Press Release

OFRF & FFAR Announce Grants to Advance Soil Health Research

July 15, 2020 – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) are pleased to award three grants to researchers in California, Pennsylvania, and Texas to bolster soil health by developing innovative organic strategies for controlling weeds, pests, and disease. OFRF and FFAR formed a partnership in 2019 to increase funding for research that improves soil health and reduces environmental impacts.

“Developing bold strategies to mitigate pest, weed, and pathogen damage is critical to improving environmental health,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “FFAR is proud to partner with OFRF to fund innovative soil health management techniques that enhance crop productivity and support thriving farms.”

Martin Guerena with the National Center for Appropriate Technology was awarded $17,337 to measure the efficacy of biosolarization—a new innovation in the realm of weed control that combines soil solarization (trapping solar radiation under a plastic tarp) with biofumigation (using biologically-active plant substances to suppress soil-borne pests and pathogens). Biosolarization includes the incorporation of organic amendments such as compost, cover crops, and green manure under solarization plastic. The carbon from these organic materials produces chemicals with bio-pesticidal activity, which acts as a fumigant when heated by the sun to eliminate weeds, and soil-borne pests and diseases. The research team aims to show that biosolarization can achieve equal or better weed control in less time compared to solarization alone. The research is taking place on three organic farms in the Sacramento Valley in northern California.

The semi-arid, subtropical climate in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley leads to year-round weed and pest pressure, which poses significant challenges for farmers. Historically, organic farmers in this region have relied on intensive tillage as a primary weed management strategy; yet tillage is detrimental to soil health and costly for farmers. At the University of Texas Rio Grande, Pushpa Soti received $19,620 to address weed and pest management in this region. Soti is evaluating whether cover crops can restore soil health, suppress weeds, and reduce pest populations. This research will provide farmers with information on cover crop selection and management that improves the long-term sustainability of organic agriculture systems.

Mary Barbercheck at Pennsylvania State University received $19,468 to provide farmers and agricultural professionals with information on using beneficial soil organisms to manage plant health and pests. The team is examining how to promote and conserve the beneficial soil fungus, Metarhizium robertsii. This fungus can increase plant growth and tolerance to environmental stresses, which are predicted to increase with climate change.

“Organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “These grants directly address the need for more research on organic practices that optimize soil biological activity, biodiversity, and function in different soils and climates.”

The partnership also funded research at Montana State University to study the optimum amount of lentil seeds that should be planted on each acre to improve soil health and yields when the legume is used as part of crop rotation on organic farms. Based on the promise shown in the first year, the Montana State University team received a second grant to continue studying the benefits of incorporating lentils into organic cropping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-07-15T17:29:40+00:00July 15th, 2020|News, Press Release|

Building a Resilient Future in Food and Farming

June 16, 2020 – Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) website on May 28, 2020. The post has been updated and modified by Cristel Zoebisch, Climate Policy Associate for NSAC and OFRF, to incorporate a focus on organic agriculture’s role in meeting the goals outlined in the Agriculture Resilience Act introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) in February 2020. OFRF will cross-post relevant blog posts from this series covering provisions of the ARA that impact or highlight organic agriculture’s role in addressing climate change. The ARA represents the first comprehensive piece of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives addressing climate change and agriculture.

Americans today are faced with a failing food system. Bare shelves in grocery stores are accompanied by vegetables plowed under, milk poured down drains, and animals euthanized and buried. The COVID-19 disruption has shown the lack of resilience of American agriculture and the processing and distribution of its production. This disruption is not the first and it will not be the last that our food system will experience. Climate change is the foremost long-term disruption we face. Managers of America’s farm, forest, and grazing lands could play a crucial role in combating climate change.

The road to a more resilient agricultural system will be long and hard. Fortunately, far-sighted Members of Congress have joined NSAC, OFRF, and many other organizations to begin the first steps on that road. Earlier this year, the Agricultural Resilience Act (ARA) was introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to begin the process of transforming American agriculture into a system that can rebound and adapt no matter what disturbance arises, including climate change.

Goals and Action Plan to a More Resilient Food and Farming System

ARA establishes a set of aggressive but realistic goals for farmers to help mitigate climate change and increase agricultural resilience, starting with the overarching goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture by no later than 2040. Net zero means that all remaining ongoing carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions are offset by removing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The single generation 20-year timeframe to reach that goal is achievable but only if appropriate policies are put in place soon. The bill provides a science-based blueprint through which U.S. agriculture and food systems can meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

ARA supports longtime organic soil health practices such as cover-cropping, rotational grazing, and composting, and the bill’s focus on multi-year support for research and resilient soil health practices is critical for our food supply and protecting our natural resources. ARA highlights the importance of sustainable and organic farming to mitigate the effects of climate change.

