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?