Seed variety trials are off to a great start!
Tolhurst Organic Produce - 24 May 2013
The seed variety trials at Tolhurst Organic Produce are well under way and are looking great! Different varieties of Brussels sprouts, leek and tomatoes are being compared and tested on their suitability for organic production in the UK and seed-saving.
The Brussels sprout varieties Evesham Special (Kings seeds), Sanda and Roodnerf (Real seeds) as well as the holdings’ usual varieties F1 hybrids Nordic and Doric were sown into trays at the end of April, using self-produced woodchip compost as propagation material. So far, the hybrids, and especially Doric show faster and more vigorous growth, whereas the other three varieties grow a bit more compact and hardy, which can be seen in the photos below. The trays were placed outside yesterday to make them hardy and adapted to our cold spring weather. Tolly says: “They are far too healthy now; only once they look tired and a bit yellow, they are ready to be planted out in the field.” He reckons it will take them around two to three weeks to get there...
Also in the end of April, the leek varieties Northern Lights, Winter Giant 3 and Toledo (Moles seeds), as well as Long de Mezieres, Husky, Hannibal and Bandit were directly sown in rows in the Tunnel; at around 100 seeds per meter. The two examples below show that already some differences among the varieties can be noticed and the plants will be scored a second time before planting out in the field. This is planned around the third week of June.
The tomato varieties were sown on two different dates, the holdings’ usual varieties in mid-February, which were planted into the tunnel in April; and the trial varieties were sown in the end of March. Here, the varieties Tangerine, Stipice and Galina (Real seeds) as well as Yellow Submarine and F1 Diplom are being compared.
With the dark clouds and rough gusts blowing in my face as I left the holding yesterday, I can only say now let’s hope for a bit of warmth and light from above!
Iain Tolhurst, along with his business partner Lin, have held the organic symbol for over 30 years, thus making Tolhurst Organic Produce one of the longest running organic vegetable farms in England and was the first to attain the 'Stockfree Organic' symbol in 2004, and has had no grazing animals and no animal inputs to any part of the farm for the last 10 years. The farm supplies in-season organic vegetables and fruit delivered to the neighbourhood weekly, via a neighbourhood rep's scheme. Almost all vegetables are harvested on the day of delivery to guarantee their freshness.
The seed variety field lab is looking into Open Pollinated (OP) seed varieties available to non-organic growers and trialling them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent years. The field lab is part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme which is aiming to improve productivity, quality and environmental performance in organic and low-input agriculture.