The Evolution, Status, and Future of Organic No-Till in the Northeast US Webinar


Watch the webinar on YouTube at

About the webinar

Organic farmers in the mid-Atlantic region face many production constraints including farming on erodible soils in vulnerable watersheds. Historically, organic crop farming has relied heavily on tilling the soil to prepare the seedbed and to help manage weeds. Most organic farmers make between 7 and 12 tractor passes over their fields during the first half of the growing season for seedbed preparations, planting, and cultivation for weed control. Excessive tillage is costly from the energetic standpoint (diesel fuel and labor) and can decrease soil quality and soil carbon. As a result, there is a growing interest among farmers and researchers in identifying and adopting practices that are less tillage intensive, while at the same time continue providing sufficient weed control in organic crop production systems. This Webinar will discuss the evolution, current status, and potential future of organic reduced-till with a particular focus on grain production. The system we will present relies on growing high-residue cover crops and using a roller-crimper for cover crop management. Bill Curran from Penn State University and Steven Mirsky with the USDA-ARS will present and discuss some of their research along with Bill Mason, Mason Heritage Farm, an organic farmer collaborator from the eastern shore of Maryland.

About the presenters

Bill Curran is a professor of weed science in the Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences at Penn State University and has an extension-research split focused in weed management for agronomic crops. Bill’s extension and research programs focus on integrated weed management and weed management in conservation tillage systems including managing cover crops in conventional and organic-based cropping systems.

Steven Mirsky is a Research Ecologist for the USDA-ARS in the Sustainable Agricultural
Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. Dr. Mirsky has a research background in evaluating
the multifunctional role of cover crops and their integration into agroecosystems for soil, crop,
and weed management. He has been investigating cover crop-based, reduced-tillage organic
field crop production and weed management strategies in organic field crops including high
residue cultivation, stale seed-bedding, and tine weeding for the past five years. Dr. Mirsky
is responsible for the weed, soil, and crop management activities at Beltsville Agricultural
Research Center and on-farm experiments in Maryland.

Bill Mason, Mason Heritage Farm. Located near Queen Anne, MD, Bill and Susanne Mason
are the 4th generation to operate the business. The farm itself consists of 850 acres, most
of which is dedicated to grain production. The crops currently grown include corn, wheat,
soybeans and barley. With the rising expenses in the agricultural industry, the desire to be more
environmentally friendly, and the growing interest in organic products, Bill decided to look into
organic production starting in 2003. In 2005 he transitioned 190 acres and currently has 500
acres of certified organic grain. On the farm they use no-till production methods to help with
weed suppression and nutrient management relying heavily on cover crops.

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Published February 15, 2011

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.