Our project advances goals one and eight of the USDA OREI Program: 1. Facilitating the development of organic agriculture production, breeding, and processing methods. 8. Developing new and improved seed varieties that are particularly suited for organic agriculture. Moreover, the project addresses priority area (4) for FY2017: Strengthen organic crop seed systems, including seed and transplant production and protection, and plant breeding for organic production, with an emphasis on publically available releases. Goals include: disease, weed, and pest resistance, stress tolerance, nutrient efficiency, performance in soil-improving and climate-friendly systems such as organic no-till, quality and yield improvement, and genetic mechanisms to prevent
inadvertent introduction of GMO traits through cross-pollination. Our project will develop close-to-variety (elite) organic sweet and field corn genotypes carrying a genetic mechanism for
spontaneous haploid genome doubling (SHGD), as well as GCI, which will enable more rapid development of superior organic varieties protected against transgene contamination. These materials will be made available to organic breeders, seed producers, and farmers. Both genetic mechanisms together will allow implementation of DH technology in organic cornbreeding. The DH technology to be implemented will not require application of chemicals (e.g., colchicine), and it will be combined with gametophytic cross-incompatibility (GCI) to exclude pollen from transgenic field corn - an urgent problem for organic farmers today. Cooperative research will flourish through a network of organic farmers, government agency staff (NRCS, ARS), organic seed
companies, and university researchers, based on on-station and on-farm that will include plant breeding activities and organic seed production. Extension activities, including field days, conferences, workshops, and state advisory teams, will facilitate variety evaluation, build plant-breeding capacity among organic farmers, and advance the development of superior genetic material. Organic seed companies will be full partners by participating on advisory teams, evaluating elite genotypes, and assisting in disseminating project results. A Certificate program in Organic Plant Breeding will be available to graduate students, producers, and other interested persons/parties. Classes will be offered online to allow participation around the globe.