Farmers on the Frontlines: Climate Change and the Farm Bill

2023 Farm Bill Presents Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers on the Frontlines of Climate Change

Farmers and ranchers, the people who produce our food, are often on the frontlines of challenges facing our society. Among the most pressing of those issues is the changing climate and an industrial food system that prioritizes profits over the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. Combined with the unprecedented loss of biodiversity, these three issues have even been called a triple threat to humanity.

Image from Frontiers article “Narrow and Brittle or Broad and Nimble? Comparing Adaptive Capacity in Simplifying and Diversifying Farming Systems”

These challenges are interrelated. The current standard methods of conventional food production are an outgrowth of the technological and chemical advancements of the mid 20th century, which resulted in a rapid increase in the ability to export calories in the form of commodity crops, such as corn and soy. This production depends on the ubiquitous use of cheap agri-chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and continued expansion of farmer-debt (as discussed in this article and this article) to increase scale and maintain technological relevancy. This ‘get big or get out’, petroleum-dependent production system decreases biodiversity and weakens the landscape’s capacity to be resilient and adapt to our changing climate. It also makes our food system vulnerable to even slight shifts in things like crop production or labor availability. 

Farmers often keenly feel the challenges presented by warmer temperatures, increased flooding, and other extreme weather events. Caroline Baptist is the owner of the River Valley Country Club, a small farm in Washington state. “Farming on a floodplain and a floodway can be a challenge, and changes in climate over the years have only exacerbated this issue,” Baptist says. “The property owner from whom I lease land remembers experiencing 1-2 major floods a year when he first began farming in the area in 1993. More recently, we’ve seen these numbers double and triple.” Describing a recent flooding event Baptist says, “Some areas of the farm were under water by 15 feet and accessible only by canoe. This flood and every flood since is a sobering experience, illustrating clearly that the climate crisis is real, and it affects farmers firsthand.”

Past farm policies that favored the ‘get big or get out’ model led to increases in monocultures. The resulting abundance of commodity crops in the food system correlates with increases in processed foods, and associated adverse health effects in low-income and systemically underserved communities (more on that here).  

SCF Organics brings fresh produce to people experiencing food deserts.

Shaheed Harris is the farm manager at Sumpter Cooperative Farms (SCF) in South Carolina. Among many other endeavors, SCF runs the Midlands Organic Mobile Markets, which are a suite of vans that directly distribute locally grown organic foods to the food deserts in the Midlands region of South Carolina. This project aims to address the need for equitable food access in communities in nearby metro areas with limited access to healthy foods. “Those places are areas … where they don’t have a grocery store,” Harris explains. “A lot of people don’t have vehicles to drive and they’re basically living on the nearest equivalent of a gas station. So they’re eating out of a gas station and getting chips and all types of processed foods that don’t really have a lot of nutrition.” Through the Midlands program, Harris says SCF aims to serve the people in these areas who would not otherwise have access to fresh healthy foods.

The farm bill is a package of legislation, updated once every five years, that sets the stage for our food and farming systems. The current farm bill expires in October of 2023, and a new suite of legislation will be developed and put into action. This farm bill cycle is a ripe opportunity to make solid advances towards a just transition to a new type of production that both mitigates and adapts to our changing climate, supports the health of the land and the people producing our food, and can help prevent food insecurity by increasing the amount of organic, nutritious food on American’s dinner plates.

Because of their place on the front lines of these challenges, farmers and ranchers represent a vibrant space of innovation and creativity to meet them. Our farmers and ranchers answering these challenges should be sources of inspiration on policy tools and instruments for the 2023 farm bill. 

Clover cover crop, to be tilled back into the soil.

Jesse Buie is the president of Ole Brook Organics in Mississippi. One of the main environmental factors that Buie deals with is a lot of rain which can cause leaching of nutrients from the soil. To combat this he focuses on building healthy soil by making sure that he is constantly adding organic matter. At Ole Brook Organics they do this primarily by incorporating all the plant matter back into the soil. Any grasses or crop residue left after a crop is harvested are chopped up and tilled back into the fields, forming a closed-loop of nutrient cycling.

At SCF Harris is dealing with the opposite environmental concern: too little water. They have addressed this challenge by implementing Dry Farming practices that he learned from his family’s farming heritage. This style of farming, which combines unirrigated crop production with shallow cultivation offers a promising alternative in times of uncertain water resources. 

