on this free course here

eOrganic Articles

All eOrganic articles can be found at www.extension.org/organic_production. Before publication, every article is subject to two anonymous peer reviews and National Organic Program compliance review.

eOrganic published the following articles in 2018: Our 5 most popular articles in 2018 were: Videos:

The eOrganic YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic houses eOrganic's 534 videos. The channel has over 5,300 subscribers and over 2.2 million views. over 277, 000 of which were in 2018. Our most "liked" videos in 2018 were:

Organic Farming Research Websites

In 2018, eOrganic is worked with over 20 USDA NIFA funded research and outreach projects. eOrganic supports these groups in diverse ways, including technical support for the development of articles and videos, peer-refereed and NOP-compliance review, video production training and editing, web conferencing, conference broadcasting, or workspaces for project management. For 17 projects, eOrganic hosts public websites where you can learn about the project goals and personnel, and find results and reports as they become available.

In 2018, eOrganic hosted the following public project websites: 

eOrganic also hosts the following special websites: an organic variety trial database to which users can upload trial reports, which was created with the NOVIC project, and the Organic Seed Alliance, and a gallery of colorful and nutritious organic carrot varieties in development for the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project. If you have trial results to share and are interested in participating in the Organic Variety Trial Database, please contact Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance.

Ask an Expert

Ask an Expert is a free service that anyone can use to get answers to questions from Land Grant University (LGU) and Extension professionals through eXtension.org. Ask your question at https://ask.extension.org/groups/1668/ask—you can even submit an image to help with a diagnosis.

eOrganic provides oversight of all questions tagged with "organic production" within the Ask-an-Expert system. Our staff finds an answer by either answering the question directly or by soliciting the best possible response from our eOrganic members. In 2018, community members answered approximately 47 questions on topics such as tillage radish, compost tea, organic grains and carbon sequestration. Over 1440 organic agriculture questions have been answered through the service since its inception. We encourage you to use this free and underutilized service for answers to your organic farming questions. Find it at https://ask.extension.org/groups/1668/ask

Get involved with eOrganic

eOrganic is a Community of Practice, which means it relies on community members like you to help it grow and better serve our farmer and agricultural professional stakeholders by developing and delivering critical and timely resources. If you are a researcher or Extension educator with expertise in organic agriculture, eOrganic wants you to write an article, shoot a video, deliver a webinar, or develop and teach an online course. All of our articles and videos undergo NOP-compliance and peer review before publication. For more information on how to get involved with eOrganic, join eOrganic at http://eorganic.info or contact Alice Formiga at alice.formiga@hort.oregonstate.edu.

Write eOrganic into Your Next Grant Proposal

Since 2011, eOrganic has partnered with 65 grant funded organic agriculture research projects. For complete information on the diverse opportunities eOrganic offers project groups and how to write eOrganic into your proposal, visit http://eOrganic.info/proposal. During the past year, eOrganic received subawards from over 20 NIFA OREI and ORG projects as well as Beginning Farmer, WSARE and Risk Management proposals. We can also partner with you on regional IPM, AFRI, SARE, NRCS-CIG and proposals from other funding sources. A 2-page handout describing our services to funded projects, which can be distributed at meetings, can be found here.

eOrganic can offer your project:

  • Web conferencing with the option of online or toll-free phone audio
  • Webinars and webinar series to stakeholders and the public
  • eXtension publication editing, and peer and NOP-compliance review
  • Video training, editing, review, and posting to the web
  • Online course development and support
  • Outreach for your publications, videos, webinars and websites to our established network of 20,000 farmers, extension personnel, agricultural professionals, and researchers from around the country and the globe—at conferences and through our newsletters and social networking activities
  • Ask an Expert support
  • Project workspace at eOrganic.info to facilitate project communication and management
  • Project websites that are easily managed by your project members from eOrganic.info (see http://eorganic.info/novic)
  • Analytics information for reporting on your articles, videos, webinars and courses. Evaluation for webinars and conference broadcasts.
Stay in touch!

  YouTube Twitter

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 33311

Online Course: On the Ground. A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils

ven, 2019/03/22 - 19:05

eOrganic author:

Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension

About the Course On the Ground: A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils is a self-directed online course designed for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, as well as farmers and students who want to better understand certified organic dairy farming. It is a follow up on eOrganic's An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production which is a pre-requisite for taking this course.   The modules, described below, will help participants better understand the connections between the health of an organic dairy farm’s soils, the health and nutrition of pastures and stored forages, and ultimately, the health of livestock. Each module combines readings, narrated presentations, and recommended resources; all materials have undergone peer review and certification checks to ensure high quality, accurate certified organic information.

Find the course at https://campus.extension.org/enrol/index.php?id=1212

Course Modules Module 1: Introduction--More to Chew On   Module 1 provides an interview of the course and key reminders from An Introduction to Organic Dairy.   Module 2: Building Better Soils   Healthy soils are key to healthy pastures, crops, and, ultimately, healthy animals and their products. This module will expand on soil information addressed in the Intro course by expanding upon nutrient cycles, soil testing and interpretation, ways to utilize on-farm nutrients, and the basics of nutrient management planning.   Module 3: Fine-Tuning Pastures   Treating perennial pastures as crops by ensuring that pastures have good fertility will produce higher quality forages, and result in better animal performance. This module takes us beyond fertility to look at improving pastures through management. We cover why an understanding of the relationships of plant species within pastures as well as the relationship between plant and livestock is important to optimize forage quality and livestock intake.   Module 4: Growing and Storing Forages   This module In addition to providing your animals with fresh, high quality perennial forages through pastures during the grazing season, for fresh feeding, supplementing their diets and/or extending the grazing season through stored feeds and annual forages is covered in this module.   Module 5: Inputs: What is and is Not Allowed   This module provides an overview of how the National Organic Program (NOP) standards and the National list of allowed and prohibited materials tells us what we can, and cannot use on our farms. We’ll look at specific examples of products, labels and lists as we discuss fertilizers, seeds, seed inoculants, silage additives, and pesticides. Acknowledgements The course is a collaborative project of:
  • Organic Dairy Program at the California State University, Chico
  • Northwest Crops and Soils Program at the University of Vermont Extension
  • eOrganic, eXtension’s Organic Production Community of Practice
With Funding Provided By:   USDA National Food and Agriculture Institute's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative #2010-51300-21361.   Authors and Contributors:
  • Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension
  • Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting
  • Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension
  • Richard Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension



This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 15293

Efficacy of Biochemical Biopesticides that may be used in Organic Farming

ven, 2019/03/22 - 16:54

eOrganic authors:

Chunxue Cao, The Ohio State University - OARDC

Gary Vallad, University of Florida - IFAS

Meg McGrath, Cornell University

Brian McSpadden Gardener, The Ohio State University - OARDC

This article summarizes publicly available data on efficacy of commercially available, EPA-registered biochemical biopesticides for plant disease control. For a more detailed introduction see the related eOrganic article Biopesticides for Plant Disease Management in Organic Farming. At the time of writing, these products were allowed for use on organic farms. However, products and their status for use on organic farms change, so before using any of these products, be sure to (1) read the label to assure that the product is labeled for the crop you intend to apply it to and the disease you intend to control, (2) read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and (3) make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan , approved by your certifier AND registered for legal use in your state.  For more information on how to determine whether a disease management product can be used on your farm, see the eOrganic article Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

The efficacy ratings presented here are based on the results of one-year field studies published between 2000 and 2009 in the Plant Disease Management Reports (PDMR) (http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/). The ratings are based on a comparison between untreated controls and the application of each product independently. These studies were not, in general, conducted on organic farms or on organically-managed land.

