organic research

OFRF Co-sponsors NOC’s Pre NOSB Meeting

On April 15, OFRF co-sponsored the National Organic Coalition’s (NOC) Pre National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Spring meeting. This half day event gathered over 200 organic advocates, farmers, researchers, and brands to discuss some of the most pressing issues in organic agriculture. The event was held virtually, allowing people from across the country to attend and participate. 

OFRF hosted Breakout Session A: Can Organic Farming Help Solve the Climate Crisis? where our renowned Research Program Associate, Mark Schonbeck and OFRF’s new Education and Research Manager, Thelma Velez, discussed the ways science demonstrates that organic farming systems can help sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to future inclement weather events. 

Along with breakout groups on a wide variety of topics, the event included detailed federal policy updates from NOC’s Steve Etka. He discussed organic cost-share, NOP rules that need to be finalized, racial equity, and potential ways that carbon markets can be used as greenwashing. We also heard from Christie Badger about the topics to be discussed at the NOSB’s meeting (held April 28-30). The event closed with a farmer panel discussion.  

If you couldn’t make it to the meeting, you can find the recording, presentation slides, and notes for all of the breakout groups, including OFRF’s in this link.

By |2021-05-07T20:06:31+00:00May 7th, 2021|News, Press Release|

OFRF at Expo West – Save The Date and Register!

April 7, 2021 – OFRF will be celebrating our annual Expo West luncheon virtually this year on May 11th with New Hope Network! While we’re sad we can’t be together in person as we have for nearly 25 years for this annual event, we’re excited to “see” everyone virtually! Whether you’ve attended the luncheon every year or never been, we hope you will start your day with us at 8am PST on May 11th.

It’s free to join and all you need to do is register for the Natural Products Expo Virtual event. We will feature OFRF’s beloved luncheon head chef, Chris Blobaum and OFRF-funded researcher, Dr. Jed Eberly to explore growing and cooking lentils (yes lentils!), soil health, and climate change.

If you have already registered for Natural Products Expo Virtual, click here to RSVP for OFRF’s event on May 11th. Not yet registered for Natural Products Expo Virtual? Click here to register for our free event.

By |2021-04-22T20:39:51+00:00April 8th, 2021|News|

Check Out OFRF’s 2020 Annual Report!

OFRF 2020 Annual ReportApril 7, 2021 – Last year presented us with a host of new challenges but thanks to strong partnerships, continued support, and a team that kept our work moving forward, OFRF had a strong year with major accomplishments across research, education, and advocacy. We couldn’t have done it without you. Take a peek at our brand new 2020 annual report to learn more!

View OFRF’s 2020 annual report

 

By |2021-04-19T18:35:58+00:00April 7th, 2021|News, Press Release|

Building Soil Health in the South: OFRF’s New Guidebook Explores Latest Research

March 30, 2021 – Healthy, living soils provide the foundation for successful and profitable organic farming and ranching. In the South, organic producers face intense pressure from weeds, insect pests, parasitic nematodes, and plant-pathogens; summer heat extremes, drought, and flood; and soil types with inherent fertility limitations. In addition, long growing seasons can make it harder to rebuild soil organic matter, especially during intensive crop production.

In OFRF’s 2015 nationwide survey of organic producers, 79% of respondents from the South cited soil health as a high research priority, somewhat higher than the national average of 74% (Jerkins and Ory, 2016). Many respondents expressed a need for practical information on how to build soil health in hot climates that burn up soil organic matter (SOM) and promote aggressive weed growth. The goal of this new guidebook is to help the region’s current and aspiring organic producers develop effective, site-specific soil health management strategies that support successful, resilient enterprises.

Building Healthy Living Soils for Successful Organic Farming in the Southern Region explores how to apply organic soil health principles to the region’s soils through a series of practical steps and strategies, illustrated by innovative farmer stories and brief descriptions of underlying scientific concepts. The guidebook also includes a list of resources for additional reading, a description of the inherent properties of soil types commonly found in the South, and a summary of the latest soil health research being conducted in this region.

This latest guidebook builds on OFRF’s popular series of guidebooks and webinars focused on organic farming and soil health. The entire series is available to download for free.

 

By |2021-04-16T15:38:41+00:00March 30th, 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.

———————– 
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|

Transforming Agriculture to Mitigate Climate Change and Support Public Health

Aspen fleabane with lots of violet flowers in June

February 17, 2021 – In the current issue of Organic Farmer magazine, OFRF colleagues Lauren Snyder and Cristel Zoebisch explore the connections between agriculture, climate change, and public health The authors point out that in order to reduce the risk of infectious disease spread, we need to address the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the human activities that threaten natural habitats and biodiversity—identifying several recommendations for doing so, such as investing in organic research, extension and education.

“If we are to limit the likelihood of future pandemics and other catastrophic events driven by a changing climate, we must prioritize and support systems-based, ecological solutions that protect our food systems, the environment, and public health.”

Read the article.

 

By |2021-02-17T22:05:41+00:00February 17th, 2021|News, Press Release|

OFRF Grantee Releases Early-Yielding Red Pepper Variety

February 12, 2021—In 2020, OFRF provided a grant to Sarah Hargreaves at the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario to support three breeding projects being conducted in cooperation with their Farmer-Led Research Program. All three projects focus on providing best practices to adapt to climate change by breeding varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the U.S. northeast.

In the January/February issue of Organic Grower, Hargreaves celebrates the release of a new early-yielding pepper variety called Renegade. “We’re really grateful to OFRF for supporting those beginning stages. Breeding takes a long time, so it was so great to have that support across projects of different states.”

Read the article.

In addition to the peppers, Hargreaves and the team are working on an open pollinated broccoli that is heat tolerant and adapted to organic systems, and an open pollinated seedless English cucumber with excellent flavor and good yield that is adapted to organic greenhouse conditions.

By supporting farmer-led breeding efforts for organic production, this project also contributes to an emerging but critically under- researched area of vegetable farming. This grant is one of 13 OFRF awarded in 2020 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 |2021-02-12T18:59:58+00:00February 12th, 2021|News, 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|
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