The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 30 universities across the country working on solving critical organic agriculture issues, with the help of more than $19 million in federal grants.

Deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the research, education and extension projects grants Oct. 30.

“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture, and USDA and Congress, through the 2008 farm bill, are committed to helping this industry succeed by addressing critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research, education and extension projects,” Merrigan said.
Grants will go toward projects across organic agriculture. Recipients whose projects are fresh produce-based or include fresh produce:

  • Michigan State University, Lansing, more than $1 million;

  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., almost $2.4 million in two separate grants;

  • Washington State University, Pullman, almost $1.5 million;

  • Ohio State University, Columbus, almost $1.1 million;

  • Iowa State University, Ames, more than $1 million;

  • University of Vermont and State Agriculture College, Burlington, almost $1 million;

  • Utah State University, Logan, more than $600,000;

  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, more than $500,000;

  • University of California, Davis, $372,000; and

  • University of Hawaii, Honolulu, $351,000.

The technology being worked on at UC-Davis, which has to do with innovation to increase nutrient cycling on organic farms, could be used across organic crop production, said Tom Bewick, national program leader for horticulture at the USDA.

At Cornell, one research project will focus on summer cover crops and soil quality in organic vegetable production.

Another one seeks to increase prosperity for organic vegetables and grains.

Oregon State University is creating the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Cooperative.

“That’s actually a four-year deal, so the total amount will be slightly over $2 million,” Bewick said. “The lead organization is Oregon State, but there are researchers all across the north, and they’re looking at tomatoes, lettuce, everything.”