Press Release

Research Advances Cucumber Lines Resistant to Bacterial Wilt and Downy Mildew

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Edmund Frost, John Kimes and Dr. Sanjun Gu at the North Carolina A&T Trial

January 14, 2021—In 2018, OFRF provided a grant to Edmund Frost of Common Wealth Seed Growers to assess resistance to both bacterial wilt and cucurbit downy mildew among selected cucumber and muskmelon seedstocks. Frost’s cucumber breeding lines showed good potential for resistance or tolerance to both diseases during these trials, and OFRF provided a second grant in 2019 to continue this promising research.

Cucurbit downy mildew and bacterial wilt not only limit organic cucumber production in the Eastern U.S., but also seriously impact conventional growers. Downy mildew is caused by a fungus-like organism called an oomycete that overwinters in tropical and subtropical areas. The spores blow north on the wind each year, causing serious damage to cucumber and other cucurbit family foliage. Bacterial wilt (BW) is a disease that is transmitted by cucumber beetles, an insect native to North America. The disease starts at the leaves and travels through vines, eventually destroying plants.

Frost has found that the levels of resistance vary significantly between varieties of cucumber. Selecting and screening for resistance has become an important element of his cucumber breeding work. The project included a bacterial wilt trial, late-planted downy mildew-focused breeding trials for both pickler and slicer lines, and collaboration with both university and farmer researchers on downy mildew-focused variety trials.

Overall, the feedback from farmers participating in the 2019 trials was positive. Results are included in Frost’s final report, which is now available to view here.

Outreach is an important component of Frost’s research. He uses field days and speaking engagements to share project results with vegetable farmers. You can learn more about his research and varieties at Common Wealth Seed Growers.

Since its founding in 1990, OFRF has awarded 355 grants to organic researchers and farmers, investing over $3M. All OFRF-funded research must involve farmers or ranchers in project design and implementation, take place on certified organic land, and include strong education and outreach components. All research results are freely available in our online database.

 

By |2021-01-15T18:08:07+00:00January 15th, 2021|News, Press Release|

New OFRF Grant Explores Best Practices for Virtual Peer-to-Peer Farmer Learning

December 17, 2020—In our national surveys of organic producers, we often hear from farmers that they consider peers to be the best source of information and guidance. In-person events such as farmer conferences also rate high on the learning scale. Unfortunately, the challenges of this year have severely restricted these opportunities. And, even in active organic communities, some farmers lack access to these networks due to cultural, language, and other differences. Virtual peer learning programs can offer a solution by providing networking opportunities among farmers, both during the immediate crisis and on an ongoing basis.

To increase understanding of how virtual peer-to-peer learning can help more farmers increase their knowledge and improve their practices, OFRF has awarded a grant to Sarah Brown at Oregon Tilth. Unlike traditional distance learning such as online courses and instructional webinars, these programs are explicitly designed to use web technology for the reciprocal sharing of knowledge, ideas, and experience among practitioners. The research team is focused on improving the design and delivery of virtual peer learning programs that support organic farmers to strengthen their economic viability and ecological sustainability—with the ultimate goal of helping more farmers start and succeed in organic farming.

Visit our research grant database for more information on this project. All results will be shared freely upon submission of Brown’s final report.

This announcement marks the last of 13 grants OFRF awarded this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. View a summary of our grant announcements here.

As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free in our online database.

Organic Farming Research Foundation
OFRF is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production. Overall, OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the practices, ecological sustainability, and economic prosperity of organic farming. All project results are shared freely. OFRF also provides free access to its educational materials and resources.

 

By |2020-12-17T20:44:56+00:00December 17th, 2020|News, Press Release|

OFRF and FFAR Fund Research on Enhancing Nutrition of Organic Potatoes While Building Healthy Soils

November 30, 2020 – Weed management, soil health, and the nutritional quality of foods grown organically continue to be high priority research topics for organic producers. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR)  awarded a grant to Dr. Inna Popova at the University of Idaho to examine effective weed management strategies that promote healthy soils and nutritious potatoes.

Mustard seed meal, a byproduct resulting from crushing mustard seeds to provide oil, is an effective tool for controlling more than a dozen problematic weeds that damage crops by consuming necessary nutrients. Utilization of mustard seed meal on-farm has been challenging due to the high quantities needed to be effective as a biopesticide, resulting in excessive nitrogen levels. Too much nitrogen deters the growth and water efficiency of crops.

