Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2006
Publication Date: 5/1/2007
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Cambardella, C.A., Bull, C.T., Chase, C.A., Gibson, L.R., Delate, K. 2007. Producer-Researcher Interactions on On-Farm Research: A Case Study on Developing a Certified Organic Research Site. Agronomy Journal. 99:779-790.
Interpretive Summary: Increasing consumer demand for organic products has created a need for certified organic research sites. This study evaluated different crop sequences that could be used to convert a conventional corn and soybean field into a certified organic production site. Only two of the cropping sequences were profitable during the transition period. Those sequences used either a high-value crop such as sweet corn (provided it was marketable) or low-cost crops such as oat and alfalfa for the transition period. These results are important for other researchers and those interested in making a transition from conventional to organic production because it identified many of the challenges that will be encountered. It also shows how the soil resource as well as the farmer cooperator, technical staff, land owner and research team must all go through a transition period to develop organic or other on-farm research sites.
Technical Abstract: Increasing consumer demand for organic products has created a need for certified organic research sites. Our objective is to discuss the lessons learned from evaluating alternate cropping systems to establish such a site in western Iowa. Oat (Avena sativa L.), 'Kelson' snail medic (Medicago scutelata (L.) Mill.) or 'Polygraze' burr medic (Medicago polymorpha L.), triticale (xTriticosecale Wittmack), sweet corn (Zea mays L.), soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.), rye (Secale cereale L.), alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), or red clover (Trifolium pretense L.) in five crop sequences were evaluated as transition strategies for converting no-till corn and soybean land for certified organic production. Five potential models for managing organic research sites were identified and are discussed to help researchers and producers become aware of their different roles, goals, and management challenges faced when developing a certified organic research site. A Type 3 model (Shared Management) best described our project involving a transitioning grower and researchers. Maintaining annual profit throughout the transition period was our most important factor, so potential returns to land, labor, and management were calculated to compare the various transition strategies. Only two of the cropping systems incurred a positive return to management. They used either a high-value crop such as sweet corn (provided it was marketable) or low-cost crops (i.e., oat and alfalfa). We conclude that learning from our experiences will enable others to develop certified organic research sites with much less stress than was encountered by our farmer cooperator, technical staff, land owner, and research team.