Source: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS submitted to
CROPPING INTENSITY AND ORGANIC AMENDMENTS IN TRANSITIONAL FARMING SYSTEMS:EFFECTS ON SOIL FERTILITY, WEEDS, DISEASES, AND INSECTS
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0196786
Grant No.
2003-51106-02086
Project No.
ILLU-371-522
Proposal No.
2003-04618
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
112.E
Project Start Date
Sep 15, 2003
Project End Date
Sep 14, 2008
Grant Year
2003
Project Director
Eastman, C. E.
Recipient Organization
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
URBANA,IL 61801
Performing Department
NATURAL HISTORY
Non Technical Summary
Organic farming has become one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture, but relatively little science-based information is available or readily accessible to producers on how best to transition to organic production, to grow different crops organically, or to solve the problems unique to organic production systems. This project will compare nine strategies for transitioning to organic production and their effects on soil fertility, weeds, plant diseases, and insects; and provide outreach for science-based information on organic management practices.
Animal Health Component
50%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
50%
Applied
50%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
1020110107020%
2052410107035%
2112410113015%
2122410116015%
2132410114015%
Goals / Objectives
Our long-term goal is to establish an interdisciplinary, cross-institutional organic farming systems research and education program, guided by an active partnership between organic producers, researchers, and extension educators, that improves the performance of organic farming systems and enhances the ability of Midwestern organic producers to meet the growing local and regional demand for organic produce. The objectives of this project are: 1) to compare the influence of transition schemes that differ in management intensity (cropping, tillage) and organic matter inputs on weed populations, soil organic matter and fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between soil fertility, plant health and insect/disease pressure; and 2) to develop relevant, accessible outreach and educational products for organic producers.
Project Methods
An advisory board of organic producers will be established to refine objectives, lend expertise in farming systems management, provide input on the relevance of experimental approaches and treatments, and evaluate the results of experiments. Studies will be conducted within a farming systems context on land being transitioned for organic certification, and complimented with component research where appropriate. In a planning workshop, our producer contacts identified three strategies for transition to organic vegetable production: 1) immediate, intensive vegetable production with frequent tillage and cultivation, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) extensive grass - legume ley. Each of these will be studied with cover crops or sod only for soil building, with additional raw waste or manure, or with additional compost. Measurements to characterize and compare the systems will include: weed populations, weed seed banks, and weed predation; soil organic matter fractions, nutrient availability and biological activity; soil invertebrate populations; insect pests and generalist predators; disease incidence and disease suppressiveness of soils; and crop injury and yield. Outreach products (fact sheets; web pages; slide presentations) will be targeted to current organic producers, producers transitioning to organic, and educators. This project directly addresses prioritized needs of the organic farming community as identified in our preliminary consultations with producers, and in the most recent national survey of organic producers conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Progress 09/15/03 to 09/14/08

