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Modifier eXtension Articles,News,Faqs,Events- organic production (anglais)

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Mis à jour : il y a 6 heures 23 min

June 2018

mar, 2018/06/12 - 19:02
Weed Management Webinar on June 13th

There are still a few spots left in our upcoming webinar this Wednesday: Weed Management: An Ecological Approach by Mark Schonbeck and Diana Jerkins of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. This is part of our Soil Health and Organic Farming webinar series that started last month. This webinar will focus on integrated organic weed management tools and practices that give crops the edge over weeds, build soil health, and reduce the need for soil disturbance. You can register here. The archive of last month's presentation, on Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils is available on the eOrganic YouTube channel here. We are recording all the webinars in the series! 

New eOrganic article: Identifying Bird Nests on Farm Structures

This new article by Olivia Smith and William Snyder of Washington State University provides guidance on identifying nests of bird species commonly found nesting in barns, sheds, or other farm buildings. Most bird species included in the article are known to carry bacteria that cause food safety problems, such as pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella. However, some of these birds are also known to eat pest insects or rodents, so promoting nesting in appropriate areas can provide valuable natural pest control. The authors are members of the NIFA OREI funded project: Avian Biodiversity: Impacts, Risks and Descriptive Survey (A-BIRDS). Read the article here

Management Recommendations for Spotted Wing Drosophila in Organic Berry Crops

University of Georgia Extension has published a new extension bulletin on organic management of spotted wing drosophila in organic berry crops that is the result of research by a multiinstitutional NIFA OREI project. Organic management of SWD requires a rigorous, persistent, and diverse management plan. Using as many control techniques as possible on your farm will help to reduce SWD infestation. Download the free bulletin at https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201497_3.PDF

NEEOGRAIN webinar recordings and listserve

The NEEOGRAIN Virtual Crop Hour is a new series of webinars which is being done in collaboration with ACORN, Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network, and the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program. The NEEOGRAIN Network is an organic grain initiative established to increase networking and collaboration among farmers throughout the northeastern US and eastern Canada. NEEOGRAIN stands for Northeast (U.S.) and Eastern (Canada) Organic Grain Network. View the links to their recorded webinars and additional information here. To add your name to their database, send an email to susan.brouillette@uvm.edu and pick what subject/crop area you are interested in: Grains, Oilseeds, Organic Dairy, Hops, Brewer, Dairy, Milkweed, Hemp, or Vegetable (yes you can choose more than one). Send your first and last name, email, mailing address and phone number please. Archived NEEOGRAIN webinars include:

Call for Preproposals from Northeast SARE

Northeast SARE is currently accepting preproposals for three grant programs--Research and Education, Professional Development, and Research for Novel Approaches—due online by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 10, 2018. Invited full proposals are due on October 30 with projects awards made in late February 2019. For more information, visit www.northeastsare.org/GetGrant.

Growing Organic: A Review of State-Level Support for Organic Agriculture

This report was published in 2017 by Laura Driscoll and Nina Ichikawa of the Berkeley Food Institute, It details the roles that state agencies play in supporting and promoting organic farming, and how this support varies in different regions of the US. Twenty-one states across four distinct regions were chosen as a representative sample for analysis, and the availability of services as well as unique characteristics from each state were compiled through personal interviews, literature reviews, state government documents, and other sources. The report also makes recommendations on how to improve services for existing and prospective organic farmers. Find the report and the executive summary at https://food.berkeley.edu/organicstatebystate/

Organic Management of Vegetable Diseases Photo Galleries and Resources

If you're wondering how to identify or manage a particular vegetable disease this season, the Cornell University Long Island Research and Extension Center has a website with photo galleries, information on efficacy of organic fungicides, information on resistant varieties, disease management guidelines how to find a diagnostic lab, and more!. Find it at http://blogs.cornell.edu/livegpath/organic/organic-management-of-vegetable-diseases/

Upcoming Organic Events and Field Days

This is just a small sampling of some of the many organic field days and events happening this summer and early fall. Check with your land grant university, extension service or small farm program to find out if there are any organic field days in your area. 

  • University of Illinois aMAIZEing Organic Field Day: On July 19, in Champaign Illinois, members of a NIFA OREI project on participatory corn breeding invites you to  our the organic corn breeding plots near the U of I campus, learn more about why we need organic seed, and learn how new cultivars are tested. Questions or want to know more about our education network? Read the flyer for the event, and contact Carmen Ugarte at cugarte@illinois.edu if you have questions or are interested in participating in the educational network for this project.
  • University of Minnesota Organic Field Day: The Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) will host its annual Organic Field Day on Wednesday, July 11, beginning at 9:00 a.m. The event will start with a tradeshow and field tour of organic research projects at the SWROC including intermediate wheatgrass, oat fungicide and plant population trials, high tunnels, and cover crops. After lunch, presentations will discuss cropping system diversity and weed management. The afternoon speaker session will feature two sustainable agriculture experts. Matt Liebman, Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, will present Cropping System Diversity – Effects on Production, Soil Health, and Profitability. Joel Gruver, Associate Professor of Soil Science and Sustainable Ag at Western Illinois University, will give a presentation on weed management. Cost is $30.00 and includes refreshments, lunch, and handouts. Find out more and register at https://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/ofd2018
  • Summer Organic Dairy Series Summer Organic Dairy Series – collaborated events by NOFA-VT, Organic Valley and UVM Extension NWCS. Register online at www.nofavt.org/ows. Cost for each event is $20 for farmers, $30 others and includes lunch from NOFA-VT pizza oven. Register for these and other UVM events here. 
    • Improving Milk Quality and Pasture Systems. Tue, July 24, 10:30-2:30, JASA Family Farm. Join CROPP/Organic Valley staff veterinarian and grazing specialist Dr. Greg Brickner at this workshop focused on milk quality and ways to optimize milk value. We will tour farmer Andy (John) Andrews farm, taking a look at his pastures, discussing grazing systems and how to increase utilization of pasture to reduce feed costs as well as winter outdoor access.
    • Robot Grazing Systems & Forage Harvesting, Wed, July 25, 10:30-2:30, Lambert Farm. Join CROPP/Organic Valley staff veterinarian and grazing specialist Dr. Greg Brickner and farmers Jesse and Jen, on a tour of the Lambert’s farm, taking a look at their robotic milking system and pastures. The Lamberts’ will share how they have changed their pasture management system with the installation of robots.. We will also discuss forage harvesting- looking at management strategies for producing high quality forage and organic corn silage.
    • Pasture Management and Youngstock, Mon, August 6, 10:30-2:30, Ottercrest Dairy. Join farmer and veterinarian Brian Howlett and grazing consultant Sarah Flack on a tour of Brian’s farm, Ottercrest Dairy. We will take a look at his pasture systems and rotational grazing management. Brian will share strategies for parasite prevention in youngstock on pasture and his experience with milking one time a day.
  • MOSES On-Farm Workshop Series. Many factors impact crop success, such as field conditions and seed variety. What might grow really well at one farm might fail miserably a few miles away. To help farmers learn how to find the best varieties for their particular growing conditions, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has partnered with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for four on-farm workshops this summer.Workshop participants can tour ongoing trials and hear why the farmers chose the crops they did and how they designed the trials. OSA and University of Wisconsin educators will talk about the benefits of conducting on-farm trials and how to design them to meet a farm’s goals without adding unnecessary work.offered free of charge and pre-registration is requested.Find out more and register here
  • Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase NYC. This year, the Culinary Breeding Network is Partnering with GrowNYC to bring their variety showcase to Project Farmshouse in New York City. This event is an interactive mixer designed to build community between plant breeders, organic farms and eaters, where attendees have the unique experience to taste new and in-development vegetable, fruit and grain cultivars with the breeders that created them, shareopinions, talk about needs and preferences and learn about the importance of organic plant breeding. This ticketed, indoor event takes place at two times on September 24, 2018. Find more information here.
eOrganic Mission and Resources

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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 25743

Identifying Bird Nests on Farm Structures

ven, 2018/06/01 - 01:10

eOrganic authors:

Olivia Smith, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University

William Snyder, Department of Entomology, Washington State University

Introduction

Growers often find bird nests around structures where food is washed, packaged, stored, and shipped. However, identification of these nests can be challenging. This article provides guidance on identifying nests of bird species commonly found nesting in barns, sheds, or other farm buildings. Most bird species included in this article are known to carry bacteria that cause food safety problems, such as pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella. However, some of these birds are also known to eat pest insects or rodents, so promoting nesting in appropriate areas can provide valuable natural pest control. Our article also makes recommendations for discouraging nesting in undesirable locations, such as food processing areas, and for promoting it elsewhere where birds can be primarily beneficial. We have organized the article by bird species that have invaded North America from Europe and Asia, and by species that are native to North America. Native species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and cannot be harassed or have their nests tampered with. 

Invasive Species European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

 

Figure 1. Group of European Starlings perched on a farm structure. Note the yellow bill and pinkish-orange legs that distinguish starlings from similar-looking native blackbirds. More identification information can be found online here. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

The European Starling (hereinafter starling; Fig. 1) was introduced to Central Park in 1890 and 1891 by Shakespeare enthusiasts who wanted all of the birds in Shakespeare's plays to be found in the park. If only they had never gone to the theater! After several unsuccessful releases, populations took off, and the starling has arguably become the most successful (and loathed) invasive bird species in North America. Though starlings are most numerous in human-dominated landscapes, they can be detrimental to native bird species due to competition for cavity nesting sites (Cabe, 1993). Although starlings do compete with more desirable native species for natural tree cavities, they have amazing flexibility in nest site selection and will also use cavities in structures (Fig. 2). Starlings construct nests inside of cavities with materials that can fall and dirty equipment or contaminate food with associated feces. Nests are easiest to locate by watching adults fly in and out of cavities. Starlings are known to vector pathogenic E. coli O157:H7 (Williams et al., 2011) and Salmonella enterica (Carlson et al., 2011; Kirk et al., 2002) and should be discouraged from nesting near food operations. Specific recommendations on starling nest management can be found here.

Figure 2. Lean-to style food wash station with open rafters that allow starling nesting. Circled is the cavity where starlings were observed nesting. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Starlings will begin choosing nest sites as early as February (Cabe, 1993) and can begin laying eggs between mid-March and mid-June, depending on latitude (Kessel, 1957). Birds typically lay around 4-5 eggs per clutch (a group of eggs) and have 1-2 broods (a group of nestlings hatched at the same time). Eggs are bluish or greenish white and approximately 2.7–3.2 cm long by 1.9–2.3 cm wide. Incubation generally takes 12 days (Ricklefs and Smeraski, 1983). Nestlings fledge (depart from the nest) on day 21–23 after hatching and typically continue to rely on the parents to supplement their food for 10–12 days (Cabe, 1993). Starlings are omnivorous (Wilman et al., 2014) and eat pest insects, predatory arthropods, and crops (Cabe, 1993; Somers, 2002). As with most bird species, the number of insects in the diet increases during the breeding season while chicks are growing and insect abundance is high (Cabe, 1993). 

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Figure 3. Invasive House Sparrow occupying native Cliff Swallow nest. Note the black bib on the throat, brown eye stripe, gray gap, and solid light gray belly that distinguish the male House Sparrow from native species. More identification information can be found online here. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Similar to the story of the European Starling, the House Sparrow (Fig. 3) was introduced to North America in the 1850s and has now invaded all of North America. This species is highly associated with human-dominated landscapes. The House Sparrow has amazing nest site selection flexibility and can nest in nest boxes, inside and on buildings (Fig. 4), in stolen nests of other species (Fig. 3), or nest in and on trees. Intense competition for nesting cavities with native species can occur. Nests are constructed from a variety of materials such as dried plant material, feathers, or string. Like the European Starling, nests are most easily identified by watching birds fly to them (Lowther and Cink, 2006). Nest debris often accumulates under the nest location, causing food safety concerns when House Sparrows nest in food processing areas. This species is known to carry E. coli and Salmonella spp. (Morishita et al., 1999; Kirk et al., 2002) so should be discouraged from nesting near areas where food is present. Specific recommendations on House Sparrow nest management can be found here.

Figure 4. House Sparrow nests in barn rafters. Chicken wire was used to discourage nesting, but the sparrows were able to get under the netting. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Nest building begins in February and March, and egg laying begins in March. House Sparrows have amazing fecundity, can have 4–8 broods per season, and can lay between 1–8 eggs per clutch (average about 5 eggs). Eggs are oval; about 2.1 cm long by 1.6 cm wide; and white, greenish-white, or blueish-white with gray or brown spots. Birds begin incubation after laying the final egg of a clutch. Incubation generally lasts 10–14 days. Chicks generally fledge after 14 days. Fledglings independently feed themselves after 7–10 days (Lowther and Cink, 2006). Insects, including alfalfa weevils and other pests, comprise about 68% of the diet of young birds (Lowther and Cink, 2006), while adults are primarily granivorous, often consuming livestock feed (Wilman et al., 2014). 

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

 

Figure 5. Rock Pigeons have beautiful iridescent green and purple napes. Their overall plumage is a dark blue-grey, setting them apart from invasive Eurasian Collared-Doves and native Mourning Doves. Rock Pigeons are most common in landscapes dominated by humans. Photo credit: Robin Horn, Tall Rock Pigeon, License.

Domesticated Rock Pigeons were introduced into North America by Europeans in the 1600s and readily went feral. Like the common name Rock Pigeon implies, this species historically nested on cliffs and in caves, so ledges of modern human structures are quite suitable as long as flat surfaces occur (Fig. 5; Lowther and Johnston, 2014). Nests are typically flimsy constructions made of straw, stems, sticks, or human objects. Rock Pigeons are known to carry pathogenic E. coli (Kobayashi et al., 2009) and Salmonella enterica (Kirk et al., 2002) and should be discouraged from nesting near food processing areas.

Figure 6. Rock Pigeon sitting on nest. Nests are typically simple with some sticks, stems, or straw placed on a flat ledge. Photo credit: Benny MazurRooftop pigeon, License.

Nesting begins mid-February. Birds lay two eggs, and incubation begins after laying the second. Eggs are white and average 3.8 cm in length by 2.9 cm in width. Eggs typically hatch after 18 days, and chicks fledge on day 25–32. In some areas, Rock Pigeons can nest year- round due to chicks feeding on seeds and crop milk (a secretion from the crop of pigeons regurgitated to feed chicks). Mean number of nesting attempts per year is 6.5 (Lowther and Johnston, 2014). Adults are primarily granivorous (Wilman et al., 2014). 

Native Species

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one cannot tamper with native bird nests or eggs. Therefore, with native species, prevention of nesting in undesirable areas and encouraging nesting in desirable areas is key (more details below).

