Established over five years ago, OCA’s Seed Programme has had one central mission—to ensure farmers have access to a wide range of non-genetically modified organic cottonseed. We do this by supporting the development and production of locally adapted organic cotton seed in India, and, most recently, in Pakistan. 2022 welcomed the release of two new cultivars developed specifically for organic agriculture. We have also launched our Seed Trial Network and strengthened our Seed Producer Partnerships. Seeds are at the root of all agricultural value chains. These developments bring us one step closer to safeguarding the integrity of organic cotton at its very source- an essential step for improving the farmer’s business case for organic and scaling organic cotton production worldwide.
Since 2017, OCA has supported the Seeding the Green Future project led by our long-term research partner FiBL. This program’s participatory plant breeding approach has developed 12 non-GM cotton varieties tailored for organic agriculture. In 2022, we could celebrate a real milestone with two out of the twelve varieties being officially approved by the State Seed Sub-Committee of Madhya Pradesh, India’s largest organic cotton-growing state. These varieties are now available to organic cotton farming communities, a boon for organic cotton and in-conversion farmers who need reliable and resilient seeds.
“The launch of the two new seed varieties answers the demand of organic cotton farmers to have a choice of non-GM seed to suit their geographic position with proven performance. OCA has been one of the partners that supported us in this journey over the years. We believe these varieties will improve agrobiodiversity and the smallholder farmers livelihoods without having negatively impacting productivity, profitability, and quality of their cotton.”
In 2022, OCA launched a Seed Trial Network involving our Farm Partners in India and Pakistan, who engaged in the collaborative trialling of different seed varieties on farmers’ fields. The resulting insight and data on the performance of different seed varieties under organic farming conditions were shared across the Network. They will help our Farm and Implementing Partners select the right seed cultivars to distribute. This information will also further incentivize breeders and seed producers to develop locally adapted seed.
In the long term, OCA’s Seed Trial Network will help broaden the diversity of cultivars used on-farm—including indigenous cotton species more resilient to drought and pests. Thus, we can achieve a cotton sector that is both future and climate-proof. We plan to launch the first Organic Seed Performance Database in 2023, which will be available to our Implementation Partners and partnering seed producers. Based on over 4 years of data collection through more than 300 trials conducted in research stations and farmers’ fields, it is another critical tool in facilitating seed procurement decisions and equipping farmers with the best available seed varieties.
All supply chain stakeholders must keep up with the rapidly growing demand for organic cotton. As seed is the starting point of the cotton value chain, seed producers play a crucial role. We know that our goal of enhancing seed availability can only be achieved by bringing all the players of the sector together. We formalised long-term partnerships with four seed producers in 2022, MARI Organics India, Paras Genetech, Parshv Genetics India and Partech Seeds.
They have joined OCA to invest in developing and producing quality organic cottonseed to supply to our farm partners community. In 2022, we supported them in their journey towards GMO-free and organic seed production while providing them with product feedback from our partnering farm groups through our Seed Trial Network.
It is our hope that more companies willing to invest in improving the availability and diversity of reliable organic cottonseed will join our platform!