UPDATED October 12, 2006

    Battle ends with the little guy striking a blow for organic agriculture

    Two more state schools ad organic ag to curriculum

    Additives boost pathogen growth in compost tea

    Unmet organic dairy demand creates opening for non-BST, non-organic

    Long rotation beats continuous corn for soil health and profit

    Land Grant Universities add to organic research foundation

    Student interest in eating fresh fruits, veggies a hard sell until puberty

    ARS: Organic grains more profitable in Minnesota, even through transition

David and Goliath battle ends with the little guy striking a blow for organic agriculture

The Minnesota Pipe Line Company has backed off plans to route an oil pipeline through one of the oldest certified organic farms in the country.

Farmers Martin and Atina Diffly resisted the proposed project—which would have pumped 165,000 barrels of oil through their 100-acre Gardens of Eagan Farm just south of the Twin Cities—on two fronts. They demanded that the company reroute the pipeline off their property and install a mitigation plan that recognizes the special sensitivities of other organic farms along the proposed route. The farmers scored a double victory.

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Two more state schools ad organic ag to curriculum.

Alfred State College, a technical school in rural western New York, will be home to the Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture with help from a $4.9 million state grant. The center will include a working 140-cow dairy farm, applied research, will utilize cutting-edge alternative energy, and will house the state’s first degree program in organic agriculture.

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And the University of Florida is the third land-grant university in the country—just behind Washington State University and Colorado State University—to offer an undergraduate academic degree program in organic agriculture, with classes under way this fall.

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Additives boost pathogen growth in compost tea

Federal research scientists say additives in compost tea may increase the risk of increasing pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli strains.

An Agricultural Research Service report says soluble kelp, fish hydrolysates, humic acid, rock dust and proprietary nutrient solutions can spur unwanted bacteria growth as well as microbes that some farmers feel are beneficial and necessary to enhance soil and inhibit foliar pathogens.

Their tests showed that compost with low numbers of pathogens brewed aerobically for tea without the additives produced tea with undetectable levels of the pathogens, but that, in general, the additives allowed growth of the pathogens.

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NOSB committee compost tea recommendations


Unmet organic dairy demand creates opening for non-BST, non-organic

Two of New England’s biggest commercial dairies are demanding that their regional farmer cooperatives provide them with milk from cows that have not been injected with rBST—the synthetic hormone used for many years to boost milk production by extending lactation periods.

Dean Foods and H.P. Hood will start distributing milk with labels pledging “no artificial growth hormones.” By creating this new stream within the conventional market, they hope to satisfy the chief concern of consumers going organic and do so at less than half the retail price of organic milk.

"The phenomenal success of organic milk, with growth rates of 20 percent or more, is driving our demand for milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones," said John Kaneb, the chief executive of Hood, based in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

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Long rotation beats continuous corn for soil health and profit in Midwest comparisons

Farmers who want to maintain soil quality may want to get back to planting extended rotations of grain and forage crops.

Data collected nearly a decade ago as part of a project funded by the Leopold Center show that crop rotations covering at least five years, and which include at least three years of forage crops interspaced with corn and soybean, resulted in higher soil quality ratings than either continuous corn or a two-year corn/soybean sequence.

The longer-term rotations had an additional benefit: They were more profitable than continuous corn production.

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Agronomy Journal article


Land Grant Universities add to organic research foundation

ATTRA (http://attra.ncat.org) lists eight currently available publications summarizing university research on organic weed management in its September-October e-newsletter. Included are two items each from four geographical regions. Other farm-group and government organic weed-research sources and documents are listed as well.

Full list


Student interest in eating fresh fruits, veggies a hard sell until puberty

The first analysis of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program shows mixed results in consumption after more fresh produce was made available in 25 school food programs in the 2004-2005 school year.

Eighth- and tenth-grade children ate more fruit when it was offered free throughout the school day, but fifth graders actually ate less produce, according to a recently released study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Analysis with the report says student response could have been enhanced if support activities had been carried out more evenly and more extensively. Other reports say engaging students in growing food and knowing more about where food comes from significantly increase positive response to new introductions of fresh vegetables.

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ARS: Organic grains more profitable in Minnesota, even through transition

It looks like Minnesota grain farmers could make more money by switching to organic grain crops. That's the conclusion of an unusual four-year study that analyzed both economic risks and transition effects of switching to organic farming.

The Agricultural Research Service study compared an organic corn/soybean rotation and an organic corn/soybean/spring wheat/alfalfa rotation—half grown with conventional tillage and half with strip tillage—with a corn/soybean rotation using conventional tillage.

Computer simulations projected costs, yields and risks over a 20-year period, using yield and economic data from the four-year study, as well as crop price records of recent years.

Records showed that organic crops fetched much more than conventional crops: soybeans, up to $14 more per bushel; corn, up to $3 more; and wheat, up to $5 more. Organic alfalfa hay is too new to have a track record, so researchers recorded it as selling for the same price as conventionally grown hay.

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