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Video: Caldwell shares organic farming systems results at USDA conference

Brian Caldwell

Brian Caldwell

This spring, Department of Horticulture research support specialist Brian Caldwell (MS ’86) served on a panel addressing “Profitability of Organic Farming—Findings from U.S. Long-term Experiments” at the USDA’s 2011 Organic Farming Systems Conference in Washington, D.C.

Caldwell reported findings from the Cornell Organic Cropping Systems Experiment, which he has managed since 2005. “It’s a complex set of experiments,” says Caldwell, who also analyzed data and constructed crop budgets based on the results. “There are really two separate experiments – grain and vegetables – each with multiple rotations and starting points.”

About 200 attendees, mostly from inside the Beltway, heard Caldwell explain how the experiment has confirmed what other researchers are finding in similar experiments around the country: By carefully planning the switch from conventional to organic farming, farmers can make the three-year transition profitably.

For example, New York cash grain farmers without livestock to provide manure as a nitrogen source should avoid growing corn during their first year. Soybeans (which fix their own nitrogen), are a far better choice. And by growing a small grain like spelt in the second year of the rotation along with a red clover green manure crop, corn can become a very profitable crop in the third year of the rotation.

The experiments are continuing at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm and the Musgrave Research Farm, managed by the Cornell University Agriculture Experiment Station. Watch video of Caldwell’s presentation below. Read more about the grain experiment in the March/April 2011 issue of What’s Cropping Up.

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