Fig. 1.

USDA/ARS Organic Research Farming Systems Trial in Beltsville, MD. Dr. Michel Cavigelli, a soil scientist with the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, manages this farming systems trial, which was initiated in 1993. The trial emphasizes organic production systems and the replicated plots are big enough to use standard-sized farm equipment. The research team compares organic and conventional production systems by evaluating crop performance, soil fertility, soil quality, weed population dynamics, nutrient cycling, soil bioloigical activity, and other measures of agronomic performance among the five cropping systems.


Fig. 2.

Paper mulch being evaluated as an alternative to plastic mulch at Rosie's Organic Farm, Gainesville, FL. Dr. Erin Rosskopf of the Subtropical Plant Pathology Research Unit in Fort Pierce, FL is evaluating biodegradable paper mulches as an alternative to plastic mulches for weed control in organic and conventional systems. Like many ARS scientists, Dr. Rosskopf collaborates with organic growers to test promising technologies on the growers' land. In addition, Dr. Rosskopf and her colleagues are working to certify 10 acres of land for which the USDA/ARS holds a long-term lease.


Fig. 3.

Organic Weed Management Systems Trial, Salinas, CA. Dr. Eric Brennan and colleagues are evaluating cover crop variety and seeding rates on a variety of agronomic, horticultural, and economic aspects in an organic vegetable production system on a portion of the 22 acres certified in Salinas, CA. Dr. Eric Brennan's research program (Cover Cropping Practices to Improve Weed and Fertility Management in Organic Production Systems) is the first and only USDA/ARS project specified to work in organic systems.


Fig. 4.

USDA/ARS Farming Systems Plots, Morris, MN. In 2002, Dr. David Archer and his colleagues established 96 organically managed plots out of the 192 plots in this long-term farming systems trial. This represents 3.8 acres that could be certified organic. The experiment is comparing tillage, rotations, and fertilization in plots managed organically and conventionally. The plots in the foreground are a tofu variety of soybeans (Vital), conventional tillage on the left, strip tillage on the right. This work is being done in conjunction with an NGO, Barnes-Aastad Soil and Water Conservation Research Association.