ARA’s substantive programmatic sections are divided into six additional titles, the key building blocks for creating a more resilient agriculture. Each of these titles is summarized below, concluding with the corresponding goals set by the legislation.

Soil Health

Healthy soils not susceptible to erosion are the foundation of agricultural resilience. Without them, a prosperous agriculture is impossible. A key to healthy soils is incorporation of more organic carbon in the soil. ARA encourages farmers to pull carbon out of the air and into their soils—removing greenhouse gases and increasing soil health. Soils containing more carbon capture and hold more water to help farmers deal with both drought and torrential rains.

Intensive row-crop agriculture has caused the loss of an average of 30 to 50 percent of carbon and organic matter in U.S. agricultural soils prior to such intense cultivation. Farmers have the tools to restore most of the carbon we have lost and, in the process, help reverse climate change. These tools include diverse crop rotations, cover cropping, conservation tillage, and other practices to build soil health.

A first step in restoring soil carbon is to keep soils under cover as much as possible. Bare soils erode and release carbon into the atmosphere. The bill sets the goal of increasing cover crop acres across the country to at least 25 percent of crop acres by 2030 and at least 50 percent 2040, with at least 50 percent of American cropland acres covered by crops, cover crops, or residue year-round by 2030 and rising to at least 75 percent by 2040.

The National Organic Standards require certified producers to implement crop rotation, cover cropping, tillage, nutrient management, and other practices that improve and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil, so organic agriculture can help meet the soil health goals outlined in the ARA.

ARA Goal: Restore at least half of lost soil carbon and maintain year-round cover on at least 75 percent of cropland acres by 2040.

Farmland Preservation and Viability

The conversion of grassland and forestland to cropland results in net greenhouse gas emissions. Conversions of native grasslands and forests to agricultural uses have resulted in large amounts of carbon lost from soils in the past, and losses on a smaller scale continue each year. As urbanization demands increase, agricultural land is also at risk of conversion to development. Converting agricultural land to development will have negative impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and our ability to store carbon in our soils. Long term it could also pose a threat to our food security.

The bill sets the interim goal of reducing the rate of conversion of agricultural land to development and the rate of grassland conversion to cropping by at least 80 percent by 2030 and eliminating the conversion of agricultural land and grassland by 2040. ARA protects one of our most valuable natural resources and one of the best tools we have to sequester carbon and build resilience in food and farming: our soil.

ARA Goal: Eliminate conversion of agricultural land and grassland by 2040.

Pasture-Based Livestock

The best soils in the world were created by grass-eating animals herded by predators to intensively graze and incorporate their manure into the soil. ARA seeks to reestablish such soil-building systems with modern management-intensive grazing on all pasture lands in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most animals in the U.S. rarely see pasture. They live in large confinement facilities which generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Adaptive grazing methods improve soils while reducing methane production. The more we move toward carefully managed grazing-based systems and the re-integration of livestock with cropping systems, the better the climate mitigation results. Given the dominant role of confinement systems today, the transition will take time. But the methane produced by confinement facilities can still be reduced through the conversion of wet manure handling and storage systems to dry storage and composting, reducing methane emission and creating a source of organic carbon for our soils.

ARA Goal: Establish advanced grazing management on 100 percent of grazing land, reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to the feeding of ruminants by at least 50 percent, increase crop-livestock integration by at least 100 percent over 2017 levels, and convert at least two thirds of wet manure handling and storage to alternative management by 2040.

On-Farm Renewable Energy

Another basic step to increasing resilience of our food system is to reduce the reliance of farms on non-renewable energy, while increasing energy efficiency and generating on-farm renewable energy. Farms can reduce costs by increasing efficiency and can create new income streams by using the sun and wind to generate energy. ARA proposes tripling the level of on-farm clean renewable energy production and installing and managing on-farm renewable energy infrastructure in a way that does not adversely impact farmland, natural resources, or food production.

ARA Goal: Implement energy audits on 100 percent of farms and triple on-farm renewable energy production by 2040.

Food Waste

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities and instabilities of our current food system. Reports about unharvested crops, dumping milk, and farmers having to euthanize their animals due to processing plant closures have made headlines across the country. Simultaneously, food banks have seen an increase in demand from struggling families.

