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Organic Research at The University of Missouri Bradford Research Center

The University of Missouri is working to meet the needs of organic crop producers in our state. To do this, we initiated several organic grain crop research projects in 2012. These projects include:

  • Building soil health and controlling weeds during the three year transition from conventional to organic production.
  • Determining if no-till organic methods are feasible in Missouri conditions.
  • Researching effects of cover crops in organic systems
  • Organic Research Photo 1
  • Determining the environmental effects of tillage and cover crops (greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Determining how to best destroy a cover crop and when to plant a subsequent cash crop in organic production
  • Looking at weed control under different summer cover crops

Organic Grain Crop Research

Organic grain crop research at MU includes corn, soybean, grain sorghum and soft red winter wheat. This research is funded by the Ceres Trust and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In 2012, Missouri, like most of the US, received record low amounts of rainfall. Organic Research Photo 2 Current grain crop research looks at the use of no-till and cover crops in an organic management system and the emission of greenhouse gases from tillage and residue breakdown. Organic row crop systems typically use lots of tillage for weed control. When soil is tilled, carbon that is in the soil is oxidized and released as carbon dioxide, which has been implicated in global warming. Agricultural residues break down and create nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas that causes ozone depletion. Agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Organic Vegetable Research

Organic Research Photo 3

In 2013, we will also be starting organic vegetable research. This project will examine how different mulches affect soil quality and yield and whether vegetables that are direct sown or transplanted into a cover crop mulch will get adequate weed control from the cover crop without decreased yield or seedling vigor. Research is funded by the Ceres Trust.

The Bradford Research Center currently grows nearly 20 acres of tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, melons, squash, peppers, and cucumbers. Produce is sold to UMC Campus Dining for use as student meals in the dormitory dining halls. Food wastes are picked up daily at the dining halls and turned into compost at Bradford, which is then used to fertilize the vegetable plots. Used frying oil from Campus Dining is used to make biodiesel at Bradford, which powers the trucks that pick up the food wastes and powers tractors and mowers used at the research center. Compost is also sold to area growers.

Organic Research Photo 4

Vegetable production is done in conjunction with Tigers for Community Agriculture, a student organization that works to expand awareness and education about the importance of production of sustainable food and how each person can positively impact agriculture. We also grow produce that is picked by community volunteers and donated to the Central Missouri Food Bank. In 2013, we will grow sweet corn, white and sweet potatoes for the Food Bank.