To gather in Madison student are organic seed enthusiasts.

The organics segment remains a lonely field for future plant breeders, Because of organic foods are popular among consumers. Irwin Goldman, professor and chair of the UW-Madison horticulture department explains, "The conventional seed industry is very well stocked, and there's a pipeline of students that go into the industry. But the organic seed industry is small and it's just developing,"

At many of the universities that offer graduate programs in plant breeding, for instance, there are only a handful of students focused on developing better fruit, vegetable and field crop varieties for organic farming systems. The first symposium brought 20 students from around the nation to rural Vermont to hear from organic-focused plant breeders and seed company owners while touring farms and seed company fields and facilities. It was a big success.

To gather this group of widely dispersed young scientists and build a national organic seed community, UW-Madison graduate students helped establish the Student Organic Seed Symposium (SOSS) in 2012. About 32 graduate students have signed up to attend the event, which runs Aug. 9-12. Symposium organizers are also hosting two public events, an Organic Seed School and a Science Café.

Whaley Seed Company, which focuses on local and regional markets. They will also participate in an interactive chef-breeder workshop where local chefs will prepare vegetable varieties bred by SOSS attendees, and then the group will discuss what chefs want in new crop varieties and how the upcoming generation of plant breeders can best serve regional culinary communities.

One of the public events affiliated with the symposium is an Organic Seed School, set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 9, which will provide attendees with hands-on experience in breeding organic seeds. A $20 registration fee covers practical instruction, tours of breeding plots, updates from seed company representatives and time for informal discussion. This event takes place at the West Madison station.

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