Organic Research Initiative

“It is clear that a shift to more sustainable agriculture practices is an environmental imperative. And, for the long term, it’s a matter of human survival. The question no longer is whether sustainable methods will be adopted. The question is when will the transition begin and how long will it take.” -Roger Blobaum
Roger Blobaum · Photo credit: Nick Lethert

Ceres Trust wishes to announce the conclusion of its highly successful Organic Research Initiative.

The program, which began in 2009, has funded sixty-five, largely 3-year, organic research projects at universities and agricultural organizations in the North–Central region, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In addition, between 2010 – 2016, Ceres Trust provided grants to graduate students doing research on organic topics. These students were encouraged to: develop professional relationships with other organic researchers and graduate students, and organic farmers; attend and participate in university and farm field days; and to give presentations and poster sessions on their organic research at various seminars, research forums and organic conferences.

More than ten million dollars has been expended for this effort. The program will continue to administer its current grants through 2018. The knowledge gained and shared through these unique projects has greatly enhanced the tools and understanding available to organic farmers, who are building a world of healthy food and ecosystems and stable planetary systems. Ceres Trust wishes to thank everyone who has worked together on this important initiative.

University and Nonprofit Grantees

2015 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Participatory vegetable variety evaluation and selection for high-quality organic produce in the upper Midwest. University of Wisconsin, Madison. Julie Dawson, Principal Investigator.

Organic Watermelon Production using 3 different cover crops planted at 4 different intervals to reduce weed pressure, attract beneficial insets and build soil health. University of Missouri. Dr. Deborah Finke, Principal Investigator.

Weed management and cultivar selection for industrial hemp the Midwest. Purdue University. Kevin Gibson, Principal Investigator.

Grain and forage from intermediate wheatgrass - a new perennial grain crop. University of Minnesota. Prof. Craig Shaeffer, Principal Investigator.

The details that matter: second generation Answers for organic reduced-tillage production. University of Wisconsin. Erin Silva, Principal Investigator.

2014 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Biochemical Pathway Changes in Pigs Fed GMO Products. University of Wisconsin, Madison. Warren Porter, Principal Investigator.

Breeding and Testing Corn for Organic Farmers that Combines High N Efficiency, Superior Nutritional Value, and Cross Incompatibility. Mandaamin Institute. Walter Goldstein, Principal Investigator.

Cover Crop Strategies to Build Soil Organic Matter, Thereby Enhancing Soil Biology, Water Retention and Weed Control in Organic Cropping Systems of the Western Corn Belt. University of Nebraska. Rhae Drijber, Principal Investigator.

Legume Cover Crop Impacts on Soil Nitrogen Cycling and Soil Fertility on Organic Vegetable Farms. University of Michigan. Jennifer Blesh, Principal Investigator.

Micro-managing Soil Health: Leveraging Plant-Microbe Interactions to Improve the Effectiveness of Cover Cropping Strategies. University of Illinois. Anthony Yannarell, Principal Investigator.

Selecting and Suppressing Tritical Cultivars for Organic No-Till Rotations in Nebraska. University of Nebraska. P. Stephen Baenziger, Principal Investigator.

Tackling Lameness on Organic Dairy Farms. University of Minnesota. Ulrike Silvia Sorge, Principal Investigator.

Tillage and AMF Impacts on Organic Production in the Upper Great Plains. North Dakota State University. Greta Gramig, Principal Investigator.

Toward Effective Microbial Weed Management: Effects of Manure Application and Cover Crop use on Native Soil Microbial Communities and Weed Seed Demise in the Soil Seedbank. University of Minnesota. Craig Schaeffer, Principal Investigator.

Understanding the Value of Oilseed Radish and Perennial Cover Crops as Nutrient Sources for Field Crops. University of Minnesota. Paulo Pagliara, Principal Investigator

2013 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Combining Strip-Tillage and Zonal Cover-Cropping for Soil and Moisture Conservation in Organic Vegetable Systems.  Michigan State University.  Daniel Brainard, Principal Investigator.

Constraints to Profitability of Small Grains in Iowa and the Upper Midwest.  Iowa Organic Association.  Amber Anderson Mba, Mary Wiedenhoeft and Margaret Smith, Principal Investigators.

