The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative brings together educators, researchers, and farmers to address seed issues facing organic farmers in the northern United States. Since industrial agricultural practices have become so prevalent beginning in the 1940’s, the last several decades of crop breeding and research have focused on developing varieties that perform well in industrial systems (those that use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, etc).  But crops growing in an organic system face vastly different challenges than those in an industrial one, so NOVIC strives to identify existing and develop new varieties that are well-adapted to the many challenges of organic agriculture. Variety trials are an integral part of NOVIC’s work, and they’ve adopted a mother-daughter model commonly used in international crop research. NOVIC members include the Organic Seed Alliance, the USDA, Oregon State University, Washington State University, University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Cornell. Typically, university research farms serve as “mother” sites, where a multi-replicate trial is grown and evaluated by a group of researchers. Single replicate “daughter” trials are grown on local farms as a means of getting farmer feedback and participation. Currently, NOVIC is working with tomatoes, sweet corn, sweet peppers, cabbage, winter squash, and a “Grower’s Choice” crop in each region.

For tomatoes, NOVIC is seeking an early, red slicing type tomato well-adapted to the Pacific Northwest with late blight resistance. The Pacific Northwest sees an annual epidemic of late blight, so I spent a good portion of the spring 2017 quarter researching the disease and host resistance. To find out more: Spring Quarter-Trial Seedlings and Late Blight