Building resilience to economic disruptions has led some farmers to increase their use of local inputs, processors, and distributors, avoiding or lessening the impacts of supply chain disruptions in global markets. And as an added benefit this localization increases the access to nutritious, culturally appropriate, and tasty food that can connect communities. 

Rotational grazing can be a tool for healthy pasture management.

Dayna Burtness is a farmer at Nettle Valley Farm in Spring Grove, Minnesota, raising pastured pigs. “We’ve been able to build community while building land resiliency,” she explains. “We’re able to work with nearby farmers and fruit growers to take non-marketable produce and turn it into delicious pork, which is benefiting everyone! It reduces the amount of food waste and helps other farmers put what they grow to good use. We are working hard to help create a different type of food system, we just wish there was more public support to really kick this change into overdrive.”

Federal research, conservation, and market development programs created and funded in the Farm Bill make all of these things possible, but expanded support is necessary to continue to support farmers and create a healthier future for people and the planet. If you want to get involved in advocating for a better food system, Ariana Taylor-Stanley (ariana@sustainableagriculture.net) at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition or Gordon Merrick (gordon@ofrf.org) at the Organic Farming Research Foundation!

. . . 

Links for further reading:

Narrow and Brittle or Broad and Nimble? Comparing Adaptive Capacity in Simplifying and Diversifying Farming Systems, Frontiers

Green Revolution: History, Impact and Future, by H.K. Jain, available through most book suppliers

Chicken farmers say processors treat them like servants, AP News 

Farmers and animal rights activists are coming together to fight big factory farms, Vox 

2021 Tied for 6th Warmest Year in Continued Trend, NASA Analysis Shows, NASA 

The 2010s Were the Hottest Decade on Record. What Happens Next?, Smithsonian Magazine 

Americans are eating more ultra-processed foods, Science Daily

Ultra-processed foods and adverse health outcomes, The BMJ

Examining the Impact of Structural Racism on Food Insecurity: Implications for Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities, National Library of Medicine

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community at Disproportionate Risk from Pesticides, Study Finds, Beyond Pesticides

Equitable Access to Organic Foods: Why it matters, Bread for the World

What is the Farm Bill, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Hunger and Food Insecurity, Feeding America

By |2023-01-15T15:48:48+00:00January 9th, 2023|Gordon's Policy Corner, News|

Lola’s Organic Farm

Dr. Jennifer Taylor and her husband started Lola’s Organic Farm in 2009, but Taylor’s family has been working the land there for much longer. Her grandmother, Lola, who the farm is named after, was a sharecropper in rural Georgia who was given the opportunity to buy her own farmland. She became a successful independent farmer, on the land where Lola’s Organic Farm (LOF) is located today. 

“We grow many of the same crops my grandmother grew, such as unique varieties of delicious colorful vegetables, fruit, and herbs,” says Taylor. And while today the farming practices at LOF differentiate it from nearby farms (LOF is one of the only certified organic farms in the surrounding counties), growing organically is not new to the family’s farming practices. “When my grandmother was farming,” explains Taylor, “she used organic farming practices before organic certification even existed. For us, organic farming and agroecology not only builds healthy soil and healthy environments, but also supports access to healthy foods in our communities. I believe organic farming systems can, and should, be enjoyed by all farmers and consumers – in all communities.” LOF has been certified organic since 2011, and the label has helped them access markets. “It speaks to the customers,” Taylor says. 

For us, organic farming and agroecology not only builds healthy soil and healthy environments, but also supports access to healthy foods in our communities. – Dr. Jennifer Taylor

In addition to providing organic food for local markets, Taylor and LOF recognize that small and BIPOC farmers have something else of value that benefits local communities: knowledge, or, as Taylor calls it, more specifically, traditional agroecology knowledge. LOF has been described as a kind of “mecca” for people learning about organic agriculture and furthering the organic movement. The farm hosts many types of educational tours and events, and Dr. Taylor, through her work at Florida A&M University, is a celebrated small farm specialist who connects farmers to researchers and vice versa. Winner of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award in 2019, Taylor is head of a farmer-led research project (partially supported by OFRF) designed to identify needs, hindrances, and barriers of small and BIPOC farmers and works with farmers to develop solutions and resources through relevant learning sessions that provide education, hands-on training, and technical assistance. 

Taylor’s work engages researchers with farmers on the ground and works to amplify farmers’ voices and knowledge. “This project, and on-farm research in general, enables relationship-building with the farmer, the community, and researchers. It builds a unique opportunity to support the specific needs of that farmer and says to the world that farmers have important knowledge to share,” said Taylor. “This is particularly true for BIPOC farmers and communities because it gives us hope and empowerment that our voice matters. It brings our voices to the forefront of this movement.”

