Press Release

OFRF Supports Letter from Congress to Leadership for Ag Research Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SANTA CRUZ, Calif., October 21, 2021)Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) supports a recent letter delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that supports agricultural research in the Build Back Better Agenda. Thirty Members of Congress have signed on to this letter to leadership, requesting that the $7.75 billion investment in agricultural climate research, innovation and research infrastructure is included in the House Agriculture Committee’s portion of the budget reconciliation legislation. Approximately $3.64 billion is intended for research facilities, with a substantial portion going toward minority-serving institutions and 1890 Land-Grant Institutions. An additional $200 million would go toward funding the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).

Organic Farming Research Foundation has worked with policy makers and allied organizations to push for legislation that ensures funding goes to organic agriculture research, and for programs that benefit organic farmers and ranchers. OFRF has worked closely with Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) to advance agricultural research and supported his letter to leadership. Earlier this month, OFRF and 130 other organizations and universities delivered a similar letter to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, requesting they make critical investments that support agricultural research and research facilities. 

“Investing in research is the down payment on agriculture’s ability to advance meaningful climate solutions,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director for OFRF. “We thank Rep. Jimmy Panetta for his continued championing of ag research, Rep. Adams, and Members of Congress who have signed on to this letter. OFRF encourages Leadership and other Members to protect and prioritize ag research investments that will sustain our communities equitably.”

The letter, released in partnership between Rep. Panetta and Rep. Alma S. Adams (NC-12) to Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, suggests that “doubling agricultural research and development between 2020 and 2030 would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by over 100 million tons,” citing a recent report from the Breakthrough Institute, a global environmental research center. The research provisions included in the House Agriculture Committee’s budget reconciliation is critical to farmers and ranchers who face climate-induced production challenges firsthand, and will help give them access to information and tools to combat the climate crisis and build resiliency.

“As American farmers have consistently dealt with numerous challenges from an erratic market and extreme weather events to the existing pandemic, American government funding for agricultural research has remained dismally flat for the past fifty years,” said Representative Jimmy Panetta. “By increasing federal funding for agriculture research and development, we can play our part by supporting farmers who not only need it but also deserve it. The letter that I wrote and led seeks to reaffirm Congress’ commitment to farmers who continue to fight climate-induced production challenges and are willing to be part of the solution.”

In addition to Rep. Panetta and Rep. Adams, other Members of Congress who signed onto the letter include: Stacey E. Plaskett, Salud Carbajal, Ro Khanna, Mark Takano, Jim Costa,  Al Lawson, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Kathy Manning, Zoe Lofgren, Ann Kirkpatrick, John Garamendi, Marilyn Strickland, Peter Welch, Ann McLane Kuster, Jim Cooper, Doris Matsui, Josh Harder, Jerry McNerney, Kaiali’i Kahele, Bobby Rush, Angie Craig, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Julia Brownley, Colin Allred, Jahan Hayes, Alan Lowenthal, and Sanford D. Bishop Jr.

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Supporting Documents
Letter to Congressional Leadership from Rep. Panetta and Rep. Adams
Letter to Congressional Leadership from OFRF and Allied Organizations

About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation 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.
http://www.ofrf.org/

Policy Contact
Trevor Findley, Senior Policy Associate, Organic Farming Research Foundation
trevor@ofrf.org

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, Communications Manager, Organic Farming Research Foundation
caroline@ofrf.org

By |2021-10-21T17:32:44+00:00October 21st, 2021|News, Press Release|

OFRF Tours USDA Agricultural Research Service, Rep. Jimmy Panetta to Co-Sponsor ARA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SANTA CRUZ, Calif., August 23, 2021)Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) hosted Representative Jimmy Panetta’s (D-CA, 20th) congressional staffers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Salinas, Calif. last week. The site visit focused on the importance of increased investment in organic research and was instrumental in Rep. Panetta’s decision to co-sponsor H.R.2803, the Agricultural Resilience Act (ARA).

OFRF organized the tour of the organic fields at the ARS led by Dr. Eric Brennan, USDA Research Horticulturist and the ARS’ only dedicated organic researcher in the country. California organic farmers in attendance shared their firsthand experience in applying organic research to their farming practices, including composting and cover cropping. Attendees emphasized the importance of investing more research dollars to organic farming practices at the Salinas facility and other ARS locations.

“Central Coast farmers and ranchers have always been on the leading edge of organic production, thanks to their hard work and partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and organizations like the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” said Congressman Panetta. “As Congressman, my role is to act as the bridge between our communities and Washington, D.C., to advocate for my producers’ needs, and to break through the bureaucracy when they are not getting the answers or funding that they need to keep innovating and growing.”

Rep. Panetta’s decision to co-sponsor the ARA was informed by his careful review of the bill text as well as the work and education provided by OFRF, whose mission has been to advance organic agriculture through scientific research since 1990. The Santa Cruz based nonprofit has invested over $3M and awarded over 350 grants, and provides OFRF-funded research results for free.

“In California and across the country, growers are experiencing the effects of climate change,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director of OFRF. “We are appreciative of Rep. Panetta’s support for organic research and the Agricultural Resilience Act which will benefit American farmers who are at the forefront of the climate crisis.”

Rep. Panetta sits on the House Committee on Agriculture and is Co-Chair and Founder of the Agriculture Research Caucus. His district, which includes Monterey County, has experienced tremendous growth in organic production. According to the 2020 Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report, the county recorded 132,809 organic acreage — nearly doubling since 2018.

“As we in Congress continue our efforts to put forward funding for infrastructure priorities, I remain committed to elevating the needs of the organic producers I proudly represent, so they can continue to have the tools they need to adapt to climate stressors, invest in soil health, and succeed in the twenty-first century,” said Congressman Panetta.

