Conducted by Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) at the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS)
by Dale R. Mutch, Ph.D.
Senior District Extension Educator and Extension Specialist,Adjunct Professor CSS; Coordinator, KBS and Extension Land & Water Unit; NCR-SARE PDP State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator
The MSUE Cover Crop Program at KBS began conducting organic research in 1996. In 1997 we had 12 acres certified organic through OCIA. We now have 15 acres certified organic. On these organic acres we conduct small plot research that is driven by farmer advisory groups. In 1996 MSU had only a few researchers working with organic farmers. Over the past 15 years, that has changed tremendously. I believe MSU is one of the top Land Grant universities doing research for organic farming systems.
Some of the research projects being conducted at MSUE/KBS are:
1. Evaluation of an organic no-till system for organic corn and soybean production. A six-state (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Pennsylvania) long-term no-till organic cropping system project. We are measuring crop productivity, yields, soil quality and economic performance. The crimper/roller is being evaluated as a tool to enhance organic no-till practices. The crimper/roller (C/R) crushes the cover crop leaving a mulch that shades out weeds and prevents them from germinating. Following C/R we no-till drill or plant soybeans or corn into the mulch. Hairy vetch and cereal rye are being used in this study for both corn and soybean production. The no-till treatments are being compared to more traditional conventional tilled treatments for corn and soybeans. Each state also has the same experiment being conducted on an organic farmer’s field. This is the third year of a four-year project.
Flaming for Weed Control
2. Controlling weeds using flame heat for organic farmers. A study was initiated at KBS to evaluate the time of day for the best results of flame burning weeds in corn systems. A six-row flamer was used at 8 a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in organic corn. The study was conducted over two years and the results will be presented by Dr. Christy Sprague at this year’s MOSES conference.
3. Evaluation of organic potassium sources for alfalfa. In 2009 the field had been a crop of organic no-till soybeans with rye, and had cereal rye and clover growing, making it necessary to moldboard plow. In 2010, the first year of this project was spent establishing the alfalfa. A field that had been farmed organically for the past three years was moldboard plowed on March 19. The untreated alfalfa seed was donated to the project by Cisco Seeds. Read more »