This project supports three breeding projects in cooperation with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario’s Farmer-Led Research Program. All three projects focus on providing best practices to adapt to climate change by breeding varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the US northeast and meet identified needs of organic growers in the region. By supporting farmer-led breeding efforts for organic production, this project also contributes to an emerging but critically under-researched area of vegetable farming.
One of the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s stated goals is to “take a systemsmanagement (rather than an input-substitution) approach to solving production problems.” This goal is exactly in line with my research: I am studying the mechanisms of natural pest control to promote systems management rather than input-substitution solutions to pest problems. Inputsubstitution approaches to pest control use organic pesticides in place of the more common conventional chemicals, which farmers have found time and again to be ineffective.
Farmers interested in transitioning some or all of their land into organic production need information regarding the best management practices for these systems. Soil fertility and weed management strategies are imperative for optimum plant growth and yields. Current research in organic herb production at Iowa State University has included investigations into certified organic methods of fertilization and use of organic mulches for weed suppression.
A primary goal in developing environmentally sound and profitable farming systems has been to prevent soil degradation and erosion loss, and wherever possible, enhance soil quality through organic matter management. Conventional tillage practices currently used for vegetable production in the Willamette Valley involve from 5-8 passes over the field. For the past four years we have been working with vegetable growers in the Willamette Valley to develop an integrated system of vegetable production using winter annual cover crops and rotary strip- tillage.
There is high demand for organic broccoli in the Southeast, as shown in a 2013 market survey by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, which revealed that broccoli is one of the top organic produce items in short supply. Broccoli can be produced most anywhere in the spring and fall, but summer production is limited to cooler growing areas.