April /May 2019


the Organic Certification Process

with USDA's National Organic Program.

Organic Soil Disinfestation Methods

Soil Solarization and Biosolarization

Testing the Accuracy of

Soil Tests for Organic Growers

Degree-day Models for Vegetable Growers:



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Organic Farmer April/May 2019

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Your Edge – And Ours – Is Knowledge.










Navigating the Organic

Certification Process with

USDA's National Organic


Organic Soil Disinfestation

Methods-Soil Solarization

and Biosolarization

Testing the Accuracy of

Soil Tests for Organic


Degree-Day Models

for Vegetable Growers:


Benefits of Organic Food




PUBLISHER: Jason Scott


EDITOR: Kathy Coatney




Phone: 559.352.4456

Fax: 559.472.3113




Nick Andrews

Oregon State

University Extension

Ann Baier


Agriculture Specialist,

National Center

for Appropriate


Len Coop

Oregon State

University Dept.

Horticulture and

Integrated Plant

Protection Center

Steve Elliot

Western SARE and

Western Integrated

Pest Management


Timothy Jacobs

Graduate Student



Kevin Day

County Director and

UCCE Pomology Farm

Advisor, Tulare/Kings


Steven Koike

Director, TriCal


Neal Kinsey

President of Kinsey

Agricultural Services

Heidi Noordijk

Oregon State

University Extension

Heather Stoven

Oregon State

University Extension

Ashraf Tubeileh

Assistant Professor,

Horticulture and Crop

Science Deparment,

California Polytechnic

State University, San

Luis Obispo, CA, USA

Emily J. Symmes

UCCE IPM Advisor,

Sacramento Valley

Kris Tollerup

UCCE Integrated Pest

Management Advisor,

Parlier, CA


The articles, research, industry updates,

company profiles, and advertisements in this

publication are the professional opinions of

writers and advertisers. Organic Farmer does

not assume any responsibility for the opinions

given in the publication.

April/May 2019


By ANN BAIER | Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, National Center for Appropriate Technology

Farmers and ranchers make decisions

every day about production and processing,

marketing approaches and

certification programs in the context of

real-life people, places and circumstances.

Your farm or ranch

business depends

on agricultural










quality of

life for your family

and community.

Organic certification to the United States

Department of Agriculture (USDA)

organic regulations is a practical option

that provides a firm foundation on

which to build healthier production

systems and thriving commerce.

Agricultural systems are diverse with

respect to crop and livestock production

systems, handling or processing options,

marketing strategies, import-export

policies and other applicable regulations.

Organic cropping systems include diverse

combinations of annual vegetables,

small fruits and berries, perennial fruit

and nut crops, mushrooms and sprouts,

herbs and flowers, fiber crops, grains and

legumes, feed and forage, pasture and

range. Livestock operations produce a

range of food and fiber, eggs and meat,

milk and honey from many different

species and breeds of insects, poultry,

swine, and ruminants. Whether your

organic crop and livestock enterprises

are stand-alone production enterprises,

or diversified and integrated businesses

with processing, storage or distribution,

the elements of your agricultural

business are all addressed by the USDA

organic regulations.

This article is intended to help you

find and read the organic regulations,

consider factors your decisions about

becoming certified organic, and become

familiar with te the certification process.

These considerations and the references

and resources provided will help you

determine whether organic certification

is a good choice for your operation, and

if this is the appropriate time to begin.

What are the Requirements?

“205.2 Organic production. A

production system that is managed in

accordance with the Act and regulations

in this part to respond to site-specific

conditions by integrating cultural,

biological, and mechanical practices

that foster cycling of resources, promote

ecological balance, and conserve


USDA organic regulations describe the

practices and recordkeeping necessary

to represent a farm, ranch or handling/

processing facility and its products as

certified organic. These regulations,

found in the Code of Federal

Regulations (CFR), Chapter 7, Part 205,

detail the production standards for crop

and/or livestock production, as well as

handling (processing) of agricultural

products. They also specify procedures

for establishment, accreditation, and

operation of certification agencies.

To make it easier to find and read the

sections of the regulations that apply

directly to producers and handlers (and

navigate around the administrative,

certifier accreditation and procedural

requirements) the National Center for

Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT’s)

ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture

program has compiled a set of

excerpts of the key regulations relevant

specifically to crop production,

livestock production and handling

(processing) activities. Requirements

that are common to all types of certified

organic operations include development

of a written organic production and

handling system plan (Organic System

Plan, or OSP), and recordkeeping

requirements. Each of these

publications contains verbatim excerpts

of the regulations for certification of

crops, livestock, or handling. Although

summary paraphrases (including this

article) may offer a useful introduction

and overview, and guidance documents

provide interpretation and explanation

of the regulations, there is no substitute

for referring directly to the regulatory

text. See References for links.

Feasibility of Compliance with

USDA Regulations

Does your farm or ranch have the

capacity to comply with the applicable

USDA organic regulations? Can you

Continued on Page 6


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

April/May 2019


Continued from Page 4

show land use history of three years

without prohibited materials? Do you

practice crop rotation to conserve soil,

build organic matter, manage pests and

nutrients, break pest cycles and enhance

biological diversity? Are you committed

to searching for and using commercially

available organic seed and planting

stock? Does your pest management

rely on preventive practices, biological,

mechanical and physical controls, using

allowed materials, with appropriate

restrictions, and only when all other

efforts are insufficient to prevent or

control pests?

Do you raise livestock as organic

according to regulations? Do they

receive 100 percent organic feed

and allowed supplements? Does

your animal health care focus on

practices preventative, using only

allowed vaccinations, biologics

and medicines? Do livestock living

conditions include adequate pasture for

ruminants? See: Pasture for Organic

Ruminant Livestock: Understanding

and Implementing the National

Organic Program (NOP) Pasture


Do living

conditions include outdoor access for

all animals (any confinement duly

justified), with fresh air, clean water,

direct sunlight, shade, shelter, bedding,

opportunities to exercise, move freely,

minimize stress and allow for natural

behaviors, as appropriate to the species?

Does your recordkeeping system

include a clear audit trail to track

production from seed and source

through production practices, harvest,

storage, transport, processing and

sale? Can you assure prevention of

commingling of organic production

with any non-organic products? Do

you take appropriate measures, during

production and after harvest, to prevent

contamination by prohibited materials,

heavy metals, nutrients and pathogens?

Can you describe ways you maintain or

improve the natural resources of your


Are there any significant barriers to

organic compliance for your operation?

Do your production systems face any

significant challenges, such as pests or

FREE online tutorials

on soil health, produce safety, and more

How can ATTRA help you?

Trusted technical assistance for your ag challenges

diseases, that could

not be addressed

with compliant


practices and

materials allowed

for use in organic

production? For

example, USDA

organic regulations

prohibit use of antibiotics

on organic livestock, yet

require a livestock producer

to treat sick animals humanely,

even if it means using a prohibited

medication. Under these circumstances,

the individual treated animal would

lose its organic status, but as long as

there is an adequate system in place

to identify and segregate that animal

from the organic herd, the rest of the

operation can remain certified organic.

Your organic system plan lists all the

materials planned for use, including any

prohibited materials that may be needed

in order to restore an animal to health,

along with a description of procedures

to be followed if an animal were to be


What about the Paperwork?

