Field Crops

Field Crop Answers  |  Resources & Research  |  From the Organic Broadcaster

Field Crops

Field Crop Fact Sheets:

1. Converting CRP Land to Organic Production
2. Marketing Organic Grains
3. Protecting Your Organic Land from Unwanted Chemical Sprays
4. Transition to Organic Crop Production



Ask an Organic Specialist: Field Crop Answers

Carve out time now to set goals for growing season.

Answer by Carmen Fernholz:

Before the 2021 growing season begins, it’s good practice to sit down and perform a thorough, objective review of everything that went right and everything that did not go so right. If you have been keeping a brief written running narrative throughout the season, this task will be a whole lot easier.

Much of what I recommend here will be in the form of rhetorical questions; only you can evaluate your season objectively (provided you are honest with yourself).

First off, evaluate your whole season on a success scale of 1-10. Base this in part on your goals. Did you set some goals? If so, how successful were you in reaching them? Can you build on these goals? Did any of the goals end up being unrealistic or could any of them have been set higher? Start formulating your 2021 goals immediately so you will be ready next spring. If you had no goals, how are you going to measure your success?

Dealing with goals is more like a flyover task. Getting to specifics is where clarity and detail will make a difference. So how was your weed management? Was it timely and complete? What were the factors that impacted its success or lack thereof? What weeds posed the greatest challenges and can you determine why? Were you attentive enough to the weather? Do you have a reliable weather app on your phone by which you can make decisions? How convenient are the adjustments on your tine weeder, rotary hoe, or cultivator? You don’t want settings to be an excuse for not getting the best, most effective work from your equipment. In thinking about how good your weed management looked during harvest, can you do better with the equipment? What tweaks need to be made, or do you need to budget for something new? Finally, how much weed seed did you allow to seed out this year?

Many farmers overlook the importance of effective, well-managed crop rotations. Effective crop rotations are one of the best weed-management tools available. Learning how these rotations impact soil structure and fertility is a work in progress. Rotations significantly affect how well tine weeders, rotary hoes, and cultivators function in passes across the field. Are there new crops you can add?

Now that the grain is all harvested and in storage, don’t forget to check its condition at least once a month or more often if moisture content or quality are questionable. Corn, especially, can get hot spots in the bin if the fines and cracked kernels accumulated in a single area because you did not use a spreader when filling. Level off the top of the grain when finished.

One final note. I know we all bond quite closely to the grain in the bin simply because of all the time and sweat equity we have invested in getting it there. It is our livelihood. However, its market value is not dependent on this bonding or emotional connection. Buyers only see bushels to buy and with which to make their own living. Consumers only experience the satisfaction of having good quality food on the table.

I recommend finding a reliable, honest third party to represent you in the market arena; someone who is paid by you based on how well they perform for you. This will not be a grain broker. This person is a marketing agent, someone in the market 24/7 who represents and speaks for you to the many buyers willing to take your grain at the lowest price they can achieve.

As an individual in the market, the decibel level your voice generates will be in direct relation to the volume of bushels you have to offer. So combine those bushels with other organic bushels and raise the vocal decibels for all of you. Turning up the volume can be accomplished by engaging a good, honest grain marketer to represent all of you and all of your bushels.

What are some strategies for fertility and weed management?

Answer by Carmen Fernholz:

An interesting part of my position with MOSES as a crop specialist is the variety of questions that come my way. The questions range widely from specific crop rotations to determining what to plant where, given the wide variations in climate and soil across the Midwest. It is these two facts, climate and soil types that are the first pieces of information I usually seek out when answering the inquiries that come in.

However, a majority of questions most often deal with fertility and weed management in organic field crops. So, let me try to give some general suggested management practices that can go a long way in dealing with these two concerns. 

In organic field crop management, soil types are an important consideration. However, ambient soil temperatures and soil moisture are the two factors that dictate when to do seedbed preparation and when to actually begin planting or seeding. They are the two telltale signs of when to be in the field. Soil temperatures early in the growing season directly impact soil fertility availability because of the relationship of soil microbial activity to temperatures. And most of us understand that it is microbial activity that provides the nutrients for plants.

What does this have to do with weed management? Weather factors including air temperatures, wind conditions, and precipitation events impact weed management very directly, as moisture and soil and air temperatures determine the time and amount of weed seed germination.

From mid-April on, a good indicator of soil temperatures in the seed zone is to take note of the air temperatures. Soil temperatures will lag behind air temperatures by several hours with 8 a.m. usually being the coolest part of the day for soils. 5 p.m. is when soil temps will be at their maximum. You can use an ordinary meat thermometer as a reliable tool as well. 

These soil temperatures directly impact seed germination because they determine growing degree units and days which, in turn, determine the rate of maturity for the growing plants. This applies to the planted crop as well as the weed seed banks in the soil.  

For small grains like wheat, oats, or barley, seed these crops as soon as the fields are dry enough. This means soil temperatures are in the 38- to 45-degree range. Most small grains will germinate at colder soil temperatures than foxtail grasses and most other broad leaf weeds, except for lambsquarters.

Consider small grains very much like you would consider planting lawn seed. They love cool, wet conditions and a much firmer seed bed than row crops like corn or soybeans. And, like lawn seed, they can germinate at cooler temperatures. By planting these crops early there is a better chance to get the grain mature and harvested before the grasses and broadleaf weeds that do grow set seed.

One additional reason for seeding these small grains earlier is the desire to have them in the pollinating and seed-setting stages of growth ahead of the hotter midsummer temperatures that can significantly negatively impact this process and cut yield potential. Dried field peas are especially sensitive to temperatures at pollination. So, get them planted as early as possible, even above frost if field conditions allow.

Best weed management in row crops like corn and soybeans is nearly opposite to that of small grain. Plant later to allow the seed bed to warm so, when the crop is planted, it will germinate and emerge quickly to compete with the existing weed seed bank, which also likes warmer soils. Here again, pay close attention to soil temperatures. These temperatures should stay above 50 degrees 24-7 for at least three to four days; something that rarely occurs in western Minnesota before May 15. A great indicator that this is happening is that you will begin to see foxtail grasses and some broad leaf weeds emerging when it is time to prepare the seed bed.

This also means being able to tine weed, rotary hoe, and then cultivate after planting as quickly as possible. It is important to remember that any weed that is green and above the ground can only really be eliminated with a shovel on a shank. Rotary hoeing and tine weeding decrease in effectiveness with each passing day post planting.

Several other things about row crop weed management: An initial pass through the intended corn and soybean fields on a hot breezy afternoon in late April to create a stale seed bed is an excellent way to manage weeds. This creates ideal conditions for weeds to germinate that can then be tilled out just ahead of planting the corn and soybeans later in May. And, finally, higher seeding rates for row crops can help suppress weeds as well as lessen the impact of plant stand loss from any of the mechanical weeding equipment.

Feel free to call me with questions, especially now that field work is starting up again. If I do not have the answers, I know we can find someone to help. 

Should I hire a pest management service for my on-farm crop storage?

