As MOTHER EARTH NEWS reported in its recent article about sourcing high-quality garden seeds (How to Source Truly High-Quality Seeds, December 2014/January 2015), choosing seeds bred for organic systems is one key to successful organic growing. The Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) works to promote organic seed breeding, and it also participates in breeding projects of its own.
Most recently, OSA teamed up with Martin Diffley, an organic farmer in Minnesota, to develop a new, open-pollinated sweet corn variety named ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ The breeding project started in 2007, when Diffley went in search of a vigorous, organic sweet corn variety with tolerance to cool, wet soils.
By 2008, he’d embarked on a participatory seed-breeding project with OSA and breeder Bill Tracy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to produce a new variety that had these traits. By 2014, the breeders were happy with the result and ready to offer seed to other growers. ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ has vigor, great flavor, sweetness, standability (resistance to lodging, or the stalks toppling over), good germination in cold soils, resistance to common rust and corn smut, and solid yields of large ears with bicolored (white and yellow) kernels.
Seed is available from High Mowing Organic Seeds and, in concert with OSA’s values and mission, it’s open-source, meaning the original breeders encourage farmers and gardeners to save seed from this variety and adapt it to their own growing conditions. This is especially welcome news, because almost all modern sweet corns are hybrids, meaning their seeds can’t be saved. ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ is just the first in a series of open-pollinated sweet corn varieties being created in this collaborative breeding effort.