UW Organic Ag Field Day to highlight organic soil health

UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Organic grain production and impacts on soil health will be a key focus of this year’s UW Organic Agriculture Field Day, set for 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

Demand for organic grain continues to increase, with prices for organic soybeans reaching $40 per bushel. While requiring different approaches to management compared to conventional production, organic grain offers a profitable opportunity for Wisconsin’s farmers managing production acres at both smaller and larger scales while fostering soil health.

Organic grain production and impacts on soil health will be a key focus of this year’s UW Organic Agriculture Field Day, set for 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Tues., Aug. 30, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

Research at the station shows that integrating cover crops into the corn and soybean phases of rotations can help farmers build soil organic matter, while reducing the need for tillage and cultivation in organic systems. With the increasing recognition of the value of soil health, these practices offer alternatives for farmers looking to reduce the need for soil disturbance within their organic grain systems.

“We continue to learn more about how to optimize the use of cover crops to reduce tillage in organic grains, including through roller-crimping and interseeding,” says event organizer Erin Silva, UW–Madison associate professor of plant pathology and extension organic production systems specialist. “We’ve been focusing on accessible approaches to farmers to apply these practices to their farms through optimization of equipment, increasing the consistency of their success.”

Researchers will also give updates on long-term organic management trials; organic no-till corn and soybeans using a variety of cover crop and planting options; and organic sunflower production.

All research projects featured during the field day are being conducted at Arlington station, which has more than 70 acres of certified organic land, or on working organic farms with input from organic producers.

“The organic market continues to grow, with demand outpacing domestic supply, so the need remains for more organic farmers and more organic acres,” says Silva, who notes growth in organic sales accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching over $55 billion in the U.S. in 2020. “Wisconsin, with the second highest number of organic farms in the nation, as well as a wealth of organic knowledge, expertise and infrastructure, is well-positioned to continue to help meet this expanding market opportunity.”

The registration table at the UW Organic Agriculture Field Day will open at 9:45 a.m. on August 30. A lunch will be available around noon. RSVPs are requested through the registration link: https://forms.gle/8ubio8yAXv3C3mYN8.

The address for Arlington Agricultural Research Station is N695 Hopkins Road in Arlington, WI.