The goals of this project are to develop innovative management strategies and component technologies to improve soil fertility and nutrient management of organic grain cropping systems of the mid-Atlantic region and to synthesize and disseminate the most current research-based knowledge addressing organic grain production in the region. <P>The first objective is to develop component technologies and integrated management strategies that optimize the contribution of legume N and maximize the efficiency of manure N, thereby reducing the rate of manure required to meet crop needs and making it possible to optimize yields while balancing cropping system nutrient inputs and outputs.<P> The second objective is to increase economic returns for organic grain farmers by incorporating improved nutrient management programs into their cropping systems. <P>The third objective is to disseminate knowledge gained from on-farm and on-station organic grain crops using on-farm field days, regional workshops, and the eOrganic website. <P>Work will begin on this project in the summer of 2009. Research to address Objectives 1 and 2 will be initiated in August, 2009 on six farms. Research will be conducted on each farm for two years. Development of a Grain Cropping Systems group on eOrganic will begin in 2009 and will continue through the duration of the project. <P>We will hold two on-farm field days each year, one in spring and one in fall, in one of the areas in which on-farm research is being conducted. The regional conference will be held in March of 2010, 2011, and 2012. <P>During the last year of the grant cycle we will compile data and summarize results for peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and outreach publications.
Non-Technical Summary: There has been limited attention given to soil fertility and nutrient management in organic cropping systems in the mid-Atlantic region. As a result, organic grain farmers find it difficult to provide nitrogen to crops without overloading soils with phosphorus. The goals of this project are 1) to develop innovative management strategies and component technologies to improve soil fertility and nutrient management of organic grain cropping systems of the mid-Atlantic region using on-farm research and 2) to synthesize and disseminate the most current research-based knowledge addressing organic grain production in the region. Results from on-farm research will be shared using six on-farm field days. Annual organic grain and forage workshops will be held to discuss organic grain production and share results from on-farm and related work. We will establish a new Organic Grain Cropping systems interest group on the eOrganic website to facilitate communications, education and collaborations among researchers, educators, agricultural professionals and farmers working with organic grain crops across the country. Development of innovative strategies to improve manure N use efficiency and integrated legume - manure management techniques will result in: i) improved agronomic and environmental performance of organic grain cropping systems; ii) increased number of successful, economically viable, organic farming operations on the landscape; and iii) increased capacity of Cooperative Extension to disseminate the most current information on Best Management Practices for organic production using eOrganic and more traditional Extension publications. <P> Approach: On-farm research will be conducted at six locations, selected to represent the range of environmental conditions and organic grain cropping management systems found in the mid-Atlantic region. Treatments at all locations will be arranged in a randomized complete split-block design with four replications. The split treatment factors will be alternative legume treatments imposed across four poultry litter management strategies. Each experiment will be conducted twice on each farm, once in 2009 to 2010 and once in 2010 to 2011, in adjacent fields with similar soil type and management history. On the three farms with alfalfa in the rotation, the legume management alternatives will be no alfalfa, and harvested vs. non-harvested spring growth of alfalfa prior to termination and subsequent planting of the summer cash crop. On farms where perennial legumes are not part of the rotation, the legume treatments will be a comparison between crimson clover, hairy vetch and no-cover (winter weeds) to serve as the control. The poultry litter treatments will be: i) an N based application broadcast at legume termination; ii) a P based application broadcast at legume termination; iii) a P based application placed in a narrow band between the rows when corn is about 10 to 12 in. tall; and iv) a control with no poultry litter applied. We will evaluate the influence of each legume - manure management combination within and across farming systems on productivity, N use efficiency, environmental performance, profitability, and weed populations using analysis of variance with the mixed procedure of SAS. Results from on-farm research will be shared using six on-farm field days. Annual organic grain and forage workshops will be held to discuss organic grain production and share results from on-farm and related work. We will establish a new Organic Grain Cropping systems interest group on the eOrganic website to facilitate communications, education and collaborations among researchers, educators, agricultural professionals and farmers working with organic grain crops across the country. Evaluation of the project will follow the logic model. We will hold annual meetings in 2011 and 2012 with our collaborating farmers in association with the annual meeting of the Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association or of Future Harvest/Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. We will seek input on outputs, outcomes, and impact of the project to date. The evaluation plan will include an assessment of the outreach materials. Success of the research portions of the project will be determined based on data analysis and summary. We will adapt surveys previously developed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to evaluate the effectiveness of field days and the annual workshops. Surveys will be distributed to cooperating producers, field day participants and Cooperative Extension personnel to assess pre- and post-knowledge gain and adoption of Best Management Practices.