It’s not easy becoming certified organic.
“Organic farmers are mandated by an awkward set of rules: they cannot use synthetic chemicals like fertilizers or herbicides, they are discouraged from using tillage since it hinders soil quality, and they are also asked to increase soil biological activity,” Peyton Ginakes says.
Cover crops help soil fertility, and because tillage is the primary means of cover crop incorporation, management of cover crops is difficult, she says. Soil biology is especially imperative for organic crop production, because soil-dwelling microbes fuel plants by converting residue into plant-available nutrients.
“My research focuses on the use of strip tillage, a reduced-tillage method that tills only areas where future crops will be planted, in both agronomic and horticultural systems. My goal is to learn how these practices interact with the pool of soil organic matter that fuels soil biology and thus crop production,” she says.
Ginakes “finds soil fascinating because it is so vitally important to all life, and yet it remains incredibly inconspicuous and mysterious. There’s an intrinsic link between healthy ecosystems and healthy people and communities, and I think this is often overlooked when it comes to soil agro-ecosystems. I’m driven by the hope that my work will meaningfully serve the farming community by providing viable alternative management methods.”