University of Idaho researchers developed an extract from white mustard seal meal that contains high concentrations of the biopesticide compound, allowing for reduced application rates and avoiding nitrogen overload. Dr. Popova and her team are evaluating the efficacy of mustard seed meal extract (MSME) on inhibiting weed seed germination (pre-emergent) and killing aboveground weed growth (post-emergent) while also determining the influence of MSME application on the soil microbiome in the field. Additional objectives include evaluating the influence of MSME on the nutritional quality of potatoes and assessing the efficacy of MSME to act as a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide against common annual broadleaf and grass weed species under greenhouse conditions.

These objectives will be tested through field experiments on certified organic farms and in greenhouse experiments. Laboratory analyses will be conducted to assess soil properties, microbiological function, and nutritional quality. The expected outcomes of the research include increased knowledge of the efficacy of MSME as a bioherbicide; adoption of MSME by organic and non-organic farmers as a weed management strategy; and positive environmental, economic, health, and social impacts to farmers and surrounding communities.

“Weed management is one of the biggest soil health challenges for organic farmers, especially in annual crops,” explained Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “This research will add to the body of sound, science-based information on weed management strategies that do not undermine efforts to optimize soil health and fertility.”

“At FFAR, we are committed to funding bold science that has big impact. We are proud to fund this research that has the potential to improve the nutritional quality of potatoes while promoting healthy soil practices,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “This research supports thriving farms while building sound soil health practices from the ground-up.”

This grant is one of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free in our online database.

Organic Farming Research Foundation
OFRF is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production. Overall, OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the practices, ecological sustainability, and economic prosperity of organic farming. All project results are shared freely. OFRF also provides free access to its educational materials and resources.

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment. Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

By |2020-12-01T21:12:50+00:00December 1st, 2020|News, Press Release|

Webinar: Reducing Production Risks through Organic Soil Health Practices for the South

November 20, 2020 – Organic producers in the South face tremendous challenges from weeds, pests, diseases, increasing weather extremes, and rising production costs. This webinar explores the potential of soil restoration and improvement to reduce these risks, stabilize yields, and build resilience. We will focus on three key soil health issues: cover cropping for plant-available nutrients and moisture, reducing tillage intensity, and frugal use of nutrient-bearing amendments. The webinar will be presented by Mark Schonbeck, and Emily Oakley of Three Springs Farm in Oklahoma will be online to answer questions.

January 13th, 11AM PST
Free and open to the public. Advance registration required.

Register here

Mark Schonbeck is a Research Associate at OFRF. He has worked for 31 years as a researcher, consultant, and educator in sustainable and organic agriculture. He has participated in on-farm research into mulching, cover crops, minimum tillage, and nutrient management for organic vegetables. For many years, he has written for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter and served as their policy liaison to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He has also participated in research projects to analyze, evaluate, and improve federally funded organic and sustainable agriculture programs. In addition, Mark offers individual consulting in soil test interpretation, soil quality and nutrient management, crop rotation, cover cropping, and weed management.

Emily Oakley co-owns and operates Three Springs Farm, a diversified, certified-organic vegetable farm in eastern Oklahoma. With her partner Mike, she cultivates over forty different crops and more than 150 individual varieties on three acres of land. Their goal is to maintain a two-person operation that demonstrates the economic viability of small-scale farming.

 

By |2020-12-01T21:18:07+00:00November 20th, 2020|News, Press Release|

The election is over, but the work starts now

November 17, 2020 – With a new administration moving into the White House, it is more important than ever to make organic voices heard. OFRF has delivered a transition letter to the Biden-Harris Administration with a list of action steps they can take immediately to increase support of organic agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We have developed a set of concrete policy recommendations for Congress and are meeting with USDA to ensure our research recommendations are prioritized.

The election is over, but the work starts now.

Organic agriculture must be part of the climate solution.

Through regenerative organic practices that build soil health, farmers can more easily weather the storms and extreme temperatures that have become our new normal. Together, practices such as cover cropping, crop rotations, and conservation tillage work with nature to build healthy soil and help mitigate climate change by capturing and storing more carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is critical for federal policies to support producers adopting these practices and promote the expansion of organic acres.

What we are doing

OFRF has spent the last five months working closely with partner organizations to align on key priorities and strategies, writing public comments and extensive blog posts, strengthening our coalitions, and developing research and policy recommendations in preparation for the first 100 days of the next Administration, future climate bills, and the 2023 Farm Bill.

