© Prairie Organics 2020: Think Whole Farm | Brandon, Manitoba, March 5-6, 2020


Applying Precision Seeding Rates in Organic Dryland Grain Production

Sasha Loewen and Bruce Maxwell 

Montana State University


Applying precision agriculture tools on field scale experiments has allowed for the development of on field precision experimentation (OFPE), which offers farmers and researchers new insights into the temporal and spatial variability of their land using modern precision agriculture technologies. OFPE is a methodology of farmer driven field scale experiments analyzed by scientist partners now, but with the vision to automate the analysis and recommendations for management. OFPE can be applied in any farm setting to learn about the variation within a specific field, relative to a specific input. The aspirations of OFPE are to increase farmer efficiencies, reduce inputs, and maximize producer profits through open source software applications. We demonstrated OFPE to organic producers by testing seeding rates of green manure cover crops and following year wheat (cash) crops using variable rate seeding equipment. In 2019 we planted (60kg/ha, 90kg/ha and 120kg/ha) peas on a field in Montana, USA that will get planted to three seeding rates of wheat in 2020. In the same growing season we applied three seeding rates (150 kg/ha, 180 kg/ha, and 225 kg/ha) of spring wheat and looked for yield differences across a 175 acre organically managed field in south east Manitoba. The high seeding rate produced the greatest yields, except on hilltops where the lowest seeding rate produced highest yields. Based on these results a model was constructed to optimize seeding rates across this field in the future. The net return on the wheat (based on 2013-2019 average organic wheat price) was $140.86/ha (USD). If the farmer had applied the mid-level seeding rate across the entire field they would have received $143.45/ha, and if they had applied the optimized variable rate described by the model, their net return would have been $149.58/ha. Early OFPE results indicate that optimized variable seeding rates outcompete farmer-chosen single field rates. Annual use of OFPE on a field will allow for continual optimization of that field over both time and space recognizing that performance will change over time and allow for quantification of uncertainty associated with recommendations. OFPE projects are underway on five organic grain farms in Montana and Manitoba. Continued experiments will test the efficacy on cash crops and nitrogen fixing cover crops, to optimize nitrogen levels in the soil, reduce weed pressure, and maximize producer net returns.

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI): Growing collaborations for on-farm, decentralized vegetable crop research in Canada


Alexandra Lyon, C. Thoreau, and Helen R. Jensen

University of British Columbia

Aabir Dey 

The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, a program of SeedChange 


Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI) is a 5-year collaborative project launched in 2018 by the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, with the goal of contributing to the resilience and growth of Canada’s organic vegetable sector through the characterization and development of varieties that excel in regional organic farming systems. Working with regional farming organizations, CANOVI coordinates a network of on-farm variety trials in which farmer generate and share data about regional variety performance, currently for peppers and carrots. In additions, CANOVI supports three participatory plant breeding projects. These include 1) selection of a long-storing orange Nantes-type carrot with excellent flavour and early vigor; 2) continuation and expansion of farmer-initiated breeding of an early-maturing, blocky, red bell pepper; and 3) decentralized selection of various squash (Cucurbita pepo) varieties based on a range of farmer goals. In this poster, we will elaborate our project goals and methods and explain how farmer groups, NGOs and public universities are working together. We will provide preliminary results from carrot trials as an example of the type of information farmers are gathering and sharing through the trial network, and reflect on our experience piloting the use of SeedLinked, a new app and web platform for participatory variety trials and plant breeding.