OFRF and FFAR Fund Research to Enhance Organic Potato Nutrition



  • Soil Health

WASHINGTON (December 3, 2020) – Weed management, soil health and the nutritional quality of foods grown organically continue to be high priority research topics for organic producers. The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a grant to Dr. Inna Popova at the University of Idaho to examine effective weed management strategies that promote healthy soils and nutritious potatoes.

Mustard seed meal, a byproduct resulting from crushing mustard seeds to provide oil, is an effective tool for controlling more than a dozen problematic weeds that damage crops by consuming necessary nutrients. Utilization of mustard seed meal on-farm has been challenging due to the high quantities needed to be effective as a biopesticide, resulting in excessive nitrogen levels. Too much nitrogen deters the growth and water efficiency of crops.

University of Idaho researchers developed an extract from white mustard seed meal that contains high concentrations of the biopesticide compound, allowing for reduced application rates and avoiding nitrogen overload. Dr. Popova and her team are evaluating the efficacy of mustard seed meal extract (MSME) on inhibiting weed seed germination (pre-emergent) and killing aboveground weed growth (post-emergent) while also determining the influence of MSME application on the soil microbiome in the field. Additional objectives include evaluating the influence of MSME on the nutritional quality of potatoes and assessing the efficacy of MSME to act as a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide against common annual broadleaf and grass weed species under greenhouse conditions.

These objectives will be tested through field experiments on certified organic farms and in greenhouse experiments. Laboratory analyses will be conducted to assess soil properties, microbiological function and nutritional quality. The expected outcomes of the research include increased knowledge of the efficacy of MSME as a bioherbicide; adoption of MSME by organic and non-organic farmers as a weed management strategy; and positive environmental, economic, health and social impacts to farmers and surrounding communities.

Weed management is one of the biggest soil health challenges for organic farmers, especially in annual crops. This research will add to the body of sound, science-based information on weed management strategies that do not undermine efforts to optimize soil health and fertility. Brise Tencer
Executive Director at OFRF
At FFAR, we are committed to funding bold science that has big impact. We are proud to fund this research that has the potential to improve the nutritional quality of potatoes while promoting healthy soil practices. This research supports thriving farms while building sound soil health practices from the ground-up. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director

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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

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