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Figure 7. Adult Barn Swallow in flight. Note the long tail streamers which set it apart from other adult swallows. Photo credit: Denise Coyle, Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow is a species most growers love to see gliding effortlessly through the air eating pest insects (more information can be found here) but often causes disgruntlement due to its nesting habits. Historically a species that nested in caves, the Barn Swallow now primarily nests under the eaves of buildings or inside artificial structures (Fig. 7). Barn Swallows build open-cup nests from mud on the walls of structures. They often nest colonially (Brown and Brown, 1999). Pathogenic E. coli has been found in Barn Swallows (Nielsen et al., 2004), so nesting above food processing areas should be discouraged.

Figure 8. Barn Swallow nest. Unlike the similar Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow nests are open cup. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Barn Swallows have a vast global distribution, so there is considerable variation in life history attributes within the species. Birds typically begin nest-building within two weeks after returning to the breeding grounds (Brown and Brown, 1999). Females typically lay between 4–8 eggs (Shields and Crook, 1987). Eggs have an ovate to elliptical ovate shape and are creamy or pinkish white with brown, lavender, and gray spots. Egg size averages 1.9 cm long by 1.4 cm wide. Barn Swallows often have 2 broods per year but can have as many as 4. Incubation lasts about 12–17 days. Chicks fledge around day 18–27. For up to 2 weeks, fledglings rely on parents for feeding (Brown and Brown, 1999). Barn Swallows eat almost exclusively insects (Wilman et al., 2014; more information can be found here). 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Figure 9. Cliff Swallow adults in nest. Cliff Swallow nests are enclosed structures with the entrance hole at the top, unlike the open-cup Barn Swallow nest. Apparent is the telltale white forehead that distinguishes them from the Barn Swallow. Note the old Barn Swallow nest under the newer mud of the Cliff Swallow nest. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Historically, the Cliff Swallow nested colonially under ledges of canyons in the West (Fig. 8). Human land usage allowed a range expansion because modern highway culverts, bridges, and buildings became manmade "cliffs" for Cliff Swallows to build nests on (Brown et al., 2017). Like the Barn Swallow, the Cliff Swallow builds nests from mud, but unlike the Barn Swallow, the Cliff Swallow's nest is enclosed and looks like a gourd (Fig. 8). Cliff Swallow colonies have been associated with increased environmental E. coli concentrations (Sejkora et al., 2011), so nesting should be discouraged above food packing areas.

Nest building typically begins within a few weeks of arrival to the breeding grounds. Arrival date and subsequent nest building varies by latitude and can start as early as March. The outside of nests are built entirely from mud, unlike Barn Swallow nests (Fig. 8), though birds do line the inside with grass. Clutch size varies from 1–6 eggs and averages about 3. Cliff Swallows usually have one brood but can have two if the first fails (Brown et al., 2017). Eggs are white, creamy, or pinkish with brown speckles or blotches. Cliff Swallow eggs average 2.0 cm in length by 1.4 cm in width. Incubation ranges from 11–16 days and averages around 13.6 (Grant and Quay, 1977). Chicks normally fledge between days 20–26, depending on the region. Fledglings rely on parents for food for the first 3–5 days (Brown et al., 2017). Like the Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallows eat almost exclusively insects (Wilman et al., 2014; more information can be found here).

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Figure 10. Black Phoebe perched on deer fence. Note the white belly contrasting against the otherwise black feathers and the slightly crested head feathers. Black Phoebes often bob their tails while perched, a characteristic of the phoebes. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

The Black Phoebe (Fig. 10) has a small distribution within the continental United States but is frequently found on California organic farms foraging for insects. Natural nest sites include sheltered rock faces, streamside boulders, and hollow tree cavities. Like many other species in this article, human-built structures have increased densities of Black Phoebes by providing artificial nest sites. Black Phoebe nests (Fig. 11) appear quite similar to Barn Swallow nests. Nests are open cup, plastered to vertical surfaces, and composed of mud and plant material such as stems and small roots (Wolf, 1997). No current evidence has demonstrated Black Phoebes carry human enteric pathogens. However, Black Phoebes are known to frequent cattle troughs (Wolf, 1997), which is a known transmission point of human enteric pathogens between livestock and wild birds (Carlson et al., 2010). Therefore, growers should use caution due to little data existing on Black Phoebe pathogen rates. 

Figure 11. Black Phoebe adult feeding chicks in open cup mud nest. Photo credit: Glorietta13, Black phoebes, CC BY-NC 2.0

Nest building typically begins in early March. Black Phoebes generally raise 1–2 broods per season with a clutch size of 1–6 eggs. Eggs are ovate to short ovate and white, sometimes with light spots around the large end. Eggs are typically 1.9 cm in length by 1.5 cm in width. Incubation averages 16–17 days. Chicks fledge between days 18–21. Fledglings are dependent on adults for the first 7–11 days (Wolf, 1997). Adults and chicks are almost exclusively insectivorous (Wilman et al., 2014).

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Figure 12. American Robin perched on fence post holding invertebrate prey. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

The American Robin (Fig. 12) is, perhaps surprisingly, a thrush. To the disdain of many growers, its diet is largely comprised of beneficial invertebrates such as earthworms in the early breeding season, and switches to primarily fruits in fall and winter. It is adapted to live in many habitats and is common on farms and urban settings, as well as more forested settings like other thrushes (Vanderhoff et al., 2016). Like its habitat usage, its nest placement also has flexibility. Robins often place nests in shrubs, trees, or on structures, as long as the nest is on a firm support (Fig. 13). The nest is an open cup, constructed from mud, dead grass, and twigs on the outside, with a lining of fine dead grass pieces. One study found high prevalence of E. coli in American Robins (44.8%), though it did not distinguish pathogenic from non-pathogenic strains (Parker et al., 2016), so risk of American Robins carrying pathogenic E. coli is unclear. The USGS database Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership (WHISPers) reports several suspected cases of Salmonellosis in American Robins, suggesting they may vector Salmonella enterica to produce if allowed to nest near produce wash stations.



Figure 13. American Robin nest with three chicks about to fledge. Photo credit: alsteele, Young American Robins, CC BY-SA 2.0

The American Robin is one of the most widely distributed species in North America, so onset of breeding varies by location, and occurs between April and June (Vanderhoff et al., 2016). Robins typically lay 3–4 eggs per clutch and have 2 broods per year. Eggs are a beautiful sky blue or green-blue color and average 2.8–3.0 cm in length by 2.1 cm in width (Fig. 14). The incubation period is generally 11–14 days (Howell, 1942). Nestlings typically fledge around day 13 after hatching (range 9–16 days; Howell, 1942). Parents typically begin a second brood within days of the first fledging. For the second clutch, once incubation begins, males feed fledglings while females incubate (Weatherhead and Mcrae, 1990). 

Figure 14. American Robin egg. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Figure 15. House Finch female (left) and male (right) eating seeds. Males have a bright red throat, belly, cap, and nape. Intensity of red color indicates male health. Females are drab but can be distinguished from other species by the sturdy, seed cracking bill. House Finches also have streaking on the breast that distinguishes them from similar looking House Sparrows. Photo credit: John Flannery, The House Finches, CC BY-ND 2.0

The House Finch (Fig. 15) is native to the deserts and dry, open habitats of the southwestern United States. In 1939, several birds were released from a pet store in New York City, allowing a range expansion into the eastern United States. The western population has also expanded its range so that now the House Finch occurs across most of the United States and Mexico. Nests can be placed in a large variety of sites: pine, palm trees, cacti, rock ledges, ivy on buildings, street lamps, hanging planters, parking structures, lean-tos, window sills, in the cavities of various farm equipment, etc. Nests are open cup and built from grass, leaves, rootlets, small twigs, string, wool, and feathers (Fig. 16). In urban areas, birds will incorporate human items such twine, string, dog hair, cellophane, and even cigarette filters (Badyaev et al., 2012). House Finches are known to carry E. coli (Morishita et al., 1999) and Salmonella enterica (Kirk et al., 2002), so nesting near food processing areas should be discouraged.



Figure 16. House Finch female sitting on open cup nest placed on gutter. Photo credit: Robert Hruzek, House Finch – Detail, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nest building begins in February in the southwest portion of the range and March in the northern portion. Birds can nest up to 6 times per year but have only been observed to have 3 successful broods a season. Eggs are pale blue to white with black and pale purple speckles. Egg shape is sub-elliptical to long sub-elliptical and ranges from 1.6–2.1 cm in length by 1.2–1.8 cm in width. Incubation can take between 12–17 days and averages 13–14. Fledglings typically take 2.5–3 weeks to feed themselves completely independently from parents (Badyaev et al., 2012). Young are thought to eat mostly weed seeds with very little insect matter in the diet (<2%; Beal, 1907). House Finch adults are granivorous (Wilman et al., 2014). 

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Figure 17. Barn Owl in flight. Photo credit: Robert Shea, Barn Owl, CC BY-NC 2.0

Like the Barn Swallow, the Barn Owl (Fig. 17) has a nearly global distribution. It is typically found in open habitats such as pastures and farm fields rather than closed, forested habitats. Barn Owls are nocturnal and most likely to be seen around dawn and dusk. The Barn Owl has a piercing shriek (example recording here) that can also give away its occupancy. Barn Owls nest in cavities including tree cavities, cliffs, church steeples, barn lofts, haystacks, and nest boxes (Fig. 18). Suitable nesting locations is a limiting factor for this beneficial raptor, so providing nest boxes is important (Marti et al., 2005; click here for more information on construction and placement). Barn owls are known to carry Salmonella spp. (Kirkpatrick and Colvin, 1986), antibiotic resistant E. coli (Alcalá et al., 2016), and Campylobacter spp. (Molina-Lopez et al., 2011), perhaps from feeding on mice carrying these bacteria.

Figure 18. Barn Owl nest box. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

The Barn Owl does not usually build nests, though some dig burrows in arroyo walls in Colorado and New Mexico. Because of its wide distribution, egg laying initiation date varies and can occur year-round. One brood is common for birds in temperate regions, but some pairs have 3 broods per year. Average clutch size ranges from 3.1 to 7.2, depending on location. Eggs are short sub-elliptical, are about 3.2–3.4 cm in length by 4.0–4.4 cm in width, and dull white. The female incubates eggs for 29–34 days. Fledging date varies based on location. In England, first flight is usually day 50–55, whereas in Utah, mean fledging date is day 64. Fledglings are dependent on adults for 3–5 weeks. Fledglings are clumsy until they gain enough strength and agility to fly (Fig. 18). Chicks and adults eat the same diet, which is mostly small mammals, including common rodent pests (Moore et al., 1998; Marti et al., 2005; Wilman et al., 2014). However, evidence that Barn Owls increase yield through pest control services is still sparse (Moore et al., 1998), though Motro (2011) did find an estimated alfalfa yield increase of 3.2% due to Barn Owls, equating to $30/ha per year.

Figure 19. Barn Owl day of fledging. Photo credit: Olivia Smith.

Nest Location Management

It is illegal to tamper with nests or eggs of native species, so deterrence of nesting in unwanted locations before it begins is important. Avoid using poisons or methods that can harm or kill native species. Below are a few commonly recommended methods for deterring bird nesting on structures. More research is needed to test the efficacy of listed methods. Most methods are best initiated and maintained prior to the onset of the breeding season. 

  • Block cavity entrances using mesh, wood, or other barriers (see nest in Fig. 2 above for an example this method could help with). Place netting carefully to avoid birds getting trapped inside (but see Fig. 4).
  • Create slopes on ledges by placing boards at a 45 degree angle so that species like Rock Pigeon cannot build nests. If a board doesn't work, try a loose spring that creates an unstable surface for birds to build on. Spikes are also an option, but be aware spikes can kill birds. A quick internet search shows many examples of nests built on top of spikes, suggesting they are ineffective, and will also show photos of impaled birds.
  • Create a visual disturbance near nest sites by using flashing lights, placing mirrors on ledges, or hanging mylar tape. However, species like the European Starling are extremely smart and aren't fooled for long with these methods (Belant et al., 1998).
  • Place plastic predators near nests. These need to be moved frequently to continue to deter birds (Belant et al., 1998).
  • Use noise machines that project bird distress or predator calls. However, there is no current evidence to suggest this method works. 
  • Plant shrubs that provide good nesting habitat away from structures. Try planting near crops where birds will eat pest insects (like apples; Mols and Visser, 2002), but avoid placing next to crops birds will damage (cherries, blueberries, grapes; Somers et al., 2002). Prior research has demonstrated pest control services increase near natural habitat like hedges (Boesing et al., 2017).

Find ways to encourage nesting at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project NestWatch website, which has excellent information on how to promote nesting for many species, including many farmland birds not listed in this article.

Additional Resources

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology supports a great citizen scientist network with detailed information on nest box construction and placement (nestwatch.org), recommendations for attracting species of interest (content.yardmap.org), and range information (ebird.org). Project NestWatch also has great information on identifying many nests beyond the scope of this article (https://nestwatch.org/learn/focal-species/). The lab offers many opportunities for the public to get involved with scientific data collection through HabitatNetwork, Project FeederWatch, eBird, and NestWatch. Basic species information can be found at All About Birds, and the Merlin Bird ID app can aid in field identification.

