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Narrowing the Conventional Versus Organic Farming System Yield Gap

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2014

Nearly everyone agrees that producing ample, nutritious and safe food to feed 9 billion people, with minimal harm to the environment, is one of mankind’s grand challenges. In the May 14, 2014 issue of National Geographic, Jonathan Foley sets out a thoughtful, five-step plan that highlighted these imperatives:

  • “Freeze agriculture’s footprint” (e.g., stop clearing tropical rainforests),
  • “Grow more on the farms we’ve got” (close the yield gap, more multi-cropping),
  • “Use resources more efficiently” (help farmers “get smarter”),
  • “Shift diets” (more fresh fruits and veggies, less grain-fed meat), and
  • “Reduce waste” (25% food calories wasted; 50% of food by weight). Read more »

Promoting Global Food Security One Crop of Tomatoes at a Time

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | October 23, 2014
Photo: C. Benbrook

Photo: C. Benbrook

In early September I visited a remarkable organic farm on the coast of California.  This farm has been in organic production for about 30 years, and its harvests of mostly organic tomatoes have been marketed through a variety of outlets in Northern California.

I arrived on the day picking had just begun on a sloping tomato field about 6 acres in size.  The crop was exceptionally clean, with virtually no insect damage and few weeds.  Minimal, organically approved control measures had been used, including applications of sulfur and releases of trichogramma (beneficial wasps), along with many hours of hand weeding.

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FY15 BIOAg Request For Proposals released

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 25, 2014

BIOAg logoThis week, CSANR released its annual BIOAg Program request for proposals for new research and extension projects. The RFP can be found here.

This competitive grant program is the key mechanism that CSANR has to engage a broad, interdisciplinary spectrum of WSU faculty in projects that further the development, understanding, and use of biologically intensive and/or organic principles, practices, and technologies to improve the sustainability of agriculture and food systems in Washington State. Read more »

Washington Organic Week – a time to celebrate the harvest

Posted by David Granatstein | September 5, 2014

Every year the second week in September (7th-13th this year) is designated as Washington Organic Week (WOW!) to celebrate the organic farmers, farms and food and the bounty of the harvest in our state (learn more HERE). Nationally, the organic sector did well in 2013, reaching $32.3 billion in retail food sales, up 11.4% from the previous year (Organic Trade Association, 2014). The steady growth in demand can be seen in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Retail sales of organic food in the US. (OTA, 2014)

Figure 1. Retail sales of organic food in the US. (OTA, 2014)

 

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Filed under Organic Farming
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New Meta-Analysis Identifies Three Significant Benefits Associated With Organically Grown Plant-Based Foods

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | July 11, 2014

There have been four progressively rigorous meta-analyses published since 2009 focusing on differences in the nutritional quality and safety of organic versus conventional food. The latest comes out July 15, 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN). I was the sole American scientist on the mostly European research team that produced the BJN paper:

bjn_logoHigher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Baranski, M., D. Srednicka-Tober, N. Volakakis, C. Seal, R. Sanderson, G. B. Stewart, C. Benbrook, B. Biavati, E. Markellou, C. Giotis, J. Gromadzka-Ostrowska, E. Rembiałkowska, K. Skwarło-Son, R. Tahvonen, D. Janovska, U. Niggli, P. Nicot and C. Leifert.

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Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Toxics
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Pesticide Residues in Organic Food — Delivering on a Promise

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | June 3, 2014

Avoiding pesticide exposure and risks remains the #1 reason most people choose organic food. This is not likely to change until there is convincing data that show only modest differences between the pesticide dietary risks associated with residues in and on organic food, compared to conventionally grown food. Read more »

Filed under Organic Farming, Toxics
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Washington Agriculture by the Numbers

Posted by David Granatstein | May 28, 2014
Rainier cherries grown in WA (photo: Thomas Hawk)

Rainier cherries grown in WA (photo: Thomas Hawk)

The results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture were recently released by USDA.  Every 5 years, the National Agricultural Statistics Service fields a nationwide census to all identifiable farms in the country.  The census reports contain a wealth of information and new questions are added as agriculture changes, such as questions on direct marketing, organic production, use of rotational or management-intensive grazing, and harvest of biomass crops for energy. Read more »

Filed under Food Systems, Organic Farming, Sustainability
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Scaling Up Organic Production to Lower Costs: Will Quality Suffer?

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | April 24, 2014

An April 19, 2014 blog post by NPR correspondent Dan Charles discusses Wal-Mart’s plans to develop a substantial new line of organic food products that will be sold at a 25% lower price than other organic brands. The story quotes individuals who question whether Wal-Mart will be able to deliver on the idea without hurting farmers or cutting corners and sacrificing organic integrity, but they may be underestimating the benefits of Wal-Mart’s economy of scale. Read more »

2014 BIOAg Projects Selected

Posted by Chad Kruger | March 6, 2014

Since 2006, CSANR has provided seed funding for 60 new organic and sustainable agriculture research projects in Washington State through our BIOAg Program. These projects range from topics such as soil quality, organic and biological crop protection, and breeding, to livestock-crop integration, food safety and nutrition, and alternative crops. Projects have been funded in a wide diversity of crop and livestock production systems in the state, including tree fruit, cereal grains, small fruits, vegetables, forages, dairy, and a variety of other livestock systems. Read more »

Reflections on the Science Breakthrough of the Year

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 27, 2014

Science MagazineIn its December 20, 2013 issue, the journal Science identified cancer immunotherapy as the science breakthrough of the year.  An editorial by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt explains the basis for the selection.

She notes that the war on cancer started 40 years ago and has had great success in treating some cancers, while others remain difficult to effectively combat. She also explains that as the baby boomer generation ages, cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality will almost assuredly increase – hence the need for new tools. Read more »

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