Friday, November 22, 2013

Organic and Integrated Research at Lincoln University’s Busby Research Farm

The Alan T. Busby Research Farm is one of three farms owned by Lincoln University and is located 8 miles from campus, off Highway 54. Our mission is to demonstrate and research integrated farming methods that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Busby Research Farm was certified as an organic producer of crops in November 2012. Those crops include blueberries, forages and vegetables, with future plans to include brambles and apples. At this time, the livestock are not certified organic as there were concerns that could limit the scope of the livestock research projects.

The 280-acres farm is a diverse mixture of rolling pasture land, oak and hickory woodlands and river bottom. Facilities include the beef handling barn, composting building, former swine research building and a youth camp which has four bunkhouse cabins, community buildings and a kitchen. The cabin area is surrounded by native plants and a recovering prairie area flanks the gates leading to the cabins. The composting facility uses locally generated food waste to produce compost for use as a soil amendment and in making compost tea. Other unique features are the solar-powered pump and reservoir which provide water for irrigation and livestock water, two acres of blueberries, four acres of switchgrass and miscanthus for biomass energy research, as well as a newly established finca garden featuring native plants.

Dr. Jaime Piñero conducts integrated pest management (IPM) studies using organic methods which incorporate trap crops and lures to minimize pest damage from Japanese beetles, squash bugs and stink bugs. He is also research the effectiveness of various cover crop combinations with weed suppression and soil fertility.

Busby Research Farm maintains a herd of 20 to 25 head of Angus cattle and flocks of goats and hair sheep. They are used in grazing demonstrations and research projects. Dr. James Caldwell is conducting research utilizing multispecies grazing of sheep and cattle to determine the effects on forage utilization and reproduction. Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert is entering the third year of a silvopasture project utilizing goats to reclaim unmanaged woodlands and eliminate invasive species. All livestock are maintained using a forage-based system and managed intensive grazing, with minimum use of hay and supplemental feed.

The most challenging endeavor has been establishing and maintaining organic blueberries. This summer, some of the plants tested positive for phytophthora root rot and several researchers and specialists collaborated to develop a treatment plan that included applications of compost tea, gypsum, raw milk, either separately or in combination. Hopefully, the data collected prior to treatment and again next spring will provide results that can be of use to other producers.

In the spring, Busby Research Farm will host their annual Alternative Agricultural Field Day. Information will be available on the Lincoln University website and flyers will be available.

Tours of the facility are also available. For questions or additional information, please call Chris Boeckmann (573-619-2914) or Cindy DeOrnellis (573-291-0591).

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