Organic Forage Crop Resilience in the Northeast
Organic dairy regulations require that livestock consume a certain amount of their dry matter from pasture. But grazed forage losses due to pests or extreme weather, such as drought or flooding, make it challenging for farmers to meet this requirement. Organic dairy farmers in the Northeast have struggled under recent drought conditions.
According to Matthew R. Ryan, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences, increasing the diversity of cropping systems can stabilize yields and reduce the negative impact of variable weather. Working with collaborators at the Universities of New Hampshire and Vermont, Ryan and graduate student Ann Bybee-Finley aim to improve organic agriculture by increasing the adaptive, absorptive, and restorative capacity of organic forage crop production. They are conducting farmer-focused socioeconomic research and field experiments on farms as well as research stations in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire—guided by a stakeholder advisory board.
The Ryan team aims to quantify the productivity and economic viability of intercropping and a double cropping system (harvesting more than one crop per growing season). They will compare this double cropping system to perennial-based forage production. Component experiments will assess opportunities for flexible use of forage species in the double cropping system. Using surveys and interviews of farmers and researchers, the team will also analyze risk management strategies.
A quarter of United States organic milk production comes from the Northeast. This project, with multiple outreach components, will help farmers withstand variables to maintain production and profitability.