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NRCS EQIP: What You Need to Know About the Organic Initiative

eOrganic authors:

Sarah Brown, Oregon Tilth

Ed Zaborski, University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

David Lamm, NRCS East National Technology Support Center

Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota

Michelle Wander, University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) program is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and is available in all states and all counties. The program provides assistance for new and existing organic producers to implement  conservation practices new to their farm, including conservation crop rotations, cover cropping, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, and forage harvest management. The 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative provides financial and technical support to help producers plan and implement conservation practices to support their organic operations in being more environmentally sustainable.

NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative Factsheet

When are applications due?

EQIP applications are accepted continuously, with deadlines established for individual "rounds" of funding. Applications submitted after the deadline are held for the next round. Contact your local District County office to verify the application deadline in your state.

Who is eligible?

 The Initiative will focus EQIP financial and technical assistance to:

  • Certified organic producers
  • Transitioning to organic production, or
  • Organic producers exempt from certification (selling less than $5,000 of organic products annually)
Enrollment details
  • The intent of this initiative is to help organic growers incorporate new conservation practices into their farming operations. Producers participating in the Organic Initiative are limited to financial assistance up to $20,000 per year and a total of $80,000 over a 6 year period for implementing conservation practices. EQIP payments are set up by a contract that can last several years.
  • Payments are made for the adoption of new conservation practices and in some cases, the enhancement or improvement of existing practices. Certified organic producers who have already been using organic and conservation techniques might not meet the criteria for new practice adoption. For these producers, the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program might be an attractive option.
  • Payments for the implementation of conservation practices are determined at the regional and state level. In most cases payments are by the acre but is some cases they are per farm or some other unit of measurement. Talk with your district conservationist to ensure that your contract reflects payments most appropriate for your farm. In many cases, organic payment scenarios are available that account for the higher cost of implementing conservation in accordance with the NOP rules. Make sure you understand what the costs are for practice implementation before signing a contract.
  • Organic producers who are interested in conservation practices that will cost more than the $20K/$80K limits of the Organic Initiative may participate in regular EQIP. The competition increases, but the maximum payment could rise to $300,000 over a 6 year period. It could even rise to $450,000 if you can justify it as of a unique and significant environmental benefit.
  • In addition to the usual contract requirements for EQIP, producers agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an organic system plan per provisions established in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) and to standards established in the National Organic Program (NOP) Act (7 USC 6501-6522). For more information see the Self-Certification Worksheet that you'll be required to sign. If terms are not met, the EQIP program contract may be terminated and producers may be responsible for repayment of benefits received and possible assessment of liquidated damages.
What kinds of conservation practices are eligible?

The 2012 Organic Initiative provides support for a range of practices.  NRCS has identified 64 eligible practices but these are adjusted by state. Your local office should be able to provide you with a list of eligible practices and explain what they each entail. Eligible practices can assist you in the following:

  1. Developing a conservation plan
  2. Developing a transition to organic plan focused on conservation practices
  3. Establishing boundaries and buffer zones
  4. Improving soil quality and organic matter while minimizing erosion
  5. Improving pest management
  6. Developing a grazing plan and improving grazing resources
  7. Improving waste utilization and composting 
  8. Improving irrigation efficiency
  9. Enhancing cropping systems and nutrient management 

Consult the 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative Practice List and National Organic Program Rules Correlation Matrix to determine how conservation practices relate to your organic system. For more information on practices addressing the NRCS resource concern categories of soil quality, soil erosion, domestic animals, plant condition, water quality, and fish and wildlife consult NRCS practice standards. Keep in mind that each state has very specific standards and specifications for why and how practices are implemented before making a payment. Make sure to be clear on what these expectations are and ensure that they will meet your needs. Below are a few examples with links to the national NRCS standards.

Conservation Crop Rotation

This practice is used to control erosion, manage pests and nutrients and increase soil organic matter by alternating crops grown in a sequence. It serves as the foundation for improving the soil resource on a farm, and fits well with NOP requirements.

NRCS Conservation Crop Rotation Practice Standard:

Cover Crop

This practice is used to control erosion, improve soil quality, manage nutrients, increase biodiversity, and suppress weeds. It can be used in concert with a conservation crop rotation to maximize the resource benefits that can be achieved.

NRCS Cover Crop Practice Standard:                                                                                                                                                          ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/NHQ/practice-standards/standards/340.pdf

Nutrient Management

This practice is used to control the amount, type, timing and placement of nutrients to support crop production. Nutrient application rates are based on the use of a nutrient balance sheet that determines the crop nutrients needed to produce a realistic yield goal using soil test, manure analysis and accounts for nutrient credits from legumes, composts, etc.              

NRCS Nutrient Management Practice Standard:
Job Sheet:

Pest Management

This practice is used to prevent and mitigate pesticide and pest suppression related risks to natural resources. While it does not pay for the implementation of IPM, when risks (or potential risks) are identified it can help you develop an IPM plan based on Land Grant University guidance.                                                                                                                                                                  

NRCS Pest Management Practice Standard:
Job Sheet:

Prescribed Grazing

This practice requires producers to manage their pasture according to a prescribed grazing plan. The plan contains information related to forage quality and quantity and animal numbers to develop a grazing schedule based on a forage-animal balance. It also includes a contingency plan and monitoring activities, and can be used by organic livestock producers to comply with NOP grazing requirments for ruminants.

NRCS Prescribed Grazing Practice Standard:

Forage Harvest Management

This practice is for the timely cutting and removal of forages from the field as hay, green-chop or ensilage. Harvest is conducted at the proper stage of maturity for planned quality and quantity of forage, and to maintain healthy plants to lessen incidence of disease, insects and weed infestations.

NRCS Forage Harvest Management:

How can I apply?

To determine program eligibility, discuss conservation options on your farm, and fill out an application contact your local district office.

In addition to meeting criteria for the EQIP Organic Initiative, you will need to meet criteria related to the determination of Highly Erodible Land, wetland conservation/compliance and the Adjusted Gross Income determination. To start this process you need to go into your local Farm Service Agency office and get a farm number and tract number.These criteria apply to all USDA programs not just EQIP, so if you have never been in the USDA Service Center before this is the place to start. This takes time and can be a barrier to program enrollment if you are not prepared.

For background information on the program, including ranking dates, states contacts, eligible practices, etc visit the NRCS National EQIP Organic Initiative website.

Applications for the EQIP program are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application “cut-off” dates for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. At the time of application, you will also be provided with a copy of the Contract Appendix, explaining EQIP contract terms and conditions. Review the contract appendix up-front so that you know the contract terms and conditions. Retain copies of all forms and documents that you submit to the NRCS and FSA.


