What is in this article?:
- Organic vegetable production covered in comprehensive study
- Manure, tilling, plastic mulch
- Iowa State University researcher Kathleen Delate is examining which organic vegetable growing practices are best for the soil, water, yields and even nutrition.
- The professor of horticulture and agronomy is undertaking perhaps the most comprehensive study of organic vegetable-growing practices by looking at the use of cover crops, manure, tillage and mulch.
Manure, tilling, plastic mulch
The second parameter is the use of composted manure. Organic farming requires that farmers compost manure and apply it at least four months prior to harvesting.
Delate's team will see if these practices have an effect on soil quality and nutrient runoff.
The third input being measured by the Delate study is till versus no-till farming.
Delate says that using no-till practices may be challenging. The crushed cover crop may present problems as vegetables are planted through it.
The final parameter is using plastic mulch in the crop production. Using plastic mulch involves growing crops through slits in thin, plastic sheets. Plastic mulch provides benefits such as soil moisture retention and weed suppression, and allows for earlier planting dates.
During the research, soils will be tested regularly using lysimeters from the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service National Laboratory for the Agricultural and the Environment to see if nutrients are leaching through the soil.
One other aspect of the study involves food properties of the organic produce.
"On top of everything else we're studying," Delate said, "our colleagues in Florida are going to run a nutritional analysis, including vitamins and minerals, of the crops in this study."
The research is conducted in partnership with the University of Florida, Gainesville, and funded by the Department of Agriculture through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.