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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

2012 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:

A postdoctoral associate, an agronomist, and two technicians completed the first year and initiated the second year of replicated research on three farms and at 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. Plots are being managed at all sites with the collaboration of farmers and the BARC farm crew. Outreach materials highlighting current and published SASL research are being developed for dissemination through the eOrganic website. 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. A workshop on organic grain production was held in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, March 6, 2012; about 100 people attended.


Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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