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Organic and Sustainable Crop Production Program

The UT Organic and Sustainable Crop Production Program (OSCPP) includes faculty from six departments and centers in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. The OSCPP promotes interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach to expand organic and sustainable crop production in Tennessee and the Southeast. The OSCPP has launched a statewide organic agriculture initiative. The intent of this initiative is to involve more Tennessee farmers in organic production in order to increase farm income and to provide an alternative to keep the family farm in the family. Organic production has the potential to increase profits by reducing the use of off-farm inputs and providing consumers with locally grown, high-quality organic products in a rapidly growing market where the demand is greater than the supply. Furthermore, members of the OSCPP have coordinated the Tennessee Organic Production Network, which brings together different sectors of the agriculture industry in Tennessee (growers, producer organizations, industry, NGOs, government officials and agencies, university research and extension) to support communication and collaboration to expand organic crop production.

Departments / Centers

  • Plant Sciences
  • Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
  • Entomology and Plant Pathology
  • Agricultural Economics
  • Center for Profitable Agriculture
  • East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center (ETREC)

Faculty Members / Participants

  • Megan Bruch, M.S., Center for Profitable Agriculture
  • Neal Eash, Ph.D., Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
  • Lee Ellis, B.S., East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center
  • Kimberly Gwinn, Ph.D., Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
  • Robert Holland, M.S., Center for Profitable Agriculture
  • William Lively, East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center
  • David Lockwood, Ph.D., Department of Plant Sciences
  • Joanne Logan, Ph.D., Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
  • Bonnie Ownley, Ph.D., Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
  • John Skinner, Ph.D., Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
  • Robert Terry, East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center
  • Margarita Velandia, Ph.D., Department of Agricultural Economics
  • Forbes Walker, Ph.D., Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science
  • Annette Wszelaki, Ph.D., Department of Plant Sciences

Achievements / Distinctions

In 2007, the OSCPP was awarded a $1-million grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to jumpstart organic agriculture in Tennessee. Also in 2007, the ETREC dedicated a 90-acre research farm—the Organic Crops Unit—to organic production. Twenty-one acres are currently under cultivation. Fourteen acres are transitioning towards organic certification. The farm has a greenhouse for transplant propagation, as well as three high tunnel structures that were constructed in the fall of 2008 to extend the growing season.

Research

Since the program’s inception in fall 2007, sixteen research projects have been initiated at the Organic Crops Unit of the ETREC, as well as at the Plateau and West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Centers. The research focuses on conservation tillage techniques, season extension, variety trials, organic pest management, evaluating cover crops for optimizing fertility, enhancing beneficial insect populations, reducing soil-borne pathogens and managing weeds, and assessment and encouragement of native bees.

Education

The OSCPP facilitates interdisciplinary research among graduate students and faculty from three departments in the Institute of Agriculture: Plant Sciences, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, and Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Outreach

OSCPP members work with agricultural extension agents and new, transitioning, and existing growers to increase their knowledge of organic and sustainable production systems and to increase adoption of these production methods. OSCPP members have coordinated a year-long, 10-part organic workshop and training series for growers and agents, which began in February 2009. A comprehensive OSCPP website has been created to aid in information dissemination. In 2008, OSCPP team members provided 83 extension consultations; conducted 19 educational events with an audience of nearly 750 people; developed 31 publications, presentations, and news articles; and trained 64 extension agents at the 2008 Organic Crop Production In-service Training. OSCPP members also participate in eOrganic, a CoP (Community of Practice) designed to address information gaps among land-grant universities for science-based information relevant to organic production.

Contact Information

Annette Wszelaki, Associate Professor and Vegetable Specialist
Department of Plant Sciences
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
252 Ellington Plant Sciences Building
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996

Phone: (865) 974-8332
Email: annettew@utk.edu

David Butler, Assistant Professor
Department of Plant Sciences
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
252 Ellington Plant Sciences Building
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996

Phone: (865) 974-7165
Email: dbutler@utk.edu

Website: http://organics.utk.edu/

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