Efficacy ratings are scaled as follows:

  • (+) – evidence for disease control and/or yield increase
  • (±) – evidence for disease control is mixed with some reports showing positive results and others not
  • (0) – no obvious response to treatment in one or more published reports
  • (n.d.) – no data available in the selected PDMR publications
Table 1. Biochemical biopesticide products labeled for plant disease control Trade Name Ingredient Manufacturer Target Crop Target Disease Efficacy Garlic Barrier® Garlic Oil Garlic Research Labs, Inc Cucurbit crops, forage crops, fruiting vegetables, herbs, kiwi, leafy vegetables, legume vegetables, nut trees, ornamentals,peanuts, pome fruit trees, root and tuber vegetables, small friuts and berries, stone fruit trees,sugarcane, sunflowers, tropical fruits, turfgrass Brown spot, insect infestation Tomato/ early blight (0) Green Light® Neem Concentrate Neem Oil Green Light Company Vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices Powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, leaf spot and other diseases Crapemyrtle /cercospora leaf spot (0)
dogwood/powdery mildew (+)
dogwood/spot anthracnose (0)
dogwood/cercospora leaf spot (±) Trilogy® Neem Oil Certis USA Citrus, tree fruits, cucurbits, bulb, cole and leafy vegetables, legume and fruiting vegetables, root and tuber vegetables, small fruits and berries , herbs and spices, cereal and grains, nuts, corn , alfalfa, cotton Alternaria, anthracnose, early blight, leaf blight, botrytis, greasy spot, leaf spot, post bloom fruit drop, powdery mildew, molds, scabs, rusts, shothole Tomato/early blight (0)
bean, snap/white mold, gray mold (±)
grape/ powdery mildew (0)
pumpkin/ powdery mildew ( ±)
almond/ brown rot (+)
almond/ scab ( 0)
sweet cherry/ powdery mildew (±) Triact® 70EC Neem Oil Certis USA Citrus, tree fruits, cucurbits, bulb, cole and leafy vegetables, legume and fruiting vegetables, root and tuber vegetables, small fruits and berries , herbs and spices, cereal and grains, nuts, corn , alfalfa, cotton Alternaria, anthracnose, early blight, leaf blight, botrytis, greasy spot, leaf spot, post bloom fruit drop, powdery mildew, molds, scabs, rusts, shothole Poinsettia/powdery mildew (+) Actino Iron® Iron Actino Iron®  Food and fiber crops, ornamentals, landscape plants, tree seedlings for transplanting to the forest Soil borne plant root rot and damping-off disease Snapdragon/root rot (+) ECO E-RASE® Jojoba Oil IJO Products, LLC Garden and commercial vegetables and crops Powdery Mildew and whitefly Pumpkin/ powdery mildew (±) SeaCide®

Cottonseed oil

Omega Protein, Inc  Field crops, orchards, vineyards, and greenhouse Black spot, powdery mildew and greasy spot Tomato/late blight, bacterial spot (0)
tomato/early blight (+)
summer squash/powdery mildew (±) Heads Up® Plant Protectant Extract of Chenopodium quinoa saponins Heads Up Plant Protectants Soybeans, potato, tomato, peas, beans, and wheat Soil borne plant root rot and damping-off disease Peas/ root rot (+)
tomato/ early blight (+) Promax™ Thyme Oil Bio Huma Nectics, Inc Crops, ornamental plants, and turf  Fungal disease Pumpkin/
phytophthora blight (±)
squash/ phytophthora blight (±) Proud 3™ Thyme Oil Bio Huma Netics, Inc Crops, ornamental plants, and turf Fungal disease Turnip greens/bacterial leaf spot (0)
pumpkin/phytophthora blight (±)
squash/phytophthora blight (±) Organic JMS Stylet-Oil® Paraffinic Oil JMS Flower Farms, Inc Grape, tree fruit, grass seed, and vegetable crops Powdery mildew and botrytis bunch rot Pumpkin/powdery mildew (+)
tomato/powdery mildew septoria leaf spot ( 0)
strawberry/leaf spot (0)
phomopsis/leaf blight (0)
black burrant/white pine blister rust (+) PureSpray™ Green Petroleum Oil Petro-Canada Apples and pears, almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pistachio, plums, prunes, avocados, citrus, grapes, olives, tropical fruit, ornamental fruits, vegetable crops Powdery mildew Grape/powdery mildew (0) Saf-T-Side® Petroleum Oil Brandt Consolidated Apples and pears, almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pistachio, plums, prunes, avocados, citrus, grapes, olives, tropical fruit, ornamental fruits, vegetable crops Powdery mildew, black spot, and rust Cucumber/downy mildew (±)
apple/powdery mildew (±)
almond/brown rot (+)
almond/scab (+)  References and Citations

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 4965

Organic Agriculture Research Forum 2019 Recordings

mer, 2019/03/20 - 16:55

The Organic Agriculture Research Forum, organized by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, was held at the Organicology Conference in Portland, Oregon on February 16, 2019. The day-long forum and poster session featured innovative presentations from researchers on organic farming and food systems. eOrganic attended the conference and recorded the presentations. 

Click here to view the recordings on YouTube

Topics and Speakers

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Matthew Kleinhenz, Ohio State University. Enhancing the utility of grafting in U.S. organic vegetable production
  • Jim Myers, Oregon State University. Northern organic vegetable improvement collaborative
  • Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin. Impact of cultivar selection on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonization and effects of biomass allocation and yield in organic carrot production
  • Javier Fernandez-Salvador, Oregon State University. Organic strawberry production in Oregon: A case for season extension research


  • John Snyder, University of Kentucky. Conventional breeding (non-GMO) of tomato for insect and spider mite resistance
  • Brigid Meints, Oregon State University. Multi-use naked barley for organic farming systems
  • Jared Zystro, University of Wisconsin. Efficient methods to develop new sweet corn cultivars for organic systems

Climate Change

  • Jessica Shade, Organic Center. The real impact of organic agriculture on climate change: Adjusting LCA data to more fully account for organic systems
  • Léa Vereecke, University of Wisconsin. Optimizing organic cover crop-based rotational tillage systems for early soybean growth
  • Emily Evans, University of Minnesota. Understanding the value of tillage radish and winter hardy cover crops as nutrient sources for field crops
  • Lauren Snyder, Organic Farming Research Foundation. Organic soil health practices for climate mitigation and farm resilience

Social Science

  • William Tracy, University of Wisconsin. Corn earworm management: A survey of organic sweet corn growers
  • Amanda Marabesi, University of Georgia. A phenomenological inquiry into producers’ experiences growing organic produce
  • Jeff Schahczenski, National Center for Appropriate Technology. Is organic farming risky? The mysterious case of loss ratios

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 33317

Organic Management of Late Blight of Potato and Tomato (Phytophthora infestans)

mar, 2019/03/19 - 20:12

eOrganic author:

Alex Stone, Oregon State University


Late blight is a serious disease of potato family (Solanaceous) crops worldwide, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Late blight is favored by high humidity, dew, wet weather and moderate temperatures (50 to 80°F).  When the environment is favorable, the disease can spread quickly and can defoliate fields within 3 weeks. Late blight affects foliage of both potato and tomato as well as potato tubers and tomato fruit.

Late blight is a very difficult disease to manage organically. Organic farmers should employ all strategies available to reduce late blight risk in host crops.

Before Planting 
Know the pathogen 

The first steps in managing any pest are 1) identifying it when you encounter it in the field, and 2) understanding its life cycle so you can exploit its weaknesses.  For more information on Phythophthora infestans/late blight diagnostics and life cycle, see the Michigan State (Kirk et al., 2004) Extension bulletin referenced at the end of this article.

Late blight lesions on a potato leaf. Photo credit: Lane Selman, Oregon State University.

Destroy all sources of inoculum 

In most areas of the US, the late blight pathogen is an obligate parasite, meaning that it can only survive in living plant tissue.  Therefore, destruction of all living hosts of the pathogen is an important control strategy. This means destroying all cull piles and volunteer hosts (potato, tomato, eggplant, pepper), including hairy nightshade. Waste potatoes can be fed to animals, buried 2 feet deep, composted, or spread on the surface of the soil to be frozen during the winter months. Volunteer potatoes and tomatoes should be removed by cultivation.

Site selection

Choose fields with good air movement and well drained soils.  Do not plant susceptible crops in fields: 1)  in which host plants may volunteer/grow (volunteer seedlings of host crops or weeds/hairy nightshade); 2) next to cull piles of tomatoes or potatoes; or 3) shaded by trees or structures.

