The Center's soil scientist, Kim Stearman, and a multidisciplinary team of professionals have been working diligently to research involving organic farming methods, thereby initiating new grant-funded projects in those areas. Organic farming has been "one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture for more than a decade," growing at 20 percent per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The number of acres certified as organic farmland doubled between 2002 and 2005, and in 2005, the U.S. had 8,493 certified organic pasture and cropland operations.
What is Organic Farming?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program says that organic farming entails:
- "Use of cover crops, green manures, animal manures and crop rotations to fertilize the soil, maximize biological activity and maintain long-term soil health.
- Use of biological control, crop rotations and other techniques to manage weeds, insects and diseases.
- An emphasis on biodiversity of the agricultural system and the surrounding environment.
- Using rotational grazing and mixed forage pastures for livestock operations and alternative health care for animal well-being.
- Reduction of external and off-farm inputs and elimination of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and other materials, such as hormones and antibiotics.
- A focus on renewable resources, soil and water conservation, and management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological balance." Transitioning to Organic Production. USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2006. http://www.sare.org/publications/organic/organic01.htm.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms, by Mary V. Gold USDA, NAL, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, 1999. http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/srb9902.htm
- Organic Crop Production Overview, by George Kuepper and Lance Gegner ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, 2004. http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/organiccrop.html
- Frequently Asked Questions on Organic Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2007. http://www.fao.org
The following is an agriculture-related research project activated in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
Compost Center and High Tunnel Construction and Management
G.K. Stearman and M. Best
Funding by: Tennessee Department of Agriculture