Answer by Chuck Anderas:

You would have to crunch the numbers to determine the financial impact of the pests and how much it will cost to pay for a company to take care of them for you. If you have had major pest issues that you haven’t been able to control on your own, then going with a pest control company might be the best bet—but you will still be responsible for the organic integrity of your operation. It will be important to clearly communicate to the company what the organic regulations are and how they will work in your context.

Whether you decide to go with a company or do the work yourself, you’ll need to have your certifier approve your pest management plan before you implement it.

The plan has to start with the “least toxic, most effective” means of controlling the pest. The first practical step, as it says in the facility pest management practice standard (§205.271), is to remove pest habitat, food sources, and breeding areas, try your best to prevent pests from entering the facility, and manage environmental factors. Pests can also be controlled using mechanical/physical means, like snapping mouse traps for example. When I worked in certification, I often saw cats and dogs listed in the facility pest management section of Organic System Plans.

If none of that works, you can use natural lures or repellents (or synthetic ones that are on the National List of approved synthetics). Vitamin D3 baits are one example of products that fit into that category. The OMRI certificates of vitamin D3 products include this restriction: “For use as a pesticide only in conjunction with the facility pest management practices provided for in paragraphs 205.271(a) and (b) and only if those practices are not effective to prevent or control pests alone.” So basically, if you can’t keep pests out and mechanical means of taking care of them are ineffective, you can use this product with approval from your certifier.

If restricted products like that don’t work, then you can go to synthetic products that are not on the National List as long as your plan is approved by your certifier. A synthetic substance may be used provided that “the handler and certifying agent agree on the substance, method of application, and measures to be taken to prevent contact of the organically produced products or ingredients with the substance used.” After you’ve shown that your previous steps weren’t effective, your plan and the specific product must be approved by your certifier. No matter what, you have to keep the pest control product away from your stored organic crops, organic land, and organic animals.

I have land that has been managed organically for more than three years. Do I still need to wait 36 months to transition it to organic?

Answer by Lauren Langworthy:

Farmers who have been utilizing organic practices for years, but have not been certified, might not have to wait a full 36 months between when they decide to transition to organic and when they can harvest their first organic crop. This is commonly referred to as “fast tracking” land.

It is important to understand that land being fast tracked must comply with all the same rules as any other transitioning land. The land must have been free of prohibited substances and managed in accordance with the National Organic Program (NOP) for 36 months or more.

Farmers who think their land is immediately eligible will need to prove the land’s eligibility to a certifier. The operator (or previous operator) can sign a declaration explaining the land’s use during the previous 36 months, showing that no prohibited substances have been used. The most important fact to include in this declaration is the date when the last prohibited substance was used. Often, this will be the date that a field was last sprayed with an herbicide, pesticide, or synthetic fertilizer.

A common example of “fast tracked” land is grassland expiring from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to transition into organic pasture land. Because the landowner can provide documentation of how long that land has been under a CRP contract and any waivers for managing undesirable species (through mowing or spot spraying), they can clearly demonstrate

how long the land has been free of prohibited substances. The landowner can write a short explanation of the land’s previous use, include support documentation (such as an NRCS contract, waivers, or a receipt from a custom applicator), and submit this all to the organic certifier. Many organic certifiers have forms that can be used to complete this process.

The certifier will then do the necessary due diligence to verify that the land has been free of prohibited substances. The certifier may contact farmers or landowners for additional information. Once the certifier is satisfied, the certification agency can help the farmer move forward through the certification process. Often, farmers have fallow land, hay ground, pasture, small-scale vegetables, or other low-maintenance fields that they manage without the use of prohibited substances. These are all likely candidates for fast tracking. However, it is important to make sure that the land’s history does, indeed, qualify for organic transition. Some farmers believe that they are following the National Organic Program (NOP) rules, but without inspections and a certifier checking in, it is possible they’ve been applying a prohibited substance to their land without knowing it’s prohibited.

If you have questions about whether or not your land might be eligible for certification, you can start by reading MOSES’ Guidebook for Organic Certification to better understand organic production rules. You can also contact the MOSES Organic Specialists at 715-778-5775 with your questions, or contact a certifier about a particular substance that has been applied to your field.

I’m transitioning to organic. When should I start looking for markets for my new organic production?

Answer by Organic Specialist Lauren Langworthy:

One of the most important—and most overlooked—steps in the process of transitioning is to plan ahead for a marketplace where you will be able to move your organic products. Because an outlet for your goods is such an important part of the financial health of your farm, you should make an extra effort to set yourself up for success long before you have organic goods to sell. If you’re coming up on your certification date and haven’t yet found a buyer, you risk losing the important price premiums that will help your organic farm thrive. Instead, plan ahead!

Begin conversations with grain elevators, creameries, co-ops, farmers’ market managers, wholesale buyers, or whoever helps you move your products long before you’re ready to sell. You may even want to begin these conversations before you begin transitioning to organic so that you can be certain the plans you’re making will be well received at a price point that works to support your production.

Depending on what you’re producing, the new “marketplace” may be similar to (or even the same as) your previous one—or it might be vastly different. An example of a marketplace that doesn’t require many changes in marketing might be transitioning from selling non-certified produce to wholesale accounts or at a farmers’ market. Producers making this sort of transition may find that the price point they can request improves with proof of certification, but little else has to be modified from previous relationships and sales methods. Certification may even increase your opportunity to expand into additional farmers’ markets or wholesale accounts by giving you a preferred ranking.

However, some marketplaces treat organic products completely different than they do non-organic. If you sell commodity crops to local co-ops or elevators, you may need to seek out new buyers in order to maintain the organic integrity and price point of your crops.

In that same vein, if you are a dairy producer, you may be surprised to learn that you’ll be signing a multiple-year contract to produce for a creamery purchasing organic milk instead of having your prices fluctuate frequently due to the marketplace demands. While it requires learning a new system, these contracts can be extremely valuable as you plan the future of your business and consider accessing credit for farm infrastructure. You may have to seek out new relationships if your current creamery does not deal in organic milk. Again, it is much better to get on a list and have a buyer expecting you than to learn too late that the creamery you’d hoped to work with will not be accepting new producers at the time you are ready to start selling organic product.

While finding a new buyer can be daunting, it’s also good to learn about the opportunities that are available to you. Because the relationships and structure of your sales may differ significantly from your previous experiences, it’s important to begin preparing for these changes well in advance. As you research the local landscape of organic marketing opportunities, you might learn that certain crops will not be well supported while others might offer an exceptionally good price. The more of this information you have at your fingertips before beginning your farm’s transition, the better prepared you can be with contracts and rotation plans that will allow you to be successful in your newly established organic enterprise.

Keep in mind that the more you can utilize the transition period to practice your organic production skills, organic seed varieties, and relationships with future buyers, the more likely you will be to experience success when your certification finally comes. Planning ahead and preparing for the future will help you find stable footing as you move into new mindsets for your production.

