One of the emerging trends in agriculture right now is organic farming. What makes this style of farming popular is the lack of chemical use for fertilization or pest control. Instead of using a manufactured product, growers are turning to what Mother Nature has to offer to increase production.
To help growers with the expanding organic movement, Bradford Research Center will be hosting its second annual Organic Field Day in Columbia on Aug. 1. Free educational talks and tours featuring a wide variety of topics geared toward the natural farmer will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Researchers from the center operated by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri will provide information on organic fruit production, pest and weed control, cover crops, beekeeping, permaculture, challenges of no-till, soil management and the benefits of going organic. Step-by-step guidance of how to become a certified organic farm also will be given.
“This is the best time to get out and learn about this exciting style of farming,” said Tim Reinbott, superintendent of Bradford Research Center. “We welcome all who want to come out and hear what our researchers have been doing to help you use the best management practices.”
Compost is the key ingredient to organic farming and can come from a variety of sources such as manure, livestock bedding, food waste or other backyard scraps. An often-overlooked friend in the compost process is just below our feet — the worm.
In steps vermicomposting, which comes from the Latin term of vermis for worm. With this process the grower relies on worms to decompose food or other natural waste to leave behind valuable soil amendments to stimulate plant growth and rid of unwanted organic matter.
There are several different species of worms, but not all are good composters. They can fall into two categories: top-feeders and burrowers. Top-feeders spend their time at the surface of the soil and are great for breaking down leftover vegetables, coffee grounds, paper or other food waste. They often prefer moldy, rotten matter.
Burrowers, on the other hand make channels that loosen up the soil for plant roots and allow air and water to filter through the ground. Besides being great decomposers, its what comes out of the worm that is the most beneficial.
“Their digestion systems can deal with the bad microbes that can affect us and then secrete casts that include beneficial compounds for plants,” said State Extension Specialist Hwei-Yiing Johnson of Lincoln University, who will speak about vermicomposting and compost tea at the Organic Field Day and provide a hands-on demonstration.
Johnson recommends using red wiggler worms as top-feeders and regular earthworms or Canadian nightcrawlers as a burrower. All of these species can be typically found at a local fishing bait shop. They prefer mild temperatures around 60 to 80 degrees F, but can easily propagate to give the grower a bountiful population.
“Juveniles mature in about two to three months,” added Johnson. “But with each reproductive cocoons, several are hatched and quickly provide benefits. We have seen these worms digest large batches of food waste in a matter of days that amazingly produces hardly any odor. You can pretty much rely on one pound of red wigglers to decompose a half-pound of food waste.”
As a far as economics, vermicomposting can be very affordable to establish and can be an additional revenue stream for a landowner. Worm castings are getting better market prices than other compost mixes. Researchers are seeing these prices go up as gardeners, vegetable growers, farmers and organic producers all are clamoring for these natural amendments.
“These little worms can provide lots of benefits and we have seen amazing results from using them in studies at our research centers,” said Johnson.
To find out if your soil needs compost, active carbon soil testing will be available and attendees are urged to bring in dry soil samples.
Homemade snacks made with locally produced, organic ingredients will be provided as well as lunch for purchase.
To find out more information and to pre-register, contact Kerry Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573-884-7945.
For more information about Bradford Research Center, visit their new website at http://bradford.cafnr.org/. The center is located at 4968 Rangeline Road, just east of Columbia. Construction work at highways 63 and WW has closed some bridges and will create delays and detours; alternate routes are suggested.
Bradford is one of CAFNR’s Agricultural Research Centers located throughout Missouri that host educational workshops. Visit http://cafnr.org/events/ for more events across the Show-Me State.
Organic Field Day Agenda (20 mins per speaker) each tour starts on the hour listed
Tour 1 – Wagon – starts at 1 pm, 2 pm, 3pm
Organic no-till Dara Boardman
Organic Grains Margot McMillan
Tour 2 – Wagon or walk – starts at 1 pm, 2 pm, 3pm
Trap cropping Terry Woods
Pest Management Wayne Bailey
Mycorrhizae Carrie Hargrove
Tour 3 – Conference Bldg – start ats 11 am, 12 am, 1 pm
Why get certified Beth Rota
Soil Nutrients Manjula Nathan
Being an organic
Grower Liz Graznak
Tour 4 – Wagon – starts at 11 am, 12 pm, 2 pm
Composting Dr. Johnson
Biochar Tim Reinbott
Fruit Production Jim Quinn
Tour 5 – Walk – starts at 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm
Cover crops Leslie Touzeau
Weeds Reid Smeda
Beekeeping Bob Brammer
Tour 6 – Walk – starts at 2 pm, 3pm, 4 pm
Soil Pit Kerry Clark
Rain infiltration Kerry Clark
Crimper Kerry Clark
11 am tours 3, 4, 5, 2
12 pm tours 3, 5, 4
1 pm tours 1, 2, 3, 5
2 pm tours 1, 2, 4, 6
3 pm tours 1, 2, 6
4 pm tours 6, people could also see organic no-till, Biochar, cover crops