Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 3, 2006
Publication Date: January 9, 2006
Citation: Russo, V.M. 2006. Vegetable transplants and transition to organic production. Proceedings Vegetable Growers' Association of New Jersey. 51:61-66. Interpretive Summary: Production of vegetables using certified organic techniques is becoming more important in American agriculture. Technology transfer is needed to introduce best management practices for organic production to interested producers. A grower seeking a federal organic certification for vegetable produce must conform to rules and regulations regarding production. All aspects of the production system must be in compliance. If developed from transplants the conditions of growth prior to transfer to the field must be adhered to. The field must be certified as meeting organic qualifications, and the crop grown using approved organic practices, materials and procedures. An economic analysis was performed that compared organic and commercial transplant production practices and it is more costly to produced transplants with organic practices ($0.11/seedling) than it is with conventional ($0.08/seedling). If the land is being converted from conventional production there is a three year time frame in which organic methods can be used during production before an organic certification is awarded. During this period comparisons were made between organic and conventional production methods for bell peppers. There appears to be a lag phase of at least a year before production using organic methods were similar to those for conventional methods. However, it was still more expensive to produce bell peppers using organic rather than conventional methods.
Technical Abstract: In order for produce to be granted a federal government organic certification all components of the production cycle must conform to federal rules and regulations regarding organic production. Vegetable transplants must be produced using organic methods, the field must be certified as organic, and the resulting plants must be grown under organic conditions. Materials used in the production of transplants must not contain synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Development of transplants depends on many factors including, but not limited to: air temperature, fertilizer timing and rate, irrigation timing and rate, and airflow within the greenhouse. A system using an organically certified medium and appropriate rates of an organically certified fertilizer was used to grow bell pepper transplants. The cost of production for organically produced transplants was $0.11/seedling and $0.08/seedling for those produced using conventional methods. The transplants, when transferred to the field, were grown using organic methods during a three-year transition to organic production period. Comparison was made to plants grown using conventional methods. During the first year plants developed from conventionally produced transplants had higher yields than those produced using organic methods. Yields were similar for both systems during the second and third year, but costs of production were higher using organic methods.