Organic farmers have difficulties to find crop varieties that are adapted to their way of farming. They need varieties that grow well without chemical fertilizers and pesticides and comply with demands of organic traders, processors, shopkeepers and consumers. For this thesis I have taken onion and spring wheat as model crops to study how the current way of plant breeding and official variety registration procedures should be changed to address the needs of the organic sector.
For onion, farmers need varieties with improved resistances against main diseases and improved storability. In the case of wheat, weed suppressiveness and baking quality require improvements. Results of our variety trials show that current varieties lack these traits. To provide the type of varieties needed by the organic sector, conventional breeders would need to introduce major modifications in their ongoing breeding programmes, that include choice of crossing parents, selection criteria and priorities, and choice of selection environment.
For spring wheat, we also show how the Value for Cultivation and Use testing, which forms part of the official variety registration procedure, needs to be adapted to allow breeders to bring improved varieties for the organic sector on the market.
Especially, spring wheat breeders involved in the research showed interest in adapting their breeding programmes. However, their current business model prevents seed companies from investing in relatively small seed markets. To overcome this bottleneck we propose a collaborative approach with involvement of all actors of the organic production chain in breeding.