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Extension Tips for Organic Grains Producers

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Are you an organic grain farmer or thinking of becoming one?  Or maybe you’re wondering about strategies for improving soil quality or using less pesticide?  If so, then you could benefit from research and outreach conducted by staff at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory (SASL) at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, MD.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has funded two projects through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) that are helping ARS-SASL reach organic producers.  Both projects are setting a high standard for extension activities.

Agricultural Research Service-Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory post-doc, side-dressing corn with pelletized poultry litter.  USDA photo

Agricultural Research Service-Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory post-doc, side-dressing corn with pelletized poultry litter. USDA photo

Michel Cavigelli, ARS-SASL, leads a project investigating soil nutrient management in grain cropping systems.  The on-farm portion will help growers combine legume cover crops and poultry litter to balance nitrogen and phosphorus levels while improving soil and water quality. Mary Barbercheck, Pennsylvania State University, leads a project collaborating with Steven Mirsky, ARS-SASL, to explore weed and insect management in reduced tillage organic cropping systems.  Through cooperative efforts between several staff at ARS-SASL, funds from these two projects have been used in concert to offer multiple Extension and outreach opportunities.

  • Seventy-five farmers and advisors toured on-farm plots to learn about nutrients, cover crops, weeds, and pests at the Sustainable Farming Twilight Meeting.  Cooperators included, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Soil Conservation Districts.
  • The 2012 Maryland Organic Grain, Forage, and Vegetable Production Workshop was jointly hosted with Extension and attended by 125 people. Topics included nutrient management, organic variety trials, transitioning to organic, invasive pests, and crop insurance.
  • A new Grain Systems Community of Practice is being developed for the eOrganic website.  ARS has produced two webinars and additional articles, video and webinars are on the way.
  • Several extension activities held in Pennsylvania focused on pests and beneficial insects, organic no-till research, soil health, and other topics.  The Reduced-tillage Organic Systems Experiment (ROSE) project at PSU also publishes a newsletter with updates on their research that is helpful for organic producers.

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