Small and traditionally-underrepresented farmers make up a farming majority in this (and other) areas of the country. As President of Florida A&M University, Larry Robinson, PhD, points out, “Somewhere around 90% of the farms are small farms, right? So although you might drive through these vast acreages of farmland in Florida, the vast majority of farmers (the people) are small farmers, underrepresented farmers, low-resource farmers, etc. But as a nation and as a state, we really have to be concerned about their existence, because it’s really those small farmers that make us whole.” 

To learn more about Dr. Taylor and her work, watch this video by the Florida Department of Agriculture from 2019, when Dr. Taylor was awarded “Woman of the Year in Agriculture”. 

By |2023-01-09T15:01:03+00:00December 13th, 2022|Farmer Stories|

Sumpter Cooperative Farms

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is honored to share this farmer story, featuring Shaheed Harris, farm manager at Sumpter Cooperative Farms. The following article is based off of an interview with Shaheed that was conducted earlier this year by OFRF’s staff. You can also press play below to hear Shaheed Harris tell the story of Sumpter Cooperative Farm in his own words, or click here to download it and listen later.

SCF founders, Fathiyyah and Azeez Mustafa

Based in Sumter, South Carolina, Sumpter Cooperative Farms (SCF) is a cooperative of organic farmers founded by Azeez and Fathiyyah Mustafa who, in 2003, became the first certified organic farmers in the state.  At a time when Black people represent only 1.4% of farmers in the United States and make up just half of a percent of certified organic producers, the SCF-Organic Farms LTD are trail blazers among these “one percenters.”

In addition to growing kale, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and even lemongrass tea, to name just a few of their crops, SCF’s mission is to mentor farmers and educate consumers about the benefits of vegetables and fruits grown with organic and heritage dry-farming methods and also to address food deserts (or areas suffering from food apartheid) in South Carolina and beyond. At a time when most farming focus group participants report that certified organic farmers are the most valuable resource for information, SCF provides a critical service and helps BIPOC producers to transition into the organic sector.

Shaheed Harris, the farming manager for SCF, describes the 60-member cooperative of organic farmers as an incubator for bringing people, young and old, back into farming. The roots and challenges of farming run deep in Harris’ ancestry and, he says, are part of the history in this country.   

“Specifically with black people, they have a history of relating farming to slavery. But in this current time, farming should be related to freedom.”

At the beginning of the 20th century there was a vibrant Black farmers movement that emphasized organic and sustainable methods, as well as democratically managed farming cooperatives (National Organic Research Agenda, 2022). The movement was so empowering that the percentage of farms and farm acreage in Black management roughly reflected the percentage of Black people in the U.S. population (White, M. 2018. Freedom Farmers: agricultural resistance and the Black freedom movement. University of North Carolina Press, 189 pp.) These farmers practiced many of the organic farming principles that align with today’s National Organic Program (NOP) standards. “They were organic before the word organic was ever used,” says Harris.

But Jim Crow era dispossession of Black-owned farmland and structural racism in U.S. agriculture set Black farmers back by a century, making it difficult for them to secure the capital and financial resources necessary to support a successful farming operation.

“They couldn’t afford irrigation. They couldn’t afford the big equipment,” says Harris when talking about previous generations of farmers in his family. “So, they had to rely on nature to survive. You have to adjust to nature and what nature offers.” In the process, Harris says, “You’re also adjusting your plants to be better, and you’ll be healthier for it.” 

“Farming is an ongoing learning experience”

Shaheed Harris

One approach toward helping disadvantaged farmers deal with challenges may be through SCF’s vision for transforming communities into self-sustaining micro food economies by using low cost, forgotten skills practiced by previous generations in order to thrive.

Then and now, Harris describes farming as a community building tool. To that end, SCF Cooperative conducts educational workshops, seminars, and presentations about sustainable agriculture and organic farming for the benefit of farmers and their families in the community. They even offer YouTube training videos to help farmers, for example, become certified organic producers. 

SCF has participated in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), using the program to extend their growing season. A high tunnel and a hoop house allow SCF to start plants early for transplants and to provide protection over the winter for certain crops. SCF also helps new farmers navigate NRCS conservation programs—helping them find the right program and guiding them through the application process. 

“People come through, they learn, and they go on to greatness. That’s what we want them to do.”

