WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University farm near the West Lafayette campus now has about 10 acres of certified organic land, putting researchers in a stronger position to help develop more effective organic farming practices.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association certified the land in October at Meigs Farm, part of the Throckmorton Purdue Agricultural Center in Tippecanoe County.
Kevin Gibson, a Purdue weed scientist, said the land will help researchers do the type of holistic science needed to help farmers grow their crops organically.
"In order to evaluate management practices like crop rotations, pest management, the use of cover crops or how a particular variety will perform under organic conditions, we need to work within the same set of rules as organic growers," he said. "
"We want to be on the same playing field and have the same organic management conditions so our research will be more applicable to organic growers."
Purdue's effort took about one and a half years, but Gibson said that's quicker than normal. Certification typically requires a three-year period during which a field is transitioned from conventional to organic production.
Gibson said the road to certification went quickly because the land hadn't been used for conventional farming for several years.
He credits the quick process to the staff at Meigs Farm, to strong support from his department and the College of Agriculture and to the team of agricultural economists, entomologists, plant pathologists, soil scientists, microbiologists, and weed scientists who were dedicated to creating a place for organic research.
Organic farming is a growing practice in agriculture. Janna Beckerman, an Extension plant pathologist, said the demand for organically grown food is growing, too.
"In the organic field, there's very little data on what works to manage disease problems. And there are a lot of things on the market that growers try and then don't understand why those products don't work," she said. "This plot allows us to test different practices to improve plant health and disease management."
Beckerman plans to conduct research on plant diseases in the plot and do more research on topics that growers are looking for.
Corinne Alexander, an Extension agricultural economist, is excited that her colleagues will be able to conduct organic research near campus because now she can base her economic research on local results.
"The land opens up a whole range of research that couldn't occur otherwise - imagine what we could do to answer questions about organic research," she said.