Sales of organic products reached $8 billion in the U.S. in 2000, continuing the nearly decade-long trend of 20% annual growth. In Iowa alone, organic production for all crops was 5265 ha (13,000 acres) in 1995 but 60,750 ha (150,000 acres) in 1999. Despite the growth in organic agriculture, our knowledge of organic farming systems remains limited. We have adopted a systems theory approach in our current research program at Iowa State University (ISU) to help address this gap in understanding. Systems theory holds that biological systems, such as agroecosystems, consist of integrated units of people, plants, animals, soil, insects and microorganisms, and each subsystem provides feedback to the other. In order to obtain input on research questions and experimental design, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and ISU held six focus groups across Iowa in 1998 before long-term site establishment. Producers and agricultural professionals at the focus groups supported the need for long-term agroecological research (LTAR) sites in four distinct agroecological zones in Iowa. The goal of each LTAR is to examine the short- and long-term physical, biological, and socioeconomic effects of organic and conventional farming systems. By establishing long-term experiments, we are testing the hypothesis that longer crop rotations, typical of organic farms, provide yield stability, improve plant protection, and enhance soil health and economic benefits compared to conventional systems with shorter rotations and greater off-farm inputs. Examples of research results from two LTAR experiments in Iowa include similar pepper (Capsicum annuum) and soybean (Glycine max) yields in the conventional and organic systems. Organic systems used mechanical weed control and locally produced compost in place of synthetic fertilizers. Feedback from the local farm associations that are responsible for farm stewardship and farm finances is inherent in the LTAR process.
Organic agriculture has expanded to a $13 billion industry in the United States in 2005, continuing the nearly decade-long trend of 20% annual growth. Despite the growth in organic agriculture, our scientific knowledge of organic agriculture farming systems remains limited. Interest in sustainable and organic education at the university level has increased in recent years. To help address this need, the Iowa State University Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture (GPSA) was established in 2001 to meet three principal objectives: 1) provide students with the analytical and problem-solving skills required to meet the challenges confronting agriculture in the 21st century; 2) develop an innovative interdisciplinary and interdepartmental approach to graduate education; and 3) position Iowa State University at the forefront of institutions conducting research and extending knowledge about sustainable agricultural systems. As of 2004, more than 70 faculty from various departments and 29 students have participated in the program. Students have the opportunity to investigate organic issues within the context of the five new GPSA courses and to conduct organic agriculture farming systems research in thesis and dissertation studies. Producers and agricultural professionals are involved with GPSA students through the curriculum and on-farm research. Research questions involving optimizing crop or livestock production, plant protection, soil quality, and socioeconomic benefits of farming systems constitute typical theses.
Most farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa plant local cultivars introduced generations ago. Various national and international organizations and development projects introduce annually hundreds of improved germplasms to a country, and test these under farmer conditions for adaptability and acceptability. Although some local varieties perform well under traditional farming practices, many disease and insect pest resistant improved varieties out-yield local cultivars even under low-input production conditions of Africa. Regrettably, the seed production and distribution system in most of these countries are poorly developed; thus the promising varieties remain unavailable to the majority of farmers. To overcome this problem, the University of Arkansas-led Rwanda Farming Systems Research Project (FSRP) personnel trained farmer-cooperators in the production of good quality bean (Phaselous sp.) seeds. This, and the development of a farmer to farmer seed distribution system that led to quick diffusion of improved bean varieties in the project area will be discussed.
Andrew Riseman, Richard Craig, and Jonathan P. Lynch
Univ. We also thank Drs. Iain Taylor, Art Bomke, and Anthony Glass from the Univ. of British Columbia and Dr. Thomas Kinraide from the Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center for their constructive critiques during the preparation of the manuscript.
J.P. Mueller, M. E. Barbercheck, M. Bell, C. Brownie, N.G. Creamer, A. Hitt, S. Hu, L. King, H.M. Linker, F.J. Louws, S. Marlow, M. Marra, C.W. Raczkowski, D.J. Susko, and M.G. Wagger
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is dedicated to farming systems that are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Established in 1994 at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS) Cherry Farm near Goldsboro, N.C.; CEFS operations extend over a land area of about 800 ha (2000 acres) [400 ha (1000 acres) cleared]. This unique center is a partnership among North Carolina State University (NCSU), North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University (NCATSU), NCDACS, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), other state and federal agencies, farmers and citizens. Long-term approaches that integrate the broad range of factors involved in agricultural systems are the focus of the Farming Systems Research Unit. The goal is to provide the empirical framework to address landscape-scale issues that impact long-run sustainability of North Carolina's agriculture. To this end, data collection and analyses include soil parameters (biological, chemical, physical), pests and predators (weeds, insects and disease), crop factors (growth, yield, and quality), economic factors, and energy issues. Five systems are being compared: a successional ecosystem, a plantation forestry-woodlot, an integrated crop-animal production system, an organic production system, and a cash-grain [best management practice (BMP)] cropping system. An interdisciplinary team of scientistsfrom the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU and NCATSU, along with individuals from the NCDACS, NGO representatives, and farmers are collaborating in this endeavor. Experimental design and protocol are discussed, in addition to challenges and opportunities in designing and implementing long-term farming systems trials.
Peter Juroszek and Hsing-Hua Tsai
Amor, F.M. 2007 Yield and fruit quality response of sweet pepper to organic and mineral fertilization Renewable Agr. Food Systems 22 233 238 Delate, K. 2002 Using an agroecological approach to farming systems research HortTechnology 12 345 354 Delate, K
Alexandra G. Stone, Danielle D. Treadwell, Alice K. Formiga, John P.G. McQueen, Michelle M. Wander, James Riddle, Heather M. Darby, and Debra Heleba
trends and emerging issues for the USDA. 24 July 2012. < http://dare.colostate.edu/pubs/AMR/AMR%2006-01.pdf > U.S. Department of Agriculture 2011 Organic farming systems research symposium. 24 July 2012. < http://www.extension.org/pages/33545 > Wander, M
Guangyao Wang, Mathieu Ngouajio, Milton E. McGiffen Jr, and Chad M. Hutchinson
Delate, K. 2002 Using an agroecological approach to farming systems research HortTechnology 12 345 354 Drinkwater, L.E. 2002 Cropping systems research: Reconsidering agricultural experimental approaches
Jose Linares, Johannes Scholberg, Kenneth Boote, Carlene A. Chase, James J. Ferguson, and Robert McSorley
Rhizobial ecology as affected by the soil environment Aust. J. Exp. Agr. 41 289 298 Sooby, J. 2003 State of the states. Organic farming systems research at land grant institutions 2001–2003 2nd ed Organic Farming Research