The overarching goal of this NIFA OREI funded research project is to strengthen local and regional organic food systems by increasing our ability to use organic management, on-farm selection and testing, and participatory networks to improve organic maize that will satisfy consumer preferences and create new markets for farmers.

The project builds on ongoing collaborations to link multidisciplinary research to support targeted crop adaptation efforts for organic systems in the Midwest.  We are developing a farmer-researcher-consumer participatory network to draw upon local knowledge and producer values, trait preferences from end-users (such as high amylose corn, high methionine corn, non – GMO corn), and scientific insight provided by researchers. Using this strategy, we can develop new varieties by helping identify potentially high-value lines that can be used to target local adaptation (Ceccarelli and Grando, 2009), develop useful criteria for evaluation, and also by creating the links necessary for future breeding efforts.

Project Objectives

Participatory Testing and Breeding Program

Establish a farmer- researcher-end-user network that identifies priorities and traits to advance production of specialty grains; develop protocols for testing of diverse genetic materials that meet the needs of organic production systems; and identify information and data sharing mechanisms that support client-oriented product development.


Conduct a maize-based case study that includes on-farm testing and replicated studies to enhance our understanding of how management and site-specific factors influence crop fitness and grain quality, and how plant-soil interactions influence crop performance, nitrogen use efficiency, and weed competitiveness.

Education Network

Determine and communicate how organizational structures and sharing and intellectual property agreements can promote networks that support client-oriented breeding programs, enhance the quality and quantity of our organic seed supply, and increase opportunities for production, supply, and distribution of organic products.