Developing a Soil Active Organic Matter Test for Organic Growers.  The Ohio State University.  Steven Culman, Principal Investigator.

Development and Delivery of a Comprehensive Orchard Floor Management Tactic to Promote Natural Pest Management and Enhanced Soil Quality.  Michigan State University.  Matthew Grieshop, Principal Investigator.

Evaluation of Fodder Systems for Organic Dairy Cattle for Improved Livestock Efficiency.  University of Minnesota.  Bradley Heins, Principal Investigator.

Improving the Profitability of Small Farms in Missouri by Reducing Inputs through the Integration of Farmscaping and Small Ruminants for Insect and Weed Control.  Lincoln University.  Jaime Piñero, Principal Investigator.

Increasing the Sustainability of Organic Potato Production through Improved Soil, Water and Weed Management and Targeted Breeding: A Participatory Approach.  University of Wisconsin.  Ruth Genger, Principal Investigator.

Keystone Cover Crop Species: Understanding the Relative Contribution of Individual Species to Soil Health.  University of Illinois.  Sam Wortman, Principal Investigator.

Soil Carbon and Microbial Community Dynamics in Organic Cash Grain Rotations Under Intensified Cover Cropping and Reduced Tillage.  University of Wisconsin.  Gregg Sanford, Principal Investigator.

Value-added Einkorn for the Organic Production in the Great Plains Region.  Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Stewardship Fund.  Frank Kutka, Principal Investigator.

2012 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Iowa State University. "Improving Organic No-Till Systems for Enhanced Soil Quality and Weed Management in Organic Vegetable and Grain/Forage Systems." Kathleen Delate, Principal Investigator.

Kansas State University. "New Rootstock Systems for Disease Management and Increased Productivity in Organic Tomato: Understanding Effects on the Rhizobiome." Karen Garrett, Principal Investigator.

Purdue University. "Collaborative Research to Identify Fertility Amendments that Improve Soil Quality and Mediate Pathogen Outbreaks on Organic Vegetable Farms." Lori Hoagland, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "SWROC High Tunnel: Improving Soil Health and Increasing Rotation Options for Organic Vegetable Production." Paulo Pagliari, Principal Investigator.

Lincoln University. "Optimizing Trap Cropping Systems for Key Insect Pests and Enhancing Beneficial Anthropods in Cucurbit Crops. Jaime Pinero, Principal Investigator.

University of Missouri. "Evaluation of Soil Quality in Vegetables Planted in Plastic Mulch vs. No-Till in Polyculture Cover Crop." Tim Reinbott, Principal Investigator.

University of Wisconsin. "Quantifying Relationships Between Soil Quality, Soil Fertility, and Pasture Management and the Productivity of Organic Dairy Pastures and Milk Production." Mark Renz, Principal Investigator.

University of Wisconsin. "Optimizing No-Till Organic Production to Improve Soil Health and Management of Late-Season Weeds." Erin Silva, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Fostering Complex Soil Food Webs and Building Soil Fertility with Organic Production: Perennial Wheat Phase Two." Sieglinde Snapp, Principal Investigator.

2011 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Michigan State University. "On-farm organic soybean variety trials." Dale R. Mutch, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Development and delivery of Living pest management' for organic greenhouses and local food systems." Matthew J. Grieshop, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Organic management effects on individual species of mycorrhizal fungi and the consequences of plant performance and soil health." Sieglinde Snapp, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "Metagenomic Exploration of Cover Crop and Amendment Effects on Functional Bacterial Communities in Organic Soil." Craig Sheaffer, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "Effect of Organic Grain Supplementation on Economic, Behavior, and Pest Management Strategies of Organic Dairy Cows." Bradley J. Heins, Principal Investigator.

University of Missouri. "System Strategies for Weed Control and Soil Building during the Transition Years to Organic Production." Tim Reinbott, Principal Investigator.

University of Nebraska. "Development of Cultural Practices to Use a Roller- Crimper in Cropping systems for Eastern Nebraska." Charles Shapiro, Principal Investigator.

