- Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, flax, millet, oats, rye, soybeans, spelt, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
- Pest Management: competition, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, physical control, cultivation
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
Problem and Justification: Farmers need research-based information to help them manage their crops with confidence. Researchers would like to disseminate research results to those who need it most. Extension educators and other ag professionals seek to understand the research and bring it to farmers to put into practice. They are the link between the researcher and the farmer. This project helps transitioning growers access research-based information by training a network of educators about organic feed and forage production, including information from Penn State’s research on cover-crop based reduced tillage organic systems. We know there is a high demand for locally produced organic grains in the Northeast and many conventional farmers are ready and willing to step in to meet that demand. Lack of knowledge and support is a strong barrier to initiating and successfully completing the transition to organic production.
Solution and Approach: The Penn State reduced-tillage in organic systems research is the keystone of this project and also the key to its success. The study is in its 5th year and researchers have conducted on-farm demonstrations and events to transfer what they’ve learned in their research. The on-farm component of this research has been conducted on six farms and directly involved three educators, so that the number of farmers able to directly access this information has been relatively low. This professional development project will take the proven on-farm results to the next level by training a larger group of educators who will in turn provide guidance and instruction to many more farmers. The likelihood of success is high due to the proven results already experienced on a small scale among few farmers, who have greatly benefited from the knowledge. The outcome of this project will be increased success of farmers transitioning to organic feed and forage production that will contribute to the diversification and profitability of Northeast agriculture by helping to meet the growing demand for locally grown organic feed crops and securing organic premiums for their efforts. Adopting reduced-tillage organic practices will help farmers use resources wisely, reduce the risk of erosion, increase carbon sequestration, reduce pesticide use, and support beneficial insects. These results not only benefit the farmer, but also lead to improved quality of life and a positive influence on communities and the environment.
Performance targets from proposal:
Twenty  agricultural service providers deliver university research-based information and technical support on transition to organic and certified organic production, including reduced tillage, diverse cover crop selection, inter-cropping, rotations and organic certification to 250 grain and/or dairy producers who manage 20,000 acres of grain crops.