May 29, 2007

Organic vegetable production focus of Purdue field day

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Organic Vegetable Production for Homeowners and Commercial Growers will take place June 12 at the Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center in Vincennes, Ind.

The informational field day, from 7-9 p.m. (EST), will highlight the transition from conventional vegetable production to organic production. All vegetable growers are encouraged to attend this free event to learn more about the benefits and management of organic production, said Stacye Johnson, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service educator in Knox County.

"Transitioning to organic production is one way growers can diversify and develop niche markets which can enhance economic viability," Johnson said. "Organic production is also considered a 'value-added' product."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the labeling of organic products. For a producer to sell organic products, production equipment, facilities and land all have to be certified as organic.

"Having the label read 'Certified Organic' has its benefits," Johnson said.

Organic products are purchased for a variety of reasons. Many consumers perceive organic produce as being healthier and more nutritious. Others recognize that synthetic chemicals are not used in organic production and it eases their social conscience to be able to say they are not contributing to polluting the environment, she said.

Johnson, also the field day coordinator, said that the basic principles of organic production are the same for both large commercial growers and backyard gardeners. Those principles include:

* Buffer zones of 25 feet plus are required between organic and conventional production.

* Synthetic fertilizers are not permitted.

* Livestock manure, compost and green manures are recommended to build organic matter and increase soil productivity.

* Seeds used must be untreated or organic.

* Transplants must be grown organically from seed to harvest.

* Growers must document everything about the crop from seed to harvest. These records must be kept for at least five years and include any organically approved inputs used during production, harvest and handling.

Field day speakers and their topics are:

* Jim True, Purdue Extension educator in Gibson County, who will give an overview of the first year organic plot. True also will speak about fertility management, crop rotation and cover crop management.

* Maria Restrepo, Purdue Extension educator in Pike County, will discuss plot management and weed management.

* Johnson will speak about insect management.

* Dan Egel, Purdue Extension plant pathologist, will cover disease management.

A tour of the 2007 plot also will be given. A question-and-answer session will conclude the field day.

The SWPAC is located at 4669 N. Purdue Road, Vincennes, Ind. For questions or more information, contact Johnson at (812) 882-3509.

Writer: Julie Douglas, (765) 496-1050, douglajk@purdue.edu

Source: Stacye Johnson, (812) 882-3509, johns227@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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