Integrating Canola and Sunflower with Organic Grain Production and Southeastern United States

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $245,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, corn, soybeans, sunflower, wheat


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Price premiums and increasing demand has stimulated interest in growing organic grains by both organic and traditional producers in the Southeast. Growers have also expressed interest in more place-based research on varieties, crop rotations, and management practices for organic systems for the Southeast where producers face greater weed pressures and more complex nutrient management decisions because of low inherent soil fertility and more highly variable weather than other parts of the country. This research project will address the growing demand for information on organic grain production through research, education and extension. Our research project evaluates the potential for integrating canola and sunflower into a traditional corn–wheat–soybean rotation of organic grain production. Within the field project we will evaluate varieties of canola, sunflower and bread wheat for productivity and quality. More complex rotations with a greater diversity of crops results in more complex management decisions. Nutrient inputs as well as weed and pest management become more critical. We will evaluate this complexity through team research on system processes. We will evaluate insect dynamics looking at relationships between beneficial and pest insects in relationship to insect habitat. Crop productivity and quality will be assessed along with water and nutrient use efficiency. Tillage impacts on weed and soil dynamics will also be evaluated. Crop and whole farm enterprise budgets will be developed to assess the economic vigor of the production systems. An advisory team of producers, extension agents, and researchers will guide the research, provide oversight and assist with outreach. Outreach and educational components of the project are critical for transferring technologies to end-users. Technology transfer will be conducted by the researchers cooperatively with University of Georgia teaching and extension faculty. We will reach students through interaction with the UGA Organic Certificate Program by engaging students in the research though classroom and field activities in both the fall and spring each year. We will help train extension agents through interaction with the University of Georgia–Fort Valley State University Extension Organic Production Team. Project researchers will demonstrate various production practices and present research results at two workshops (fall and spring). To reach organic producers an extension type production guide and web-based training module will be developed and presented at producer meetings/workshops (i.e. Georgia Organics, Georgia Conservation Tillage Alliance, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference, the Conservation Production Systems Training Conference). To reach the scientific community results will be presented at scientific meetings and documented in scientific publications.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop systems of organic grain production that integrate canola and sunflower into traditional corn and soybean rotations using either conservation or conventional tillage

    2. Determine effects of different tillage systems for organic grain production on soil quality and soil physical properties.

    3. Transfer organic grain production technology to producers, technical service providers, and students.

    The following are outcomes and assessment metrics.

    Outcome: New knowledge of management effects on organic grain systems and a better understanding of organic grain production methods:

    Assessment: Development of production guides, extension bulletins, and scientific articles for use by extension and producers.

    Outcome: Increase in student understanding of organic grain production systems.

    Assessment: Pre and post evaluations of student knowledge from class room and field learning sessions with students from the UGA Certificate program

    Outcome: Increase in extension agent's knowledge and skills of organic grain production systems and ability to provide technical support for sustainable agriculture practices.

    Assessment: Pre and post evaluations of student knowledge from class room and field learning sessions with extension agents

    Outcome: Increase in producer's knowledge and skills of organic grain production systems.

    Assessment: Pre and post evaluations of producer knowledge at workshops and from web-based learning module.

    In addition we will look for other indicators of project impact such as increased use of sustainable agriculture practices by producers at multiple scales and increased support by knowledgeable agricultural professionals.

    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.