Still, affordability problems, in the way of operational costs and lack of capital, continue to challenge BIPOC farmers like Harris even now. Half of those surveyed for the 2022 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report indicated that access to financing to support their farming operation is an institutional obstacle, which is why cost-share programs such as EQIP are particularly helpful in aiding transitions to organic farming.  

One of the most significant SCF initiatives is the Midlands Organic Mobile Markets, vans that directly distribute locally grown organic foods to the food deserts and other communities in the Midlands region of South Carolina. Established in 2012 through the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Farmers’ Market Promotional Program, the project aims to address the interrelated problems of limited access to healthy foods and diet-related disease.

Harris says the mobile markets serve the “in between” and beyond the metro areas, such as Columbia, South Carolina, which is 45 minutes from the 22-acre farm he manages.

“Those places are areas like Eastover and Rembert, for example, where they don’t have a grocery store. A lot of people don’t have vehicles to drive and they’re basically living on the nearest equivalent of a gas station. So they’re eating out of a gas station and getting chips and all types of processed foods that don’t really have a lot of nutrition.” Through the Midlands program, Harris says SCF aims to serve the people in these areas who would not otherwise have access to fresh healthy foods.

Clover cover crop at SCF

As part of its conservation efforts, SCF works with the soil to build a natural ecology. Through cover crops, such as peas, legumes, oats, and winter rye, SCF helps build organic matter in the soil. “Some people use chicken manure or fertilizers, but we try to build our soil the natural way—through crops that absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere,” says Harris. “We do a lot of companion planting and crop rotation, and very little tilling.”

SCF also practices and teaches the art of Heritage Organic Dry Farming, described as a way to grow food in a manner that does not have an adverse effect on the environment and is better for the land by utilizing residual moisture in the soil from the rainy season. On its 10 acres that are dedicated to certified organic produce, SCF grows melons and squash, for example, during the dry season with no supplemental irrigation in the heat of the South Carolina summers. This method offers a promising alternative in times of uncertain water resources.

Dry farmed melons and squash at SCF

So how does dry farming work?  In short, the farmer or gardener starts to work the soil soon after the last rain of the season. By disking and using a roller, the goal is to create three to four inches of dry, even soil when cultivation is done. This “dust mulch” or “dust blanket” traps the moisture in the soil. This technique requires a minimum of 10-12 inches of rain during the rainy season, and the soil must have good water holding capability for this technique to work. Sandy soils don’t qualify.

Organic farming and organic practices, according to Harris, are basically “old school,” valuable hand-me-downs from his farming heritage. That’s why, he says, the water-conserving practice during the dry season is called “Heritage Organic Dry Farming.” 

Dry Farming helps to address a problem that three-fourths of the BIPOC survey respondents in the 2022 NORA report identified as the most pressing challenge for organic farmers: weeds. Dry Farming produces very few of them because the “dust mulch” layer is dry enough to prevent weed growth, which makes herbicides unnecessary. 

Fields of veggies at Sumpter Cooperative Farm

To Shaheed Harris and his daughter Asya, farming represents freedom. “If you can get a piece of land or even if you have a yard, a backyard, or just a balcony, everybody should be doing farming whatever your profession or passion may be whether you’re an actor, a rapper, singer, doctor, plumber, or janitor,” says Harris. “Farming should be a part of your life, just like eating or cooking a meal. That’s how we look at farming. It’s a way of life for survival and for community stability.”

Just as it was with his ancestors. 

. . . 

Learn more:

SCF Organic Farms

Understanding Food Deserts and Food Apartheid

Freedom Farmers: agricultural resistance and the Black freedom movement

How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland 

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

National Organic Research Agenda report 

What is Dry Farming? The Dry Farming Institute

Agricultural Marketing Service, Sound and Sensible Program

. . . 

OFRF would like to thank Shaheed Harris and everyone at SCF for sharing their story. This interview was created with funding from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Valley’s “Farmers Advocating for Organics” program, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. OFRF thanks these and other funders for their support. 

BACK to Farmer Stories
By |2023-01-18T17:02:03+00:00October 26th, 2022|Farmer Stories|

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 |2021-05-18T20:02:32+00:00April 7th, 2021|News|

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 |2021-06-17T18:37:26+00:00March 30th, 2021|News|

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 |2021-05-18T20:05:21+00:00February 17th, 2021|News|

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 |2021-05-18T20:06:06+00:00February 12th, 2021|News|

Research Advances Cucumber Lines Resistant to Bacterial Wilt and Downy Mildew

page7image38963024

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 |2021-05-18T20:05:57+00:00January 15th, 2021|News|
Go to Top