Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - 2:30 PM

Developing an Organic Crop Research Program at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

Dwight Mueller1, Janet Hedtcke2, Joshua Posner3, John Hall4, Bill Stangel1, and Darwin Frye1. (1) University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6976 Heron Way, 6976 Heron Way, De Forest, WI 53532, (2) University of Wisconsin-Madison, Agronomy Dept., 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, (3) Agronomy Dept., Univ. of WI, 1575 Linden Drive, 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, United States of America, (4) Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, W2493 County Rd. ES, East Troy, WI 53120

Organic food sales in the U. S. have grown by 20% annually over the last decade and in Wisconsin organic agriculture has experienced a similar growth.  Wisconsin leads the U.S. in certified livestock, with 33% of the nation’s organic milk cows.  Wisconsin also ranks high in certified organic poultry, and many different crops including corn, oats, barley, soybeans and alfalfa.  The demand for organic feed by the organic livestock industry has held the premiums for organic grain crops steady and high for the past 8 years of monitoring.

At the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station (AARS), research with low-input and organically managed cropping systems began in the late 80’s with the establishment of a long term cropping systems trial. Over the years, researchers and staff at AARS have gained a better understanding of the timing, and  equipment needs to control weeds mechanically and without herbicides.  Also, it is now better understood on how crop rotations and cover crops can be used in organic cropping systems to control weeds and pest, provide erosion control, and supply nitrogen to meet grain crop requirements.

With the interest growing in organic agriculture, it was decided to establish certified organic acreage within AARS acreage in2002.  We will report on how we transitioned to organic, and the challenges of operating a parallel system of managing both organic and conventional acreage often with the same equipment.  We will also present the time and effort involved in certifying organic acreage and the on-going recordkeeping needed to meet the certification requirements.  The development of the machinery set and certified land has made it possible for a number of researchers to develop successful grant proposals to address research questions from the organic farming community.