University of Nebraska. "Diverse Cover Crop Strategies for Improved Yield and Weed Suppression in Organic Cropping Systems for the Western Corn Belt." John L. Lindquist, Principal Investigator.

University of Nebraska. "Investigating Nitrogen Use Efficiency for Winter Wheat Quality in Organic Rotations in Nebraska." P. Stephen Baenziger, Principal Investigator.

Ohio State University. "Maximizing ecosystem services of the soil food web in organic farming systems." Parwinder S. Grewal, Principal Investigator.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Utilizing phylloplanins for the control of fungal and oomycete pathogens in organic potato farming. Amy O. Charkowski, Principal Investigator.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Organic seed potato production and participatory breeding." Amy O. Charkowski, Principal Investigator.

2010 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

University of Illinois. "Alleviating Soil Compaction and Improving Weed Suppression with Multifunctional Cover Crops in Organic Grain Production Systems." Maria Villamil, Principal Investigator.

Kansas State University. "Soil Microbes in Organic Vegetable Production; New Insights from Pyrosequencing. Part II: The Response of Soil Microbial Communities to Nutrient Management and High Tunnels." Karen Garrett, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "Evaluating Alfalfa Mulch as a Nitrogen Source for Corn Production." Deborah Allan, Principal Investigator.

Western Illinois University. "Systems Strategies for Weed Management on Organic Grain Farms." Joel Gruver, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Enhancing Soil Quality, Plant Health, and Disease Management in Organic Production with Brassica Cover Crops Used as Biofumigants." Mathiew Ngouajio, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Unraveling the Mystery of Compost Teas Used for Organic Disease and Insect Pest Management." Annemiek Schilder, Principal Investigator.

2009 Organic Research Initiative Grantees

Iowa State University. "Facilitating improved soil quality on organic farms through research and training on no-till vegetable production in the Midwest." Kathleen Delate, Principal Investigator.

Kansas State University. "Soil microbes in organic vegetable production: new insights from pyrosequencing; the response of soil microbial communities to organic and conventional fertilization." Karen Garrett, Principal Investigator.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. "Relationships between corn plants and nitrogen fixing bacteria on an organic farm." Carrie Young, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Integrating organic apple and pork production to benefit pest management and grower profitability." Matthew J. Grieshop, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Organic production of fruit crops under high tunnels." John Biernbaum, Principal Investigator.

Michigan State University. "Fostering complex soil food webs and building soil fertility with organic production: the potential of perennial wheat." Sieglinde Snapp, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "SWROC high tunnel: extending the season for organic vegetable production." Pauline Nickel, Principal Investigator.

University of Minnesota. "Edible grain legumes for organic cropping systems." Craig Sheaffer, Principal Investigator.

University of Nebraska. "Increasing crop cover diversity and weed suppressive potential of soils in organic cropping systems." John L. Lindquist, Principal Investigator.

North Dakota State University. "Organic crop variety selection for Great Plains States in the North Central Region." Patrick M. Carr, Principal Investigator.

Ohio State University. "Optimizing organic soil fertility management to improve the crop health and baking functionality of organic Midwestern spelt." Larry Phelan, Principal Investigator.

Ohio State University. "Developing cultural practices for organically grown medicinal plants." John Cardina, Principal Investigator.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Veggie Compass: whole farm planning for enhanced profitability of Midwestern organic vegetable growers." Erin Silva, Principal Investigator.

Graduate Student Grantees

2016 Graduate Student Grantees

Hanson, Solveig Joy. University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Consumer-Engaged Participatory Plant Breeding Model Comparison & Beet Flavor Breeding.” Dr. Irwin Goldman, Faculty Advisor.

Kaluwasha, Waana. University of Missouri. “Effect of Cover and Green Manure Crops on Soil Health, Plant Health and Tuber Yield in Organic Sweet Potato Production.” James Thomas Jr., Zelalem Mersha, Robert Kremer, Jeanne Mihail, and Xi Xiong, Faculty Advisors.

2015 Graduate Student Grantees

Dieterich, Molly. Ohio State University. "Identification of Arthropod Predators of Cucumber Beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in Cucurbit Agroecosystems." Mary Gardiner and Celeste Welty, Faculty Advisors.

