- Agronomic: potatoes
- Animal Production: manure management
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Pest Management: mulches - killed, mulching - vegetative
- Soil Management: composting, green manures, soil analysis
Potatoes are an important crop for most diversified organic vegetable farmers in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and they are also one of the most commonly cited crops with significantly lower yields when grown under organic management. The yield and quality of a potato crop are the result of complex interactions between variables such as crop nutrition, cultural practices, pest losses, and disease severity. These interactions need to be better understood to improve organic potato yields. The importance and complexity of these interactions requires that an integrative, system-oriented approach is taken to research into soil and crop management. In this project we will pilot a participatory process to inspire an exchange of knowledge, experience, and farmer innovation; to illuminate new strategies for farmer-identified problems in whole-farm systems; and to enhance their adoption and adaptation. This project will increase the ability of both project and other farmers to: 1) identify, monitor, and manage pest and nutrient problems, 2) maintain on-going records (production techniques/costs, pest/nutrient dynamics), 3) produce and modify enterprise budgets, 4) synthesize “systems” information, and 5) plan and evaluate alternative management strategies, both individually and in collaboration with other farmers. The yield and quality of a potato crop are the result of complex interactions amongst crop nutrition, cultural practices, and pest damage. In this project we are developing a participatory process to share knowledge, experience, and farmer innovation; to illuminate new strategies for farmer-identified problems in whole farm systems; and to enhance their adoption and adaptation. This project aims to enhance the ability of farmers to: 1) identify and manage pest and nutrient problems, 2) keep on-going records and enterprise budgets, 3) synthesize “systems” information, and 4) plan and evaluate alternative management strategies, both individually and in collaboration with other farmers.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. Pilot a participatory approach to learning and adaptation of novel farming systems strategies.
2. Evaluate the effects of soil management on tuber insect pests and diseases, weeds, nitrogen availability, and profitability.
3. Extend project findings to a larger audience of farmers.
Objective 1. Pilot a participatory approach to learning and adaptation of novel farming systems approaches.
During an initial winter meeting, farmers and the project team will collaboratively determine 1) the hypotheses to be tested during the first growing season in both case studies and on-farm trials, and 2) who will participate in on-farm trials. In each of the two subsequent winters, one 2-day meeting will be held. Case study and on-farm trial reports will be sent to each participant before each meeting. All participants will collaboratively review and discuss case studies, enterprise budgets reflecting economic effects of changing practices, on-farm trials and other experiences from the previous growing season, and revise and adapt experimental plans and protocols for the coming year. In addition, all participants will be surveyed on their knowledge base and ideas, and the participatory process will be discussed and evaluated.
Objective 2. Evaluate the effects of soil management on insect dynamics, tuber disease, and nitrogen availability.
Case studies. Three farms will become “case study” farms. On these farms, the project team will intensively monitor system factors. The case study farmers will play an active role in describing their production system, collecting and interpreting data, and determining how to adapt their system to emerging information and ideas. These case studies will describe the production system and its changes as the farmers adapt their systems through the course of the project.
On-farm trials. A broader group of farmers, as well as case study farmers, will participate in on-farm trials. The project collaborators will design the trials, using all available data, information, and collaborator experiences to develop “best idea” strategies to test in on-farm trials. Typically, two treatments will be compared in 50’x 20’ plots, with 2 replications within a field. The farms (at least 5 to 7 per trial) will serve as replications. The research team will monitor these on-farm trials in cooperation with the farmer. Farmers will be compensated for their participation.
Objective 3. Extend project findings to a larger audience of vegetable farmers. The project will extend experiences and findings to a larger audience of diversified vegetable farmers through the following activities:
1) A project website will describe current and upcoming project activities.
2) Three workshops will be held for both project and other farmers. We will coordinate these workshops with existing winter meetings focusing on organic crop production to maximize farmer participation. We will survey workshop participants to determine whether their knowledge, practices, attitudes, and/or intentions change as a result of their participation.
3) Three extension publications will be generated, drawing upon existing knowledge and participatory project experiences.