Evaluating the use of low-input technology for small-scale, no-till organic farming systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,990.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Rodale Institute
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Gladis Zinati
Rodale Institute

Information Products


  • Vegetables: cucurbits


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cropping systems
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training
  • Pest Management: cultivation, mulches - killed, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Small-scale vegetable farmers who are interested in organic production are continually seeking cost-effective and
    practical management practices that conserve soil, reduce labor, and increase the profitability and sustainability of
    their livelihood. Preliminary results of a demonstration trial at Rodale Institute in 2016 showed that using no-till low
    input technology has the potential to conserve soil and sustain vegetable production. Quiet Creek Farm owners
    John and Aimee Good grow organic produce for a 250 member CSA and are interested in cost effective
    management systems that reduce their dependence on frequent cultivations to conserve soil and ensure high
    yields. The Goods are partnering with Rodale Institute to compare side-by-side the impacts of using a low-input
    no-till system, a high-input no-till system and bare ground (standard farmers’ practice) management systems.
    They are interested in gaining knowledge and experience in using a roller-crimper to determine the feasibility and
    effectiveness of no-till low-input technology for soil and weed management in an organic system. Similar
    treatments will be compared within existing field trials at Rodale Institute. In the Rodale trial, the low-input no-till
    system will be compared to high-input no-till and plasticulture (standard farmers’ practice) systems. In all trials, we
    will assess soil health, weed biomass and density, crop yield and feasiblity. Results will be shared with growers
    and interested clientele through Rodale’s Annual On-Farm Field Day, a web article, and presentations at grower

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overarching goal of this project is to demonstrate low-input approaches that are affordable to small-scale and
    low-capital beginner organic vegetable farmers to improve crop productivity and quality and conserve soil from degradation.
    We propose a one-year project to address the following questions:

    1) How effective is a low-input no-till technology system on conserving soil in comparison to standard farmers’
    practices (bare ground with multiple seasonal cultivations and black plastic) and high-input no-till technology?
    2) Will the low-input no-till technology system improve crop productivity relative to standard farmer’s practice?
    3) How effective are the proposed managment practices in managing weed pressure measured as weed density,
    weed biomass, and their relationship to yield?
    The specific objectives of this project are to:
    1) Demonstrate that low-input no-till technology can be used effectively as a soil and weed management system
    by reducing cultivation and conserving soil;
    2) Compare costs and benefits of using low-input and high-input no-till technologies on crop yield and nutrient
    content; and
    3) Transfer this knowledge to small-scale, beginner vegetable farmers.

    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.