Organic Production
and
Fertility Recommendations
Jeana Myers, PhD
Agronomist NCDA&CS
“Organic Fertility Initiative”
This presentation will look at typical organic
production systems in NC and consider ways
the Agronomic Division might strengthen and
promote our services for these growers.
Increase in Organic Products
U.S. sales of organic food and beverages
have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to
$26.7 billion in 2010.
Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent
growth over 2009 sales - organic fruits and
vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009.
5 million acres in organic production.
Organic Production by State
State
California
Wisconsin
North
Carolina
# Certified
Operations
2887
Cropland
Acreage
430,724
Pasture
Acreage
289,767
1016
170,953
54,011
156
5243
--
(NC is 20th in US in # of Cert. Operations, 2008)
Organic Production by State
State
# Animals
# Veg. Acres
California
2,213,429
91,915
North Carolina
1,088,889
2,373
Nebraska
Washington
6,501,940
281,000
757
18,294
(NC 4th in animal production, 8th in veg. acreage)
Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO)
Produce Marketing Coop
- Participating Farms
North Carolina Population lots of markets within 50-100 miles
Organic Fertility
Recommendations?
13 Regional Agronomists in Agronomic Division
4 In-house Agronomists
Soil Samples are 85% farmer,
15% homeowners
Average 350,000 total samples
Homeowner report, lbs of mixed fertilizer
Farmer report, lbs nutrients per acre
Multiplication Factors to Convert Soil Test
Index Values to a Quantitative Equivalent
Soil Test
Index
Value
P-I
K-I
mg/dm³
1.2
1.955
kg/ha
2.4
3.91
2.29 × P gives lb of P2O5 per acre
1.2 × K gives lb of K2O per acre.
lb/acre
2.138
3.484
USDA National Organic Program
“NOP” Dec. 2000
Any farm that wants to sell an agricultural
product as organically produced must
adhere to the NOP standards.
• They must operate under an organic
system plan (OSP)
• Be approved by a certifying agent
• Use only approved materials from list
If a farm sells less that $5,000 per year, they
do not have to use a plan or be certified, but
they do have to follow regulations to label
food as organic.
Land must not have had prohibited
substances applied to it for 3 years prior to
harvest of organic crops (sludge, pesticides,
GMO’s, etc)
Restrictions on raw manure and compost.
NOP definition of "synthetic"
A substance that is formulated or
manufactured by a chemical process that
chemically changes a substance extracted
from naturally occurring plant, animal or
mineral sources, except that such term shall
not apply to substances created by naturally
occurring biological processes.
In simple terms, synthetic materials cannot
be used unless they are specifically
approved,
and natural materials can be used unless
they are specifically prohibited.
See OMRI Manual:
“Organic Materials
Review Institute”
Backbone of organic production:
Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be
managed through tillage and cultivation
practices, crop rotations, and cover crops,
supplemented with animal and crop waste
materials and allowed synthetic materials.
“Natural inputs” may be used but proactive
management practices are emphasized.
Options for Organic Fertility
• Crop rotations
• Cover crops
Supplemented with • Animal and crop waste materials
• Natural inputs
• Allowed synthetic materials
3 Geographic Regions of NC
Mountains
Clay, low P,
Cool temps
Piedmont
Clay, Loams
Mod. temps
Raleigh
Coastal Plain
Sandy, low CEC
Res. P, Hot temps
Crop Rotations
•
•
•
•
•
Short rotations: 2-3 years, Long: 3+ years
Fertility needs of following crop
Time of planting
Economics!
Weed and disease pressures
– Smother crops
– Fruits to pasture to vegetables
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
Garlic
Winter Squash
Spinach
Soybeans
Oats
Fava beans
Brassicas
Vetch
Tomatoes
Garlic
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
winter
spring
summer
fall
Crimson Clover
Tomatoes or Peppers
Red Clover Brassicas Lettuce
Red Clover
Okra-Flowers-Basil
Lettuce Vetch Winter Brassicas
Vetch
Cucurbits
Brassicas Lettuce Crim Clover
Red clover
Red Clover Brassicas Lettuce
Cover crops are generally incorporated one
month ahead of planting cash crop.