Rep. Panetta sits on the House Committee on Agriculture and is Co-Chair and Founder of the Agriculture Research Caucus. His district, which includes Monterey County, has experienced tremendous growth in organic production. According to the 2020 Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report, the county recorded 132,809 organic acreage — nearly doubling since 2018.

“As we in Congress continue our efforts to put forward funding for infrastructure priorities, I remain committed to elevating the needs of the organic producers I proudly represent, so they can continue to have the tools they need to adapt to climate stressors, invest in soil health, and succeed in the twenty-first century,” said Congressman Panetta.

Others who attended the meeting included:

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About Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Farming Research Foundation 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.
http://www.ofrf.org/

Media Contact
Caroline Baptist, Communications Manager, Organic Farming Research Foundation
caroline@ofrf.org
831-204-8116

Photo Credit: Haley Baron
By |2021-08-26T15:33:28+00:00August 23rd, 2021|News, Press Release|

FFAR and OFRF Renew Partnership to Improve Soil Health Research

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact(s): Brise Tencer, 831.426.6606, brise@ofrf.org
Colleen Klemczewski, 574.386.0658, cklemczewski@foundationfar.org

 

SANTA CRUZ (May 19, 2021) – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) are thrilled to announce the continuation of their partnership to fund on-farm research advancing the climate benefits of organic agriculture systems. Priorities will focus specifically on the potential of organic agriculture to sequester carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce the environmental impacts of fertilizers and pesticides, and build resilience to a changing climate. Following an initial collaboration in 2019, this partnership has been renewed with a $66,000 grant from FFAR to support OFRF’s 2021/2022 organic research grant cycle. OFRF is providing matching funds to ensure a total investment of at least $120,000 this grant cycle.

The partnership between OFRF and FFAR has been instrumental in providing research that enables organic producers, and others wishing to farm more sustainably, to implement practices that optimize management of nutrient, weed, pest and disease while improving soil health. Five of the thirteen research grants OFRF funded in the 2019/2020 grant cycle focused on soil health and were a direct result of the previous FFAR grant.

“Organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said OFRF’s Executive Director Brise Tencer. “There is also extensive research demonstrating the potential of organic systems to reduce agriculture’s contribution to climate change. FFAR’s ongoing investment in farmer/researcher collaborations will support science-based solutions addressing the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today.”

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with OFRF to fund research that can improve soil health, mitigate the effects of climate change, and support thriving farms,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “Soil is the foundation for a productive agricultural system. Investing in cutting-edge research and technologies today with partners such as OFRF will ensure the soil health is optimal for generating nutritious food for the future.”

OFRF’s grants program is open to all applicants in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Proposals must involve farmers or ranchers in project design, and implementation must take place on certified organic land. All research projects require strong education and outreach components and must lead to measurable outcomes. OFRF will request Letters of Intent (LOIs) for its 2021 grant cycle this summer. Interested parties are encouraged to sign up for OFRF’s newsletter to be notified when the request for LOIs will be released.

To date, OFRF has invested over $3 million in 355 grants across North America. OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming systems. OFRF’s research, education, and outreach efforts have provided thousands of farmers with pertinent, free information and training.

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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

Organic Farming Research Foundation

The 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. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.

Connect: @OFRF

 

 

By |2021-06-14T20:10:38+00:00May 18th, 2021|News, Press Release|

OFRF and NRCS Partner to Provide Education and Outreach on Organic Conservation Practices

February 25, 2021 – OFRF is pleased to announce a three-year agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The agreement focuses on strengthening conservation partnerships between NRCS field staff and organic producers. It will leverage OFRF’s unique expertise to expand knowledge and outreach focusing on the best science-based organic practices.

OFRF, organic producers, and NRCS conservationists share a commitment to restore and protect natural resources through agricultural conservation. The USDA National Organic Program Standards require certified organic growers to maintain and improve soil and water quality, species diversity, woodlands, wetlands, wildlife, and other resources to help in these efforts. And, organic producers and NRCS both recognize the urgent need to address the climate crisis through conservation systems that mitigate climate change and build resilience.

However, organic farmer participation in NRCS programs has been limited to date. Though historically NRCS has worked primarily with conventional producers, the agency’s conservation practices fit all kinds of production – from organic to conventional, large to small, and all regions, nationwide. Increased technical and financial assistance for organic and transitioning producers is necessary to support widespread adoption of NRCS conservation practices standards related to soil health, tillage, and nutrient, pest, and weed management.

“We applaud recent positive steps to ensure programs work effectively for the organic sector,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “However, there is a continued need to build the capacity of NRCS field offices to effectively serve organic farmers. We are very excited to launch this new partnership. By creating science-based materials for NRCS staff and helping increase understanding of organic soil health practices such as practical conservation tillage and nutrient management, we are taking an active role in fighting climate change, and supporting the success of organic producers and others who want to adopt more sustainable practices.”

“The Organic Farming Research Foundation is a leader in science-based research in organic agriculture and its benefits on natural resources,” said NRCS Acting Chief Terry Cosby. “This partnership will ensure NRCS field staff better understand organic farming practices and are equipped to support more organic farmers’ conservation efforts.”

“The agreement comes at a critical time as climate change—with intensified droughts, heat waves, and storms—creates new challenges for farmers and ranchers,” Tencer said.

The partnership includes provisions for research analyses, guidebooks, webinars, and case studies—with a particular focus on sustainable growing practices that promote soil health, conserve natural resources, and prevent environmental degradation while producing a healthful, and secure food supply.

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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.

NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air, and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. For more information on NRCS assistance for organic producers, visit nrcs.usda.gov/organic.


By |2021-02-25T18:30:27+00:00February 25th, 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|

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|
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