While organic certification requires

recordkeeping and audit trail

documentation, recordkeeping is

simply a good business practice. A

majority of records required for organic

certification benefit any agricultural

business, regardless of certification

status. A good recordkeeping system

can facilitate completion of tax returns,

enterprise cash flow budgeting, loan

applications, as well as compliance with

other federal regulatory requirements

related to environmental health and

food safety. For example, the Food

and Drug Administration Food Safety

Modernization Act (FSMA) requires

traceability for fresh produce. USDA’s

Food Safety and Inspection Service

requires inspection, grading and

labeling of livestock products. You

can increase efficiency in your overall

business management by developing

your recordkeeping systems that serve

multiple purposes.

Producers and processors alike recount

how the records they kept for organic

certification enabled them to track

practices, ingredients or products; to

identify patterns, follow correlations,

and the clarify causes. Records can help


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

you more readily remedy

problems, or replicate

and expanded upon

successes. A discussion

of the multiple benefits

of recordkeeping is

found in several articles


newsletter issue focused

on that topic: http://


Practical Help with


and records track

on-farm activities.

Many commercial

recordkeeping programs

are available as well.

Several types of

recordkeeping strategies

were reviewed in an

Organic Recordkeeping

Webinar Series for Crop

Producers presented by

the California Certified

Organic Farmers

(CCOF) Foundation,

by Ann Baier on

August 20, 2018 and

Thea Rittenhouse on

September 2018 https://


Organic regulations require that

certified operations develop and

maintain a recordkeeping system

that is adapted to the business, fully

discloses all activities and transactions,

and demonstrates compliance with

the regulations in sufficient detail Will it Pencil Out?

as to be readily understood and Accessibility and Affordability

audited. They must be available of Organic Production

for inspection, and kept for 5 years

after their creation. Records may How do the economics of organic

be in written, visual, or electronic production work for my crops and/

form. There is no specific format for or livestock? The Organic Market

recordkeeping that is required. A Overview by USDA’s Economic

number of sources, including organic Research Service, and the Organic

certifiers, NCAT/ATTRA, and the Trade Association show sales

NOP make organic recordkeeping of organic food, fiber and other

forms or templates available to use products growing steadily every year

or adapt. Documentation Forms for since 2005, with price premiums

Organic Crop and Livestock Producers. remaining high, and organic

The introduction describes three consumers increasingly mainstream.

main components of documenting The outlook on demand and price

compliance with regulations: the OSP for organic products appears to be

describes the plan, documents show

transactions between businesses, Continued on Page 8

Checklist to Prepare for Organic Inspection

Review your Organic System Plan (OSP); update

as needed so that it is accurate and current, with

respect to all your practices and procedures:

production areas, products and activities, whether

crops, livestock and/or handling; a list of

materials used or planned for use, commingling

and contamination prevention; monitoring and

recordkeeping systems descriptions; labeling.

Gather your recordkeeping, available in a

form that can be readily audited and

understood. It may be helpful to consider

three main categories: Inputs that enter the

farm; management activities that happen on

the farm; Production outputs. Examples

below are for crop producers.

What comes onto the Farm; Input


Seed and planting stock, seedlings &

transplants, greenhouse supplies

Soil amendments: organic fertilizers,

lime, gypsum, compost and manure

Pest management materials

Materials used for cleaning tools,

sanitation or Post-harvest handling

What Happens on the Farm—Farm

Management Practices.

Cultural practices: soil preparation,


Seeding and planting records

Crop rotation (sequence and location)

Pest monitoring and management

Natural resource maintenance or


Prevention of commingling &


What goes out of the Farm—Production

Harvest records

Sales transactions

Rosemary at Flores Organic Farms. Photo Courtesy of Ann Baier.


Continued from Page 7

robust, such that the

higher organic input

and management costs

may be offset by price

premiums for certified

organic products.

See: Understanding

Organic Pricing and

Costs of Production



The transition period can be a hurdle

if your operation has previously relied

on materials prohibited in organic

production. USDA regulations specify

a transition of three years between the

last use of prohibited materials and the

sale of a certified organic crop. During

transition, the learning curve can be

steep; organic management and input

costs higher while sales prices remain

lower (transitional crops rarely garner

a premium over conventional prices).

While market benefits kick in after

three years, realization of the biological

benefits of organic management is

a more gradual, ongoing process of

continual improvement. USDA’s Natural

Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

has developed practice standards

to support transition to organic. In

addition, to ease the financial burden,

many states have cost share programs

that reimburse a portion of organic

certification fees.

As a reflection of a growing organic

market, suppliers of inputs allowed

for use in organic production have

expanded their offerings over the last

couple of decades, resulting in a long

list of materials that have been reviewed

for compliance to USDA regulations (by

the Organic Materials Review Institute,

Washington State Department of

Agriculture, Environmental Protection

Agency, California Department of

Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and

many USDA-accredited certifiers).

Input choices may be more available in

some regions, and with certain types

of crop or livestock inputs. Areas with

higher concentrations of organic farms

have increasingly well-developed and

knowledgeable input-supply businesses.

Nonetheless, certified producers and

processors always need to take primary

responsibility to ensure the compliance

of their inputs by listing them

in their Organic System

Plan, and approved

by their certifier for

their intended use.

This process is

described further in

ATTRA Sustainable

Agriculture program’s

publication, Organic

Materials Compliance.

To discern viability of

organic certification for

your operation, you will need

to research both supply and affordability

of inputs. Sharpen your pencil or pull

up a spread sheet, and consult some

enterprise budgets or cost studies and

current price reports. Run several costbenefit

analyses for your farm based on

different marketing scenarios, product

pricing, and additional estimated

expenses related to record maintenance

and fees for each certification program.

Consider seed and planting stock,

fertility and pest management materials,

and livestock feed. Because feed is a

both a daily need (organic livestock

must consume all organic feed) and

major expense for livestock producers,

it is critical to assess whether there is

a reliable and cost-effective supply of

organic feed that provides sufficient

feed quantities for your animal’s entire

life cycle, either through your own

production or supplemental feed

available for purchased locally? Does

your current customer base provide a

reliable price premium for your organic

products that is sufficient to offset the

increased costs of organic production?

How can you achieve an appropriate

balance of pricing with volume of sales

to allow for economic viability of your


How does the Certification

Process Work?

To help producers become familiar with

the process of organic certification, the

National Organic Program’s “Sound and

Sensible” initiative provides resources

to match different milestones along the

certification journey.

Reading the regulations; Each of

series of Tip Sheets on Organic

Standards explains the regulations

with contextual questions related

to different crop and livestock

production systems;

Deciding to embark upon this

process, and for what scope(s)—crop

production, wild crops, livestock

production and/or handling;

Choosing a USDA-accredited certifier;

Developing an Organic System Plan

and submitting it to your chosen

certifier along with your application

and fees;

Preparing for an organic inspection,

maintaining recordkeeping and

renewing annually.

To help you become familiar with the

inspection process and prepare for

your own inspection, the International

Organic Inspectors Association videos

entitled “What to Expect when You’re

Inspected” show mock inspections

of two real-life certified organic

producers—a vegetable farmer, and

a livestock producer. These are found



What about Market

Access Opportunities and

Complimentary Certifications?

Are there other certification programs

for product differentiation that are

either required in addition to organic

certification, or that you might pursue

as an alternative to the organic label?

The answer to this question has many

possible answers, as it depends on

many factors related to marketing.

Will organic certification facilitate

access to markets that would benefit

your business? What are the relative

advantages of different certification

programs and marketing approaches?

Are they complimentary? Will you

sell live animals, meat or valueadded

products? Will your markets

include particular wholesalers,

international markets, or retail stores

that require other certifications, such as

governmental food safety or industry

(e.g. leafy greens) standards for food

safety of crops? Do your buyers require

specific animal welfare certification

programs for livestock? Factor in

whether a certification agency can

help streamline the recordkeeping and

inspection processes for certification to

more than one set of standards?