Moore, Virginia. University of Wisconsin. "Collecting On Farm Environmental Data: Towards Resilient, Organic Vegetable Varieties." Erin Silva, Faculty Advisor.

Prince, Kathryn. University of Wisconsin. "Wild Bee Abundance and Diversity on Organic Vegetable Farms in Response to Landscape Factors." Russell Groves, Faculty Advisor.

Ruh, Kathryn. University of Minnesota. "Dual Flow Continuous Culture Fermentation of Organic BMR Sorghum Sudangrass and Teff Grass to Determine Digestibility of Forages in an Organic Dairy Grazing System." Bradley Heins, Faculty Advisor.

Turner, Sarah. University of Wisconsin. "Evaluation of Carrot (Daucus Carota, L.) for Traits Related to Early Seedling Establishment and Canopy Growth in Organic Systems" Erin Silva, Faculty Advisor.

2014 Graduate Student Grantees

Acharya, Ishwary, South Dakota State University. “High Quality Forage Blends.” David Casper, Faculty Advisor.

Cash, Kimberly, Lincoln University. “Organic Anthelminthics in Sheep.” James Caldwell, Faculty Advisor.

Healy, Grace, University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Participatory Variety Trials for Flavor, Quality and Agronomic Performance to Increase Direct-Market Opportunities and On-Farm Trialing Capacity for Organic Growers.” Dr. Julie Dawson, Faculty Advisor.

Ginakes, Peyton, University of Minnesota. “Strip tillage for soil health.” Julie Grossman, Faculty Advisor.

Jokela, Dana, Iowa State University. “Overcoming Barriers to Consistent Yields in Reduced Tillage Organic Vegetable Production.” Ajay Nair, Faculty Advisor.

Lowenstein, David, University of Illinois. “Evaluating Biological Control of Brassica Pests in Urban Land Repurposed for Farming.” Emily Minor, Faculty Advisor.

Luby, Claire, University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Open Source Carrots.” Irwin Goldman, Faculty Advisor.

2013 Graduate Student Grantees

Blubaugh, Carment, Purdue University. "Harnessing farm wildlife for weed management: Measuring suppression by rodents and insects."  Ian Kaplan, Faculty Advisor.

Buehrer, Krista, Michigan State University. "Spatiotemporal pattern of hog foraging in apple orchards when grazed for orchard floor management."  Matthew Grieshop, Faculty Advisor.

Gurda, Anders, University of Wisconsin. "Use of Mob Grazing and other control options for controlling Canada thistle and alleviating losses in forage quality, quantity and utilization." Mark Renz, Faculty Advisor.

Hu, Bizhen, The Ohio State University. "Guidance in selecting optimal combinations of rootstock and scion varieties for organic grafted tomato production."  Matthew Kleinhenz, Faculty Advisor.

Peters, Tessa, University of Wisconsin. "Participatory Development of an Open Pollinated Early Maturing Sweet Corn for Organic Production." William Tracy, Faculty Advisor.

Pheiffer, Anne, University of Wisconsin.  "Improving Soil Health Through No-Till Vegetable Production."  Erin Silva, Faculty Advisor.

Riddle, Joseph, Michigan State University.  "Transforming waste: rearing black soldier flies as a source of compost and entomopathogenic nematodes."  Matthew Grieshop, Faculty Advisor.

Selin Selen, Ebru, University of Wisconsin.  "Investigation of GMO vs. Organic Diet Effects on Metabolome Profiles in Dairy Cows by NMR Spectroscopy." Warren Porter, Faculty Advisor.

Sjostrom, Lucas, University of Minnesota.  "Evaluation of different winter housing systems for effects on organic dairy cattle production, health, and well-being."  Bradley Heins, Faculty Advisor.  

2012 Graduate Student Grantees

Blubaugh, Carmen, Purdue University. "Can ground beetles limit weeds in organic vegetable systems?" Ian Kaplan, Faculty Advisor.

Baughman, William, Michigan State University. "Control of plum curculio and codling moth using strip cultivation in organic apples." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Advisor.