I am having my organic corn (or soybeans or small grains or hay) custom harvested. What should I do to protect the organic integrity of my crop?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar:

Harvesting of many organic crops is routinely done by custom operators who are not organic. These operators will need to follow specific protocols to prevent commingling of the organic crop with any non-organic crops or prohibited substances still present in the equipment.

When using a combine to harvest grains, soybeans or corn, the machine must be cleaned thoroughly between any non-organic crop and the organic crop. If the combine operator is working with another organic operator before harvesting your crop, you may not need to have the combine cleaned. You will need documentation that the last crop run through the combine was organic, and not a buffer strip, a transitional crop, or non-organic crop the other organic producer may have grown.

Cleaning a combine is labor-intensive and still may not remove all traces of a non-organic crop. Running the combine with all of the doors open is one way to shake out kernels and dust. Blowing out with compressed air and/or a shop vac is also an option. After either of these is done, you also must run the combine through a swath of your organic field, separating the first 30-60 feet or more of the crop that has been harvested. This harvest must be stored, used and/or sold as conventional. Keep a receipt or other documentation to show your organic inspector that this combine “purge” was either fed to your own non-organic livestock or sold as conventional. The distance you harvest for this combine “purge” depends on the size of the combine and the density of the crop. You should be able to justify to your inspector the amount of your purge. Typically it is 10-20 bushels.

Combine cleaning is done routinely by farmers who grow crops to sell as seed in order to maintain seed purity. Many custom operators know how many bushels they need to run through their combine to remove traces of the previous crop, especially if they combine small grains in mid-summer and then beans and corn. You must document who cleaned the combine, what they did and when. Some manufacturers may have information on how many bushels must be run through the combine to clean it out.

If the previous non-organic crop was Genetically Modified (GMO), even a trace of non-organic crop dust in your organic crop could result in a positive GMO test and rejection of your organic load if and when it is tested by the buyer. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure in this case.

If someone is custom harvesting your hay or swathing your small grains, make sure the equipment arrives at your organic field clean. The cutting and windrowing equipment is easy to inspect. If it is traveling any distance over the road it has most likely been shaken enough to remove any non-organic hay or straw. This is true for large round balers, as they are mostly self-cleaning. However, it is still your responsibility as the organic producer to verify and document that there is no residue of non-organic crop in or on the equipment before it is used to harvest your organic hay or straw. If a custom operator first harvests your own conventional hay, a buffer zone, or transitional hay, you will need to clean the equipment before using it on your organic crop.

Small- and large-square balers are more problematic since they typically retain a partial bale or two. You will need to run at least three small-square bales or one large bale of your own crop through the machine as a “purge,” and document that these were stored and sold or used as non-organic. Many large square balers have some sort of preservative that is injected into the large bale. The preservative container should be emptied of any prohibited substances before the baler is used to harvest your organic crop; note this in your records. If the product is a bacteria or other naturally occurring substance you should verify with your certification agency that it would be allowed on your organic bales. Ask your custom operator what type of preservatives might be used in the equipment, and check it with your certifier at least a week before the operator shows up to bale your hay.

Rented storage areas as well as any transportation vehicles also must be verified clean and free of previous crop residues or prohibited substances before being used for organic crops. Document that you verified they were clean before you used them. This documentation can be part of your field activity log or calendar, or you can use the various forms your certification agency may provide.

I will be putting organic grain in an on-farm bin and then shipping it later this fall to a broker. Is there anything I should do to ensure a smooth shipment and sale?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar:

You should check the quality of your grain. It should be clean of chaff and weed seeds when you put it in the bin. Many farmers run their grain through a rotary screen cleaner to reduce extraneous matter that could encourage insect problems. The cleaner your grain is when you ship it, the less “dockage” your buyer will take off your payment.

If you have your own livestock, you can feed them undersized, splits or lower quality grain on-farm. If you do some pre-cleaning, you are able to retain these culls for your own use.
Always thoroughly clean the bin each year before using it. If it has a perforated floor, pull that up and clean out any old grain or chaff to prevent infestations from starting in the new grain you put in the bin. The best method of pest control is prevention.

If pests have been an issue in your bin, consider putting some diatomaceous earth on the bin floor, adding a little more as you are loading the grain to prevent insect problems. See the Insecto website for recommended amounts and usage directions ( If you use D.E., tell your buyer, since sometimes it can be hard on their equipment. They would like to know it was used in your bin. D.E. use is approved for organic production in post-harvest handling.

If your grain could have vomitoxin, aflatoxin or other mycotoxins due to wet weather or harvesting when not completely dry, have it tested so you know what you are shipping. Depending on the buyer and how they’ll use your grain, you might be able to ship it with some mycotoxin in it. Knowing levels ahead of time will prevent you from shipping grain that could be rejected at the buyer’s loading dock.

It is also a very good idea to retain samples from each bin you ship from, in case there are any questions about the quality of your grain.

If you question the testing or quality opinion of your buyer, and you shipped all if it without retaining a sample, you don’t have any evidence to rebut their test or quality rating. Many local feed mills can do some basic testing for you, including test weights, so you know ahead of time what you are shipping and don’t rely solely on the buyer’s tests.

Lastly, always verify the truck that comes to the farm to pick up your grain is clean. Even if it comes from an organic buyer, the trucker may have transported GMO grain before coming for your load. GMO testing is very sensitive—GMO DNA can be found even in a speck of dust. It is to your best advantage to have that truck cleaned before you load that valuable crop of organic grain you worked so hard to grow. If the load tests positive for GMO due to a dirty truck, the trucker will still get paid for hauling the grain, but you will lose your organic price. Don’t be shy to request cleaning the truck before loading your grain.

Remember to complete a clean truck affidavit, and document all other crop and equipment cleaning activities on the farm to show your organic certifier you are doing your due diligence to protect the organic integrity of your crop.

I shipped one load of organic corn, and it was rejected by my buyer as having GMO contamination and was then sold to a conventional buyer. What should I do for my next load?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar:

Under our organic regulation, the GMO contaminated organic corn is still certified organic, although your buyer may have stricter purchasing preferences that include a specific tolerance level for GMOs, such as less than 1%. It would have been a good idea to send a sample to your buyer before you shipped the entire load to make sure it would not be rejected. Once it has been loaded and shipped off the farm, it is difficult and expensive to bring it back to your farm.

Before signing a contract for purchase of your crop, or selling a crop on the spot market, it would be a good idea to find out what, if any, GMO testing is done and what level of GMO contamination would cause the load to be rejected by the buyer you are considering. You can also find out what level of GMO contamination your previous load had, and try to take some precautions next year when planting corn to lower your risk and level of contamination. You might try planting later than your neighbor to avoid cross pollination, increasing the size of your buffer strip, or choosing to grow corn where it is more isolated from neighboring GMO corn. Even though corn pollen will travel great distances, higher levels of contamination will occur when the non-GMO and GMO corns are grown in close proximity.

Typically, all organic crops sold for direct human consumption are tested for GMOs, sometimes numerous times in the process of cleaning and readying for sale. However, most livestock feeds are not tested for GMOs. In 2011, a report by the Office of Inspector General noted this lack of GMO testing of organic livestock feed, and encouraged the National Organic Program to require more testing of livestock feeds, especially those sold to organic dairy farmers. At this time, there is no specific direction from the NOP on GMO testing of organic livestock feeds.

