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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICALLY AND ECOLOGICALLY BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR INTEGRATED WEED MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS Title: Usda/ars Organic Production Research

Author
item Davis, Adam

Submitted to: The Encyclopedia of Food
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: June 18, 2009
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Since 2002, USDA/ARS resources allocated to organic production research have increased by 91%. As of 2008, there were 23 USDA/ARS research units in 19 states actively conducting research on organic systems. Projects include research on smoothing transitions from conventional to organic farming, biologically-based pest and parasite management in animal and plant production systems, and whole-farm strategies for increasing ecosystem services provided by organic production systems. Although organic research has come belatedly to USDA/ARS, the scientific knowledge of organic agriculture produced by the agency is likely to have important impacts on organic production. Because USDA/ARS scientists are located all over the country, yet coordinated at a national level, they are uniquely positioned to conduct research that has relevance at both local and regional levels.

Technical Abstract: For much of its history, USDA/ARS had little to do with research on organic agriculture, however research in organic systems has made considerable gains at the agency over the past decade. In the 1980's and 1990's, as the organic food industry was taking off, ARS researchers who wanted to serve organic farmers had to stretch themselves very thin. They took on organic research projects even though they had research agendas that were already full with conventional agriculture projects. In a 2001 survey of USDA/ARS scientists interested in organic agriculture, one researcher noted that "we have no obstacles except for lack of time, funds and personnel." This survey helped to create momentum for organic research at USDA/ARS by identifying the types of obstacles that farmers faced, including limited resources, scientific issues, lack of acceptance by the agency, limited cooperators and regulatory issues. Another milestone in the development of organic research at USDA/ARS was its 2005 stakeholder/scientist workshop in Austin, TX. The meeting was attended by 63 USDA/ARS scientists and included many invited organic farmers, industry representatives and policy makers. One of the most emphatic recommendations to come out of the survey was the need to appoint a national program leader for organic production systems. This suggestion was taken, and the position is currently occupied by Dr. Jeffrey Steiner of the ARS National program staff. Under his guidance, an Organic Research Action plan was introduced in 2005, and updated in the 2008-2012 Action Plan. Since 2002, USDA/ARS resources allocated to organic production research have increased by 91%. As of 2008, there were 23 USDA/ARS research units in 19 states actively conducting research on organic systems. Projects include research on smoothing transitions from conventional to organic farming, biologically-based pest and parasite management in animal and plant production systems, and whole-farm strategies for increasing ecosystem services provided by organic production systems. Although organic research has come belatedly to USDA/ARS, the scientific knowledge of organic agriculture produced by the agency is likely have important impacts on organic production. Because USDA/ARS scientists are located all over the country, yet coordinated at a national level, they are uniquely positioned to conduct research that has relevance at both local and regional levels.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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