Farming that fosters ecological balance and biological diversity is the goal of OSU’sOrganic Agriculture Program in the Department of Horticulture. The program’s 29 researchers are investigating sustainable solutions for everything from weeds and soil-borne diseases to beetle infestations and livestock waste management. Here is a sampling of studies under way.
The head of OSU’s horticulture department has overseen organic farming methods courses and led organic certification for land at OSU’s Lewis-Brown Horticulture Research Farm near Corvallis. Azarenko and OSU Extension scientist Alexandra Stone received awards from the Oregon Organic Coalition in September.
Entomologist Vaughn Walton studies environmentally sustainable, low-impact strategies such as mating disruption to manage filbertworm and other insects that threaten Oregon’s filbert industry. With the University of California, Washington State University and USDA, he is also working on vine leafroll virus, an emerging disease in vineyards.
Berry Research Program, led by Bernadine Strik, has established the world’s largest certified organic blueberry trial at a research facility. She also is evaluating weed management, organic fertilization and bed system methods on growth, yield, soil biology, weeds, diseases and profitability of organic blueberry production.
Helping organic dairy farmers grow more nutrient-rich grasses is a goal of Mike Gamroth’s current research. Cool-season grasses, high in natural sugars, can improve traditional forages which growers supplement with expensive nutrients. In a national USDA-funded study, Gamroth also is comparing organic with conventional milk production, animal health and animal care.
A farmer group that collaborated on organic potato studies is now working with Alex Stone and OSU vegetable breeder Jim Myers on varietal broccoli and onion trials. Stone has also researched soil amendments and cover crops, as well as biological and cultural control of plant diseases on conventional and organic farms. She leads a national Extension organic Web initiative.