Successful organic farming isn’t just about producing and marketing a healthy crop. It’s also about building healthier soil. Soil health gets a lot of attention in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s organic agriculture research program, and it will be a key focus at this year’s Organic Agriculture Field Day on Monday, August 25 from 1–4 p.m. at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station.
“The national organic standards require farmers to incorporate production practices that lead to improving soils,” says Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of plant pathology. “So one our research goals is to understand how various production practices affect different soil parameters especially as it relates to soil health.
The impact of production practices on soil health is a component of a number of UW organic ag studies, Silva says.
“For example, we have been looking at the impact of various rotations and cover crop practices on organic matter and soil microbial activity. We’ve also been interviewing organic dairy farmers about their overall crop and livestock management practices and then taking soil samples on those farms and looking at the soil microbial activity, organic matter and the nutrient status of the soil,” she says.
Tours at the field day will feature research trials focused on organic no-till soybeans, a discussion of organic production performance in the long-term Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial, cover crop options following small grains, and breeding sweet corn for organic systems.
All of the research projects featured are being conducted at Arlington (more than 70 acres on the station are certified for organic production) or on working organic farms with input from organic producers.
“Organic farmers have played key roles in determining our research priorities and questions, as well as assisting with the interpretation of the results in an organic context,” Silva says.
The Arlington Research Station, N695 Hopkins Road, is just off Hwy. 51 about five miles south of Arlington and 15 miles north of Madison. A map is available at http://ars.wisc.edu/arlington/directions.html. Registration will open at 12:30 pm. Lunch will not be served, but light refreshments will be available.