References and Citations
  • Alcalá, L., C. A. Alonso, C. Simón, C. González-Esteban, J. Orós, A. Rezusta, C. Ortega, and C. Torres. 2016. Wild birds, frequent carriers of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) producing Escherichia coli of CTX-M and SHV-12 types. Microbial Ecology 72:861–869. Available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00248-015-0718-0 (verified 13 May 2018).
  • Badyaev, A. V., V. Belloni, and G. E. Hill. 2012. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-account/bna/species/houfin/introduction (verified 31 May 2018).
  • Beal, E.E.L. 1907. Birds of California in relation to the fruit industry, Part 1. Biological Survey Bulletin no. 30. USDA Biological Survey, Washington, D.C.
  • Belant, J. L., P. P. Woronecki, R. A. Dolbeer, and T. W. Seamans. 1998. Ineffectiveness of five commercial deterrents for nesting starlings. Wildlife Society Bulletin 26:264–268. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3784047 (verified 13 May 2018).
  • Boesing, A. L., E. Nichols, and J. P. Metzger. 2017. Effects of landscape structure on avian-mediated insect pest control services: A review. Landscape Ecology 32:931-944. Available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10980-017-0503-1 (verified 17 April 2018).
  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 1999. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/barswa (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Brown, C. R., M. B. Brown, P. Pyle, and M. A. Patten. 2017. Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/cliswa (verified 21 March 2018).
  • Cabe, P. R. 1993. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/eursta (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Carlson, J. C., A. B. Franklin, D. R. Hyatt, S. E. Pettit, and G. M. Linz. 2011. The role of starlings in the spread of Salmonella within concentrated animal feeding operations. Journal of Applied Ecology 48:479–486. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01935.x (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Grant, G. S., and T. L. Quay. 2017. Breeding biology of Cliff Swallows in Virginia. The Wilson Bulletin 89:286–890. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4160910 (verified 21 March 2018).
  • Howell, J. C. 1942. Notes on the nesting habits of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius L.). The American Midland Naturalist 28:529–603. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2420891 (verified 17 April 2018).
  • Kessel, B. 1957. A study of the breeding biology of the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris L.) in North America. The American Midland Naturalist 58:257–331. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2422615 (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Kirk, J. H., C. A. Holmberg, and J. S. Jeffrey. 2002. Prevalence of Salmonella spp in selected birds captured on California dairies. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220:359–362. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.2002.220.359 (verified 17 April 2018).
  • Kirkpatrick, C. E., and B. A. Colvin. 1986. Salmonella spp. in nestling common barn-owls (Tyto alba) from Southwestern New Jersey. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 22: 340–343. Available online at: https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/3525874 (verified 14 May 2018).
  • Kobayashi, H., M. Kanazaki, E. Hata, and M. Kubo. 2009. Prevalence and characteristics of eae- and stx- positive strains of Escherichia coli from wild birds in the immediate environment of Tokyo Bay. Applied Environmental Microbiology 75:292–295. Available online at: http://aem.asm.org/content/75/1/292.full (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Lowther, P. E., and C. L. Cink. 2006. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/houspa (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Lowther, P. E., and R. F. Johnston. 2014. Rock Pigeon (Columba livia). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/rocpig (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Marti, C. D., A. F. Poole, and L. R. Bevier. 2005. Barn Owl (Tyto alba). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/brnowl (verified 14 May 2018).
  • Molina-Lopez, N. Valverdú, M. Martin, E. Mateu, E. Obon, M. Cerdà-Cuéllar, and L. Darwich. 2011. Wild raptors as carriers of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella and Campylobacter strains. Veterinary Record 168:565. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/vr.c7123 (verified 13 May 2018).
  • Mols, C.M.M., and M. E. Visser. 2002. Great tits can reduce caterpillar damage in apple orchards. Journal of Applied Ecology 39:888–899. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00761.x (verified 24 April 2018).
  • Moore, T., D. V. Vuren, and C. Ingels. 1998. Are Barn Owls a biological control for gophers? Evaluating effectiveness in vineyards and orchards. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Vertebrate Pest Conference 61:394–396. Available online at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0447/40f70698eb13d3e90cd5d2486551f2b5d75a.pdf (verified 14 May 2018).
  • Morishita, T. Y., P. P. Aye, E. C. Ley, and B. S. Harr. 1999. Survey of pathogens and blood parasites in free-living passerines. Avian Diseases 43:549–552. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1592655 (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Motro, Y. 2011. Economic evaluation of biological rodent control using barn owls Tyto alba in alfalfa. European Vertebrate Pest Management Conference 8:79–80. Available online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304922042_Economic_evaluation_of_biological_rodent_control_using_barn_owls_Tyto_alba_in_alfalfa (verified 31 May 2018).
  • Nielsen, E. M., M. N. Skov, J. J. Madsen, J. Lodal, J. B. Jespersen, and D. L. Baggesen. 2004. Verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli in wild birds and rodents in close proximity to farms. Applied Environmental Microbiology 70:6944–6947. Available online at: http://aem.asm.org/content/70/11/6944.full (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Ricklefs, R. E., and C. A. Smeraski. 1983. Variation in incubation period within a population of the European Starling. The Auk 100:926–931. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4086421 (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Sejkora, P., M. J. Kirisits, and M. Barrett. 2011. Colonies of Cliff Swallows on highway bridges: A source of Escherichia coli in surface waters. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 47:1275–1284. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00566.x (verified 21 March 2018).
  • Shields, W. M., and J. R. Crook. 1987. Barn Swallow coloniality: A net cost for group breeding in the Adirondacks? Ecology 68:1373–1386. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1939221 (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Somers, C. M., and R. D. Morris. 2002. Birds and wine grapes: Foraging activity causes small-scale damage patterns in single vineyards. Journal of Applied Ecology 39:511–523. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00725.x (verified 13 May 2018).
  • Vanderhoff, N. P. Pyle, M. A. Patten, R. Sallabanks, and F. C. James. 2016. American Robin (Turdus migratorious). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/amerob (verified 17 April 2018).
  • Weatherhead, P. J., and S. B. Mcrae. 1990. Brood care in American Robins: Implications for mixed reproductive strategies by females. Animal Behaviour 39:1179–1188. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80790-0 (verified 17 April 2018).
  • Williams, M. L., D. L. Pearl, and J. T. LeJeune. 2011. Multiple‐locus variable‐nucleotide tandem repeat subtype analysis implicates European starlings as biological vectors for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Ohio, USA. Journal of Applied Microbiology 111:982–988. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.05102.x (verified 19 March 2018).
  • Wilman, H., J. Belmaker, J. Simpson, C. de la Rosa, M. M. Rivadeneira, and W. Jetz. 2014. EltonTraits 1.0: Species-level foraging attributes of the world's birds and mammals. Ecology 95:2027–2027. Available online at: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1890/13-1917.1 (verified 13 May 2018). 
  • Wolf, B. O. 1997. Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/blkpho (verified 13 May 2018).

 

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 25296

Assessing Nitrogen Contribution and Rhizobia Diversity Associated with Winter Legume Cover Crops in Organic Systems Webinar

mar, 2018/05/22 - 21:07

Resources and notes from the webinar:

Clovers were planted at a density of 22.4 kg ha-1, vetches at 28 kg ha-1, winter peas at 67.2 kg ha-1, lupin at 134 kg ha-1. Bicultures MXE and MXM consisted of 28 and 56 kg ha-1 hairy vetch and rye respectively, and 50.4 and 56 kg ha-1 Austrian winter pea and rye respectively for MXP.

About the Webinar:
This webinar is designed to deepen your understanding of how legume cover crops, through a symbiotic relationship with beneficial soil rhizobia bacteria, can be used to provide new nitrogen to your organic crops through the process of nitrogen fixation. We will review the process of nitrogen fixation, and provide recent data from our lab describing the amount of nitrogen fixed by common and some novel cover crop legumes used in organic agriculture. We will also briefly discuss how the diversity of rhizobia present in the soil may impact this process.

Find all eOrganic upcoming and archived webinars »

About the Presenter:
Julie Grossman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Soil Science at North Carolina State University specializing in organic cropping systems. Most recently, Julie began leading a new project integrating community gardens in low-income Raleigh neighborhoods with undergraduate soil science and nutrition courses. She also serves on the Steering Council of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association,  a new professional association championing innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture.

About eOrganic

eOrganic is the Organic Agriculture Community of Practice at eXtension.org. Our website  at http:www.extension.org/organic_production contains articles, videos, and webinars for farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals, certifiers, researchers and educators seeking reliable information on organic agriculture, published research results, farmer experiences, and certification. The content is collaboratively authored and reviewed by our community of University researchers and Extension personnel, agricultural professionals, farmers, and certifiers with experience and expertise in organic agriculture.

 

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 5668

Rodent Control on Organic Poultry Farms

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:49

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

NOTE: Before applying ANY pest control product, be sure to 1) read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and 2) make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier. For more information see Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

NOTE: Brand names appearing in this article are examples only. No endorsement is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.

Introduction

Rodent control is important on organic poultry farms. Those with outdoor access are exposed to closer contact with rodents and pose increased veterinary risks. With a high reproduction rate and an omnivorous diet, a rat and/or mouse infestation can have significant economic impacts from consumption or fouling of feed, acting as disease vectors, or destroying infrastructure. A single rat can consume 20-40 pounds of feed a year (Watkins and Donald, 2002). Rodents can also carry and spread diseases both biologically and mechanically, and can cause serious damage to insulation and house wiring. Disease-carrying rodents can spread a disease from one to another even if the facilities are cleaned and disinfected. Controlling rodents is an essential part of any biosecurity plan.

A three-pronged approach should be taken in controlling rodents, including mice and rats.

  • Prevention
  • Monitoring
  • Control
Prevention

Habitat reduction is critical for preventing rodent populations on any poultry farm. Blocking access routes with physical barriers is one strategy to exclude rodents from a poultry house. It is important to be aware that mice are able to squeeze through a hole the size of a dime and rats through an opening the size of a quarter (Watkins and Donald, 2002).  Mice are able to enter buildings through unprotected ends of corrugated metal siding. Make sure to close openings around augers, pipes and wires, but also remember to look for and repair holes monthly. Any burrows with indications of recent digging should be dealt with immediately.

It is important to block access to stored feed and minimize feed spillage.

Clear the area around the poultry house of brush, trash, and weeds, maintaining a minimum of three-feet clear space around the house.

Monitoring

A monitoring program provides early warning of a possible rodent problem and improves the decision-making process in the prevention of rodent infestations. A variety of different monitoring methods can be used including trapping, ink pads, and tracking plates. The effectiveness of a monitoring system is strengthened if the farmer is able to identify which rodent species is/are causing the greatest impact. Each species has a distinct behavioral profile and habitat preference.

Control

Some organic farmers use cats for predator control. There is no sound evidence that cats regulate rodent populations, and cats present a health risk to the flock (Rimler and Glisson, 1997; Maier et al., 2000).

Though not recommended for poultry farms, another possible control method is the use of ultrasound or low-frequency devices. There is very little published evidence supporting their efficacy in open environments, and there is some evidence that ultrasound devices disturb livestock (OEFFA, 2010).

A number of commercial alternative products for rodent control are available. The effectiveness of these products has not been proven in a commercial setting.

  • Shake-Away (OMRI-listed) granules contain the scent of both fox and bobcat urine, which are thought to scare mice and rats. The granules should be placed strategically where the rodents are living or traveling through.
  • Weiser's Nature's Defense contains seven certified organic ingredients and is said to repel several different animals, including rats and mice. It is safe to use around people, plants and pets.
  • Animal-repelling scented stones also contain a predator scent that will keep rodents away. They need to be placed strategically throughout the poultry house.
  • Peppermint oil is thought to be a natural deterrent. Rodents don't like the intense smell and avoid it. Place peppermint oil in areas where rodents are likely to enter. Another alternative is to grow peppermint plants near the entryways.
  • There are a few traps (mechanical or electrical) and glue boards that can also be used to effectively control rodents. Make sure to place traps and/or glue boards along walls and corridors where rodents travel.

Return to Pest control page

References and Citations
  • Maier, R. M., I. L. Pepper, and C. P. Gerba. 2000. Environmental Microbiology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.
  • OEFFA. 2010. OEFFA Organic Certification Factsheet—Rodent control [Online]. Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. Columbus, OH. Available at: http://www.oeffa.org/certfiles/facts/Rodent%20Control%20-%20Fact%20Sheet%208.pdf (verified 19 Nov 2013)
  • Rimler, R. B., and J. R. Glisson. 1997. Fowl cholera. Pages 143–159 In: B. W. Calnek, H. J. Barnes, C. W. Beard, L. R. McDougald, and Y. M. Saif (ed.) Diseases of Poultry, 10th edition. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA.
  • Watkins, S. E., and J. Donald. 2002. How to control rats, mice and darkling beetles [Online]. Auburn University Poultry Engineering, Economics and Management Newsletter. Issue 20, November 2002. Available at: http://www.aces.edu/poultryventilation/documents/Nwsltr-20-PestsSS.pdf (verified 21 Nov 2013)

 

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 7957

Pest Control in Organic Poultry Production

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:48

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

Introduction

A variety of pest problems can occur on poultry farms. There are external parasites that can infest the birds, insects that develop in manure and harbor disease-causing organisms, and rodents that carry disease-causing organisms and cause damage to poultry facilities. Disease control on any poultry operation requires strict control of these pathogen-carrying pests. Organic poultry producers are not allowed to use the synthetic pesticides routinely used in conventional poultry production operations, thus making prevention critical in the management of these pests. This article summarizes prevention and control standards for pest control in organic poultry production provided in the USDA's National Organic Program Final Rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000).

§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard.

(a) The producer must establish and maintain preventive livestock health care practices, including:

(3) Establishment of appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites;

(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must NOT:

(4) Administer synthetic parasiticides on a routine basis;
(5) Administer synthetic parasiticides to slaughter stock;

Prevention

The best method for controlling pests is to prevent their entry in the first place. The NOP regulations identify some control measures:

§ 205.271 Facility pest management practice standard.

(a) The producer or handler of an organic facility must use management practices to prevent pests, including but not limited to:

(1) Removal of pest habitat, food sources, and breeding areas;
(2) Prevention of access to handling facilities; and
(3) Management of environmental factors, such as temperature, light, humidity, atmosphere, and air circulation, to prevent pest reproduction.

(b) Pests may be controlled through:

(1) Mechanical or physical controls including but not limited to traps, light, or sound; or
(2) Lures and repellents using non-synthetic or synthetic substances consistent with the National List.

Examples of preventive measures related specifically to poultry include:

  • Proper manure management to prevent the development of manure-breeding flies and beetles
  • Proper storage of feed to reduce rodent problems
  • Frequent rotation of pastures to prevent intestinal parasites
Control

The outdoor access requirement for organic poultry production (§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions) makes prevention of pests difficult. As a result, control programs must be in place. In addition to harboring pest flies, beetles, and mites, manure also provides habitat to several beneficial insects and mites. Predaceous mites, hister beetles, and parasitoids are all important biological control agents for suppressing fly populations. Historically, pest control measures on many conventional farms relied primarily on pesticides. Extensive use of pesticides results in the destruction of biological control agents and can result in the development of pesticide resistance. On organic farms, an integrated pest management (IPM) system is used. To ensure the effectiveness of any management system, producers must first correctly identify the pest and understand the its basic life cycle and potential damage.

§ 205.271 Facility pest management practice standard.

(c) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section are not effective to prevent or control pests, a non-synthetic or synthetic substance consistent with the National List may be applied.

(d) If the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section are not effective to prevent or control facility pests, a synthetic substance not on the National List may be applied: Provided, That, the handler and certifying agent agree on the substance, method of application, and measures to be taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(e) The handler of an organic handling operation who applies a non-synthetic or synthetic substance to prevent or control pests must update the operation's organic handling plan to reflect the use of such substances and methods of application. The updated organic plan must include a list of all measures taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

(f) Notwithstanding the practices provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section, a handler may otherwise use substances to prevent or control pests as required by Federal, State, or local laws and regulations: Provided, That, measures are taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.