Seed selection

By law, certified organic farmers must buy certified organically-grown seed if available.  

  • Potato:  Phytophthora infestans, the pathogen that causes late blight, is easily transmitted by diseased potato tubers. Planting potato seed that you have saved or obtained from neighbors increases late blight risk.  Purchase certified seed potatoes (potato SEED certification, not organic certification) from high quality sources.  Certified seed is not guaranteed to be late-blight free, but in general, certified seed should be less risky because certified seed production is monitored by seed professionals and certified growers tend to be well informed about significant potato pests affecting seed quality.  Inspect your seed potatoes for late blight symptoms upon arrival, and if seed is stored before planting, inspect it again before planting as late blight can spread during storage. If late blight is suspected, have diseased tubers diagnosed by a crop consultant or plant disease diagnostician.  Do not plant infected tubers as they are an excellent source of primary (initial) inoculum to start an early epidemic. On organic farms, early epidemics have a high likelihood of destroying the entire crop.  
  • Tomato:  The late blight pathogen is NOT transmitted by tomato seed.
Resistant varieties
  • Potato:  There are a few potato cultivars available in the US that have moderate to strong foliar (and tuber) late blight resistance:  Defender (russet, brown skin and white flesh; Novy et al., 2006); Jacqueline Lee (round, yellow skin and flesh; Douches et al., 2000); and Ozette (fingerling, white skin and flesh; Vales and Yilma, 2007).  All three of these potato cultivars were highly rated for marketability and flavor when grown on fresh market organic farms in western Oregon and Washington (OSPUD project). US plant breeders are focusing on the development of late blight resistant potatoes; new resistant cultivars should be available in the near future.
  • Tomato: There are some commercially available tomato cultivars with resistance in tomato to late blight. As described above for potatoes, US breeders are in the process of developing new disease resistant tomato cultivars.
    • Recent Organic Seed Alliance trials conducted in 2006 and 2007 in Washington State indicated that the tomato cultivars Stupice and Juliet have some resistance to foliar late blight.  Juliet also exhibited some resistance to early blight (Alternaria solani). Phythophthora infestans isolates were isolated from diseased tissue and identified as US-11. (Dillon et al., 2008)
    • Washington State University trials in 1998 and 2000 in Mt. Vernon, Washington, indicated that Matt's Wild Cherry has some resistance to foliar and fruit late blight. Both US-8 and US-11 isolates of Phythophthora infestans were isolated from diseased tissue. (Inglis et al., 1999 and 2001)

Defender, a russet potato bred by University of Idaho, and Jacqueline Lee, a round, yellow-fleshed potato bred by Michigan State University. Defender and Jacqueline Lee were highly rated for productivity and flavor when grown on fresh market organic farms in Oregon and Washington (OSPUD).  Photo credits: Lane Selman, Oregon State University.

Planting date

Manipulation of planting date to manage late blight will depend on local conditions and risk periods.  In areas where the highest likelihood of late blight onset is late in the season, plant short season varieties early so foliage has died back before high risk periods begin. If risk is highest during the spring, plant later to avoid spring epidemics. If risk occurs throughout the growing season, planting timing is unlikely to reduce disease risk. However, spacing planting dates from early to late might help spread risk across plantings. Spatially separating plantings will reduce the risk of late blight spread from planting to planting.

During the Production Season Protected culture

Late blight epidemics are much more likely to occur during periods of extended leaf wetness. Therefore, production of tomatoes in high tunnels with drip irrigation should dramatically reduce late blight risk by eliminating the contribution of rain and overhead irrigation to leaf wetness.  Potatoes are not typically grown in protected culture, but if late blight is a serious problem and the crop has high value (specialty potatoes, retail market), protected culture might also have merit as a potato late blight management strategy. Make sure to ventilate greenhouses and high tunnels to minimize leaf wetness. 

Field design

Plant in wide rows oriented with the prevailing winds to promote good air movement and reduce leaf wetness.  Intercropping could reduce late blight risk. The BlightMOP project reported that intercropping potatoes with non-host crops (rows planted perpendicular to the prevailing winds) showed some potential to reduce disease spread in infected fields in European Union research trials (Leifert and Wilcockson 2005). In addition, intercropping rows of resistant and susceptible potato cultivars, as well as planting mixed seed of resistant and susceptible cultivars, also reduced disease severity in some trials.

Staking and pruning (tomatoes)

Stake and prune tomatoes to promote air movement and reduce leaf wetness. Do not stake and prune when wet, as diseases can be spread by people and tools.

Hilling (potatoes)

High hilling, and prevention of crack development in hills, can reduce the movement of late blight spores through the soil to tubers, thereby reducing tuber late blight risk.

Irrigation management

Manage irrigation to minimize the duration of leaf wetness.  In many regions of the country, foliage becomes wet from dew during the early morning hours. If this occurs in your production area, irrigate during the early morning hours so the irrigation coincides with the leaf wetness period contributed by dew.  Alternately, irrigate during the middle of the day, so the foliage goes through a drying period early in the morning and again before dark. Do not irrigate in the afternoon if the foliage cannot dry before dark; wet foliage at dark will typically remain wet all night long, resulting in a very long wetting period and increased disease risk. If applicable, use drip irrigation to minimize irrigation-applied leaf wetness.

Crop nutrition

Do not oversupply nitrogen to the crop, either through high rates of soil nitrogen mineralization and/or organic fertilizer applications.   High N plants produce fewer tubers (potatoes) or fewer fruits (tomatoes) and also produce a large, lush canopy. Large, lush canopies dry slowly after wetting, increasing the risk of late blight infection. In addition, high N plant tissue is more susceptible to infection than low N plant tissue.  

Weed management

Weeds in the field impede airflow, so manage weeds. Volunteer tomatoes and potatoes, and the weed hairy nightshade, are hosts to late blight, so specifically eradicate these plants in your fields.  


As an organic farmer you may wonder whether scouting is of any value, as most late blight management strategies available must be in place BEFORE late blight is observed.  However, scouting is of value for several reasons: 1) You will know whether or not you have late blight in a specific field. If you DON'T have late blight in a field, you will not have to take precautions before, during and after harvest, and in subsequent years in that and neighboring fields, to minimize late blight survival and spread. 2) If first symptoms are detected immediately, the few reactive management strategies available to you could be employed, such as destruction of plants, more frequent copper applications, more strict irrigation management, or if the crop is close to harvest, immediate foliage destruction and subsequent crop harvest.


Copper products can effectively control, or slow down, late blight epidemics. Copper products have no "kick-back" activity. Therefore, they need to be applied to all plant surfaces before infection (before symptoms are observed in the field) and frequently so new foliage is protected as plants grow. In addition, they must be applied so ALL plant surfaces are covered, including the undersides of leaves where Phytophthora infestans sporulates (makes the spores that cause infections). Compost teas and other non-copper materials may have some efficacy. For more information see Organic Management of Late Blight of Potato and Totato with Copper Products

NOTE: Before applying ANY copper product, be sure to 1) read the label to be sure that the product is labeled for the crop you intend to apply it to and the disease you intend to control, and 2) make sure that the brand name product is listed your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier. For more information see Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

Destruction/roguing of diseased plants

Some studies have shown that destroying the first diseased plants in a field can stop or slow disease movement throughout the rest of the field.  It takes approximately three days to one week (depending on environmental conditions) from infection of a plant by the pathogen to development of symptoms. During that period, more infections are initiated on neighboring plants.  Therefore, by the time the first infected plants show symptoms, many neighboring plants are infected as well.  As the result, many apparently healthy plants must be destroyed in the area surrounding the first symptomatic plants in order to destroy infected, non-symptomatic plants.  Michigan State University research suggests that, under Michigan conditions, all plants in a 100 ft radius from the first symptomatic plants must be destroyed (Kirk et al., 2007).  A rigorous scouting program must be in place to detect the very first late blight symptoms in a field in order to make plant destruction effective.  In small fields, too many plants may have to be destroyed for this to be an effective management strategy. 