Continued on Page 10


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

April/May 2019


Continued from Page 8

Choose a USDA-Accredited

Certifier and Seek Organic


You can find information about

accredited certifiers on USDA’s NOP

website, at https://www.ams.usda.



Even though there are currently 80

certifiers on this list, you can usually

winnow the options down to a

few practical choices that are good

options for your location, and scope

of operations (crops, livestock, and/

or handling). To help you choose the

certifier that best meets your needs,

ask your potential buyers, and other

organic farmers in your area about

which certifier they prefer.

Once you have identified a USDAaccredited

certification agency (ACA),

submit your application with an

Organic System Plan. Your ACA will

review the application, assess the

potential for the operation to comply,

and send an inspector to conduct

an on-site inspection. The inspector

verifies that land-use history,

production-management practices,

materials, contamination-prevention

measures, and recordkeeping are all

in compliance with USDA’s National

Organic Program Regulations. The

ACA reviews the inspection report

and makes a certification decision.

Although all USDA-accredited

organic certifiers inspect to the same

regulations, they may create their own

certification forms (application and

OSP) and procedures, and require

their certified clients to present the

information required by the USDA

organic regulations in that format,

on their own forms. Some people ask

about the use of different Organic

System Plan (OSP) templates. Please

be aware that most certifiers prefer, if

not require, clients use their own OSP

templates. Therefore, please be sure

your organic certifier approves the

use of any particular OSP form before

you complete it, as it would be a waste

of your time to complete any OSP

template unless your certifier accepts

and approves its use.

Who Can Help Farmers

and Ranchers Navigate the

Certification Process?

While there is a lot to learn, there are

many, many resources available to

help you on your way. Producers who

complete the organic certification

process have found it worth their while.

If you need more information on a

particular aspect of this topic that

applies to your operation, please consult

the resources listed.

You can also contact NCAT’s ATTRA

Sustainable Agriculture Program by

calling 1-800-346-9140 (Bilingual

English-Spanish hotline (800) 411-

3222) or emailing your question

to ATTRA is a

program developed and managed by

the National Center for Appropriate

Technology (NCAT). The majority

of funding for ATTRA is through a

cooperative agreement with the United

States Department of Agriculture’s Rural

Business-Cooperative Service. We are

also partially funded through sales and

subscriptions of a portion of ATTRA

materials and through contributions

from friends and supporters. We are

committed to providing high value

information and technical assistance

to farmers, ranchers, extension agents,

educators, and others involved in

sustainable agriculture in the United


ATTRA services are available to farmers,

ranchers, market gardeners, extension

agents, researchers, educators, farm

organizations, and others involved

in agriculture, especially those who

are economically disadvantaged or

belong to traditionally underserved

communities. NCAT strives to make

our information available to everyone

who needs it. If you are a limited-access

or low-income farmer and find that one

of our publications is just not in your

budget, please call 800-346-9140.

The National Center for Appropriate

Technology (NCAT) is a private

nonprofit organization, founded in 1976,

which manages a series of projects that

promote self-reliance and sustainable

lifestyles through wise use of appropriate

technology. Its programs deal with

sustainable and renewable energy,

energy conservation, resource-efficient

housing, sustainable community

development, and sustainable

agriculture. The National Center for

Appropriate Technology (NCAT)

launched ATTRA in 1987. NCAT is

headquartered in Butte, Montana, and

has five regional offices.

How Can I Find an Organic

Farming Community or


Organic farmers and processors often

gain new ideas and sound advice from

others doing similar work. Recognizing

this, many organic certifiers and farm

organizations across the country

offer events or forums for learning

and networking, whether through

informal discussions at breakfast

meetings, workshops or field days to

visit the operations of experienced

organic producers or handlers, as

well as webinars or conferences. Also

helpful are opportunities for organic

producers to network with others

in the supply chain, from handlers

and processors to retailers. If you're

interested in organic production or

processing, look for a group that offers

educational events or networking

opportunities near you. Several

nonprofit organizations, university

programs, and regional and national

centers contribute to mutual learning,

and can be found on NCAT’s website

under “other resources”: http://attra., as well as the database

of Sustainable Agriculture Organizations

and Publications https://attra.ncat.

org/attra-pub/sustainable_ag/. Several

organizations are listed on the National

Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Website: http://sustainableagriculture.

net/about-us/members/. USDA’s

Sustainable Agriculture Research

and Education (SARE) program

has four regional office for outreach


earchText=organic, as well as many

Organic Guides, such as Transitioning

to Organic, Certification, Marketing,

Conservation, Tillage, Seeds, and

Animal Systems. If you are considering

organizing a network yourself, there is a

guide for that as well: Finding Support

through Farmer to Farmer Networking,

by Oregon State Extention, https://

Being involved in a network

that can provide practical information,

advice and support can be invaluable as

you navigate a new journey.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

Publications by NCAT’s ATTRA

Sustainable Agriculture Program

A concise description of the organic certification

process, and how to prepare for

an organic inspection, can be found in

the following ATTRA publications:

Organic Certification Process

Preparing for an Organic Inspection:

Steps and Checklists

Organic Materials Compliance

Pasture for Organic Ruminant Livestock:

Understanding and Implementing the National

Organic Program (NOP) Pasture Rule https://

Documentation Forms for Crop

and Livestock Producers

This same document can be found in Section I

of the NOP Program Handbook in three parts.

A discussion of the multiple benefits of

good records is found in several articles

in the NCAT/ATTRA newsletter issue

focused on recordkeeping: http://attra.

Understanding Organic Pricing

and Costs of Production

Organic Standards for All Organic Operations

Organic Standards for Crop Production:

Excerpts of USDA's National Organic Program


Organic Standards for Livestock Production:

Excerpts of USDA's National Organic

Program Regulations


Organic Standards for Handling: Excerpts of

USDA's National Organic Program Regulations

For a detailed overview of organic certification,

as appropriate to your operation:

The Guide for Organic Crop Production


Guide for Organic Livestock Producers


Guide for Organic Processors



USDA’s NOP website:

includes links to:

• Organic Regulations

• Organic Certification

• Introduction to Organic Practices

• Benefits of Organic Certification

• National Organic Program Handbook; Guidance &

Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents & Certified Operations

• Sound and Sensible (Useful Resources: Videos, Checklists and Tip Sheets):

o “What to Expect at an Organic Vegetable Farm Inspection”

o “What to Expect at an Organic Livestock Farm Inspection”

o Debunking the myths: Finding success in the organic market place

o Checklist: “Ten Steps to Transition”

o Tip Sheets: Organic Standards (in English and Spanish)

April/May 2019 11

Organic Soil Disinfestation Methods

Soil Solarization and Biosolarization

By TIMOTHY JACOBS | Graduate Student

And ASHRAF TUBEILEH | Assistant Professor, Horticulture and Crop Science

Deparment, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

Soils are reservoirs for weeds, pathogens, and nematodes,

which if left uncontrolled can devastate crop

yields. If pathogen, nematode, or weed levels rise to

economically damaging levels it becomes necessary for growers

to use soil disinfestation techniques to kill soilborne organisms.

Historically, conventional growers use soilborne fumigants to

disinfest soil particularly in high-value crops such as strawberries.

However, methyl bromide, the most widely used fumigant,

has been phased out and banned in most of the world due to

its emission of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. This has

spurred heavy research into non-toxic alternative soil disinfestation

techniques many of which can be used in organic

systems. The following article will highlight a few organic soil

disinfestation techniques which can be used to control weeds,

soilborne pathogens, and other soilborne pests.

