Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

Could you point me in the direction of information regarding organic certification of greehouse tomato transplant production? I am writing a research paper for my Greenhouse Operations and Procedures class that compares conventional and organic methods used to produce tomato transplants. It is easy to find information in regard to organic certification for food/crop production but not for greenhouse production.

Terry Bermes
Illinois

 

DEAR TERRY:

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which serves the USDA’s National Organic Program in an advisory capacity, has made recommendations regarding organic greenhouse production, but these recommendations have yet to be adopted as official guidance or as a change to the regulations. Currently, organic greenhouse production must meet all applicable provisions of the NOP Final Rule.

You might contact certifiers in your area to see if they have further guidance on how the regulation is being applied during the certification of greenhouses. The NOSB recommendations are as follows:

205.209 Greenhouse Production Systems

(a) Greenhouse operations must meet all applicable requirements of subparts B (205.105) and C (205.200 – 205.206) except that:

(1) The producer operating a greenhouse with crops grown in containers is exempt from requirements of 205.202, 205.203(a) and 205.205. In addition, the producer is exempt from the crop rotation and cover cropping requirements in section 205.203(b). The production environment must prevent contact between organically produced crops and prohibited substances as listed in 205.105 throughout the entire production period.

(2) The producer of an in-ground permanent soil greenhouse system can seek an exemption from the crop rotation requirements of sections 205.203, and 205.205-205.206 provided that effective alternative strategies for developing and maintaining plant and soil health are established and approved by the certifying agent.

(b) The use of potting mixtures containing prohibited materials is not allowed.

(c) Producers may use artificial light sources

(d) Plants and soil shall not be in direct contact with wood treated with prohibited materials that is used for greenhouse structures or frames of raised beds.

(g) If a producer is growing both organic and non-organic greenhouse crops, the producer must comply with the provisions of 205.201(a)(5) to prevent commingling and contamination.

(h) Organic and non-organic crops can be grown within the same structure if the following conditions are met:

1. An impermeable wall shall separate organic and non-organic production sites if prohibited pesticides are applied to the non-organic crop at a time when the organic crop is present.

2. Adequate provisions must be made to prevent contamination of organic crops when producers alternate between organic and non-organic production during different times of the year.

3. The ventilation system must ensure that prohibited materials do not drift to the organic production area.

4. Separate watering systems must be established if prohibited fertilizers and/or pesticides are injected within the watering system.

5. Producers must insure that no contamination occurs to the organic crop through cross-pollination with crops produced through genetic engineering.

6. Soil mixing machines and other equipment used for non-organic crop production must be thoroughly cleaned prior to use in organic production, except that pesticide sprayers used in conventional production can not be used for organic production purposes.

7. Adequate physical facilities, as determined by the certifying agent, shall separate organic and non-organic crops and production materials in storage, production or holding areas.

8. Organic and non-organic crops and production areas must be conspicuously labeled.

You might also wish to consult the NOSB's Organic System Plan template, which has an extensive section on greenhouse production on pages 3-4.

Good luck,
NF

 

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