FFAR and OFRF Promote Soil Health and Profits for Organic Farmers in the Northern Great Plains

  • Soil Health

SANTA CRUZ and WASHINGTON (May 14, 2019) – There is a lack of university research on organic legume production and organic variety development, according to the USA Dry Pea Council. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) aim to increase research funding for organic legume production. FFAR and OFRF awarded $20,000 to researchers at Montana State University to study the ideal amount of lentil seeds needed to improve soil health and ensure yields when the legume is used as part of crop rotation on organic farms.

Crop rotation is a farming practice that involves rotating the type of crops grown each season. This practice has been proven to preserve nutrients and prevent soil exhaustion. In the Northern Great Plains, where wheat is the primary crop, organic farmers are rotating in lentils. Lentils are one of several pulse crops, legumes harvested for the dry seeds, that are used to generate additional farmer income by providing another crop to sell and add diversity to the wheat-based cropping system. Ultimately, the mighty lentil promotes biodiversity and improves soil health.

However, little is known about the optimum amount of legume seeds that should be planted on each acre to ensure maximum nutrient acquisition, weed management and yield potential. Researchers at Montana State University, led by Dr. Jed Eberly, will close this research gap by exploring the relationship between seeding rates, lentil yields and soil health.

“OFRF funds projects based on scientific merit and encourages proposals from a diverse group of applicants,” explained OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer. “This was an opportunity to partner with FFAR to support a strong project in an underserved region where organic farming can benefit from greater investment.”

Organic lentil yields can vary greatly due to soil types, annual precipitation levels and other factors. The research team will collaborate with organic farmers in three different locations to ensure that the results account for regional differences. Through a series of multi-site replicated trials, researchers will select the optimum varieties to improve lentil yields, nutritional quality and economic returns. It is believed that incorporating lentils into organic cropping systems will also enhance soil health and improve the economics of organic operations in this region.

We know that incorporating lentils into a crop rotation is a good practice, but we need more research on how to optimize crop rotation on organic farms. By discovering the ideal seeding rate for lentils, we can protect the soil for future harvests and improve the bottom lines of farmers at the same time. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus


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.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Organic Farming Research Foundation grant funding has advanced scientific knowledge and improved the practices, ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming. These successes support their goal of researchers and farmers working collaboratively to support the improvement and widespread adoption of organic agriculture. Project results are shared freely at ofrf.org. OFRF also provides free access to all of its educational materials and resources.

Sarah Goldberg, FFAR, 202.204.2605, sgoldberg@foundationfar.org
Brise Tencer, OFRF, 831.426.6606

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