Farmer Allen Williams Discusses Pros and Cons of EQIP Organic Initiative from ASAP Illinois on Vimeo.

Additional Resources Success Stories Organic Vineyard Success Story | Arizona NRCS


Success Story - Illinois NRCS


Conservation Showcase - Organics | Missouri NRCS


Conservation Showcase | Massachusetts NRCS


Oregon's Conservation Showcase | Oregon NRCS


Conservation Showcase | Washington NRCS



This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 4134

Simple Methods for Market Growers to Assess Culinary Quality with Consumers

eOrganic authors:

Kitt Healy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lane Selman, Oregon State University

Alex Stone, Oregon State University

Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Consumers expect superior flavor, texture, and appearance from fresh produce. This is especially true of produce grown organically and purchased from local farms (Bonti-Ankomah and Yiridoe, 2006). Farmers selling direct to local markets value these qualities when choosing varieties, but they may not have a way to systematically evaluate them. This article discusses simple methods for doing culinary quality evaluations, so farmers can make informed decisions about the best varieties for their farms and markets. In this article, we define culinary quality as flavor, texture, appearance, and any additional desirable attributes for cooking or fresh eating, which may vary by crop.

Although many vegetable breeders consider flavor when developing vegetable varieties, end users are not often engaged in the evaluation process. This means that breeders may miss out on particular traits of interest to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers, chefs, or other local food consumers. Gathering information on which varieties customers prefer not only helps farmers choose varieties, it also generates important feedback for plant breeders working in organic systems. More farmers trialing and evaluating the culinary quality of vegetables means more information to guide breeding decisions. The information you gain from a quality evaluation can be shared with other farmers and your customers to help you choose varieties. It can also be shared with your seed sources, particularly if the seed companies you work with are connected to the breeders of those crops. Many of the independent seed companies serving organic systems are either involved in plant breeding or are in close connection to the breeders of the seed they are selling. They are very interested in getting feedback on culinary quality!

Brief Background

The methods in this bulletin were developed by two programs working with end users to evaluate the culinary quality of vegetables and small grains: The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative (SKC) and the Culinary Breeding Network (CBN). Both organizations draw on recent research in rapid sensory evaluation, reviewed in Dawson and Healy (2018) and several years of experience testing and refining methodology with chefs and farmers.

The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative is based in Madison, Wisconsin and is a program of the Urban and Regional Food Systems Group in the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Founded in 2014, SKC conducts vegetable variety trials under organic management on research stations in Wisconsin and works with farmers in the Upper Midwest to evaluate varieties in on-farm trials. As part of the trials, SKC staff evaluate flavor in all varieties and coordinate monthly tasting events with a group of 7 to 10 chefs. Each event focuses on one or two crops, from fresh tomatoes in August, to storage potatoes in March. Criteria for the evaluations are developed collaboratively with the chefs and plant breeders or the seed companies who contributed varieties.. All the produce for the evaluations comes from university-led variety trials conducted at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Culinary quality and agronomic information from the trials are distributed to plant breeders, seed companies and local farmers to help farmers choose the best varieties for their farms. Each year in the late summer or early fall, SKC hosts an annual event, called Farm to Flavor, which highlights outstanding varieties from the program. More information on SKC and Farm to Flavor can be found at https://seedtokitchen.horticulture.wisc.edu/.

The Culinary Breeding Network is based in Portland, Oregon and was founded by Lane Selman of Oregon State University in 2010. Selman noticed that while plant breeders often evaluate in-progress varieties for flavor, they do not usually involve end users in the process. After conducting an inaugural culinary quality evaluation of sweet peppers involving Portland-area chefs, farmers and plant breeders, she launched CBN. Her goal is to ensure that breeders benefit from the perspectives of farmers, chefs and eaters, and farmers and culinary professionals benefit from varieties selected with them in mind. CBN hosts an annual event called the Variety Showcase at which chefs, bakers and brewers partner with plant breeders to highlight new and novel varieties in dishes designed for the event, which is open to the public. More information on CBN can be found at https://www.culinarybreedingnetwork.com/.

Raw and pureed samples of winter squash at a Culinary Breeding Network event. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

How to Set Up an Evaluation and Who to Involve

There are many ways to evaluate culinary quality, from informal taste tests with your crew in the field, to more formal evaluations with a group of culinary professionals. No matter where your evaluations fall on this spectrum, controlling for certain variables will help ensure reliable results.

Environmental Variables

Many of the same environmental factors that influence the productivity of crop plants can also influence culinary quality. These include temperature, rainfall, soil quality, wind direction and pest or disease pressure. It is important to design culinary quality evaluations to account for these factors. First, try to evaluate crops at peak maturity and during a stretch of average weather. If you evaluate sweet corn that is slightly past the harvest window, or tomatoes after a big rainstorm, the flavor and quality will not be representative of how that crop performs under ideal or typical conditions.

Second, it is important to account for variation within the field. At their research station, SKC uses a randomized complete block design in our trials to account for field variation. If you are interested in doing a variety trial on your farm in addition to a culinary quality evaluation, there is more information in the The Growers’ Guide to Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials (2018). Culinary quality evaluations can be done on varieties you are growing for market that are not part of a variety trial on your farm; however, to ensure that you are evaluating flavor differences due to variety and not due to soil type or management, all the varieties should come from the same field. Pick samples of the same variety from multiple parts of the field and combine them to ensure that no single fruit, root, or leaf is considered singularly representative of the variety being evaluated. Take note of the parts of the field where water tends to collect, where the soil may be more compact, or where pest or disease pressure is particularly bad. Be sure to avoid focusing your evaluation on these spots.

Minimizing Bias

Once samples are collected, the evaluation process should be designed to be as objective as possible. There are several ways to do this. First, it is a good idea to disguise the names of the varieties you are evaluating. Variety names are often catchy, so evaluators may subconsciously favor a variety if they like the name. Labeling varieties with a three-letter code instead of the variety name can prevent name bias. Just be sure not to lose the key linking codes to variety names! It’s best to avoid common three letter acronyms like IRS or OMG. These can also induce unconscious bias. Second, have evaluators try samples in a random order. People often have stronger reactions to the first variety they taste than to subsequent varieties. Having all the evaluators try samples in a different order reduces the influence of tasting order on results. Third, ask evaluators not to express their opinions in any way until the evaluation is over. Hearing how a friend feels about a variety or seeing someone scrunch up their face can easily sway an evaluator’s opinion. Offering earplugs to evaluators is a good way to keep them from talking to each other or getting distracted by ambient noise.

