The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded six grants to on-farm projects that are addressing pressing challenges facing organic farmers today. Following an initial collaboration in 2019 between the two foundations, this renewed partnership represents a $66,000 grant from FFAR, with matching funds from OFRF and its partners for a total investment of $119,817 in the 2021-2022 grant cycle.
The projects include determining the potential of organic agriculture to sequester carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, reduce the environmental impacts from fertilizers and pesticides and build resilience to a changing climate. OFRF and FFAR gave priority to farmers, early-career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants.
The ongoing partnership between OFRF and FFAR funds pioneering research that enables organic producers, and others wishing to farm more sustainably, to implement management practices that optimize nutrients and improve soil health while addressing weeds, pests and disease.
“Organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change,” said OFRF’s Executive Director Brise Tencer. “We are pleased to invest in farmer/researcher collaborations that support science-based solutions addressing the most pressing challenges facing organic farmers and ranchers today.”
The following grantees are studying a range of techniques that can improve soil health, mitigate the effects of climate change and support thriving farms:
Colehour Bonder, KanalaniOhana Farm, Hawaii
Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) is a devastating disease that attacks coffee plants, creating concerns for coffee growers, especially organic coffee farmers. A team of organic farmers led by Bonder is developing a systems-level approach to CLR management by increasing microbial biodiversity, using on-farm and island-made inputs and sequestering more carbon through increased soil organic matter.
Alejandra Guzman-Luna, Cafe Ecológico de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas S.C. (CESMACH), Mexico
Organic smallholder coffee farmers in Mexico are experiencing a growing local food security problem due to a reluctance to grow traditional staple crops, including corn and beans, because they are perceived to need chemical inputs to grow successfully. Such chemicals are not allowed in certified organic coffee production. Guzman-Luna is conducting a participatory diagnosis of the challenges of growing staple crops organically; co-designing and establishing four experimental and educational test plots; and disseminating the results to coffee production and value chain stakeholders, scholars and the public.
Jennifer Taylor, Lola’s Organic Farm, Georgia
Traditionally, BIPOC and other underserved farming populations and their communities lack access to opportunities, training and education provided to other farmers. Taylor’s project, Organic for All, is a participatory capacity-building agricultural research and outreach project identifying these underserved farmers’ needs and barriers to developing their own organic farming systems to increase the benefits of organic production for all communities.
Axel Garcia y Garcia, University of Minnesota, Minnesota
Upper Midwestern organic grain growers struggle with integrating cover crops into the corn part of their rotations. Garcia y Garcia is evaluating various management factors including seed selection, timing and type of mechanical operations to optimize this key part of sustainable organic corn production. This information could potentially help growers select species based on their production system and available equipment.
Travis Parker, University of California, Davis, California
Inclusion of pulse crops, annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds, could enhance the ecological and financial sustainability of arid organic farming systems, particularly under climate change conditions. Parker is evaluating high-value market varieties of common beans, cowpeas and tepary beans in arid organic systems and conducting advanced genetic analyses to develop new high-value varieties.
Christiana Huss, University of Georgia, Georgia
The yellow-margined leaf beetle, Microtheca ochroloma, is an invasive pest threatening organic production of high-value leafy brassica greens across the Southeastern United States as winters become milder. Unfortunately, the biology of this beetle is not well known, and thus, there is not a viable tool for protecting brassica crops from this beetle. Huss is identifying a combination of companion plants that repel the destructive beetles and steer them away from the high-value brassica greens in a “push-pull” design for bio-control of the pest.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
Organic Farming Research Foundation
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.