Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials to Manage Risk for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers

Organic Agriculture February 05, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

Join eOrganic for a 2-part webinar on how to conduct on-farm variety trials to reduce risk on organic and specialty crop farms. The goal of this two-part webinar series is to provide horticultural crop and small grain growers with the skills and information necessary to conduct effective on-farm trials, and manage risk in crop variety and seed sourcing decisions. These webinars include new perspectives from organic certifiers, updated methods for conducting simple and effective on-farm trials, and an introduction to new user-friendly online data analysis tools. This webinar series is open to all, but most appropriate for growers with at least two seasons of production experience. The webinars take place on March 20 and April 11, 2018, and they are free and open to the public. Advance registration is required.

Register now at

About the Webinars

Identifying optimum genetics through variety trials is an important risk management tool for organic producers. Well-suited varieties provide farmers with crops that perform optimally in particular climatic and management conditions, withstand pest and pathogen pressure, and meet market demands. These webinars are offered through a collaboration between Organic Seed Alliance, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. 

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

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.

About the Presenters

Micaela Colley is the Program Director of the Organic Seed Alliance. She leads OSA’s research and education programs focused on organic seed production and organic plant breeding.

Dr. Julie Dawson,Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin- Madison. She is Assistant Professor for Urban and Regional Food Systems in the Department of Horticulture at UW-Madison. Her research focuses on variety trialling and breeding for organic systems in the upper Midwest.

Jared Zystro, Research and Education Assistance Director, Organic Seed Alliance. Jared manages regional organic seed system development in California, conducts participatory breeding projects and variety trials, and teaches farmers about seed production and plant breeding at workshops, conference, and field days, and collaborates on other projects throughout the country.

The Grower's Guide to Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials 

Download this guide to conducting on-farm variety trials for organic producers at 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.

This material is funded in partnership by USDA, Risk Management Agency, under award number RM17RMEPP522C027/4500075447.





System Requirements

View detailed system requirements here. Please connect to the webinar 10 minutes in advance, as the webinar program will require you to download software. To test your connection in advance, go here. You can either listen via your computer speakers or call in by phone (toll call). Java needs to be installed and working on your computer to join the webinar.  If you are running Mac OSU with Safari, please test your Java at prior to joining the webinar, and if it isn't working, try Firefox or Chrome.

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.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.