It is unfortunate that the organic farmer bears the brunt of the weakness of GMO technology; that it is promiscuous and does not stay on the user’s side of the fence. Depending on the amount of GMO contamination, you may have the option of selling your crop as organic to another buyer with lower requirements, telling that buyer about the GMO contamination.

What can I plant mid-summer to feed pollinators and beneficial insects into the fall?

Answer by Organic Specialist Jennifer Nelson:

As we enter the time of mid-summer bounty, the pollinators and beneficial insects are busy sipping up the nectar and pollen from your flowering plants. Nectar provides energy, and pollen is high in protein. If you are managing bees, you’ll want to research specific mixes of flowering plants that provide a good balance of both nectar and pollen. If you are a farmer who wants to make sure your farm’s beneficial pollinators have plenty to eat, you have a variety of options. Nature provides a diverse assortment of plants that flower from early spring into the fall, ensuring a good food supply for pollinators all season long.

Your first option is to ensure you have plenty of perennial and native plants on your acreage. Buffer strips of native prairie flowers and grasses are a functional and beautiful addition to larger acreages; perimeter buffers work well on smaller plots. Native flowering plants and perennials not only feed pollinators throughout the season, but also hold soil from erosion and buffer your land from neighboring farm chemicals. These plants also are easy to maintain and tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions.

Establishing native prairie and perennials can take a few years. A good resource to help you in this endeavor is the Organic Broadcaster story “Native prairie plantings can be established without using herbicides” by Harriet Behar, MOSES Senior Organic Specialist. You can find it online at

A shorter term option to feed your pollinators is to plant annual flowering cover crops on your land that will grow fast, while improving soil and feeding wildlife, but winterkill to be easily tilled in when spring comes. Diversity of cropping not only feeds your pollinators, but cover crops are a great source of green manure and biomass for your soil. All of the following crops will die over winter and be ready for spring tillage.

Calendula – For small to medium acreages, this useful flower is easy to grow, and blooms its pretty head off all season long. When the flowers die, it can be mowed, then will come back and flower as many as three times during the growing season.

Sunflowers – There are many single stem and branching varieties with various grow times, some as fast as 60 days. You can seed them in July and enjoy them in September until the frost. Sunflower heads make a great bird feast during winter, while holding soil from erosion. Note: don’t leave over winter in a field you’d like to plant early because the thick stems will take some time to break down after spring tillage.

Buckwheat – Buckwheat is a wonderful warm season cover crop. The flowers attract many different beneficial insects and birds. It germinates well and canopies quickly to suppress weeds as it matures in 70-90 days. Buckwheat is also reported to extract soil phosphorus.

Phacelia – Another wonderful cover crop for large or small acreages, this flower is highly frost tolerant and loaded with pollen, or protein. It germinates in 5-10 days, grows fast for weed suppression, and has excellent ability to accumulate and recycle excess nitrates and calcium. Plant phacelia with overwintering crimson clover for a cocktail that will not only feed pollinators during the end of the season (phacelia), and also fix nitrogen and feed pollinators in spring (crimson clover).

Cowpea – A heat-loving legume, the cowpea or black-eyed pea not only suppresses weeds and sources nitrogen in the heat of the summer, it has “extrafloral nectaries” on petioles and leaflets that beneficial insects love to eat. Cowpeas can be planted with sorghum Sudangrass, which they’ll climb. The two together create a lot of biomass. Make sure to plant cowpeas in July at the latest, as they are not frost tolerant and require 60-90 days to mature.

Must I use organic seed?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar:

If you are still in transition to organic, you are not required under the organic regulations to plant organic seed. However, you cannot plant seeds that have prohibited synthetic treatments applied, such as a fungicide or insecticide (ie: Captan, Maxim,Thiram). Nitrogen-fixing rhizobial bacteria, used as a treatment on leguminous seeds, is allowed. You must make sure this bacteria is not genetically modified, and the bacteria is not sold with a prohibited synthetic carrier or fertilizer.

You must keep documentation that the seed planted during your transition meets these requirements as part of your application for organic certification. If you plant a corn seed treated with captan after two years of transitioning to organic, for instance, you must restart the 36-month clock on your transition, to the day you planted that seed on that field. If you are unsure if a seed treatment is allowed, ask MOSES, or the organic certification agency you are planning to use when you become certified for organic production.

If your operation is certified organic, you are required under the organic regulations to plant organic seed, unless you cannot find an “equivalent organically produced variety” in the form, quality or quantity that you want. For example, you may want organically approved clay-coated carrot seed for ease of planting, and it is not available on organic seed; or, you want 1000 pounds of bodacious sweet corn seed and you cannot find organic seed in that quantity; or, the germination rate for the organic barley you found is only 65%; or, you cannot find the specific variety of seed in an organic form that the buyer of your crop wants you to grow. In all of these cases, you can use non-organic seed. It cannot have prohibited seed treatments, as described above.

Note that the rule requires you to seek out an “equivalent” variety. If you are new to organic and are unsure whether the organic seed varieties are equivalent to the familiar non-organic varieties you are used to growing, you should trial out organic varieties with similar characteristics at the same time as planting your untreated non-organic seed, to see if you can find one to your liking. Higher price is NOT an acceptable reason to avoid planting organic seed.

Organic seed is an investment in our future as organic producers. Since organic seed is produced under organic management, and the seed breeders are specifically working to provide characteristics that organic crop producers need, it makes sense to purchase from these companies and support their efforts. For example, organic corn producers cannot plant in cold ground in the early spring, since their seed is not treated with fungicides. Therefore, they want a seed that will germinate quickly as well as canopy thick and early to help with weed control in their organic fields. Organic seed breeders work to have crops that respond well to natural, slower release forms of fertility inputs, whereas nonorganic corn seed breeders don’t do this.

I have some organic corn and hay to sell, but see the prices have dropped from last year. Why the change?

Answer by Organic Specialist Joe Pedretti:

Prices for both organic and non-organic corn and hay are lower than in recent years because the supply is greater now, and the demand is lower. Weather was one factor behind the unusually high grain and forage prices in 2012 and 2013. Drought during the summer of 2012 caused a lot of crop failures and substantially reduced yields everywhere. Forage production suffered, too, causing many livestock farmers to dip into their stored feed supplies much earlier than normal. The unusually long and cold spring of 2013 only increased the shortage problem.

Demand rose for purchased feed because of these shortages, but also due to increased demand for organic dairy products. Most of the organic milk companies were expanding their new farm base during this same time period to meet consumer demand. These two factors created strong demand for a very limited supply of feed and drove prices up to historic highs late in 2012 and through the first half of 2013.

2013 saw a reversal in fortunes for both supply and demand. Despite the slow, cold start, organic grain and forage production was good to excellent in most areas of the country. Pasture was ample, so farmers were able to restock their hay and silage stores. 2013 also saw a softening of the organic dairy market. The downturn was not as bad as 2008-09, which saw quotas and flat sales, but sales did not meet budgeted increases and efforts were, and are still being made to reduce organic dairy production.