Outputs
OUTPUTS: This project began in September of 2003 as a multi-disciplinary effort of the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin with these objectives: 1) compare influence of organic transition plants differing in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health, and insect/disease pressure, and 2) develop relevant, accessible outreach and educational products for organic producers. The research compared three farming system management intensity treatments as viable choices for transitioning land to organic production: 1) intensive vegetable production, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod (perennial ley) as the low-intensity treatment. Soil-building amendments were sub-treatments: 1) cover crop residues alone, 2) added manure, or 3) added compost. An advisory board of organic producers helped to refine objectives, lend expertise in farming systems management, and evaluate experiment results. Funds from other sources were used to establish cover crops (fall 2002) at the research site in Champaign, meet with organic advisors, initiate crop rotations (May 2003), and collect baseline field data for comparison with data for these same parameters at the conclusion of transition (2006). Crops grown in the transition seasons in the high-intensity (vegetable) and intermediate-intensity (row-crop) system treatments were tomato and edible soybean (2003), broccoli/cabbage and winter wheat (2004), and winter squash and field corn (2005). Crop management decisions were based on maintaining adequate yields and minimizing nutrient losses. Priorities established separately for each transition scheme (farming-system treatment) determined timing and type of amendment applications. Based on initial soil test values, no additions of lime or mineral K sources were made. Dairy manure and compost were applied to appropriate subplots in the intermediate-intensity system (fall 2003), high- and low-intensity systems (spring 2004), and all systems in fall 2005. Perennial ley (low-intensity) treatment plots were tilled under in spring 2006, marking the end of transition. Thereafter, the research plots differed only in management history. Tomato and pepper varieties (2006), followed by edible soybean (2007), were planted in all plots. Soil-core sampling (2004 - 2006) assessed soil organic matter and biological attributes (including nematode-based indices as potential indicators of soil organic matter status). Soil sampling of mite populations was done each season. Emerged weed and soil seed bank sampling was done in 2003 - 2006. Plant disease levels were evaluated in all treatments each season, and soil samples from the plots were used in greenhouse bioassays to determine suppressiveness effects of the soils on soil-borne soybean diseases. Monitoring of ground beetle predators and weed seed-feeders was done each season (reported in the related project ILLU-875-342). PARTICIPANTS: Edmond Zaborski (Illinois Natural History Survey and University of Illinois); Michelle Wander, Darin Eastburn, John Masiunas, Leslie Cooperband, Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, and Dan Anderson (research faculty or Extension staff, University of Illinois); Jonathan Lundgren (USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD); Ph.D. students (University of Illinois) Carmen Ugarte and Shin-Yi Lee Marzano; M.S. student (University of Illinois) Isabel Rosa; agricultural interns Gabriella Carrasco, Juan Laso, Grifith Lizarraga, Ayna Salas, Juan Jose Marroquin, Eliana Rosales, and Luis Orellana (Illinois Natural History Survey). In addition, John Shaw (Ilininois Natural History Survey) and Martha Bazik (Universiity of Illinois Extension) assisted the project before retiring in 2004. TARGET AUDIENCES: Organic growers and and Extension/research individuals working in organic production systems or other sustainable agricultural systems. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
Soil quality improved during transition in all systems despite quite different management histories. Nematode maturity indices during transition showed a dominance of fungal and bacterial-feeding species that influence N mineralization. All transition strategies maintained target particulate organic matter carbon concentrations and contained high (possibly in excess) labile N concentrations. High structure index values suggest the presence of a diverse, complex nematode community at the end of transition (spring 2006). These values fell regardless of treatment history, however, once intensive vegetable cultivation was done across all plots in 2006, the first post-transition season. There were some effects of amendments on some diseases during specific transition growing seasons. No differences in soil disease suppressiveness associated with either cropping system or amendment were seen in greenhouse bioassays. General levels of suppressiveness over all treatments increased over the three transition years, with a general reduction in disease severity and an increase in root length and volume. Pseudomonas flourescens populations (an indicator species for disease suppressiveness) increased significantly during the two post-transition seasons. There were significant associations between P. fluorescens levels and severity levels of downy mildew of squash (2005) and between P. fluorescens levels and soybean sudden death syndrome root discoloration severity levels as well as root volumes in response to infection by Rhizoctonia solani in greenhouse bioassays. Emerged weeds per plot in the different systems decreased from 2003 - 2006. The low-intensity system had the most weeds initially but the fewest subsequently. Weed species composition changed depending on the management intensity and year, while species diversity in the seed bank increased from 2003 to 2005. The low-intensity system supported larger, more diverse carabid beetle populations during the first two transition seasons. Tomato yields in the first year after transition (2006) were significantly higher in plots previously in low-intensity management for Classica and Bellstar varieties but only marginally higher for the Roma variety. Fruit quality differed among varieties but did not vary based on management history except for brix values, which were significantly greater in Classica tomatoes from plots with a history of high-intensity compared with low-intensity management. Soybean yields (2007) were 42% higher in plots with a history of low-intensity management compared to other treatment histories. These results indicate the advantages of a low-intensity (perennial ley) system for transitioning land from conventional to organic management. Results are being disseminated through research publications and electronic newsletters, participation in organic field days and workshops, presentations in professional society meetings, and preparation of articles for the initial launch of eOrganic COP content in January 2009 on eXtension.org. More materials will be developed after completion of Ph.D. dissertations of C. Ugarte and S. Marzano and the M.S. thesis of I. Rosa in 2009.

