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The OFFER program cooperates with Ohio State Agricultural Operations to maintain organic production space for field research. Most of the land is located at the West Badger Farm in Wooster and is managed organically when not active in research projects. Facilities include dedicated organic equipment, grain storage, and staff to assist with farm and certification management. Researchers or cooperators interested in reserving organic research land or cooperating for trials or demonstrations should contact Brian Gwin, OFFER coordinator. Multiple small and large grants are available for this work. Find more resources around this topic at https://offer.osu.edu/resources/resources-researchers.
This summer, West Badger is home to organic variety trials for corn and oats, year 2 of a perennial wheatgrass trial, and cultivation equipment trials in partnership with Tilmor. Plans for additional variety trials are underway.
|Cultivation Equipment Trials|
OFFER is pleased to partner with Tilmor for equipment trials on our West Badger research station. Based in Orrville, Ohio, Tilmor specializes in affordable tools and equipment for smaller farms. Read more about Tilmor at tilmor.com/en-us
|Organic Variety Trials|
Oats were planted in early spring along with organic corn variety trials.
|Variety trial results are archived at u.osu.edu/perf/. Results from 2021 oats should be added soon.|
|Perennial Wheatgrass Trials|
Kernza seed and forage was harvested in late July at the Wooster (above) and Fremont (below) sites. Kernza is a potential dual purpose crop for grain and forage. This work is part of a multistate project to track productivity, quality, and soil health under various fertilization and harvest timing treatments
|Weed pressure remains high at the Wooster site, but the Fremont trial was virtually weed free this second year. Leader researcher Steve Culman will continue to monitor this potential crop's competition with weeds to see if this crop might be useful duing organic transition or as an effective weed management tool with soil health benefits.|
Ohio State soil researchers Steve Culman and Christine Sprunger have analyzed soil health and management data from around 900 Ohio farm soil samples. The samples were collected during various on-farm research projects in the last few years, including about 200 from organic operations.
The Culman and Sprunger labs have looked for relationships between soil health metrics and the corresponding soil type, sampling depth, and management practices. Below are a few quick highlights and opportunities to learn more.
Management Impacts on Soil Health
The study suggests that the most effective way to increase microbial activity and other soil health indicators was to include perennials in the crop rotation, especially for multiple years.
Organic growers will be happy to hear that, so far, cover crops appear to be a better soil health building strategy than no-till. That’s not to say that tillage is good for soil health. More complex crop rotations and increased tillage showed a negative effect on organic matter and microbial activity.
Culman cautions that this is “noisy” data based on observation, not a side-by-side controlled study, nor is it a comprehensive sampling of soils. More work is definitely needed. Some of this future work will look at aggregate stability (a measure of soil physical health), compare the soil health impact from different types of tillage, and compare organic vs. conventional practices (for example, the effect of organic vs. synthetic fertilizers). The researchers are also interested in ways to decrease tillage passes in an organic system.
Emerging Tests for Soil Health
As farmers and consumers focus increasingly on soil health, there is a growing need for better soil health measurements. Data from these on-farm soil surveys is helping to further this goal as well.
Standard soil tests include a total organic content measure, but most organic matter in the soil is not available to plants. Recent research also suggests that total organic matter changes very slowly over time and is probably not the best tool if you want to track how new management practices are impacting soil health.
Ohio State’s soil labs have been evaluating soil health tests for accuracy, for their value in management decision-making, and for cost and turn-around time. The goal is to recommend useful tests to commercial labs so that these can be offered directly to farmers, along with information about state averages, ranges, and how the test values vary with soil type.
It's important that organically managed soils continue to be part of this sampling project. Ohio State will collect soil samples again in 2021 as part of eFields – an agronomic crops program to conduct and share on-farm research. Contact your local extension educator or email email@example.com for more details on getting your soil sampled for this statewide study. Individual soil test results will be shared with participating growers.
- Management Practices That Impact Soil Health and Organic Matter
March 17 Sprunger presentation (45 minutes) - part of Ohio State's 2021 Winter Organic Webinar Series
- Using Research and Data to Improve Soil Health
February 25 presentation, Steve Culman & Elizabeth Hawkins - part of Ohio State's 2021 Soil Health Webinar Series
- eFields report 2020 - see page 224 for Soil Health Survey report.
- eFields program
As many producers look to diversify their farms and find opportunities to increase on-farm revenues, one potential avenue to consider is organic grain production. A Transition to Organic Grains workshop offered through Ohio State University Extension in Putnam County will take place in Ottawa, Ohio, at the Putnam County Educational Services Center on March 30, 2021 from 9 am to 2 pm.
