This project was a collaborative effort between scientists and organic farmers. (See People.) Our intent was to find methods for further improving organic cropping systems. By comparing cropping systems that use different approaches to building soil quality, the project revealed effects of compost, cover crops and tillage practices on soil physical and biological quality. It also revealed interactions between soil quality and weed, insect, and disease management. We also identified practices that assist in transition from conventional to organic management.
The approach of the project was to duplicate the essentials of innovative and very well managed organic vegetable and grain farms on experiment station fields where the systems could be studied intensively. These exemplary systems were also be compared to variations that represent:
- more typical organic practices
- practices that capture essential aspects of the exemplary systems, but are more easily adopted by other growers
- practices that push the exemplary system the "next step"
A web- and field-based course based on the experiments provides in-depth information on how organic systems work. (See Learn with us.)