In general, it is a good idea to make the evaluation environment as comfortable as possible, so evaluators can focus on each sample. Evaluators should be in good health on evaluation day; a stuffy nose will greatly affect a person’s ability to taste.

Pepper samples are prepared and presented uniformly to minimize evaluator bias. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

Involving the End User

Flavor evaluations are a great way to generate valuable information while also conducting outreach to current and potential customers. Doing a taste test at a farm tour or farmers market can generate enthusiasm among general customers. Engaging culinary professionals in an evaluation can help farmers select particular varieties for high-end markets and potentially build new sales relationships. Who participates in an evaluation will influence how the evaluation is structured. As a general rule, a baseline of reliable information can be obtained either from a large group of untrained evaluators, or a smaller group of professional evaluators (Frost et al., 2015). In a large public group, extreme data points will cancel each other out to reveal general trends. In a small professional group, much more precision can be expected from tasters, so fewer data points are needed to make trends apparent. A large group of professional evaluators is, of course, ideal! The Culinary Breeding Network often involves chefs, plant breeders and experienced produce growers together in evaluations.

Chefs are highly experienced tasters, as well as potential local food customers. Take advantage of chefs’ expertise by evaluating traits important to them. For example, the general public might be interested in how a winter squash tastes roasted, but chefs might also be interested in the taste and texture of a raw, shaved squash for salads. Chefs might also be interested in single serving sized fruits, or more powerful flavors (like bitter greens) and their preferences may influence culinary trends.


Chefs, farmers and plant breeders evaluate tomato and pepper varieties at a Culinary Breeding Network tasting event for the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan.

Farm to table restaurants and chefs interested in supporting local farmers have had a large impact on the local food movement. Understanding the end users’ priorities will help make evaluation criteria maximally applicable to real world scenarios. The chefs involved in SKC and CBN are interested in finding varieties that work for both their restaurants and the local farmers they purchase from. They do not want a variety that has excellent flavor but is difficult or expensive to grow locally. They have been key stakeholders supporting varieties that combine productivity and culinary quality.

Regardless of the audience, it is important to make the evaluation setting clean, streamlined and attractive with as little variation between samples as possible. Using identical bowls or plates (white or colorless/clear is best; avoid colors or patterns) to display samples and cutting samples in to bite-size pieces in the same way for each variety will reduce bias. Providing clean toothpicks for picking up samples, and offering water and unsalted crackers as a palate cleanser will also enhance evaluators’ abilities to focus on the task at hand. See the reference list for helpful guidelines on food safety considerations when preparing samples.

It is important to taste the crop in the manner in which people are accustomed to eating it. For example, sweet corn tastes great in the field raw, but most consumers eat it boiled a few days after harvest. Varieties can taste and perform quite differently in different applications. When tasting red bell peppers, for example, you would ideally taste them raw, sautéed, and roasted, as all three preparations are common. However, consider the amount of labor required to prepare samples and whether your evaluators can handle tasting that many samples. “Palate exhaustion” is a real concern, especially when working with the public rather than culinary professionals. You may want to focus on just one preparation at a tasting. In addition to the potential for palate exhaustion, any type of cooking takes a great deal of care to ensure that all samples are treated uniformly. Slightly different times in boiling or roasting can drastically change the texture and overall qualities of prepared samples. If cooking, it is best to have someone experience do the preparation, or practice ahead of time. A rule of thumb is to evaluate 6 varieties at a time, with no more than 5 questions about each, in 1 to 2 preparations.

Description vs. Preference

At the beginning of an evaluation event, the host will provide each participant with an evaluation sheet that includes questions aimed at obtaining the desired information about the varieties in question. If the evaluation event is a one-off, it may not be necessary to collect evaluators’ names, but it is necessary to be able to link evaluation sheets from each individual if there are separate sheets for different samples. If the same evaluators will be involved in recurring evaluations, it is important to have the names or some form of identification on the evaluation sheets so you can see whether one evaluator consistently differs from the rest of the group. This may indicate that the one evaluator tastes things differently from the general populace or doesn’t fully understand what is being asked. If it becomes clear that one evaluator is dramatically shifting the trends of the group, consider removing this person’s data from the final analysis. If two or three people differ from the group, they may represent a segment of the population that tastes differently or has different preferences. This can be the case if there are different cultural backgrounds or ages of evaluators. In this case it is important to consider the preferences of the different groups rather than just taking an average across all evaluators.

Culinary quality evaluations fall into two general categories: descriptive and preference-based or “hedonic.” Descriptive evaluations ask the evaluator to objectively rate certain qualities present in the sample. Hedonic evaluations ask the evaluator whether, how much, and why they like the sample. In more scientific sensory analysis, descriptive and hedonic evaluations are generally kept separate, since evaluators may be biased in their descriptions based on whether or not they like something. In practice, for culinary quality evaluations, it is possible to combine these two types of evaluation by asking descriptive questions first, and hedonic questions second. This is not ideal, but it is a balance between minimizing bias and getting enough relevant information. Both types of information are often needed for making decisions, and having separate tastings is not practical.

If you are only trying to find out whether your target audience likes a certain variety, hedonic information is sufficient. If you would like to know what types of varieties your customers like and why, then both types of information are useful. For variety selection it is important to know something about the culinary attributes of each variety and whether that combination is desirable. Over time, if it is clear that certain characteristics are always preferred, you may be able to do just one type of evaluation or the other. In general, when working with the general public, preference data is the most reliable, and easiest to get. When working with professionals, both types of evaluation are possible.

If you are asking both types of questions at the same time, is important to separate the descriptive and hedonic questions in evaluator’s minds. For example, an evaluation sheet might begin by asking for a 1 to 5 rating of sweetness, acidity, bitterness and flavor intensity for each variety. After evaluators have rated all varieties, they may be asked to go back and end with a 1-5 rating of overall liking for each variety. This effectively separates descriptive from hedonic evaluation of culinary quality but does require evaluators to taste samples twice and may increase the time commitment or decrease the number of samples you can evaluate. A secondary option is to do a descriptive evaluation with professionals such as chefs and then using the same varieties, do a hedonic evaluation with the general public at a farmers’ market stand or CSA pickup. How much the evaluation focuses on description or preference depends on the goals of the evaluation and the interests of the end users.

Different Methods: Rating, Description and Comparison

There are many ways to design an evaluation questionnaire. The simplest is to use a rating system. The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative uses 1 – 5 or 1- 9 (1 is typically “low”) rating scales to describe culinary quality elements such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness, umami (savory flavor), and flavor intensity (Figure1). The Culinary Breeding Network also uses a 1-9 scale, advising evaluators to use only the odd numbers and reserve the evens for truly intermediate scores. Rating scales are also used to describe hedonic perceptions such as overall liking.