Figure 1: Example of solarization in a field environment. Also,

picture of sudangrass cover crop a potential biofumigant. Photo

courtesy of Timothy Jacobs.

Soil Solarization

Soil solarization is an organic method,

which has displayed effective weed,

pathogen, and nematode control.

It involves placing a clear, thin (1-3

mil), low-density polyethylene tarp

over irrigated soil and generates lethal

temperatures for pathogens, pests,

and weeds. In general, temperatures

generated during soil solarization range

from 104-158°F. The tarp is left on the

soil for four to eight weeks, depending

on the soil temperatures generated.

Solarization depends on solar radiation

to heat soil and is most effective during

peak periods of solar radiation in June

and July. Effective temperatures can

still be achieved in May, August, and

September depending on location.

Soil solarization relies on clear, sunny

weather, so areas with frequent

summer fog or thunderstorms are not

appropriate for soil solarization. It is

most effective in areas with hot, clear

summers such as California’s central

valley and desert regions.

Solarization can control most annual

weeds which occur in California

cropping systems. Shorter times are

required to kill cool season annual

Figure 2: Average seed germination percentages ± SE (n=6) for seeds (as a percentage

of control) after being exposed to 55°C for two hours. Pairwise comparisons were done

using Tukey’s HSD test (a



are as follow





Prepare soil for solarization.

For solarization to be effective,

tarps need to be as tight to the

soil surface as possible. All large

clods and rocks should be removed

from soil and soil should

be level. Solarization can be used

on raised beds or flat on soil. If

using raised beds, beds should

be shaped before solarization to

minimize soil disturbance after

solarization. Disturbing soil after

solarization can bring up untreated

seeds and pathogens from

lower in the soil to the surface.

Irrigate soil to field capacity to improve

heat transfer through soil.

Tarp can be applied by hand or

machine. If applying by hand dig

trenches around edge of application

area and bury tarps in

trenches. Cover with 2-3 inches

of soil. When applying tarp make

sure it is tight against soil surface

and held down all edges by soil.

Wait four to eight weeks then

take off tarp. Leaving tarp on soil

is not recommended as during

winter months tarp will act like

a greenhouse promoting weed

germination. Unfortunately, most

tarps are not recyclable so they

must be thrown in trash after

use. More durable tarps can be

reused if removed carefully.

For more information on soil solarization UC

ANR has some great resources at http://ipm.

species (i.e., annual sowthistle) than

warm season annual species (i.e.,

redroot pigweed). Warm season species

common purslane can be challenging

to kill with solarization as it will

germinate in temperatures as high as

113°F. Other annual species which

require higher temperatures to kill

are those with hard seeds or thick

seed coats (Figure 2, see page 12, T.

Jacobs, unpublished data). Common

hard-seeded weeds are legume species,

bur clover and black medic, Malvacae

species, little mallow and velvetleaf, and

Erodium spp. (filaree). Perennial weeds

such as field bindweed and nutsedge

are difficult control with solarization

as well. For example, nutsedge tuber

mortality will not occur until exposed

to temperatures of 122°F or hotter

(Webster 2006). For control of perennial

and hard seeded weeds daily maximum

temperatures of 122°F or higher need

to be reached for at least a four-week

period (T. Jacobs, unpublished data).

Soil solarization can reduce the

disease incidence of many pathogens

to an economically manageable level.

Solarization will only provide control in

the first 8-12 inches

of soil. Therefore,

the control of some

pathogens, which

reside deeper in

soils, such as big vein

disease in lettuce is

limited (Iwamoto

and Aino 2008).

Additionally, mobile

soilborne organisms

can recolonize root

zones of plants after

solarization. This

makes control of

soilborne insects

such as garden

symphylans via

solarization difficult.

Before using soil

solarization, growers

should identify the

pathogens and other

pests in their soil

and consult experts

on whether soil

solarization is an

effective technique

for controlling the

soilborne organisms.

Solarization has

increased yields in

Bring the

heat on


weeds and

insects with

Distributed by

a variety of crops. Potential reasons

for increased yields due to solarization

are reductions in pathogen and

weed populations, larger availability

of heat solubilized nutrients such

as ammonia, and changes in plant

physiology (Candido et al. 2011). Costs

of solarization vary, depending on

plastic prices, but in general the plastic

costs are between $150-300 per acre

(Stapleton et al. 2008). Application costs

will depend on method of application

(machine or hand-applied). However,

due to yield increases and reduced

weeding time, solarization often pays

for itself and then some, particularly in

weedy or heavily diseased fields.

A wide variety of plastics are available

for use in soil solarization. The best

plastics are clear/transparent, 1-3

mils thick, and UV-inhibited to

prevent breakdown in sunlight. Most

agricultural plastic retailers have

solarization plastic available. For smaller

scale projects, thin (

Continued from Page 13

(found at most hardware stores) can

be used. Greenhouse plastics are often

more durable and reusable, but much

more expensive ($2,000-3,000 per acre)

so not practical for large scale use.

Additionally, painter’s plastic will break

down in sunlight and will only last four

to six weeks before removal becomes

difficult. Thinner plastics will result in

higher temperatures but are more prone

to tearing. Therefore, thicker plastic

should be used in windy areas.

Steps for solarizing soil are as follow:

(Elmore et al. 1997)

1) Prepare soil for solarization. For

solarization to be effective, tarps need

to be as tight to the soil surface as

possible. All large clods and rocks

should be removed from soil and soil

should be level. Solarization can be

used on raised beds or flat on soil.

If using raised beds, beds should be

shaped before solarization to minimize

soil disturbance after solarization.

Disturbing soil after solarization can

bring up untreated seeds and pathogens

from lower in the soil to the surface.

2) Irrigate soil to field capacity to

improve heat transfer through soil.

3) Tarp can be applied by hand or

machine. If applying by hand dig

trenches around edge of application

area and bury tarps in trenches. Cover

with 2-3 inches of soil. When applying

tarp make sure it is tight against soil

surface and held down all edges by soil.

4) Wait four to eight weeks then

take off tarp. Leaving tarp on soil is

not recommended as during winter

months tarp will act like a greenhouse

promoting weed germination.

Unfortunately, most tarps are not

recyclable so they must be thrown in

trash after use. More durable tarps can

be reused if removed carefully.

For more information on soil

solarization UC ANR has some great

resources at



Biofumigation is another soil

disinfestation technique available for

use by organic growers. Biofumigation

uses decomposing plant and animal

residues which release biocidal gasses

to reduce populations of soilborne

organisms (Youssef 2015). Plants from

the Brassicaceae family, in particular

mustards (Brassica spp. and Sinapis

spp.), are the most popular biofumigant

due to their release of secondary plant

compounds called glucosinolates

(Earlywine et al., 2012). Gluscosinolates

breakdown into isothiocyanate gases

which have phytotoxic properties able

to reduce the viability of soilborne

organisms. Green manures of mustard

cover crops can be incorporated

in order to release these biocidal

chemicals. Alternatively, mustard

seed meal products can be purchased

and incorporated into the soil for

biofumigation. Mustard seed meals are

produced from the remnants of brassica

seeds crushed for their oil, biofuels, or

condiments (Meyer et al. 2015).

Residues from other plant materials

outside of the Brassicaceae family

have been tested for effectiveness as

biofumigants. Sorghum spp. and other

members of the Poacae family have

demonstrated potential for use as

biofumigants (Stapleton et al. 2010).

