OF819 – Organic Farmer

Adopting Diversified Organic Farming to Increase Ecosystem Services

Conventional farming adopted in modern agriculture are mostly monoculture-based, relying heavily on the use of external chemical (for example: pesticides and fertilizers) inputs (Fig. 1). While these systems provide valuable agronomic benefits, they could result in declines of local and regional biodiversity, soil erosion, selection of pesticide resistance, greenhouse gas emissions, and eutrophication (depletion of oxygen in the water). Given the environmental impact of conventional agriculture, it is necessary to explore and develop alternative, more environmentally sensitive and resilient agricultural systems. There is a growing body of research regarding diversified organic and ecologically-based farming systems in California and other...

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Using Concentrated Organic Fertilizers

Most organic fertility programs start with soil building practices that increase organic matter with cover crops, compost and fertilizer materials that mineralize slowly over time so that there is an adequate and steady supply of nutrients. There are times when you may need to boost the soil fertility to stimulate plant growth when existing programs aren’t providing what the plants may need. Some reasons: Soils are cool. The crop that you are growing is simply not finding enough minerals needed for sufficient growth through the existing supply in the soil. Compost or cover crops simply didn’t...

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Protecting the Whole Organic Farm Just Got Better

On June 5, 2019 the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), which oversees the entire federal crop insurance program, announced important changes to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policy as a result of legislation passed in the 2018 Farm Bill. We at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) have been working since 2008 to support and improve the whole farm revenue approach to insuring farms and ranches. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and many others have also helped and after these many years of effort there is now a nationwide policy to insure the revenue from the whole...

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Organic Agriculture and the New Biotechnology

Of all the questions that were up for debate in the development of organic standards in the 1990s, the most contentious was likely the use of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering techniques. Early efforts to introduce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their products to organic farming and food systems throughout the world were not well received. In the United States, the question was hotly debated by the then-new National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and culminated in a recommendation not to accept the technology. In 1997, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed allowing specific applications of genetic engineering...

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Pasture Mixes to Improve the Sustainability of Organic Pasture-based Dairy

As the market for organic pasture-raised beef has grown, so has consumer demand for dairy products from pasture-based cows. Producers are responding, with organic pasture-based dairies making up a larger share of the Western region dairy sector.   The Organic Production System This production system is not without its problems and challenges. Dairies such as these that use the most pasture forage—anywhere between 75 to 100 percent of diet—have the lowest net returns due to a 32 percent decrease in milk production, according to Dr. Blair Waldron, United States Department f Agriculture (USDA)/Agricultural Research Service (ARS). He notes that...

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Transforming Agriculture from A Problem into a Solution

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts substantial changes in precipitation patterns around the globe, which has major implications for freshwater resources. Reduced rainfall and water scarcity are likely consequences of climate change in many regions. For example, desertification—an irreversible reduction in the productivity of land that was once arable—is a growing problem in Africa where water is already a scarce resource and food insecurity an overwhelming issue. In many places around the globe, water is rapidly becoming a precious resource, and the amount of land suitable for agricultural production is shrinking. However, a lack...

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Importance of Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards Board defines organic food as the food that is produced without the use of conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, sewage-sludge-based fertilizers, herbicides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), antibiotics, growth hormones, or irradiation. The land that produces organic food should not have the prohibited substances used for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop. The demand for organic foods, including tree nuts, has been on the rise in the United States, and elsewhere. Based on the survey data published by USDA-NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) in 2017, California is...

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A Preliminary Evaluation of Using Drip Irrigation in Organic Spinach Production

Introduction Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green quick-maturing, cool-season vegetable crop. Most conventional and organic spinach fields are irrigated by solid-set or hand-move sprinklers. However, overhead irrigation could contribute to the speed and severity of downy mildew epidemics within a field when other conditions such as temperature are favorable. Downy mildew on spinach is a widespread and very destructive disease in California. It is the most important disease in spinach production, in which crop losses can be significant in all areas where spinach is produced. In the low desert of California, spinach downy mildew typically occurs between mid-December...

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