Tester Name:_____________


1) For appearance, rate how appealing each variety looks: what is the likelihood you would purchase this variety at a market?

2) For texture, this is a subjective score, 1= poor, 5 = excellent

3) For each flavor category, note the strength of that particular flavor component. Try to be objective, without thinking about whether you like the strength of that component.

4) Umami is a savory flavor component. It is present in foods like mushrooms, soy sauce and tomatoes. Only score for tomatoes.

5) For intensity, 1=flavorless, 5 = very intense. This should relate to the degree of the characteristic vegetable flavor of this crop, not to any off flavors. Try to be objective, without thinking about whether you like the degree of intensity.

6) For overall category, give your global appreciation (1= poor, 5 = excellent) of the flavor of each variety, excluding the appearance of the variety. Do this at the end, once you have filled out the rest of the datasheet.

7) For unusual flavors, note any particularly strong flavors or anything that tastes “off”. Write in what you are tasting, and leave blank if you do not taste anything unusual.

1=low/poor 2=moderately low 3=moderate 4=moderately high 5=high/excellent   

Appearance             Texture             Sweetness             Acidity             Bitterness             Umami             Intensity             Overall flavor             Unusual flavors            

Figure 1. Each 3-letter code corresponds to a different sample on the SKC culinary quality evaluation form

CBN and SKC also use sets of dyads to pair flavors or textures perceived as opposites and ask evaluators to place samples on the continuum between the opposites. The dyad approach to evaluating can provide a nuanced picture of the overall flavor experience, akin to a description of wine or coffee. Some flavor and texture traits such as sweetness, acidity and crunchiness may be applicable to multiple crop species while others are more crop-specific (such as earthiness for beets). Normally, a set of 4 to 5 traits is suitable for an evaluation. An example of a dyad approach is given in Figure 2. CBN has worked with culinary professionals to develop highly nuanced lists of flavor descriptors, and used those to create details dyads for evaluation. See Figure 3 below for Lane's tips on creating a flavor vocabulary for the crop you are interested in evaluating.

Variety name/code

Kale Quality Rating

Please circle where each sample falls on each continuum

Tender- Tough









* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *


* * * * *

Figure 2. Seed to Kitchen Collaborative evaluators rank kale samples along each continuum presented here. The words in the dyads were chosen in consultation with farmers to describe the most prominent flavors and textures in kale. CBN has used a similar score sheet with different words to describe the culinary attributes of winter squash.

Lane's tips on creating a flavor vocabulary*
  • Gather a group of professionals to develop a flavor vocabulary. When working with chefs, we often select participants with a minimum qualification of a culinary school degree, or five years of experience as a chef or culinary educator. Wine (sommeliers and importers) and coffee professionals are perfect candidates since they have a lot of practice identifying flavors.
  • Offer recipes or prep guidelines. If evaluators are working in their own kitchens, provide details about how samples should be prepared to ensure that the flavors detected are the result of variety differences rather than preparation differences.
  • Minimize distractions. Noise and ambient temperature are the factors most likely to impede an evaluator’s ability to taste accurately. Also be sure there are no strong aromas in the air. Tasters should close their eyes and wear earplugs to minimize sensory distraction.
  • Ask the right questions. Rather than simply asking participants to describe flavor, texture and aroma, ask “what does this remind you of?” and “what else does it taste like?” Then, using that simple prompt, ask people to brainstorm flavor words freely without additional guidance.
  • Look for varietal differences. Once the vocabulary brainstorm is complete go through the results and identify words that were common across varieties, and words that could be used to differentiate varieties. Focus on the words that differentiate varieties for future flavor evaluations.

* Drawn from experience developing a comprehensive sensory vocabulary for winter squash, in collaboration with Dr. Alex Stone and Chef Timothy Wastell. More information is available at https://www.eatwintersquash.com/

Figure 3. Lane's Tips on Creating a Flavor Vocabulary

Sometimes, a comparison of sample varieties is more useful than a description and rating of each variety in its own right. Comparing varieties helps determine which characteristics most differentiate the varieties. These methods can sometimes be easier for tasters, since they focus on differences and similarities, rather than on each attribute of each sample. Classifying samples based on their degree of similarities and differences is a method that is fairly intuitive to most people.

For comparison methods, tasters sort the samples into groups based on the characteristics that are most relevant to them. After sorting samples into groups, tasters should label each of the groups to explain how samples in that group are similar to each other and different from the other groups.

To make the process more straightforward, if something about the important flavor characteristics is known, sorting can also be done in a hierarchical manner. This involves putting samples into groups based on the characteristic that most differentiates them, then sorting within groups by secondary attributes. For example, if sweetness is known to be a major contributor to differences in flavor, tasters could group varieties into sweet and not sweet or less-sweet categories, then within categories group samples together based on their degree of acidity or based on their savory flavor. Sorting can also be done for a limited set of characteristics, to get more detail on those particular factors. For example, tasters could be asked to sort based on texture only, regardless of other flavor attributes.

For comparison methods, record the samples that were grouped together and terms that were used to describe each of the groups for each taster. Then calculate how many times a pair of samples were in the same group or in different groups, and create a list of terms used to describe/differentiate each sample (Figure 4.).

Taster Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 1 Sample 1, 2; sweet Sample 3, 4 rich, savory Sample 4 bitter 2 Sample 1, 2; sweeter Sample 3 stronger none 3 Sample 1, 2; mild Sample 3, 4 savory Sample 4 metallic 4 Sample 1, 3; sweet/savory Sample 2 acidic none 5 Sample 1, 2, 3; nice flavor Sample 4 strong, bitter none 6 Sample 1, 2; sweet, bland Sample 3, 4 strong, harsh none



Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Sample 1





Sample 2





Sample 3





Sample 4





Figure 4: Top. Example of hypothetical data sheet for a grouping exercize with four samples and 6 evaluators. The groupings are first listed, either by the evaluator after finishing the tasting, or by the researcher if the evaluators do the grouping on a piece of paper or table top and leave them for the researcher to tabulate. Bottom: The times the same samples appear together are then counted and put in a table. The number of times samples grouped together is above the diagonal, and the number of times they grouped separately below the diagonal.

For the hypothetical comparison example above, it appears that samples 1 and 2 are very similar and are described as sweeter or milder. Sample 3 changes groupings the most, and might be similar to other samples for different aspects of flavor. It appears to have a stronger, more savory flavor. Sample 4 is the most different, and may have some undesirable flavor components.