We are investing more resources into funding on-farm research to foster climate mitigation and adaptation, developing grower education resources to support the adoption of best soil health practices, and advancing our four-part policy platform to ensure that any federal level climate policy includes support for organic farmers and ranchers as critical partners in our climate change mitigation efforts.

To enhance regenerative organic agriculture’s potential to address the climate crisis, Congress needs to:

  • Increase investments in organic agriculture research.

  • Remove barriers and strengthen support for organic systems.

  • Promote the widespread adoption of organic agriculture through technical assistance and financial incentives.

  • Expand research to advance our understanding of organic farming practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience, as well as identifying barriers to adoption.

OFRF encourages the Administration and legislators to ensure sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table as climate policy discussions continue to develop. We encourage Congress to use the Agriculture Resilience Act (HR 5861) as a roadmap for comprehensive policy proposals that expand and improve existing USDA programs so agriculture can fulfill its climate mitigating potential and be part of the solution.

What YOU can do

  • Buy organic! The best way to build momentum and show policy makers that organic farming matters is by building demand.

  • Now is the time to learn more about these issues by reading the latest blog posts and exploring our climate advocacy toolkit.

  • We hope with your newfound knowledge you will share this information with your community on social media and around the dinner table.

  • Learn more about how your Members of Congress normally vote on issues of climate change and agriculture. Find out who represents you in Congress by searching a database by your zip code or state. OFRF will share opportunities to get engaged with policy makers and make your voice heard.
  • Donate to OFRF and other organizations who are working tirelessly on these efforts. We can’t do this work without your support so we encourage you to give what you can today to ensure 2021 is the year we begin to curb climate change and better support organic farmers.
By |2020-11-17T18:15:14+00:00November 17th, 2020|News, Press Release|

Managing Organic Fertility on Diversified Organic Farms

Farmer Spotlight #1, on the benefits of cover cropping, held in Woodland, CA with organic farmer Jim Durst and researcher Eric Brennan

November 10, 2020 – Building healthy soils is the foundation of successful farm management. However, efficiently managing soil fertility remains a challenge for organic farmers. Determining how much organic fertilizer to apply—and when—is a complicated process: too much can pollute the air and water, and too little limits crop productivity. In Yolo County, CA some organic farmers are reducing their reliance on organic fertilizer inputs by implementing diversification practices such as cover cropping, crop rotations, and intercropping to increase soil health and fertility.

 

These diversification practices add nitrogen to the soil in the form of organic nitrogen, which can then contribute to building soil organic matter. Organic nitrogen sources and soil organic matter must first be broken down by microbes living in the soil for nitrogen to become accessible to plants, in contrast to synthetic fertilizers or certain OMRI fertilizers like guano, which are already mainly available to plants as ammonium or nitrate. At present, it is difficult to quantify the rate at which nitrogen becomes available through the breakdown of organic nitrogen sources and soil organic matter. Most traditional soil tests were developed for conventional systems and measure only the amount of ammonium or nitrate sitting around in soil; they do not capture the dynamic flows of nitrogen released by microbes. As a result, it remains difficult for most organic farmers to determine when and how much nitrogen is available to their crops, especially if they are mainly relying on diversification practices to improve soil health and supply nitrogen.

To address this challenge, OFRF funded a project led by Assistant Professor Tim Bowles and Ansel Klein at the University of California, Berkeley to quantify the flow of nitrogen from soil organic matter to plants on working organic farms. The project team combined experiential knowledge of organic farmers with technical measurements of nitrogen flows in their soils to understand how varying levels of diversification affected the availability of nitrogen. In addition to assessing the extent to which organic farmers in this region rely on organic fertilizers, the researchers wanted to investigate how well traditional soil tests reflect the actual flow of nitrogen on diversified farms. They also aimed to facilitate farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing of diversification practices that promote healthy soils.

By interviewing organic farmers who had already implemented a range of diversification practices, the project team developed a system to rank on-farm diversification for the 13 organic farms that participated in the study. Farmers who participated in this project incorporated varying levels of crop diversification in their fields. Not surprisingly, the level of plant-available nitrogen ranged greatly from farm to farm.

Due to a number of unforeseen challenges associated with the COVID pandemic and wildfires in California, the research team is still in the process of analyzing the nitrogen flow data. The researchers completed preliminary analyses that confirm their methodology works and they plan to use this approach to describe how diversification practices may be linked to how nitrogen moves through organic farms.

