| èHigh-tunnel production: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has created an Interim Practice Standard” for high-tunnel construction. Since 2001, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has funded four research projects examining various aspects of high-tunnel production. More information about high tunnels and their value in an organic production system is available from www.ofrf.org.
è Scholarship established: Frontier Natural Products Co-op™ and its all-organic Simply Organic® brand have made a combined contribution of $130,000 to establish a scholarship award at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The scholarship will cover an apprenticeship in ecological horticulture.
è Grant for developing varieties: Researchers at North Carolina State University have been awarded a three-year $1.2-million grant from USDA to develop corn, soybean, peanut, and wheat varieties with traits identified by farmers as necessary for organic production in North Carolina and across the Southeastern U.S.
è More seeds, less weeds: Research findings published in the October-December 2009 issue of Weed Technology (http://www2.allenpress.com/pdf/wete-23-04-497-502.pdf) show that planting more organic seeds means fewer weeds, thus resulting in higher crop yields. The article notes that by increasing the rate of seeding while planting organic soybeans, weeds can be suppressed and yield increased. In the experiment, five sites in North Carolina were planted with seed rates varying from 185,000 to 556,000 lives seeds per hectare. Three sites showed a reduction in weeds and increase in yield. The site with the highest seeding rate (556,000 live seeds per hectare) showed the greatest economic return.
è Carbon savings: Converting all farmland in the United Kingdom to organic farming would achieve carbon savings equivalent to taking nearly one million cars off the road, according to results of a research project released by the Soil Association, Britain’s largest organic certification body. The research estimated that the widespread adoption of organic farming practices would offset 23 percent of UK agricultural emissions through soil carbon sequestration alone.
è Less E. coli-susceptibility: Researchers from the University of Florida and the Universities of Wageningen and Groningen in the Netherlands have developed a computer model called Coliwave that predicts the risk of E. coli contamination in manure. Their findings showed that the way manure is treated and stored has a huge impact on E. coli levels, with good organic practices more likely to produce foods less likely to be contaminated. However, it is still important for farmers to take measures, such as feeding a high fiber diet, to try to prevent E. coli from forming in cattle.
è Soil health: Contemplating the future of soil health in the Opinion section entitled “2020 isions” in the Jan. 7, 2010, issue of Nature, David R. Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, University of Washington, wrote, “To avoid the mistakes of past societies, as 2020 proaches, the world must address global soil degradation, one of this century’s most insidious and under-acknowledged challenges…Ensuring future food security and environmental protection will require thoughtfully tailoring farming practices to the soils of individual landscapes and farms, rather than continuing to rely on erosive practices and fertilizer from a bag. Towards these ends, governments should aggressively fund research on and promote the adoption of agricultural practices, and technologies that cultivate beneficial soil life and sustain soil ecosystems. Over the next few decades, approaches such as low-till and organic methods could restore native soil fertility and store enough soil organic matter to offset global fossil-fuel emissions.”