For specific organic pest management information, visit:

Control of internal parasites

Control of external parasites

Darkling beetle control

Rodent control

References and Citations

United States Department of Agriculture. 2000. National organic program: Final rule. Codified at 7 C.F.R., part 205. (Available online at: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3f34f4c22f9aa8e6d9864cc2683cea02&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title07/7cfr205_main_02.tpl) (verified 28 July 2013)

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 7840

Intestinal Worm Control in Organic Poultry Production

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:48

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

NOTE: Brand names appearing in this article are examples only. No endorsement is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.

NOTE: Before applying any pest control product, be sure to read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier. For more information see Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

Introduction

There are a number of intestinal worms that can infest poultry, including roundworms and tapeworms. A small number of worms do not usually cause health problems, but large numbers can affect growth, egg production, and health. Young birds are more commonly affected. Birds ingest the parasite eggs present in contaminated feed or water, or in intermediate hosts (e.g., insects, snails, earthworms or other small animals) that can naturally carry the eggs.

Some worms interfere with feed absorption, some transmit disease, and some can migrate into the blood and other organs.

Nematodes are roundworms that commonly affect chickens; examples include Ascaridia gali, Heterakis gallinarum, and Capillaria obsignata. Infective eggs are resistant to the environment and remain viable for years. Poultry with outdoor access are more vulnerable to parasites than conventional poultry raised indoors due to the intermediate hosts (e.g., grasshoppers, beetles, slugs, earthworms, and snails) that birds eat on range or pasture.

Monitoring

Routine monitoring programs are essential to worm control on the farm. There are two direct monitoring methods. One is to sacrifice a few birds in the flock and inspect their intestines for worms. Adult roundworms are usually found in the upper small intestine. Adult tapeworms can also be found in the upper small intestine just after the duodenal loop. Cecal worms can be found by snipping the end of the ceca and watching for small worms to wiggle out. Capillaria worms are harder to identify and require more effort. If a microscope is available, the surface contents from the first 10 inches of duodenum just past the duodenal loop may be examined. Scrape the mucosal surface with a knife and place portions of it onto a glass slide with a cover slip. The thin worms can be seen with the microscope.

An alternative method, which does not require sacrificing any birds, involves collecting 20-25 fresh fecal droppings from different areas in the house and pasture and placing them into a plastic bag. Fecal flotation is used to detect, identify, and count the different worm eggs. This is typically done at a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Collected samples should be stored in the refrigerator when there is a delay in submitting the sample.

Control

Some helpful strategies to decrease parasites in the environment include moving the birds often to fresh pasture or paddocks, keeping the birds in dry areas, and keeping the litter in the house as dry as possible. Try to limit contact with wild birds as they may be infected. Ingestion of worms and insects from freshly plowed ground may result in infection.

There are a few products that can be added to conventional poultry feed to control internal parasites. These drugs can NOT be used in organic poultry production. There are no materials that can be used to treat a worm infestation, especially in egg layers, but food-grade diatomaceous earth can be added to the feed to control minor infestations of Capillaria and Heterakis worms (Bennett et al., 2011). Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms which are a type of hard-shelled algae. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is different from the pool-grade used for swimming pool filters. Only food-grade diatomaceous earth should be used for worm control.

Examples of diatomaceous earth products:

  • Barn Fresh® (OMRI-listed)
  • Perma-Guard (OMRI-listed)
  • Red Lake Earth® (OMRI-listed)

There is interest in garlic as a treatment against roundworms, but research using the active ingredient in garlic (allicin) failed to demonstrate any effect on intestinal worm populations (Velkers et al., 2011).

If worm loads are found to be high, there are some things that can be done to reduce their levels (Small, 1996). For inside the poultry house, 60 lb of salt for each 1,000 square feet of floor can be used and left for two days. For outside pastures, rotate pastures and leave vacant for at least eight months. Once a year the birds should be removed from the run, and the ground covered with quicklime at a rate of 100 lb per 1,000 square feet. After three weeks, the whole run should be dug over to ensure that the worm eggs are killed. Keep pastures cut close so that sunlight can kill parasite eggs on the surface. Keep pastures well-drained, as moist soil promotes the infectiveness of the worm eggs.

Current research programs include biological control measures (De and Sanyal, 2009). Worms have a portion of their life-cycle outside of the host. The free-living or pre-parasitic stages exist on pasture and are thus potential targets. Biological controls in the future could include fungi, bacteria, viruses and predacious nematodes.

References and Citations
  • Bennett, D. C., A. Yee, Y.-J. Rhee, and K. M. Cheng. 2011. Effect of diatomaceous earth on parasite load, egg production, and egg quality of free-range organic laying hens. Poultry Science 90:1416–1426. (Available online at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-01256) (verified 18 Nov 2013)
  • De., S., and P. K. Sanyal. 2009. Biological control of helminth parasites by predatory fungi [Online]. Vet Scan 4(1): article 31. Available at: http://www.vetscan.co.in/v4n1/biological_control_of_helminth_parasites_by_predatory_fungi.htm (verified 18 Nov 2013)
  • Permin, A., M. Bisgaard, F. Frandsen, M. Pearman, J. Kold, and P. Nansen. 1999. Prevalence of gastrointestinal helminths in different poultry production systems. British Poultry Science 40:439–443. (Available online at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071669987179) (verified 18 Nov 2013)
  • Small, L. 1996. Internal parasites (worms) of poultry [Online]. Publication of Northern Territory Government, Australia. Available at: http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Content/File/p/Anim_Dis/669.pdf (verified 18 Nov 2013)
  • Thamsborg, S. M., A. Roepstorff, and M. Larsen. 1999. Integrated and biological control of parasites in organic and conventional production systems. Veterinary Parasitology 84:169–186. (Available for purchase at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-4017(99)00035-7) (verified 18 Nov 2013)
  • Velkers, F. C., K. Dieho, F.W.M. Pecher, J.C.M. Vernooij, J.H.H. van Eck, and W.J.M. Landman. 2011. Efficacy of allicin from garlic against Ascaridia galli infection in chickens. Poultry Science 90:364–368. (Available online at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps.2010-01090) (verified 18 Nov 2013)

Return to Pest control page

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 7834

Including Rye in Organic Poultry Diets

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:44

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

NOTE: Before using any feed ingredient make sure that the ingredient is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier.

Introduction

Rye is a very versatile crop. It can be grown as a forage for cattle and other ruminant livestock or as a green manure in crop rotations in organic farming. It can also be grown for grain which can be used as a feed ingredient, feedstock for alcohol distilling and for human consumption. Fermentation of rye has ethanol yields comparable to those of wheat, which is a common feedstock used in ethanol production in Canada (Wang, 1997).

The number of rye cultivars is relatively low, especially when compared with wheat and barley. There has been considerably less effort put into the development and improvement of rye, partially because rye cross-pollinates while wheat and barley are self-pollinators. With cross-pollination it is difficult to maintain pure lines of breeding stock (Bushuk, 2001).

Rye cultivars are typically differentiated on the basis of growth habit, as either winter rye or spring rye. Rye has an amazing tolerance of cold weather and is still able to germinate at air temperatures in the 30s°F as long as the soil is warmed by the sun to slightly higher than the air temperature. Once established, rye will continue to grow in the fall until the temperature drops below 40°F. Growth resumes when the temperature rises above 40°F in the spring.  Spring rye is grown in areas where the winters are too severe for even the hardy winter rye. Typically the yields of spring rye are lower than of winter rye (Bushuk, 2001).

Rye is able to produce economical yields on poor, sandy soils not suitable for other crops. Rye has a deep and fibrous root system which makes it good at competing with weeds. This is another reason rye is often used in crop rotation in organic farming. Rye can be planted as pasture in both the fall and spring or can be grown as pasture in the fall and then raised as a grain crop in the spring (Bushuk, 2001).

There has been reluctance to use rye as a feedstuff. The primary concern is the presence of ergot alkaloids. Ergot is the most common disease of rye. The ergot fungus can be very toxic if present in sufficient concentration. Ergot is less of a problem these days as newer cultivars of rye are being developed that are resistant to ergot (Sosulski and Bernier, 1975). Controlling wild grasses around field borders will also reduce the chances of getting an ergot problem.

Composition

Rye (Secale cereale) has been studied as an alternative feed ingredient for poultry. The nutrient content of rye is very similar to wheat and corn but the nutritive value for poultry is very poor. The energy content in somewhere between that of wheat and barley. The protein content is similar to barley and oats. Unfortunately, rye contains the anti-nutritional factors of beta-glucans (ß-glucans) and arabinoxylans which limit their use in poultry diets. Both ß-glucans and arabinoxylans adversely affect nutrient availability by increasing the viscous nature of the intestinal contents. The gel-like material interferes with the activity of the digestive enzymes as well as the absorption of nutrients.

Canada's breeding program developed a low viscosity variety of rye (He et al., 2003).  They found, however, that genetic selection to reduce viscosity had only a minor increase in the nutritive value of rye for broilers. Regardless of the viscosity of the rye varieties used, enzyme supplementation improved performance through improved nutrient availability. The increase in nutrient availability, however, was greater for the broilers on the low-viscosity rye.

Feeding rye to poultry

When rye is included in poultry diets there is depressed growth performance and/or reduced egg production. The use of rye in turkey and broiler diets results in sticky droppings which add moisture to the litter and can cause problems with ammonia. The fecal material can also gather around the vent giving the birds 'pasty vents'. Rye may be fed to laying hens but should be introduced only after the hens have reached peak egg production (about 40 weeks of age). Rye should not be more than 40% of the diet. Birds may have sticky droppings which can increase the incidence of stained eggs.

Rye is not recommended for growing chickens (i.e., broilers and pullets) and turkeys. Including high levels of rye in poultry diets typically causes problems for growing chicks. The problem is the water-soluble, highly viscous non-starch polysaccharides referred to as pentosans or arabinoxylans. They are present in low amounts in rye (about 3.5%) and interfere with digestion of all nutrients in the diet, but especially the fats, fat-soluble vitamins, starch and protein. Chicks fed diets with rye produce wet and sticky excreta. There is also a higher moisture level in litter, increasing the problem of ammonia production. In addition, inclusion of rye in broiler diets has been shown to increase colonization by Salmonella Enteritidis, a common cause of foodborne disease in humans (Teirlynch et al., 2009) and Clostridium perfringens, a pathogenic organism that causes necrotic enteritis in poultry (Cravens, 2000).

There are commercial enzymes available that can counteract the negative effects of the rye. Part of the improved performance is due to an increase in nutrient availability (Silva et al., 2002) 

References

Bushuk, W. 2001. Rye Production and uses worldwide. Cereal Foods World 46:1-73.

Craven, S.E. 2000. Colonization of the intestinal tract by Clostridium perfringens and fecal shedding in diet-stressed and unstressed broiler chickens. Poultry Science 79:843-849.

He, T., P.A. Thacker, J.G. McLeod and G.L. Campbell. 2003. Performance of broiler chicks fed normal and low viscosity rye or barley with or without enzyme supplementation. Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Science 16:234-238.

Silva, S.S.P. and R.R. Smithard. 2002. Effect of enzyme supplementation of a rye-based diet on xylanase activity in the small intestine of broilers, on intestinal crypt cell proliferation and on nutrient digestibility and growth performance of the birds. British Poultry Science 43:274-282.

Sosulski, F. and C.C. Bernier. 1975. Ergot tolerance in spring rye. Canadian Plant Disease Survey 55:155-157.

Teirlynch, E., F. Haesebrouck, F. Pasmans, J. Dewulf, R. Ducatelle and F. Van Immerseel. 2009. The cereal type in feed influences Salmonella Enteritidis colonization in broilers. Poultry Science 88:2108-2112.

Wang, S., K.C. Thomas, W.M. Ingledew, K. Sosulski and F.W. Sosulski. 1997. Rye and triticale as feedstock for fuel ethanol production. Cereal Chemistry 74:621-625.

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 8108

Nutrient Requirements of Organic Poultry

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:40

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentuckky

Introduction

As with all animals, poultry species have specific nutritional needs. The nutrient requirements of a flock are determined by several factors:

  • Genetics (species, breed, or strain). Different species (e.g., chickens, turkeys, ducks) have different average body sizes, growth rates, and production levels. They also differ in how efficient they are at digesting and absorbing different feed ingredients. Even within a species there can be differences among breeds (e.g., meat chickens versus egg-laying hens).
     
  • Age. Nutrient requirements are influenced by body weight and life stage (e.g., starter, growing, egg-laying).
     
  • Sex. The nutrient requirements of male and female birds are similar at hatch but differences develop as the flock gets older, when males consume more than females.
     
  • Reproductive state. The level of egg production in hens, and sexual activity in males, affects nutrient requirements of the flock.
     
  • Environmental temperature. Poultry have increased energy requirements in cold weather, as more energy is needed to maintain normal body temperature. Conversely, energy requirements decrease in hot weather.
     
  • Management system. Housing design influences the level of activity of the flock, and therefore its energy requirements.
     
  • Health status. Flocks dealing with disease may benefit from increased dietary vitamin levels.
     
  • Production aims. The nutrient composition of the poultry diet varies according to production aims, which can include optimal weight gain or carcass composition, as well as egg numbers or egg size. 

Commercially prepared organic feeds are available for the specific type and age of bird in production. It is important to provide the right type of feed. Feeding a layer ration, which is high in calcium and lower in protein, to young birds can cause serious health issues. Or, feeding a starter/grower feed to laying hens will drastically reduce egg production.

Flocks with access to pasture may supplement their diets with greens and insects, depending on the quality of the pasture. A flock will quickly devour the greens within an enclosed area, so pasture rotation is essential to maintain forage quality.

Energy

Poultry consume feed to meet their energy requirements, assuming that the diet is adequate in essential nutrients, so their daily feed intake will depend on the energy content of the diet. A high density feed has a high energy level. Since the flock will consume less feed, the nutrients must be more concentrated in the amount of feed they will consume in a day. Similarly, a low density diet has a low energy level, and the flock will consume more of the feed daily. The required levels of the different nutrients will depend on the energy level of the diet.

Energy is not a nutrient, but rather a property of energy-yielding nutrients such as carbohydrates or fats. Not all the energy in a feed ingredient is used completely. The energy value of a feed ingredient is typically expressed as metabolizable energy (ME). The ME is the gross energy content of the feed ingredient minus the gross energy lost in the feces and urine. Stated another way, ME is calculated as the energy coming in one end and the energy going out the other end. The energy levels are expressed as kilocalories of ME per kilogram or pound.

Protein

Dietary protein requirements are actually requirements for the amino acids that make up the protein. There are 22 amino acids in body proteins, all of which are physiologically required. Some of the amino acids can be produced from other amino acids and are considered non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that poultry cannot produce, or cannot produce in sufficient quantities. The two main essential amino acids that impact poultry fed a corn-soybean meal diet are methionine plus cystine (referred to as the sulfur amino acids) and lysine. The other essential amino acids may become deficient when other feed ingredients are used. When using alternative feed ingredients, therefore, it may be necessary to evaluate levels of arginine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, tryptophan or valine.