No matter which quantitative approach is employed, it is often useful to also include a few qualitative questions, or a space for evaluators to write notes. Evaluators often have important insights that are not captured in the questions on the evaluation form, such as unique culinary applications for particular varieties, or additional descriptive vocabulary for the crop in question. Having a space for write-in comments also avoids evaluators trying to fit their observation into one of the other categories, where it can skew responses. For example, if there is a metallic aftertaste to a variety, this may get incorporated into the ‘bitter’ category if you don’t provide space for comments, even though it is distinct from a true bitter flavor. Capturing these details can help differentiate between trial varieties and can help the trial leaders develop better questions for future events.

Making Sense of the Results

At the end of an evaluation, you may be left with a lot of numbers. There are many ways to turn these numbers into usable information. One option is to simply read through each of the evaluation forms and summarize the most important points from each. Which samples had the highest or lowest numbers in multiple categories, and which were most strongly preferred? If there are a lot of evaluators, however, this approach is likely unfeasible. The easiest way to begin making sense of evaluation data is to enter the data into an electronic spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel or an equivalent program. Check the spreadsheet for numbers that fall outside of the expected range, and do not include information from tasters that did not follow the instructions.

Once all the data is entered summarize the data by calculating averages for each trait evaluated on each variety. Though averages may be swayed by extreme responses, they can provide a general picture of how each variety performed for each quality being evaluated. Using the spreadsheet to calculate standard deviation will also help you see if there is a wide range of responses to a particular question, or if the evaluators were relatively aligned in their perceptions. If there appears to be a wide range of responses (standard deviation is high), check for whether the evaluators fell into two distinct groups, or whether there are single tasters that don’t align with the majority. Outliers may be caused by individual evaluators who do not understand what they are being asked to do, or who taste things differently from the rest of the group. Knowing why an outlier is present can help you decide whether to keep that response in the data set or not.

Once you have an idea of the general responses to each question, think about what information will be most useful to the target audience of the evaluation. If the purpose of the evaluation is to help farmers select varieties that will appeal to culinary customers, then highlight results demonstrating which varieties chefs favor, or which qualities tend to be present in chef favorites. Findings can be presented anecdotally (a short written description) or visually (using graphs, tables or more creative graphics). How you display results should be determined by how you expect the results to be used. Once you’ve finished displaying the results, be sure to store the data in a place where you can find it again!

The Organic Seed Alliance offers a useful online tool for keeping track of variety trial evaluations and analyzing results. Though not all culinary quality evaluations stem from variety trials, this tool can be useful for organizing, storing and interpreting culinary evaluation data. It allows you to generate a data sheet in excel and analyze your data including means, standard deviations and pairwise comparisons of varieties. The tool can be found in the On Farm Variety Trials Toolkit for Risk Management for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers.


Evaluating culinary quality of vegetable, grain, and other specialty crops can help growers determine which varieties are best suited to their customers’ needs. As with any other project or experiment, it is easy to over-complicate things when the goals of a culinary quality evaluation are not clear. Being extremely specific about the type of information you are hoping to obtain, and the intended audience of that final information will help keep the evaluation focused on the desired outcomes.

Sharing the results of your culinary quality evaluation will help make the seed system and local food system stronger. Successful evaluations provide seed companies, farmers and end users with meaningful information on what they can expect from a variety. This information in turn helps farmers equip chefs and other consumers with a better understanding of what a variety will taste like or how it can be used in a dish. One of the most commonly asked questions at a farmers’ market is “Which tomato is best?”. The answer is invariably “it depends”. What does the consumer like in a tomato? What are they using it for? If a farmer has an accurate description of the variety, they will be able to more accurately advise their customers. When results are shared, one afternoon’s worth of work conducting a culinary quality evaluation can ripple into multiple season’s worth of benefits for farmers engaged in the difficult work of feeding communities and stewarding their land.

References: Additional Resources


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Déjeuner-causerie: Régie de désherbage et innovation en grandes cultures biologiques

Agenda BIO - ven, 2019/04/12 - 15:44

Le Club agroenvironnemental du CDA (Club Bio+) organise un déjeuner-causerie pour les producteurs intéressés à la production biologique. Cette activité a pour objectif de faire un retour sur les techniques de désherbage mécanique utilisées, de vous informer sur les innovations en production biologique et surtout de favoriser les échanges entre les producteurs.

Le déjeuner-causerie aura lieu le jeudi 25 avril 2019 au Days Inn de Berthierville (760 rue Gadoury)


Déjeuner-causerie: Régie de désherbage et innovation en grandes cultures biologiques

CETAB+ Activités - ven, 2019/04/12 - 15:44

Le Club agroenvironnemental du CDA (Club Bio+) organise un déjeuner-causerie pour les producteurs intéressés à la production biologique. Cette activité a pour objectif de faire un retour sur les techniques de désherbage mécanique utilisées, de vous informer sur les innovations en production biologique et surtout de favoriser les échanges entre les producteurs.

Le déjeuner-causerie aura lieu le jeudi 25 avril 2019 au Days Inn de Berthierville (760 rue Gadoury)


Formation: Cultiver vos champignons

Agenda BIO - mer, 2019/04/03 - 09:20
Mardi, 16 avril, 2019

Formation: Lutte biologique aux ravageurs

Agenda BIO - mer, 2019/04/03 - 09:18
Jeudi, 11 avril, 2019

Certification of Organic Farming Systems

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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New Modules for Teaching Undergrad Students about Organic Agriculture

Join eOrganic for a webinar by Randa Jabbour of the University of Wyoming on new modules she developed for teaching undergraduate students about organic agriculture. The webinar is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. 

Register now at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dU7qqhNEQWKSy2Vvx2MYXw

About the Webinar

This webinar will highlight the outputs of a recent NIFA OREI education project focused on developing introductory modules for teaching undergraduate students about organic agriculture. The target audience for this webinar are agricultural educators interacting with students at high school or college levels. Randa Jabbour will discuss the resources created as part of this project and different ways to incorporate them into both online and face-to-face teaching. The lessons within each module are independent of one another, and all components can be “plugged in” to classes as relevant – for example, one could consider using a lesson from the pest management module within an Integrated Pest Management class not specific to organic agriculture. Most resources referenced in these modules are open-access or freely available, and the modules can be downloaded from the website of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Associate (http://www.sustainableaged.org/teaching-resources-library/). Several lessons are built around an original film series “Organic Producer Perspectives” (bit.ly/orgproducer) created as part of this project that consists of interviews with certified organic farmers and ranchers.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Organic Grass-Fed Dairy Standards Webinar

Join eOrganic for a webinar on new organic grass-fed dairy standards, on April 16 at 2PM Eastern Time, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time. It's free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. Attendees will be able to type in questions for the speakers.