A year ago organic feed corn was $14.14; now it’s $10.25 to $12. The recent USDA forecast put non-organic corn at $3.90 per bushel in the coming crop year.

I am harvesting organic grain and want to make sure it retains quality in storage. What can I do to prevent insect infestations?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar: 

Many organic producers use diatomaceous earth, commonly called DE, to control insect infes­tations in organic grain storage. This fossilized remains of an ancient hard shell algae is used in many food-grade products, including as a filtra­tion aid for liquids and in toothpaste. The fine powder kills a wide variety of insects or larvae by absorbing lipids from their exoskeletons’ waxy outer layer, causing them to dehydrate. Due to these characteristics, anyone handling this prod­uct should use a tight-fitting filter or respirator over their nose and mouth and goggles over their eyes to prevent health problems. Long sleeves, pants and gloves would be a good idea, too.

Typically, DE is scattered on the floor of the grain bin and periodically added to the grain as it is being loaded into the bin. Add 1 cup of DE to every couple of bush­els or so of grain for good coverage. If you have a perforated floor in your bin with a fan, you can have the fan running on low as you load the bin to incorporate the DE into the first few feet. It is also a good idea to lift up the floor and clean underneath before loading it with this year’s crop.

If you can, run the grain through a spiral screen air cleaner before storage (pictured below). This will lessen the chaff, screenings, and insect load in your stored grain. It also dries grain bet­ter for higher quality long-term storage. Running your grain through the same cleaner before load­ing to your buyer would also be appreciated, since DE can be abrasive to their cleaning equipment. Shipping clean grain also means there will be less dockage from your payment due to screen­ings and foreign matter.

Make sure you leave head space at the top of the bin to allow for moisture to escape. If you are concerned about vomitoxin or other issues, test before you put it in the bin. The grain will not improve in quality when in storage, so knowing what you have at the start will help you make decisions on where to sell your crop and how long to store it.

Another resource with recommendations on managing grain after harvest is available from Iowa State University.

I know I am supposed to plant organic seeds if I sell my crop production as organic. How do I accomplish this?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar: 

The National Organic Program (NOP) man­dates the use of organic seed for crops that will be sold as organic unless you can show that you could not find the quality, quantity or equivalent variety of seed you wanted to plant. Under no circumstance can seeds treated with GMO nitrogen-fixing bacteria or non-approved syn­thetic fungicides or insecticides be used when you sell your crop in the marketplace as organic. This rule also applies to producers who sell less than $5,000 in organically labeled products, making them exempt from organic certification (but not from following organic standards). If prohibited materials are used on the seed, or a GMO seed is planted, the land cannot be used for organic production for three years.

More and more seed companies are develop­ing organic seed varieties that function well in organic systems to meet the demand of the organic marketplace. By supporting organic seed suppliers, you encourage further research and development of organic seeds that compete well with weeds, grow vigorously with slow-release fertility inputs and are resistant to disease and pests. Also, certified organic seed would never have prohibited seed treatments.

An excellent resource for finding organic seed of all types is the website www.organicseed­ Field crops, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flower sources are all listed. This website is also helpful for finding seed suppliers that would be the most likely to carry organic seed varieties.

A broader list of organic seed suppliers is in the Upper Midwest Organic Resource Directory. The “Seed Sup­pliers” section lists not only suppliers of seed, but also farms that supply seed potatoes or grow crops for seed. The directory also is available in print. You may request a copy by calling the MOSES office at 715-778-5775.

If the specific variety of seed you want is not available, you are required to purchase organic seed of an equivalent variety. If you are unsure if the organic variety is similar or equivalent, consider purchasing some organic seed and trialing out new organic varieties to see if they do as well as the non-organic seed that you are used to growing. Remember, the NOP does not consider price to be a valid reason not to pur­chase organic seed.

If you plant untreated non-organic seed, you will need to document why your search for organic seed was unsuccessful—quantity, qual­ity, and variety are all valid reasons for buying non-organic seed. For example, the organic seed only came in one-ounce packets and you wanted to purchase 20 pounds (quantity). Or, the organic seed germination rate was only 20%, and the non-organic seed had a germination rate of 95% (quality). Or, you wanted to grow an orange oxheart tomato, and could not find it from at least three sources that typically sell organic seed (variety). Searching at your local garden center which does not typically sell organic seed is not considered a viable organic seed search by most certification agencies. You should be trying to find organic seed from the many suppliers that offer it. Even a search on the Internet for organic seed varieties can be fruitful.

Organic seed can be in short supply. It is a good idea to start your organic seed searches in winter and not wait until late spring when they often are sold out.  

I would like to purchase an older sprayer that had been used with prohibited synthetic materials. Can I do this and use this sprayer to apply products approved for organic production?

Answer by Organic Specialist Harriet Behar: 

Yes, you can purchase and use this sprayer. However, you will need to perform some cleaning and refurbishment activities and document these before you may use it on organic land.
Most certifiers recommend a clear water rinse first. Completely fill the tank and spray it until empty on non-organic land. Second, fill the tank again with diluted household ammonia, such as one quart of ammonia per 125 gallons. Run this through the sprayer again on non-organic land. Perform another clear water rinse as above. If you continue to smell the residues of the prohibited chemicals, do another ammonia and clear water rinse again. Poly tanks are porous so you may need to repeat this procedure a few times.

Replace all rubber parts including hoses, washers, and nozzles with new ones, as these are very difficult to clean completely.

Many certifiers require that once you have converted this piece of equipment from non-organic to organic production, you can no longer use it for spraying prohibited materials. In other words, if you are sharing this piece of equipment with a non-organic farmer, or you manage split production on your own farm, you may need to dedicate this sprayer, once cleaned, to organic and not go back and forth between organic and non-organic use, even if you perform this cleaning activity each time. Check with your certification agency on its policy for sprayer use to see if it mandates dedication to organic.

Is burning land or crop residues allowed in certified organic production?

Answer by Senior Organic Specialist Harriet Behar:

The National Organic Standards allow burning to suppress the spread of disease or to stimulate seed germination, such as in prairie burns or in pastures to remove thatch and allow for thicker grass and forbs for foraging livestock. The rule is explained in Section 205.203 (e) (3).

Note that burning of crop residues, such as burning off residues either before planting or after harvest—a typical non-organic practice in some crops such as wheat, cotton, sugar cane, and rice—is not approved under organic regulations and may be subject to further restrictions under state or local laws that deal with impaired visibility and air quality.

Burning branches from pruning your fruit trees or brambles would also be allowed, since disposal of these items would prevent the possible spread of disease.

If you plan to use the ash from your burning as a soil amendment or in potting soil to provide potash or for pest control on vegetable crops, the ash cannot come from a material that was treated or combined with a prohibited substance. This means that synthetics not listed as “allowed” on the National List or a natural product listed as “prohibited” cannot be part of the vegetative matter being burned or mixed with it.

