Breeding of cereal varieties for organic agriculture

Abstract

Most of biological farmers must use seeds from conventional breeding programs because well adapted varieties are not developed till now. Conventional varieties had inferior breadmaking and nutrition quality and they cause specifical agronomic problems. In 1982 the first research project is started to establish a cereal breeding programme for the special needs of the biological farmers. Wheat and spelt wheat (Triticum spelta) were the main treated plants. Several breeding methods (GMO and others) are not allowed in bio-agriculture. So we use classical skills. That's why in our project one breeding cycle (from the first cross to the variety) takes 12-15 years. Today our new varieties have excellent results in official testing programs in CH, D, A and F. Nevertheless cereal breeding for the niche of biological agriculture cant bring profit because the market is very small. So all our projects were financed by private dons. Since 1999 we were supported by some foundations.

Seed - the Bread of Tomorrow

Sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture is characterized by its striving to establish and maintain self-renewing energy and nutrient cycles, and the efficient use of all resources, particularly those of the cultivated plants themselves. At present however, seed for standard crops is cultivated exclusively under conventional conditions and using conventional methods. In other words, perceived deficiencies are compensated for by the application of foreign substances (nutrients, pesticides etc.), as needed - and as deemed to be economically advantageous. Unfortunately, due to a lack of alternatives, such crop seed must also be used by organic farmers. This often leads to substantial difficulties in cultivation and processing. In addition, the striven-for nutritional quality is frequently not attained. The grain seed producer Grain Breeding Peter Kunz has been doing pioneering work in the development of new, regionally adapted sorts of wheat and spelt (triticum spelta), in cooperation with organic farming operations in Switzerland and in Germany for nearly 20 years. Inspired by the ideals and commitment to quality striven for in biodynamic agriculture, a number of new varieties with excellent cultivation, processing and nutritional characteristics have already been developed. Through an intensive work on fundamentals, it has been possible to revive traditional methods of plant breeding, to develop them further, and to adapt them to the special needs of organic, ecologically aware agriculture. Thus, the way has been cleared for an independent breeding and seed production suited to the specific needs of organic agriculture. The breeding process, from the beginning up through to the completed, registered new variety, typically takes an average of 12 to 15 years. In order for these past achievements to continue growing and bear new fruit , additional efforts are necessary. On the one hand, an efficient infrastructure must be built up in order that the stock seed of the newly-developed varieties can be maintained, produced, and marketed. On the other hand, the specific know-how must be further developed and passed on to newly-trained breeders. Further, the ultimate goal of truly ecological plant breeding must be the establishment of independent regional breeding operations that work together with local farmers. In this manner, independent seed production will be able to provide regionally adapted varieties for growing food of superior quality, and it will be able to participate in the on-site preservation of genetic resources.