Register now at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_spL0LHo3Tx-AVrFu2-xekw

About the Webinar

This webinar will focus on new grass-fed standards, which are designed for dairy farms that are already certified organic. Presenters will give an introduction to grass-fed dairy farming: what it is, and how it differs from other dairy management systems. Organic standards are set nationally by the USDA; however grass fed dairy labels and standards are newer, and there are several. The standards, as well as some of the accreditation information will be discussed, so that viewers can understand the 3rd party accreditation and certification process.

Presenters: Heather Darby, University of Vermont; Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting; William J. Friedman, Organic Plus Trust; Rachel Prickett, Earth Claims

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Growing the eOrganic Community: Annual Report 2018


eOrganic Annual Report 2018

In 2018, eOrganic celebrated its ninth year as the Organic Agriculture Community of Practice of eXtension, at http://www.extension.org. Our goals are to engage farmers, agricultural professionals, and other members of the organic agriculture community with timely and relevant science-, experience-, and regulation-based information in a variety of formats; and to foster a national organic research and outreach community. Through articles, videos, webinars and conference broadcasts, we make organic research available and accessible to the public. A complete list of all eOrganic publications through 2018 is available here. 

eOrganic launched in 2009 with funding from the USDA NIFA OREI. Since 2011, our work has been funded by subawards on NIFA OREI, ORG and other federal research grants. More than 300 eOrganic members and collaborators have actively contributed to eOrganic by authoring and/or reviewing articles, producing or reviewing videos, answering Ask an Expert questions, presenting webinars, or attending outreach and leadership events. Read about our accomplishments in 2018 and our upcoming plans for the 2019 season.

Outreach to Farmers and Agricultural Information Providers

To help spread the word about eOrganic and the resources we provide, we had booths at several farmer events in 2018, including the Organic Seed Growers Conference and the Small Farms Conference at Oregon State University. Special thanks to eOrganic staff member Cindy Salter for staffing the exhibits.

For the first time in 2018, eOrganic sponsored a Student Competition and Planned Oral Session at the American Society for Horticultural Science conference along with the ASHS Organic Interest Group. Students submitted an article to be published on eOrganic for the general public about their research, and 5 winners were awarded funding to attend the conference and the opportunity to present their work at the session. In addition, Alex Stone of the eOrganic Leadership Team introduced the participants to eOrganic resources and publishing. The winning articles were published, and due to the success of the event for all involved, another competition was held for the 2019 ASHS conference. In this session, we plan to include a presentation on writing for a farmer audience.

To keep researchers, educators, service providers, and farmers aware of our published resources and webinars, as well as other online resources of interest to our community, we publish the eOrganic Updates newsletter. More than 12,000 people received these notices in 2018. In addition, eOrganic maintains an active presence on social media sites such as Facebook, where we have 4600 followers; and Twitter, where we have over 3,000 followers. In 2018, eOrganic pages at extension.org attracted over 599,000 page views. Our YouTube channel attracted over 390,000 views, leading it to surpass 3.1 million views.

eOrganic Webinars and Conference Broadcasts

Since December of 2009, we've offered our popular webinar series, attended by farmers, Extension educators, researchers, organic inspectors and certifiers, nonprofit staff, government agency researchers, master gardeners, and agriculture professionals. These webinars, which contain information on the latest organic research and practical farming techniques, allow people from all over the world to hear a presentation, view the presentation slides, and type in questions—all without having to leave their farms or travel to conferences. Presentations are recorded and made available for viewing at any time from eOrganic's YouTube channel. To date, eOrganic has delivered more than 200 webinars attended by over 23,000 attendees, of which, on average, approximately 30% were farmers. In addition, eOrganic broadcasts selected presentations from national organic conferences live online and archives the presentations on YouTube.

The 2018 season featured 3 days of live presentations from the Organic Seed Growers Conference, as well as 18 webinars on diverse topics such as organic tomato seed production, conducting variety trials, abrasive weeding, organic IPM, and tools for farm biodiversity. Many of the webinars were based on new research from USDA NIFA Organic Research and Extension Initiative and Organic Transitions Program projects. We also collaborated with the Organic Farming Research Foundation on 2 webinar series about soil health and organic farming. We have many more webinars scheduled for 2019 on grass-fed dairy farming, corn breeding, and organic farming practices for soil health. You can find all eOrganic upcoming and archived webinars and live broadcasts at http://www.extension.org/pages/25242.

Highlights of the 2018 Webinar and Conference Season Webinar Evaluation

In 2018, 2,450 people attended eOrganic webinars and live conference broadcasts. Across all webinars, approximately 48% responded to post-webinar evaluation surveys. Of these, approximately 29% were farmers, 10% were Extension personnel, 9% were university researchers and educators, 5% were from nonprofits, 12% were agriculture professionals, 9% worked for government agencies, and 5% were organic inspectors or certifiers. Survey respondents' geographic affiliations were: 28% Northeast, 21% Central, 11% South, 22% West, and 18% other named regions or countries. Across all webinars, 97% said the webinars improved their understanding of the topic to some degree, and 3% said "not improved". 74% of respondents planned to apply the knowledge they gained in the webinars a lot or somewhat, 20% said "a little" and 5% said "not at all". 82% said the technical level of the webinars was "just right", 6% thought they were too technical, and 12% thought they were too basic. 79% would recommend the webinars to others, 17% might recommend them, and 4% would not. 97% of respondents thought access to the webinars was easy, 2% said it was somewhat difficult, and 1% said access was very difficult.

Webinar feedback from attendees in 2018:

"I was able to listen to the webinar while working at top dressing my garlic! It was thought provoking to be working in the soil while learning about it."

"New to farming, I have struggled to grasp some of the concepts of building and maintaining good soil. The 'light' went on while watching this webinar."

"I know next to nothing about organic farming methods. Thank you for providing a free program that is easy to attend. Even after just the introductory lecture, I can see that organic farming is an active process. There is more to organic methods than not using chemicals."

"Love, love, love the Merlin Bird ID and also the Cool Farm Tool possibilities. I have shared the Merlin Bird ID app with many already."

"The material was well presented, and made a good addition to undergraduate curriculum, and I think would be easily understandable for farmers, too."

Online Courses

The eOrganic Dairy Team continues to offer its asynchronous online course, "An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production" which was funded by the NIFA OREI project "Development of Technical Training and Support for Agricultural Service Providers and Farmers in Certified Organic Dairy Production Systems" USDA NIFA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) project. Course developers and instructors included: Cindy Daley and Audrey Denney, California State University-Chico; Heather Darby and Deb Heleba, University of Vermont Extension; Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting; Sid Bosworth, University of Vermont; and Karen Hoffman, USDA NRCS. The course is composed of 10 modules addressing a range of topics related to certified organic dairy production, including certification, soil health, pasture and forages, herd health and nutrition, milk quality, and calf management. Each module has required readings, a narrated PowerPoint presentation from an expert on the topic, and recommended additional resources. CCA CEUs are available. Find a full description and a link to the course at http://www.extension.org/pages/69299.

