Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | February 7, 2008

Lacombe scientist speaks on going organic

Organic farming is a viable alternative for some, but isn’t an option for everyone.

“If everyone was into organic farming there wouldn’t be a market for it,” said Dr. Neil Harker, research scientist at Lacombe Research Centre.

“I don’t think it is for most, just because we are not ready. It doesn’t produce enough food. It has lots of agronomic risks.

But on the flip side, Harker says it can be profitable.
“For those who are willing to get into less economic risk, you have assured prices,” said Harker who will be giving a presentation on organic farming at the Going Organic Conference in Camrose March 4 to 5.

The Lacombe Research Centre has been doing research on how to reduce reliance on herbicides by growing more competitive crops, which compete better with weeds.

“It is the species and the way you handle them,” said Harker. “Barley is more competitive than peas.”
In addition, producers can make their crops more competitive with a few techniques.

“Grow them in a better rotation, increase their seeding rates, and plant more seeds than normally recommended.”

The conference will also include sessions on marketing, environmental sustainability, composting, horticulture and herd health.

Recent research at Iowa State University revealed that longer rotations and careful management practices of organic crop systems create greater yields, improved soil quality and increased profitability.

Comparable results were reached at the University of Manitoba (U of M). After a 12-year study of crop rotations, the organic rotation–as opposed to conventional agricultural methods–was more profitable.

Researchers used four different rotations with each running under organic conditions and conventional conditions, as well as in systems where either only herbicides, or only chemicals were used.

“Even without including any premium for the organic grain, it has been the most economically profitable rotation,” said Dr. Entz, from U of M in a prepared statement.

The reasons for this are lower input costs, including fertilizer, chemical, and fuel.



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