Another strategy is to destroy ALL foliage in a diseased field to prevent spread of the disease to other plants and tubers, or to neighboring fields. For potatoes, destruction of all foliage in the field is only recommended during later stages in tuber bulking, as tubers will cease growth when the foliage is dead.

  • Potato: Let plants die back completely before harvest. In most areas of the US, the late blight pathogen is an obligate parasite, meaning that it can only survive in living plant tissue. Therefore, killing the potato foliage also kills the pathogen living in that foliage.  Dieback can be encouraged in several ways.  First: don't overfertilize with nitrogen. Low N status encourages die-back, as well as minimizes N losses from the decomposing potato foliage after harvest. Second: flail, spray out (with approved herbicides - check with your certifier), or burn any living foliage. Once vines are dead, wait two weeks before harvesting the tubers to ensure that the pathogen is not longer viable in the foliage and all diseased tubers are fully decomposed; these measures should minimize disease spread. Do not harvest tubers when wet, as moisture increases the risk of spreading pathogen propagules. Harvest diseased tubers separately from healthy tubers to minimize disease spread. Late blight can spread during storage, so cull diseased tubers from diseased lots before storage. Destroy all culls. 
  • Tomato: Do not harvest when foliage is wet, as the pathogen sporulates during periods of leaf wetness and spores can move with people, tools and equipment from plant to plant and field to field. Cull and destroy diseased plants and fruits - do not leave them lying in the field or greenhouse.
After Harvest
  • Potato: Store tubers from diseased fields separately from tubers from healthy fields. Potatoes should be stored dry and at the lowest temperature possible to suppress pathogen growth and spread. Scout all stored potatoes frequently and remove diseased tubers from storage to prevent disease spread. Destroy culls.
  • Tomato: Cull diseased tomatoes and destroy the culls. Do not store tomatoes harvested from diseased fields with tomatoes from healthy fields, as disease can spread during storage.
References and Citations
  • Dillon, M., J. Navazio, K. Dean, M. Rosemeyer. 2008.  Public breeding for organic agriculture: Screening for horizontal resistance to late blight in tomatoes [Online]. Organic Farming Research Foundation Report. Available at: http://ofrf.org/sites/ofrf.org/files/docs/pdf/ib16.pdf (verified 18 March 2010).
  • Douches, D., K. Jastrzebski, J. Coombs, W. Kirk, K. Felcher, R. Hammerschmidt, R. Chase. 2001.  Jacqueline Lee: A late-blight-resistant table stock variety.  American Journal of Potato Research 78 (6):413-419.  (Available online at: https://www.msu.edu/~douchesd/releases/JacquelineLee_info.pdf) (verified 18 March 2010).
  • Fry, W.R. 1998. Late blight of tomatoes and potatoes [Online]. Cooperative Extension of New York State Cornell University. Ithaca, NY. Available at: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/factsheets/Potato_LateBlt.htm (verified 18 March 2010).
  • Inglis, D., B. Gundersen, and M. Derie. 2001.  Evaluation of tomato germplasm for resistance to late blight, 2000. Biological and Cultural Tests for Control of Plant Diseases 16:PT77.
  • Inglis, D., B. Gundersen, M. Derie, E. Vestey. 1999.  Evaluation of tomato cultivars for resistance to late blight, 1998.  Biological and Cultural Tests for Control of Plant Diseases 14:117.
  • Kirk, W., P. Wharton, R. Hammerschmidt, F. Abu-el Samen and D. Douches. 2004. Late Blight [Online].  Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2945. East Lansing, MI. Available at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/michigan_potato_diseases_late_blight_e2945(verified 18 March 2010).
  • Leifert, C. and S. J. Wilcockson. 2005.  Blight-MOP: Development of a systems approach for the management of late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans) in EU organic potato production [Online]. University of Newcastle, UK. Available at:http://www.coreorganic.org/library/EU_folder/blight-mop.pdf (verified 4 April 2011).
  • Novy, R., S. Love, D. Corsini, J. Pavek, J. Whitworth, A. Mosley, S. James, D. Hone, C. Shock, K. Rykbost, C. Brown, R. Thomton,  R. Knowles, M. Pavek, N. Olsen, and D. Inglis. 2006. Defender: A high-yielding, processing potato cultivar with foliar and tuber resistance to late blight.  American Journal of Potato Research 83 (1): 9-19.
  • Plant Variety Management Institute. 2008. Defender [Online].  Available at: http://www.pvmi.org/Storage/General/Defender%20Flyer%205%2008.pdf (verified 18 March 2010).
  • Rowe, R., S. Miller, and R. Riedel. Undated. Late blight of potato and tomato. Ohio State Extension Bulletin HYG-3102-95. Columbus, OH.
Additional Resources


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 3340

March 2019

mer, 2019/03/13 - 11:43
New Webinars in March and April

All webinars take place at 11AM Pacific, 12PM Mountain, 1PM Central, 2PM Eastern Time

  • March 20, 2019: Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration, by Mark Schonbeck, Organic Farming Research Foundation. In this webinar, we will discuss the capacity of sustainable organic systems and practices to sequester soil carbon, minimize nitrous oxide and methane emissions during crop and livestock production, and enhance agricultural resilience to weather extremes. The presentation will include practical guidelines for optimizing the organic farm’s “carbon footprint” and adaptability to climate disruptions already underway. Connection link
  • March 27, 2019: Breeding New Cultivars for Soil-enhancing Organic Cropping Systems in the Western Region, by Mark Schonbeck, OFRF. This webinar will summarize plant breeding endeavors toward improved vegetable, specialty grain, and other crop cultivars for organic producers in the Western Region, and practical resources to help organic producers obtain the best available seed varieties for their needs. We will also explore emerging opportunities to develop new cultivars for nutrient and moisture use efficiency, competitiveness toward weeds, and enhanced interactions with beneficial soil biota. Register.
  • April 10, 2019: Corn Breeding for Organic Markets, by Martin Bohm and Bill Davison of the University of Illinois and Walter Goldstein of the Mandaamin Institute. This webinar will explore how different breeding styles and methods can be used to develop corn varieties that meet the diverse needs of organically produced grain and perform well under a variety of growing conditions and farming practices. Find out more and register here
Recordings from the Organic Research Forum at Organicology

eOrganic recorded presentations on current organic research from the Organic Research Forum organized by the Organic Farming Research Foundation at Organicology. The following presentations are freely available now and more will be added to their playlist on the eOrganic YouTube channel and mentioned in upcoming newsletters. Find the program here and click here to find the recordings on a YouTube playlist.

  • Enhancing the Utility of Grafting in US Vegetable Production, by Matthew Kleinhenz of the Ohio State University
  • Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, by Jim Myers of Oregon State University
  • Impact of Cultivar Selection on Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Colonization and Effects of Biomass Allocation and Yield in Organic Carrot Production, by Erin Silva of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Organic Strawberry Production in Oregon: A Case for Season Extension Research, by Javier Fernandez-Salvador of Oregon State University
  • Multi-use Naked Barley for Organic Systems by Brigid Meints, Oregon State University
New Seed Production Quick Reference Guides

These new Quick Reference Vegetable Seed Production Guides are available from the Organic Seed Alliance. Funding for these guides was provided by the Montana Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Seed Internship Program Accepting Applications

 Applications are being accepted for the 2019 Seed Internship Program. The Seed Internship Program combines online and classroom learning, farm-based independent study, and real-world experience through a diverse network of family farms. Hosted by Organic Seed Alliance and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), the Seed Internship Program matches individuals such as organic seed producers and students who want to learn about seed production with experienced growers. Find out more and register at https://apply.mesaprogram.org/osa/

New Organic Biocontrol Research Project Website

A new NIFA OREI project was funded which will be working toward the long-term goal of increasing and conserving natural enemies in organic tomato and cucurbit production in the southeastern US. The production of these crops in the Southeast is limited by three key pests: twospotted spider mite (TSSM), sweetpotato whitefly (SWF) and thrips (most notably the western flower thrips and the tobacco thrips). The researchers, who are a team of scientists and educators from Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, will be looking at ways to improve the management of these pests with predatory mites and other natural enemies. As the project progresses, they will be posting updates on their website and conducting webinars through eOrganic. The project is being led by Dr. Juang Chong of Clemson University. Find out more about the project on their website here.