Sorghum spp. contain

dhurrin which breaks

down into hydrogen

cyanide gas during

its decomposition.

The incorporation of

Sorghum spp. green

manure has shown

the ability to suppress

populations of rootknot

nematode and

verticillium wilt

(MacGuidwin et al.

2012)) Other potential

green manures such as

buckwheat, canola, and

Australian winter pea

can reduce inoculum

density of pathogens at

varying levels (Ochiai

et al., 2008; Wiggins

and Kinkel, 2004).

In order to use green

manures to control

soilborne organisms

it is important to

remember that the

chemicals which act as

natural fumigants are

1) released upon plant

injury as a defense

mechanism and 2)

extremely volatile. As the chemicals are

released after plant injury, cover crops

should be mowed with a flail mower

before incorporation, to activate the

release of chemical compounds. After

mowing plants should be incorporated

as soon as possible, as 80 percent

of the biofumigant gas can volatize

within just 20 minutes. To prevent

biofumigant gases from escaping, soil

should be cultipacked or tarped after

incorporation of green manure. Any

agricultural plastic will suffice including

those used for soil solarization. After

incorporating residues into soil, field

needs to be irrigated to field capacity

to enhance breakdown of secondary

plant compounds into biocidal gases.

Specifics of biofumigation including

seeding rate, time to terminate cover

crop, and growing practices of cover

crop will differ depending on the cover

crop species.


Soil solarization and biofumigation

involve similar techniques including

tarping and irrigating soils to

Continued on Page 16

Figure 3: Close up picture of a raised bed undergoing

solarization. Notice how all edges of tarp are buried under

soil and tarp is pulled flat across bed.

Photo courtesy of Timothy Jacobs.


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

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Continued from Page 14

field capacity. Combining soil

solarization with biofumigation

can enhance the efficacy of

both techniques. This is called

biosolarization and includes

the incorporation of organic

amendments (i.e. compost, green

manure) under the solarization

plastic exposing organic

amendments to high temperatures

generated by solarization. Multiple

studies have shown increased

efficacy of solarization by including

organic amendments. This occurs

through multiple mechanisms.

Tarping the soil prevents

biocidal gases released during

biofumigation from escaping

and increases their penetration

throughout the soil through heat

exposure (Gamliel et al. 2000).

These gases result in direct toxicity

against soilborne organisms.

Incorporating organic amendments

into soils increases microbial

activity. These microbes can

compete with and suppress

detrimental soilborne organisms.

Increased microbial activity during

biosolarization can increase soil

temperatures from 2-5°C during

soil solarization. (Gamliel and

Stapleton 1993, Simmons et al.

2013). However, this effect is not

consistent across all biosolarization

treatments as different organic

amendments behave differently.

Experiments with increased

temperatures generally used

compost as an organic amendment.

Incorporation of green manures

from cover crops frequently results

in similar temperatures to that of

solarization (Peachey et al. 2001).

Additionally, tarping soil amended

with high carbon inputs (i.e., rice

bran, molasses) can lead to an

increase in accumulation of organic

acids released from anaerobic

bacteria which are toxic to many

soilborne pathogens (Simmons et

al. 2016).

Lastly, disinfestation resulting from

anaerobic conditions and high

temperatures from soil solarization

still result during biosolarization.

Multiple studies have documented

success controlling pathogens at

sublethal solarization temperatures (30-

40°C) when organic amendments were

used in combination with solarization

(Blok et al. 2000, Coelho et al. 2001,

Núñez-zofío et al. 2011, Tjamos and

Fravel 1995). This can expand the use

of solarization to temperate regions

where normally solarization would

not generate lethal temperatures

for soilborne pests. Climates where

solarization may have its greatest effect

are in more northern climates with

less intense solar radiation and coastal

regions with frequent foggy summers

and lower temperatures.

Amendments which have been

effectively used with solarization

include green manures Brassica

spp., Sinapis spp., and Sorghum spp.

Other green manures may result in

effective control when combined with

solarization as well, they just have not

been tested. Other organic amendments

effectively used with solarization are

food processing byproducts tomato

pomace and olive pomace, various

animal manures or composts (including

sheep, pig, chicken), and carbonrich

materials used in anaerobic soil

disinfestation (wheat bran, rice bran,


More research needs to be put into

biosolarization to determine appropriate

levels and types of organic amendments

as well as its use in different cropping

system. However, biosolarization can

increase the efficacy of soil solarization

making it suitable to cooler regions or

for use during late spring or early fall

when soil solarization results in lower



Soil solarization and biosolarization

can result in effective soil disinfestation

reducing pathogen and weed

populations to acceptable levels for

organic growers. Problems still need

to be addressed such as the disposal of

plastic, but these techniques are much

cheaper, non-toxic and can provide

excellent control of soilborne organism

for high value specialty, berry and

vegetable crops.

Works Cited

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

Blok WJ, Lamers JG, Termorshuizen AJ, Bollen GJ (2000)

Control of Soilborne Plant Pathogens by Incorporating Fresh

Organic Amendments Followed by Tarping. Phytopathology


Candido V, D’addabbo T, Miccolis V, Castronuovo D (2011)

Weed control and yield response of soil solarization with

different plastic films in lettuce. Sci Hortic (Amsterdam)


Coelho L, Mitchell DJ, Chellemi DO (2001) The effect of soil

moisture and cabbage amendment on the thermoinactivation of

Phytophthora nicotianae. Eur J Plant Pathol 107:883–894

Earlywine DT, Smeda RJ, Teuton TC, Sams CE, Earlywine DT,

Smeda RJ, Teuton TC, Sams CE, Xiong X (2010) Evaluation

of Oriental Mustard ( Brassica juncea ) Seed Meal for Weed

Suppression in Turf America Stable URL :

stable/40891279 Weed Management - Other Crops / Areas -

Evaluation of Oriental Mustard ( Brassica júncea ) Seed Meal f

Supp. Weed Technol 24:440–445

Elmore CL, Stapleton JJ, Bell CE (1997) Soil Solarization A

Nonpesticidal Method for Controlling Diseases , Nematodes ,


RESOURSES. Page University of California:Vegetable and

Information Center. 1-17 p

Gamliel A, Austerweil M, Kritzman G (2000) Non-chemical

approach to soilborne pest management - Organic amendments.

Crop Prot 19:847–853

Gamliel A, Stapleton JJ (1993) Effect of Chicken Compost or

Ammonium Phosphate and Solarization on Pathogen Control,

Rhizosphere Microorganisms, and Lettuce Growth

Iwamoto Y, Aino M (2008) Effect of soil solarization with

supplementary materials on the occurence of lettuce big-vein

disease in a commercial field. Soil Microorg 62:15–19

MacGuidwin AE, Knuteson DL, Connell T, Bland WL,

Bartelt KD (2012) Manipulating Inoculum Densities of

Verticillium dahliae and Pratylenchus penetrans with Green

Manure Amendments and Solarization Influence Potato Yield.

