Developing testing protocols to assure the quality of fertilizer materials for organic agriculture

The organic industry is on track for a six-fold increase in the next five years, having grown from $6.1 billion in sales in 2000 to $29.2 billion in sales in 2011 (4.2% of total food sales in the U.S that year). Consumer demand continues to drive steady growth of this sector, which is indicated by average growth of 8% per year since 2002.

California is the national leader in organic farming, with the highest number of organic farms, acres under organic production, and organic sales. Complying with the standards of the National Organic Program (NOP) is crucial to the integrity of the organic brand, and involves many factors.

One such factor is the authenticity of fertilizer used to grow organic food. This was underscored by two incidents in California in the last five years pertaining to adulteration of organic fertilizers. The absence of simple verification methods or rigorous oversight was the genesis for this research.

In order to meet the pressing demand for methodology to validate claims of fertilizers labeled as suitable for organic production, Organic Farming Research Foundation spearheaded a collaborative fundraising initiative with the Organic Trade Association to provide significant funding support for the University of California-Davis project, Developing Testing Protocols to Assure the Quality of Fertilizer Materials for Organic Agriculture, led by Dr. William Horwath. Dr. Horwath is Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry and Vice Chairman and J. G. Boswell Endowed Chair in Soil Sciences.