Interest IN and conversion to sustainable agriculture practices, such as organic agriculture, integrated pest management or increasing biodiversity, has been increasing for a number of years among farmers and ranchers across the United States In order to meet the needs of producers, university researchers and educators must adapt their program areas to reflect this change toward sustainable agriculture practices. Although consumers, producers, and extension workers have been surveyed regarding their attitudes and interests in sustainable agricultural practices, few surveys have examined sustainable agriculture perceptions among university agriculture professionals. The object of this study was to survey 200 agriculture professionals, including research scientists, classroom educators of the Land-Grant agricultural college and the Cooperative Extension service of a southern state with a traditional agricultural economy in order to determine their perceptions and attitudes toward sustainable agriculture and to gather information on current research and education activities relevant to sustainable agriculture. Seventy-eight questions were asked concerning professional incentives, personal and professional importance of topics under the sustainable agriculture rubric, current research and educational activities, and demographics. By conducting this research we hope to identify factors that are an impedance or assistance to future research and education to support sustainable agriculture. The survey findings will provide a foundation for directing and developing agriculture research and education programs for row crops, fruit, vegetable and livestock production.
Heather Friedrich*, Curt R. Rom, Jennie Popp, Barbara Bellows, and Donn Johnson
Heather Friedrich, Curt Rom, Jennie Popp, Barbara Bellows, Donn Johnson, Dan Horton, Kirk Pomper, David Lockwood, Steve McArtney, and Geoffrey Zehnder
Southern organic fruit production is limited by a lack of regionally appropriate, scale-neutral, and market-focused research and technology. There has been limited research, outreach, and cooperation among universities on organic fruit crops in the southern region. Organic research and outreach activities, based on producer input, must be focused on the most limiting areas of the organic system in order to allow southern producers to receive the economic and environmental benefits that organic agriculture can provide. With funding from USDA-SARE and USDA-SRIPMC, researchers at the University of Arkansas have collaborated with scientists, extension specialists, growers, and representatives of the organic industry in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee to create a Southern Region Organic Fruit Working Group (SROFWG). The SROFWG conducted in-state focus group meetings through which barriers to production and marketing, and opportunities for organic fruit in the region were identified. Prioritized research and outreach needs that were identified in the focus groups included use and understanding of organic fertilizers and nutrient management; methods, knowledge and awareness of pest disease and weed control including orchard floor management; information on transition to organic; consumer awareness and market development and the economics of organics. The planning activities of the SROFWG support the development and submission of grants for cooperative and collaborative research and outreach programs to sustain and expand organic fruit production in the southern region.