A new $1 million grant from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Organic Transitions Program will offer new opportunities to study a shift to organic wheat farming in the Pacific Northwest.

Four institutions focus on three major challenges

Washington State University, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, and the Rodale Institute will be part of the organic wheat project. The research will last four years.

There are three challenges that face Inland Northwest farmers in transitioning to organic growing: weed management, a non-chemical source of nitrogen for soils, and reducing the costs. Currently, there is limited research-based information on these topics for the Pacific Northwest's dryland wheat growing region.

Surendra Singh, agronomist and director of Washington State University’s Lind Dryland Research Station, commented: "Determining best practices and the economic impact of organic systems gives growers clear pros and cons to consider."

WSU research will look at legumes, clover, and grazing practices

The research team at Washington State University will investigate specific organic wheat farming methods for the Pacific Northwest. One branch of this research will experiment with legumes and clover that can be grown on wheat farms, to find the best "nitrogen-fixer" and reduce weeds in fields.

The team will also study how these crops may be used for cattle grazing, offering additional soil health benefits and saving money spent on feed.

WSU Insider notes:

Organic agriculture is becoming more common, often yielding products that can fetch a premium price, but it presents its own different set of challenges. For farmers interested in switching from conventional to organic wheat growing, there is little research-based information available on how to best make that transition, especially in the Pacific Northwest’s dryland wheat growing region.

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