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Cannon Organic Horticulture Project

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An overview of the certified organic horticulture plots at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture near Poteau, Oklahoma. Organic practices such as cover crops, biochar, compost and compost teas, …

An overview of the certified organic horticulture plots at the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture near Poteau, Oklahoma. Organic practices such as cover crops, biochar, compost and compost teas, as well as variety trials., habitat for pollinators and no-till and biointensive beds.


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  • 1. The Cannon Horticulture Plots...
  • 2. ...we re certified organic...
  • 3. ...by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture...
  • 4. ...in June 2011.
  • 5. George Kuepper is manager of the center's horticulture projects.
  • 6. Kuepper's report, "Sm all Scale Organics: A Guidebook for the Non-certified Organic Grower," is available free online.
  • 7. The center has co nverted bermudagrass pasture to organic horticulture production.
  • 8. Controllin g bermudagrass is a challenge...
  • 9. ...but sorghum-sudangrass shades it out. For more detail, see "How We Converted Bermuda Pasture to Organic Vegetable Production.”
  • 10. Sorghum-sudangrass is one of several cover crops, both warm- and cool-season, that are used in the rotation on the Cannon plots.
  • 11. Cover crops, both winter and summer, are an important element of the evolving organic system design. For more information, read Rotations, Cover Crops, and Green Fallow on the Cannon Horticulture Project: A 2010 Status Report
  • 12. The system features a 4-field rotation. Each year, half of the land is in a "green fallow" of full-season cover crops.
  • 13. We grow grain rye as a winter cover crop.
  • 14. George Kuepper mowing a rye/vetch cover crop with a BCS walk-behind tractor with sickle-bar mower attachment
  • 15. The mowed material can be tilled in, or left on the surface as mulch.
  • 16. A 2011 organic no-till demonstration used this approach to grow heirloom pumpkins and squash. Results: 2011 Organic No-Till Pumpkin Demonstration
  • 17. The project is experimenting with using a roller-crimper as another way to kill cover crops.
  • 18. In addition to suppressing weeds, cover crops add fertility. Vetch, a winter cover crop, adds nitrogen to the soil.
  • 19. Purple hull peas, a warm-season cover crop, fix nitrogen, too. (The peas also make tasty eating.)
  • 20. When flowering, purple hull peas also provide habitat for beneficial insects.
  • 21. Additional fe rtility comes from compost...
  • 22. ...made with on-farm materials...
  • 23. ...such as hay...
  • 24. ...and manure.
  • 25. Compost tea...
  • 26. ...boosts populations of beneficial microbes...
  • 27. ...in the soil.
  • 28. Biochar, made on the farm...
  • 29. ...can increase soil moisture capacity and increase fertilizer efficiency...
  • 30. ...as well as improving habitat for beneficial soil microbes.
  • 31. 2010 was the first of three years of our heirloom sweet potato variety trials...
  • 32. ...funded by a specialty crop block grant...
  • 33. ...from the USDA-AMS through the state of Oklahoma.
  • 34. Small-scale production techniques were trialed...
  • 35. ...a s well as varieties.
  • 36. Reports on all three years' trials are available online.
  • 37. Heirloom tomato varieties were also trialed...
  • 38. ...in 2009...
  • 39. ...and 2010...
  • 40. ...including an additional trial of grafted tomatoes in 2010.
  • 41. Earlier years' heirloom variety trials included summer squash (2009)...
  • 42. ...okra (2008)...
  • 43. ...and sorghum (2008).
  • 44. Reports with results from all heirloom variety trials are available free online.
  • 45. One demonstration trial in 2011 focused on flour and meal corn.
  • 46. A "Three Sisters" demonstration in 2012 attempted to adapt the Native American crop blend of beans...
  • 47. ...corn...
  • 48. ...and squash...
  • 49. ...to the organic system in the Cannon plots. Read the results.
  • 50. Beneficial inse cts help control insect pests.
  • 51. Beneficial insects also include native pollinators. Learn more about the center's work with native pollinators.
  • 52. To support our work, join Friends of the Kerr Center!