Grass fed Dairy Producers Survey

A new NIFA OREI funded project on grass-fed dairy production was funded starting in 2018. The project, Advancing Grass-Fed Dairy: A Whole Systems Approach to Enhancing Productivity, Quality, and Farm Viability in the US. ct, is led by Dr. Heather Darby at the University of Vermont along with  a team of farmers, consultants and researchers from several states. This multi-disciplinary research team hopes to identify critical components of grass-fed dairy management that support high quality milk production, herd health, environmental health, and farm economic viability while contributing to a vibrant grass-fed dairy market that meets the needs and preferences of consumers.The researchers mailed out a survey to 300 grass-fed producers but if you are a grass-fed dairy producer and did not receive the survey and would like to participate or be added to the project mailing list, contact Meredith Niles at the University of Vermont: mtniles@uvm.edu.

Vegetable Grafting Webinar Series

Members of a Specialty Crops Research Initiative Grafting Project Team have organized a grafting webinar series. The webinars each cover a different topic about the science and technology of vegetable grafting. While not specifically about organic production, upcoming topics that could be of interest to organic growers include Grafting to Increase Production for Small-acreage and High Tunnel Tomato Growers, by Cary Rivard of K-State University; past topics include Making Grafting Affordable and Beneficial to US Growers by Richard Hassell of Clemson University. Past presentations in the series were recorded and archived. Find the recordings on the project YouTube channel here, and learn more about upcoming webinars here

If you are a gardener, you may be interested in another webinar by Cary Rivard about grafting for home gardeners: Demystifying Grafted Tomatoes: The Why & How for Gardeners, which is part of the 2019 series of Advanced Training Webinars for Master Gardeners sponsored by Oregon State University Extension. Find out more information and register here.

Industrial Hemp Conference Recordings and Proceedings

Recordings and proceedings from all the presentations at the 2019 Industrial Hemp conference are being offered on the eXtension Campus website as a course. These materials are geared toward  aspiring and practicing industrial hemp growers and interested ag service providers, including Extension educators. As a result of watching these online proceedings and recordings, participants will learn about latest research results, production information, regulatory requirements for Vermont, and resources on industrial hemp production. The program of the conference, which took place on February 8, 2019 in Burlington, VT, is available here, the course is available here and costs $75. If you attended the conference in person, there is no charge to access the materials, and you can contact Susan Brouillette at the University of Vermont for a vendor code. The conference was organized by the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crop & Soils Program and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

eOrganic staff members Cindy Salter and Alice Formiga enjoyed talking with farmers at the eOrganic table at the Oregon State University Small Farms Conference

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 33271

Plant Breeding in Organic Farming Systems

lun, 2019/03/04 - 18:40

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic T870

Corn Breeding for Organic Markets

lun, 2019/03/04 - 18:31

Join us for an eOrganic webinar on breeding corn for organic markets! The webinar takes place on April 10, 2019 at 11AM Pacific, 12 Mountain, 1 Central, 2 Eastern Time. It's free and open to the public, and advance registration is required.

Register now at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_AL6rId-VQf-n9EnStcJLDw

About the Webinar

Our long love affair with maize continues with efforts to develop varieties that perform well in organic farming systems. Breeders and grain users of all sorts will benefit from a webinar discussing breeding styles for maize. Martin Bohn, Maize geneticist at the University of Illinois, will share how the University’s elite parent lines can efficiently be used to develop food grade materials for organic markets. Walter Goldstein, President of the Mandaamin Institute, will explain how for over a decade, he has been developing high-lysine and nitrogen use efficient hybrids for organic feed markets. Bill Davison, Extension Educator at the University of Illinois will explain how mass selection and participatory efforts are being used to develop open-pollinated varieties for a variety of specialty applications.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 33258

Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

ven, 2019/02/22 - 11:26

eOrganic authors:

Nick Andrews, Oregon State University

Brian Baker, Organic Materials Research Institute


Organic farming relies on a systems approach to crop production and pest management that consists of more than simply substituting natural inputs for ones that are synthetically produced. Organic production practices must maintain or improve the natural resources of an operation, including soil and water quality. Organic farmers must develop a system of cultural, biological, and/or genetic strategies in a comprehensive disease management program, and describe this program in the Organic System Plan, before applying a pesticide as a control measure. However, in some cases, materials for disease management must be applied to control difficult problems such as potato late blight or peach leaf curl. In these cases, how can a farmer determine what materials are allowed for disease management on her or his certified organic farm?

Allowed and Prohibited Substances

Under the National Organic Program rule, synthetic substances are generally prohibited, with exceptions that appear on the National List. Natural substances are allowed unless they appear as prohibited on the National List. This requirement applies to all substances, not just to active ingredients. Only minimum-risk inert ingredients are permitted in formulations used in organic production. Naturally occurring microorganisms, plant extracts, and mined minerals may also be used to prevent diseases.

When preventive practices and non-synthetic materials are insufficient to prevent or control diseases, allowed synthetic materials may be used. The conditions requiring such use must be documented in the Organic System Plan (OSP). The OSP should include a clear threshold or decision rule for when a synthetic pesticide is to be applied, and a system to monitor its use. The Accredited Certifying Agent (ACA) needs to approve the OSP before the farm is certified as organic. If a farm uses a pesticide that is not on the OSP for a use already approved by the certifer, that farm may lose its certification.

According to the Organic Farming Research Foundation organic farmer survey, sulfur and copper are the first- and second most-applied disease control materials on organic farms, with 40% and 34% of responding farms reporting their use, respectively. Fixed coppers exempted from the requirement of a pesticide residue tolerance by EPA can be applied as long as they are used in a way that minimizes copper accumulation in the soil. Among those that are allowed include specific formulations of copper sulfate, copper hydroxide, copper octanoate, copper oxide, and copper oxychloride. Bordeaux mix (copper sulfate combined with hydrated lime) and lime-sulfur are also permitted.

Narrow range oils used as dormant, suffocating, and summer oils can be used for disease and insect pest management. Hydrogen peroxide and potassium bicarbonate, two familiar substances that are relatively new as fungicides, are also permitted. Finally, growers whose crops are infected with fire blight can use peracetic acid. Antibiotics are no longer permitted for fire blight control. For information on non-antibiotic control of fire blight, see the eOrganic articles Fire Blight Control for Organic Orchards: Moving Beyond Antibiotics and Organic Fire Blight Management in the Western US.

In some cases, materials can be used for some uses but not others, so make sure that the product is permitted for the use you intend. Hydrated lime can be used for disease control, but not as a soil amendment. At present, peracetic acid cannot be used to treat seed potatoes.

Some materials often thought of as natural are considered synthetic under the NOP because of the way they are manufactured. For example, sulfur is listed as an allowed synthetic input because much of the sulfur used in agriculture comes from the scrubbers on the smokestacks of petroleum and natural gas refineries. Therefore, sulfur falls under the definition of synthetic due to the chemical reaction occurring in the scrubbers.

Non-active or inert ingredients are classified according to the level of toxicological concern. The EPA has changed how it lists inert ingredients, and the NOP has taken over the maintenance of the list of substances used as inert ingredients that the EPA determined to be of minimal concern prior to 2004. To be NOP compliant, all synthetic inert ingredients in pesticides must be classified as minimum risk, appear specifically on the National List or are used in passive pheromone dispensers. Inert ingredients do not appear on labels, so verifying compliance with this annotation requires the cooperation of the pesticide registrant.

