by Mac Ehrhardt, President, Co-Owner

Organic farmers want to know how their corn hybrids and soybean varieties perform under organic conditions. Albert Lea Seed conducted replicated testing of organic corn and soybean seed on organic farms in Minnesota and Iowa.

Yes, some universities are conducting organic yield trials on corn and/or soybeans, which is a big step forward; however, most variety selection for organic hybrids and varieties still occurs on conventional farms. We are working to change that by evaluating hybrids and varieties on organic farms before we launch them.

Why is this important? Honestly, it may turn out that it isn’t that important, and that performance on intensively managed conventional farms will be a good indicator of performance on organic farms. But right now we don’t know that, and there is strong reason to believe that some hybrids and varieties will be well-adapted to conventional farming systems but not to organic systems. For example, most organic farmers who grow corn will tell you that emergence and early-season growth is absolutely essential in a good organic hybrid. That is less important in conventional farming systems, where farmers have seed coated with fungicides and insecticides to get seedlings out of the ground, and herbicides to control early-season weeds.

Our investment in Organic trials is to help us figure out the best way to choose hybrids and varieties for our customers, before they plant them.

Three years ago we invested in a plot planter and combine, and we partnered with Bob and Sara Pearson of Wesley, Iowa to start our Organic yield trials, which are randomized and replicated, and conducted on organic farms in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

As we grow our organic testing program, we will include more experimental hybrids and varieties in these trials.

One final note: these trials are hand-weeded. Why? We understand that being able to compete with weeds is an important attribute of both organic corn hybrids and soybean varieties. However, the essence of a yield trial is to control as many variables as possible, and since weeds do not grow uniformly across fields and plots, we need to eliminate that variability, otherwise the trial results would be meaningless.

2019 Organic Soybean Trials – 2 Locations

2019 Organic Corn Trials – 3 Locations

We update our Trial Data page, and you can sort it for organic crops by year and geography. If you have questions about choosing organic corn or soybeans for your farm, please give us a call at (800) 352-5247.

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