The theme of the Farmer2Farmer IV Conference, hosted by Farmers Business Network (FBN), was “Take Control.”
The phrase “take control” is applicable to many scenarios within a farming operation. An agribusiness executive proposes farmers weigh the benefits of organic crop production, which could help them take control of weed problems and increase sustainability and profitability.
AUDIO: J.P. Rhea, AgriSecure (CEO)
J.P. Rhea, CEO of AgriSecure – a company focused on helping farmers navigate the challenges of transitioning to organic crop production – admits, “Making the change to organics is a big and daunting task.” However, he believes the benefits stemming from this practice are worthwhile.
“We talk a lot about the economic benefits. In today’s economic environment, that’s definitely a compelling reason to do it. But we’ve also seen a lot of sustainability benefits,” Rhea said. “My grandpa always said, ‘Take care of the land and it will take care of you.’ In our transition, we’re using less inputs, getting more productivity and increased biology in the soil.”
Rhea says many farmers worry about being able to control weeds, after making the transition from conventional to organic crop production.
“I think everybody knows an organic farmer who has 40 acres. That may not be his full-time job, and it’s a weedy mess. That’s a lot of what organic production is, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our system is about developing a strong, robust, multi-year system that is focused on developing that rotation and different biology,” Rhea said.
Adding biological diversity and integrating crop rotations have proven beneficial when it comes to reducing other in-field pressures.
“Honestly, for me personally, one of my biggest surprises with organic farming has been the limited amount of disease and pest pressure we’ve had,” Rhea said. “Those changes in biology and crop rotations have cut back on that pressure. A lot of the problems that we think about (like), ‘How am I going to deal with rootworm problems?’ Rootworms are predominately a corn-on-corn issue and that’s not something we normally do in organics.”
Organic crop production also comes with its share of challenges. Stay tuned to the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network to hear from an organic farmer, in southwest Iowa, who has made the transition to organic crop production. We’ll also have a segment on how to go about transitioning some of your acres to organic.