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Principles of Organic Farming Systems and Natural Resource Conservation.

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Presentation on theme: "Principles of Organic Farming Systems and Natural Resource Conservation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Principles of Organic Farming Systems and Natural Resource Conservation

2 Common Goals: early 20 th Century Organic Farming Agricultural pioneers developed organic farming systems to restore soil productivity, seed quality, crop vigor, and livestock health.  National Organic Program Conservation USDA Soil Conservation Service was founded to help farmers stop the devastating soil and crop losses in the 1930s Dust Bowl.  Natural Resources Conservation Service

3 Our Common Goal Change this: … to this: Years of poor soil management can lead to severe erosion (left). Rotation of annual and perennial crops in contour strips, and sufficient organic inputs keep sloping fields healthy (above).

4 Definition of Organic Production A production system that is managed … to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. NOP Final Rule, part 205.2

5 Site-specific: understand each farm as a unique individual, considering: Soil – texture, type, condition Climate – temperature, rainfall, frost dates Crops, livestock, production system Wildilfe, beneficials, pests Farmer objectives and market needs

6 Integrated practices: multiple tactics for each goal Weeds are managed by: Crop rotation Cover cropping Optimum crop and nutrient management Timely cultivation Mulching Plastic mulch with in-row drip irrigation, and timely cultivation followed by hay mulch in alleys controlled weeds in this vigorous pepper crop.

7 Integrated practices: multifunctional components Cover Crops: Prevent erosion. Add organic matter. Fix N (legumes). Take up surplus N (grasses). Suppress weeds. A cover crop of sorghum- sudangrass and sunnhemp in a field trial at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Agricultural Research Farm.

8 Cycling of Resources Recycle fertility resources on the farm: Cover crops and green manures Animal manures Other on-farm residues Deep-rooted crops Prevent nutrient loss via runoff and erosion This cover crop of crimson clover and winter barley fixes N, retrieves subsoil nutrients, and prevents soil erosion.

9 Ecological Balance Maintain a healthy, living soil. Provide enough NPK – but not too much. Use cultural and biological pest controls. Utilize least-toxic pest sprays when needed. Evaluate off-farm impacts of all practices.

10 Biodiversity Crops Livestock Insect life Native vegetation Wildlife habitat Soil life This “farmscape” planting of mixed flowering plants attracted a diversity of beneficial insects that controlled pests in nearby organic vegetable plots at Virginia Tech’s research farm.

11 Livestock in Integrated Systems Manure provides crop nutrients. Rotation to perennial forage rests soil after intensive annual crop production. Grazing reduces weeds and crop diseases. Crop residues and culls provide livestock fodder. Sound rotational grazing can improve pasture and restore soil quality and fertility for future crop production.

12 Some Key Conservation Practices for Organic Farmers Nutrient Management – code 590 budget N and P, prevent water pollution Pest Management – code 595 minimize negative impacts on soil, water, air Conservation Crop Rotation – code 328 minimize erosion, improve soil, manage pests Cover Crop – code 340 reduce erosion, build OM, manage nutrients

13 NOP Rule: Soil fertility and crop nutrient management practice standard Maintain or improve the physical, chemical and biological condition of soil and minimize erosion. Manage crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials. from Section 205.203

14 NOP Rule: Crop pest, weed, and disease management practice standard Use management practices to prevent crop pests, weeds, and diseases, including: Crop rotation and nutrient management Sanitation Cultural practices that enhance crop health Habitat for natural enemies of pests Augmentation or introduction of predators or parasites of pests from Section 205.206

15 Nutrient Management: the Organic Approach Based on soil life: “feed the soil, and the soil will feed the crop.” Legumes for N Slow-release organic fertilizers as supplements Less emphasis on soluble fertilizers Sweetclover feeds the soil life, adds N, makes P more available, recovers leached nutrients.

16 Nutrient Management: Organic Horticulture Challenges Difficult to do precise nutrient budgeting N requirements of vegetable crops N and P balance Spring broccoli requires 150 lb N/ac within 60-70 days after planting.

17 Pest Management: the Organic Approach Preventive practices (e.g., sanitation, crop rotation) Biologically based – uses natural enemies of pests. Non-use of synthetic pesticides protects water and wildlife. NOP-allowed pest control materials only if needed. Mixed flowers provide habitat for beneficial insects at this farm in southwest Virginia.

