On-Farm Demonstration of Integrated Vegetable Production Systems for the Maritime Pacific Northwest
Collaborative participation of innovative farmers and agribusiness representatives with an interdisciplinary team of Extension and university researchers is fundamental to the implementation of this project. To facilitate this participation from the planning stage forward, we identified 13 vegetable producers from two areas of the Willamette valley who have a demonstrated experiences and interest in integrated, sustainable farming systems, and who have a specific interest in cover crops. Farmer/scientist focus sessions were hosted by a lead farmer in each area to define growers’ needs and interests relating to on-farm research and demonstration trials. Because of previously expressed interest among growers associated with the Farming for Profit and Stewardship Conferences, these meetings focus primarily on how to effectively integrate cover crops and conservation/alternative tillage systems into commercial vegetable production systems. This topic focus was also selected because of extensive prior research on cover crops, and considerable farmer experience to draw upon, as well as the whole-farm implications of integrating cover crops and conservation tillage practices into vegetable rotation systems.
Based on needs and interests expressed at these meetings, we will establish 10-14 whole-farm demonstration/research projects focused specifically on the integration of cover crops and conservation tillage practices in vegetable production systems. Because the particular vegetable crops grown vary among farms, and because of differences in soil types, equipment availability, harvesting requirements, and other variables, each on-farm demonstration will be designed to meet these farm-specific constraints. The primary crops grown by these producers include sweet corn, snap beans, cucurbits, sugar beet seed, and brassica crops. The design of the projects, including the selection of cover crop mixtures, planting dates and equipment, utilization (green manure incorporation or conservation tillage mulch), and crop rotational sequences, will result from extension discussions among the cooperating farmers, industry fieldmen, governmental agency and university personnel. A primary goal of this process is to foster new working relationships among these groups which will lead to expanded educational opportunities for the entire agricultural community.
Seasonal field technicians will be hired to collect data specific to each on-farm project, which will likely include data on cover crop biomass and nitrogen content, soil moisture, beneficial and pest insect populations, weed and plant disease incidence, crop yields and quality parameters.
Detailed records (both production and financial) will be maintained by each farmer for every cover crop and conservation tillage alternative examined. Costs will be estimated using market values for purchased inputs (such as seed, fuel, or rented equipment). Opportunity costs will be assigned to owned resources (machinery, owner labor, and land). Benefits will be estimated and quantified to the extent possible.
Using the on-farm data, partial budgets will be developed for each farm to estimate the change in whole-farm profitability given the changes in the production system. Site-specific evaluations of each alternative will be conducted, including economic outcomes.
Because of the distribution of participating growers throughout the Willamette Valley, several “mini-tours” will be conducted among demonstration site farms within a local area. Extension will assist in publicity and organization of these farmer-led field days. Research and demonstration results will also be distributed through existing newsletters, and farmers will be invited to participate in the annual Pacific Northwest “Farming for Profit and Stewardship” conferences.
1) To improve methodologies for enhancing farmer and agribusiness participation in the design and implementation of on-farm research and demonstration projects for integrated, sustainable agriculture.
2) To demonstrate integrated farming systems for vegetable production in the maritime Pacific Northwest which improve farm profitability, increase the utilization of on-farm renewable resources, protect quality, and enhance long-term soil productivity.
3) To conduct a multi-faceted educational program which accelerates information transfer among producers, Extension specialists and agents, agribusiness representatives, governmental agency personnel, and the university research community.