Submitted to: Proceedings of the Conference on Exploring Organic Alternatives
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/16/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The U.S. research community has been slow to realize and react to the research needs of low-input and organic farms. Technology-driven "green revolution" agriculture has been seen for over 50 years as the singular goal of U.S. agriculture. Alongside this vision of advancement, low-input and organic agriculture have been viewed as "backward" and therefore ignorant of, and not needing, science of its own. One of the most commonly cited barriers to conversion to organic farming is the lack of knowledge and support from extension agents, universities, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). More researchers are now looking for new slants on ongoing research, and ways that research could relate to organic agriculture. Some of the ongoing "conventional" research that currently or potentially also serves organic or low-input agriculture include: site- specific farming and input optimization, carbon or organic matter storage, regionally and locally appropriate rotations, soil quality, and biological inoculants. Research specifically geared toward the needs of low-input and organic producers that currently enjoys some level of public support include: biological or management control of weeds, pests, and pathogens; nutrient balancing or cation ratio methods of fertility analysis; and alternative sources of nitrogen. As part of the USDA's response to the needs of low-input and organic producers, several federal research farms now include a variety of organic and low-input management plots, culture of native plants, agroforestry systems, biocontrol of pathogens and weeds, and organic orchard management. It is a slow and difficult process for researchers to realize that organic farming is not a step backward, but a step forward in a new direction.