Yoder, Aaron, Michigan State University. "Exploring the combination of biofumigation and anaerobic soil disinfestation for soil quality enhancement in organic vegetable cropping systems." Mathieu Ngouajio, Faculty Advisor.

Zhang, Chen, University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Identifying Potato Varieties with Increased Levels of Mature Plant Resistance to Potato Virus Y for Improved Organic Seed Potato Production." Russell Groves, Faculty Adviser.

2011 Graduate Student Grantees

Bjorklund, Elizabeth A., University of Minnesota. "Effect of whole milk feeding duration with group fed calves on growth, health, and behavior of organic dairy calves." Bradley J. Heins, Faculty Adviser.

Buehrer, Krista A., Michigan State University. "Potential of organic hogs as a tool for post-harvest orchard floor sanitation and pest management." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.

Heidel, Thelma, University of Minnesota. "Efficacy of a buckwheat intercrop in organic soybeans for management of the soybean aphid." George Heimpel, Faculty Adviser.

Lowry, Carolyn J., Michigan State University. "Combining alternating cover strips, living mulches and strip tillage for effective weed and nutrient management in organic sweet corn production." Daniel C. Brainard, Faculty Adviser.

Masterson, Sarah A., Kansas State University. "Implementation of novel grafting methods and rootstocks for organic tomato growers in the Midwest." Cary L. Rivard, Faculty Adviser.

Mattupalli, Chadradha, University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Identifying Heirloom and Specialty Varieties Resistant to Silver Scarf Disease for Organic Potato Production." Amy O. Charkowski, Faculty Adviser.

Petran, Andrew J., University of Minnesota. "Quantifying Outgassing from Plastics Used in High or Low Tunnel Systems." Albert Markhart, Faculty Adviser.

Pote, John, Michigan State University. "Evaluation of Apple Flea Weevil Dispersal and the Potential of Kaolin-Based Management in Organic Apples. Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.

Tinsley, Sienna, Michigan State University. "Potential for Use of Perennial Grasses as Organic Dual-Purpose Forage-Grain Crops in Michigan." Sieglinde Snapp, Faculty Adviser.

Walton, Nathaniel J., Michigan State University. "The Impact of entomopathogenic nematode applications on mortality of codling moth larvae on the orchard floor." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.

2010 Graduate Student Grantees

Beniston, Joshua, Ohio State University. "Developing Organic Management to Restore Soil Quality for Food Production in Degraded Urban Soils." Rattan Lai, Faculty Adviser.

Buehrer,Krista, Michigan State University. "Potential of Organic Hogs as a Tool for Post-Harvest Orchard Floor Sanitation and Pest Management." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.

Gomez, Lorena, Kansas State University. "Soil Microbes in Organic Production: Capturing the Active Players." Karen Garrett, Faculty Adviser.

Hayden, Zachary D., Michigan State University. "A Novel Approach for Optimizing the Benefits of Cereal-Legume Cover Crop Mixtures in Vegetable Cropping Systems Under Organic Management." Mathieu Ngouajio, Faculty Advisor.

Heidel, Thelma, University of Minnesota. "Efficacy of Intercropping in Organic Soybeans for Management of the Soybean Aphid." David Ragsdale, Faculty Adviser.

Lyon, Alexandra, University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Determination of Perceptions and Use of Organic Seed and Varieties by Midwestern Organic Vegetable Growers." Erin Silva, Faculty Adviser.

Pochubay, Emily, Michigan State University. "Improvement of Anthropod Biological Control Systems for Organic Greenhouse Production." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.

Schmidt, Marie, University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Benefits of Increasing Grazing Height on Weed Suppression in Management Intensive Rotational Grazing Systems in Wisconsin." Mark Renz, Faculty Adviser.

Starcevich, Jessica, University of Minnesota. "Biological and Cultural Fly Control Options for Organic Dairies." Roger Moon, Faculty Adviser.

Walton, Nathaniel J., Michigan State University. "Soil Invertebrate Biodiversity Under Contrasting Orchard Management Regimes in Michigan." Matthew J. Grieshop, Faculty Adviser.