|Authors: ||G. Lang, E.J. Hanson, J. Biernbaum, D. Brainard, M. Grieshop, R. Isaacs, A. Montri, V. Morrone, A. Schilder, D. Conner, J. Koan|
|Keywords: ||Prunus avium, Rubus spp., Malus ×domestica, sweet cherry, raspberry, apple, pest management, modified environment production|
Growers who want to produce organic fruits in non-arid cool climate areas like the Midwest/Great Lakes need expanded strategies for soil, plant, pest (insect, disease, weed), and environmental management to enhance crop diversity, productivity, market opportunities, and profitability.
Research begun in 2005 on multi-bay high tunnel production of brambles (Rubus spp.) and sweet cherries (Prunus avium) revealed some distinct advantages that might better facilitate organic production.
The Michigan State University (MSU) High Tunnel Organic Fruit project was initiated with funding from the Ceres Organic Trust in 2009 and established fully with funding from the USDA-NIFA Organic Research and Extension Initiative in 2010 (Award 2010-51300-21395). The project goal is to develop and disseminate knowledge for integrating organic production systems with environment-modifying techniques, such as high tunnels, to discover holistic and synergistic strategies for crop protection, soil building, season extension, and expansion of organic production potential for brambles, sweet cherries, and apple (Malus ×domestica) nursery trees.
Practices to be studied include composts, cover crops, biodiversification, ecological weed management, and crop canopy management.
Soil building and health maintenance in perennial fruit systems under high tunnels is a particularly unique and little-studied need that is critical for sustainable organic fruit production in the Midwest region.
Stakeholder partners include a comparative (non-high tunnel) organic grower for each fruit crop, with the high tunnel apple nursery tree production being conducted both at MSU and with the organic apple stakeholder.
Project outreach will include: a) educational programs and demonstration plot walks in association with the MSU Student Organic Farm, b) on-farm trials and workshops with stakeholders, c) on-line delivery of organic farming principles and practices, and d) development of extension publications and professional journal articles.
Project outcomes will help organic farmers extend their seasons, improve their ecosystem services, and diversify their production and market potentials.
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