On Farm Variety Trials: Toolkit for Risk Management of Organic and Specialty Crop Producers

This toolkit of resources which can help you plan and conduct on-farm variety trials is the result of a partnership between the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), University Wisconsin-Madison, Oregon State Univeristy, eOrganic and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES). It is funded by the USDA Risk Management Agency award # RM17RMEPP522C027.

Two-Part Webinar: Conducting On Farm Variety Trials to Manage Risk for Organic and Speciality Crop Producers

The Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and eOrganic will host a two-part webinar series on how to conduct on-farm variety trials.

Seed is a farmer’s first defense in the field, so identifying the best varieties through on-farm trials is an important risk management tool, especially for organic producers who don’t use chemical controls for production challenges, such as disease and pest pressures. Growers rely on varieties that perform well in their local climate and environmental conditions, include important production characteristics (e.g. disease resistance), and meet market demands.

The goal of the webinar series is to provide horticultural crop and small grain growers with the skills and information necessary to conduct effective on-farm trials, and how to manage risk in crop variety and seed sourcing decisions. These webinars include updated methods for conducting simple on-farm trials, new perspectives from organic certifiers, and an introduction to a new, user-friendly online tool that helps growers manage and evaluate variety trial data. The webinar series is open to everyone but most appropriate for growers with at least two seasons of production experience. Prior to the webinar, participants are encouraged to review the newly published The Grower’s Guide to Conducting On-farm Variety Trials, which is available for free download at the link below on this page.

Webinar 1: Trial planning, planting, and management. March 20, 2018

Part 1: This webinar will introduce farmers to the practice of variety trialing, detailing the reasons one might choose to conduct trials and how to plan a trial with a scope, scale, and focus appropriate to the growers’ needs. This session will also cover seed sourcing, and important considerations for trial planting and management.

Webinar 2: Trial evaluation, analysis, and interpreting results. April 11, 2018

This webinar will focus on record-keeping and trial evaluation, as well as analysis and interpretation of final results. This session will introduce participants to some intuitive techniques for keeping data organized, and user-friendly online tools to aidin analyzing information collected and drawing conclusions from trial results.

The Grower's Guide to On-Farm Variety Trials: Download

This guide provides farmers fundamental skills to conduct on-farm variety trials that reflect their particular goals and farming operations. Readers will find scientific principles presented in an accessible way, and will be walked though the process of planning, implementing, evaluating, and interpreting a variety trial. This tool is useful for farmers, as well as for research, extension, and non-profit programs looking to train farmers as co-researchers when conducting on-farm trials.

 Variety Trial Tool: https://organicseed.shinyapps.io/OrganicTrials/

OSA's Variety Trial Tool makes it easier for farmers and researchers to conduct trials by walking users through the steps to design a trial, create data sheets and maps, visualize trial results online or through a downloadable report, share results with others, and see the results of other people's trials. The tool is still under development so questions and feedback are appreciated and can be directed to jared@seedalliance.org. A video tutorial will be available soon on the eOrganic YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic.

The Seed to Kitchen Screening Trial Evaluation Template: Download

This template was developed by the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative at University of Wisconsin-Madison. It provides a good example for how a qualitative data sheet might be set up, and the Microsoft Excel format makes it easily customizable. 

The Organic Seed Alliance Trial Evaluation Sheet: Download

This sheet can be used for quantitative or qualitative data, and could be used either for a single data collection event, or filled in over time. A customizable version will be available shortly. 

The Seed to Kitchen Management Sheet: Download

This sheet allows growers to keep track of how they manage each trial, or each block of a trial. This is especially important for trails spanning multiple years. 

Recording from the Organic Seed Growers Conference: Leveraging Variety Trials to Advance Organic Seed Systems

Recorded live on February 17, 2018 at the Organic Seed Growers Conference. Presenters are Alex Lyon of the University of British Columbia, Julie Dawson of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance.



Published January 5, 2018

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.