Specific Nutrient Requirements

A National Research Council (NRC) publication on the nutrient requirements of poultry was published in 1994. Although the information is over 20 years old, it is still referred to today. However, the fast growth rates and production levels of today's poultry stocks have warranted a modification of the nutrient requirement profiles. Furthermore, the criteria used for developing nutrient requirements have changed. The NRC requirements were developed with maximum production as the main assessment criterion. Today, additional criteria have become important, including maximum health and welfare and minimal environmental impact.

Nutrient requirements of growing meat-type chickens (broilers)

Nutrient requirements for growing replacement pullets

Nutrient requirements for egg laying chickens

Nutrient requirements for growing turkeys

Nutrient requirements for meat-type ducks

Nutrient requirements for egg laying ducks

Nutrient requirements for dual-purpose breeds such as Barred Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red have not yet been developed.

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.

eOrganic 7888

Nutrient Requirements for Organic Meat-type Ducks

mar, 2018/05/15 - 17:39

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

Introduction

Compared to chickens, very little research has been done on the nutritional requirement of ducks. The nutrient requirements of growing meat-type ducks are reported to be similar to growing chickens. However, when formulating duck diets it is not possible to use amino acid availability and metabolizable energy content determined with chickens. As with chickens, supplementing duck diets with feed enzymes improves nutrient utilization. Also, ducks are better able to digest fiber than chickens so the metabolizable energy values of feedstuffs are typically 5-6% greater than the values obtained using chickens. It is best to give the feed as pellets or crumbles. Pelleting is most economical. Pellets can make a savings of 15-20% in the feed required to raise a duck to market weight, primarily due to reduced feed wastage.

Ducks are one of the fastest growing and most efficient producers of animal protein. The commercial duck meat industry are typically growing White Pekin, White Muscovy or White Mule ducks. Mule ducks are a cross between muscovy and pekin ducks and their offsprings are sterile). White Pekins typically reach a market weight of 7-8 pounds (3.2 - 3.6 kg) in about 8 weeks. Muscovies are marketed at 10-17 weeks of age. Mule ducks are typically marketed at the same time as muscovies.

Ducks tend to produce fatty carcasses. When formulating diets for meat diets it is important to pay attention to the protein to energy balance. The higher protein diets relative to energy generally result in less carcass fat.

Typical growth curves for Pekin, Muscovy and Mule ducks, most commonly used meat ducks, are shown below. As shown in the graphs, the growth curves for the three type of males are very similar. The differences are more pronounced in the females.

  

Typical feed efficiencies for Pekin, Muscovy and Mule ducks are shown below. Feed efficiencies are calculated as weight of feed consumed divided by body weight gain for the same period. As such, the lower the number the better the feed conversion can be achieved.

Although the growth curves are similar for all three types of ducks, there are considerable differences in feed conversion. The more efficient mule ducks are commonly raised for duck meat production in Europe.

 

Young ducklings can have access to pasture around 3-4 weeks of age. Ducks are not as good foragers as geese but the use of range will save on some of the feed required. The use of pasture is not required and it can be economical to raise ducks without pasture access.

Muscovy and mule ducks

Based on 2012 research (Baéza et al., 2012), the recommended protein levels for starting (0-3 weeks), growing (4-7 weeks) and finishing (8-10 weeks) diets for mule ducks are 23.5, 15.4, and 13.8% crude protein, respectively. The diets contained 2895 kcal ME/kg (1315 kcal ME/lb). Similar diets can be fed to Muscovy ducks.

Pekin ducks

Research conducted at Purdue University has resulted in recommended the following nutrient levels for commercially-raised white pekin ducks gorwn to 42 days of age.

Nutrient requirements of Pekin ducks:

NUTRIENT

STARTER (0-2 wks)

GROWER-FINISHER (2-6 wks) 23% CP 20.5% CP 17.5% CP 15.0% CP ME, Kcal/kg 2825 2875 3050 3075 ME, Kcal/lb 1280 1300 1385 1400 Methionine, % 0.60 0.55 0.45 0.30 Methionine + cysteine, % 0.95 0.85 0.75 0.60 Lysine, % 1.20 0.96 0.86 0.78 Calcium, % 1.20 1.00 0.90 0.80 Available phosphorus, % 0.60 0.55 0.45 0.30

Based on results from various research reports (Leeson and Summers, 2005)

References

Baéza, E., M.D. Bernadet and M. Lessire. 2012. Protein requirements for growth, feed efficiency, and meat production in growing mule ducks. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 21(1):21-32

Leeson, S. and J.D. Summers. 2005. Commercial poultry nutrition, third edition. University Books, Guelph, Ontario.

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 7895

May 2018

ven, 2018/05/11 - 15:58
Soil Health and Organic Farming Webinars

The first webinar in the Soil Health and Organic Farming Webinar Series with Mark Schonbeck and Diana Jerkins of the Organic Farming Research Foundation took place on Wednesday but you can still register for the 8 remaining webinars in the series here. The next one, on Weed Management: An Ecological Approach, takes place on June 13th. By request, we've also created a new help guide for attendees who have trouble getting connected or listening in! You can find it here. The recording of the first presentation should be up on the eOrganic YouTube channel by next Thursday.

CCOF Webinar on Crop Insurance

Organic and diversified farms now have a crop insurance option through USDA’s new the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program, as well as disaster assistance options through the Farm Service Agency. Join the CCOF Foundation and California FarmLink for a webinar on June 19, 2018 to find out how WFRP and other risk management programs address the needs of organic and diversified farms. Register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/247841306511023362

Oregon Tilth Farmer Mentorship Program

If you are farming in Oregon, Idaho or Washington, you can still sign up for the year-long Oregon Tilth farmer-to-farmer mentorship program to support peer-led, experience-based learning for new and transitioning organic practitioners. Participants in the program are paired based on several criteria — organic expertise, farm size, production type, and location — to match complimentary learning goals and skills. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and there are still slots available for the 2018 season.Find out more about this program, which offers benefits for both mentors and mentees, and fill out your application at https://tilth.org/education/farmer-mentorship-program/

Utah State University Pasture Field Day on June 7

On Thursday, June 7, 2018, Utah State University Extension is hosting a pasture field day at the Lewiston pasture research facility. Come get an update on research being conducted in the areas of plant identification and selection for pastures, measuring available forage, nutrient leaching, and estimating animal intake. If you are interested in going, please pre-register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/usu-pasture-field-day-heifer-development-and-pasture-management-in-grazing-systems-tickets-45490990778?utm_term=eventname_text

Seed Economics Toolkit: Economic Risk Management for Organic Seed Growers

The lack of adequate quantities of organic seed is recognized as a weak link in organic production and has resulted in ongoing exemptions to the National Organic Program’s (NOP) organic seed requirement. While organic seed production is a developing industry and a viable economic opportunity for organic growers, there is uncertainty and risk. In particular, seed growers may desire mentorship in enterprise budgeting, record keeping, and marketing strategy. This online toolkit aims to help the industry scale up organic seed production, increase profits for growers, and build the supply of organic seed nationally through increasing growers' knowledge by making tools and examples available for enterprise budgeting, inventory management, foundation and stock seed planning, and contracting. Find links to the tools and watch the presentations from the 2018 Seed Economics Intensive at the Organic Seed Growers Conference at http://articles.extension.org/pages/74676

Organic Farmers Association

The Organic Farmers Association was formed in 2016 to be a voice for organic farmers at the national level. Their membership is made up of domestic, certified organic producers as well as supporting individuals and organizations. The organization is supported by the Rodale Institute, and has recruited many experienced organic farming leaders. Farming members vote on pressing policy issues, and each farm receives one vote no matter its size, and policy positions are presented to elected officials in Washington, D.C. A recent article in the MOSES Organic Broadcaster by Jim Riddle describes the organization  in more detail and you can also find out more information and learn how to join at OrganicFarmersAssociation.org.

Our Farms, Our Future Podcast

SARE has a new podcast: Our Farms, Our Future, which brings together the sustainable agriculture community for thought-provoking conversations about the state of agriculture, how we got here, and where we're headed. With each episode they hope to share different perspectives within the sustainable agriculture community while tackling such topics as building resilient farming systems, farm profitability, and fostering community through local food systems. The latest podcast features Amy Garrett and Ron Rosmann discussing water challenges and dry farming. Find the podcast here.

Farming with Walk-behind Tractors: Kerr Center Report

A new report from retired Horticulture Manager George Kuepper covers his and the Kerr Center’s decade of experience using walk-behind tractors. The report serves as a resource for people trying to decide whether two-wheel tractors are a fit for their own operations. It also works as a basic how-to manual, offering tips on the use of several implements: rototillers, crimper/rollers, hay rakes, and three types each of plows and mowers. The report is extensively illustrated, with diagrams showing plowing patterns and suggested approaches to hitching and unhitching different implements. The report is available as a downloadable PDF for $5.00. More details and information are available at http://kerrcenter.com/publication/farming-walk-behind-tractors/

eOrganic Mission and Resources

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info

Find all eOrganic articles, videos and webinars at http://extension.org/organic_production

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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 25354

Economic Risk Management for Organic Seed Growers

mer, 2018/05/09 - 17:20

eOrganic author:

Tessa Peters, Organic seed Alliance

The lack of adequate quantities of organic seed is recognized as a weak link in organic production and has resulted in ongoing exemptions to the National Organic Program’s (NOP) organic seed requirement. While organic seed production is a developing industry and a viable economic opportunity for organic growers, there is uncertainty and risk. In particular, seed growers may desire mentorship in enterprise budgeting, record keeping, and marketing strategy. This training aims to help the industry to scale up organic seed production, increase the profits for growers, and build the supply of organic seed nationally through increasing growers' knowledge by making tools and examples available for enterprise budgeting, inventory management, foundation and stock seed planning, and contracting. Scroll down for links to many of the tools and watch the presentations from the 2018 Seed Economics Intensive at the Organic Seed Growers Conference.  

Download the Tools:   Organic Seed Alliance Enterprise Budget Tool

This seed enterprise budget tool was developed  to guide farmers who are interested in knowing the costs associated with producing individual seed crops on their farms. Enterprise budgets provide a snapshot of costs associated with a single crop for a single year and do not make predictions or forecasts for future years. However, they can be used to provide guidance for farmers who are considering investments in new equipment, training, or scale. Sensitivity analyses can be done by entering different values for any variable in the production flow. Each value in the tool can be customized, though common default values are provided for some calculations in the current version.

Download the Organic Seed Alliance Enterprise Budget Tool  Enterprise Budgeting tool developed in Canada 

Based on the work of Daniel Brisebois and Richard Wiswall, the BC Seed Security Program at FarmFolk CityFolk  and the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security have developed a website to help you help you determine the cost of your labour and material inputs as well as potential sales revenue for seed crops.The website contains a spreadsheet which you can use, and which is being tested by seed growers in British Columbia. Find the website at http://www.bcseeds.org/business-resources/seed-enterprise-budgets/

If you wish to use this type of tool, Sebastian Aguilar's presentation in Farmer Enterprise Budget Case Studies (below) uses this type of tool. 

Climactic Considerations for Seed Crops: Guidelines and Field Trainings for Organic and Specialty Vegetable Seed Producers

This guide provides detailed climatic considerations for organic and specialty seed production in the Pacific Northwest. Topics include environmental influences on pollination and fertilization, and the influence of temperature, day length, frost-free days, precipitation, and wind. The guide also includes sections on environmental management, crop selection for seed production, and the history and geography of seed production in the region.

Download the Climactic Considerations for Seed Crops Guide 

 

  Labor Tracking Tool for Seed Producers seedalliance.org/publications/labor-tracking-tool-for-seed-producers/

Tracking on-farm labor can be confusing or overwhelming, but it is also extremely important for growers trying to get a handle on what their operator costs are, or produce enterprise budgets. The forms in this tool are designed as a guide that offers different method for tracking. Three different forms are included in the Labor Tracking Tool for Seed Producers. Each operation (or operator) might prefer a different type of form or a modified version of one of the forms. The first form is designed for operations where a person might track a different operation each day. One form would be used for each operation with a tick mark placed on the type of operation being tracked. The second form is designed for activities that will be performed many times over many dates (such as watering in a greenhouse or screening a large seed lot. The third form is designed to be used by a single operator who will track a number of different activities. Any of these (or all of these) may be useful for tracking labor in a seed production operation. Download the Labor Tracking Tool for Seed Producers

Production Planning Tool for Seed Producers

Common questions around foundation, stock, and production seed are: How much foundation seed do I need to ensure I have enough stock seed? How much stock seed should I produce every third year for my production seed? The Production Planning Tool for Seed Producers is a simple excel sheet that helps guide decision making around how much and how often to produce foundation, stock, and production seed based on your operation, desired inventory, longevity of the seed, and estimated yield. A blank template and a real-world example are included as separate worksheets.

Download the Production Planning Tool for Seed Producers

 

    Watch the Webinars: Seed Economics Intensive Recorded at the Organic Seed Growers Conference: 14 Feb, 2018

Navigating the financial challenge of growing seed commercially can be challenging and managing the risks are essential to success. Beginning and experienced seed growers joined the Organic Seed Alliance for this one-day intensive to explore tools for managing financial risk in commercial seed production through budgeting tools to evaluate capital investments, expand enterprises, and assess market opportunities. We examined real-world examples from seed growers with different marketing strategies to build knowledge of wholesale, retail, contract growing, breeding, and variety maintenance. Presenters had the opportunity to provide their own production examples and work with an agricultural economist to develop enterprise budgets. We also heard from organic seed industry representatives about gaps in the seed supply, best practices for quality control, and essentials for contracting with their organizations. 

Click here for the recordings as a YouTube playlist

Presenters: Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm; Travis Greenwalt, Highland Economics; Sam McCullough, Nash's Organic Produce; Tanya Murray, Oregon Tilth; Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seed; Tom Stearns, High Mowing Organic Seed; Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Pete Zuck, Johnny's Selected Seeds

Inventory Management: Tessa Peters, Organic Seed Alliance

Seed companies largest risk is embodied in their inventory. A failure to manage inventory is the number one risk for seed businesses. In this presentation, Tessa Peters of the Organic Seed Alliance discusses inventory management strategies including variety lifecycles, marketing as a retail business or a wholesale business, considerations for stewarded varieties, managing foundation, stock, and production seed, and forecasting. 

Choosing a Scale and Marketing - Retail case study: Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seeds

Sarah Kleeger of Adaptive Seeds gives a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of her seed company. She shares the business structure and the percent shares of each of the business costs. She gives insight into managing inventory at her scale including choosing varieties through trails and tastings, providing breeder liberties and intellectual property. 

