Open Source Carrots

Graduate student final project report submitted to The Ceres Trust.

Project Leader: Claire Luby, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Horticulture

Major Advisor: Dr. Irwin L. Goldman· University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Horticulture · 1575 Linden Dr., Madison, WI, 53706

Collaborators: Steve Pincus and Beth Kazmar, Tipi Organic Produce

Ceres Trust Funding Awarded: $10,000
Project Period: 2014-2015
Report Submitted: February, 2016


With the increase in proprietary protection for crop plants, the exchange of germplasm that will be necessary to develop new cultivars that can feed a growing population, perform under organic and low-input conditions, and are resilient in the face of a changing climate is threatened. Genotypes we use today are continually being selected for adaptation to new pests and changing environmental conditions. These successes are directly related to the ability of farmers and plant breeders to access diverse plant genetic resources. We are currently experiencing a dramatic transition in how plant germplasm is distributed, developed, and released; from a freely available resource, primarily in the public sector, into proprietary structures managed largely by the private sector. Farmers need access to a wide variety of cultivars that suit diverse environments and that appeal to their customers. Using carrot as a model crop, this project examined germplasm diversity and the associated intellectual property rights to determine how these forces impact farmers and plant breeders’ access to and sharing of germplasm. Using commercially available carrot cultivars that had freedom to operate for plant breeding, we developed eight diverse composite populations under organic production conditions that comprise the Wisconsin Open Source Composite (WI-OSC) collection: ‘WI-OSC Nantes’, ‘WI-OSC Danvers’, ‘WI-OSC Chantenay’, ‘WI-OSC Ball’, ‘WI-OSC Yellow’, ‘WI-OSC White’, ‘WI-OSC Red’, and ‘WI-OSC Purple’. These populations are intended to encompass some of the diversity available in commercially available carrots. In order to ensure that the diversity in these populations remains available into the future, they are being released through the University of Wisconsin-Madison carrot breeding program with the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) Pledge, which reads: “You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents orother means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives (”