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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Integrating Sunflower with Organic Grain Production in the Southeastern United States

Location: Crop Protection and Management Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The purpose of this project is to develop management systems for organic grain production that incorporate minimum tillage, cover crops, and high value grains. Demand for organic food in the United States has increased 20% annually over the past 10 years (OTA, 2008). Organic price premiums and government programs are attracting farmers to organic grain production but these producers face challenges of potentially lower yields (Drinkwater et al., 1998; Delate and Cambardella, 2004; Cavigelli, 2008), greater weed pressures, and more complex nutrient management and crop rotation challenges. Although, farmers in the southeast are in a unique position to take advantage of demand for organic grains there is a need for development of reliable organic grain production practices.

Objectives 1. Develop economically viable crop rotations for organic grain production. 2. Determine potential for use of conservation tillage in organic grain production. 3. Determine effects of organic grain production on soil quality. 4. Transfer technology to technical service providers, students and producers.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
We will evaluate corn, soybean, and wheat production in 2, 3, and 4 year rotations that will rely on legumes and animal manure (poultry litter, dairy manure etc.) as supplemental N sources. In addition cover crops will be evaluated and chosen for biomass production (weed control aspects) and potential for enhancing beneficial insects. We will consider small grains, clovers, summer cover crops (millet, sunn hemp, buckwheat, velvetbean) and alternative crops (sunflower, edamame, pigeon pea,). Productivity of systems will be evaluated based on crop yield and grain quality. Systems will be evaluated for weed, insect, and disease pressures. Nutrient availability will be determined through analysis of soils, harvest components, and crop biomass. Enterprise budgets will be developed to establish profitability of crop rotations. Crop rotations will include comparisons of alternative organic weed management systems: one with major emphasis on intensive tillage and another with major emphasis on conservation tillage. Soil quality will be evaluated annually in the rotation and tillage treatments by measuring a number of soil parameters including soil carbon, particulate organic matter, microbial biomass, and potentially mineralizable N. Knowledge of systems for organic grain production emphasizing rotation, tillage, weed, pest, soil, and economics will be transferred to students, farmers and technical support personnel through workshops, class room instruction, hands on participation in the research project, brochures, bulletins and research publications.


3.Progress Report:

This project is linked to Objective 2 "Develop and test bio-based management systems for stink bugs that are widely adaptable to various cropping systems in the southeastern region of the United States" of the in-house project.

A Producer Advisory Committee assembled. Over the year, researchers discussed project plans with Producer Advisory Committee via several conference calls. After field plots were established in the fall, baseline soil samples were obtained for soil quality information. Soon afterwards winter cover crops, i.e., rye and crimson clover, were planted in plots for summer sunflower, and winter wheat was planted in plots for summer soybean. A soil water monitoring system was purchased and established in the plots to monitor soil water after planting. A UGA Weather Station near the plots was used to monitor daily temperature and rainfall. Sunflower and soybean were planted in early summer. Plots were monitored for weed and insect infestations over the growing season of these two crops. The research activities were monitored via weekly to biweekly site visits and e-mail updates from researchers as well as one-to-one discussions with all researchers.


Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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