See more from this Session: Symposium--Organic Grain Production: Current Status and Future Opportunities/Division A12 Business Meeting
The major issues that have arisen include weed management, fertility and how to lengthen rotations. Weed management is of acute concern to many farmers with dramatic increases in weed pressure reported after conversion to organic. An integrated program for weed control that incorporates cover crops, cultural practices, seed bank management, and crop rotations is needed to maintain weeds at manageable levels. Even with the best current practices, yields on organic farms can lag conventional yields. The USDA national averages for conventional/GMO vs. organic yield per acre for soybean was 41.5 bushels to 26.3 bushels and for corn was 155 bushels to 110 bushels. Organic yield reduction in the Southeast was 24% in Maryland corn, 19% in Maryland soybean, and 17% in North Carolina soybean, most often due to inadequate weed control and/or fertility. Fertility regimes in the region are mostly combinations of manure inputs from off-farm sources and legume cover cropping. The ability to produce ample legume crops and heavy concentration of animal production in the region offer the opportunity of lower fertility costs than most regions of the U.S. Future research is needed on additional crops and longer rotations to manage pests and diversify marketing options.