Improved Field Corn Hybrids for Organic Producers
CALS Impact Statement
Experimental corn hybrids were evaluated under organic production and several with performance better than those available to the producer were identified and are candidates for organic hybrid seed production.
While organic farmers in New York grow many acres of field corn, most of the seed for their crop comes from out of state. Also, very little of the seed corn in the United States is currently being grown organically. Since the new National Organic Program rules require organically grown seed, organic farmers here in New York are currently limited to relatively few outlets that are all out of state. This seed bottleneck represents a potential opportunity for organic seed corn production here in New York because seed corn can readily be grown here and because we have organic farmers who are beginning to take on such enterprises. It also represents an opportunity to identify and produce varieties that are particularly well suited to New York's production conditions.
For the last three years we have evaluated Cornell-developed and other publicly available inbreds in experimental hybrid combinations on an organic farm in central New York. This year we tested 30 experimental hybrids and seven open-pollinated varieties for their maturity, yield, standability, and general adaptation in comparison to five commercially-available organically-produced hybrids in replicated trials. Special evaluation procedures were developed to account for the challenges of weed control in small-plot trials, where spaces between plots in the field are essential. In 2005, three experimental hybrids looked outstanding, beating all the commercially-available checks in yield and yield:moisture ratio (a measure of yield potential for a given maturity of hybrid), and showing comparable standability (reflecting both stalk and root lodging resistance). Two hybrids were distinctly superior to the farmer's check hybrid over three years. All but one of these hybrids include parents developed by Cornell's corn breeding program.
Organic corn production represents an environmentally-sustainable approach to field crop production in New York and a value-added economic option for New York's crop producers. Our research has identified varieties that will yield better and are agronomically superior for New York's organic corn producers, and it has provided information on varieties that could be produced and sold as organic seed in New York - a new business opportunity for New York's organic field crops producers. Our cooperating organic farmer has asked to do a pilot seed production field this year based on the results of this collaborative testing effort. It is likely that hybrids based on Cornell's field corn breeding program will be produced and sold as organic seed in New York in the next few years.
funding source description
Federal Formula Funds - Research (e.g., Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Animal Health)