Section 205.203 (d) covers the use of ash. Pay attention to the specific annotations for limited use, such as copper.

Do not burn treated lumber, since toxic chemicals can be produced in the smoke and the ashes.

How can I maintain the purity of my organic corn?

Answer by Organic Specialist Matt Leavitt:

NOP regulations do not currently dictate the level of GMO purity present in harvested organic crops. Organic production is a process-based verification (vs. an end-product verification) so crops can have GMO contamination but still be considered certified organic. However, given tighter competition in the consumer marketplace with a slew of labels making various claims (natural, non-GMO, sustainable, etc.), end-markets for organic corn have developed more stringent purity requirements than ever before.

In general, organic corn going into the livestock feed market has a GMO contamination tolerance of anywhere from 2-5% while corn going into the human food market is often <1%. Organic corn is one of the most lucrative crops in an organic grain rotation, but raising a crop that meets marketer and consumer demand can be challenging. The vast majority of corn planted in the United States is genetically modified. Additionally, corn is a promiscuous crop, shedding viable pollen that can travel for miles to cross-contaminate organic fields separated by buffers, windbreaks, and other physical barriers.

What is an organic producer to do?

Fortunately, there are things within your control to minimize the potential of GMO contamination to your organic corn and harvest as pure a crop as possible.

First, always start with seed from a reputable source that clearly tests and labels seed for GMO contamination. If GMO testing isn’t clearly noted from your seed company, ask them for test information. While purchasing purity-guaranteed seed is not the only way to limit contamination of your harvested grain, it is a wise insurance policy. There are, additionally, corn hybrids that limit pollination from foreign pollen through traditional breeding techniques. These may also be an option, depending on your region.

Second, vary the timing of your corn’s maturity from surrounding farms. Organic corn is often planted later than conventional to take advantage of warmer soil conditions and optimum growing degree days. Planting slightly earlier hybrids for your region will stagger your crop’s pollination time from neighboring fields, limiting the potential of cross-contamination. Choosing fields with the most physical isolation is also a good option to maintain optimum purity.

If your corn fields are in close proximity to genetically modified corn, it may be wise to harvest and store the outside 16-24 rows separately even if you have appropriate buffers in place. This could potentially prevent high concentrations of cross-contaminated corn.

Third, ensure the cleanliness of all planting, harvest, and storage equipment, especially if you’re running a split operation, sharing equipment or hiring a custom operator. Depending on the test that your end market may take, it doesn’t take many contaminated kernels to result in a positive test. Run combines clean with doors open and blow out thoroughly with compressed air; especially cutting platforms, corn head, separators, grain tanks and unloading augers.

Purging equipment after a thorough cleaning with small grains or another medium can also help. Ensure all gravity wagons and trucks are swept and blown clean and store your harvested corn only in cleaned-out bins. Pay special attention to nooks and crannies like false floors, slots, slides, and doors. Careful recordkeeping of all of these processes like clean truck affidavits, field logs, etc. can help should problems arise at the time of delivery.

Finally, when it comes time to market your crop, if possible send in a representative sample first before sending a whole load. Bringing back or rerouting a contaminated load is expensive. If you do have corn that is contaminated, it may be an option to direct market it to a livestock farmer or livestock feed buyer, which often have lower standards than food-grade markets.


Resources & Research:

The U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration provides a budgeting tool to assist organic and transitioning farmers and producers in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana with planning future crop production and improving the management of their current operation.

SARE shows how farmers are seeing multiple benefits from cover crops, including increased yields of corn and soybeans following the cover crop. The new report reveals other benefits farmers gain from planting cover crops, including increases in soil organic matter, reduced soil erosion and compaction, improved weed control, and the availability of “free” nitrogen through soil fixation by legumes. The report also shows rapid growth in the number of acres seeded to cover crops.

The USDA explains organic requirements and best practices, and the certification process.

This group offers workshops and online resources, including a cover crop selector tool.

  • OGRAIN listserv

Share information about events, production issues, resources, and equipment to buy or sell. Subscribers can send an email to the entire group. Members can reply to all or just to the sender who can post “digests” of the responses they receive. OGRAIN is a partnership between MOSES and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

To subscribe to the listerv, email
To post an email to the entire group, email (All subscribers will receive your email. This gives you the ears, advice, and perspectives of many people, but it also means that you should use this list sparingly so as not to overload the inboxes of subscribers. We reserve the right to moderate content and take action if necessary.)
Unsubscribe from the listserv:

The centralized database offers a way for organic growers to find reliable sources for organic seed. Seed vendors pay a fee to post on the site, which provides free access to growers. Created by the Organic Seed Alliance and the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies.


From the Organic Broadcaster:

At 40-year milestone, Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial demonstrates benefits of organic productions
July | August 2021

Results from the Farming Systems Trial have surprised the farming community and contributed to the codification of what we know as organic agriculture today. Over the years, the trial has expanded beyond comparing conventional and organic production of corn and soybeans to include vegetable production and watershed impact. Read more.


Farmers find CBD hemp industry’s first years rocky, but hang onto hope for future
July | August 2021

Certified organic CBD hemp grows really well in our region—you could almost say it grows like a weed. Since the 2018 Federal Farm Bill allowed the production and distribution of hemp products with a limit of 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for the first time in more than 50 years, the marketplace has exploded, but not to the benefit of farmers. Read more.


New project helps fiber hemp growers, researchers share production data
July | August 2021

By combining university research protocols with crowdsourcing of grower-collected data, the Midwestern Hemp Database pulled in a large amount of information in a short period of time. The project reveals common agronomic practices throughout the region, as well as how different hemp cultivars performed in terms of flower development, cannabinoid content, and overall yields. Read more.


No-till, cover crops don’t ensure net soil carbon gains; integrated crop-livestock systems should be incentivized
March | April 2021

Soil carbon gains achieved with no-till have been mixed as more studies were conducted at a broader geographic range, with some crop rotations even resulting in losses of soil carbon with the adoption of no-till. Other practices identified early on, like managed perennial grass establishment (e.g., pasture) and manure/compost application, have been largely confirmed by the majority of studies to result in meaningful increases in soil carbon. Read more.



Researchers use 30-year cropping systems experiment to evaluate if farm fields can serve as carbon sinks
March | April 2021

There’s a palpable buzz around soil carbon in the agricultural community. It’s exciting to see so much attention and energy directed toward addressing climate change and, in particular, so much exploration about how agriculture can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. A panel at the Growing Stronger Conference explored the evidence that agricultural soils might help draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to help slow climate change. Read more.


Grant propels research on seed corn tailored to organic production
November | December 2020

A new federal grant from the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) will support Iowa State University scientists and collaborators as they develop improved seed corn tailored to the needs of the rapidly growing organic industry. Read more.


Bang Brewing, University of Minnesota team up to create Organic Brewers Alliance
November | December 2020

From their firsthand experience with the difficulties of sourcing organic brewing ingredients came the idea for an organic brewers network to mitigate these challenges for current and aspiring organic brewers. Thus, the seed for Organic Brewers Alliance was planted. Read more.


