Abby Kennon, senior in agronomy, has been involved in the ISU Good Earth Student Farm in many different aspects. She first found GESF through the student job board where she was looking for an opportunity that would allow her to work with organic fieldwork.
“Growing up in Iowa, it is pretty usual people assume that you want to work with row crops. On top of that, there can be a stigma around organic farming,” said Abby. “I used to have negative feelings for organic grown/raised products, but wanted to take the initiative to learn more.”
Organic farmers are in a tough spot when it comes to controlling weeds. Since conventional herbicides aren’t an option, many choose to use tillage — mechanically turning over the soil to upend weeds. However, tillage can take a toll on soil health and cause run-off. Increasingly, organic farmers are seeking better ways to control weeds while preserving soil health.
AMES, Iowa – Organic agriculture practices eschew many synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, putting pressure on crops that conventional farming circumvents. That means an organic farmer who doesn’t use herbicides, for instance, would value crop varieties better suited to withstand weeds.
Enter Thomas Lubberstedt, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. Lubberstedt and a team of ISU researchers recently received a four-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance organic corn varieties. By the end of the project, the team aims to have identified elite varieties that will improve the performance of corn under organic growing conditions.
“Our main goal is to figure out whether new genetic mechanisms can benefit organic field and sweet corn varieties,” Lubberstedt said. “We want to develop traits that can do well under organic conditions.”