The workshop is designed to answer producers’ common questions when considering a move from conventional to organic production. What do I need to know and what steps do I need to take to transition my fields to organic production? How long will the process take? What markets are available for my grain? How do I approach fertilization, weed management, and pest control? These and many more questions will be answered by industry and extension experts – as well as first-hand experiences of organic farmers.
The Transition to Organic Grains workshop is offered at no cost, but registration is required. Registration includes all handouts and a boxed lunch. To register, please call the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, register online, or email Scheckelhoff.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Beth Scheckelhoff for penning and sharing this article (originally published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter).
New topics have been added to our winter webinar series lineup. On February 24, we will host Kate Hansen, author of the recently released guide from the Center for Rural Affairs “Conversations from the Field: Crop Insurance for Organic Operations.” She will be joined by Megan Vaith from Northbourne Organic Crop Insurance in South Dakota. Together our speakers will provide tips and insights into crop insurance options for organic growers.
Crop insurance is an important risk management tool for many farmers, and organic operations come with their own unique set of risks to consider. While crop insurance options for organic have expanded considerably in the past decade, a sizable percentage of organic crops still go uninsured, and beneficial options underused.
“Conversations from the Field: Crop Insurance for Organic Operations,” a new educational guide released early this month by the Center for Rural Affairs, sheds light on the crop insurance process and options available for organic production.
“Today, more than 80 certified organic crops can be insured, and there are a number of unique options and considerations for organic policies,” said Kate Hansen, a Center policy assistant. “We believe this resource will provide the information farmers need as they consider their insurance options for the coming crop year.”
The guide features interviews with seven crop insurance agents who have experience with organic operations, and seven organic farmers from across the Midwest. Topics covered include insuring the higher value of organic crops using contract prices, the claims process, prevented planting, the crop insurance timeline over a given year, and advice for finding an agent.
“This guide would be a valuable read for many,” Hansen said. “From beginning organic farmers, to experienced organic producers looking to purchase crop insurance, to agents trying to better understand the perspective of their organic customers.”
Click here to view “Conversations from the Field.” Important deadlines for crop insurance are coming up and now is a great time to learn about recent changes and start thinking about coverage options. Please join us on February 24 and bring your questions.
This February 24 session is part of our Organic Winter Webinar series, which features a variety of topics on Wednesdays from 11 to 11:45 a.m. You can see our full lineup, view log-in details, watch past presentations, or sign up for email reminders at go.osu.edu/organic-series. Also new to the lineup is a March 10 session on cultural control of ragweed and other annual weeds. We are developing sessions on grazing and marketing as well. The session originally scheduled for February 24 on organic dairy herd health management has been moved to April 21 due to unforseen circumstances. If you have questions, please contact program manager Cassandra Brown at email@example.com.
Learn more about the perennial grain kernza and see the trial plot in this brief video: https://youtu.be/epJaE5ihiVE (3:17)
Only a few days are left to reserve your spot at Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farming conference. Registration ends on Monday, February 8 for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 42nd annual conference, which will be held online February 10-15.
Among the speakers from Ohio State this year, extension soil specialist Steve Culman will be sharing information on his USDA perennial grain trials. This is Culman’s second research project on the perennial wheatgrass known as kernza. He is testing an organic variety of kernza for suitability in Ohio as a dual-purpose crop (forage and grain production). This summer his lab will begin on-farm trials and is looking for additional participants.
Kernza is used mainly for forage and grazing in the western U.S. While the grain has end uses and nutritional values similar to wheat, Culman admits the grain production is not very good and that markets and facilities for kernza are only just developing. While it has potential for dual purpose production, more research and development will be needed.
So why would a farmer consider kernza? Because it has a third purpose of great importance: Soil health.
“Organic systems go through this dichotomous cycle of growing cash crops, and then growing a crop for conservation or soil development," Culman notes. "With kernza you could do both.”
Recent Ohio State research reviewed hundreds of regional soil tests results, comparing management practices with various soil health measurements linked to yield, biological activity, and fertilizer efficiency. The most effective management practice for improving soil health was the use of perennials. Perennial crops reduce traffic and tillage, but they also leave roots in the ground year-round to contribute to biological activity, provide below-ground biomass, and crowd out weed growth. Kernza really shines in root development, with roots that reach 10 feet down or deeper and spread horizontally to outcompete weeds.
“Kernza stays pretty green through harvest,” says Culman. “It’s not like wheat. You harvest the grain in late July/early August. So you could harvest the grain, then chop or hay the remaining biomass. Then you can let it regrow. This is not enough time to develop seed heads, but the regrowth should get knee high or so in the fall. Then it can be grazed."
Based on his previous trials, Culman feels kernza has great potential for organic transition, weed control, riparian zones, forage, fall grazing, and even grain production, all while improving soil quality.