Many farmers have surplus food available since they have lost their customers due to closures of farmers markets, schools, and restaurants, but the infrastructure is not currently set up to connect farmers and families in need of food. The waste of food in the COVID-19 crisis is heart-breaking when many are going hungry. However, food waste has long been ubiquitous in our food system.

Through ARA provisions such as making composting a conservation practice eligible for support under federal working lands conservation programs, creating a new grant program to support large-scale food-waste-to-energy projects, and supporting schools to reduce food waste, ARA is setting the path forward on reducing food waste across our food supply chain.

ARA Goal: Reduce food waste by at least 75 percent by 2040.

Agricultural Research

None of the above goals can be reached without significant expansion of investment in research on climate change adaptation and mitigation, soil health, agroforestry, advanced grazing management and crop-livestock integration, on-farm and food system energy efficiency and renewable energy production, food waste reduction and related topics to accelerate progress toward net zero emissions by no later than 2040.

Our food and agricultural system affects public health, environmental protection, climate resilience, and the rural and national economy. However, federal funding for food and agriculture research has stagnated for decades, jeopardizing our future and hindering our ability to innovate in ways that improve farm viability, rural vitality, public health, and food security.

OFRF fully supports ARA’s goal of quadrupling federal funding for food and agriculture research and extension by 2040. Since its inception, OFRF has worked to cultivate organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and organic acreage into organic production. OFRF and a coalition of organic champions reached a historic win for organic agriculture in the 2018 Farm Bill by securing permanent funding for organic agriculture research and education through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). OFRF will continue to work to inform increased investment by ensuring future research and programs are relevant and responsive to the top challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers, including climate change.

ARA Goal: Quadruple the total federal funding for food and agriculture research and extension by 2040.

What Comes Next?

ARA proposes specific tools and incentives to achieve all the above goals. More detail will be provided in additional blogs in this series over the next few weeks.

ARA is a first step toward transforming our food system to make it less susceptible to disturbance whether from a virus, climate change, or any unknown and unanticipated disruption.

A resilient U.S. food system is possible. We must take the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and begin the journey to a safe and reliable food system for America. ARA sets a path forward for agriculture to survive and thrive and be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-06-16T17:28:49+00:00June 16th, 2020|News, Press Release|

OFRF & FFAR Fund Soil Health Research at MSU

June 4, 2020 – OFRF and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a second year of funding in the amount of $20,000 to Dr. Jed Eberly at Montana State University based on the promise shown in his first year of organic lentil trials. Eberly and his team are incorporating lentils into organic cropping systems to enhance soil health and improve the economics of organic operations. The outcomes of this research will help organic lentil growers improve yields and nutritional quality leading to better returns on investments.

The amount of lentil seeds planted on each acre (i.e., seeding rate) affects nutrient acquisition, weed management, and yield potential. Researchers have yet to identify the optimum lentil seeding rate that maximizes these benefits in organic systems. Eberly is addressing this knowledge gap by exploring the relationship between seeding rates, lentil yields, and soil health.

Trials performed in 2019 showed that increasing seeding rates significantly increased lentil yields and reduced weed density by an average of 40 percent. Based on these results, Eberly and his team are further increasing seeding rates this season to ensure they capture the maximum weed suppression and yield response. The research team is also performing a cost-benefit analysis to determine if higher seeding rates and yields are economically beneficial for organic farmers.

Eberly’s grant is the first of thirteen research projects OFRF will fund this year focused on the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today. This is the most grants OFRF has awarded in a single grant cycle. “Every year, we are impressed by the number of strong research proposals we receive from across North America,” said Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “Thankfully, we were able to confirm that all of the research projects we selected to fund this year will be able to move forward despite the current pandemic.”

OFRF and FFAR began partnering in 2019 to increase research funding for projects improving soil health and reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. “FFAR is thrilled to partner with OFRF for a second year to enhance soil health and support thriving farms,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “This research has the potential to improve yields, increase profits, and reduce environmental impact.”

Read Dr. Eberly’s report from the first year of research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By |2020-06-09T18:11:29+00:00June 9th, 2020|News, Press Release|

Join Us for the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum

Graphic from the Organic Agriculture Research Forum flyer announcing the Jan 23, 2020 forum in Little RockOctober 15, 2019 – OFRF and Tuskegee University are pleased to announce the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum (OARF) to be presented in partnership with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG). The Forum takes place on Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the 2020 SSAWG Conference.

