Organic soybeans are commonly used for food grade products, yet these seed systems have struggled historically. According to the US Department of Agriculture, organic soybeans account for less than one percent of soybeans produced in the United States (agcensus.usda.gov, 2007). Michigan has significant organic food grade soybean production, but non-GMO soybean varieties are becoming less available due to many factors including seed contamination, limited breeding programs, conflicting selection criteria, and lack of awareness and communication.
Michigan State University Extension Educator, Dan Rossman, is committed to growing and learning about organic soybean lines for production, and educating producers and buyers about organic soybean varieties. In 2012, he received an NCR-SARE Research and Education grant to both establish on farm variety trials of organic soybeans and to stimulate conversation between organic soybean breeding programs.
Rossman has been working with an advisory group comprised of organic farmers, buyers, seed producers, and a breeder from Michigan State University.Together they have identified challenges to the organic soybean system and are working to create opportunities for organic soybean production.
In a first attempt at comparing non-GMO varieties on-site, the group found strong interest from farmers but lacked sufficient funding. Now, with the NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant, the group has seen larger success.
In 2012 and 2013 on-site trials were conducted on several certified organic farm sites throughout Michigan. Rossman used consistent planting techniques to compare 48 and 51 varieties, respectively. Three field day events were held in August and September 2013. This allowed the 75 farmer attendees to gain familiarity with the tested varieties by viewing them at different stages and taking notes and pictures.
Results of the test plots were compiled into a fact sheet and shared through multiple channels, including the Mid Michigan Crop Report, MSU websites, direct mailing to 250 organic producers, mailings to seed suppliers, and the Organic Marketing Update Meeting. Three varieties that show desirable attributes including yield, protein content, oil content, and maturity have been identified. These promising varieties have been identified to organic soybean farmers.
View a presentation on this project, from the 2014 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant:
- On-farm Organic Soybean Variety Trials (LNC12-344)