Organic Agriculture

Organic AgThe SWROC’s organic agriculture research and outreach program explores agriculture alternatives and the science of organic cropping systems. Our researchers collaborate with faculty located at other ROCs and on the St. Paul Campus as well as with University of Minnesota Extension educators to conduct a wide range of studies on our certified organic land.

The SWROC has 120 acres of certified organic land available on-site for research. Researchers also conduct studies on the certified acres of cooperating organic farmers throughout Minnesota. We have three certified organic high tunnels on-site at the Center that are used primarily for research. Visit our High Tunnel Production page for more information our high tunnel research.

Some of the organic research projects currently being conducted at the SWROC include:

  • microbial weed management
  • edible bean variety trial
  • nitrogen rates on edible bean trial
  • oat seeding rate X beef manure and composted beef manure rates
  • radish mix cover crops
  • alfalfa variety trial
  • hairy vetch variety trial
  • rye and triticale variety trial
  • rhizobium study
  • wheat following edible beans
  • tillage demonstration plots

Elwell Agroecology Farm

The Elwell Agroecology Farm consists of 160 acres adjacent to the SWROC. Excluding the native prairie and two farm groves, the remaining 120 acres of land has been certified organic since 1998.

Pioneer agriculture by Europeans began prior to 1878 on the parcel that is now the Elwell Agroecology Farm. When the center began leasing the “Koch Farm” for sustainable agriculture research in 1988, it had a more than 30-year history of minimal pesticide and fertilizer application, limited tile drainage, and high weed pressure.

The unique characteristics of the farm presented researchers with the opportunity to develop cropping systems studies, as well as studies on fertility, water quality, low input, organic input, management, and tile drainage. Portions of the property were tile-drained for research projects, and a detailed soil and nutrient survey was conducted in the first year of research on the land.

The management of the Elwell Agroecology Farm has emphasized a team-based planning process that includes researchers, farmers, SWROC staff, Extension educators, and others interested in agriculture. Past, current, and future research projects emphasize the development of cropping systems that efficiently cycle water, nutrients, and energy, while at the same time enhancing profitability in organic systems.

The Elwell Agroecology Farm received its name in 1995 when Larry and Ruth Elwell, who purchased the 160-acre Koch Farm in 1991, presented 51 percent of the parcel as a gift to the University of Minnesota.

Research Program Contacts