Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: On-Farm Research and Extension to Support Sustainable Nutrient Management of Organic Grain Cropping Systems in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The long-term goals of this project are to improve nutrient management on organic grain farms of the mid-Atlantic region and to synthesize and disseminate the most current research-based knowledge addressing the most critical aspects of organic production in the region. Specific objectives are to:.
1)develop component technologies and integrated management strategies to improve nutrient management and increase environmental performance of organic grain farms;.
2)increase economic returns for organic grain farmers by incorporating improved nutrient management programs into their cropping systems; and.
3)disseminate knowledge gained from on-farm and on-station organic grain crop research using on-farm field days, regional workshops, and the eOrganic website.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Research to address Objectives 1 and 2 will be conducted on six organic farms chosen to represent the range of environmental conditions and management systems in organic grain cropping systems of the mid-Atlantic region. Replicated plots will be established on each farm using a 3x4 factorial design in which one factor is annual winter legume type or perennial legume management and the second factor is manure application timing and method. Specific options will vary by farm and will be selected by farmers to match their specific production systems. Impact of the treatments on summer crop production and soil nutrient contents will be measured to assess which combination of management options maximizes nitrogen use efficiency from legumes plus manures while minimizing soil phosphorus loading. Enterprise budget analyses will be conducted for all treatment combinations to determine which management methods optimize economic performance. Research results will be shared using on-farm field days. Annual organic grain and forage crop workshops will be held to discuss organic grain production. Data from proposed on-farm studies and existing on-station organic research conducted in SASL will be incorporated into the eOrganic website.


3.Progress Report:

An agronomist, two technicians, and numerous students completed the second year of replicated research on three farms and at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) to develop integrated cover crop and manure nutrient management strategies that increase environmental and economic performance of organic grain farms in Maryland. Replicated plots were established in the fall using three cover crops (winter pea, hairy vetch, and/or crimson clover) or differently managed alfalfa. In the spring, corn was planted at each site and three different manure rate and placement combinations were applied in a split plot treatment. Soil and plant samples are being processed and analyzed. Three eOrganic articles have been published on-line. Additional outreach materials highlighting current and published research conducted by the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory are being developed for dissemination through the eOrganic website. We held one field day at USDA-ARS-BARC in Beltsville, MD on August 28, 2012 to highlight research supported under this grant. Four SASL scientists and two graduate students gave presentations attended by about 110 people. We helped organize the 7th Annual Organic Grains, Forages and Vegetables Workshop held in Queen Anne’s County on March 6th, attended by about 125 people. We presented results from the first year of on-farm research. The talk was highlighted in the leading local agricultural newspaper, The Delmarva Farmer, and other agricultural media. We hosted a multi-state collaborator and farmer stakeholder meeting to inform on-station and on-farm organic grain production research trials (19 participants). We organized a 3-day Intensive Workshop on February 27 – March 1, 2012, bringing together nine of the top US organic grain researchers who are also actively engaged in outreach to develop long-term and short-term plans for developing the website. Draft articles from seven authors were loaded onto the eOrganic site and contributors were identified for additional articles, webinars, and videos. We helped plan and organize and attended the eOrganic Envisioning meeting held Nov. 4-6, 2012 in Portland, OR. We linked eOrganic and USDA Organic Working Group personnel to facilitate discussion of potential partnership opportunities. We captured video footage and still photos from all stages of the research and are developing a script for a short project video to post on the web. We made 11 presentations to diverse audiences composed of farmers, scientists, agricultural professionals and policymakers regarding the research supported by this grant. We provided consultations with USDA Risk Management Agency about nitrogen release from diverse materials and weed control methods used in organic farming to help evaluate farmer payments in the federal crop insurance program; with the Los Angeles Times regarding a study published in Nature on crop yields in organic cropping systems; with employees of NRCS on the value of crimson vs. red clover as a cover crop; with U.S. EPA on ecosystem services provided by organic cropping systems; with Perdue AgriRecycle LLC, on results of our research on N availability of pelletized poultry litter for organic corn production; with World Wildlife Foundation on organic agriculture; with a regional and national NRCS team from the Plant Materials Centers on cover crop management and approaches to removing barriers to cover crop adoption; with the Union of Concerned Scientists on organic no-till production; with the Organic Farming Research Foundation and USDA-ARS Organic Program Leader for a tour of ARS organic research; with USDA-ARS Chief Scientists on organic research and cover crops. A poster was presented at a national conference describing the project to date. The agronomist attended various conferences, maintained communications with local organic agriculture professionals, the eOrganic work team, and other researchers. The agronomist organized a national Organic Grains Community of Practice to develop on-line educational materials, provide researcher support, and farmer networking, and has started editing contributions.


Last Modified: 10/1/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page