Phytopathology 102:519–527

Meyer SLF, Zasada IA, Rupprecht SM, Vangessel MJ, Hooks

CRR, Morra MJ, Everts KL (2015) Mustard Seed Meal for

Management of Root-knot Nematode and Weeds in Tomato

Production 4461

Núñez-zofío M, Larregla S, Garbisu C (2011) Application of

organic amendments followed by soil plastic mulching reduces

the incidence of Phytophthora capsici in pepper crops under

temperate climate. Crop Prot 30:1563–1572

Ochiai N, Powelson ML, Crowe FJ, Dick RP (2008) Green

manure effects on soil quality in relation to suppression of

Verticillium wilt of potatoes:1013–1023

Peachey ARE, Pinkerton JN, Ivors KL, Miller ML, Moore LW

(2001) Effect of Soil Solarization , Cover Crops , and Metham on

Field Emergence and Survival of Buried Annual Bluegrass ( Poa

annua ). Weed Technol 15:81–88

Simmons CW, Guo H, Claypool JT, Marshall MN, Perano KM,

Stapleton JJ, VanderGheynst JS (2013) Managing compost

stability and amendment to soil to enhance soil heating during

soil solarization. Waste Manag 33:1090–1096

Simmons CW, Higgins B, Staley S, Joh LD, Simmons BA,

Singer SW, Stapleton JJ, VanderGheynst JS (2016) The role of

organic matter amendment level on soil heating, organic acid

accumulation, and development of bacterial communities in

solarized soil. Appl Soil Ecol 106:37–46

Stapleton JJ, Molin ar RH, Lynn-Patterson K, McFeeters

SK, Shrestha A (2008) Methyl bromide alternatives … Soil

solarization provides weed control for limited-resource and

organic growers in warmer climates. Calif Agric 59:84–89

Stapleton JJ, Summers CG, Mitchell JP, Prather TS (2010)

Deleterious activity of cultivated grasses (Poaceae) and residues

on soilborne fungal, nematode and weed pests. Phytoparasitica


Tjamos EC, Fravel DR (1995) Detrimental effects of sublethal

heating and Talaromyces flavus on microsclerotia of Verticillium


Webster TM (2006) High temperatures and durations of

exposure reduce nutsedge (Cyperus spp.) tuber viability. Weed

Sci 51:1010–1015

Wiggins BE, Kinkel LL (2004) Green Manures and Crop

Sequences Influence Potato Diseases and Pathogen Inhibitory

Activity of Indigenous Streptomycetes

Youssef MMA (2015) Biofumigation as a promising tool for

managing plant parasitic nematodes . A review. Sci Agric



Organic Farmer April/May 2019

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Testing the Accuracy

of Soil Tests for

Organic Growers

By NEAL KINSEY | President of Kinsey Agricultural Services

So long as the soil sample is taken in a way to accurately represent the soil in each field, the soil test will

provide the proper information needed to show what needs to be done.

Photo courtesy of Neal Kinsey, Kinsey Ag Service.


Organic Farmer April/May 2019

Purpose of Soil Tests

Is it actually possible that a soil

analysis can be accurate enough

to provide specific answers to soil

fertility needs?

What is the purpose of a soil test?

Some feel a soil test should only be

considered in order to point the farmer

or his agronomist in a general direction.

Others use it as a crutch to justify

applying fertilizer to grow a certain

yield whether it is really needed or not.

Still others use a soil analysis to assess

the nutrient content and requirements

for feeding the soil in order to provide

the needs of the living organisms

present there and the crop that will

be grown. Organic growers should

advocate and practice the third point in

this set of principles.

But is it actually possible that a soil

analysis can be accurate enough to

provide specific answers to soil fertility

needs? Many claim it is not. And what

makes this even harder to determine is

the fact that there are numerous ways

to test and report nutrient values on a

soil test. What evidence is there that

real numbers can have real meaning

when using a properly conducted soil


One very common assumption causes

great errors in the conclusions some

draw when considering the accuracy

and value of soil tests. That assumption

is that the numbers provided on soil

tests from different soil laboratories

all mean the same thing. First, some

laboratories choose to express all or

parts of their measured nutrient levels

as ppm (parts per million), while

others use pounds per acre. Outside

the United States it is common for

labs to use kilograms per hectare (kg/

ha) and milligrams per kilogram (mg/

kg, which is actually the same as parts

per million), instead of pounds and

ppm. That is the easy part to grasp

and understand in terms of soil test


Understanding Soil Tests

What seems so much harder for many

to comprehend is that the number on

one soil test does not necessarily mean

the same thing as that same number

Continued on Page 20

April/May 2019


Continued from Page 19

on another soil test. Those who believe

they always do are all too often making

some very serious mistakes.

For example, farmers and growers who

request soil tests from our company are

advised that calcium should occupy 60-

70 percent of the soil’s cation exchange

capacity. There are other labs who use

the same guidelines, but still others

who advise 65-75 percent for calcium

(Ca) saturation on their soil analysis.

The target we shoot for on medium to

heavy soils is ideally 68 percent. But

that same soil sent to three other labs

will not measure 68 percent. One will

report it as 64 percent. Another reports

it as 74 percent. And still another

shows 80 percent. Yet all four labs are

considered as within the tolerance

range for measuring and reporting

calcium levels on that soil.

The lesson here is to learn and follow

directions from the laboratory you

are using based on their numbers,

not a test from some other lab whose

numbers could vary considerably

and thus lead to wrong conclusions.

Sometimes only Ca, Mg (magnesium)

and K (potassium) are given as 100

percent of the total soil nutrient

saturation from a soil testing lab,

while on tests received from some

other labs, sodium and other bases

also contribute to that 100 percent

total. Consequently, a farmer could

have a field day and tell everyone he

had to reach 80 percent calcium in his

fields before attaining his top yields.

If the intent is then to take a soil to

80 percent as that farmer found to

be beneficial, be sure to send it to the

same lab for analysis before deciding

to spend what it takes to achieve

that percentage. If a soil test from a

different lab shows 68 percent calcium

saturation when the lab that farmer

uses shows it as 80 percent, then it

can be a costly mistake to buy and

apply the calcium required to reach 80

percent on the test that is showing 68



Potassium is another example of how

number differences on test reports can

be misleading. To be most effective

for growing crops on the test we use,

potassium should be a minimum

of 2 percent and a maximum of 7.5

percent to avoid problems caused

by having too little or too much. For

example, from the test we use, farmers

are advised not to drive potassium

above 7.5 percent because that will tie

up boron availability and above this

level also increases weed pressure in

the field. Farmers and growers can see

this happening to their crops and in

their fields. Yet when the same soil

is tested by another very reputable

soil laboratory, they report that soil

as having 8.5 percent potassium.

For those who think 7.5 percent on

one test means the same on tests

from other labs, this now becomes a

bone of contention, bringing claims

that soil test numbers are just not

reliable. If farmers using the test

that recognizes the same results at

8.5 percent as the other test at 7.5

percent, then the numbers on the

tests are certainly reliable, it is just the

ability of the user to interpret those

results that must be learned.

But such differences as described

in the paragraph above can cause

complications when striving to

educate farmers and growers about

the value of using soil tests. Another

problem with high potassium

is that when combined with the

sodium percentage, and both added

together total 10 percent or higher,

this will cause manganese uptake

to be blocked from the plant, even

on soils that show to have excellent

manganese levels. But this is not true

on the soils that show potassium as

8.5 percent, because then the soils

have to be at least 11.00 percent

before that happens, and that is

assuming that sodium would be

Continued on Page 22

Soils that test high in magnesium still grow crops that are deficient in magnesium.

Photo courtesy of Neal Kinsey, Kinsey Ag Service.


Organic Farmer April/May 2019


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usage or costs, or plant disease problems, give us a call. We can help.

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crops from alfalfa to zucchini.

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April/May 2019


Continued from

Page 20

reported at the same

level on both tests

which likely will

not be true either.