Brand Name Materials Lists

The NOP established a policy that each Accredited Certifying Agent (ACA, certifier) is responsible for conducting its own reviews of inputs for agricultural production, such as formulated pesticides and soil amendments. The NOP also allows certifying agents to recognize reviews conducted by other certifying agents and competent third-party reviewers as described in the Verification of Materials policy. All ACAs are required to verify, along with their clients, that all materials used by certified organic operations comply with the NOP. To paraphrase, ACAs have three options available to determine whether branded or formulated products comply:

  1. ACAs can contact the manufacturer to obtain disclosure of the contents of the product and verify that they all comply.
  2. ACAs may consult with another ACA that has reviewed the information and accept their determination that the material is NOP compliant.
  3. ACAs may consult with a reputable third party source such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) that reviews materials for compliance with the NOP regulations.

ACAs must document their determinations and verify that the inputs are used according to the standards. ACAs must either have the capacity and expertise to review products or contract with organizations accredited do so. Many ACAs contract with OMRI, a non-profit initially established by certifiers specifically for that purpose. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) also reviews products according to the NOP and publishes a list of brand name products that other ACAs use. The OMRI and WSDA lists are both online. These lists are not comprehensive, so there may be other brand name products that can be used. However, in order to be sure that a product complies, the manufacturer must fully disclose all ingredients and manufacturing processes to an ACA or a third party contracted by the ACA. All ingredients must comply with the standards described above. when in doubt about the status of an input, certification applicants and certified producers should check with their certifiers before purchasing or applying the substance, and get the approval in writing.

Record Keeping Requirements

The OSP is part of the application form and includes any updates provided to the ACA, who can help by providing sample forms. The OSP is the basis of the record keeping system that is reviewed during the certification process. If allowed synthetic inputs are used, it is especially important to describe preventive disease management strategies in the OSP in order to help demonstrate that these pesticides are only used when preventive methods are insufficient to manage disease.

The NOP requires that all inputs used and planned for use must be included in the OSP and be reviewed and approved by the ACA before use. When the inspector visits, product labels are sometimes sufficient to demonstrate NOP compliance of a brand name product. For example, if using sulfur or a microbial product, the label indicates that the active ingredient is allowed for disease control. If the product is OMRI or WSDA listed, the label should be sufficient proof for the inspector to verify that the brand name product meets the NOP standard. If a product is not OMRI or WSDA listed, the label will help to verify whether active ingredients are allowed. However, the farmer or ACA must have a disclosure from the manufacturer that all ingredients, including the inerts, meet NOP requirements. In addition to labels, producers should keep copies of purchase receipts and shipping invoices for all purchased inputs. Producers and ACAs must maintain these records for five years.

Pesticide application records must be maintained. These are also reviewed during inspections. They can be kept in whatever form is adapted to the farm, but they must be sufficient to demonstrate compliance with the NOP. Normally a record of the material used and the date, rate, and location of application is sufficient. In the case of copper materials, pesticide application records can help verify whether copper products are applied in a manner to minimizes soil accumulation of copper. See the related article Organic Management of Late Blight of Potato and Tomato with Copper for more information.

One Step at a Time

Before using a new product, check for recent OMRI or WSDA approval of the product. If it isn’t listed, follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate each label ingredient for compliance with the NOP and any annotations in the National List. The OMRI Generic Materials List may also be a helpful guide.
  2. If the active is allowed, contact the manufacturer and request all the ingredients in the formula. Make sure all of the ingredients are on the USDA's list of permitted inert ingredients.
  3. Document that all the annotations, or NOP restrictions associated with use of the material, are met.

Be sure to contact your ACA if you have any doubt about the NOP compliance of a material. If they do not contract with OMRI or WSDA, they may require the information directly from the manufacturer.

National Organic Program Language on Materials Synthetic

The NOP regulation defines "synthetic" as, "A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes."

Section 205.601 lists the synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production.  The list you see here is abbreviated to paragraphs (i) and (m).  Please see the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations for a complete list.  In accordance with restrictions specified in this section, the following synthetic substances may be used in organic crop production:

(i) As plant disease control:

  1.  Coppers, fixed - copper hydroxide, copper oxide, copper oxychloride, includes products exempted from EPA tolerance, provided that copper-based materials must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation in the soil and shall not be used as herbicides.
  2. Copper sulfate - Substance must be used in a manner that minimizes accumulation of copper in the soil.
  3. Hydrated lime
  4. Hydrogen peroxide
  5. Lime sulfur
  6. Oils, horticultural, narrow range oils as dormant, suffocating, and summer oils.
  7. Peracetic acid—for use to control fire blight bacteria.
  8. Potassium bicarbonate
  9. Elemental sulfur

(m) As synthetic inert ingredients as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for use with nonsynthetic substances or synthetic substances listed in this section and used as an active pesticide ingredient in accordance with any limitations on the use of such substances.

  1. EPA List 4 - Inerts of Minimal Concern
  2. EPA List 3 – Inerts of Unkown Toxicity – for use only in passive pheromone dispensers.

Section 205.602 lists nonsynthetic substances that are prohibited for use in organic crop production.  The following nonsynthetic substances may not be used in organic crop production:

  1. Ash from manure burning
  2. Arsenic
  3. Calcium chloride, brine process is natural and prohibited for use except as a foliar spray to treat a physiological disorder associated with calcium uptake.
  4. Lead salts
  5. Potassium chloride—unless derived from a mined source and applied in a manner that minimizes chloride accumulation in the soil.
  6. Sodium fluoaluminate (mined)
  7. Sodium nitrate—unless use is restricted to no more than 20% of the crop’s total nitrogen requirement.
  8. Strychnine
  9. Tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate)
    (j-z) [Reserved]
References and Citations


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 2472

Breaking Bad Habits: Integrating Crop Diversity into High Tunnel Production Systems

mar, 2019/02/19 - 15:58
About the Webinar

High tunnel production has continued to grow in the midwest providing an engine for local food production. However, many growers choose to utilize these structures primarily (or even exclusively) for tomato production leading to very little room for crop rotation. At K-State, we have been working on research projects to determine the feasibility of high tunnels for other high-value crops like strawberries, sweet potato slips, melons, and others in addition to cover cropping strategies for high tunnel growers. During this presentation, we will explore some of these options and discuss different strategies for incorporating diversity into high tunnel production

Recording coming soon!

Slide handout.

About the Presenter

Cary Rivard is an Associate Professor and Director of the Kansas State University Olathe Horticulture Center. His research program focuses on vegetable production in high tunnels and he oversees the www.hightunnels.org website.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 29206

Current and Past Issues of eOrganic Updates Newsletter

jeu, 2019/02/14 - 13:57

Subscribe to the eOrganic Updates Newsletter


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 6127

February 2019

jeu, 2019/02/14 - 13:56
February eOrganic webinars

There's still time to register for these free online learning opportunities! All eOrganic webinars take place at 11AM Pacific Time, 12 Mountain, 1 Central, 2 Eastern.

February 6: Lower Financial Risk by Increasing Soil Health, Mark Schonbeck, OFRF. Building soil health through improved crop rotations, cover cropping, organic soil amendments, and other organic practices can improve yield stability and reduce risks of losses to drought, temperature extremes, weeds, and other stresses. Farmer experience and research have shown that healthy soil is the best form of crop insurance. Based on organic agricultural research and producer experience, this webinar will explore how several key soil health practices can reduce risks during organic transition and organic production. Register

February 19: Breaking Bad Habits: Integrating Crop Diversity into High Tunnel Production Systems,Cary Rivard, Kansas State University. High tunnel production has continued to grow in the midwest providing an engine for local food production. However, many growers choose to utilize these structures primarily (or even exclusively) for tomato production leading to very little room for crop rotation. At K-State, we have been working on research projects to determine the feasibility of high tunnels for other high-value crops like strawberries, sweet potato slips, melons, and others in addition to cover cropping strategies for high tunnel growers. During this presentation, we will explore some of these options and discuss different strategies for incorporating diversity into high tunnel production.Register

February 20: Nutrient Management for Crops, Soil and the Environment, Mark Schonbeck OFRF. This webinar includes a discussion of the role of soil health and the soil food web, including practical guidelines for optimizing crop nutrition, minimizing adverse environmental impacts of organic fertility inputs, and adapting soil test-based nutrient recommendations (especially N) for organic systems Part of the soil health and organic farming webinar series organized by the OFRF and funded by the Clarence Heller Foundation. Webinar

February 27: Selecting and Managing Cover Crops for Organic Farming in the Western Region. Mark Schonbeck, OFRF and Eric Brennan, USDA ARS. This webinar will discuss best cover crops, mixes, and management methods for optimum soil health and organic cash crop production in the Western Region. We will explore in greater depth the special challenges that farmers face in adding cover crops to dryland cereal grain rotations and other moisture-limited cropping systems.Register

New eOrganic Article

Comparing Tomato Varieties under Organic High Tunnel and Open Field Management in the North Central Region, by Terry Hodge, Kitt Healy, Brian Emerson and Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Researchers evaluated 15 different tomato varieties for performance in high tunnel and open field management (marketable/unmarketable yield, average fruit weight, fruit number, and disease). Varieties were selected based on the potential for production in organic systems and were comprised of three different genetic backgrounds (heirloom, modern and 50% heirloom/50% modern crosses). Read the article here.

