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Organic Cropping System Field Day Focuses on Management Legacies

Posted: September 1, 2011

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

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

Participants spent the morning working in small groups to assess a suite of ecosystem properties across sites with different management histories using tools that they could try on their own farm. This activity took advantage of the distinct organic cropping systems at the research site that have been managed using different levels of tillage intensity and crop diversity since 2003. In addition, we compared results from the research sites to neighboring permanent sod and conventional, no-till crop fields. The assessments included measurements of 12 different ecosystem properties, such as plant species diversity, soil aggregate stability, insect diversity, water infiltration rates, and soil cover. Results from the site assessments were then synthesized graphically to show the suite of ecosystem properties at each site. In evaluation results, more than half of the participants indicated that they were likely to conduct similar assessments on their own farms as a result of this activity.

The afternoon was spent digging deeper into some of the science behind the ecosystem properties measured during the morning activity. Participants visited stations that demonstrated the effects of tillage and crop diversity effects on soil quality, microbial activity, insect populations, and the effects of tillage timing on weed populations. In response to looking at weed populations in plots tilled at different time points one participant commented, “The different weed patches blew me away!” Almost all participants indicated that they were likely to change at least one management practice as a result of these hands-on demonstration activities. Many thanks to PASA for their help in organizing a fun-filled, educational day!

For more information about the research project, follow this link.

By Meagan Schipanski, Post-Doctoral Scholar, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences