Reduced-Tillage Organic System Experiments (ROSE)

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.

We recently completed the USDA-funded, systems-based integrated research-extension project “Improving Weed and Insect Management in Organic Reduced-Tillage Systems” at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center (RELARC) in Rock Springs PA, the USDA’s Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Center in Beltsville, MD, the University of Delaware Research and Education Center and four Mid-Atlantic organic farms. The objective of this project, completed in 2014, was to develop IPM strategies for managing weeds and insect pests in a reduced-tillage system that utilized the roller-crimper to terminate cover crops prior to no-till planting cash crops into rolled cover crop mulches. We developed cultural and mechanical strategies that effectively controlled weeds below economic thresholds and promoted conservation biological control of early-season invertebrate pests. However, this reduced-tillage system involves significant agronomic challenges that contributed to variable crop yields

In 2014, we initiated a second USDA-funded systems-based integrated research-extension project, “A Reduced-Tillage Toolbox: Alternative Approaches for Integrating Cover Crops and Reduced Tillage in an Organic Feed and Forage System”. Research projects are being established at PSU-RELARC and three organic farms in PA to refine our current rotational no-till system and develop alternative reduced-tillage strategies in organic grain production systems. This project will address constraints to adoption by integrating our existing approach, no-till planting into rolled cover crop mulch, with additional alternative reduced tillage strategies: 1) relay planting of cover crops into standing row crops using inter-seeder technology, 2) no-till drill-seeding of cover crops into a cereal grain in late winter, and 3) manure injection using subsurface banding technology, enabling no-till cash crop management. Project activities will include research-station and on-farm research and extension.

Our overall goal was to develop sustainable reduced-tillage organic feed grain production systems that integrate pest (weed and insect) and soil management practices to overcome production constraints associated with high residue, reduced-tillage environments. We focused on the interactions between weed-, insect- and soil-management methods for organic production of small grains, corn and soybeans. Studies includes a soil quality component. The project activities included research-station and on-farm research and extension.