Organic Science Friday

Rachel Goodman's picture

New Study Shows Organic Crops Contain More Anti-oxidants/Fewer Pesticides

Consumers choose organic foods for many reasons- for example, because the food is produced in a way that is better for the environment. Now, a new comprehensive review of previous studies shows mounting evidence organic crops may also contain more anti-oxidants and fewer pesticide residues.  In a new study published today in the British Journal of Nutrition researchers at Newcastle University in England have found that organic crops overall contain 17% more key anti-oxidants than non-organically grown crops, while some classes of anti-oxidants known as flavinones, were found at a rate 69% higher. Anti-oxidants are components in fighting cancer and are thought to play a key role in preventing heart disease and neurodegenerative disease

Karen Adler's picture

Compost Could Save (Plant) Lives

Each year organic farmers lose time and money when crops are destroyed by diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens that live on the surfaces of seeds. Many of the fumigants and chemically treated seeds that are used in conventional agriculture to control these pathogens can be harmful to our health and the health of the environment. Organic farmers have fewer and often less effective options. Enter the humble but mighty soil amendment, compost, which harbors billions of secret (microbial) weapons against plant disease. New research funded by OFRF is exploring a promising application to harness these weapons to produce a new tool for disease prevention for organic farmers.

Karen Adler's picture

Putting the “Sweet” in Organic Sweet Corn!

      What could be better than that burst of sugary goodness as you crunch into the first ear of summer corn? One reason we look forward to this is that corn has actually gotten sweeter over the years thanks to the hard work of plant breeders. There is a downside, however. These newer varieties, featuring the flavor we have come to expect, were not developed for conditions on organic farms, as they are reliant on fungicides and pesticides, and utilize soluble synthetic fertilizers in large quantities.

     In addition, very little sweet corn grown commercially today is open pollinated (op). This means that organic farmers who wish to save their own seed have few, if any, good choices of varieties to grow.                   

Karen Adler's picture

Balancing Conservation and Food Safety on Organic Farms


The practices of conserving and fostering biodiversity and natural resources are at the heart of organic farming, and are part of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). At the same time, ensuring that the food we eat is safe is an obvious priority for farmers and consumers alike. Conflicts that have emerged between these important goals make it critical for organic farmers to understand how they can be co-managed. OFRF is gratified to fund resources that help farmers find this balance.

Karen Adler's picture

Home on the Organic Range

Does that title conjure up images of healthy cows grazing peacefully on green rolling hills and ranchers watching baby calves frolic in the grass for the first time? Beyond the idyllic scenes, it takes a lot of hard work and know-how to run a successful organic livestock operation, especially with ever-increasing challenges from drought, climate change, and regulations.


Karen Adler's picture

Sowing the Seeds of Organic Integrity

At the recent EcoFarm Conference in California, I attended a session called “Keeping GMOs out of Organic Food and Farms.” The panel included representatives from an organic food company, an environmental advocacy group, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and an organic dairy. At a time when the clamor for organic food is greater than ever, these activists, along with thousands of people involved in organic food and farming all over the world, are concerned about the growing threat of GMO (genetically modified organism) contamination.

One thing is clear: we are at a crucial tipping point regarding the future of organic juxtaposed against the genetic engineering of our food supply. And on the frontline are seeds—the very basis of life. As Vandana Shiva says, “Seed is created to renew, to multiply, to be shared, and to spread. Seed is life itself.”

Karen Adler's picture

Feeding the Future with Ancient Grains

By Karen Adler

You may have noticed grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and spelt skyrocketing into high demand in recent years in the U.S. You may have even wondered who is meeting that demand. As it turns out, little is known about growing these and other delicious, nutritious, and potentially lucrative crops outside of their native regions, where they have been grown for thousands of years. With funding from OFRF, Kevin Murphy at Washington State University and his team of farmer and university collaborators set out to change that by identifying varieties of quinoa, buckwheat and spelt optimally adapted to organic farming systems in Washington State. From the onset, this project was requested and initiated by organic farmers and continues to rely on farmer participation.

Klaas Martens's picture

Some of the Most Vital Research Needs Time and Money to Bear Fruit

By Klaas Martens, OFRF Board Member

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
- Naturalist, John Muir

Imagine what more than a century of studying soil in one place might tell us?

The Morrow plots were established in 1876 and are the second oldest long-term systems trials (LTST) in the world.  Data from the Morrow plots has shown that: "soil quality is a vital component of agricultural productivity." The oldest continuously operating system trial is at Rothamsted Manor in England.  It started in 1843 just as synthetic fertilizer manufacturing was beginning to study its effect on soil and wheat production.

Karen Adler's picture

The Climate, it is a-Changin’

Agriculture and, in particular, organic agriculture can be part of the solution to mitigate greenhouse gases through farming practices that build soil fertility, avoid use of synthetic fertilizer and improve carbon sequestration

-- Organic Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation: A Report of the Round Table of Organic Agriculture and Climate Change

Karen Adler's picture

Reducing Dead Zone through Organic Practices

The concept of Organic Agriculture moves center stage in the global sustainability debate.
--One Earth, One Future: 2012 Consolidated Annual Report of the IFOAM (Integrated Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) Action Group.

map of the dead zoneDid you hear that the area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the dead zone is soon expected to reach the size of New Jersey?  Due to heavy spring flooding in the Midwest, with a lot more nitrogen-based fertilizer ending up in the Gulf, this year’s dead zone could be the biggest on record. And there are, unfortunately, many other areas in the U.S. and around the world with dead zones created by unsustainable practices.  Dead zone is a term commonly used to describe the results of hypoxia. This dramatic impact of chemical-based agriculture on biodiversity and the environment occurs when agricultural nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, leach into waterways and wash downstream, accumulating in the waters of an estuary or bay. The decomposition process depletes the oxygen. Marine life flees or dies when oxygen levels get too low for their survival. Bird and animal populations that feed on marine life also shrink as their food sources disappear.


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