BC Seeds Update: Virtual Projects

Posted on Friday, 5 June 2020 under Stories

Now in its fifth season, the Citizen Seed Trial (CST) is all about bringing small-scale, backyard, and patio gardeners into the seed conversation by allowing them to participate in a province-wide variety trial. This year’s CST is focused on trialing diverse breeding populations of kale, watermelon, and tomatoes. For each crop, participants receive an established control variety and an unfinished breeding variety to compare.

One of the principles that guides the BC Seed Security Program is a commitment to building deep-seated, ongoing collaboration within an ecological seed system. This collaboration extends from the general public, farmers, researchers, and academics to businesses, post-secondary institutions, and other organizations that support the ethical development of seed.

A new component of the trial this year has been to (virtually) sit down with a number of the plant breeders who have been breeding or maintaining the varieties being trialed. The first post features FarmFolk CityFolk’s own Carla Hick who explains the project and gives an overview of the 2020 diverse breeding populations trial.

We’ve also spoken with Hank Keogh of Avoca Seeds, Mel Sylvestre of UBC farm, and Sal Dominelli of Sweet Rock Farm. Hank shared his journey with Dazzling Blue Kale, identified as a favourite variety in the 2016 BC Seed Trials. Mel discussed the origins of the Winter Rainbow Kale variety, and shared her hopes for it. She reminded us that this kale was also part of the BC Seed Trials and stood out proudly after being overwintered through a harsh coastal winter. Sal described Blacktail Mountain watermelon, a variety adapted well to cool climates.

As part of our virtual educational material, we are excited to announce an upcoming webinar on June 18th from 12-1pm, with Craig LeHoullier. Craig, aka “North Carolina Tomato Man,” is the plant breeder of the Teensy Family Dwarf Tomato seed we are trialing, and the co-founder of the Dwarf Tomato Project. This webinar will go over basic tomato breeding biology, the background of the Dwarf Tomato Project, what citizen seed trial participants can expect in their trial tomato crop, and will provide an opportunity to ask questions. This beginner-level webinar is open to everyone seeking to learn about tomato breeding. The webinar is free but please register in advance.

It is very fitting to feature a variety from the Dwarf Tomato Project in the 2020 CST, as it was also a collaborative, cooperative project that involved dozens of citizen plant breeders from around the world.

It is important for food growers of all scales and experience levels to feel empowered to join the conversation around seed security, plant breeding, and variety trialing. In that spirit, we’d love to hear from you. What are some of the resources you would need to become more involved in the seed conversation? What format of virtual education (blog, audio interview/podcast, webinar, Instagram, Facebook) resonates best with you? Do you have ideas for future collaborations? Who would you like to hear from next? Visit the Citizen Seed Trial page to leave a comment and make your voice heard.