Trials and Research

Variety Trials and Research Garden

One of the main objectives of the Biodynamic Seed Initiative for Argentina is ultimately to get commercially viable, heirloom, and open-pollinated varieties into circulation, to meet the needs of a growing agroecological movement, and halt the loss of open-pollinated varieties.  To even begin this work, it is necessary to carry out a survey of existing varieties.  Varieties of potential interest for these aims need to be trialed, compared, documented, and seed stored for further multiplication or breeding.  We should also recognize the didactic potential of a trial garden to expose the public to a greater appreciation of biodiversity, which is why the Research Farm also fulfills an educational purpose.  The Variety Trials Project is planned to coincide with the two-year Training in Biodynamic Seed Production (see project description), so that participants can experience first-hand the differences between varieties, including appreciation of flavors through taste-tasting that is important in the biodynamic breeding work.  The hope is that selected varieties could then be passed on to training participants upon completion of the program to propagate as a potential commercial opportunity.  In effect, the Variety Trials Project is a foundation-stone for kick-starting the Seed Initiative. We hope it will also be a contact point to build bridges with government and community entities related to seed conservation and activism.  The Kultursaat e.V association (Germany) has offered to be partner in this project, serving as technical consultants and help to facilitate the success of the trials.  It has also expressed interest in exchange of seeds and potential breeding material.

Objectives:

This is a research and development project of the Biodynamic Seed Initiative for Argentina whose objectives can be summarized as follows:

  • Survey of national and heirloom varieties to determine if cultivars are candidates for further development.
  • Candidate varieties of interest would enter into the Initiative’s commercialization plan, or refreshed and stored for further breeding work in the Initiative’s network of seed-savers.
  • Pedagogical Opportunity: The trials themselves are an opportunity to complement the training program run by the Initiative. The trials are a living, didactic example that could help teach:
    1. Appreciation of biodiversity and cultural heritage
    2. Evaluating the characteristics of varieties (morphological, agronomic, and sensorial)
    3. Cultivation trial design and application

 

Duration:

The planned duration of this project is 3 years.  During the first year, a survey of different germplasm sources will be evaluated (from public and private).  Criteria will be determined to reach a short list of varieties of interesthe selection of varieties for trial and a list developed of the candidate varieties.  The Kultursaat e.V will offer technical support in the trial design and variety selection and evaluation criteria. Trials will be carried out over the first two years.  In the third year, a finalized list of varieties of interest could be outsourced to other regions (ex. to students who have finalized the Biodynamic Seed Training Program) for trial under different conditions.

Proceeding:

Year 1:

Survey of germplasm sources.  Selection of varieties for trial.  Cultivation of first set of trials.  Documentation (fotos) and survey based on morphological and agronomic characteristics (in exchange with Kultursaat e.V.).  The Demonstration Farm where the trials take place will be a course location for the Seed Production Training program.  Survey of sensorial qualities (taste-testing).  Good rated candidates will be selected and, if possible, taken to seed for storage as foundation seed. Potential visit from Kultursaat breeder(s).

Year 2:

Continuation of varieties trial.  Harvest of biannual seed. Same as above.  Publication of results from trials and recommendations for further breeding, and trial in other regions.

Year 3:

Selected variety trials from Year 1 and 2 tested at other organic or biodynamic farms around Argentina for performance in other soil and climate conditions.  Further trials are considered.  Final publication of results and conclusions.