ISU experiment shows organic farming is profitable
Delate said they use “a whole suite of practices to manage weeds” in the organic plots, including timely tillage and longer crop rotations. Allelopathic chemicals from rye and alfalfa help keep weed populations under control, as does growing an alfalfa cover crop in winter, which provided cover for beneficial insects and animals.
“I think there’s a strong future for organic agriculture,” Delate said. “My phone is ringing off the hook. The interest hasn’t waned.”
When Delate became Iowa State’s first specialist in organic agriculture in 1997, the Leopold Center provided start-up funds to develop a program and set up LTAR research plots. The Center has provided annual operating funds for LTAR and, in 2010, the work was moved to a competitive grant in the Leopold Center’s Cross-Cutting Initiative.
LTAR’s findings concur with recently published results from the Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial in Pennsylvania. The Rodale Institute also concluded that organic systems can provide similar yields and greater profits. In addition, they calculated that organic crops required 45 percent less energy, and contributed significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn proved especially profitable during drought years, when its yields jumped up to 31 percent higher than conventional.
Download a brochure about the LTAR project at www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs-and-papers/2011-11-ltar-experiment. Read the Rodale Institute report at http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years.