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

2013 Annual Report for LS10-232

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

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


Research and Outreach Activities 
Established rye/crimson clover and wheat in late fall. Installed sensors and monitored soil water content at ten minute intervals from January through September 2013 in reps 1, 2 and 3 (12 plots) and June through September in rep 4 (3 plots only). However, this was interrupted (had to take sensors out periodically and reinstall) during cover crop rolling and preparation for planting of summer crops, and because of weed control activities, especially in conventional tillage plots. In addition, mice succeeded in chewing wires, even where protected, and destroyed some sensors. Since the default calibration appeared to give much lower soil water content than expected, we ran several calibrations in the field (undisturbed) and greenhouse (disturbed) from January through April 2013. The greenhouse calibration gave a better curve – less spread of data. We did soil infiltration measurements in April 2013 using double ring infiltrometers in two plots of contrasting tillage but same crop iteration per rep (8 plots). We collected sunflower and soybean plant samples at approximately a 21 day interval starting early June through August 2013, and separated them into roots, stem, petiole, leaves, head, seed, and determined dry weight for quantification on a per hectare basis. At the same time, we measured plant height. We also measured leaf area before drying. Sampling sequence for sunflower was disrupted where replanting became necessary in some no-till plots due to poor stand establishment. Dried and weighted samples were milled (Thomas-Wiley Model 4) as precursor for nutrient analysis. We downloaded daily weather data from the UGA Wy Wy station a few hundred feet from the plots. Harvested wheat in early June. Sampled sunflower heads for insect predators and pests from early June through late July in conversation tillage plots and from early July through mid-August. Main predators were big-eyed bugs, spiders, lady beetles, and fire ants. The main pest was the sunflower moth. Collected mature seed heads from conservation tillage plots in mid-June and from no-till plots in mid-August. In conservation tillage plots, an average of 4% of the seeds were damaged per head; there also was a mean of 1007 seeds per head. In the later planted no-till plots, an average of 38% of the seeds were damaged per head, and there was a mean of 477 seeds per head. Apparently, the later planting date in no-till plots had a significant negative impact on sunflower seed production. Sampled soybean plants for insect predators and pests from late June through early September. Again, the main predators were big-eyed bugs, spiders, lady beetles, and fire ants. The main pest was the kudzu bug. Mean number of kudzu bug adults per sample in no-till plots (8.3 per sample) was significantly lower than that for conservational tillage plots (13.7 per sample). In addition, the mean number of kudzu bug eggs per sample in no-till plots (4.1 per sample) was significantly lower than that for conservational tillage plots (2.2 per sample). A new egg parasitoid, Paratelenomus saccharalis, parasitized kudzu bugs eggs. Parasitism of kudzu bug eggs was significantly higher in no-till plots (52.8%) compared to that in conservation tillage plots (40.4%). Thus, tillage had a significant impact on kudzu bug density and parasitism of eggs in soybean. Harvested soybean in late October. Established rye/crimson clover and wheat in late fall. Presented a poster entitled “Using Sunflowers in an Organic Grain Rotation” at the Georgia Organics Annual Conference on Feb. 22-23, 2013; the Conference had 1200 attendees. Presented a talk on natural enemies of stink bugs and the importance of providing nectar to enhance parasitism of these pests at the Southeastern Vegetable Conference Organics Seminar on Jan. 12, 2013. Organized and led an Organic Grain and Oilseed Workshop – June 27, 2013 8:30AM – 4:00PM in Tifton GA. Workshop featured experts in organic grain production from southeastern US including Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton from NCSU and Drs. Harry Schomberg and Steven Mirsky from USDA ARS Beltsville, MD, Mr. Robert Davis, AgStrong Oilseed press, Mr. Al Clark, Clark Farms, and Ms. Charlotte Swancy, Riverview Farms. Dr. Glynn Tillman presented information on biology and distribution of the kudzu bug in Georgia. The afternoon field session featured equipment to plant into heavy residue and a demonstration of a newly developed subsurface banding applicator for poultry litter. There were 40 participants: 20 farmers and 6 county extension agents. Evaluations were indicated that most of the farmers were using organic practices but were not certified. Seventy five percent of the participants that answered the survey indicated they would try a few things differently or planned to make major changes. The corn production and farmer panel were the most highly ranked topics. Evaluation comments indicated there was confusion around the terms GMOs and hybrids, and several participants indicated they wanted more information for organic grain on a small scale. In evening after the Organic Grains workshop, we held a researchers forum. Thirteen researchers from UGA, NCSU, ARS Tifton, ARS Auburn, and ARS Beltsville met to discuss their projects, potential collaborations and needs for research on organic grains and oilseeds. An outgrowth of this meeting is the project to develop three videos on specific aspects of organic grain production.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Develop systems of organic grain production that integrate sunflower into traditional grain rotations using either conservation or conventional tillage. Determine effects of different tillage systems for organic grain production on soil quality and soil physical properties. Transfer organic grain production technology to producers, technical service providers, and students.


Establish crops. Fertilize crops. Monitor soil water. Monitor crops for insect pests and weeds. Download daily rainfall and temperature data from one of the 70+ UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network  weather stations located < 500 m from the field plots. Oraganize and lead an Organic Grain and Oilseed Workshop for growers and extension county agents. Harvest crops. Evaluate soil quality. Present results at grower and professional meetings.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project is providing a better understanding of the challenges of organic grain production in this area and is in the process of developing methods to overcome these challenges.


Wes and Charlotte Swancy

[email protected]
Riverview Farms
954 White Graves Road
Ranger, GA 30734
Office Phone: 7063342926
Ray Hicks

[email protected]
Screven County Extension Coordinator
University of Georgia
321 Rocky Ford Road
Sylvania, GA 30467
Office Phone: 9125642064
Dinku Endale

[email protected]
Agricultural Engineer
1420 Experiment Station Road
Watkinsville, GA 3067-2373
Office Phone: 7067695631
Donn Cooper

[email protected]
Farmer Services Coordinator
Georgia Organics
200-A Ottley Drive
Atlanta, GA 30324
Office Phone: 6787020400
Dr. W. Carroll Johnson, III

[email protected]
Research Agronomist
Crop Protection and Management Unit
Tifton, GA 31793-0748
Office Phone: 2293872347
Dr. Alan Franzluebbers

[email protected]
NCSU Campus Box 7620
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9192089344
Tim and Liz Young

[email protected]
Natures Harmony Farm
1978 Baker's Ferry Road
Elberton, GA 30635
Office Phone: 7708428983
Al Clark, III

[email protected]
Clark & Sons Organics
526 Clark Farm Rd.
Twin City, GA 30471
Office Phone: 9128653200
Julia Gaskin

[email protected]
Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Driftmier Engineering Center
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
Office Phone: 7065421401
Robert Davis

[email protected]
AgStrong Inc
P.O. Box 793
Winterville, GA 30683
Office Phone: 7067422229