OFRF Awards First Soil Health Research Grant of 2019

April 16, 2019 – OFRF announced the first of five grants the organization will award this year focused on the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today. The grant is funded in part by a match from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) aimed at funding research related to improving soil health and reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.

Montana State University Researchers to Trial Lentil Varieties
Lentils are an important crop for diversifying wheat-based cropping systems and are one of several pulse crops (legumes such as dried beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas harvested solely for dry seed) used by farmers in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) to promote biodiversity, improve soil health, and generate income.

Little is known about the optimum seeding and appropriate inoculation rates needed to improve crop growth, nutrient acquisition, weed management, and yield potential. OFRF’s grant of $20,000 to a team of researchers at Montana State University led by Dr. Jed Eberly was made in response to this challenge. The main goal of the project is to evaluate the effects of seeding rates on lentil yields and competition.

Because lentil growing areas in Montana vary greatly in terms of soil types, growing degree days, and annual precipitation levels, Dr. Eberly is collaborating with organic farmers from three different locations. Through a series of multi-site replicated trials, the researchers will select the optimum varieties to improve lentil yields, nutritional quality, and economic returns. It is believed that incorporating lentils into organic cropping systems will also enhance soil health and improve the economics of organic operations in this region.

“OFRF funds projects based on scientific merit and encourages proposals from a diverse group of applicants,” explained OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer. “This was an opportunity to invest in a strong project in an underserved region where organic farming can benefit from greater investment.”

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.

Graphic of OFRF research partner logos

FFAR was established with bipartisan support in the 2014 Farm Bill to build unique partnerships to support innovative science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR matches every federal dollar with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment.