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Field lab: 2013 seed trials overview

Kate Collyns: It's official: seeds can be sexy, ok? As well as their various shapes, colours and textures, it's what they represent in terms of actual food and produce that catches the interest; not to mention what seeds represent when it comes to food sovereignty - owning the ability to reproduce food, not just the food itself. I took part in the Duchy Originals Field Lab seed trials in 2013 because I always like trying out new varieties; but also because it's becoming increasingly clear that specially bred hybrid seeds are becoming more unaffordable for smaller growers (although buying groups can help) and seed can't be saved from the resultant crop; while cheaper open-pollinated seeds may not be as well maintained as they should because there is no money in it.

19 February 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 6

Using a chainsaw to crack a nut - part 2

Ben Raskin: What's the latest on the EU seed directive? Any hope that the EU Parliament might improve the bill seems unlikely. In particular the microbusiness exemptions have been totally removed with both committees apparently obsessed by linking commercial activity (however small) to control of variety, rather than the eventual market.

28 November 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 5

Low Stanger Seeds Trial - Final Update

Low Stanger Farm: Our seed trials are drawing to a close, although we are still harvesting the trial carrots, and have yet to harvest any of the sprouts. The tomatoes are almost over, unusually we have not yet had a killing frost. The chocolate cherry have proved to be a late producing tomato, and are still ripening. Personally, I find the colour, while delightfully chocolatey, a little offputting! However, it does have some merit as a late cropper.

21 October 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 3

Update from Skye Grove Organics

Skye Grove Organics: Tomatoes were grown in polytunnels, horse manure and comfrey and hand watered. Galina has proved to be a robust strong tomato with energy enough to support several leaders, I have trained up to 3 or 4 leaders off each plant.

30 September 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Tomatoes update

Kate Collyns: Since the tomatoes are really peaking now, it's interesting to compare how the trial varieties are performing. While it's been a good year for tomatoes (touch wood), and all varieties have been producing pretty well, I've tried out some varieties that I'll not grow again next year, and found some new ones that I will. Here are some thoughts so far...

04 September 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 6

Trill Farm seed variety field lab update

Trill Farm: Parsnips - Varieties sown are Student, Imperial Crown, Hollow Crown and the control is Tender and True. On the first visit on 21 May the parsnips were only just beginning to show.

03 September 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 5

Community Farm field lab - second visit

The Community Farm: The Parsnip trial, sown 9 April, was overrun with weeds due to delays in field operations caused by the early cold weather and then the sudden change to warm dry conditions, leading to difficult choices having to be made about priority jobs. The varieties planted were Student and Imperial Crown. Control varieties are Tender & True and Pixie. No comparisons were possible and it was uncertain whether the crops could be rescued.

28 August 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

Low Stanger seed trial update

Low Stanger Farm: Reasonable growing conditions have continued through August, although a couple of cool, wet and windy weeks did hold back growth of marketable crops, while creating the usual late season rash of weed seed germination!

28 August 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

Tomato update

Kate Collyns: ...and we have a winner in the First To Fruit Stakes: Stupice! These plants started showing ripe red fruit on Monday, and have given a kilo or so of medium round tomatoes since then; closely followed by one lone ripe Gardener's Delight tomato today (Friday), then Tigerella and Golden Queen, Galina & Jen's Tangerine. The Stupice plants did look particularly stressed confined in their pots before planting out though, so it will be interesting to see if their early fruits come at the expense of total yield.

26 July 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

Community Farm trials

The Community Farm: The trial site of the Community Farm at Chew Magna near Bristol is in the foot hills of the Mendips on a beautiful if somewhat exposed site overlooking Chew Valley Lake. Much of the produce grown is shared out to stakeholders and members, but there is also a large healthy wholesale side to the business which supplies several box schemes and large established outlets such as The Better Food Company set up by Phil Houghton.

16 July 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Leek trial update

Kate Collyns: Hurrah, I managed to dig up all my leeks from the polytunnel and transplant them outside last Thursday and Friday. There were nine rows of leeks altogether, each row about 15m long: 3 x Bandit, 3 x Hannibal, 1 x Axima, 1 x Zermatt, and 1 x trial variety Long de Mézières. The size of the transplants varied slightly, as was the number of plants per row.

08 July 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

Trial tomatoes and leeks update

Kate Collyns: So I've finally remembered to note down how many of each trial variety of tomato I planted at the beginning of the month. Jens Tangerine: 13 plants. Galina: 15 plants. Stupice: 15 plants. Chocolate cherry: 2 plants. Then the following from my usual varieties, to compare to the trialists: Tigerella: 27 plants (the best germination). Gardener's Delight: 7 plants (I already have a lot of these already growing outside the trial). Golden Queen: 15 plants. Black Cherry: 6 plants. Overall, the number of plants put in reflects the level of germination, other than as mentioned above. So Chocolate Cherry's germination was not great.

14 June 2013 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 1

Trial tomato update

Kate Collyns: I finally planted out the trial tomatoes last weekend (quite late I know, partly caused by broken rotovator - don't ask); and they've been settling in this week in the lovely sun. The Stupice tomatoes look the most cross at the moment, probably because they were the most advanced; their leaves were turning yellow, and they'd started to flower in their pots. This could be because they are an earlier tomato, so had got a head start over the other.

07 June 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 1

Starting seed trials at Grown Green

Kate Collyns: As organic growers, we're usually excited and keen to try new things; and trialling seed varieties seems an especially useful and productive thing to do at the moment, given the hoo-ha recently over the EU's proposals to ban all non-registered seed varieties. Plus although I've only been growing here at Grown Green @ Hartley Farm for a couple of years (before that I was an apprentice at Purton House Organics), I've found myself sticking to some tried and tested varieties. Well, you would, wouldn't you? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

03 June 2013 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 3

Trill Farm seed field lab in leafy Devon

Trill Farm: My first visit was on Tuesday 21 May to record the progress of seed varieties, donated by various vegetable seed breeders. The trial is managed by Ashley and Kate Wheeler at Trill Farm near Axminster Devon. Ash and Kate are running their own business within a larger 300 acre organic farm on a level site of yellow clay loam incorporating several multi-span poly tunnels. Their main crops are salads intended to local restaurants and shops, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Café in Axminster.

31 May 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 6

First results from the Daylesford field labs

Daylesford Organic Farm: Daylesford are growing more than 20 varieties of heritage and open pollinated tomatoes as well as some more modern hybrids. There have been a number of sowings with different varieties featured in each, these will be available in the final report but this post will concentrate on the trial varieties.

30 May 2013 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 0

Seed variety trials are off to a great start!

Tolhurst Organic Produce: 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.

24 May 2013 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 5

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