For no-till, cover crops are cut, rolled or
crimped right before planting and cash crop
seeds are planted into strips. Warm season
crops work best – tomatoes, pumpkins,etc.
Warm season cover crops planted early June,
July in Piedmont. Soybeans, sorghum,
sunflower.
Cool season cover crops planted in September
in Piedmont. Oats and clover for early
plantings, rye and vetch for later plantings.
Nitrogen Availability from Cover Crop
First calculate biomass on a dry wt per acre
Multiply times %N in tissue
Legumes have approximately 3.5-4.0%
N prior to flowering, grasses have 2-3%
Finish plant nitrogen requirements with other
amendment (compost, manure,
feathermeal, etc)
Manures and Composts
Manures, uncomposted, may only be used on
perennials or crops not for humans, or,
incorporated 120 days before consumption
(or 90 days if crop is not in contact with
ground, ex. sweet corn)
Composted manures must have had a C:N
ratio between 25:1 and 40:1 and maintained a
temp of 131-170 degrees F for 3 days if static
or 15 days if windrowed and turned 5 times.
Manures can be tested in PWSM lab
If applied at N rates, P often too high.
Broiler litter (10-15 lb NH4/ton, 25-75 lb P)
Cheap and generally available.
Monitor zinc levels in both manure and compost.
Manure applied before the most N demanding
crop. Broiler litter 4-6% total N, 40-70%
available in first year.
Compost
When
processed
correctly,
can be made from animal wastes, agricultural
by-products, yard waste, and other materials
that do not contaminate crops with nutrients,
pathogens, heavy metals or prohibited
substances.
Amendments
Amendments used for Nitrogen
OMRI approved
Feather Meal (13-0-0) decomposes slowly
Alfalfa Meal (4-0-0) microbial activity boost
Cottonseed Meal (7-2-1) low pH
Soybean Meal (7-2-3)
Chilean Nitrate (16-0-0) more than 20%
Bloodmeal (12-1-1) fast release
Fish Meal (4-4-1) expensive
Bacteria and fungi in the soil. Eye of Science / Science Photo Library
Phosphorus Sources
OMRI approved
Rock phosphate (2% available P)
needs low pH, very slow
Manure/compost (1-3%)
Colloidal Phosphate (2-3% available P) $
Bonemeal (27% available P) expensive
Guano, used for N, some P, slow
Vascular Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (VAM)
Aid in extraction of P from soils
Triple super phosphate under consideration?
Potassium Sources
OMRI approved
Potassium Sulfate (0-0-50, 18S)
K-Mag (0-0-22, 22S, 11Mg) Langbeinite
Muriate of potash (0-0-60) KCl, only if
mined, chloride buildup
Kelp (0-0-2)
Micronutrient Sources OMRI
Fish Meal (9-5-1)
Fish Emulsion (4-4-1)
used in greenhouse operations
Kelp (<1-<1-2, Mg, S, micronutrients)
plant hormones, growth regulators
foliar spray for micronutrients, budset,
root dip, delayed senescence
Greensand (trace) soil conditioner
Azomite (trace)
What services do
organic farmers need?
We already provide analyses for:
Soil fertility
Plant tissue
Compost , Manure
Media
Solution
Nematode
Do these need to be promoted? Added to?
What services do
organic farmers need?
Current resources brought to one place?
Growing Small Farms website
Center for Environmental Farming
Systems
NCDA&CS Agronomic Division
Other states, universities, organizations
Interactive Web Application?
A Matrix Calculator…
Plug in data to identify best management
options
Test results, fertility, soil info
Crops being grown
Rotation, cover crops
Price of amendments available
A very complex system – would people use it?
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Organic Production and Fertility Recommendations