2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium Recap

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The Organic Agriculture Research Symposium, presented by OFRF and University of California, Kearney Agricultural Research and Extensnion (KARE) Center, brought together researchers, students, farmers and others from across the US for an informative and interactive day in Pacific Grove, California on January 20th. A pre-conference to the annual Eco-Farm Conference, the symposium featured sessions ranging from soil health and biodiversity to farming and livestock systems, including current and ongoing organic agriculture research findings.

Several themes emerged throughout the day including the need for more a holistic approach to advancing organic agriculture, better dissemination and sharing of research; and, of course, greater investment in research in critical areas such as soil, water, pest and weed management.

The symposium began with a plenary session featuring Andre Leu, IFOAM/Organics International President (shown in the photo with OFRF Executive Director, Brise Tencer) and Mathieu Ngouajio, USDA/NIFA National Program Leader in Cropping Systems.

Leu encouraged anyone interested in organic farming to join the organization’s Technology Innovation Platform (TIPI), which has established a vision and agenda to advance organic agriculture through research, development, innovation and technology transfer. Sharing highlights from the Paris Climate Change Conference held in November 2015, Leu emphasized the need for farmers and scientists to work together on solutions to overcome the challenges that organic farming systems face.

Ngouajio spoke about the diverse technical and scientific challenges organic farmers and conventional farmers interested in transitioning to organic are dealing with. Since 2001, NIFA has provided funding for many projects in organic agriculture research through two programs: Organic Transitions (ORG) and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). The FY2016 deadlines for research applications are March 10, 2016 for OREI and April 15, 2016 for ORG.

OFRF’s Research Program Director, Diana Jerkins was among the presenters in an afternoon session titled, Long-term and Strategic Research. Jerkins reviewed OFRF’s assessment of future organic research needs, providing highlights of OFRF’s recent evaluations of USDA organic research grants, OFRF research grants, and OFRF’s National Survey of Organic Farmers (NORA). OFRF is currently reviewing proposals submitted for its 2016 grant program. OFRF will make funding decisions in March, 2016 and applicants will be notified of these decisions by mid-spring, 2016.

Recordings of many of the symposium sessions will be available through the eOrganic web site and on their YouTube channel over the next month.

Thank you to USDA-NIFA for the Organic Research and Extension Initiatve (OREI) grant that made this event possible. Thanks also to our sponsors: Gaia Fund, The Organic Center and Rodale Institute for their generous support.

View the OARS program here.