Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/31/2006
Publication Date: 2/1/2007
Citation: Casler, M.D., Riday, H., Undersander, D. 2007. Organic vs. conventional fodder crops in the USA: A challenge for breeders? Proceedings of the EUCARPIA Fodder Crops Meetings. p.17-23. Interpretive Summary: There is increasing interest in organic farming in the USA, particularly in the production of organic meat and dairy products. Federal regulations require that organic farmers purchase organic seeds if they are available. There are few organic forage crops available in the USA marketplace and those that are available were not specifically bred for use in organic farming systems. A number of value-added traits, including seedling vigor, interspecific competitiveness, various stress tolerances, resistance to pests, nutrient-use efficiencies, improved interactions with soil microflora, increased forage quality, and pharmaceutical or nutraceutical production, would be useful traits for organic varieties. Several breeders are currently working on some of these traits, developing new varieties that would be excellent candidates for organic seed production. This paper will be of use to other forage-plant breeders and geneticists.
Technical Abstract: Fodder crops are becoming an increasingly important component of organic agriculture systems in the USA. However, due to wide array of production environments in the USA, the large number of species targeted by breeding programs, and the large demand for new and improved products for traditional agricultural systems, there are currently no efforts to breed cultivars of forage crops exclusively for organic livestock systems. Rather, an increasing number of forage breeders are working on traits and breeding methods that lend themselves to development of dual-purpose cultivars. Some of these traits include seedling vigor, interspecific competitiveness, various stress tolerances, resistance to pests, nutrient-use efficiencies, improved interactions with soil microflora, increased forage quality, and pharmaceutical or nutraceutical production. On-farm activities, such as natural selection, participatory breeding, and field evaluations, are a mechanism to improve the process of developing, evaluating, and marketing organic fodder-crop cultivars. Farmer-owned organic cooperatives would be a logical mechanism for seed multiplication, marketing, and distribution of organic fodder-crop cultivars.