Anne Kirk – University of Manitoba 

A research technician with the University of Manitoba says ability to compete with weeds is the most important consideration when selecting wheat varieties to grow in organic cropping systems.

“Wheat Variety Selection for Organic Environments” was discussed earlier this month as part of the University of Manitoba’s Advanced Plant Science Seminar Series.

Anne Kirk, a research technician with the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, notes the main difference between organic and conventional cropping systems is that organic farmers have less options for dealing with weed populations and insects during the growing season.

Anne Kirk-University of Manitoba:

Organic farmers need to consider how competitive those varieties are with weeds.

Many organic farming systems do have higher weed pressure than conventional farming systems.

Conventional farmers are used to growing their varieties in fields that are not weed free but have very low levels of weed pressure.

Therefore that’s probably one of the main differences.

Organic farmers might also consider how well suited those crops would be for something like intercropping or growing a legume in with the wheats.

They would also want varieties that are able to form associations with soil fungi and able to pick up soil nutrients that might be in lower levels.

We do know that wheat varieties differ between organic and conventional farmers do choose different wheat varieties.

There’s no specific varieties that I would say are very popular with the organic sector.

We do know from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, their variety market share report from 2010 showed that the top three wheat varieties for organic cropping systems were Somerset, AC Cadillac  and AC Domain and those varieties had a very low level of market share in conventional farming systems.

So we do know that the varieties that are most popular in conventional farming systems are generally not the varieties that are most popular in organic farming systems.

Kirk notes some of the top conventional wheat varieties tested under organic cropping systems have not performed well, mainly because they weren’t able to compete against weeds.

For UniversityNews.Org, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

*University News is a presentation of the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences

This post first appeared in the February 22, 2011 edition of University News, a presentation of the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences, to learn more click here.