Organic & IPM Working Group Webinar on Tillage and Residue Management

On February 12, the Organic & IPM Working Group is offering a webinar on Tillage and Residue Management in Organic Systems: Weeds and Soil Quality, by Kathleen Delate of Iowa State University. The webinar takes place at 12:30 Pacific, 1:30 Mountain, 2:30 Central, 3:30 Eastern Time and can be accessed as follows: Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device: Please click this URL to join. https://zoom.us/j/770358630. Or join by phone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):US: +1 646 558 8656 or +1 669 900 6833. Webinar ID: 770 358 630. CCA CEUs will be available. 

Winter Farminar Series

Farminars, organized by the Practical Farmers of Iowa, are held every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Central Time, each focusing on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chat box while they listen and watch a slideshow. The presentations are free for anyone with an internet connection. To participate in a live farminar, visit practicalfarmers.org/farminars. February topics include No-till Vegetable Production, Ridge-till Vegetable Production, Precision-seeded Cover Crops, and Proper Planning for Farmland Succession.

Organic Agriculture Research Forum and Organicology Conference

The 2019 Organic Agriculture Research Forum, presented in partnership with Organicology on February 16, 2019 in Portland, OR, is a day-long forum that will feature innovative presentations from researchers across all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems. The intent of the forum is to share the most current information with farmers, ranchers, extensionists, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in organic agriculture. 

Organicology is the largest gathering within the organic trade. The conference is designed by Organically Grown Company, Oregon Tilth, Sustainable Food Trade Association, and Organic Seed Alliance. The 2019 Organicology conference takes place February 14-16 at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower in Portland, Oregon. Find out more and register at https://www.organicology.org/register/

Organic Field Bindweed Research

The project "Harnessing the Voracity of the Biocontrol Tyta luctuosa to Improve Management of Field Bindweed During Transition to Organic and Beyond" has updated their website with photos, a video and a description of their ongoing research project funded by NIFA ORG. As they learn more about various strategies to manage field bindweed organically, this website will be updated. Learn more at https://eorganic.info/node/29370

eOrganic Mission

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info

eOrganic Resources

Find all eOrganic articles, videos, webinars and courses at http://extension.org/organic_production

Connect with eOrganic on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Have a question about organic farming? Use the eXtension Ask an Expert service to connect with the eOrganic community to get an answer!

View research project websites at http://eorganic.info


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 32831

A Primer on Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property Rights in Organic Seed Systems

mar, 2019/01/29 - 11:49

eOrganic authors:

Claire Luby, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A. Bryan Endres, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

Michelle Wander, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois

Carmen Ugarte, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois


Improving our agricultural crops through plant breeding inherently relies on the continuous exchange of plant genetic diversity to improve yields, agronomic performance, nutrition and flavor. For millennia, farmers would save seed of the best individuals of their crops to gradually domesticate and improve plants for food, fiber, and fuels. Plant breeding as a scientific discipline did not evolve until the early 1900’s as part of the Land Grant University system. Over the course of the twentieth century, seed went from being viewed as a freely exchanged public good, toward increasingly considered a product of human invention that is owned and protected (Kloppenburg, 2004). These trends have impacts on the exchange of plant germplasm amongst plant breeders and what farmers can and cannot do with their seeds and harvest (Luby et al., 2015).

Recognizing the importance of plant diversity to the nation’s economic development, in 1819, the Treasury Department ordered consular and navy officials to collect foreign germplasm for propagation in the United States. In the 1840s, the Patent and Trademark Office, through its Division of Agriculture, began the free distribution of seeds to farmers. High performing seeds were saved and traded among neighbors and although the actual seeds were subject to ownership as personal property, the famer-discoverer of any mutation or new variety did not regard him- or her-self as the owner of the new variety’s germplasm (Endres, 2004).

Even though few U.S. farmers save their seeds today, plant breeding continues to rely on selection of top performing individuals from within a diverse population in an environment similar to the farm where the end cultivar will be grown. Much plant breeding research and development efforts have been invested in selecting new cultivars under high input (i.e.: synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) field conditions. This has led to dramatic advances in yields for farmers practicing these methods over the past half century. However, as the organic agricultural sector grows, it will be critical for plant breeders to develop new, high performing cultivars that meet the diverse needs and environments of organic farms. While more organic farmers are beginning to use organically produced seed, wherein the seed increase phase of the breeding cycle is done using organic techniques, they are rarely using cultivars that were selected for the specific needs of organic systems (Hubbard and Zystro, 2016).

Access to seed genetics is now influenced by intellectual property rights (IPRs) rather than sharing networks; and, IPRs of various kinds are now the norm both in the private and public sectors (Luby and Goldman, 2016). While IPRs on plant varieties can be helpful for recouping investment on the plant breeding process, they can affect plant breeders’ and farmers’ freedom to operate with varieties in several ways (Luby et al., 2015). Sections that follow explain how IPRs influence where plant breeding happens, provide a brief history of the evolution of IPRs over plant varieties, and describe the dominant types of IPRs and release mechanisms. We recognize that this system is complex and that this is only intended to skim the surface of these issues, primarily in the United States.

Where does Plant Breeding happen?

Today, plant breeding happens in a variety of institutions and ad-hoc environments. Often, where plant breeding happens determines how a cultivar is ultimately released to the public and any resulting intellectual property-based restrictions on use.

Land Grant Universities: The land grant universities (LGUs) were established by the Morrill Act in 1862 with the mission of developing universities that serve agriculture and mechanical fields. There are still many plant breeders working at land grant institutions where part of their job is to release new varieties and to maintain applied plant breeding programs. However, these types of applied plant breeding positions have been in decline (Shelton and Tracy, 2017). Historically, cultivars developed at LGUs were released into the public domain. However, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 required that any invention (including plant cultivars) developed using federal dollars be released through the university’s technology transfer office. Thus, university-developed cultivars are sometimes now released with many of the same types of IPR as private companies in order to generate royalty revenue for the sponsoring university. Unfortunately, at many universities, much of that revenue does not go back to support plant breeding activities, but provides general funds for operations. (Shelton and Tracy, 2017; Tracy et al., 2017).

Government/ USDA: The United States Department of Agriculture employs many plant breeders located at land grant universities and research stations around the country. These plant breeders maintain active breeding programs for their specified crops and release new inbred lines and cultivars. USDA plant breeders release new cultivars through the ARS Office of Technology Transfer, with the goal to maximize societal value, rather than revenue. This can result in cultivars being released into the public domain with no forms of IPR, or can result in a cultivar being released with some type of IPR. 

Seed Companies: Many seed companies have internal plant breeding programs. Research and development departments vary substantially depending on the crop and the size of the company. Cultivars released from these largest programs generally are proprietary in some way, ranging from hybrid cultivar releases with inbred lines protected by trade secrets to multiple utility patent claims on a single genetically engineered cultivar. Accompanying contract/license terms provide additional layers of protection against seed saving or further plant breeding. In the organic seed sector specifically, many smaller seed companies serving this market do release new varieties directly into the public domain without patents or plant variety protection (PVPs), and many release new varieties using the Open Source Seed Initiative Pledge.

