When Martin Diffley couldn’t find an organic sweet corn variety that would tolerate his Minnesota farm’s cool soils, he contacted Dr. Bill Tracy in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin for help. The university was working on sweet corn breeding and the meeting with Diffley led to a grant proposal to OFRF requesting funding to conduct trials on Diffley’s farm.
Field crops such as wheat, which are grown on large-scale acreage, present organic growers with unique challenges in managing weeds, pests, and fertility. Dr. Stephen Jones, a professor at Washington State University and Director of the WSU Bread Lab, received OFRF research grants between 2001 and 2003 in support of his development of organic wheat varieties. Jones and his team have produced wheat with higher than typical levels of iron and other micronutrients.
The pathogenic fungus Fusarium threatens the integrity of corn crops in the form of blights and by producing mycotoxins, which can affect human and animal health if they enter the food chain. Efforts to control its spread are complicated because the fungus often resides in seeds; however, biological control microorganisms offer a promising organic alternative to chemical seed treatments.