Farmers, students, and researchers who would like to apply for a scholarship of up to $600 to attend the forum should fill out the scholarship application no later than November 22nd, 2019.

The day-long forum will bring together scientists, organic farmers and ranchers, extension agents, non-profit organizations, and more to explore the latest research and science-based grower education, particularly as it relates to production in the southeast. Topics will range from assessing the impact of organic agriculture on climate change, to soil health, and pest and disease management.

The forum will feature many opportunities to learn from fellow attendees and presenters, beginning with oral presentations focused on research that addresses production, economic, and social challenges in organic farming and ranching. After the presentations, there will be a series of facilitated roundtable discussions, followed by a poster session and reception held in conjunction with SSAWG. The poster session will include a “People’s Choice” award and an award for “Best Research Poster” juried by a small panel of judges. Voting will take place during the Thursday evening reception.

The conference and scholarships are supported by Ceres Trust and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant no. 2019-51300-30250 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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.

Southern SAWG facilitates the development of a more sustainable food and agriculture systems across 13 states in the Southern U.S. Since 1992 they have provided high quality educational materials and training opportunities on sustainable and organic production, marketing strategies, farm management, and community food systems development. Each year the Southern SAWG Conference brings together over 1,000 farmers, researchers, educators, and others in the sustainable agriculture field to share practical tools and information and strengthen their working relationships. The 2020 Southern SAWG conference will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 22-25, 2020.

Tuskegee University has initiated an organic farming program for over 10 years to educate Alabama residents on the health benefits of organic vegetables. The program has grown in recent years to include site specific organic farming research on various vegetable crop varieties and integrated pest management throughout the Southern United States to provide recommendations to organic growers. Dr. Kpomblekou-A has served as director of the program at Tuskegee University since 2016.

Contacts:

Haley Baron, OFRF Education & Research Program Associate
haley@ofrf.org

Lauren Snyder, OFRF Education & Research Program Associate
lauren@ofrf.org

By |2020-01-08T18:12:21+00:00October 15th, 2019|Press Release|

NIFA Awards Grant for National Organic Survey to OFRF and OSA

October 7, 2019 – The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are pleased to be among the recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awards announced last week. The grant was awarded through NIFA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).

Through the competitive grant process, the organizations have been jointly awarded funding for their proposal titled A National Agenda for Organic and Transitioning Research. This funding will allow OFRF and OSA to combine their considerable expertise in conducting national surveys of organic producers to put forth an updated and comprehensive roadmap for future research investments.

“OFRF is committed to advancing the research needed to meet the current challenges of organic farming, with the goal of creating a more resilient and ecologically sustainable agricultural system,” said OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer. “We are honored by OREI’s investment in this important work and believe this collaboration with OSA will both increase grower participation and strengthen the impact of our updated findings.”

OFRF’s 2016 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report is a frequently cited resource that has helped ensure research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers, while also identifying gaps where additional investment is necessary.

“With demand for organic products continuing to outpace domestic production,” Tencer explains, “the organic industry needs more research that helps existing organic farmers scale up, diversify, and increase profitability, and also encourages more farmers and ranchers to transition to sustainable organic practices that are better for the environment and people.”

“Organic farmers produce food differently, and that means they need different seed for the crops they grow—seed developed to thrive without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and adapted to their local climate and soil conditions,” says Kiki Hubbard, who co-leads OSA’s State of Organic Seed (SOS) project.

SOS is an ongoing project that monitors the status of organic seed in the U.S. and provides a roadmap for increasing the diversity, quality, and integrity of organic seed available to farmers.

“Understanding the research needs of organic farmers, including in the area of seed and plant breeding, is critical to the ongoing growth and success of organic agriculture,” Hubbard adds. “OSA is privileged to have the opportunity to partner with OFRF on this critical project with strong support from the USDA’s OREI program.”

OFRF, OSA, and a broad coalition of organic champions were instrumental in securing an increase in federal funding for organic research from $20M to $50M in the 2018 Farm Bill. This increase provides an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to tackle the challenges that inhibit the growth of organic production. Updated NORA and SOS reports will ensure this increased funding is allocated in a way that reflects the needs of organic farmers and ranchers.

By |2020-01-08T18:12:48+00:00October 7th, 2019|Press Release|

New Soil Health and Organic Farming Guide Examines Soil Life

August 27, 2019—It is now widely understood that living healthy soil provides the foundation for successful farming, and supports plant, animal, and human life. However, while the concept of “feeding the soil” has been around for a long time, for many it is still uncharted territory.

