USDA Funds New Cropping Research at OSU

Author: Nick Andrews

Publish Date: Winter 2009

This year OSU received a USDA award to develop an Oregon Organic Cropping Research Project lead by Anita Azarenko (OSU Department of Horticulture). Several industry collaborators reviewed research proposals from the College of Agriculture and six projects are now underway.

Extending application of “Organic Fertilizer Calculator” to cover crops

This project is collecting field and laboratory data to estimate N mineralization from cover crops. The data will be used to develop a mineralization model that estimates the release of plant-available nitrogen (PAN) from cover crops. The model will be incorporated into a cover crop calculator that will be similar to OSU’s existing Organic Fertilizer Calculator (Organic Fertilizer & Cover Crop Calculator), and will be made available on the Small Farms website. This project will enable growers to estimate how much they can reduce N fertilizer rates after incorporating legume cover crops.

Participatory Approach to Beetle Banks and Biological Pest Management

This project is collaborating with Oregon’s organic farmers to create beetle banks: on-farm habitat for naturally occurring beneficial predators such as beetles and spiders. The project is investigating optimum size and spacing of banks on farms and studying whether the banks actually improve pest suppression. Specifically, they are investigating how beetle banks influence the spatial and temporal patterns of predator activity and predation on farms.

Facilitating NOP compliance through Vegetable Variety Trials

Nearly all contemporary vegetable varieties were selected in conventional systems and may not be adapted to organic conditions, and popular heirloom varieties may lack productivity. This project grew out of an earlier OSU organic potato research project ( Participating growers requested work on Alliums and Brassicas. These trials are evaluating fall and spring planted onions, and spring planted broccoli at OSU and on organic farms. Researchers and growers will identify available organic seed of onion and broccoli varieties, establish selection criteria for organic fresh market broccoli and onions (including yield, quality and pest resistance), and compare varietal performance. Results will be made available to farmers, breeders, seed companies and certifying agencies.

Evaluation of potato germplasm for suitability in organic production systems in Oregon

Few breeding efforts have developed potato varieties adapted for organic production, and released potato varieties have not been evaluated under organic management. This project aims to identify potato varieties best suited to organic production systems. Potato quality will be assessed by chefs, distributors, retailers and processors. They will evaluate appearance, color, flavor, texture and overall liking. This information, along with yield data, will help organic producers select potatoes best suited to their production systems.

Weed control strategies in irrigated organic forage production

Organic hay production relies on weed tolerance or non-standard weed control methods. This project is studying weed control strategies best suited to irrigated organic hay production in Oregon. Perennial crops are orchard grass and alfalfa. Weed management practices will include flaming prior to resumption of growth in the spring; harrowing; and sowing at twice the standard rate. Annual systems of oats and berseem clover will also be grown. Weed management practices include cultivating in the spring but not the fall (reduced tillage); cultivating in the fall and the early spring, rolling to stimulate weed growth, then cultivating again before sowing; cultivating in the fall and then harrowing in the spring prior to sowing; and cultivating in the fall and spring and then sowing at double the standard rate. Yield and weed contamination will be determined from each cutting. The experiments are being conducted at the Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center near Madras on certified organic land.

Developing Viable Organic Cereal Production Systems for Eastern Oregon

Organic wheat acreage has increased rapidly in recent years, USDA ERS reported 143,260 acres in 11 Western States (USDA Economic Research Service, 2006). The same report estimated wheat acreage in Oregon to be only 1,778 acres. Expansion has been limited by lack of weed control methods and economical sources of nitrogen. Development of effective weed control methods using minimum tillage and economically viable N sources from perennial legumes and cover crops inter-seeded with cereals can pave the way for increased organic cereals production in the PNW.

For more information about these projects contact (503) 678-1264 x149 and keep reading Oregon Small Farms News for feature articles.