Guest Post: How Organic Farmers Can Better Select Seed

Seed selection is a similar process for all farmers. Do your research. Study up on trials. Consider your specific field conditions. Select seed that you think will perform the best while also spreading out risk.

But there’s also some special factors organic farmers should consider when making this decision. Scott Ausborn of Blue River Organic Seed shares his tips for choosing the right genetics for organic operations.

Look for variety and vigor

Every field has its own unique conditions. And there are a lot of variables that can impact organic production. That’s why Scott recommends looking at as much replicated testing data as possible to see how a variety handles different environments. 

In particular, he advises looking for genetics that will:

  • Emerge quickly and are vigorous so the crop is up before the weeds

  • Handle some stress like low fertility or pests and diseases

You should also opt for multiple varieties that each have their own strengths. So if Mother Nature brings rain or shine, you’ll hopefully have something that can handle the conditions.

And don’t forget the market. Scott says a lot of specialty markets are looking for specific factors like food-grade soybeans or high-weight corn. If you’re selling to one of those buyers, make sure your seed will produce crops that match their needs.

Do your own trial work

The best way to find out which varieties work for your fields is to test those varieties on your own fields. Scott says the 36-month organic transition period is an ideal time for this.

“If one doesn’t perform like you had hoped,” he says, “it’s better to make that mistake during your transition” than when you’re certified organic “because your organic crop is worth twice as much as the transition crop.”

Many organic seed companies — including Blue River — also offer test plot seed for those who want to do their own on-farm trials.

Benefits of buying early

The earlier you make your seed selections, the better. Many organic seed companies offer early-order discounts, so there’s a financial incentive. But it also helps guarantee you’ll receive the specific seed varieties you want to plant.

Scott explains that when they take orders in September, the organic seed fields haven’t been harvested yet. They have an estimate on how much they’ll produce, but they don’t know about the quality.

By the time they’ve sorted through the high-quality, usable seed, there may not be enough for every order. Seed orders work on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the earlier you are, the more likely you’ll get your top choices.

From selecting seed to finding buyers, AgriSecure can help

If you’re new to organics and trying to navigate this market, you don’t have to go it alone. AgriSecure’s team of experienced organic farmers can help you create a profitable plan and give you guidance on how to execute it.

Get in touch with us and learn how we can help.