fair report: Biofach 2020

Varieties from organic breeding – more varieties with increasing demand

A wide variety of organic seeds at the Organic Breeding Hub at BIOFACH 2020

For the third time, Bioverita took the topic of organic seed breeding to BIOFACH trade visitors. On 150 m2, producers and traders were able to gather information across twelve thematic tables. Many visitors took advantage of the opportunity to talk to breeders and market partners directly about the growing range of special varieties for organic farming.

The growing range and quality of organic varieties of vegetables, potatoes, apples as well as cereals was well received by visitors. For example, the four potato varieties from Ellenberg’s Kartoffelvielfalt GbR Red Emmalie, Violetta, Heiderot and Blue Anneliese attracted a lot of attention due to their intense color. A good opportunity for those interested in getting in touch with the breeder Karsten Ellenberg about his own experiences in potato cultivation.

Photo: M. Büttner
Potato breeder Karsten Ellenberg. Photo: M. Büttner

At the stand of our health food trading partners Bodan, Bio Tropic, Grell, NK-West, Rinklin and Terra, visitors were able to compare the flavors of different varieties of carrots, while the “Enrico” kohlrabi variety grown from seeds from Sativa Reinau AG was on show in planters. Interested parties were also allowed to take home seeds of the Ricca tomato variety, which Tobias Mayr from ReinSaat KG and others appreciate for their long shelf-life. He also enthusiastically recommended the chard variety “Tre Colori”, which has leaves in three colors from bright green to purple-red, suitable for both direct marketing and the home growers. Once this variety has been approved, it is planned to also submit this new breed to bioverita for recognition.

ReinSaat woman power. Vegetable grower Reinhild Frech-Emmelmann (right) together with an employee. Photo: M. Büttner

Organic varieties score with good characteristics

Demands on new varieties from organic breeding are high because the various needs of growers, dealers and consumers have to be satisfied at the same time. Varieties from organic breeding must show natural resilience, since no pesticides may be used in organic cultivation. Adequate yield must be guaranteed even without chemical fertilizers. In addition, the products have to be optimally transportable and storable – and ultimately of course find favor with the consumer through their taste and palatability. More and more varieties from organic breeding now meet these requirements. In addition, they represent pure lines and are therefore reproducible and exclude genetic manipulation.

The range of varieties and the use of varieties from organic breeding must be further strengthened

Contrary to popular belief, only a small proportion of all organic food that is sold is based on varieties from organic breeding. Nevertheless – the demand for such varieties is growing. “In the first weeks of the new year we had significantly more orders than usual,” says Samuel Brackmann from Bingenheimer Saatgut AG. And as orders increase, so does the interest in new organic varieties. While there is already a respectable range of varieties from organic breeding for vegetables and cereals, the registration of apple varieties is still pending. Niklaus Bolliger, head of apple breeding at Poma Culta, was optimistic about bringing several varieties to market maturity in the coming years and registering them for approval. “The challenge is to chart a route through the spaghetti junction that is the registration process and to raise the necessary financial resources,” he said. This is where the exchange with other breeders under the bioverita umbrella and the financial support from the seed fund come into play.

Potato farmer Karsten Ellenberg is a few steps further along. He was visibly happy to have just registered his fifth organic potato variety from his own breeding program, Heidemarie, with the Plant Variety Office. Glancing at his colorful potatoes, he added: “Nature is almost perfect and beautiful, we just have to use it properly.”

Justine Lipke.

Apple breeder Niklaus Bolliger. Photo: M. Büttner
Photo: M. Büttner