Organic Agriculture

The Neely-Kinyon Long-term Agroecological Research (LTAR) Site, Greenfield, IA. 

What We Do

Soybean rows with corn rows in the background

Mission Statement

To educate producers, consumers and policy makers in the research and extension activities in Organic Agriculture both on-farm and in the Universities. Organic Agriculture involves a production management system based on the ecological principles of nutrient cycling, biotic regulation of pests and biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are replaced by sunlight-based inputs, such as plant and animal residues. Premium prices for certified organic products drive the immediate economic benefits of Organic Agriculture. Long-term benefits to human and environmental health are also derived through these practices. 

People standing by a white tent

Organic production and processing continues to grow across Iowa, particularly in light of concern for climate-smart farming. The ISU Organic Ag Program (OAP) offers Extension, teaching and research activities to address clientele information needs and provide recommendations for best practices that meet certified organic regulations to ensure high food/feed quality with limited environmental impact.

We provide research information and extension presentations for Iowa citizens through Field Days, workshops and an Annual Iowa Organic Conference every November in Iowa City. A 16-week course on "Organic Agriculture" is offered every other year. 

The OAP completed a year-long project with the National Organic Program (NOP) to encourage folks to become organic inspectors, based on the current need for increasing the inspector pool across the U.S. Two videos were made at ISU, examining "Why Become An Inspector," linked here: Inspector Outlook - Jamey Meyer and Inspector Outlook - Levi Lyle. Another national video included segments from the organic fields at the Neely-Kinyon Farm: NOP Video at NK. The link to the final NOP video is here: Become an Organic Inspector if you are interested in becoming an inspector, please contact the IOIA (International Organic Inspectors Association) at

Logo of the United States with the midwest green.

The ISU OAP is a core partner in the new USDA "Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program" which will include technical assistance and mentoring for farmers interested in transitioning to organic production: TOPP Program.


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Long Term Agroecological Research

The Long-Term Agroecological Research (LTAR) experiment at the ISU Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration Farm near Greenfield, Iowa, was set up in 1998, the capstone of the Organic Agriculture Program at Iowa State University. It is one of the longest running comparisons of organic and conventional crops in the country.

The goal of the LTAR is to examine the agronomic, economic and environmental performance of conventional and organic systems, using certified organic production practices, including:

Colored detail of the LTAR plot design and rotation
  • Soil and water quality
  • Energy use
  • Yields and economic returns
  • Weed management

The LTAR is a randomized replicated comparison of the following rotations:

  • Conventional corn-soybean
  • Organic corn-soybean-oats/alfalfa 
  • Organic corn-soybean-oats/alfalfa-alfalfa
  • Organic corn-soybean-corn-oats/alfalfa

Beginning in 2022 the small grain/legume portion of the rotation was changed to hybrid rye/red clover.

Results from 25 years of research

Similar yields: averages from the LTAR experiment show that yields of organic corn, soybean and oats have been equivalent to or greater than conventional counterparts.

Greater economic returns: On average, returns to management (after deducting labor, land and production costs) for organic systems are roughly $200 per acre greater than conventional returns, according to actual LTAR data.

Soil quality improved:

  • Total nitrogen increased by 33 percent in the organic system. 
  • Researchers measured higher concentrations of carbon, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium in the organic soils.
  • Organic soils have lower acidity.
  • The results suggest that organic farming can create greater efficiency in nutrient use and higher carbon sequestration potential.

Results from the LTAR research are published each winter. All OAP research from the last 25 years can be found in Reports. 

Rye blowing in the wind


To follow along with our research and to get updates on upcoming events please join our mailing list!

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Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program(TOPP)

Graphic about organic agriculture


Interested in transitioning your farm to organic and want to learn how this process works from an experienced organic farmer? Are you currently farming organically and want to share your experience with someone wanting to transition? Sign up today for the Transitioning to Organic Partnership Program's farmer mentorship program starting this fall.

Program Information

Mentee Registration  Mentor Registration


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