Enhancing Seed Health for Organic Vegetable Production Systems: Challenges and Opportunities

  •  Leopold M. Nyochembeng    


Organic vegetable production is a rapidly expanding segment within the fast growing organic sector of agricultural production. Although pests and diseases remain a challenge in organic production, the growth and expansion of this system is dependent on sustained use of good quality organic seed. Due to the limited supply of organic seed, the National Organic Program (NOP) allows the use of untreated conventional seed in organic production of vegetables and other crops. Conventional seed derives from a high input production system using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They also offer many varieties and are readily available at a much lower price compared to organic seed. Organic systems demand cultivars with different characteristics often absent in conventional cultivars, and this need begins with the seed. It is not common practice for farmers to test or sanitize seed before planting. Consequently, the use of such conventional seeds, which may not be well adapted to the low input organic production system, could favor disease susceptibility, establishment of seedborne pathogens especially in vegetables and their subsequent dissemination in the organic production system. Our overall goal is to improve organic vegetable crop health and production in the southeastern U.S. through application of sustainable seed health management and help limit seed borne infections, transmission and dissemination in organic vegetable production fields.

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