In 2018, the eOrganic dairy team published a second online course. "On the Ground: A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils" is a self-directed online course designed for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, as well as farmers and students who want to move beyond the basics and better understand how healthy soils lead to healthy livestock feeds. It is a follow up to "An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production", which is a prerequisite for taking this course. Find it here.

eOrganic also continues to offer the Organic Seed Production course, in which approximately 275 people have enrolled. The course consists of a set of tutorials covering the fundamentals of seed production for onions, beets and chard, brassicas, carrots, and wet-seeded crops, as well as climatic requirements for seed crops, important diseases, and seed quality. Find more information on this free course here

eOrganic Articles

All eOrganic articles can be found at www.extension.org/organic_production. Before publication, every article is subject to two anonymous peer reviews and National Organic Program compliance review.

eOrganic published the following articles in 2018: Our 5 most popular articles in 2018 were: Videos:

The eOrganic YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic houses eOrganic's 534 videos. The channel has over 5,300 subscribers and over 2.2 million views. over 277, 000 of which were in 2018. Our most "liked" videos in 2018 were:

Organic Farming Research Websites

In 2018, eOrganic is worked with over 20 USDA NIFA funded research and outreach projects. eOrganic supports these groups in diverse ways, including technical support for the development of articles and videos, peer-refereed and NOP-compliance review, video production training and editing, web conferencing, conference broadcasting, or workspaces for project management. For 17 projects, eOrganic hosts public websites where you can learn about the project goals and personnel, and find results and reports as they become available.

In 2018, eOrganic hosted the following public project websites: 

eOrganic also hosts the following special websites: an organic variety trial database to which users can upload trial reports, which was created with the NOVIC project, and the Organic Seed Alliance, and a gallery of colorful and nutritious organic carrot varieties in development for the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project. If you have trial results to share and are interested in participating in the Organic Variety Trial Database, please contact Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance.

Ask an Expert

Ask an Expert is a free service that anyone can use to get answers to questions from Land Grant University (LGU) and Extension professionals through eXtension.org. Ask your question at https://ask.extension.org/groups/1668/ask—you can even submit an image to help with a diagnosis.

eOrganic provides oversight of all questions tagged with "organic production" within the Ask-an-Expert system. Our staff finds an answer by either answering the question directly or by soliciting the best possible response from our eOrganic members. In 2018, community members answered approximately 47 questions on topics such as tillage radish, compost tea, organic grains and carbon sequestration. Over 1440 organic agriculture questions have been answered through the service since its inception. We encourage you to use this free and underutilized service for answers to your organic farming questions. Find it at https://ask.extension.org/groups/1668/ask

Get involved with eOrganic

eOrganic is a Community of Practice, which means it relies on community members like you to help it grow and better serve our farmer and agricultural professional stakeholders by developing and delivering critical and timely resources. If you are a researcher or Extension educator with expertise in organic agriculture, eOrganic wants you to write an article, shoot a video, deliver a webinar, or develop and teach an online course. All of our articles and videos undergo NOP-compliance and peer review before publication. For more information on how to get involved with eOrganic, join eOrganic at http://eorganic.info or contact Alice Formiga at alice.formiga@hort.oregonstate.edu.

Write eOrganic into Your Next Grant Proposal

Since 2011, eOrganic has partnered with 65 grant funded organic agriculture research projects. For complete information on the diverse opportunities eOrganic offers project groups and how to write eOrganic into your proposal, visit http://eOrganic.info/proposal. During the past year, eOrganic received subawards from over 20 NIFA OREI and ORG projects as well as Beginning Farmer, WSARE and Risk Management proposals. We can also partner with you on regional IPM, AFRI, SARE, NRCS-CIG and proposals from other funding sources. A 2-page handout describing our services to funded projects, which can be distributed at meetings, can be found here.

eOrganic can offer your project:

  • Web conferencing with the option of online or toll-free phone audio
  • Webinars and webinar series to stakeholders and the public
  • eXtension publication editing, and peer and NOP-compliance review
  • Video training, editing, review, and posting to the web
  • Online course development and support
  • Outreach for your publications, videos, webinars and websites to our established network of 20,000 farmers, extension personnel, agricultural professionals, and researchers from around the country and the globe—at conferences and through our newsletters and social networking activities
  • Ask an Expert support
  • Project workspace at eOrganic.info to facilitate project communication and management
  • Project websites that are easily managed by your project members from eOrganic.info (see http://eorganic.info/novic)
  • Analytics information for reporting on your articles, videos, webinars and courses. Evaluation for webinars and conference broadcasts.
Stay in touch!

  YouTube Twitter

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Online Course: On the Ground. A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils

eOrganic author:

Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension

About the Course On the Ground: A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils is a self-directed online course designed for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, as well as farmers and students who want to better understand certified organic dairy farming. It is a follow up on eOrganic's An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production which is a pre-requisite for taking this course.   The modules, described below, will help participants better understand the connections between the health of an organic dairy farm’s soils, the health and nutrition of pastures and stored forages, and ultimately, the health of livestock. Each module combines readings, narrated presentations, and recommended resources; all materials have undergone peer review and certification checks to ensure high quality, accurate certified organic information.

Find the course at https://campus.extension.org/enrol/index.php?id=1212

Course Modules Module 1: Introduction--More to Chew On   Module 1 provides an interview of the course and key reminders from An Introduction to Organic Dairy.   Module 2: Building Better Soils   Healthy soils are key to healthy pastures, crops, and, ultimately, healthy animals and their products. This module will expand on soil information addressed in the Intro course by expanding upon nutrient cycles, soil testing and interpretation, ways to utilize on-farm nutrients, and the basics of nutrient management planning.   Module 3: Fine-Tuning Pastures   Treating perennial pastures as crops by ensuring that pastures have good fertility will produce higher quality forages, and result in better animal performance. This module takes us beyond fertility to look at improving pastures through management. We cover why an understanding of the relationships of plant species within pastures as well as the relationship between plant and livestock is important to optimize forage quality and livestock intake.   Module 4: Growing and Storing Forages   This module In addition to providing your animals with fresh, high quality perennial forages through pastures during the grazing season, for fresh feeding, supplementing their diets and/or extending the grazing season through stored feeds and annual forages is covered in this module.   Module 5: Inputs: What is and is Not Allowed   This module provides an overview of how the National Organic Program (NOP) standards and the National list of allowed and prohibited materials tells us what we can, and cannot use on our farms. We’ll look at specific examples of products, labels and lists as we discuss fertilizers, seeds, seed inoculants, silage additives, and pesticides. Acknowledgements The course is a collaborative project of:
  • Organic Dairy Program at the California State University, Chico
  • Northwest Crops and Soils Program at the University of Vermont Extension
  • eOrganic, eXtension’s Organic Production Community of Practice
With Funding Provided By:   USDA National Food and Agriculture Institute's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative #2010-51300-21361.   Authors and Contributors:
  • Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension
  • Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting
  • Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension
  • Richard Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension



