While research on cover cropping and compost application have surged in the past decade, organic growers are still struggling to maintain sufficient levels of available nitrogen (N) in vegetable cropping systems. Especially in semiarid regions like California, relying on N mineralization from banked reserves in soil organic matter has not provided enough N to support high crop yields competitive with conventional systems; an additional source of labile N may be needed during the season.
Soil health and nutrient cycling, crop yield, and weed competition was evaluated in a perennial living mulch row middle system with different in-crop-row soil/weed management treatments: no-tillage, minimum-tillage, conventional tillage, tillage/sprayed with vinegar, and tillage/mulched with paper (Ecocover). None of the treatments received any fertilizer other than incorporated one-year-old red clover cover crop which was strip-tilled into crop rows in April. No-till red clover was maintained in row middles between strip-till experiment crop rows.
Many of today's biggest agricultural challenges are social, as extensive research on best management practices is met with low rates of adoption. Bridging the gap between research and implementation requires moving past the quantitative, survey-based methods that are often used to answer questions about adoption and decision-making processes (Prokopy, 2011). Our study aims to promote successful utilization of best organic nutrient management practices by employing qualitative social science research.
Soil health is ideally a central part of organic farm management. One key question is how diversification practices (e.g., diversified crop rotations, cover crops, etc.) that build soil health influence how and when nitrogen is made available from soil organic matter. This question is particularly important to consider when determining the timing and choice of organic fertilizer application on diversified organic farms.
Predicting the capacity of soil to supply nitrogen is an ongoing challenge in organic farming. Simple and affordable soil tests that can predict organic nutrient release are of particular interest for organic farmers, because organic farming exclusively relies on this microbially-driven process for crop nutrition. Emerging soil health measurements can shed insight into organic nutrient mineralization, offering organic farmers a better nutrient management tool.
In the Midwest, one limitation faced by small- and mid-scale organic producers involving cover crop-based, no-till systems is the expense associated with equipment such as a roller crimper needed to terminate the cover crop for spring planting. Thus, the development of an effective no-till system that does not require the use of expensive equipment would be beneficial to producers.
Green manures (GMs) play an essential role in organic grain-based systems on the Canadian prairies by contributing to soil health, cash crop yield, and grain quality. While this is well documented on research farms, a recent scan conducted by the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI), indicated poor adoption of GMs and lack of proper GM management. The goal of this research project is to increase the use and proper management of GMs.
While the majority of carrots are cultivated in California, recent droughts and water use restrictions may impact the success of future crops. Even in states such as Wisconsin, where water is more abundant, crops still must overcome oscillating soil moisture regimes due to differences in soil drainage, water-holding capacity, and microclimate conditions, as well as the anticipated drier summers which are predicted to increase with climate change.