The Southern Region Organic Fruit Production Initiative: Identifying Barriers, Needed Research, Markets, and Opportunities

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $15,555.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Curt Rom
University of Arkansas


  • Fruits: apples, berries (other), peaches


  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, focus group, networking, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, cultural control, integrated pest management, mating disruption, physical control, traps, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation


    Organic production in the Southern region lags behind organic production in other regions of the country. This is due to reasons such as the hot and humid climatic conditions which increase disease pressures and insect pests. There are also few organized research and outreach programs offered by the university community in the Southern region to investigate and convey results of organic research and to teach organic methods to producers. Organic fruit growers indicated through a series of surveys the need for science-based, proven method for production and that adequate research and extension information for organic fruit production was a limiting challenge to growers.

    Because of the challenges producers face, and the need for increased involvement of the Universities in organic production, a Southern Region Organic Fruit Working Group of scientists, extension specialists, growers, and representatives of industry and marketing organizations was created to conduct in-state focus groups and a region-wide Working Group meetings. These state and regional meetings identified barriers to production and marketing, and opportunities for organic fruit in the region. The outcome of the in-state focus groups and the regional Working Group has resulted in collaborative relationships, identification of challenges, benefits and potential projects, enumerated goals which we can accomplish as a group, and the development of full proposals to be submitted to SARE and the USDA-CSREES Integrated Organic Program. Through these activities, we will sustain and expand organic fruit production in the southern region.

    Project objectives:

    • The objectives of this planning grant were to:
      1) Develop a Southern Region Organic Fruit Research Working Group to:
      a. Assess the state of organic fruit production in the South;
      b. Conduct focus groups in each state that identify interests, obstacles and management issues in organic production, marketing and information needs;
      c. Develop innovative partnerships of research, extension, industry, fruit growers and local farmers' markets;
      d. Develop an organic fruit research initiative to investigate and develop new organic management techniques.
      2) Develop research proposals based upon research priorities determined in Objective 1 and submit to appropriate agencies and foundations, in order to develop an Organic Crop Management Plan to support and develop organic fruit production systems in the Southern Region
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.