Identification of superior cover crop varieties for organic seed production in the Maritime Northwest

Summary

Investigator: John Navazio, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, Washington
Project location: Nash's Organic Produce, Sequim, Washington

Cover crops are a cornerstone of organic farming practices. They assist with soil fertility, weed management, pest management, erosion prevention and run-off prevention. In recent years, demand for cover crop seed has grown parallel with the increase in organic and sustainable farming. Increased demand combined with increased distribution costs are resulting in price increases and seed shortages, particularly for organic seed. Organic Photo of cover cropproducers are also required to use organic seed sources if available, but often must rely on conventional seed or pay high prices for shipping organic cover crop seed.

This project helps secure organic farmers’ access to organic cover crop seed by increasing knowledge and success of on-farm cover crop seed production. Through cover crop variety trials focused on seed production qualities we will deliver research-based information and disseminate this information to producers, researchers and agricultural professionals who will utilize and further this work.

We propose to conduct comprehensive evaluations of 5 cover crop species, testing 4 to 6 varieties of each, to determine which varieties will both successfully mature seed in season and produce acceptable yields of high quality seed in the Maritime Northwest. All accessions will be evaluated for their ability to 1) produce a vigorous, strong cover to protect the soil and discourage weed growth; 2) produce a superior mature seed set in a timely fashion at the end of the season; and 3) produce a superior seed harvest of viable seed.

This project represents important first steps towards the creation of a regional organic cover crop seed production system.

A final report describing the results of this project will be posted when complete.