September 2011

Field day participants assessed soil quality, plant, and insect communities across sites with different management histories.

On June 25th, the “Weed Management, Environmental Quality, and Profitability in Organic Feed and Forage Production Systems” project organized a field day in partnership with the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Association (PASA) Farm-Based Education program. Almost 40 people took part in the full day of hands-on activities at the Russell E. Larson Research Center at Rock Springs to learn about how short- and long-term management legacies influence soil, weed, and insect populations.

Ron Hoover demonstrated the 7-row high residue cultivator, which is one of the novel weed control tactics the NESARE project is using rather than relying solely on herbicides.

A mix of Ag Producers, Industry, Agency, Extension, and Educators gathered on June 22, 2011 to learn about the new NESARE Sustainable Dairy Cropping Systems Project at Penn State. The project goal is to sustainably produce all of the food and forage for a 65 cow dairy herd, as well as the fuel for a straight vegetable oil (SVO) tractor.

Carl Schmidt explains how he introduced wheat into his rotation to find a way to grow a red clover cover crop and break up weed cycles.

Carl Schmidt, a member of the Central Susquehanna Valley Organic Crop Growers Network, has been growing a rotation of alfalfa, corn and soybeans on his organic crop farm in Muncy, PA for decades. Now, after seeing small grain crops growing at a fellow network members farm last year, Carl has added winter wheat to his rotation to break up weed cycles, create a spot for a red clover cover crop, and pursue high-value artisan wheat markets. Carl hosted a twilight network meeting on July 7 at his farm to look at the mature wheat crop and discuss his production strategies for corn and soybeans.

Wade Esbenshade explains his strategy for weed management for soybeans.

Twenty organic grain farmers met at Summit Valley Farm in New Holland, PA in July. Part of Penn State Extension's new Organic Crop Producer Study Circle series, the focus was on organic weed management for corn, soybeans, spelt and hay.

Twelve institutions will collaborate in the project, which will study 10 sites in rural and urban areas.

As part of a national initiative to reduce food insecurity, faculty in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences will direct a new $5 million project to study whether greater reliance on regionally produced foods could improve food access and affordability for disadvantaged communities, while also benefiting farmers and others in the food supply chain.

The roller-crimper is a large, heavy cylinder, with metal flanges coming off at an angle.  Photo by Bill Curran.

“To be a successful farmer one must first know the nature of the soil.” It was fitting that Jeff Moyer, Farm Manager for the Rodale Institute, kicked off his workshop on organic no-till practices with this bit of ancient wisdom from Xenophon's Oeconomicus, written cerca 400 B.C. Moyer was speaking to a packed audience at the 2011 “Farming for the Future” conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. If there is one thing organic and no-till advocates have in common, it is a passion for soil health. Of course, deciphering the soil’s mysteries and reconciling them with crop management is no less daunting today than in Xenophon’s time.