Freelance/Independent Plant Breeders: Freelance plant breeders are people doing plant breeding outside of an institutional context (Montenegro DeWit, 2017). It is difficult to define this group of plant breeders; however, this group usually generates at least some or all of their livelihood through their plant breeding work. Some of them have started seed companies in order to sell their cultivars, some are seed growers who also do some plant breeding and sell their seed varieties wholesale. Generally, they are breeding for growing conditions, regions or practices (such as low input or organic) that are not necessarily served by the larger seed companies. They tend to release their cultivars without formal IPR agreements, generally into the public domain, often through the Open Source Seed Initiative, or as hybrids, while maintaining trade secrets on inbred lines.

Farmer Plant Breeders: Farmer plant breeders are farmers who also do some plant breeding on their farm. While similar to freelance plant breeders in that they are not affiliated with an institution that supports their breeding work, farmer-breeders usually are not as directly involved in the seed industry as their freelance colleagues. Often, they are partnering with a plant breeder in another institution, such as the Organic Seed Alliance or a university. Sometimes their varieties are ‘picked up’ and sold by seed companies or the farmer grows seed of the new cultivar for their own on-farm use.

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs): NGOs, such as the 15 global CGIAR centers (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research), engage in substantial plant breeding efforts. These are research centers that focus on a few specific crops and have active plant breeding and research programs aimed at releasing cultivars useful to farmers in the global south. Formerly, CGIAR released its cultivars into the public domain with no fees associated, but in recent years there has been more effort on ensuring that communities that have contributed to selecting and maintaining seed over generations receive some kind of benefit sharing. CGIAR currently releases cultivars and populations with a standard material transfer agreement (SMTA). The fact that this agreement requires tracking the genetics and paying royalties for many following generations has proved challenging to track in a practical sense.

In addition to the international NGO’s, there are local and national NGO’s that engage in farmer-participatory plant breeding such as Mandaman Institute, the Louis Bolk Institute (Netherlands), Organic Seed Alliance, the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Farmer Breeder Club, and the Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.

Evolution of Intellectual Property Rights over Plant Varieties

Historically, all plants were part of the public domain, or the commons. Public domain means that there are no IPRs or any other type of protection on a cultivar. Public domain cultivars are free to use in any way, however, any derivatives (or something new bred from that cultivar) subsequently could be protected with IPRs, thereby potentially closing off the new variety from free public use.

In 1930, Congress passed the Plant Patent Act (PPA)—the first in a series of statutes granting IPRs on living material. The PPA prohibited the asexual reproduction of patented plants without a license from the holder. The PPA did not provide intellectual property protection for seeds. The 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP) extended IPRs to seeds, while still allowing farmers to save seeds for their own use and plant breeders to use the material in crosses to develop new cultivars. A 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, upheld the patentability of living inventions—in this case a genetically engineered micro-organism, and allowed traits and plant varieties to be utility patented. Five year later, in 1985, the Board of Patent Appeals upheld the patentability of maize seeds, thereby opening the door to utility patent applications for all new, non-naturally occurring plants. Moreover, in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that plants could be protected simultaneously by utility patents and PVP or PPA restrictions (Endres, 2004).

Types of Intellectual Property Rights on Plant Cultivars

Trade secret: A trade secret is protected or exclusively held information used by many industries. Trade secrets consist of customer lists to production processes. For plants, trade secrets most often take the form of inbred lines used to make an F1 hybrid cultivar. While there may be no additional protection on the actual F1 hybrid itself, the inbred lines and combinations of inbred lines used to make an F1 hybrid, are often fiercely protected by companies as trade secrets. Even though someone could save seed of an F1 hybrid, or try to re-create the inbred parent lines, it is unlikely they would ever get the exact same thing. Moreover, trade secrets have their own legal protections to prevent unauthorized misappropriation (Endres & Goldsmith, 2007).

Open Source: Open Source describes a new way of releasing a cultivar or population. Open source utilizes ideas developed by the free and open source software community. In the U.S., the Open Source Seed Initiative (osseeds.org) maintains a database and registration for open source cultivars, and partners with plant breeders and seed companies to release new cultivars under the Open Source Pledge, which reads: “You have the freedom to use these Open Source Seed Initiative - Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.” The only restriction placed on open source cultivars is that there be no further restrictions on the cultivar or its derivatives (Luby et al. 2015, Luby and Goldman 2016).

Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA): The PVPA was passed in 1970, and amended in 1994, provides a plant variety protection certificate for sexually reproducing crops through the USDA’s Plant Variety Protection Office. In order to receive a certificate, the plant breeder must prove that the cultivar is new, distinct, uniform and stable. A certificate grants the holder 17 years of protection over the cultivar and allows the holder to determine who is able to sell seed of the cultivar and to collect royalties on that cultivar. After the expiration of the PVP certificate, the cultivar enters the public domain. There are exemptions to PVP protections that allow the cultivar to be used in plant breeding and for farmers to save seed for their own use, but not resell the saved seed to third parties (Endres & Goldsmith 2007).

Plant Patents: Plant Patents result from the Plant Patent Act, passed in 1930. It allows plant breeders to asexually reproduce crops and to apply for plant patents through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A plant patent is a 20-year protection that allows the holder to charge royalties on propagation or sale of the cultivar.

Utility Patents: Utility Patents are patents originally intended for non-biological inventions that, have been granted for plant cultivars and other biological inventions since the mid-1980s and, thus coincide with the rise of biotechnology in the seed industry. Utility patents are available through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for inventions that are novel, non-obvious, and useful. A patent, depending on the specific claims, can allows the holder to exclude others from using the cultivar in any way (i.e.: selling, plant breeding, research etc.) without a license for a period of 20 years.

Trademarks: Trademarks can only be used in very specific ways in conjunction with plant cultivars. It is not possible to receive a trademark on a cultivar per se; but, it is possible to use trademarks in association with sales of seed or propagules of a specific cultivar. Club apple cultivars, such as ‘Pink Lady’, are an example of the use of trademarks in plant commerce. In these situations, a grower must be “in the club” to be able to sell their apples under the trademarked name, ‘Pink Lady’. The actual cultivar name of the tree that a ‘Pink Lady’ apple comes from is ‘Cripp’s Pink’. Registered trademarks are protected under both federal and state law.

Contract Law: Contract Law refers to any agreement between two or more parties, and is used in a myriad of ways within the seed industry. Contract law can take the form of a material transfer agreement which might outline what kinds of practices are allowed on the seed it is attached to. Other forms of contracts include any documents signed by a farmer when purchasing seed that outlines what they are allowed to do with the seed. These contracts tend to be quite restrictive. More recently, contract rules can also apply in the form of a ‘bag tag’ attached to a seed packet or bag that outlines what can and cannot be done with that seed. Opening of the seed packet -- similar to opening or downloading software -- serves as the equivalent of signing a formal agreement. Contract law, especially when combined with underlying IPRs such as utility patents or PVP certifications, can form powerful restrictions on farmers’ and breeders’ freedom to experiment and develop new varieties. However, there is also movement towards using contract law in a way that is fair and doesn’t restrict the farmer from saving seed or a breeder from using seed in further research or breeding, while still returning royalties back to breeding programs and/or farm partners.


As the plant breeding landscape has shifted over the past century, so too has the way in which plant varieties are owned and protected with intellectual property rights. While this has benefitted some companies and farmers, it has also led to a consolidated seed industry and one that does not necessarily serve the needs of all types of farmers. The organic sector is currently seeing tremendous growth, and developing new varieties that perform well in these growing environments is an important consideration for plant breeders. Support of a robust seed supply for this sector will also require stakeholders to develop new ways of approaching plant breeding to serve diverse and decentralized farming systems such as participatory networks that include plant breeders, farmers and end users. In addition, breeders and their partners in varietal development and selection will need to consider the appropriate type of intellectual property restrictions for varieties developed with multiple people and institutions to ensure that the genetics in these varieties remain available for continued improvement.

References and Citations



This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 27215

Weed Profiles

lun, 2019/01/21 - 17:40

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic T936