Sustainable and Organic Production Systems
After a sabbatical leave in 2002, the program was shifted to included significant emphasis for sustainable and organic production of fruit crops in the south. Work by our group which founded the Southern Organic Fruit Working Group identified key areas for research for organic fruit production in the southern region. This research started early with exploratory surveys of needs, and was followed with the establishment of trials in the two primary identified areas; organic berry production, specifically with high tunnels, and organic orchard management with emphasis on ground cover management and nutrition. Preliminary studies were funded by foundations and NGOs leading to funding by both SR-SARE and USDA-OREI/NIFA. Phase I of the project, Alternate Season Organic Production of Blackberries in High Tunnels, was completed in 2010 and continued funding for additional studies is being pursued. A long-term trial (15 years) for organic apple orchard management was planted in 2006 and is continuing.
These two project areas are multi-disciplinary with cooperators in entomology, soils and environmental sciences, agricultural economics, and cooperative extension service. This has led to the formation of a “tunnel team” at the UA for collaboration on use of high tunnels. The tunnel work at the UA has led to collaborations with Mississippi State University, Louisiana State University and Texas A&M colleagues to develop a regional approach to studying multiple crops in high tunnels. Currently, high tunnel research projects are on hold pending additional funding.