Publications

  • Lundgren, J.G. 2005. Ground beetles as weed control agents: Effects of farm management on granivory. American Entomologist. 51(4): 224-226.
  • Masiunas, J. 2005. Managing Canada thistle in organic cropping systems. New Agriculture Network 2(3); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm.
  • Wander, M. 2005. Soil quality, soil testing and organic standards. New Agriculture Network 2(10); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm
  • Zaborski, E. 2005. Feed the soil. New Agriculture Network 2(11); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm.
  • Eastman, C., et al. 2005. Progress report on Illinois agricultural research site in transition to organic production. New Agriculture Network 2(11); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm.
  • Masiunas, J. 2006. Integrated weed management for organic field crops. New Agriculture Network, Vol. 3(3); May 10.
  • Eastburn, D. 2006. Organic matter amendments and the development of disease suppressive soils. New Agriculture Network, Vol. 3(7); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm, July 12.
  • Ugarte, C. and Wander, M. 2006. So you want to manage soil food webs Focus on nematodes. New Agriculture Network, Vol. 3(8); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm, July 26.
  • Wander, M. 2006. Philosophies of soil management. New Agriculture Network, Vol. 3(8); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm, July 26.
  • Masiunas, J. and Bicksler, A. 2006. Evaluating organic herbicides, summer annual cover crops and mowing for Canada thistle control. New Agriculture Network Vol. 3(10); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm, Aug. 23.
  • Cavanaugh-Grant, D. et al. 2005. FAQ about organic agriculture. New Agriculture Network 2(5); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm.
  • Masiunas, J. 2005. Thermal weed control. New Agriculture Network 2(6); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm.
  • Eastman, C., Zaborski, E., Wander, M., Eastburn, D., Masiunas, J., Cooperband, L., Cavanaugh-Grant, D., Anderson, D., Ugarte, C., Lee, S.-Y., Rosa, I. and Lundgren, J. 2006. Agricultural research site in transition to organic production: What will the fourth season (end of transition) tell us New Agriculture Network Vol. 3(11); http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm, Sept. 13.
  • Marzano, S.L. and Eastburn, D. 2007. Assessment of disease suppression in organic transition farming systems. Phytopathology 97:S71.
  • Eastburn, D. and Marzano, S. 2007.Transition strategies and disease suppressive soils. New Agriculture Network Vol. 4(7); http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/index.htm, Aug. 15.
  • Eastman, C., Zaborski, E., Wander, M., Eastburn, D., Masiunas, J., Cooperband, L., Cavanaugh-Grant, D., Anderson, D., Ugarte, C., Lee, S.-Y., Rosa, I. and Lundgren, J. 2007. Agricultural research site in transition to organic production: Notes from the home stretch. New Agriculture Network Vol. 4(10); http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/index.htm, Oct. 10.
  • Masiunas, J. 2007. Managing the soil seed bank in organic crops. New Agriculture Network Vol. 4(3); http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/index.htm, May 23.
  • Wander, M., Ugarte, C. and Zaborski, E. 2007. Transition practices and soil fertility. Net Agriculture Network Vol. 4(9); http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/index.htm, Sept. 12.
  • Eastman, C. 2008. Illinois reports on six years of transitioning knowledge. New Agricultural Network, Vol 5 (11); http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/index.htm, Oct. 15.