To support farmers and ranchers in selecting the best management practices for building soil life and soil health, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released the ninth topic in their immensely popular Soil Health and Organic Farming Series of guidebooks and webinars, Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life.

The goal of this guidebook is to help organic farmers by providing up-to-date, science-based information on:

  • The soil food web, its key components and functions.
  • Assessing and monitoring soil life and soil biological condition.
  • Managing soil life for long term soil health and productivity in organic systems.
  • Biological management of plant diseases.
  • Microbial inoculants and biostimulants: whether, when, and how to use them.

“When we first embarked on this project, we hoped that by analyzing the research that’s been conducted over the past thirty years and presenting it in an accessible way, we’d be helping farmers and advancing the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices,” explains Brise Tencer, Executive Director at OFRF. “We had no idea how popular it would be. To date, the guidebooks have been downloaded over 24,000 times and the webinars have been viewed over 8,000 times. These digital resources are free and available to anyone, so we hope they will continue to be shared far and wide.”

The entire Soil Health and Organic Farming series is available to download for free. Limited printed copies are available upon request for a small donation to cover printing costs.

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.

By |2020-04-01T22:16:01+00:00September 5th, 2019|Press Release|

New Training Program Offers Organic Basics for Beginning Farmers

August 13, 2019 – OFRF is excited to introduce the first learning module, Organic Soil Health Management, in its free online training program for beginning farmers, existing organic farmers, and farmers in transition to organic production. The content throughout the training program focuses on organic specialty crop production in California.

“Healthy soils are the foundation of a successful organic farm, but determining which soil building practices will work best in a particular farming system can be challenging,” explains OFRF’s Education and Research Program Manager, Lauren Snyder. “The goal of this training program is to provide reliable information in one place and to highlight resources that help farmers assess which practices make the most sense for their system.”

This open educational resource is a joint effort between OFRF, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The self-paced program combines descriptive essays, video lectures from university faculty, and virtual field trips to demonstrate organic principles and practices.

“We wanted to be sure that students of the course could benefit from the latest scientific knowledge relevant to organic farming, so we include resources from researchers around California. Also, the content of every module is closely reviewed by a team of scientists and extension experts from across the state,” says Sonja Brodt, who oversees the course’s content creation at UC SAREP.

In total, the online training program will contain six learning modules: 1) soil health, 2) weed management, 3) irrigation and water management, 4) insect and mite management, 5) disease management, and 6) business management and marketing. The soil health module is now live and the five remaining modules will be introduced as they are completed, with the entire program available in spring 2020.

“We view this training program as a living resource and encourage users to provide their feedback by completing the voluntary surveys in the learning modules,” adds Snyder. “This information will increase the utility of the program and ensure we are meeting the needs of organic specialty crop farmers in California.”

View/take the first learning module, Organic Soil Health Management.

Funding for this project was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM170100XXXXG011. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

 

By |2020-01-08T18:13:19+00:00August 13th, 2019|Press Release|

OFRF and FFAR Award Two New Grants that Tackle Soil Health Challenges

SANTA CRUZ AND WASHINGTON D.C. (August 1, 2019) – Soil health is a critical component of organic farm management. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) are funding two soil health research projects that examine how diversification practices control weeds and increase yields. OFRF and FFAR funded these two projects as part of a larger initiative to support soil health research and promote environmental sustainability. A grant to Dr. Jed Eberly at Montana State University was announced earlier this year.

Implementing diversification practices, such as crop rotations and cover cropping, is one way organic farmers build soil health. Efficient use of organic fertilizers in combination with these practices can enhance soil fertility, but determining how much organic fertilizer to apply is a key challenge; too much fertilizer wastes money and pollutes the environment, while too little can impede crop growth. However, there is still much to learn about how diversification practices affect the availability of nutrients in the soil. Addressing this question would help farmers reduce added costs and environmental impacts associated with nutrient losses from organic fertilizers.

At UC Berkeley, a team led by Timothy Bowles, Assistant Professor of Agroecology, is working to help solve this problem. This research will help farmers make more informed decisions about nutrient management, in particular, which type of organic fertilizer to use and how to time fertility applications on diversified organic farms.

