Kristine Moncada, University of Minnesota
Have you ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes in organic field research? The University of Minnesota has created a series of videos, produced by Michael Winikoff and videography by Eve Daniels, that provides a unique perspective on recent research to improve organic soybean and dry bean production in the Upper Midwest. This research was part of the project Improving Soybean and Dry Bean Varieties and Rhizobia for Organic Systems funded through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Grant Number 2011-51300-30743). The specific research objectives included:
- Developing soybean varieties for organic systems
- Developing improved varieties of dry bean for organic systems
- Selecting improved strains of rhizobia for soybean and dry bean for organic systems
- Evaluating the interactive effects of organic management practices with soybean and dry bean varieties
The first video provides an introduction to the project:
Breeding Organic Soybean
Organic systems vary significantly from conventional systems, but until recently there have been few breeding programs specifically for organic systems. The first objective, led by the project's Principal Investigator Dr. James Orf, focused on breeding food-grade soybean and selection for traits that are important in organic systems in the Upper Midwest. See Dr. Orf's video interview below for more information about his project.
Breeding Organic Dry Beans
The second objective, led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Thomas Michaels, also focused on organic breeding, but with dry beans rather than soybeans. Unlike soybeans, these legumes usually require supplemental nitrogen and are much less competitive with weeds. Improving these traits will offer organic producers another valuable legume option in their rotations. Dr. Michaels's work includes research on both heirloom and market class dry beans. His video interview is below.
Selecting Organic Rhizobia
Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient in grain production. Increasing legume nitrogen fixation can not only improve the yields of organic leguminous crops, it can also improve the yields of other crops in the rotation. Our third objective addresses improving nitrogen fixation by using appropriately-matched rhizobial strains, which can counter lower fertility conditions that can exist in organic systems. This project was led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Sadowsky. For an introduction to his work, please see the video below.
Organic Bean Agronomic Practices
For the last objective, led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Craig Sheaffer, research was conducted to study the interactive effects of variety characteristics of dry bean and soybean with mechanical weed control (tine weeding vs. cultivation), row spacing (30" vs. 15” row widths) and rotation sequence effects. An introduction to his project can be found below.
On-farm Organic Research
Research conducted on organic farms was an important element for all the projects' objectives. Below is an interview with organic farmer Carmen Fernholz from Madison, MN, who discusses his experiences with participating in on-farm research with the University of Minnesota.