Research Looks at the Effect of Diverse Soil Life on Vegetable Production

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Healthy soil is the basis for thriving agriculture. In our survey for the 2016 National Organic Research Agenda, we found soil health research was the top priority of farmers in all regions of the U.S. To meet the need for more research in this area, three of the new research projects OFRF funded in 2016 focus on organic soil health.

These two-year projects have just completed their first year of research, and the preliminary results are already proving useful for organic farmers.

When you bite into a sweet orange carrot, do you think of how the diversity of soil life helped it to grow to be so big and delicious? The relationship between the soil and the food we eat is at the heart of an OFRF-funded research project from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Creating Climate Resilient Organic Systems by Enhancing Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Associations. The project looks at how symbiotic microbes in carrot production, specifically arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), increase plants’ access to vital nutrients like nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) as well as water. These fungi can potentially contribute to improved crop yields and soil health.

The research, led by graduate student Michelle Keller-Pearson and professors Erin Silva and Jean-Michel Ané, involves working with six organic vegetable farms in Wisconsin. So far, they have already planted the first season of ‘Napoli’ carrots for this study. As the project continues, the researchers will analyze the field history at each farm, the soil characteristics, and the relationship among these factors and carrots yield and AMF. In 2018, the researchers will use this data to report back to the farmers in their study and provide information about AMF and soil health that will be broadly applicable to organic farmers. Additional information on this project is available in our grants database.

Upon completion of this study next year, OFRF will publish the final report in our grant database. All OFRF-funded research results are available to download at no charge at ofrf.org.

To hear about organic farming from researcher Dr. Erin Silva in the field, click here to view her video on roller crimping in organic soybean production.

To learn more about the role of nutrients and fungi in soil health, please see OFRF’s new guidebook series, Soil Health and Organic Farming.

This blog was submitted by OFRF Research Program Assoicate, Joanna Ory

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