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Providing Scientific Support for Organic Agriculture


<ol> <LI> Develop organic livestock research and education. <BR> a. Organic sheep. The goal of this project is to expand capacity for production and marketing of organic lamb produced in the Eastern United States, and to enhance sustainability of organic sheep and crop farming systems through crop and livestock integration. <BR>b. Organic poultry. The goal of this project is to study the feasibility of using pasture reared organic broiler chickens as a component of a four year organic livestock/crop rotation program and investigate the nutritional value of pasture reared organic broilers. <LI>Conduct advanced assessments of environmental impacts of organic farming. The goal is to evaluate the effects of innovative organic farming systems using a multi-scale watershed approach in which effects on soil and water are investigated.<LI> Conduct assessments of food safety of organic foods. <BR>a. Organic broilers. The goal is to investigate strategies for controlling pre-harvest contamination of pasture reared organic broilers. <BR>b. Organic vegetables in integrated vegetable livestock production. <BR>The goal is to learn how these two systems interact and work synergistically and use this information to make science-based recommendations to producers and policy-makers about this holistic approach to agriculture.<LI> Develop research in the quality of organic foods, including nutritional and health aspects, in particular as they relate to soil quality. The goal is to conduct basic and applied research on relationships among soil health, organic crop/livestock product quality and health and ultimately human health. <LI> Mental models research for better extension programming for organic weed management. <BR>The goal of this objective is to overcome barriers that prevent organic farmers from accessing and using scientific information about weed management. At the conclusion of this project we expect to have recommendations on how to enhance weed control and how to promote adoption of ecological weed control practices across diverse communities of producers, especially those currently estranged from the scientific community.<LI>Continue research on sustainable organic crop management.<BR> a. Horticultural Crops. The goal is to enhance productivity and soilborne disease control in intensive organic vegetable production with mixed-species green manures. <BR>b. Specialty Small Grains. The goal is to to develop and deploy profitable certified organic management systems for production of high value cereal grains (bread wheat, spelt, food grade barely, high oil oats) under Midwestern growing conditions.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Organic foods are the fastest growing sector of the U. S. food industry. What once was a small and marginal social/environmental movement is maturing into a mainstream phenomenon, with significant opportunities for research, education and outreach spanning a range of natural and social sciences. Until recently, scientific support for organic agriculture in the U.S. lagged far behind that in Europe. OSU/OARDC is one of the nation's first land grant universities to create a specific program to address the needs of this growing sector of the U. S. food system. The interdisciplinary Organic Food and Farming Education and Research Program (OFFER) was established in 1998 in response to requests from organic producers in Ohio for science-based information and has become as a national leader. <P>
Objectives of this Hatch proposal are: 1) Develop organic livestock research and education, 2) Conduct advanced assessments of environmental impacts of organic farming, 3) Conduct assessments of food safety of organic foods, 4) Develop research in the quality of organic foods, including nutritional and health aspects, in particular as they relate to soil quality, 5) Mental models research for better extension programming for organic weed management, and 6) Continue research on sustainable organic crop management. <P>
Our goal is to be a national leader in nurturing the growth of organic agriculture into a vital and sustainable industry and a rich and mature science, one that integrates the historical holistic and systems values of the organic movement with the best of modern science.


APPROACH: Obj.1a. Effects of sheep grazing with no sheep grazing in an organic grain system will be compared in 5 crops on: weed populations and feed quality, crop yields and quality, soil quality, sheep health and nutrition, and economic costs and benefits. Other studies will investigate use of hair sheep versus wool sheep and meat characteristics. Eastern and western organic lamb will be compared. b. Organic broiler experiments will use small, movable pens 1.7 X 1.5 m with 10 broilers. There will be 16 individual pens in blocks of four. Yearly experiments will be set up as a 2 X 2 factorial with 2 replicate pens per block and 2 blocks per treatment. 10 ft strips between blocks will be used as a no-chicken control treatment for soil quality and fertility assessments.<P>
Obj.2 will be achieved by: monitoring effects of transition to organic intensive and continuous beef cattle grazing on surface and subsurface water quality and quantity on experimental gauged watersheds at the USDA ARS NAEW; comparing effects of organic and conventional dairy production on Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index and water chemistry in Sugar Creek head water streams; conducting extension programming for organic livestock producers to enhance their competitiveness and enhance water quality and quantity; and conducting educational internship programs for secondary and university students and integrating information into OSU classes. <P>
Obj.3. Specific outcomes to be measured are: bovine prevalence of E. coli O157, soil suppressiveness towards E. coli O157, vegetable contamination with indicator organisms (coliforms and E. coli) and irrigation water contamination. Stakeholder needs for research in mixed organic livestock-vegetable production will be assessed. <P>
Obj.4. In greenhouse and field experiments effects of soil amendment quantity and quality on spelt biochemistry, resistance to insects and diseases, and baking functionality will be determined. The economic feasibility of organic farmers adopting optimized amendment recommendations will be evaluated. <P>
Obj.5. In-depth mental models of organic farmers in OH, IN, CA, ME, and The Netherlands will be developed and correlated with biophysical data gathered from their farms. A learning community of growers, researchers and extension educators within the eOrganic Community of Practice will be established to conduct case-study research on working farms, and outreach on benefits of crop rotation for weed management. Differentiated educational programs and communication strategies will be developed, disseminated, and evaluated. <P>
Obj.6a. Participatory research and extension programs that address effects and economic value of using mixed-species green manures in various organic vegetable cropping systems; the extent that mixed species green manures can be used to predictably restructure and manage functionally-important microbial populations in the root zone of cash crops; and ways technical and economic barriers to adoption can be overcome will be conducted. b. Cultivar trials of hard white winter wheat are being conducted at two OH locations. Bread dough mixing quality characteristics and disease resistances will be determined.

Stinner, Deborah
Ohio State University
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