So far, the researchers were able to measure plant-available nitrogen directly and preliminary results indicate that some organic farms have low levels of plant-available nitrogen, despite having high levels of crop diversity. One explanation could be that much of the nitrogen in the system is tied up in soil organic matter and therefore is not detectable by traditional soil testing approaches. As the researchers continue to complete nitrogen flow lab analyses, they hope to shed more light on this finding.

In addition to lab research, Bowles & Klein also collaborated with organic farmers to create a farmer spotlight series where growers shared their insights into how to successfully implement cover crops and the importance of soil microbes for soil health. They are also finishing two podcasts in collaboration with The Farmers Beet, an agricultural podcast hosted by the Community Alliance for Family Farmers. Once data analysis is complete, production will begin on a short, informational video highlighting the outcomes of this project.

Results from the final report can be accessed here.

This article was written by Lauren Snyder, PhD, Education & Research Program Manager, OFRF

 

 

By |2020-11-11T20:17:52+00:00November 10th, 2020|News, Press Release|

Organic Crop & Seed Breeding for Adapting to Climate Change

October 20, 2020 – Most modern crop cultivars have been bred and selected to perform well in conventional farming systems over wide geographic ranges. As a result, organic farmers have relatively few options for purchasing regionally adapted cultivars suited to organic production. When OFRF conducted a national survey of organic producers for their 2016 National Organic Research Agenda, respondents commonly stated the need for increased on-farm plant breeding and variety improvement for organic seeds. In response, OFRF has awarded four new grants to support researcher/farmer collaborations in the areas of crop breeding and organic seed development.

The first grant to Sarah Hargreaves at the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario supports three breeding projects focused on providing best practices for adapting to climate change with vegetable varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the Northeast U.S. By supporting farmer-led breeding efforts for organic production, this project contributes to an emerging but critically under-researched area of vegetable farming. Ultimately, the research team hopes to release three varieties of early ripening, blocky, and flavorful bell peppers: a mass-selected population of red peppers, and uniform populations of red and yellow peppers using progeny lines. They also aim to breed an open pollinated broccoli variety that is heat tolerant and adapted to organic systems, as well as an open pollinated seedless English cucumber with excellent flavor and good yield that is adapted to organic greenhouse conditions.

The second grant to Helen Jensen at Seed Change supports the evaluation of selection methods and efficacy in on-farm breeding of organic wheat and oat varieties. Participatory plant breeding (PPB) is internationally recognized as a methodology that works collaboratively with organic farmers to minimize environmental impacts and adapt to climate change. This project will document how farmer-selectors have contributed to genetic improvement for organic production of wheat and oats and share that information with existing and prospective PPB participants across the country. The researchers hope to improve knowledge of selection practices for all of the stakeholders in the program, as well as improve methodologies and increased adoption of PPB by a broader range of organic farmers.

The third grant was awarded to Carol Deppe at Fertile Valley Seeds to breed disease-resistant heirloom-quality tomatoes, especially those resistant to late blight and a number of other diseases. The project aims to enable the wide distribution of seeds that allow organic farmers and gardeners to easily develop their own heirloom-quality tomato varieties with resistance to common diseases.

The fourth grant to Lee-Ann Hill at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance will look beyond the marketability of heritage grains to explore their impact on soil health, climate adaptivity, weed pressure, and insect pressure through farmer-driven, participatory research. Research data collected from this project will be published in the Heritage Grain Trials Handbook, freely distributed online, and disseminated to grain trialists and interested growers to increase and enhance knowledge about these unique varieties. With this project, the research team expects to increase the availability of 20 unique heritage grain seed varieties.

These grants are four of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free in our online database.


 

By |2020-11-04T17:47:10+00:00November 4th, 2020|News, Press Release|

New Grants Examine Organic Weed and Pest Management Strategies

October 1, 2020 – As part of its mission to provide organic farmers with sound, science-based information on weed and pest management strategies, OFRF has awarded grants to farmer/researcher collaborations at the Georgia Organic Peanut Association and the University of Idaho.

The first grant was awarded to Donn Cooper, an agricultural outreach and education specialist at Cooper Agricultural Services working in collaboration with the Georgia Organic Peanut Association. Cooper and his team will examine the effectiveness of an integrated weed control system in organic peanut production utilizing regular mechanical cultivation and Eugenol, a broad-spectrum herbicide derived from cloves and approved for certified organic production in the commercial formulation known as Weed Slayer. The project will be conducted with four certified organic farmers in Southwest Georgia.

