NIFA-Funded Projects Advance Organic Agriculture in the United States

For consumers and producers alike, organic farming in the United States continued to follow a strong upward trend.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the area of ​​certified organic cropland increased by more than 70, to 3.5 million acres, between 2011 and 2019. Organic pasture and rangeland also increased by about 22 % during this period, representing 2 million acres.

On the retail side, organic food is a big, if not quite mature, business. Industry sources indicate that sales of organic food products in the United States have more than doubled in the decade since 2010, reaching more than $51 billion.

For some organic agricultural categories, such as grains and oilseeds, US demand has grown at a faster rate than domestic supply.

Despite this booming business, farmers and other producers continue to face major challenges in taking advantage of this growing market.

Growers – whether already certified or considering entering the industry – face a number of barriers to transition, which are often experienced due to a lack of effective tools to manage health soils, diseases, pests and weeds. Another issue is the limited availability of certified organic food, certified land for grazing, and identity-preserved supply chains.

On this year’s International Day of Organic Agriculture, we’re highlighting several projects funded by NIFA’s organic agriculture programs that are building the capacity of U.S. growers to grow and market organic agricultural products. High quality.

Balancing soil health and food safety in the use of farmyard manure

Cody Scott harvests a mix of organic beets at Green Bexar Farm in Saint Hedwig, Texas, near San Antonio, Oct. 21, 2020. Cody and Natalie Scott started with a 10-acre pecan grove in 2017 and have since converted one acre for a wide variety of produce on micro irrigated beds outdoors and in three seasonal high tunnels.

As part of a five-year, $2 million project funded through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, a team of scientists from land-grant universities in California at Maine worked in a public-private partnership to investigate how organic producers can make best use of animal manure and compost while simultaneously preventing the risk of foodborne illness.

The research results – intended to provide organic farmers with science-based strategies on developing optimal waiting periods between manure application and crop harvest – have been shared with farmers and other organic professionals. industry through webinars, educational modules, workshops and other training.

Watch the videos on the project site.

Improving the production of organic milk through the use of mixtures of legumes and grasses

At University of New HampshireDr. Andre Brito conducted a five-year study to determine how changes in various mixtures of legumes and grasses over several years affect forage quality, milk production and greenhouse gas emissions when they are given to organic dairy cows.

Among the objectives of the study: to provide best management practices directly to farmers on how to produce high quality organic milk.

The research, funded by the Organic Transitions program, revealed a number of findings. A word of advice: the second and third cuttings generally improve the nutritional value. The research team shared these and other findings with organic and conventional dairy farmers in the Northeast, as well as extension educators, industry stakeholders, and academic communities, through workshops, webinars, pasture walks and field days.

Nichki Carangelo and Laszlo Lazar operate Letterbox Farm, a diverse organic farm in Hudson, New York, where they grow vegetables, greens, herbs and flowers and raise chickens, pigs and rabbits for their agriculture program community supported (ASC), online sales and farm stand.

Provide training to rural veterinarians on organic regulations and treatment options

Research that advances organic production in the United States also takes place in other programs in NIFA’s funding portfolio, such as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, the Research and technology transfer for small business innovation and the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP).

Thanks to the VSGP, researchers from Iowa State University are developing six online continuing education courses to share knowledge on a topic not typically covered in vet school: organic regulations as well as treatment options and practices unique to organic and non-conventional producers.

The two-year project led by James Roth and Katie Steneroden aims to bridge gaps in perception, knowledge and communication between veterinarians and these producers, with the overall goal of helping to build relationships between these two groups to improve animal health, increase food security and support rural economies.

Announced rewards
Learn more about the $34 million in NIFA awards issued in fiscal year 2022 to help boost organic agriculture.

Top image: Amy’s Organic Garden in Charles City, VA on Thursday, May 5, 2011. Owner Amy Hicks harvesting greens from her farm.

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