If the farmer wants

to use a different

test, he will have

to work to find the

right percentages

or find someone he

can trust to do it for



Magnesium seems

perhaps the best

example of all to

use for testing

the accuracy of

a soil test and to

demonstrate how

exact a soil test can

be when used to

determine a soil’s

true fertility. A

seldom recognized,

rarely acknowledged

and extremely

costly condition

in agriculture is

how excessive

magnesium in

the soil results

in a magnesium

deficiency in

food and feed crops—even those that

are organically grown. This is well

demonstrated based on the soil testing

methods used by Dr. William Albrecht

all the way back in the early to middle

parts of the last century.

In addition, Dr. Albrecht taught that

soils should contain at least 10 percent

magnesium to assure that plants could

take up an adequate amount from the

soil. He maintained that any soil with

less than 10 percent magnesium would

only grow magnesium deficient plants.

This holds true on any soil tests that

matches the ability of the test he used

to determine magnesium content in the

soil. But again, there are soil labs whose

methods for determining magnesium

are different and when compared

to the test Dr. Albrecht used, these

soil tests show 8 percent magnesium

when the one he used showed 10

percent. So again, due to differences in

measurements, there are those who still

maintain that magnesium testing is not

On any part of the field where magnesium availability drops

below 10 percent, the tops on carrots will die prematurely.

Photo by Neal Kinsey, Kinsey Ag Service.

that useful.

But there is a way to show just how

exact that 10 percent figure actually

is, when determined the same way Dr.

Albrecht did it and then applied to

needed magnesium levels for carrot

production. This has been shown time

after time, and year after year, since the

time he taught how to measure and

interpret the content of magnesium

in the soil. In carrots grown from the

East Coast to the West Coast and all in

between, in both the US and Canada,

this can be counted on to happen for

those growing carrots. On any part of

the field where magnesium availability

drops below 10 percent, the tops on

carrots will die pre-maturely in the field

if the test being used reflects exactly

what the test Dr. Albrecht used does. If

a test gives another answer, then when

sampled and analyzed based on the

same procedures used by Dr. Albrecht,

the soil has less than 10 percent


Accuracy of Soil


Some still claim a

soil test is only to

point the farmer in

the right direction,

but cannot be

used for specific

measurements. If so,

they are using the

wrong soil test or

else have not been

properly taught about

how to understand

and interpret one that

actually works.

Just remember one

thing, the advice

from a soil test is only

as accurate as the

sample that is taken

and sent for analysis.

So long as the soil

sample is taken in

a way to accurately

represent the soil in

each field, the soil

test will provide the

proper information

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Neal Kinsey is owner and President of

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Organic Farmer April/May 2019


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Models for




By NICK ANDREWS | Oregon State University Extension

LEN COOP | Oregon State University Dept. Horticulture and Integrated Plant Protection Center

STEVE ELLIOT | Western SARE and Western Integrated Pest Management Center

HEIDI NOORDIJK | Oregon State University Extension

HEATHER STOVEN| Oregon State University Extension


Pest managers are familiar with the concept of using degree days to predict

pest outbreaks. Insects, plant diseases, and other ectothermic organisms like

crops and weeds, develop in relation to the temperature around them, and

degree-days are a way to measure accumulated temperature over time. Degree-days

are usually a more accurate way of predicting their development than calendar time


The team at Oregon State University (OSU) is adapting a degree-day modeling

system built for pest management into a tool for vegetable growers to better plan

their planting and harvesting dates and prevent weed seed rain. It’s called Croptime

and growers throughout the United States can use it at

Croptime is a degree-day-based tool that overcomes a common shortcoming of

seed catalogs, which give expected maturity dates in calendar days or other rough

estimates of time-to-maturity. Calendar days are pretty inaccurate, and growers

recognize that. Days to maturity depend on the time of year and location the crop

is grown in. For example, various catalogs report that ‘Arcadia’ broccoli matures in

65 to 90 days. That range is consistent with the team’s findings in the Willamette

Valley in western Oregon, depending on when and where it is planted. Degree-day

models can help you predict where you fall in that range, usually with an accuracy

of a week or less.

Degree-days are more accurate than calendar days, and are especially useful when

crops are planted early or late, or when the weather is unusual.

Croptime was built on the backbone of the agricultural and pest

management degree-day modeling site that is linked to thousands of individual

weather stations throughout the U.S. If you use the degree-day models in areas

with a different climate than the Willamette Valley, remember that the models

were developed in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and use some caution. Degreedays

are usually more accurate than time, but other factors like day-length, light

intensity, water availability and pest pressure can also influence time to maturity.

For example, the Willamette Valley doesn’t get many days with high temperatures

above 90°F. So the team can’t identify maximum daily temperatures for crops like

tomatoes and peppers that could be important in hotter climates.

The site currently has about two dozen vegetable models, including four varieties of

broccoli, seven cucumber varieties, four sweet pepper, four tomatoes and four sweet

corn varieties. It also has models that predict viable seed set for redroot pigweed,

lambsquarter and hairy nightshade.

Continued on Page 26

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Continued from Page 24

Maximizing Profits

Figure 1. Some cauliflower growth stages. Photos by Heidi Noordijk.

Growers know harvest timing matters. Processors want

a consistent supply of produce throughout a growing

season, not a glut followed by a shortage then another

glut. And fresh market growers want to time their harvest

when labor is available and demand is high so they can

maximize profits. Reliable harvest-timing helps ensure

a consistent supply of vegetables to processors, and

fresh produce for local restaurants, farmers markets,

community supported agriculture (CSAs), local retailers

and wholesalers.

Crop timing can also help to avoid pests, an important

integrated pest management principle. The three weed

models can help growers predict when they can stop

cultivating redroot pigweed, lambsquarter or hairy

nightshade without risking weed seed rain. Seed rain is

when a weed releases its seed and it “rains” back down on

the soil, replenishing the seed bank of ungerminated seeds

in the soil. When growers accurately predict crop harvest

and weed seed development, they are able to manage

weeding activities more efficiently.









At the beginning of the project growers, buyers and seed

companies helped the team identify crops and varieties

to focus on (see sidebar). They hope to have 50 varietyspecific

models online in the next year or two.

Local Conditions

The whole system is based on using local weather

conditions and forecasts. In the Croptime calculator,, you select the

weather station nearest your farm. Then choose the model

you want to run, and enter up to four planting dates. You

can select from a number of different long-term forecast

options, including the 30-year historical average, 10-year

historical average, weather from last year, weather from

two years ago, and a new forecast by the National Oceanic

Continued on Page 28

Sidebar: Croptime degree-day models.


Organic Farmer April/May 2019









Bio With Bite.

April/May 2019


Continued from Page 26

and Atmospheric Administration built

from several different climate models

(the “NMME” default).

When you “Click here to see full model

output” Croptime displays a report

showing the dates that crops will reach

various growth stages according to

the model. For some crops the team

attempts to predict first and last harvest,

but for most crops they can only predict

first harvest. A mobile app version

is available for Android (Apple IOS

support pending), and can be tested

using this weblink:

model_app?mdt=veg. This app version

allows only a single planting date at a

time, but should be more handhelddevice


The Croptime website links to the

Croptime calculator, and has a short

“how-to” video, a quick-start guide,

and a growth-stage guide. Access it

here: https://extension.oregonstate.

edu/croptime. Contact nick.andrews@ if you would like to


Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

Growers and collaborators who tested

Croptime have given the team some

good ideas to improve the site. One idea

is to allow a grower to enter a harvest

date, so that the Croptime model can

predict a good planting date. Another

idea is based on the assumption that

although absolute days to maturity in

seed catalogs isn’t very reliable, relative

days to maturity of different varieties

in the same catalog is more reliable.

