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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 »

Prioritizing Soil Quality Research – What exactly does that mean?

Posted by Chad Kruger | February 10, 2014

Interest in “soil quality” (a.k.a. soil health) has grown rapidly over the past decade regardless of agricultural production system or geographical region. While there have been focused efforts on soil conservation in the past, there seems to be a growing consensus that agriculture at large has historically undervalued the important role that soils can play in improving sustainability. Some of these functions include disease suppression, nutrient cycling, and water management. Read more »

How ‘bout them apples!

Posted by David Granatstein | January 30, 2014

Organic Gala apples at the WSU Sunrise OrchardWashington State apples are known worldwide.  The 2012 crop set a record at 120 million boxes (40-lb) and sales were brisk at good prices due to the freeze-out of much of the production in the eastern U.S.  In that year, Washington’s production was 70% of all apples in the US.  What is even more remarkable is that by January each year, 75-90% of all apples in storage in the US are in Washington, meaning we are by far the dominant supplier to our domestic market.  These numbers are even higher for organic apples.  Read more »

Filed under Organic Farming
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On whether the “organic vs. conventional” comparison is meaningful

Posted by Chad Kruger | December 11, 2013

My colleague Chuck Benbrook posted a fascinating article this week summarizing his recent paper that evaluates how organic milk impacts human nutrition. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the comments of Chuck’s post, another colleague Andy McGuire inquires and Chuck confirms, the likely reason organic milk is nutritionally superior to conventional milk is the composition of the feed ration (i.e., more grass).

Read more »

Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Sustainability
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New Insights Gained into the Role of Dairy Products in Promoting Healthier Diets

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2013

Dozens of studies, most of them conducted in Europe, have shown higher levels of health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk compared to conventional milk, as well as lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids.  The National Institutes of Health, in a factsheet on omega-3 fatty acids, reports that:

“Most American diets provide more than 10 times as much omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. There is general agreement that individuals should consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 fatty acids to promote good health.”

Read more »

Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming
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Expanding organic on the landscape: does farm size matter?

Posted by David Granatstein | November 3, 2013

In the 1970s, I was part of the “back to the land” movement and very interested in organic farming as the solution to sustainability problems in agriculture. At that time, organic was close to invisible on the agricultural and food landscape. In spite of this, many of us strived toward “the whole world being organic.” A lot has changed since then; and a lot has not. Organic has undergone exponential growth in the marketplace, with increases in both the number of farmers and the land area involved. Organic is still a small fraction of the market, however, and many of the problems we saw decades ago still persist. Read more »

Organic farming – environmental benefit, yield cost?

Posted by David Granatstein | August 27, 2013
UPDATE! Since this blog was posted, Granatstein published a journal article showing some techniques that increase organic fruit yields and income.  Click image for link to article.

UPDATE! Since this blog was posted, Granatstein published a journal article showing some techniques that increase organic fruit yields and income. Click image for link to article.

While most consumers may choose organic foods for their potential health characteristics (e.g., lower chance of pesticide residue and potentially greater nutrient value), these same consumers generally believe that organic farming is “good” for the environment and thus worth supporting.  But is the assumption of environmental benefit correct? And is there a cost? Let’s take a look at how the newer studies compare to older research findings. Read more »

When soil carbon sequestration REALLY pays

Posted by Chad Kruger | August 15, 2013

The dog days of summer have arrived in Eastern Washington – with daily temps reaching the high 90s every day. This is the second extended stretch of heat in the region this year. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Organic Farming, Sustainability
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