Research and Extension Projects

The overall goal of this integrated project is to create sustainable cropping systems to produce high value organic livestock feed and forages. Balancing weed suppression, beneficial arthropod conservation, environmental quality and profitability is central to this project. We are testing the hypothesis that adverse impacts associated with tillage for weed management can be mitigated by alternating or "rotating" soil depleting activities with soil building activities to result in acceptable crop productivity, weed population dynamics, and biological, environmental and economic indicators at various temporal scales.

Our overall goal is to develop sustainable reduced-tillage organic feed grains production systems for the Mid-Atlantic region. This goal is a response to organic producer interest in combining the soil-conserving and labor-saving capacity of no-till practices with the soil health-building capacity of organic practices.

In 2010 Penn State conducted an organic short-season corn variety trial at two locations in PA. The trial looked at yields among the different sites and compared the varieties in terms of yield, percent moisture at time of harvest, and dry down rate over the season. In 2011 researches will conduct variety trials on both organic corn and soybean varieties.

Farmers have expressed an interest in using cover crop mixtures, or cocktails, but there has been little research and extension focused on helping farmers design successful mixtures. Our goal is to determine the agronomic, environmental, and economic benefits and costs of using cover crop mixtures in an organic corn-soy-wheat crop rotation.

The project focuses on crops that support transition to organic production in segments of agriculture appropriate to Pennsylvania and the northeastern U.S., and illustrates underlying principles broadly relevant to organic production nationwide. This field-based research project was initiated in October 2003, and is funded through September 2008 by USDA IREE Competitive Grants Program - IPM - ORG - 112.E.

Nearly 10,000 acres of grapes are grown along the Pennsylvania shore of Lake Erie. The predominant variety is Concord, which is grown for both juice and wine. In 2005, Penn State faculty and staff began research into organic grape production at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center (LERGREC) in North East PA. The Concord variety was a logical first choice for organic grape production research as it is well adapted to the region, generally requires fewer pesticide inputs compared to other grape varieties, and is marketed and consumed for taste and health benefits by children and adults. In 2006, a mature 0.84 acre vineyard of Concord grapes at the LERGREC began the 3 year transition to certified organic. Our first organic crop was harvested in 2008, and the vineyard is being used to provide research based information to an evolving set of guidelines on organic grape disease management that will assist interested growers.