The second project focuses on the southern region of the U.S., an area where weed, insect, and fertility management challenges have made it hard to meet the steady demand for organic sweet potatoes. Currently, many organic sweet potato farmers depend on repeated cultivation to manage weeds, a process that is energy and labor intensive, and damaging to soil health. Their crops are also regularly damaged by invasive pests. For example, the wireworm can damage up to 40 percent of the sweet potato crop in North Carolina, negatively impacting farmers’ profitability. Led by Alex Woodley, an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, this project assesses the viability of annual winter cover crop systems as an effective tool for weed and insect control. The project also evaluates the effects of increasing rates of organic nitrogen fertilizer in each cover crop treatment. This systems-level approach has the potential to provide innovative management techniques to sweet potato farmers in North Carolina that protect soil health.

“We are pleased to partner with FFAR to fund this innovative research,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF’s Executive Director. “The goal is to help organic producers and others interested in building soil health make more informed decisions about managing fertility on their farms and ranches.”

“Soil health plays a critical role in supporting productive, sustainable agriculture from the ground-up,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “Investing in innovative soil health management techniques benefits the environment, enhances crop productivity and supports farmer profitability.

Overall, OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the practices, ecological sustainability, and economic prosperity of organic farming. These successes support their goal of researchers and farmers working collaboratively to support the improvement and widespread adoption of organic agriculture. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science 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.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:19+00:00August 1st, 2019|Press Release|

OFRF Executive Director Testifies in DC

June 12, 2019, Washington, DC – This spring, flooding left farm fields across the Midwest under water. Meanwhile, growers across the Southeast are continuing the hard work to recover from devastating hurricanes and tropical storms. In California, farmers and ranchers are still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s record-breaking wildfires intensified by increasingly warm and dry weather.

Today, OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer, had the honor of appearing before the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research of the House Committee on Agriculture to discuss issues of resiliency and risk in agriculture. Tencer spoke about the need for integrated research, education, and outreach to provide farmers with the tools, technology, and support they need to build healthy resilient farming systems that can withstand climate change and steward the land for future generations.

Sustainable organic systems that maintain higher soil organic matter and biological activity, improve moisture infiltration and storage, and foster efficient nutrient cycling result in greater yield stability in the face of weather extremes and other stresses. Healthy soils have good structure (tilth), which allows them to absorb and hold moisture, drain well, maintain adequate aeration, and foster deep, healthy crop root systems. Such soils sustain crops through dry spells, require less irrigation water, and undergo less ponding, runoff, and erosion during heavy rains.

These are challenging times for the people who grow our food. We urge Congress and USDA to ensure federal programs that include research, education, extension, and program implementation support organic producers and other farmers and ranchers that seek to integrate organic practices into their operations.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:40+00:00June 12th, 2019|Press Release|

OFRF Grantee to Examine Barriers to Adoption

OFRF Grantee to Examine Barriers to Adoption

Photo of a grain of wheat in a wheat fieldMay 21, 2019 – OFRF has awarded a grant to Aysha Peterson at UC Santa Cruz to examine barriers to adoption of plant-based nutrient management strategies among organic, socially disadvantaged farmers in Salinas, California. Peterson hopes to bridge the gap between research and implementation by using qualitative data to answer questions about adoption and decision-making processes.

Collaborating with Nathan Harkleroad, Program Director with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), Petersen will recruit 30 organic Latina/o farmers to participate in five in-depth, semi-structured focus groups at ALBA’s Rural Development Center to examine (1) farmers’ current knowledge and utilization of plant-based nutrient management practices, (2) field-level challenges to implementation and strategies for overcoming these challenges, and (3) economic, educational, and infrastructure barriers to implementation.

The transcripts will be qualitatively analyzed to examine emergent themes and explore how responses vary as a function of farmers’ structural arrangements and social stratication. The findings will directly inform educational programming via ALBA’s Farmer Education Course and will be incorporated into economic and infrastructure assistance available through ALBA’s Organic Farm Incubator. Empirically based conclusions will provide for comparative analysis with other agricultural regions of the U.S. and will allow for the widespread improvement of organic farmer assistance services.

“This project is exciting because we are sorely in need of more social-science research aimed at alleviating socio-economic and cultural barriers to organic production,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF’s Executive Director. “The outcomes of this project have the potential to influence education and outreach programs for socially-disadvantaged farmers across the U.S.”

Overall, OFRF grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the practices, ecological sustainability, and economic prosperity of organic farming. These successes support their goal of researchers and farmers working collaboratively to support the improvement and widespread adoption of organic agriculture. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.

Thank you to our Research Program Partners:

Graphic of OFRF partners grant on barriers to adoption of plant-based nutrient management strategies

(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.

By |2020-01-08T18:13:40+00:00May 21st, 2019|Press Release|
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