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Organic Cropping Systems Project
Organic agriculture for the future: Designing farms for better soil and pest management.
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Cornell and collaborating farmers receive $575,000 for research on organic farming systems. The U.S,D,A. Integrated Organics Program awarded a substantial grant in Sep. 2004 to Cornell researchers and collaborating farmers to study organic cropping systems. The title of the project is "Building on the Best: A Research and Education Partnership for Increased Competitiveness of Organic Grain and Vegetable Farms".

Recent research on exemplary organic farms in the northeastern U.S.A. identified a vegetable and a grain farm with particularly successful systems. These farms achieve consistently good yields and have low weed, insect and pathogen problems, despite minimal off-farm inputs. The strategy of the proposed project is to demonstrate that these farming systems can be duplicated and compare them with improved systems worked out through collaboration between the farmers and researchers.

The goals of the project are
  1. to improve the overall health and profitability of organic farms, especially during transition and the first few succeeding years,

  2. to determine experimentally how organic soil and nutrient management affects weed, insect and pathogen pressure and

  3. to develop these cropping systems experiments as "living laboratory courses" for training extension personnel and deepening the understanding of organic farmers about their systems.
The vegetable and grain systems experiments and an on-farm nutrient study will regularly be sampled for soil nutrients, soil physical structure, soil biota, insect pests and beneficials, and weeds. Specific hypotheses on the relation of soil nutrients and soil physical conditions to weeds, insects and plant pathogens will be assessed through bioassays and micro-plot experiments. The system experiments will be used as field teaching laboratories in conjunction with web based learning modules to train extension personnel in organic systems and to broaden the knowledge of organic farmers.

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