Research and ISU Extension Outreach Will Benefit Vegetable Growers

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researcher Kathleen Delate is examining which organic vegetable growing practices are best for the soil, water, yields and even nutrition. Delate, an ISU Extension organic crops specialist, is undertaking perhaps the most comprehensive study of organic vegetable-growing practices by looking at the use of cover crops, manure, tillage and mulch.
"We are measuring a lot of things," said Delate, extension specialist and professor of horticulture and agronomy in organic agriculture. "We are hoping to provide organic producers with science-based information that they can use to make wise decisions affecting the sustainability of their operations. And we think much of this data can be used for conventional crops as well."
Through her research, Delate hopes to discover which practices work best using 36 farm plots that each employs different combinations of variables. The vegetables in the research include tomatoes, broccoli, onions, beans, squash and lettuce.
“As the number of organic vegetable growers continues to increase, there has been startlingly little research done on the sustainability of these organic practices,” Delate said. She will address the current information void by sharing research findings through field days and workshops around Iowa during 2011. In her role as an extension organic crop specialist, she plans to increase producer knowledge of successful vegetable production practices, which will help producers tap into the growing local foods market.
More details about the research are found in the ISU news release, "ISU researcher to get to root of many aspects of sustainable organic vegetable production." Read more about this USDA-NIFA Organic Transitions Program grant-funded project on the USDA Web page.