WP2 – Improving cultivar testing, seed multiplication & health for high quality seeds for the organic sector
The challenge: Tackling shortcomings in seed production to increase the amount and quality of organic seed
It is crucial that organic farmers possess knowledge about cultivar performance under organic growing conditions. They need to determine which cultivars, among those currently available on the market, are the best suited for their context. As there are substantial differences in cultivar rankings between organic and conventional cultivar testing as well as between countries, systematic cultivar testing under organic agriculture needs to be installed across Europe.
If seed of a plant variety is to be sold, the variety must be registered in a common national catalogue. For this registration, it needs to be tested for DUS (distinctiveness, uniformity and stability) while some crops are also required to fulfil criteria for VCU (value for cultivation and use) over a minimum two-year period. Criteria that are crucial for organic agriculture are often not included in these testing protocols, which are developed for conventional agriculture. Adapted guidelines for cultivar testing for organic agriculture are largely lacking. This leads to problems with identifying suitable cultivars and with the registration of new organic cultivars and creates obstacles to widening the pool of high-quality seeds available for the organic market.
Heterogeneous populations have proven their ability to perform consistently in different environments in space and time despite being not fulfilling the definition of ‘variety’ and therefore not able being registered on the EU catalogue. However, recognizing their potential in improving sustainability and resilience of crop production in organic and low-input systems, the EU has implemented a temporary experiment for the seed commercialisation of some typologies of heterogeneous populations of major cereal species (Commission decision 2014/150/EU). In parallel, the revised Organic Regulation (Regulation 2018/848/EU) has introduced the concept of “Organic Heterogeneous Material” (OHM). It is essential to develop guidelines for OHM characterisation and testing to inform EU-level policymaking on designing the 2018-2020 extension of the temporary experiment.
LIVESEED will analyse the issues around propagation, and develop innovative, context-specific models and protocols for organic cultivar testing for different crop categories and cultivar types. The LIVESEED activities will allow farmers to make an informed cultivar choice and, thus, improve productivity and performance of organic farming. Furthermore, it will foster knowledge exchange through cross-visits and local demonstration events across Europe on seed propagation, seed health and seed management issues, as well as apply on-farm research to improve the vitality of organic seeds. The project will furthermore involve stakeholders in the development of inputs for the delegated act of the new Organic Regulations on OHM, and of tools for the identification and characterisation of heterogenous materials.
- D2.1 Overview on the current organizational models for cultivar testing for Organic Agriculture over some EU countries (Kovacs T. and Mariegaard Pedersen T. 2019. Overview on the current organizational models for cultivar testing for Organic Agriculture over some EU countries. Report for LIVESEED project-Boosting organic seed and plant breeding across Europe 2017 – 2021. 77 pp.)
- D2.2 Reports on the outcomes of the cross-visits on organic seed production
- MS18 M 2.8 Main outcomes and SWOT of experiences from marketing populations under the Temporary Experiment into the commercialization of heterogeneous populations in the European Union (Ambrogio Costanzo, ORC, with input from Charlotte Bickler, ORC; Monika Messmer, FiBL; Frederic Rey, ITAB; Matteo Petitti, RSR; Carl Vollenweider, FZD; Nanna Karkov Ytting, Agrologica. 2018) Work in progress.