8 March 2002

More organic varieties

ORGANIC growers are limited to a small number of maize and fodder crop varieties.

But this is destined to change as seed breeders, in conjunction with the Soil Association, work to increase volume and available varieties.

According to SA technical officer Tasmin Brown there are 19 organic varieties of perennial ryegrass and 13 varieties of cereals. "Growers have to ensure organic seed is used where available. But only three varieties of organically produced maize (Symphony, Goldoli and Justina), a fodder radish (Toro) and a fodder swede (Magres) are available to growers," she says.

Although there is a derogation to use conventional varieties on justifiable agronomic grounds, growers are encouraged to use some organic varieties, says SA head of agriculture Phil Stocker.

"NIAB organic trials for cereals and grass will hopefully be extended to other crops, such as maize, given time, money and interest. But variety advice is available from the SA."

But the derogation will be lifted at the end of 2003. "Over the past three years, out-dated varieties have been reviewed, which have good stalk length, ground cover for weed suppression and resistance to disease. The aim is to develop a broad range of organic varieties and ensure seed volumes are available," adds Mr Stocker. &#42