Working with Seed Companies - Wholesale case study: Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm

Sebastian Aguilar runs a wholesale contracting seed business in California. He gives an inside look at growing crops on contract. Including establishing relationships with seed companies, quality expectations, dealing with cash flow challenges, and investments in equipment. 

Enterprise Budgets - Travis Greenwalt, Highland Economics

Travis Greewalt presents an introduction to using the Organic Seed Alliance's Enterprise Budgeting Tool (linked below.) He discusses what enterprise budgets are designed to do and what they are not designed to do. Then he provides a case study of chard seed. Finally, he presents a sensitivity analysis for the chard example in which he provides different price points for and yield estimates for the example to show how an enterprise budget might be used in decision making for your farm. 

Tracking Labor - Tanya Murray, Oregon Tilth

Tanya Murray leads a cost study cohort program with Oregon State University and Oregon Tilth. She presents ideas for tracking labor costs on-farm using time studies. 

Farmer Enterprise Budget Case Studies - Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seeds; Sebastian Aguilar, Chickadee Farm; Sam McCullough, Nash's Organic Produce

Three farmers give real-life examples of how to use enterprise budgets to track costs for specific seed crops. Sarah discusses two squashes (Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat winter squash, Lower Salmon River Squash) and two peppers (Bacskai Feher and Korean hot peppers) using OSA's tool (linked below.) Sebastian presents a Wiswall-based method for lettuce and tomatoes. Sam McCullough presents on two varieties of chard, delivered at different seed cleaning specifications. 

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 25243

Design the Cropping System to Minimize Niches for Weed Growth

ven, 2018/05/04 - 13:56

eOrganic author:

Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming

Introduction

Weed prevention begins at the planning stage of any cropping system. Plan the crop rotation and cropping system to keep the soil fully occupied by desired living vegetation, or at least covered by organic residues, as much of the year as possible.

An idle soil is the weed devil’s playground! For example, growing continuous corn each summer with winter fallow leaves the entire field available for weeds from harvest in early fall until crop emergence late the following spring. Between-row spaces remain open for weed growth until crop canopy closure—which may take two months or more for corn. This is why continuous corn is economically feasible only for conventional producers who use synthetic herbicides—and many of them now strive to save soil, money, and chemicals by planting a winter rye cover crop after corn harvest.

Any plant or other organism requires a suitable habitat or niche in order to grow and reproduce. A niche is a site within which certain conditions exist, allowing the organism to thrive and complete its life cycle. For most weeds of vegetables and other annual cropping systems, any space or time in which the soil has been recently disturbed or is open and uncovered by other vegetation constitutes a suitable niche. Thus, a key step in ecological weed management is to reduce the number and size of these weed niches in the cropping system.

Most organic vegetable farms grow a diversity of crops throughout the season, and the nonuse of herbicides opens options for crop rotation, multicropping, and cover cropping to limit niches for weeds. However, open niches typically occur during early stages of crop growth (Fig. 1). Those vegetable crops that do not form a solid canopy or root mass pose the greatest challenge, in that they do not fully occupy the niche and are thus most likely to become weedy.

Weeds emerging in wide interrow space of young squash planting
Figure 1. Morning glories and other weeds are just beginning to emerge in the wide expanses of bare soil between these rows of young winter squash. Figure credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

A few basic tips for minimizing weed niches include:

  • Design tight crop rotations, including production and cover crops that keep fields covered by vegetation as much as possible throughout the calendar year. In regions with cold winters, provide winter cover in the form of dormant hardy cover crops, winter-killed high-biomass covers, or other mulch or crop residues.
  • For each field, bed, or section, schedule crop planting to take place promptly after harvesting or terminating the previous crop.
  • Schedule a cover crop whenever a field or bed is expected to come out of production for longer than 30 days during the growing season, or for the remainder of the fall and winter (Fig. 2).
  • Choose planting patterns—row spacing and within-row spacing—that promote early canopy closure (foliage covers the ground so you can’t see soil surface when viewed from above), without compromising crop yield by crowding.
  • When practical, plan to mulch bare soil between crop rows or beds (open niches in space). While mulch does not close off the weed niche as thoroughly as a closed canopy of living crops, it hinders most annual weeds, and conserves moisture and nutrients for the crop.

Prompt planting of winter rye-vetch cover suppresses chickweed
Figure 2. In the left side of this field, a cover crop of winter ryehairy vetch was planted promptly after harvest of summer vegetables. Photographed at the beginning of December on a farm on Cape Cod, MA, a thick mat of cover crop has largely closed the niche for winter weeds. On the right, a delay in cover cropping has allowed a mat of common chickweed to grow. Figure credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

Schedule bare soil periods for limited times only, and only with specific purposes. These could include a period of cultivated fallow to draw down weed seed banks, to weaken invasive perennial weeds, or to germinate and remove weeds in a stale seedbed and allow soil warming before planting a vegetable. Another strategic fallow technique is to mow promptly after vegetable harvest to stop weed seed formation, then delay tillage for a few weeks to give the farm's cleanup crew of ground beetles, crickets, field mice, and other weed seed predators a chance to consume a substantial percentage of any weed seeds formed and shed prior to harvest. In each of these examples, the weed niche has been deliberately opened in a way that facilitates the reduction of weed populations.

Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Closing Off Weed Niches

Innovative growers and researchers continue to explore and develop new ways to reduce niches for weeds. Whereas these methods have not performed consistently enough to be recommended for widespread application, they can give excellent results when used skillfully in certain circumstances. Some of these techniques include:

  • Intercropping or companion planting
  • Interseeding or overseeding cover crops into established vegetable crops
  • No-till cover crop management prior to vegetable planting
  • Living mulches—low-growing ground covers between crop rows or beds
  • Self-seeding winter annual cover crops
Intercropping

Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more cash crops within a single bed or in alternating rows across the field, to optimize crop use of resources and to minimize space and other resources available to weeds. Vegetable crops grown together should differ in maturity date, plant architecture, rooting depth and structure, and nutrient demands in ways that reduce competition among the crops and increase total competition against weeds. Crop combinations should be chosen that have neutral or positive biochemical interactions with one another—that is, no adverse allelopathic effects—and complementary needs for light, moisture, and nutrients. This practice of companion planting is widely used in ancient traditional food gardening systems, as well as some intensively managed market gardens today.

Examples include: lettuce between rows of tomatoes, in which the lettuce shades out early-emerging weeds, and is harvested before it competes with the tomatoes (Fig. 3); spinach between Brussels sprouts (similar relationship); or quick-growing greens (heavy feeders for N, tolerant of partial shade) between widely spaced trellised rows of tall snow or snap peas, which fix their own N. The Native American “three sisters” system combines corn, runner beans, and squash, whose complementary architecture utilizes space and resources effectively, and usually yields more food per unit area than any one of the crops grown alone. The corn provides support for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen, and the squash vines rapidly cover ground between corn hills or rows and suppress weeds.

Interplanting of tomatoes and greens in hoophouse
Figure 3. Charlie Maloney of Dayspring Farm in Cologne, VA (Tidewater region) intercrops lettuce and bok choy with his high-tunnel tomatoes, thus producing two crops while virtually eliminating niches for weeds in his production beds. The greens are ready to harvest just as the tomatoes enter their rapid growth phase and begin to occupy the whole bed. Figure credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

Another form of intercropping alternates widely spaced rows of large vegetables like tomatoes or winter squash with swaths of cover crop such as buckwheat. The latter is allowed to grow and suppress weeds for several weeks, then cut before it begins to compete with the vegetables, and left on the soil surface as a mulch that retards later-emerging weeds.

Interseeding or Overseeding

Interseeding or overseeding of cover crops into a standing cash crop can eliminate the empty niche following harvest. Red, white, crimson, and subterranean clovers; Italian ryegrass; winter rye; and oats have sufficient shade- and traffic-tolerance to become established under the cash crop, then grow rapidly after it is harvested and cleared. Red clover is especially shade-tolerant with a “light compensation point” near 6% of full sun, so that its seedlings can become established even under a winter squash or pumpkin canopy. Combining a clover with a grass may fill the postharvest niche more thoroughly than either alone.

Some vegetable growers, especially those living in colder climates with short growing seasons, broadcast cover crops into established vegetables just before a final shallow cultivation to remove existing weeds and incorporate the cover crop seed. Essentially, this strategy utilizes the time after the vegetable crop’s minimum weed-free period to begin growing a cover crop in lieu of late-emerging weeds. Success depends on sufficient moisture and seed–soil contact to get the cover crop established.

Veteran vegetable grower and author Eliot Coleman has refined this approach, using a multirow push-seeder to drill cover crops between vegetable rows immediately after the final cultivation. Drilling can give better seed–soil contact, uniformity and stand establishment than broadcasting. Coleman (1995) developed an eight-year rotation for central Vermont (hardiness zone 4) that includes eight different vegetables, seven of them overseeded with various clovers and other cover crops (Fig. 4).

Elliott Coleman's cover cropping system
Figure 4. Eliot Coleman, author of The New Organic Grower, uses a five-row push seeder to plant cover crops between rows of vegetables when the latter are at midgrowth. After vegetables are harvested and cleared away, the young clover cover crop rapidly covers the ground, effectively closing the niche between the vegetable and subsequent cover crop, while fixing nitrogen. Figure credits: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

Grubinger (2004) has documented other successful cover crop overseeding practices used by organic farmers. Hank Bissell of Lewis Creek Farm in Starksboro, VT interseeds rye manually into fall brassicas to obtain winter and spring cover after the vegetables are finished. In early July, Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, VT seeds hairy vetch into winter squash. The vetch becomes established under the squash, covers the ground when frost kills squash foliage, and grows until the following May, thereby shutting out weeds while fixing a lot of nitrogen.

Watch this video to see how Hank Bissell of Lewis Creek Farm in Starksboro, VT manually interseeds winter rye in late fall into brassicas to obtain winter and spring cover after the vegetables are finished.

 

Watch this video to see how Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, VT uses summer-seeded hairy vetch in winter squash. No-till Cover Crop Management

No-till cover crop management entails mowing or rolling a mature cover crop to create an in situ mulch, into which vegetable starts or large seeds can be planted. This eliminates the bare-soil period between a cover crop and the subsequent vegetable, as well as tillage-related stimuli to weed seed germination. Under favorable conditions, the mulch from a high-biomass cover crop can delay the onset of weed growth for four or more weeks after vegetable planting. However, results in terms of weed control and vegetable yield have been inconsistent. Additional research is needed to refine this technique and define circumstances in which it is most likely to succeed.

Living Mulch

Living mulch consists of one or more low-growing ground cover species—for example, low-growing legumes such as white Dutch clover; dwarf perennial ryegrass; and creeping red fescue—maintained between crop rows or beds by periodic mowing. The goal is to replace tall, competitive, hard-to-manage weeds with low-growing perennial vegetation that suppresses weeds and protects the soil, while having minimal impact on crop yield. This approach works well for woody perennial crops like blueberries, grapes, and orchard fruits. However, it has been found difficult to keep living mulches from reducing vegetable yields by competing for moisture or nutrients. Living mulch has been used successfully in alleys between plastic-mulched beds of either annual vegetables or perennial crops.

Watch this video to see how Lou Lego, Elderberry Pond Couthry Foods, Auburn, NY uses living mulches between plastic-mulched vegetable rows.

The living mulch and some of its variants remain subjects of experimentation by scientists and farmers. A dying mulch consists of a winter annual grain, such as rye, planted in early spring to suppress or supplant between-row or between-bed weeds in spring planted vegetables. As summer heat builds, the winter annual living mulch declines and dies back while the vegetables enter their rapid growth and maturation phases. Another form of dying mulch is a non-winter-hardy cover crop, such as oats or buckwheat, sown in mid to late summer ahead of fall garlic planting. When the cover crop frost-kills, it becomes mulch through which the garlic emerges at the end of winter. In Pennsylvania, organic vegetable farmers Anne and Eric Nordell plant garlic into standing oats + field peas in October, which later winter-kill to provide at least some of the mulch required to suppress spring weeds in the garlic.

Self-seeding Winter Annual Cover Crops

Certain varieties of winter annual cover crops like subterranean clover, crimson clover, bigflower vetch, and Italian ryegrass can be grown as self-seeding cover crops. The cover crop is allowed to set seed and die down naturally in late spring, then followed by warm-season vegetable crops. The seeds germinate in late summer under the vegetable, thus regenerating the cover crop for the following winter without the need for postharvest tillage and seedbed preparation. The cover crop seed must be sufficiently summer-dormant that it does not emerge too early and compete with the vegetable, yet must establish sufficient stands to outcompete fall weeds. Farmers Jean Mills and Carol Eichelberger use crimson clover and annual ryegrass as self-seeding cover crops for certain vegetables on their farm in Coker, Alabama (Fig. 5).

Volunteer crimson clover and italian ryegrass
Figure 5. The crimson clover and Italian ryegrass growing beneath these fall broccoli emerged from seed shed by an earlier cover crop the preceding spring. Hot summer weather kept the seeds dormant until the onset of autumn, at which time the vegetable was sufficiently established so that the emerging ryegrss and clover did not compete significantly. The photo was taken November, 2005 at Jean Mills and Carol Eichelberger's Tuscaloosa CSA in Coker, AL. Figure credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

Minimizing Weed Niches in Small and Larger Scale Vegetable Production

Farmers and gardeners have developed many site-specific strategies for closing off weed niches in annual vegetable cropping systems. The details depend on climate, soil conditions, weed flora, crops grown, available equipment, and scale of operation. Growers who have limited land area tend to use more labor-intensive approaches aimed at maximum year round production of desired crop plants, and can afford to do some hand weeding during crop production. Farmers working larger acreages seek labor-efficient means to reduce weed pressure prior to planting the vegetable crop, thus minimizing weed control labor during crop production.

Over the past 40 years, Alan Chadwick and John Jeavons pioneered and developed the BioIntensive Minifarming method for sustainable food production in communities with limited land, machinery, and financial resources. Biointensive minifarming aims to make maximal use of every square foot of land to produce either food or biomass (grass–legume cover crops) to use for mulch or making compost. This system is characterized by very tight crop rotations with 60% of the time in cover crops, close plant spacings, companion planting, and multiple cropping (Jeavons, 2006). While labor intensive, this approach is highly productive and leaves little space for weeds to invade or compete. The few weeds that do emerge are pulled manually before they set seed, and composted.

