September 9, 2019 – On September 3rd, OFRF hosted a research field day at the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden. Researchers and others from UCSC joined OFRF to talk with Congressman Jimmy Panetta about the highly innovative organic research taking place there, throughout his district, and across the U.S.
Carol Shennan, Professor and Head Researcher at the Shennan Lab began the tour with an introduction to her research on anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD), an alternative to using harmful fumigants such as methyl bromide. Dr. Shennan learned about ASD from colleagues in the Netherlands and Japan and wanted to try it here. Seed grants from OFRF were instrumental in helping Shennan and her team secure funding from the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) totaling $10.5 million to date. “OFRF provided the seed funding to start this research and that allowed us to apply for larger grants,” explained Shennan. “It’s very hard to get funding unless you have initial data, but it takes money to get that initial data and that’s where OFRF has been really helpful. The OREI program has been so important. It allowed us to do things that we could then expand in multiple directions.”
Just twelve years ago the idea that you could grow strawberries without methyl bromide was very ingrained. Today, it’s a different story. The amount of strawberries grown organically in California has gone from 0% thirty years ago to 13% currently, and the good news is that percentage should continue to increase. “Fumigants are one of the biggest culprits in pesticide drift issues, from a human health perspective as well as an ecological perspective, reduced fumigant use is a good thing,” emphasizes Shennan. ASD is used on 2000 acres of strawberries in California and is being tested for its application in strawberry nurseries, apple, almond, vegetable, and flower production systems in the U.S.
Congressman Panetta was able to witness first-hand the exciting work being done at UCSC and the economically viable alternatives to fumigants this research is providing. He acknowledged the importance of continuing support for organic research and extension not just for organic farmers, but those thinking about transitioning, in the process of transitioning, or looking to adopt more sustainable farming practices such as cover cropping.
Thank you to everyone at UCSC for participating in the field day!
Joji Muramoto, Cooperative Extension Organic Production Specialist at University of California Cooperative Extension
Stacy Philpot, Professor Alfred & Ruth Heller Chair in Agroecology
Daryl Wong, Farm Site and Research Lands Manager of CASFS
Daniel Press, Associate Dean of Social Sciences, Professor and Executive Director of Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Katharyne Mitchell, Dean of Social Sciences
Chantal Waite, Laboratory & Field Assistant at the Shennan Lab
Special thanks to Rod Koda from Shinta Kawahara Farm for joining us!
Photos by Kelsey Grimsley & Vicki Lowell