Progress 01/01/07 to 12/31/07

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Project ILLU-371-522, "Cropping intensity and organic amendments in transitional farming systems: Effects on soil fertility, weeds, diseases and insects," started in 2003 as a multi-disciplinary research and outreach effort of the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin. Its research objective is to compare the influence of organic transition plans differing in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health and insect and disease pressure. Management intensity treatments include: 1) intensive vegetable production, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod (perennial ley) as the low-intensity treatment. Soil-building amendments are cover crops or sod alone, added manure, or added compost. With the end of transition in 2006, the medium-intensity and low-intensity treatments were disbanded and the same intensive vegetable crops were grown in all plots, which differed then only in treatment history. Marketable fruit yield of tomato in 2006 was influenced by the history of cropping system intensity, with plants grown in the former low-intensity system (perennial ley) producing significantly higher yields. Supplemental soil amendment did not significantly increase yields in the former low-intensity system but did increase yield (depending on tomato variety) in the former intermediate- and high-intensity systems. The 2007 season was the fifth cropping season at the research site and one year after completion of the three-year transition period from conventional to organic production. Soybeans were grown in all plots, which differed then only in treatment history. Soil cores were collected to determine soil organic matter, biologically active N, microbial activity, proportion of soil amino sugars, and soil mite and nematode extraction. In plant disease ratings, soybeans grown in manure-amended areas of the former low-intensity system were found to have higher disease severity levels than in areas that had no supplemental soil amendments. In soil samples evaluated for disease suppression levels in greenhouse bioassays, there were no significant effects of previous soil amendment or previous intensity treatment in the Rhizoctonia solani assay, but in the Fusarium solani assay root volumes were higher on plants grown in soil from the manure-amended areas within the former medium-intensity system. Ground beetle populations were also monitored in pitfall traps during the 2007 season. In outreach activities, project investigators and graduate students participated in the "Crossing Over: Transitioning to Organic Farming" Tour (Danforth, IL), contributed articles pertinent to organic systems for the New Agriculture Network (http://www.new-ag.msu.edu/), and made presentations at the 99th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy. PARTICIPANTS: Dr. Edmond Zaborski, Illinois Natural History Survey; Dr. Michelle Wander, University of Illinois; Dr. John Masiunas, University of Illinois; Dr. Darin Eastburn, University of Illinois; Dr. Leslie Cooperband, University of Illinois; Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, University of Illinois; Dan Anderson, University of Illinois; Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, USDA, Brookings SD; Carmen Ugarte, Ph.D. student, University of Illinois; Shin-Yi Lee Marzano, Ph.D. student, University of Illinois; Isabel Rosa, M.S. student, University of Illinois; Juan Jose Marroquin, intern, Illinois Natural History Survey; Luis Orellana, intern, Illinois Natural History Survey; Eliana Rosales, intern, Illinois Natural History Survey. TARGET AUDIENCES: Organic growers and growers interested in sustainable farming practices; Extension and research personnel working with growers interested in organic and sustainable farming.

Impacts
This project is comparing organic transition strategies for their effects on soil fertility, weeds, plant diseases, and insects in order to provide science-based information in a readily accessible way to producers and research and Extension personnel who work with them. The information generated will aid with crucial issues such as best methods of transitioning from conventional to organic production, evaluation of organic farming systems, enhancing natural pest management components, and long-term sustainability. Evaluation of the research findings and plans for their use in outreach publications will be discussed with organic grower advisors in meetings in January and February 2008. The project will seek organic certification of its research field site in 2008.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/06 to 12/31/06

Outputs
This project started in 2003 as a multi-disciplinary research/outreach effort of the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin. Its research objective is to compare the influence of organic transition plans differing in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health and insect/disease pressure. Management intensity treatments include 1) intensive vegetable production, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod as the low-intensity treatment. Soil-building amendments are cover crops or sod alone, added manure, or added compost. The 2006 season was the fourth cropping season at the research site and concluded the three-year transition period from conventional to organic production. Consequently, for 2006 the medium-intensity and low-intensity treatments were disbanded and the same intensive vegetable crops (tomato varieties Classica, Roma, Bellstar; bell pepper varieties Sweet Chocolate, New Ace, Orion) were grown over the entire site. Soil cores were collected to determine soil organic matter, biologically active N, microbial activity, proportion of soil amino sugars, and soil mite and nematode extraction. Nematodes were sorted into five functional groups: bacterial feeders, fungal feeders, plant parasites, omnivores, and predators. Samples from Spring 2006, when the site became eligible for organic certification, suggest that all three management intensity treatments (farming system approaches to transition) maintained or built organic matter levels and soil N supply potential to equal or exceed those found in long-term organic trials or in the surface depth of Illinois soils maintained under no-tillage management. Other 2006 data included emerged weed populations, ground beetle populations, soil mites, and plant disease incidence. From 2003 - 2006 weed numbers per plot decreased. Weed species composition has changed depending on management intensity and year. Common lambsquarters have become less frequent and Amaranthus species more frequent. Levels of Septoria leaf spot and anthracnose on tomato were significantly affected by previous cropping history and type of organic amendment. The general reduction in disease severity and increase in root length and volume observed since 2003 indicate that the level of disease suppressiveness in soils may be increasing regardless of type of treatment or amendment. In outreach activities, project investigators and graduate students participated in the second (January 11 - 12) and third (December 6 - 7) annual Illinois Organic Production Conference (Bloomington, IL), contributed articles pertinent to organic systems for the New Agricultural Network (http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm), and made presentations at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy.

