Karen Adler's picture

Breeding “Organic Ready” Corn

Amidst the controversy over transgene (GMO) contamination—a growing concern for organic farmers, researchers, consumers, and advocates—plant breeder Frank Kutka has been working to develop an “organic ready” line of corn that will maintain its non-GMO integrity. Corn is one of the top three genetically modified crops, alongside cotton and soy. In 2014, 89 percent of the corn acreage in the U.S. is planted in herbicide-tolerant transgenic corn.
 
Kutka has just started his fourth year of an OFRF/Seed Matters-funded research project, Developing “Organic-Ready” Maize Populations with Gametophytic Incompatibility. Corn is wind pollinated and readily crosses with other varieties. However, this breeding work uses naturally occurring genes derived from popcorns and the ancient grain teosinte that create a screen against crossing with transgenic, or genetically modified (GMO) corn. 

 

Rachel Goodman's picture

New Study Shows Organic Crops Contain More Anti-oxidants/Fewer Pesticides

Consumers choose organic foods for many reasons- for example, because the food is produced in a way that is better for the environment. Now, a new comprehensive review of previous studies shows mounting evidence organic crops may also contain more anti-oxidants and fewer pesticide residues.  In a new study published today in the British Journal of Nutrition researchers at Newcastle University in England have found that organic crops overall contain 17% more key anti-oxidants than non-organically grown crops, while some classes of anti-oxidants known as flavinones, were found at a rate 69% higher. Anti-oxidants are components in fighting cancer and are thought to play a key role in preventing heart disease and neurodegenerative disease

Karen Adler's picture

Compost Could Save (Plant) Lives

Each year organic farmers lose time and money when crops are destroyed by diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens that live on the surfaces of seeds. Many of the fumigants and chemically treated seeds that are used in conventional agriculture to control these pathogens can be harmful to our health and the health of the environment. Organic farmers have fewer and often less effective options. Enter the humble but mighty soil amendment, compost, which harbors billions of secret (microbial) weapons against plant disease. New research funded by OFRF is exploring a promising application to harness these weapons to produce a new tool for disease prevention for organic farmers.

Karen Adler's picture

Putting the “Sweet” in Organic Sweet Corn!

      What could be better than that burst of sugary goodness as you crunch into the first ear of summer corn? One reason we look forward to this is that corn has actually gotten sweeter over the years thanks to the hard work of plant breeders. There is a downside, however. These newer varieties, featuring the flavor we have come to expect, were not developed for conditions on organic farms, as they are reliant on fungicides and pesticides, and utilize soluble synthetic fertilizers in large quantities.

     In addition, very little sweet corn grown commercially today is open pollinated (op). This means that organic farmers who wish to save their own seed have few, if any, good choices of varieties to grow.                   

Brise Tencer's picture

OFRF at the May OTA Policy Conference, Washington DC

Recently, I attended the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) Policy Conference in my new role as OFRF’s Executive Director. The conference brought together many organic industry leaders who heard from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A significant number of farmers also attended as part of the newly formed OTA Farmers Advisory Council.