The emergence of the term 'organic farming' to describe a distinct system of agriculture began in the first half of the 20th century, with significant public visibility occurring in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, most land grant universities experienced a significant shift of focus towards environmentally sound and sustainable food systems, but few have focused on organic systems due to the very small acreage and number of farms involved. Organic farming expanded dramatically in the last decade, and this expansion continues today. In response, public agricultural institutions are beginning to dedicate resources to support the needs of the organic sector.
Organic growers can utilize information resulting from recent work on sustainable agriculture at WSU (e.g. biological control, soil quality), however due to the complexity of organic systems, growers have special needs that may not be adequately met by current programs. Organic farms are valuable living laboratories of agro-ecosystems that contain biological constraints and opportunities that are unique and challenging. Experience has shown that research in organic systems can often uncover fresh and innovative ideas that all farmers can use.
This report represents the first attempt to provide a comprehensive look at the organic farming research and extension activities at WSU, covering both past and present projects. It is intended to portray an accurate picture for policy and resource allocation discussions, and also improve networking among the many widespread individuals working on organic systems who might not otherwise know one another. Moreover, this report can also be utilized as an initial guide by the public to locate resources within WSU related to organic farming. Finally, and importantly, this report provides recognition to those, WSU faculty who have supported and contributed to the organic production knowledge base over the past few decades.
The Green revolution technologies involving greater use of synthetic agrochemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides with adoption of nutrient- responsive, high- yielding varieties of crops have boosted the production output per hectare in most of the cases. However, this increase in production has slowed down and in some cases there are indications of decline in growth of productivity and production. Priorities in agriculture research are gradually moving from a focus on individual crop performance to a total system productivity with due attention on product quality and environment safety. Environmental and health problems associated with agriculture have been increasingly well documented, but it is only recently that the scales of the costs have attracted the attention of planners and scientists.