Transition to Organic Production—Horticultural Crops

Transition to Organic Production—Horticultural Crops

Transition to Organic Production Horticultural Crops Brian Caldwell Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Overviewwho is transitioning? During the period 2001-2004, the number of NYS farms certified by NOFA-NY increased from 187 to 231, a 27% increase

This is a rate of about 8% per year Acreage is increasing at a higher rate This does not include data from other certification agencies Overviewwho is transitioning? Dairy farm numbers increased at a yearly rate of 12% Field crops farms20% Horticultural crops farms, non-dairy livestock, maple syrup2%

NOFA-NY Certified Operations 120 2001 2004 100 Number 80 60

40 20 0 Dairy Horticulture Field crops Other Farms

Processors Changes in NOFA-NY Certified Farms 35 Leaving Certifcation Program Newly Certified 30 25 Number

20 15 10 5 0 Dairy Horticulture

Field crops Other Overviewwho is transitioning? New certified organic dairy, field crops farms have almost always transitioned from conventional New certified organic horticultural farms are usually organic start ups or organic

farms that have previously not been certified Overviewwho is transitioning? The bottom linein New York State, there are few horticultural farms transitioning to organic production The same seems to be true for most of the Northeast and Ohio This has not been the case on the West Coast!

Overviewwho is transitioning? Howevercurrent organic farms are adding land, transitioning individual fields Certified grain farms are adding horticultural crops, especially processing vegetables Overviewwho is transitioning? Market

incentives have not been strong for NE horticultural producers to transition This is changing: Poor conventional concord grape and apple markets Some good niche offers on the wholesale vegetable market We can expect more transition in the future Needs of Transitioning Horticultural Farmers 1.

Logistical 2. Biological 3. Mental/social 4. Financial After Matt Kleinhenz, Ohio St. U. Logistical Needs Record-keeping Equipment Markets Support/information networks

Certificationcheck out potential certifiers Check with extension service or consultants Logistical Needs Suggestiontransition a relatively small part of your acreage first A field that will comply with the 3-year rule most easily Unfortunately, these are often poorer fields Learn and practice on these fields; do not expect top results

Logistical Needs Determine which pest controls you are likely to need and find approved sources Your certifier and other farmers should assist you with the latter Biological NeedsSoil Building Test soil Correct pH

Apply heavy rates of manure or compost as needed to bring nutrient levels into high range ExampleBob Muth, NJ Already an outstanding soil manager Rotates conventional vegetables with 3 years of soil-building Hay crops, heavy applications of municipal leaves, cover crops It was easy for him to choose an isolated field on which to start organic production

Started with a 6 acre field; 2 acres in cash crops Has bought 50 more acres for organic crops ExampleRick Pedersen, NY Hog operation with 1200 acres of conventional crops 7 acre organic field in 2004, 30 acre transitional field Transitional corn was very good in 2004 due to manure application Biological NeedsWeed

Management This can be a major stumbling block Learn from others; get equipment; practice cultivating Learn to improve your rotation Consider summer fallow on problem fields Biological NeedsInsect Pests and Diseases Simple pesticide substitution does not work

well Add cover crops and diversity to your rotation Use row covers Learn about other cultural methods planting dates, resistant varieties, irrigation methods, etc. Biological NeedsInsect Pests and Diseases Pesticideschoose those that are easiest on

beneficials New book available soonResource Guide to Organic Insect and Disease Management Be sure pest control products are approved! Biological NeedsRotation Increase your diversity of annual crops Learn to include cover crops Legumes can supply much of your needed nitrogen

Mental/Social Needs Be prepared to make basic changes in crop mix, rotation, markets Find a mentor or group of like-minded farmers with whom to share information and experiences Each one, teach one Have patience; you will make mistakes Financial Needs Income

will likely decline during the transition period, for whatever amount of land is under transition Horticultural marketable yields will likely decline; some land may be in cover crops Be realistic with how much you can afford You will likely have to invest in new (to you) equipment Tree Fruit Consider transitioning a new-planted block to avoid selling transitional fruit with no premium

Be aware of borer, vole damage Weed control is trickymowing, flaming, tillage, mulching Probably best to start with larger rootstocks lower investment, more reliable Tree Fruit Bearing treesprefer scab-tolerant varieties Be prepared to hand thin Plan to use direct markets or reliable wholesale markets Have good use for low-grade fruit, ie. cider

Weed and pest pressure will increase after first year Tree Fruit Be familiar with organic spray strategy and approved rescue treatments before you start For direct markets, consider a wide range of offerings including processed products, other fruit, pumpkins, fall vegetables, etc. Berries Weed

control is a major issue. Consider annual strawberries, mulching, possibly flame weeding Harvest cost is very high for blueberries and raspberries. Consider U-pick. Keep quality very high and dont be afraid to charge high prices. Use half-pint containers. Post harvest handling is very important. Cool berries right away; control botrytis Berries Frozen berries may be a good product for

over-winter marketing Become familiar with rescue treatments Grapes Buffer area is a big issue in New York Some varieties are sensitive to sulfur fungicide sprays Need more research on best weed management, fertility, cover crops Bicarbonate Products--Powdery Mildew Effi cacy

7 good 6 fair poor Number of Recent Studies 5 4

3 2 1 0 e pl p a

rry e eb u bl rry e ch pe a gr

ce u tt le Crop on el km s u m ch

a pe in pk m pu s rry e b w

a tr strawberry botrytis raspberry botrytis peach pm peach brown rot peach bacterial spot grape pm

grape phomopsis grape downy mildew 6 grape botrytis 7 cranberry fruit rots cherry pm

apple fireblight apple fruit rots number of recent studies Serenade Efficacy 8 good fair

5 poor 4 3 2 1 0

Vegetables Transition a small percentage of your land each year until you become confident Visit other organic veg farmers; examine cultivation equipment and methods closely Be prepared to till under and replant if weeds or pests get out of control Have commonly-used, approved pest control products on hand, such as Bt. Find reliable quick sources for others.

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