Impacts
Despite its fast growth, organic farming has relatively little science-based information available or readily accessible to producers on crucial issues such as best methods of transitioning from conventional to organic production, evaluation of organic farming systems, enhancing natural pest management components, and long-term sustainability. This project is comparing transition strategies for their effects on soil fertility, weeds, plant diseases, and insects. It is also developing science-based information on organic management practices for current and potential organic producers. The project will seek organic certification of its research field site in 2007.

Publications

  • Lundgren, J.G., Shaw, J.T., Zaborski, E.R. and Eastman, C.E. 2006. The influence of organic transition systems on beneficial ground-dwelling arthropods and predation of insects and weed seeds. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 21: 227-237.


Progress 01/01/05 to 12/31/05

Outputs
This project started in 2003 as a multi-disciplinary research and outreach effort involving the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin. Its research objective is to compare the influence of organic transition plans differing in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health and insect/disease pressure. Management intensity treatments include 1) intensive vegetable production, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod. Soil-building amendments are cover crops or sod alone, added manure, or added compost. Plantings in 2005 were winter squash (high intensity), field corn (medium intensity), and grass/legume ley (low intensity). Very dry conditions affected growing conditions during the season. In preliminary findings, D. Eastburn reports that disease severity (% leaf area infected) of common rust on corn was significantly higher in plots receiving added manure compared to plots amended only with cover crop residues, while rust severity in plots receiving added leaf composts was statistically similar among amendment treatments. Powdery mildew severity on squash was significantly less in plots with added leaf composts compared to plots amended with cover crop residues alone, while severity in plots with added manure was not significantly different from other amendment treatments. Severity of downy mildew on squash was not affected by type of soil amendment. C. Eastman reports that use of a Blue Hubbard-type squash planted as a single trap border row around plots of butternut squash reduced numbers of cucumber beetles on butternut squash plants. Bacterial wilt on squash was not detected. Other 2005 data included emerged weed populations, ground beetle populations, soil mites, and nematodes; processing and interpretation of these data are continuing. In other data from 2004, caterpillar pest abundance in broccoli/cabbage plots was not significantly influenced by type of soil amendment. In outreach efforts in 2005, project investigators and graduate students participated in the first Illinois Organic Production Conference (Bloomington), contributed articles pertinent to organic systems for the New Agricultural Network (http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm), made presentations at the Soil Ecology Society Tenth Biennial Conference at Argonne National Laboratory (Batavia), presented project results at the North Central Branch-Entomological Society of America meetings (W. Lafayette, IN), and hosted an on-farm tour of the research plots (Champaign) for the Organics from Seed to Table Field Day (part of the University of Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Tour). A manuscript by J. Lundgren and colleagues from the first two seasons (The influence of organic transition systems on beneficial ground-dwelling arthropods and predation of insects and weed seeds) has been accepted for publication in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems in 2006.