This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Efficacy of Biochemical Biopesticides that may be used in Organic Farming

eOrganic authors:

Chunxue Cao, The Ohio State University - OARDC

Gary Vallad, University of Florida - IFAS

Meg McGrath, Cornell University

Brian McSpadden Gardener, The Ohio State University - OARDC

This article summarizes publicly available data on efficacy of commercially available, EPA-registered biochemical biopesticides for plant disease control. For a more detailed introduction see the related eOrganic article Biopesticides for Plant Disease Management in Organic Farming. At the time of writing, these products were allowed for use on organic farms. However, products and their status for use on organic farms change, so before using any of these products, be sure to (1) read the label to assure that the product is labeled for the crop you intend to apply it to and the disease you intend to control, (2) read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and (3) make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan , approved by your certifier AND registered for legal use in your state.  For more information on how to determine whether a disease management product can be used on your farm, see the eOrganic article Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

The efficacy ratings presented here are based on the results of one-year field studies published between 2000 and 2009 in the Plant Disease Management Reports (PDMR) (http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/). The ratings are based on a comparison between untreated controls and the application of each product independently. These studies were not, in general, conducted on organic farms or on organically-managed land.

Efficacy ratings are scaled as follows:

  • (+) – evidence for disease control and/or yield increase
  • (±) – evidence for disease control is mixed with some reports showing positive results and others not
  • (0) – no obvious response to treatment in one or more published reports
  • (n.d.) – no data available in the selected PDMR publications
Table 1. Biochemical biopesticide products labeled for plant disease control Trade Name Ingredient Manufacturer Target Crop Target Disease Efficacy Garlic Barrier® Garlic Oil Garlic Research Labs, Inc Cucurbit crops, forage crops, fruiting vegetables, herbs, kiwi, leafy vegetables, legume vegetables, nut trees, ornamentals,peanuts, pome fruit trees, root and tuber vegetables, small friuts and berries, stone fruit trees,sugarcane, sunflowers, tropical fruits, turfgrass Brown spot, insect infestation Tomato/ early blight (0) Green Light® Neem Concentrate Neem Oil Green Light Company Vegetables, fruits, nuts and spices Powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, leaf spot and other diseases Crapemyrtle /cercospora leaf spot (0)
dogwood/powdery mildew (+)
dogwood/spot anthracnose (0)
dogwood/cercospora leaf spot (±) Trilogy® Neem Oil Certis USA Citrus, tree fruits, cucurbits, bulb, cole and leafy vegetables, legume and fruiting vegetables, root and tuber vegetables, small fruits and berries , herbs and spices, cereal and grains, nuts, corn , alfalfa, cotton Alternaria, anthracnose, early blight, leaf blight, botrytis, greasy spot, leaf spot, post bloom fruit drop, powdery mildew, molds, scabs, rusts, shothole Tomato/early blight (0)
bean, snap/white mold, gray mold (±)
grape/ powdery mildew (0)
pumpkin/ powdery mildew ( ±)
almond/ brown rot (+)
almond/ scab ( 0)
sweet cherry/ powdery mildew (±) Triact® 70EC Neem Oil Certis USA Citrus, tree fruits, cucurbits, bulb, cole and leafy vegetables, legume and fruiting vegetables, root and tuber vegetables, small fruits and berries , herbs and spices, cereal and grains, nuts, corn , alfalfa, cotton Alternaria, anthracnose, early blight, leaf blight, botrytis, greasy spot, leaf spot, post bloom fruit drop, powdery mildew, molds, scabs, rusts, shothole Poinsettia/powdery mildew (+) Actino Iron® Iron Actino Iron®  Food and fiber crops, ornamentals, landscape plants, tree seedlings for transplanting to the forest Soil borne plant root rot and damping-off disease Snapdragon/root rot (+) ECO E-RASE® Jojoba Oil IJO Products, LLC Garden and commercial vegetables and crops Powdery Mildew and whitefly Pumpkin/ powdery mildew (±) SeaCide®

Cottonseed oil

Omega Protein, Inc  Field crops, orchards, vineyards, and greenhouse Black spot, powdery mildew and greasy spot Tomato/late blight, bacterial spot (0)
tomato/early blight (+)
summer squash/powdery mildew (±) Heads Up® Plant Protectant Extract of Chenopodium quinoa saponins Heads Up Plant Protectants Soybeans, potato, tomato, peas, beans, and wheat Soil borne plant root rot and damping-off disease Peas/ root rot (+)
tomato/ early blight (+) Promax™ Thyme Oil Bio Huma Nectics, Inc Crops, ornamental plants, and turf  Fungal disease Pumpkin/
phytophthora blight (±)
squash/ phytophthora blight (±) Proud 3™ Thyme Oil Bio Huma Netics, Inc Crops, ornamental plants, and turf Fungal disease Turnip greens/bacterial leaf spot (0)
pumpkin/phytophthora blight (±)
squash/phytophthora blight (±) Organic JMS Stylet-Oil® Paraffinic Oil JMS Flower Farms, Inc Grape, tree fruit, grass seed, and vegetable crops Powdery mildew and botrytis bunch rot Pumpkin/powdery mildew (+)
tomato/powdery mildew septoria leaf spot ( 0)
strawberry/leaf spot (0)
phomopsis/leaf blight (0)
black burrant/white pine blister rust (+) PureSpray™ Green Petroleum Oil Petro-Canada Apples and pears, almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pistachio, plums, prunes, avocados, citrus, grapes, olives, tropical fruit, ornamental fruits, vegetable crops Powdery mildew Grape/powdery mildew (0) Saf-T-Side® Petroleum Oil Brandt Consolidated Apples and pears, almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pistachio, plums, prunes, avocados, citrus, grapes, olives, tropical fruit, ornamental fruits, vegetable crops Powdery mildew, black spot, and rust Cucumber/downy mildew (±)
apple/powdery mildew (±)
almond/brown rot (+)
almond/scab (+)  References and Citations

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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