18 Pest Management – Organic Horticulture Challenges Diseases and some insect pests difficult to control organically Tillage and cultivation for weed control – impact on soil quality

19 Crop Rotation: Organic Options No herbicide residues to limit rotation sequences. Organic farming systems are often highly diverse. Crop–livestock integration widens rotation options. An eight-year rotation of eight vegetable and seven cover crops at an organic farm in Vermont.

20 Conservation Crop Rotation : Organic Horticulture Challenges Most vegetable crops leave little residue. Conservation rotation may entail income foregone. Complex crop mix requires flexibility. Sandy soils and warm climates burn up organic matter.

21 Cover Crops: an Organic Advantage Because herbicides are not used for weed control, cover crop options are not restricted by herbicide carryover. Alsike clover overseeded into wheat and allowed to grow after grain harvest at the Rodale Farming Systems Trial.

22 Cover Crops: Organic Horticulture Challenges NOP requires organic seed if available. Tight rotations limit cover crop niches. Cover cropping may entail foregone income. Sandy soils and warm climates burn up cover crop residues quickly.

23 Organic Certification and the USDA National Organic Program An Overview

24 Purpose of Organic Certification To maintain the integrity of “organic” and assures the buyer that products were grown and handled using organic practices that: Protect soil, water, and other resources. Exclude synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Protect products from prohibited materials. Provide humane conditions for livestock.

25 USDA National Organic Program (NOP) First implemented in 2002 Uniform Organic Practice Standards National List of allowed & prohibited materials Accreditation of state and private certifiers National Organic Standards Board (NOSB): – Reviews new products – Recommends amendments to Standards

26 What makes a farm “Organic”? Production and handling standards outlined in NOP Final Rule Organic System Plan Use of only allowed substances o No prohibited substances for past 3 years Verification through: o Certification by USDA accredited body o Annual on-site inspection o Record keeping

27 How a Farmer becomes Certified Organic Farmer chooses a Certifying Agent. Farmer submits completed application to Certifier. o Includes Organic System Plan. Inspector reviews application, inspects farm. Inspector conducts exit interview. Certifier makes decision.

28 Organic System Plan Crops & livestock to be certified organic Seeds and seedlings Soil fertility management and inputs Crop rotation Weed, pest and disease management, materials to be used, and justification Adjoining land use, buffers

29 “Can I use this product on my organic farm?” National List at Organic Materials Review Institute listing at o Generic product and Brand name listings o Allowed, Restricted or Prohibited If still unclear, farmer should consult Certifier.

30 Materials Allowed for Use in Certified Organic Production Substances are classified as: Allowed – most naturally occurring materials Restricted – allowed under certain conditions Prohibited – most synthetic materials This is a general guideline only! Producer should verify status of each material before first use.

31 Examples of NOP Allowed Materials Compost – precisely defined Plant-based soil amendments Limestone Low-solubility natural mineral amendments Biological pest controls Need or rationale for inputs must be documented in Organic System Plan.

32 Examples of Restricted Materials Uncomposted manure (raw or aged at <131°F) Minimum 90 or 120 days before harvest. Chilean nitrate (mined sodium nitrate) Maximum 20% of crop’s total N need. Botanical pesticides Only when preventive and biological controls do not suffice. Use and justification must be documented in farm records.

33 Examples of prohibited materials Synthetic fertilizers, e.g. 10-10-10, muriate of potash, diammonium phosphate Synthetic pesticides, e.g., carbaryl, malathion Synthetic herbicides, e.g., glyphosate, alachlor Fence posts treated with CCA or PCP Sewage sludge or biosolids GMO seeds, or seeds treated with synthetics – Must use organic seeds if commercially available.

34 National List: synthetic substances allowed with restrictions specified Examples: Plastic mulches – remove at end of use Micronutrient compounds – document need Sulfur dioxide – underground rodent control only

35 National List: nonsynthetic substances prohibited Examples: Ash from burning manure Arsenic Tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate)

36 Does it pay to become Certified Organic? Certification and inspection fees Market needs Premiums for Certified Organic Organic product differentiation USDA Certification is required in order to label, represent or market products as “organic.”

37 Other USDA Programs for Organic Organic Certification Cost-Share  75% up to $750 per year Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Transition Incentive Research and Extension: SARE, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Transitions

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