Farmer, financial advisor share insights on organic grain transition
September | October 2020

The most obvious reason to transition to organic is that the price of organic grains is significantly more. But price alone won’t be enough motivation for transition. Often, people will see the benefits of organic production after starting the transition, and the transition time helps them to look at farming as managing a system. Read more.


Researchers focus on oats, wheat varieties adapted to organic production
July | August 2020

Organic farmers require small grains varieties that are well-adapted to their production system. Plant breeders strive to improve crops not only for grain yield, but also for disease resistance, lodging resistance, processing characteristics, and nutritional characteristics. Read more.


Flamers, electrically charged innovations expand weed-fighting arsenal
May | June 2020

Harnessing elements of nature, like intense heat or electrical charges, to dispatch weeds and kill bugs continues to find growing application and interest in farming at all scales of production. Small equipment operators tending specialty crops and expansive row-crop grain farmers—both organic and conventional— have found themselves drawn to a flame or turned on to “zapping” what confronts them in the field. Read more.


Cover crop of sorghum-sudangrass smothers, starves Canada thistle
May | June 2020

If Canada thistle or other perennial weeds such as quack grass have become a problem on your organic farm, there is still time this spring to take proactive steps towards rooting out these weeds from your fields. Read more.


2019 sees rise in organic field crop acres harvested, new certifications
March | April 2020

A new report from Mercaris, the data service and online trading platform for organic and non-GMO markets, shows a 13% rise in certified organic field crop acreage in the U.S. in 2019, and a 14% jump in the number of certified organic field crop operations. Read more.


New tools, bridge loan can help farmers transition to organic grain production
March | April 2020

Organic grain production might be an appealing option to conventional grain growers who have been contending with low prices. Here’s how to manage a farm’s cash flow and working capital during the transition years. Read more.



Distillery partners with farmers to grow heirloom grains for spirits
January | February 2020

“There really is a future for farmers in distillery grains, and no one has really shone a light on that yet,” said La Crosse Distilling co-owner Nick Weber. He and his business partner, Chad Staehly, decided to buy local, organic grain for their spirits from the very beginning. Read more.


As reports of dicamba drift rise, groups move forward with lawsuit
September | October 2019

Each year since Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant Xtend seeds hit the market, farmers and rural communities have braced for record levels of pesticide drift. This season, the number of reports is even higher despite the new label restrictions for applications. Read more.


Growing hemp for CBD presents opportunities, challenges for farmers
September | October 2019

Hemp is a wild new frontier for American farmers. Farmers, marketers, processers, and researchers are scrambling to figure out best practices and develop reliable supply chains. This is especially true for hemp harvested for cannabidiol (CBD). Read more.


Research project develops naked barley varieties suited for organic production
September | October 2019

The most common barley grains grown worldwide today are covered with a hull (an outer layer) that is firmly attached to the grain. Now, researchers from across the country are working to bring naked barley back. Read more.


Illinois farmer finds success growing, milling organic grains
July | August 2019

Transitioning his first organic land in 2002, Harold Wilken is now known in the area as the farmer willing to manage conventional land through an organic transition. Farmers come to him, asking to have their conventional acres taken over. Read more.


Open-pollinated corn growing strong on Midwest farms
May | June 2019

With the advent of hybridization more than 100 years ago, who would have imagined that open-pollinated (OP) corn would still exist in the 21st century? By saving seed of traditional and newer varieties of OP corn we are able to enjoy their flavors, nutritional quality, colors, and the stories behind them. Read more.


Industrial hemp interest high, but infrastructure, legalities still roadblocks
July | August 2018

Progress has been made in research, and a lot of farmers are interested in hemp production. But the ultimate question—can hemp be a profitable crop for American farmers?—hasn’t been satisfactorily answered.  Read more.


Spring offers tight window for planting cover crops—follow these tips
March | April 2018

Windows to incorporate cover crops into a rotation can be very tight and dependent on favorable weather conditions and maximizing a short growing seasons for marketable crops.  Read more.


University of Illinois introduces new wheat suited for organic production
January | February 2018

A new, taller wheat variety designed for hardiness and for the organic market has been certified, and was introduced to the public last September during an event celebrating farm-to-fork research at the University of Illinois. Read more.


Plan now to manage risk during organic transition
November | December 2017

The transition to organic production is much more than an economic decision. A farmer has to be willing to commit to a significant shift in production philosophy—not just a change in practices—in order to be successful. Read more.


Interseeding cover crops in cash crops shows promise
September | October 2017

Farmers are looking to interseed cover crops into cash crops. This promising management alternative lets farmers use a more diverse selection of cover crops in their cash crop rotations than would otherwise be possible in the short growing season remaining after the cash crop harvest. Read more.


Researcher explains factors to consider when rolling-crimping rye
July | August 2017

University of Wisconsin Organic Cropping Systems Specialist Erin Silva has a long list of important factors to consider when rolling-crimping rye, derived from more than 10 years of research. She’ll be sharing some tips at an organic field day on Thursday, Aug. 31. Read more.


Farmers, researchers share insights on rolling rye in organic no-till system
July | August 2017

Rye, hardiest of the small grains, has found feed, forage, and cover crop uses in farming for centuries. Yet rye straw as a rolled-down mulch for no-till drill grain could be its greatest purpose yet. Farmers and researchers share their perspectives. Read more.


Kansas farmer transitions thousands of acres to organic
May | June 2017

Tim Raile comes from a long line of innovative farmers. He and his son operate 8,500 acres in Kansas. A lack of understanding of national organic standards coupled with prohibitive financial hurdles have kept Tim from transitioning Raile Farms to organic—until now. Read more.


Organic production shortfall in U.S. encourages imports, creates risk
May | June 2017

The organic food sector is a bright star in U.S. food retailing with sales increasing by over 10 percent in 2015 to reach $43.3 billion. One would expect that U.S. organic farm production would be increasing as well. Instead, U.S. food processors and marketers have been steadily increasing organic imports.  Read more.


Efforts underway to support domestic organic grain production
March | April 2017

Companies that rely on organic grain for food products, the USDA, and educational organizations such as MOSES all are working on efforts to facilitate an increase in the supply of domestic organic grain. Read more.


Illinois farmers, researchers, chefs join forces to build local specialty grains market
January | February 2017

Grand Prairie Grain Guild (GPGG) project’s goal is to connect everyone involved in local food systems to create the best crop varieties, business structures, and trusting relationships to help support thriving farms and rural communities. Read more.


On-farm storage opens door to market opportunities
January | February 2017

Markets look for organic farmers who can offer high quality crops, domestic production, and scattered shipments with minimal variation. The key to access these incentives is well-managed farm storage. Read more.


flame-weederFarmers use creative mix of new technology, adapted equipment to grow row crops
November | December 2016

On our 1,100-acre organic crop farm, we use a mix of old and new ideas to ensure our equipment fits our needs. Read more.