The OEFFA conference kernza presentation will be Friday, February 12 at 10 a.m., but conference attendees will also be able to watch recorded presentations through March. Dr. Culman will also be available in the OFFER virtual conference booth on Friday, February 12 from 2-3 p.m. for anyone who would like to know more about the on-farm kernza trials or to chat about soil health and fertility.
See the full line up of OFFER booth events at offer.osu.edu/booth. We will also host Glen Arnold, extension field specialist in manure management; Erin Silva from University of Wisconsin and OGRAIN; and Rich Minyo, organic corn variety trial researcher.
For more information on the OEFFA conference, visit https://conference.oeffa.org/.
To learn more about the soil health and management study findings, join us for "Management Practices That Impact Soil Health and Organic Matter with Christine Sprunger, March 17 at 11 a.m., part of the OFFER 2021 Organic Winter Webinar series.
This year between January and March in 2021, the Pastures for Profit curriculum will be offered as a virtual course.
The Pastures for Profit program is a collaboration between Ohio State University Extension, Central State University, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council. One live webinar will be offered per month along with “work at your own pace” videos and exercises that accompany each webinar.
Event organizer, Christine Gelley, Ohio State extension educator in Noble County, welcomes organic participants. She sees pasture management as a naturally low-input farming system if it’s done right, relying on holistic thinking and species diversity.
Each webinar will be offered live on Zoom at 7 P.M. and feature three presentations in a 90-minute span. Attendees will be able to interact with the speakers and ask questions in real time. Once registered, attendees will be granted access to the online course including the webinars and complementary resources. Participants that attend all three webinars will have the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion. Registered participants will also receive their choice of a curriculum binder or USB drive of the traditional course by mail.
The webinar schedule and topics are as follows.
Webinar One- Core Grazing Education: Wed., January 13th at 7 p.m.
- Evaluating Resources and Goal Setting
- Getting Started Grazing
- Soil Fertility
Webinar Two- The Science of Grazing: Wed., February 3rd at 7 p.m.
- Understanding Plant Growth
- Fencing and Water Systems
- Meeting Animal Requirements on Pasture
Webinar Three- Meeting Grazing Goals: Wed., March 3rd at 7 p.m.
- Pasture Weed Control
- Economics of Grazing
- Creating and Implementing Grazing Plans
A series of additional videos that complement each webinar will be accessible to registered participants that include topics such as:
- Soil Health & Fertility
- Species Specific Tips
- Stocking Densities
- Forage Sampling and Analysis
- Winter Feeding Strategies
- Conservation Practices
- Genetic Traits of Forages
- Pasture Layouts
- Farm Economics
- Pasture Walks/Virtual Tours
These videos will focus on more specific pasture management topics at the beginner and experienced manager levels.
The Pastures for Profit course utilizes Scarlet Canvas. For best performance, Canvas should be used on the current or first previous major release of Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari. Canvas runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a modern web browser.
Cost of the course is $50, which includes the Pastures for Profit manual. Current and new members of the Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council are eligible for a $10 discount on registration. Register for the course by visiting https://afgc.org/ofgcwebinar.
Trends and Highlights of Ohio Farmers: Organic Sector Implications
December 2, 2020, 11-11:45 a.m.
The recent USDA Certified Organic Survey provided an overview of continued growth in organic agricultural production in Ohio and nationwide. Organic farmers were also an area of focus for the 2020 Ohio Farm Poll Study conducted this past year at Ohio State.
On December 2, 2020, farm poll study leaders Douglas Jackson-Smith, Shoshanah Inwood, and Andrea Rissing will focus in on survey results for organic growers.
Find out what this survey, and other available data, tell us about Ohio’s organic farming community. We’ll cover commodities, marketing strategies, and attitudes of this industry sector and see how they compare, in general, with Ohio’s conventional farm community on a variety of trends and characteristics.
This presentation is the first in a series of organic-themed webinars being hosted this winter by OFFER (Ohio State’s Organic Food & Farming Education and Research program). The series will provide opportunities for Ohio’s organic community and those who work with them, to learn about Ohio State resources and to provide feedback, experience, and ideas for new research and program directions. Farmers considering organic certification or seeking ways to lower their farm inputs will also benefit from the presentations.
The webinar series is scheduled for Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Sessions will be short, focused, practical, and will invite participant feedback.
Additional winter programming from Ohio State extension can be viewed at https://agnr.osu.edu/programming/farm-direct-markets. Series on farm management, agricultural safety, soil health, and more are listed and/or under development.
Did you miss this presentation or want to watch it again? You can view it here: https://youtu.be/aeakxcQHfxQ
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On October 22, the United State Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released survey results from the 2019 Certified Organic Survey. Nationwide, sales of organic commodities rose 31% since the last organic survey in 2016. The number of farms producting certified organic commodies increased by 17% nationally, while land used for organic production increased by 9%.
