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Organic farming focus of officials

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A team of Purdue University officials will use a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to boost organic farming in Indiana.

Kevin Gibson, an associate professor of botany and plant pathology and leader of the project, said organic farming has gotten off to a slower start in Indiana than in several neighboring states.

He hopes the three-year research program, funded through USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, can turn that around.

"Indiana has fewer organic farms than our surrounding states," Gibson said.

"We want to better understand that and see if we can help to increase the number of organic farms in our state."

Gibson said his team will focus on increasing the amount of information Purdue Extension educators have on organic farming practices.

"Our hope is that by working with Extension, we will be able to better serve the organic community," Gibson said.

Maria Marshall and Corinne Alexander, associate professors of agricultural economics, will seek to identify potential economic and marketing obstacles and opportunities for organic farmers.

Part of the USDA grant will also go toward starting a student farm on about three acres west of Purdue University.

Gibson said students will learn about organic farming methods and how to run a business.

The hope is to supply at least some of the produce used for functions at Westwood, the Purdue President's home, and in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program on campus.

Gibson's team will also study the roles crop rotation and cover crops can have in improving soil quality and pest management.

His team includes a handful of professors from Purdue University.

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