Eric and Anne Nordell, who manage a six-acre vegetable farm in Pennsylvania primarily with draft horses, have developed an approach to weed management that they call bioextensive. Their strategy is to "weed the soil, not the crop", and their crop rotations include only one market crop every two years (Nordell and Nordell, 2006). The rest of the rotation is devoted to two high-biomass, weed-excluding cover crops, separated by a brief (4–6 week) cultivated fallow during the nonproduction season to draw down weed seed populations. Timing of fallow, cultivation implements (all horse-drawn), and methods are adjusted according to the existing weed flora—very shallow for small-seeded annuals; deeper for quack grass, dandelion, and other perennials. In the production year, the final cover crop is shallow-incorporated (minimizing tillage depth to reduce weed seed germination) a few weeks before vegetable planting. The Nordells find that this system greatly reduces weed control labor during vegetable production.

Watch this video about how the Nordells use ridge tillage and cover crops to greatly reduce weed control labor during vegetable production.

Another approach used on farms with sufficient land is to follow several years of intensive annual cropping with one to three full years under a perennial sod cover crop, such as red clover–timothy–orchardgrass. The perennial covers are planted, sometimes with a nurse crop of oats or other cereal grain, either after a vegetable harvest, or as an overseed into a standing vegetable crop. In addition to rebuilding the soil, the perennial cover effectively closes the niche for annual weeds-of-cultivation like lambsquarters and pigweeds, so that they cannot reproduce, and their weed seed bank declines through seed predation and decay. View the followng video clips for some ingenious and effective uses of perennial cover crops to build fertility and reduce weeds in organic vegetable production:

Watch this video to see how Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, VT uses frost-seeded red clover.

This article is part of a series on Twelve Steps Toward Ecological Weed Management in Organic Vegetables. For more information on cultural practices that reduce the niche for weeds, see:

References and Citations
  • Coleman, E. 1995. The new organic grower: A master's manual of tools and techniques for the home and market gardener. 2nd ed. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT.
  • Grubinger, V. 2004. Farmers and their innovative cover cropping techniques [VHS tape/DVD]. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, VT.
  • Jeavons, J. 2006. How to grow more vegetables and fruits, nuts, berries, grains and other crops than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine. 7th edition. Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.
  • Nordell, E., and A. Nordell. 2006. Weed the soil, not the crop: A whole-farm approach to the weed-free market garden. Small Farmer's Journal 30 (3 - summer): 53–58.
  • Schonbeck, M., and R. Morse. 2007. Reduced tillage and cover cropping systems for organic vegetable production. Virginia Association for Biological Farming information sheet No. 9-07. (Available online at: http://vabf.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/reducedtillage_sm.pdf) (verified 4 May 2018).

 

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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Hail Can Happen! Insurance Options for Organic Farms

mer, 2018/04/25 - 16:35

Join eOrganic and the Organic Farming Research Foundation for a webinar about insurance options for organic farm, which takes place on February 6, 2019 at 11AM Pacific Time (12PM Mountain, 1PM Central, 2PM Eastern Time). The webinar is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required.

Register now at https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?MTID=e456f6d6fbc634065de951fe137bd33f7

About the Webinar

Managing risk is of utmost importance for all farmers, especially organic producers. This webinar will educate organic and transitioning growers on USDA risk management programs and provide a step by step guide to enrollment in crop insurance programs. The goals of this webinar are to improve understanding of risk management among organic producers and those seeking to transition to organic. This project supports RMA’s goal of increasing access to risk management practices and programs for underserved audiences.

About the Presenter

Michael Stein is an attorney and scientist who is passionate about organic and sustainable agriculture. He has focused his career on implementing legal and policy tools to address the environmental, health, and economic impacts of our food system. He first started working to protect the health and wealth of our natural resources with Midwest Environmental Advocates, assisting family farmers in protecting their homes and communities from the negative environmental impacts of large-scale industrial agriculture. While at Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, he focused on the environmental and public health impacts of food waste, and also worked to address food sovereignty issues faced by Native American communities.

The webinar will be conducted using Webex. To try a test session, go here.

Funding for this webinar is provided by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

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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Lower Financial Risk by Increasing Soil Health

mer, 2018/04/25 - 16:26

Join eOrganic and the Organic Farming Research Foundation for a webinar on how to lower your financial risk by increasing soil health by Mark Schonbeck of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming. The webinar is free and open to the public, and takes place on January 16, 2019 at 11 AM Pacific, 12PM Mountain, 1PM Central, 2PM Eastern Time. Advance registration is required.

Register now at https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?MTID=e57ae287484...

 

About the Webinar

Building soil health through improved crop rotations, cover cropping, organic soil amendments, and other organic practices can improve yield stability and reduce risks of losses to drought, temperature extremes, weeds, and other stresses. Farmer experience and research have shown that healthy soil is the best form of crop insurance. Based on organic agricultural research and producer experience, this webinar will explore how several key soil health practices can reduce risks during organic transition and organic production.

About the Presenter

Mark Schonbeck has worked for 31 years as a researcher, consultant, and educator in sustainable and organic agriculture. He has participated in on-farm research into mulching, cover crops, minimum tillage, and nutrient management for organic vegetables. For many years, he has written for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter and served as their policy liason to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He has also participated in different research projects to analyze, evaluate and improve federally funded organic and sustainable agriculture programs. In addition, Mark offers individual consulting in soil test interpretation, soil quality and nutrient management, crop rotation, cover cropping, and weed management.

The webinar will be conducted using Webex. To try a test session, go here.

Funding for this webinar is provided by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

 

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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Using Cover Crops in Organic Systems: Resources and Research from SARE

lun, 2018/04/23 - 18:29

eOrganic author:

Andy Zieminski, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has funded hundreds of research and education projects related to cover crops since 1988. SARE’s Cover Crop Topic Room features free information products (books, bulletins, webinars, etc.) and research projects relevant to both conventional and organic production.

Resources

NOTE: Some of the linked resources may also discuss non-organic production methods. Before applying any product, be sure to 1) read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and 2) make sure that the brand name product is listed your Organic System Plan and approved by your organic certifier. For more information see Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm?

Cover Crops and No-Till Management for Organic Systems
This Rodale Institute fact sheet reviews the use of cover crops and no-till in organic systems including selection, establishment, and mechanical termination of cover crops; crop rotations; and energy and production budgets.

Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculator
This free, online tool developed by Oregon State University compares the nutrient value and cost of cover crops, organic and synthetic fertilizers, and compost. It can be used to develop well-balanced and cost-effective nutrient management programs. It is most appropriate for farmers in western Washington and western Oregon.

Cover Crops for All Seasons—Expanding the cover crop tool box for organic vegetable producers
This Virginia Association for Biological Farming information sheet, authored by Mark Schonbeck and Ron Morse, provides research-based information on a cover crop “toolbox” from which organic vegetable growers can select cover crops most suited to their regions and production systems.

Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual
This 154-page book, free to download, reviews how farmers are using crop rotations to improve soil quality and health, and manage pests, diseases, and weeds. Consulting with expert organic farmers, the authors share rotation strategies that can be applied under various field conditions and with a wide range of crops. Crop Rotation on Organic Farms is most applicable for the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, but may also be useful for other regions of the United States.

 

Managing Cover Crops Profitably
This 244-page book, free to download, explores how and why cover crops work and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation—both conventional and organic. Managing Cover Crops Profitably includes detailed management information on the most commonly used species. For Midwestern farmers: The information in Managing Cover Crops Profitably formed the foundation of the Midwest Cover Crops Council's Cover Crop Decision Tools, which are interactive, web-based systems to assist farmers in selecting cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations.

Research

The Cover Crop Topic Room includes a selection of SARE-funded research conducted by farmers, scientists, Extension educators and others on these topics:

Examples of research on cover crops in organic systems include:

To discover more of SARE’s organic cover crop research portfolio, browse the Cover Crop Topic Room or visit SARE's database of projects and conduct full text or advanced keyword searches.

About SARE

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) ­program’s mission is to advance—to the whole of American agriculture—innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. SARE is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA. For more information, visit www.sare.org.

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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Soil Health and Organic Farming Webinar Series

jeu, 2018/04/05 - 17:08

Please join the Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic for a series of 9 webinars focused on the topics covered in their new Soil Health and Organic Farming educational guides: building organic matter, weed management, conservation tillage, cover crops, plant breeding and variety selection, water management and quality, nutrient management, and more! This series is recommended for farmers, extension agents, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in building soil health.

Author Mark Schonbeck of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming and OFRF Research Program Director Diana Jerkins will review the most recent research on soil health practices and explore how organic growers can build healthy soils on their operations. The webinars will provide practical guidelines for growers, in-depth analysis of research outcomes, and an opportunity to get your questions answered.

Register now at https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?PRID=8c89e175509c9d5e881644245dd5c9d2

May 9, 2018: Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils: An Overview

We will discuss the attributes of healthy soil, the central role of organic matter, and how to monitor and enhance soil health in organic production. The presentation will outline key organic practices for building soil organic matter and optimizing soil functions in relation to fertility, crop yield, and resource conservation.

June 13, 2018: Weed Management: An Ecological Approach

This webinar will focus on integrated organic weed management tools and practices that give crops the edge over weeds, build soil health, and reduce the need for soil disturbance.

September 19, 2018: Practical Conservation Tillage

This webinar includes the impacts of tillage on soil health, including practical, soil-friendly tillage practices for organic systems. We will discuss several newer tillage tools and approaches that reduce adverse impacts on soil life and soil structure.

October 17, 2018: Cover Crops: Selection and Management

This webinar will focus on selecting the best cover crops, mixes, and management methods for soil health, including crop rotations and cropping system biodiversity.

November 14, 2018: Plant Genetics: Plant Breeding and Variety Selection

This webinar will cover plant breeding and variety selection for performance in sustainable organic systems, including nutrient and moisture use efficiency, competitiveness toward weeds, and enhanced interactions with beneficial soil biota. We will also discuss heritable traits that could directly benefit soil biology and soil health.

January 9, 2019: Water Management and Water Quality

This webinar will focus on the role of soil health and organic soil management in water conservation and water quality.

February 20, 2019: Nutrient Management for Crops, Soil and the Environment

This webinar includes a discussion of the role of soil health and the soil food web, including practical guidelines for optimizing crop nutrition, minimizing adverse environmental impacts of organic fertility inputs, and adapting soil test-based nutrient recommendations (especially N) for organic systems.

March 20, 2019: Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration

In this webinar, we will discuss the capacity of sustainable organic systems and practices to sequester soil carbon, minimize nitrous oxide and methane emissions during crop and livestock production, and enhance agricultural resilience to weather extremes. The presentation will include practical guidelines for optimizing the organic farm’s “carbon footprint” and adaptability to climate disruptions already underway.

May 22, 2019: Understanding and Managing Soil Biology for Soil Health and Crop Production

This webinar will examine the functions of the soil food web and key components thereof in promoting soil health and fertility and sustainable organic crop production. Research-based guidance on organic practices and NOP-approved inputs for improved soil food web function will be discussed.

Thank you to the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation for supporting this project.

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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April 2018

mer, 2018/04/04 - 15:34
April 11 Webinar: Variety Trials:Trial Evaluation, Analysis and Interpreting Results

The webinar on Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials to Reduce Risk for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers: Trial Evaluation, Analysis and Interpreting Results is the second webinar a 2-part series on conducting variety trials to reduce risk for organic and specialty crop producers. Presenters are Julie Dawson of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance. The first webinar was recorded and is available here. These webinars are part of an online variety trial toolkit created by the Organic Seed Alliance and their collaborators. Also included in the toolkit are a guide to on farm variety trials and a free online variety trial tool. Find the toolkit here. Please note, to attend this free webinar, you must register here in Webex, since we have switched programs and the older Gotowebinar link will not work!

All recent eOrganic webinars and broadcast recordings available now on YouTube

Recordings are now available from the entire Fall-Spring eOrganic webinar season including all the Organic Seed Growers Conference recordings, and the webinars on tomato foliar pathogens, abrasive weeding, tools for farm biodiversity and more. Find them all at https://www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic.

April 4 at 11:59 Eastern Time: Spring NOSB meeting comments deadline

If you would like to submit comments for the Spring NOSB meeting or sign up for oral comments at their webinars or in person, the deadline is today at 11:59 PM Eastern Time.The in-person meeting takes place on April 25-27, and the two webinars take place on April 17 and 19.  The many issues, proposals and substances they will be discussing are contained in their meeting materials here. Find out more details about the meeting and webinars here, and submit written comments by tonight April 4 at 11:59 Eastern here.

NSAC Update on Food Safety Modernization Act

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition just published a helpful blog post which summarizes new information published by the FDA about how farms and processors can determine whether they qualify for various exemptions from the Food Safety Modernization Act Rules. Exemptions are determined by sales thresholds based on an average of the past 3 years' sales and adjusted for inflation. Find out more about how this works and which exemptions your farm may qualify for at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fsma-exemptions-update/

Seed Internship Program Accepting Applications

Are you an experienced seed grower seeking interns for your farm? Or are you an individual looking for a farm internship that would teach you how to grow seed? Then check out the Seed Internship Program, co-hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA). The program matches host farms that produce seed with individuals interested in a farm internship that teaches these skills. The program also provides host farms seed production curriculum to support their training efforts. Click here to learn more and register as a host farm or interested intern.

Learn How to Grow Seed in California on April 7th

Join OSA’s Southern California Seed Hub, San Diego Seed Company, and Bancroft Center for Sustainability for a one-day training on incorporating organic seed production into your diversified farm plan. The workshop will be held on Saturday, April 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Steve Peters of OSA and Brijette Pena of the San Diego Seed Company will provide hands-on instruction to help you grow organic seed for the commercial market. This training will help participants understand seed production biology; on-farm breeding; seed harvesting and cleaning; and how to conduct variety trials and choose seed crops for a specific system and climate. Participants will also learn about the economics of seed production and how to identify markets. Learn more and register here.

NOVIC and CIOA Projects work with the University of Hawaii to Teach Plant Breeding

Two NIFA-OREI funded organic plant breeding projects: the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) and the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project recently joined tropical plant breeders at the University of Hawaii to teach a two-day workshop on organic plant breeding for Hawaiian organic farmers. The event was co-hosted by the University of Hawaii’s Go-farm Hawaii program – an applied apprentice program that trains beginning farmers. Go-farm Hawaii trainer Jay Bost led the workshop, which included both a classroom and field component with trials of several NOVIC, CIOA and Hawaiian tropical crops. Read more about this event and view pictures here.

 

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 REGISTRATION LINK: Abrasive Weeding: Efficacy, Multifunctionality, and Profitability

mer, 2018/03/21 - 15:56

Due to a change in service of our long-time webinar provider, we have had to switch to a new program: Webex. If you registered for this webinar in gotowebinar, please register again in webex! We apologize for the inconvenience, but we want to make sure that you and everyone who is interested can join, and our former program has limited the number of attendees! So please register again and join us for this informative presentation on this new organic weeding method!

