Best management practices for organic orchard nutrition

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Curt Rom
University of Arkansas

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, peaches, general tree fruits


  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mating disruption, physical control, mulching - plastic, traps, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures


    Project Summary - Development of an Best Practices for Organic Orchards for the South
    The development of best practices for sustainable organic orchards in the southern region was addressed through research studies: surveys of current grower practices and nutritional status, and a replicated field trial studying the interaction of orchard nutrient sources and ground cover management. The grower surveys indicated a wide range and no consistency or standards in nutrition management for organic managed orchards. Nutritional levels of orchards tended to be at the low range or in deficiency compared to conventional standards. In the replicated trial, it was clear that ground cover management system was more important than nutrient source during establishment. Trees grown with a mulch of green compost or woodchips applied annually grew sufficiently to fill allotted space and bear a crop in the third year, while trees with a mow-and-blow mulch or shredded paper mulch, did not. Nutrient source did not have as significant effect on tree growth but did have significant impacts on cropping potential in the third growing season.

    Project objectives:

    Objectives/Performance Targets
    The goal of this study is to identify, test and/or develop best management practices for organic orchard nutrition and ground cover management during establishment with the following specific objectives.

    A. Identify successful nutrient management practices currently being used by organic fruit growers in the South

    B. Work with Southern region organic tree fruit growers to assess the impact of their nutrient management practices on soil quality, tree nutrient content, fruit yield and quality, pest incidence, and management costs

    C. Based on results of on-farm analyses, conduct a controlled, replicated study to further evaluate ground cover and nutrient management practices and develop locally-appropriate recommendations for organic fruit tree growers in the South.

    D. Assist tree fruit growers implement effective organic nutrient management practices by working with grower collaborators, grower organizations, Cooperative Extension, and ATTRA to conduct on-farm trainings and develop informational materials

    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.