Organic Farming and Soil Health in the Western U.S. Webinar Series

The Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic presented eight free webinar trainings on organic farming and soil health in the Western U.S. The webinars target agricultural professionals including Extension personnel, other agency personnel, and agricultural consultants in an effort to increase expertise in organic practices that promote soil health. This series is a perfect complement to the farmer guides OFRF has produced on organic soil health practices, available here.  The goal of the trainings is to address the need for region-specific resources and knowledgeable Extension services related to organic soil health, biology, nutrient cycling, and more!  Recordings, slides and additional presentation notes are available below.

About the Presenter

Dr. Mark Schonbeck of the Organic Farming Research Foundation will be joined by experts in the Western Region to review the most recent soil health research and practices relevant to the Western Region. The webinars will provide an overview of the topic, best practices for the Western Region, in-depth analysis of the latest research, and an extensive question and answer session after each presentation.

October 24, 2018: Ecological Nutrient Management for Organic Production in the Western Region

This webinar will explore the role of the soil food web in nutrient cycling and provisioning, and practical strategies for optimizing the availability of limiting nutrients, such as nitrogen, for soil health, organic crop production, and water quality. We will summarize recent research on nitrogen management for organic vegetable and strawberry production in maritime, Mediterranean, and semiarid climates. 

Slide handout, Presentation Notes, Recording link:

November 21, 2018: Ecological Weed Management for the Western Region

In this webinar we will focus on integrated organic weed management strategies that help desired vegetation outcompete weeds, build soil health, and reduce the need for soil disturbance. In addition, we will summarize outcomes of recent research into organic management of field bindweed and other major weeds of Western Region cropland and rangeland.

Slice Handout, Presentation Notes

January 23, 2019: Practical Conservation Tillage for Western Region Organic Cropping Systems

This webinar will discuss practical approaches to reducing the adverse impacts of tillage and cultivation on soil life and soil health. We will also cover recent research into newer tillage tools and minimum-till strategies for Western Region organic vegetable, fruit, and field crop production. 

Slide handout, Presentation Notes, Recording at

February 27, 2019: Selecting and Managing Cover Crops for Organic Crop Rotations in the Western Region

Co-presenter: Eric Brennan, USDA ARS, Salinas, CA.
This webinar will discuss best cover crops, mixes, and management methods for optimum soil health and organic cash crop production in the Western Region. We will explore in greater depth the special challenges that farmers face in adding cover crops to dryland cereal grain rotations and other moisture-limited cropping systems.

Eric is a research horticulturist and lead scientist in organic production at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Salinas, CA where he has worked since 2001. Eric’s research focuses on vegetable and strawberry production with emphasis on cover crops, weed and soil fertility management, and biological control of insect pests. Eric is passionate about long-term research and effective communication of practical research results to farmers and others.

Slide handout, Presentation notes, Recording at

March 27, 2019: Breeding New Cultivars for Soil-enhancing Organic Cropping Systems in the Western Region

with Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance and Dawn Thilmany of Colorado State University.
This webinar will summarize plant breeding endeavors toward improved vegetable, specialty grain, and other crop cultivars for organic producers in the Western Region, and practical resources to help organic producers obtain the best available seed varieties for their needs. We will also explore emerging opportunities to develop new cultivars for nutrient and moisture use efficiency, competitiveness toward weeds, and enhanced interactions with beneficial soil biota.

Slide handout, Presentation notes, Recording at

April 17, 2019: Preparing for Drought: The Role of Soil Health in Water Management in Organic Production

With climate change exacerbating water scarcity issues throughout the Western U.S., organic producers urgently need practical information on best irrigation and soil moisture management. This webinar will explore the role of best organic soil health management in water conservation and water quality, with emphasis on practical research outcomes for the Western Region.

Slide handout, Presentation notes, Recording at

May 29, 2019: Meeting Weather Challenges in the Western U.S.: Organic Practices to Mitigate and Prepare for Climate Change

Slide handout, Presentation notes, Recording at

Co-presenter: Maegen Simmonds
This webinar will explore the capacity of sustainable organic systems to sequester soil carbon, minimize agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and help organic cropping and livestock operations withstand the impacts of climate disruptions already underway. Our presentation will include a summary of recent research findings and practical implications for the Western Region.

Maegen Simmonds is a soil and ecosystem biogeochemist, modeler, and data  scientist who works to ensure the long-term sustainability of  ecosystems by informing best management practices, decision-making, and  policy. Her research focuses on terrestrial ecosystem processes,  including land-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O).  Predicting the interactive effects of climate, wildfire, soil and plant  properties, and land management have been central themes in her work.

June 12, 2019: Soil Biology for the Western Region: Organic Practices to Recruit and Nurture Beneficial Biota in the Soil

This webinar will examine the roles of the soil food web and key components thereof in promoting soil health and fertility and sustainable organic crop production. Recent research conducted in organically managed soils in the Western Region will provide the basis for practical guidelines for best soil food web management in organic farming and ranching systems.

Slide handout, Presentation notes.

Funding for this webinar series is being provided by Western SARE. 

Published October 9, 2018

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.