Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement Project Update

Posted on Wednesday, 13 July 2022 under Stories

Our BC Seed Security Manager, David Catzel, has the pleasure of being the British Columbian representative of The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security (Bauta). Participating in the initiative creates opportunities to connect with seed advocates and growers across the nation. The Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement Project (CANOVI) is a Bauta program through which farmers grow, and evaluate plant varieties and breeding lines of important vegetable crops in Canada.

This year, we are taking part in the rutabaga, radicchio, red pepper, and red and orange carrot CANOVI trials at our Research and Education Seed Farm. For the carrot trials, our hope is that through the breeding work that has been ongoing since 2019, these carrot breeding lines will compete against tried-and-tested open-pollinated and hybrid counterparts.

Last year, we harvested the seeds of each carrot separately. We labelled the various carrot seed batches by number, and grew multiple short rows of seeds from each carrot, with each section called a family. During harvest, we pulled the carrots from each row and laid them out. If we observed enough undesirable traits in the progeny (offspring) carrots, we eliminated the entire family. We then went through and selected the best carrot roots from the remaining families. Carrots were selected for large straight roots with a blunt tip, limited root hair, and a core true to colour. Finally, we cut a small portion off the bottom of each carrot to make sure it passed the taste test. We put each carrot in a separate pot in a UBC winter greenhouse. The red and orange carrots were separated by isolation cages. Once the carrots began to flower in the greenhouse, flies were introduced into the cages to facilitate pollination. This June, the carrot seeds were harvested, cleaned, and then mailed to CANOVI and Citizen Seed Trial growers.

In 2021, the radicchio trial included 27 varieties. After a year of testing, the research has been narrowed to six varieties this year. At our Research and Education Seed Farm, we left the roots of Bottiglione radicchio in the ground last year and have been enjoying watching the chicory flowers turn into seeds. Similarly, we are growing six rutabaga varieties as part of the 2022 CANOVI trials. We bulked together a number of rutabaga roots last year, stored them in a cooler over winter, and then re-planted them this year to be able to offer a mixed rutabaga seed for the BC Eco Seed Co-op seed store.

The CANOVI trials build off previous research, select best performing varieties, identify varieties that would be suitable for future breeding populations, and build capacity to perform on-farm variety trials. We were able to connect with other CANOVI growers last year to collaborate on tasting events across the province. We look forward to continuing this collaboration and receiving diverse input on the CANOVI crops.