Join eOrganic for a new webinar on abrasive weeding by Sam Wortman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln The webinar takes place on March 29, 2018 at 2PM Eastern, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain and 11AM Pacific Time. The webinar is free and open to the public and advance registration is required.

Register now at:

https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?MTID=e7100a9abc4f647f023d7c438115748c6

About the Webinar

Small grits propelled by compressed air can be used to abrade weed seedlings within crop rows. This non-chemical weed management tactic is called abrasive weeding, and our research team has been developing new grit application technologies, exploring multifunctional grit sources, and studying effects of air-propelled grits on a diversity of weeds and crops throughout the Midwest. In this webinar, we will present results from over three years of research and development, and discuss opportunities for maximizing weed control, crop nutrition and yield, and profitability with abrasive weeding. eOrganic hosted an introductory webinar about this topic in 2015, available here, and this presentation will add new information.eOrganic also published an article and video about abrasive weeding, available here.

 

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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March 2018: Upcoming Webinars on tomatoes, variety trials, weed blasting

ven, 2018/03/16 - 15:16

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Upcoming Webinars in March and April

Join us for 4 upcoming webinars in March and April on tomato foliar diseases, variety trials, and abrasive weeding. You can register at the links below for these free programs. Note: Due to a change in the service terms of the webinar provider we've used for many years, we are switching to Webex, which will also work for Linux users!

March 20: Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials to Manage Risk for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers Part 1: Register for parts 1 and 2
This webinar will introduce farmers to the practice of variety trialing, detailing the reasons one might choose to conduct trials and how to plan a trial with a scope, scale, and focus appropriate to the growers’ needs. This session will also cover seed sourcing, and important considerations for trial planting and management. Presenters: Micaela Colley, Jared Zystro, Kitt Healy, Organic Seed Alliance; Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin

March 21: Organic Tomato Foliar Pathogen IPM Webinar: Register
Join eOrganic for webinar on how to manage foliar pathogens organically! Effectively managing foliar pathogens is one of the biggest challenges facing organic tomato growers. This webinar will provide an overview of practices that can help synergistically address this challenge. .Presenters: Dan Egel, Lori Hoagland, and Amit-Kum Jaiswal, Purdue University

March 29: Abrasive Weeding: Efficiency, Multifunctionality and Profitability: Register
Small grits propelled by compressed air can be used to abrade weed seedlings within crp rows. This non-chemical weed management tactic is called abrasive weeding, and our research team has been developing new grit application technologies, exploring multifunctional grit sources, and studying effects of air-propelled grits on a diversity of weeds and crops throughout the Midwest. In this webinar, we will present results from over three years of research and development, and discuss opportunities for maximizing weed control, crop nutrition and yield, and profitability with abrasive weeding. A previous webinar on this topic from 2015 is available at http://articles.extension.org/pages/71257. This webinar will present new information. Read an article and watch a video about the topic at http://articles.extension.org/pages/74528. Presenter: Sam Wortman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

April 11: Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials to Manage Risk for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers Part 2 Register
This webinar will focus on record-keeping and trial evaluation, as well as analysis and interpretation of final results. This session will introduce participants to some intuitive techniques for keeping data organized, and user-friendly online tools to aid in analyzing information collected and drawing conclusions from trial resultsPresenters: Micaela Colley, Jared Zystro, Kitt Healy, Organic Seed Alliance; Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin

New Organic Variety Trial Toolkit and Grower's Guide to Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials

In addition to the webinars on conducting on-farm variety trials, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, eOrganic, and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) are proud to announce the release of a new publication, The Grower’s Guide to Conducting On-farm Variety Trials, to help farmers manage risk by identifying crop varieties that are optimal for their production systems and markets. The publication is part of an online variety trial toolkit that includes webinars, workshops, and an online tool for planning and managing on-farm trials. Find the guide and the other resources in the toolkit here.

Updated Information on Late Blight Management with Resistant Varieties

Selection of resistant varieties is the most effective way to manage late blight. The eOrganic article Late Blight Management in tomato with Resistant Varieties, by Margaret McGrath of Cornell University has updated tables with current information about different late blight genotypes and which ones have been reported in different states. Read the article here.

New Extension Bulletin on Nutrient Management for Organic Farming

A new Extension bulletin from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln discusses nutrient management in organic farming and considers nutrient sources, soil availability and nutrient cycling. Authored by Sam E. Wortman, Charles S. Wortmann, Ashley L. Pine, Charles A. Shapiro, Ashley A. Thompson, and Richard S. Little, the publication can be downloaded here.

Organic Confluences Summit on May 21-22

The Organic Center, in collaboration with USDA Economic Research Service and eOrganic will bring farmers, scientists, extension agents, industry members and policy influencers together on May 21 and 22, 2018 for what will be the third annual Organic Confluences Summit to address the challenges facing organic agriculture and to share knowledge and research findings. The theme of this year’s summit is “Evaluating and Advancing Knowledge Transfer in Organic.” It will gather diverse organic stakeholders to assess the state of extension and education for organic and transitioning farmers, explore current innovations in information dissemination, and address barriers that constrain knowledge transfer within the organic sector. Find more information about the conference and registration here,

Barley Day at Oregon State June 1

Save the date for an opportunity to learn all about the multiple uses of naked (hull-less) barley at Barley Day at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon on June 1, 2018. You can also learn more about the activities of the NIFA OREI funded research project which is breeding and testing varieties of this versatile grain on their website at http://eorganic.info/barley, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Read an article from Oregon State University which includes details on the project and their variety release "Buck" naked barley here.

eOrganic ASHS Competition Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our student competition to attend a planned oral session at the American Society for Horticultural Science conference in August 2018! Winners who will present at the conference are David Campbell of the University of Florida, Sonja Birthisel of the University of Maine, Eliza Smith of Oregon State University, Charlotte Thurston of the University of Minnesota, and Haley Rylander of Cornell University. Honorable mention is awarded to Tessa Barker of Oregon State University. Each of the winners will publish an eOrganic article about their research findings which we will make available after the conference! Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially those who sent in entries at very short notice!

Organic Seed Growers Conference Recordings Available

Recordings from the Seed Economics Intensive, as well as sessions from the Organic Seed Growers conference on crop planning, biodynamic seeds, and at the 2018 Organic Seed Growers Conference are now available as a playlist on the eOrganic YouTube channel. Recordings from 3 additional sessions about variety trials, microbial hitchikers on seeds, and organic hybrid seed production will also be available in the same playlist by next week!

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info

eOrganic Resources

Find all eOrganic articles, videos and webinars at http://extension.org/organic_production

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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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Conventional Chemical Soil Testing in Organic Farming Systems

lun, 2018/03/05 - 20:01

eOrganic author:

Ellen Phillips, University of Illinois

Introduction

Soil testing is one of several diagnostic tools used to evaluate soil quality, specifically pH, and soil nutrient and organic matter levels. Soil tests and their interpretation for fertilizer recommendations are based on decades of research to correlate the soil test numbers with the amount of fertilizer applied and the resulting crop yield. Conventional chemical soil testing depends on taking a representative sample, then using appropriate soil nutrient extraction methods that have been calibrated to fertilizer rate studies that indicate the most economic rate of fertilizer applications to maximize yields. Because of the complexity of organic systems, as well as the dependence on the biological release of nutrients, utilization of traditional soil testing methodology and interpretations may need to be reconsidered within organic systems.

What are some of the potential benefits of utilizing chemical soil tests?

  1. Gathering baseline data on nutrient levels in new fields can help in making decisions on the use fertilizers, amendments, and cover crops to improve soil quality.
  2. Some of the basic soil chemical tests such as pH and organic matter, in combination with soil texture analysis, can indicate which crops will grow best on that soil.
  3. If concerns arise about nutrient deficiency symptoms or low yields while crops are growing, chemical soil tests can add pieces to the puzzle of trying to improve soil quality so crops will thrive.
  4. Organic systems often have a heavy reliance on compost or manure. Understanding nutrient cycling within these systems is important to avoid nutrient overloads and potential pollution. Chemical soil tests become a monitoring tool to avoid excessive additions of nutrients to your farm system.
  5. You may be required by the Organic Certification process to conduct soil tests in order to apply micronutrients or other fertilizers.
Soil Sampling Methods Conventional

The first step in conventional soil testing is to take one soil sample per approximately every 10 acres of cropland. This one sample is actually made up of 3 to 10 subsamples, to a depth of 7 inches, within the sampling area to try and get a representative sample. Currently, intensive grid sampling of large fields for precision applications has become common. In doing so, many unique areas, e.g., by gravel roads or wet areas, may be left out or sampled separately. Conventional soil samples are usually taken every three to four years, depending on the state, and are typically taken in the fall.

Organic System Considerations

In many cases, organic systems require more intensive soil sampling than conventional systems, since they often have a greater diversity of crops and rotations. Sampling each unique field or garden area with different crop rotations and amendments may result in a much larger number of samples being taken than one sample for 10 acres.

Depth of sampling may need to reflect depth of tillage, depth of amendment incorporation, or perhaps depth of rooting of the predominate crop (corn vs. lettuce) within the crop rotation. If no tillage is used, shallow soil sampling of 2 to 3 inches may be best to evaluate the distribution of nutrients in the surface soil. Farmers need to decide what sampling protocols will give the most information to answer their questions about how to modify their systems to increase nutrient availability.

Timing of sample collection may not be related to calendars. Instead, samples might be collected to correlate to a crop sequence within the rotation. If significant organic materials such as manure or compost are incorporated in the fall, sampling may not take place until the spring to evaluate the amount of nutrients released.

Because the initial sampling scheme establishes the baseline for comparisons of future soil tests and interpretations of how management decisions influence soil chemical, biological, and physical properties, serious consideration should be given to the initial sampling strategy for each field. Sampling timing and depth will probably differ from traditional sampling, therefore interpretation and fertilizer recommendations from conventional systems may not be directly applicable to your organic system. Thus, the year-to-year changes in soil test values of fields, when sampled consistently in the same manner, becomes the predominate value of chemical soil tests.

Soil Testing Methods Choosing A Soil Testing Lab

Labs can run different soil tests depending on the type of soil, the chemical and physical properties of the soil, as well as the availability of calibration data for the interpretation of test results. Labs should participate in one of the available lab certification programs. The largest program is the North American Proficiency Testing (NAPT) program. It is a national program managed through the Soil Science Society of America. It is important to choose one lab that will be able to provide consistent results and services throughout the duration of your farming operation.

Conventional

Conventional chemical soil test labs are almost a century in the making. The soil test methods, field calibration research, and interpretation for fertilizer recommendations are based on an abundance of research. Particularly, the calibration data and interpretation tend to be state specific. Therefore, it is important to become familiar with the methods a lab utilizes and what data they are basing their interpretations on. Standard soil test methods vary by region.

Traditional soil testing includes analyzing for pH, phosphorus, and potassium for a nominal fee ranging from $5.00 to $15.00 per sample. Additional soil tests for calcium, magnesium, sulfur and micronutrients are generally also available. Many labs offer other soil tests as well, such as organic matter, texture, cation exchange capacity, and others. The one nutrient that is often not analyzed is nitrogen, which transforms readily within soil making it difficult to measure and interpret results. See Soil Microbial Nitrogen Cycling for Organic Farms for more information.

Organic System Considerations

Traditional chemical soil tests can be one tool for organic farmers to use to assess soil quality within their organic system. Since organic farmers often sample fields and utilize soil test results in a non-traditional manner, it is important to identify someone who can assist in interpreting changes in soil test levels through the years. Ask the lab's agronomist or horticulturalist about their background in working with organic systems. Understanding the mineralization process of organic fertilizers and amendments is crucial in interpreting changes in chemical soil tests levels over time.

Soil Testing Calibration Conventional

The soil nutrient extraction methods utilized in labs would not be very valuable if they were not calibrated with field conditions. Traditionally this has meant conducting field research utilizing varying fertilizer rates (0, 15, 150, 200 pounds of “X” nutrient). The resulting change in soil test values and economic analysis of maximum yields result in soil test interpretation information. These studies are repeated on different types of soils, with varying weather conditions, crops, etc. Most of these studies overlooked the importance of soil biological contributions to nutrient cycling, however. Studies also focused on quick release fertilizers, rather than slow release amendments and long-term changes to soil organic matter.

Organic System Considerations

Organic systems have a limited number of fertilizer products available and most of these would be considered slow release. In addition, organic systems often add large amounts of organic materials or incorporate cover crops. The organic additions result in a slow release of nutrients that is highly dependent on soil biology and weather conditions. Therefore, most studies calibrating soil chemical tests to fertilizer rates are not useful within organic systems. An abundance of research is taking place and new data sets for interpretation of soil tests for organic systems are emerging.

Soil Testing Interpretations Conventional

The interpretation of conventional soil test results relies on years of research calibrating soil test methods to specific soil types, crops, and fertilizer rates. The result are fertilizer calculators where you enter your type of soil, expected yield, and soil test level, and out comes the rate of fertilizer you should apply. There is little consideration for the type of fertilizer you will choose and how quickly the nutrients will become available in the soil or for the impacts of soil physical and biological properties or weather on nutrient availability.

In an attempt to serve the organic community, some soil test labs have offered to give fertilizer rates for organic fertilizers. These often are straight conversions based on the grade of nutrients and do not account for soil-fertilizer interactions. For additional information on converting conventional fertilizer recommendations, see How to Convert an Inorganic Fertilizer Recommendation to an Organic One from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Organic System Considerations

Developing a relationship with the agronomist or horticulturalist at the lab of your choice is important in interpreting the chemical soil tests and evaluating your options for fertilizers and amendments. Simple substitution of organic fertilizers into fertilizer calculators may not lead to similar results. Most organic fertilizers are slow release fertilizers and may be present in the soil many years longer than traditional synthetic fertilizers. Currently there are many different theories on how to interpret soil test results within organic systems:

  • Nutrient budgeting: This system focuses on what crops are removing to estimate how much nutrients should be replaced.
  • Sufficiency approach: Utilizing conventional soil tests ranges of low, medium and high, additions of fertilizers and amendments would only be added when a soil test level is low or medium.
  • Cation balance: Cation balance strategy focuses on maintaining ratios of base cations of calcium, magnesium and potassium within the soil.
Conclusion

Conventional chemical soil testing strategies were not designed to address nutrient management questions in organic production systems. Despite some limitations in the calibration and interpretation of results for organic systems, the test levels over time can be a useful tool for organic farmers to evaluate the impact of their management decisions on the chemical properties of their soils.

In addition to conventional chemical soil tests there are a growing number of other diagnostic tools to help interpret soil quality within an organic system.

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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