Impacts
Despite its fast growth, organic farming has relatively little science-based information available or readily accessible to producers on crucial issues such as best methods of transitioning from conventional to organic production, evaluation of organic farming systems, enhancing natural pest management components, and long-term sustainability. This project is comparing transition strategies for their effects on soil fertility, weeds, plant diseases, and insects. It is also developing science-based information on organic management practices. The project will seek organic certification of its research field site in 2006.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/04 to 12/31/04

Outputs
This project was initiated in September 2003 as a multi-disciplinary research and outreach effort involving participants from the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin. The research objective of the organic transitions project is to compare the influence of transition plans differing in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health and insect/disease pressure. Management intensity treatments include 1) intensive vegetable production with frequent tillage, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod. Soil-building amendments are cover crops or sod alone, added manure, or added compost. Plantings in 2004 research plots were cabbage/broccoli (high intensity), winter wheat (medium intensity), and grass/legume ley (low intensity). Data collected during the season included emerged weed populations, plant disease levels, pest and predator insect populations, soil mites, and nematodes (including bacterial and fungal feeders, plant parasites, omnivores and predators). In preliminary research findings, D. Eastburn reports no significant differences in wheat disease incidence among organic amendment sub-treatments except in the incidence of general yellowing of the flag leaf; yellowing was highest in compost-amended subplots. Leaf rust incidence in the grass component of the grass/legume ley subplots was highest in the manure-amended subplots. There were no significant differences in downy mildew or black rot incidence on cabbage and broccoli among sub-treatments. C. Ugarte reports preliminary information that organic amendment, especially with manure, had a greater positive impact on bacterial-feeding nematodes than did management intensity treatment (low versus high-intensity management, the two systems that received manure applications in 2004). Fungal feeders were highest in fall 2004 in the low intensity (grass/legume ley) treatment. Plant parasitic nematodes were not influenced by type of amendment but were affected negatively by the level of management intensity. Findings by J. Lundgren on ground beetles and other predator groups were reported in ILLU-875-342. In outreach efforts, principal investigators contributed articles to the on-line website New Agricultural Network (http://www.ipm.msu.edu/new-ag.htm), gave talks at a Professional Development Opportunity for Illinois Extension personnel dealing with organic production, and developed a FACTSHEET on organic certification in Illinois. The investigators also communicated frequently with their organic grower advisory board and participated in on-farm visits with these advisors in 2004.

Impacts
This multi-disciplinary research and outreach team is already serving as an active resource for improving the two-way flow of information between Illinois organic growers and agricultural scientists. It is also a focal point for involving other scientists and other disciplines in organic systems research.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/03 to 12/31/03

Outputs
This multi-disciplinary research and outreach effort involves participants from the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, and University of Wisconsin. Over six acres on the University of Illinois Cruse Farm (Champaign) have been set aside for this multi-year project. The organic transitions project is designed to 1) compare influence of transition schemes that differ in management intensity and organic amendments on weeds, soil fertility, soil invertebrates, and the relationship between fertility, plant health and insect/disease pressure, and 2) to develop relevant, accessible outreach and educational products for organic producers. Management intensity treatments include 1) intensive vegetable production with frequent tillage, 2) less intensive cash grain production, and 3) unharvested grass-legume sod. Soil-building amendments will be cover crops or sod alone, added manure, or added compost. An advisory board of organic producers has been established to refine objectives, lend expertise in farming systems management, provide input on the relevance of experimental approaches and treatments, and evaluate the results of experiments. The project's goal is to establish an organic systems program--a partnership of organic producers, researchers, and extension educators--that improves performance of organic systems and enhances the ability of farmers to meet the growing demand for organic products. Prior to the official start of the grant, funds from ILLU-875-342 and other sources were used to establish cover crops at the research site (fall 2002), initiate crop rotations (May 2003), and collect baseline field data to increase the start-up value of the project. First-season field data included initial soil fertility parameters, weed seed bank, productivity of summer crops (tomatoes, soybeans), insect pests, soil pathogens, and insect predator (carabid beetle) incidence and activity.

Impacts
This multi-disciplinary research and outreach team is already serving as an active resource for improving the two-way flow of information between Illinois organic growers and agricultural scientists. It is also a focal point for involving other scientists and other disciplines in organic systems research.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period