OFARM executive urges NOP to step up scrutiny of organic grain imports
November | December 2016

The U.S. organic market has been deluged with imports of organic soybeans and corn—almost a million bushels of corn per month in 2016—that are highly suspect as to their organic integrity. Read more.


research-steers-on-ryeResearch looks at integrating crops, livestock to enhance organic farm resilience
November | December 2016

Integrating crops and livestock on a multi-function operation could have multiple benefits and the potential to improve the profitability of these kinds of operations. Read more.


4colorsealGIFNOP’s organic control system designed to protect organic integrity
September | October 2016

As the regulatory program responsible for organic agriculture, the NOP’s primary role is protecting the integrity of the USDA organic seal and the organic standards. Read more.


corn-close-upOrganic grain buyers turn to imports to meet demand
September | October 2016

While the demand for organic feed continues to grow, the U.S. market has seen an increase in imported organic corn and soybeans. Imports have been part of the market for a few years, but have flooded the market in the past year. Read more.


grain-shipOrganic imports hurt U.S. organic grain producers
September | October 2016

Record import volumes of soybeans and corn for the past 18 months have had a devastating effect on U.S. organic grain farmers. Read more.



Research moves forward on organic corn that won’t cross with transgenic varieties
July | August 2016

Maize, commonly called corn, is an incredibly productive crop that works well in organic crop rotations in many parts of North America. Since the lax release of transgenic varieties of maize 20-plus years ago…. Read more.


Times are a-changin’ for U.S. industrial hemp farming
May | June 2016

Annual retail sales in the U.S. of products made from hemp top $580 million, yet U.S. farmers can’t access this market because it’s illegal to grow industrial hemp in this country. Read more.


New book maps out steps for producing, marketing organic grain
January | February 2016

Marketing Organic Grains covers a variety of topics, such as the importance of organic standards, as well as addressing the actual nuts and bolts of contracting organic grains. Read more.


Organic cropland taking root in Illinois
January | February 2016

Of the 20 million acres of cropland in Illinois, only 0.15 percent (41,000 acres) are certified organic (USDA 2014 Organic Agriculture Census). But, the trend toward organic is growing…. Read more.


Farmers experiment with cover crop, no-till corn
September | October 2015

My husband, Doug Alert, and I have been intrigued with the idea of no-till organic. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to grow crops with no herbicide and no tillage? Read more.


Research evaluates green manures as fertilizer in organic soybean-winter wheat-corn rotation
September | October 2015

Farmers can grow a green manure crop between winter wheat harvest in July and corn planting the following May. Green manures are plants grown specifically…. Read more.


Small grains can be entry point to organic
September | October 2015

Finding good information about local small grains agronomy—how to produce the crop in your region—can be challenging, especially if you want to grow small grains organically. Read more.


High consumer demand makes ancient wheats hot commodities
May | June 2015

The ancient wheats—einkorn, emmer, and spelt—are “trendy” right now thanks to demand by increasing numbers of consumers.  Read more.


Small grains in crop rotation offer many benefits
January | February 2015

Multiyear crop rotations are a central tenet of organic crop production, and for good reason.  Read more.


Biopesticides offer effective, progressive pest management
November | December 2014

Through organic soil management practices, farmers foster a very important soil microbial and biochemical resource for successful biological control of potential pests affecting their crops or livestock.  Read more.


Research shows ‘sandblasting’ works to control weeds
November | December 2014

The unlikely hobby of growing apricots in Minnesota may have led a research agronomist to a new way to control in-row weeds on organic farms: blasting them away.  Read more.


Dairy farmer shows how he transitioned CRP land to corn, soybeans, grains
September | October 2014

Marvin Lynch, an organic dairy farmer from Cascade, Iowa, hosted a field day July 15, to share how he transitioned CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land into organic production.  Read more.


Cultivating Beans on Driscoll FarmGenetically engineered corn creates tipping point for family to go organic
September | October 2014

Farmers, like professional gamblers, are used to taking risks. The weather typically is the biggest risk factor in farming. When genetically engineered crops entered the game….  Read more.


DCF 1.0Research moves forward on ‘organic-ready’ open-pollinated corn
September | October 2014

It has been known, at least since the 1950s, that popcorn cannot set seed if pollinated by yellow field corn.  Read more.


Non-GMO farmers caught in crossfire of war on herbicide-resistant weeds
July | August 2014

Dow AgriScience is pushing for deregulation of its Enlist Duo™ program—herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans genetically engineered…. Read more.


Research explores potential benefits of mixing cover crops
July | August 2014

The potential benefits of using cover crops are wide ranging and well documented. The potential benefits of using cover crop mixtures, however, have been less thoroughly explored. Read more.


Cover crops—organic mainstays—move into mainstream
May | June 2014

Cereal rye and oilseed radish have been appearing in a growing number of fields around the country in the past few years. A standard practice for successful organic farmers…. Read more.


Research looks to cover crops to alleviate soil compaction, suppress weeds
May | June 2014

Rotary hoeing and in-row cultivation during the grain growing season help suppress weed populations. Read more.


Campbell Cover CropsResearchers evaluate precision cover cropping
March | April 2014

Implementation of specific cover cropping strategies that cost-effectively capture benefits while minimizing challenges is easier said than done. Read more here.


OlsonsSeasoned organic farmers make transitioning look easy
March | April 2014

Seasoned farmers Jonathan and Carolyn Olson started with a conventionally managed 300-acre farm and now manage more than 1,100 acres of certified organic land. Read more here.


Vilicus Farm 3Farm couple takes pollinator conservation to higher level
January  |  February 2014

“We want to implement pollinator conserva­tion at the field-level scale.” Read more here.


Noah Engel tackles weeds while he prepares his fields for planting. Photo by Patrick Lillard.

Friends or foes: Farmers talk about their relationships with weeds
January  |  February 2014

Whether or not we like it, we all have relationships with those plants we call “weeds.” Read more here.


211rowflamerProof Positive – Research highlights best practices for propane-fueled flame weeding
January  |  February 2014

Flame weeding has received renewed interest for its potential in not only organic, but also conventional cropping systems…. Read more here.


cover crops in organicsCover Crops Bring a Diversity of Benefits to the Farm
November/December 2013

Diversity is the foundation of any sustainable agriculture system, and cover crops are a great management tool for bringing diversity to the farm. Read more here.


215.12Perennial Wheat Shows Potential as a Versatile Crop
September/October 2013

Organic farmers know there is no silver bullet to address all crop and soil needs. But, what if you planted a crop that one year produced grain…. Read more here.


213KerkaertsCertified and Transitioning Cropland Take-Home Message: Change your Mindset
May/June 2013

It’s hard to find a more enterprising, determined couple than Bryan and Theresa Kerkaert, who began crop farming five years ago. Read more here.


plowedFieldChoosing Early Season Cover Crops
January/February 2013

Begin with the end in mind! This popular saying, written about extensively in Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is especially pertinent…. Read more here.


211rowflamerProof Positive –
Research Shows Flaming and Cultivation Key to Weed Control

January/February 2013

Weeds are one of the major yield limit factors in both conventional and organic crop production systems. Read more here.



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