While Georgia is the largest peanut-growing state, producing approximately three billion pounds annually, certified organic production has been impeded by the lack of a comprehensive approach to controlling weeds as well as certified organic processing facilities. The goal of the project is to address the first challenge by creating a weed management system specific to certified organic peanut production that can be replicated by farmers—fostering the expansion of certified organic peanut acres in the Southeast, while developing a value-added revenue stream for new, beginning, and socially disadvantaged producers operating small farms.

The second grant was awarded to Professor Arash Rashed, leader of the Idaho IPM Laboratory at the University of Idaho, to evaluate the efficacy of two biological control agents of wireworms—entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi—in organic production. The research team aims to identify the most effective entomopathogenic treatment against wireworms and successfully establish the biocontrol agent in organic farm soil.

Managing wireworms is a challenge facing organic producers in the Pacific Northwest due to their long-life cycle, subterranean living habitat, and ability to use a wide range of host plants. Although there are a few insecticides available for conventional farming, there is no effective control measure against wireworms in organic production. Focusing on one of the most damaging species in the Pacific Northwest, the sugar beet wireworm, this project will evaluate and compare the efficacy of entomopathogenic nematode and fungi treatments against wireworms in organic vegetable production. Three certified organic farmers are participating in the project. Findings will be communicated through field days and workshops.

These grants are two of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free at ofrf.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-07T21:28:27+00:00October 1st, 2020|News, Press Release|

Carolyn Dimitri Appointed to NOSB Board

September 30, 2020–OFRF is pleased to share the news that our board member, Dr. Carolyn Dimitri, an Associate Professor of Food Studies at New York University, has been appointed to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is made up of 15 volunteer members representing the organic community. Carolyn and the four other new members will serve five-year terms beginning in January 2021. Read the USDA’s announcement to learn more.

As an OFRF board member since 2015, Dr. Dimitri has made significant contributions to the organization. She currently serves on the Research Grant Committee as well as the Policy and Programs Committee.

Prior to joining the NYU faculty, Dr. Dimitri worked as a research economist at the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Dimitri has published extensively on the distribution, processing, retailing, and consumption of organic food. She earned a PhD in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a BA in Economics from SUNY Buffalo.

Congratulations to all the new members!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-06T17:05:26+00:00September 30th, 2020|News, Press Release|

New Grant to Evaluate Use of Approved Fertilizers in Organic Tomato Crops

September 10, 2020–Organic tomato growers use cover crops and compost to build fertility; however, these practices don’t always provide sufficient soil nutrient availability during the period of rapid plant growth, which can limit tomato nutrient uptake, yields, and fruit quality. While fertilizer products approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which meet the National Organic Program compliance criteria, provide a viable option for improving nutrient uptake, organic tomato growers have expressed a need for research to evaluate the profitability and effects on soil health resulting from the use of these products.

To support decision-making, OFRF has awarded a grant to Kate Scow, Director of the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility at the University of California Davis to evaluate the costs and benefits of using organic-approved liquid injectable fertilizers to improve nutrient uptake and yields in tomato crops. The research team will use organically managed plots at the Russell Ranch facility to compare nitrogen (N) uptake, fruit yields, and the profitability of three representative types of organic liquid fertilizers (fish emulsion, compost tea, and microbial/amino acid injectables) via fertigation in organic tomatoes.

Scott Park, owner/operator of Park Farm, will advise on product comparisons and review economic analysis results to ensure wide applicability to tomato growers. Although Park has built his soil’s organic matter levels and microbial activity considerably by cover cropping with winter legumes and composting, he still experiences tomato N deficiencies and lower yields in his organic tomatoes compared to conventional. As a result, he is considering the use of new soluble organic fertilizer products.

Mr. Park has been farming organically for over 25 years. He collaborated on an OFRF-funded grant to Amelie Gaudin in 2016 focused on developing integrated management strategies to improve water and nutrient use efficiency of organic processing tomatoes in California. The results of this project provide a viable strategy to help organic tomato growers dynamically cope with irrigation water shortages without hampering the quality of their harvested product.

The grant awarded to Professor Scow is one of 13 OFRF is awarding this year to help address the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers. As a result of OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts, thousands of farmers have received pertinent research and training information. Results from all OFRF-funded projects are available to access for free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-10-07T21:26:19+00:00September 10th, 2020|News, Press Release|
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