The team could develop a way for

growers to predict time to maturity of

a variety it hasn’t modeled if their seed

catalog predicts days to maturity of a

variety we have modeled in Croptime.

For example, if a different broccoli

variety is about 10 days earlier than

‘Arcadia’, ‘Emerald Pride’, ‘Green Magic’

or ‘Imperial’ (varieties modeled in

Croptime), they could convert that

difference to degree-days to predict

harvest dates.

Figure 2. The Croptime calculator input page set up for Corvallis, OR, transplanted

Marketmore 76 cucumbers planted every two-weeks from May 15-July

1, 2019. On Feb 24, 2019, the model predicts first harvest on July 17, July 24, August

1 and August 12. This user might want to spread out their planting dates

more than every two-weeks to avoid gluts and extend their production season.


Organic Farmer April/May 2019


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of Organic Food Production

By CECILIA PARSONS | Associate Editor

Business opportunities in organic food production led a

lengthy list of benefits at the annual meeting of

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).

Growers, processors and marketers of organically grown

agricultural commodities attended the Fresno gathering

in February where the inaugural Benefits Report by the

CCOF Foundation was presented.

Panelists at the 2019 CCOF annual meeting and conference highlighted CCOF's

new report on benefits of organic farming. From left are Steve Pedersen of

High Ground Organics, Laetitia Benador, CCOF research fellow, Jane Sooby

senior policy specialist CCOF and Joe Morris, Morris Grassfed Beef.

Photo Courtesy of Cecilia Parsons

Organic Demand

The CCOF Foundation reports that, organic is the fastest

growing sector of the U.S. food industry with value

approaching $50 billion. This sector also grew six percent

in 2017, compared to one percent growth in all U.S. food

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sales. Their statistics show that 82 percent of families in the

U.S. purchase organically grown or processed food.

In addition to demand, organically

grown crops and livestock support the

viability of producers who typically

receive 20 percent higher prices.

The organic food industry also creates

an estimated 1.4 million jobs in the

U.S. and 407,400 jobs in California.

The report states that organic farms

tend to create more full time year

round employment opportunities

for farmworkers. The goal stated at

the meeting is to have 10 percent of

California farmland certified organic

by 2030.

Digging farther into the new report

were speakers Joe Morris of Morris

Grassfed Beef, Steve Pederson of

High Ground Organics and CCOF

researcher Laetitia Benador.

A Clear Plan

The benefits report, Benador said, was

done to show policy makers that the

organic industry has a clear plan to

move forward and present sustainable

solutions to food production.

“We have the evidence showing

the benefits of expanded organic

food production,” Benador told the

30 Organic Farmer April/May 2019


We have the evidence

showing the benefits

of expanded organic

food production

audience. All of the claims made in

the report are backed by rigorous

scientific study, she noted.

Instead of asking if organic

producers can feed the world’s

population, Benador said it is

important to look beyond yield

and focus on sustaining natural

resources with better land


Nutritional Benefits

As for the nutritional benefits to

consuming organically grown food,

Benador cited meta- analyses that

use statistical methods to aggregate

and detect underlying trends in the

data from hundreds of studies on

nutrients that impact human health.

She said that six out of eight peerreviewed

meta analyses concluded

that organically grown foods

contained higher levels of certain

nutrients than conventionally grown

foods and two studies found no

consistent nutritional differences.

Overall, the meta analyses and

individual crop comparison studies

show that organically grown

fruits and vegetables can provide

consumers with higher levels of a

range of nutrients, she said.

Environmental Benefits

Environmental benefits of organic

production were included. Practices

in organic crop production improve

soil quality and structure and

reduce soil erosion. These soil

improvements in turn hold water

and prevent fertilizer and pesticide

leaching. The biodiversity in the

soils helps them to be more resilient

to extreme weather conditions.

The report states that yields are

comparable to conventional

yields when organic farmers build

long term soil fertility and use

diversification practices including


crop rotation and multi-cropping

strategies. Yields typically improve when

growers learn better weed management


Pederson, who farms vegetables and

strawberries two miles from the

California coast said the environmental

benefits of organic production are

important in helping comply with

regulations. He is mitigating climate

change effects by increasing the carbon

sequestration on his farm ground,

using less energy and reducing nutrient

Continued on Page 32

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leaching to preserve groundwater


Joe Morris, who has operated Morris

Grassfed Beef since 1991, said the ‘big

picture’ report is a resource for the

entire farming community as farmers

and ranchers seek to improve their

land management.

What Consumers Want

Conference speaker and one of the




April/May 2019


Continued from Page 31

largest producers of organically grown

leafy green vegetables, Arnott Duncan,

said growers need to be willing to learn

what consumers want.

“You need to listen to signals, buyers

asking for certain products, time slots.

The challenge is to meet that need,”

Duncan said.

Large v Small Growers

He also touched on the

small versus large organic

producer issue, noting it is

not true the larger growers

are attempting to keep small

organic producers out of the

market. Local agriculture

groups may also

struggle to


service farm labor provider, noted that

securing a labor force has become more

acute in recent years and labor can be

the largest cost in production.

Due to more labor intensive practices

employed in organic production,

the need for skilled farm labor

is increasing. A 2018 study of

organic farming employment in ten

Washington and California counties

found that more workers are hired

per acre and more year-round

employment is offered than

on conventionally farmed

acres. More full time, year

around employment helps

provide livable wages for

California farm workers.

Arnott said new

technology is coming

that will reduce

the need

for many


jobs, but he views the next generation

of organic farmers will come from other

industries and adapt their knowledge of

technology to the farm.

“They will see organic production

as cool, fun, collaborative and

challenging,” Arnott said.

According to the Benefits Report,

farmers who grow organically use

more labor intensive practices than

conventional farmers to manage weeds,

insect pests and disease. Organic

systems also include a higher diversity

of crops, requiring more skilled labor.

Jenny Ramirez, director of human

resources for Harvesters Inc., a support

system for farm workers, said treatment

of workers, including providing a safe

work place is paramount in retaining a

labor force. Workers who feel they are

treated well by their employers tend to

Continued on Page 34

organic growers, perceiving them to

be a threat.

“It is not easy to move forward if

there is distrust between large and

small producers. That is a bridge

we need to build,” he noted. Large

producers are not monopolizing the

market, Duncan said. They do open

doors for organic products and create

spin-off opportunities for all organic


Duncan, who farms more than 8,000

acres of organically certified ground

in Arizona and California, said

learning to farm organically has been

a humbling experience for him.

“You have to be willing to learn, fight

your way through challenges and

learn how to deal with them. Don’t


Strong Labor Force

Maintaining a strong labor force

in organic food production is one

challenge producers face. Matt

Rogers, founder of AgSocio, a Bay

Area company that operates as a full

32 Organic Farmer April/May 2019

April/May 2019


Continued from Page 32

stay with that farm, Ramirez said.

Opportunities for Organics

Meeting export demand for organically

grown food is an opportunity for

California growers. The Benefits Report

notes that Canada and Mexico are the

biggest export markets for organically

grown food, but more than 104 different

countries are also buying California


Opportunities in organic production

are attracting the next generation of

U.S. famers. Proportionally, more

new and beginning farmers—those

who have been principal operators of

their farms for ten years or less—are

starting organic farms than are starting

conventional farms. In California

32 percent of organic farmers are

beginning farmers compared to 26.5

percent in conventional production. The

beginning farmers also are less likely to

need off-farm income with an organic

system, even though they tend to farm

fewer acres.

The full Benefits Report can be read on

line at

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

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34 Organic Farmer April/May 2019









































For Use In

Organic Agriculture

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April/May 2019



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