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Alabama Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Center

Auburn University’s Organic Vegetable Production Research Program

Organic vegetable production in ALThe consumption of organic produce has recently increased in Alabama as evidenced by the increase in organic produce sections in the local grocery store chains; however, the supply of locally grown organic produce has not kept up with the demand. This presents a potentially lucrative opportunity for Alabama farmers, but they need information on viable growing techniques applicable to the state. The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service has had an increased demand for information on organic growing techniques and methods, but the information is not available. Hence there is an information gap that research needs to fill. The objective of this project is to provide growers with the critical information that they need in order to fill Alabama consumers' demand for locally grown organic produce. Training systems for Cooperative Extension personnel are being developed as a vital component of this objective.

In 2005 and 2006, the organic vegetable research team conducted educational and research programs and activities to inform growers about organic production systems in Alabama. These activities included three workshops with farmer – to - farmer training opportunities and extension outreach. About 80-90 growers attended each conference. Our last conference was conducted for a wide range of audiences including small growers, limited resource growers, master gardeners, garden club members, and Extension agents. Around 20-30 growers attended a follow-up workshop with our conference speakers.

We have worked collaboratively on two grant applications to fund additional conferences and training. Our first collaboration is with Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN), which has submitted a full proposal for a Southern Risk Management Education grant. This grant will fund additional conferences and will focus on training small and limited resource farmers who would be served by organic crop and livestock production and the development of new markets, especially direct and cooperative marketing

The second collaboration includes extension staff members who are seeking to provide educational programs regionally in the state to growers interested in organic production. This grant, submitted to Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education for consideration, would support activities that would occur in tandem with our project and provide additional training opportunities. The training would be hands-on and include a video production.

Demonstrations. In 2006 the organic transplant room at Auburn’s plant science research center became the first and only greenhouse room in Alabama to be certified as an organic production facility. Our two experiment stations were certified as transitional. Using these sites, we have hosted numerous visitors from the community and industry. Students and faculty involved in research projects focusing on organic production systems utilize the certified and transitional sites as needed.

WEB and E-bulletin Communications

Each month we produce an electronic bulletin that we send to an e-mail list containing 140 members ranging from growers to members of industry and government officials. The bulletin is also sent to Auburn’s College of Agriculture, research center directors, and regional extension agents, who pass the bulletin on to constituents in their areas. We maintain research updates on our website at http://www.ag.auburn.edu/aaes/organicveg/index.php .

The Auburn University Organic Vegetable Production program is helping to meet the National IPM Roadmap goals by engaging in research to reduce potential human health and environmental risks from pesticide and heavy chemical inputs. Organic production is not only the absence of chemicals. It is a sustainable and ecologically-sound practice of farming that limits soil erosion and encourages soil conservation. In general, individuals who attempt organic production spend too much money obtaining supplies such as organic fertilizers and natural inputs to improve soil quality. An important function for us is to find and test local and on-farm sources to meet these needs in order to reduce and/or eliminate the cost of bringing in inputs from other regions. Organic farming itself is providing growers with the opportunity to develop niche markets through which to sell their products. We utilize our media outreach tools (e-bulletin and website) and education events (conferences and workshops) to educate growers on organic production and marketing.


For More Information, Contact:
William Dee Fowler and Jan Garrett

Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University

209 Rouse Life Science, Auburn, AL 36849

Phone: (334) 844-2561

Email: fowlewd@auburn.edu



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