A few Ohio highlights
Number of Farms. Ohio's organic sector remains strong, ranking 5th among U.S. states in the number of certified organic operations. The number of certified organic farms in Ohio grew by 37% since the last organic census in 2016. The number of certified organic acres in Ohio increased 51% in that time. However, the average acres of organic cropland per farm increased by only 10% in the state.
Agronomic Leadership. Grain corn continues to be one of the top U.S. organic crop commodities and Ohio continues to be a major producer of organic corn, ranking 5th among states in the number of producers, and 9th in the number of acres. Ohio also ranks in the top ten states for organic soybeans and oats, in terms of number of farms and acres in production.
Organic Sales. The number of farms selling organic products in Ohio increased by 38%, but actual sales only increased 16%. Sales growth occurred mainly in crops (56% growth for Ohio, vs. a national increase of 38%). Sales of livestock products (eggs, milk, etc.) grew by 13% (similar to national growth of 12%). However, livestock and poultry sales in Ohio actually decreased by 39% (while growing by 19% nationally and 34% in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania). OFFER is beginning to investigate organic meat packaging and processing in the state to see if this could be an area for future growth. As previously noted by OEFFA’s report on the 2017 agricultural census, “the number of custom meat processors in the state has declined for decades and is currently critically limited.”
The 2019 Certified Organic Survey is a Census of Agriculture Special Study. This marks the sixth comprehensive organic survey NASS has conducted, beginning in 2008, but the methodology has varied in past studies. This recent study provides comparable data between the 2016 Organic Survey.
- 2-page Report Highlights - 2019 Certified Organic Survey
- Executive Briefing slides - 2019 Certified Organic Survey
- Full 2019 Report, Past Reports, and more about the USDA NASS Organic Program
- Ohio Agriculture: The Changing Contours of Farming, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, June 2019
It's online, free, and happening this week. The 2020 Farm Science Review runs Tuesday, September 22 through Thursday, September 24. The virtual event will feature more than 400 exhibitors and 200-plus livestreamed and recorded talks and demos from Ohio State professors and Ohio State University Extension educators. If you miss any of the live sessions, don’t worry. Most materials and sessions will be available until July 2021. Registration is required for the review, but only involves a name and email address.Sign up at fsr.osu.edu.
A Sampling of Offerings
Value Chains in Food and Agriculture. A panel discussion by Ohio State agricultural economicst on Tuesday, Sept 22 at 10 a.m. will focus on food chain issues for the Ohio agricultural industry during the coronavirus pandemic and what lessons have been learned so far, how farmers markets and local food outlets have adapted, and the risk management related to crops and livestock. Panelists will also address trade and other economic issues of current interest.
Considering direct meat sales? On a related note, a talk about "On-the-Farm Slaughter and Processing," is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 22, 11–11:30 a.m. and at noon, Garth Ruff, beef cattle field specialist with Ohio State University Extension will share advice on “Direct to Consumer Meat Sales.”
Forages and Grazing topics are offered at the Gwynne Conservation area, including Grazing/Soil Health, Grazing Management Through the Eyes of the Animal, Native Warm Season Grasses, Meeting Animal Nutrient Requirements on Pasture, and much more.
OSU Small Farms Center will offer "Organic Wed Control: Options for Small Scale Vegetable Growers" on Tuesday at 11:30., as well as sessions on agritourism, on-line sales, hemp, small grains, goat production, blackberrires, and more.
The OSU Agronomic Crops team will offer a daily Q&A sessions throughout the day on cover crops and soil health, on-farm research, forage crops, plus virtual agronomy plot tours.
Other topics on tap this year include increasing profits from small grains by planting double crops, climate trends, managing cash flow on the farm, farm stress, and rental rates on agricultural land. Sessions are divided by topics and searchable by keywords.
At this point in the growing season, you might have more dirt on your hands than time. But for those interested in new production techniques, here are a few opportunities for learning. Most are available for viewing whenever you are.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation is seeking feedback on their new online training modules. There will be 6 models in all when finished. Topics available now include Ecological Weed Management, Nutrient Management, Soil Health, and Conservation Tillage. https://ofrf.org/programs/education/
The Rodale Institute is offering their Organic field day online. Just $25 gets you access to all 13 virtual field days, presented July 13-17. Thirteen topics include pastured hog production, beekeeping, organic no-till, and vegetable systems.
Indiana Organic Grain Farmer Meeting – Recordings from the February 2020 meeting include presentations from farmers and researchers, including a session on the financial side of organic transition and an organic no-till research update.
You can also view new articles (and accompanying spreadsheets) comparing financials of conventional and organic crop rotations: from the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture
Looking for something a little more hands-on? Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) offers internship, apprenticeship, and mentorship programs for beginning farmers.