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Popularity of Organic Food Growing in All Ag Sectors

Organic food is considered by many to be better for the environment and for humans. Others believe that organic labeling is just a marketing ploy to make people feel better about the food they are eating. Organic livestock feed also is growing in popularity since organic animals must eat certified organic feed.

Regardless of who is right or wrong when it comes to the value of organic foods, there is one thing everyone can agree on, organic food is becoming more and more popular with today’s consumers. The Organic Trade Association reports that sales of organic food hit a record $43 billion last year. That’s up more than 8 percent from 2015. Another reason organic products are becoming more prevalent are farming practices that lead to more robust yields than in the past.

While growing organic corn can be profitable, there are some challenges involved in its production. What follows is a brief overview of some of the issues involved in organic corn production:

Land Standards

As is the case with all organically certified crops, there is a required three-year period from when a prohibited material was last applied to the land. This is considered a transition period of the land and during this period any corn grown on the land must be sold as conventional.

Crop Rotation

In most cases, organic producers will use diverse crop rotations. This is designed to minimize weeds, insects and disease. It also helps to increase natural diversity. Planting a rotation of corn, hay, oats and wheat as well as cover crops also helps to provide year-round coverage and necessary nitrogen levels. It also allows nutrients to be recycled.

Delayed Planting

Delayed corn planting helps the crop to emerge faster and combat weeds. It also reduces the need for a starter fertilizer and cover crops accumulate more nitrogen before being cut. In addition, the delayed silking will prevent pollen contamination from any adjacent non-organic cornfields.

Soil Management

Soil fertility management must be carefully undertaken keeping in mind that relying on nitrogen from a legume cover crop and manure, and phosphorus and potassium from manure, will be the most cost-effective method.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting corn requires a combine that is free from any contamination with conventional seed corn. Other than that harvest practices for organic and conventional corn are relatively similar. Storage methods also are similar keeping in mind that fumigants and pesticides cannot be used when storing organic corn.

There are certainly challenges when it comes to producing organic corn, however, the return on investment can be significantly higher than conventional corn. Further, given the growing demand of organic foods, prices for organic corn is likely to continue to rise.

Posted By: The Hay Manager

Posted on: 11/19/2017
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