Field lab - Seed variety

There has been a gradual decline in range and quality of Open Pollinated (OP) vegetable varieties as the focus of most new breeding work is on F1 varieties. For many growers, OPs offer more resilience, and the ability to save your own seed, leaving them less at the mercy of variety availability and increasing seed prices.


This field lab has been designed to take some of the OP varieties available to non-organic growers and trial them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent year.

The trials (and choice of vegetables included in them) have come out of two previous meetings, one at Garden Organic's Ryton Gardens in 2012 and a session at the Organic Research Centre's 2013 conference. For a full list of varieties being tested please contact

The immediate aim of these field labs is to get a good assessment and evaluation of varieties for organic, biodynamic and other low input systems over the 2013 growing season.

Longer term some growers are interested in improving their skills at seed saving and even breeding new strains.

We are very grateful to Real Seeds, Moles and Kings for their very generous donation of seed for the trials.


The growers taking part in this field lab will be posting blogs and uploading data and photos on their progress. Take a look at the blogs and get involved by submitting your comments and questions here.


There are 22 trial sites in total - please click on the image below for details. As you'll see, there are a couple of growers in Ireland taking part in the trials and we're hoping to run an event in the Autumn with them. We will be collating results and photos from all of the participating growers during the season.


The field lab will be looking at brussel sprouts, early tomatoes, carrots, leeks and parsnips. Among the common characteristics studied will be:

  • Standing ability
  • Ease of picking
  • Vigour
  • Taste
  • Resistance to pests and disease

Read more detail and background about trialling open pollinated seed varieties [pdf, 301 kb]


Latest blog

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 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 9

Supported by...

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Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation Open Pollinated Seeds

Moles Seeds The Real Seed Catalogue