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CropTalk: Organic Growth and PFR

January 2021

Published on Monday, January 4, 2021

Consumers continue to drive demand for organic crops, and the need to better understand organic systems and products has created an opportunity for PFR testing to help farmers who may be interested in the system. In 2020, Beck's dedicated a section of our Indiana PFR site exclusively to organic testing. In 2021, we plan to do the same at our IA PFR site in hopes to have multi-location testing that focuses solely on organic systems and products.

As we started to develop protocols, we met with organic growers and other individuals involved in organic systems to discover some significant issues or questions they experience. A few common themes emerged through these conversations, which is what we chose to conduct our research around.

1. What is the best way to transition ground and what are the costs?

2. What products can I use in an organic system for fertility and disease control?

3. How can I incorporate cover crops into an organic system in-season?

4. How do I control weeds in an organic system?

So, what did we learn in our first year of testing?

Transitioning Ground

We set out to evaluate two things in this study: If there is a better way to transition to organic, and what the costs associated with making this switch are. We compared a corn-after-soybean rotation transition system to alfalfa, but because the alfalfa was in its seeding year, the yields were lower.

Also, leafhopper pressure was heavy in 2020, and it really stunted the new seeding early in the year. Because alfalfa is a high nutrient user, we also measured the impact each system had on soil fertility through the transition period. Results from this study are shown in Figure 1.

Organic Products for Fertility and Disease Control

We have tested a few organic products. These include BRANDT® Organics Crop Mix, a foliar nutrition product, and Pacesetter™, a plant health product that helps minimize abiotic stresses. Both products have two years of data showing positive yields and ROIs.

In addition, we learned that organic growers are looking for ways to supplement nitrogen in-season, so we tested a product called Allganic™ Nitrogen Plus that we mixed in water and applied via a 360 Y-DROP® application. This product provided excellent yield responses in a year where we had ample, but not excessive rainfall. The results of both those studies are highlighted Figures 2 and 3.

Incorporating Cover Crops In-Season

Some organic growers have started testing 60 in. rows vs. 30 in. rows and incorporating cover crops between the 60 in. rows. The goal with this is to plant a forage after the corn crop is planted and help with soil health and weed suppression. So how does this system yield compare to one with 30 in. rows and no cover crop? This was our first year testing the system.

We also initiated a study in the fall of 2020 that incorporates cover crops, row width, and tillage systems to research how these different system approaches can help with weed control.

We are always interested in testing new and emerging products, systems, equipment, and farm trends with our PFR studies. Our new focus on organic research requires a dedicated effort. We are jumping in with both feet to provide growers the information they may need to help make decisions regarding organic systems. If you have other thoughts or ideas, please feel free to share them with your Beck’s representative.

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Author: Dave Ross

Categories: CropTalk, 2021

Tags: CropTalk, PFR, organic, organic transition

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