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

Organic Agriculture March 16, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

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 https://seedalliance.org/publications/growers-guide-conducting-farm-variety-trials/

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

March 20 and April 11, 2018, 2PM Eastern Time (1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time). Recordings from these webinars will be posted on this page. Register at https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?PRID=4993dc03c6557e9553c4f7a0dcda5cfb

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

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. 

A recording from the Organic Seed Grower's Conference on variety trials will be posted here soon.

This toolkit and the related outreach events are delivered in 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). This publication is funded in partnership by USDA, Risk Management Agency, under award # RM17RMEPP522C027.


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.