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Connections between Science and Business to Increase Environmentally- Friendly Food Production

Rieder, Rebekka M.. 2008. Oregon State


This study represents an internship, as a requirement of the Professional Science Masters program at Oregon State University, performed with Western Ag Innovations Inc. The study consisted of two aspects -- one business and one science oriented. The two objectives of this internship were to: 1) qualitatively evaluate how two agrarian groups, Pesticide-Free Production Farmer's Cooperative and Shepherd's Grain, benefit from environmentally-friendly production and certification; and 2) quantitatively determine the belowground soil nutrient supply dynamics of intercropping pea with wheat using PRS™-probes in a dryland agricultural region of Northeastern Oregon. The agrarian group Shepherd's Grain (SG) is located in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), USA, and the Pesticide-Free Production (PFP) Farmer's co-op was centered in the Western Canadian prairies. These food producers were changing from production-oriented models to consumer-driven systems by acquiring eco-friendly production certification in order to access niche markets. SG was successful while the PFP Farmer's co-op was unable to find value-added markets for their commodity products. A comparative case study was conducted to compare and contrast the two agrarian groups with regard to organizational structure and third party certification. This study identified several factors contributing to the success or the failure of the agrarian groups. The major factors for success were establishing contracts with consumers and preserving the identity of food products. Effective direct marketing to consumers -- with a clear message backed by eco-friendly certification, to initiate market demand for branded products -- was critical. By comparing SG and the PFP Farmer%u2019s co-op, I found that market incentives can promote environmentally-friendly agricultural practices for sustainable crop production and increase farm profitability. This is consistent with present trends in agricultural production, which are driven by consumer demand for increased transparency and sustainable food production. Plant Root Simulator™ (PRS™)-probes sold commercially by Western Ag Innovations in Saskatoon, Canada, were used to quantitatively determine nutrient supply rates in a dryland intercropping wheat-pea system. Intercropping is an agriculture system that is not practiced in the PNW of the USA. However, intercropping has the potential to serve as a tool for increasing environmentally friendly agricultural practices. PRS™-probes are not used extensively in PNW dryland cropping systems either. The purpose of this research was to determine the potential benefits of intercropping by using the PRS™-probes as a diagnostic tool. PRS™-probes were used to measure nutrient supply rates within established agronomic trials at Pendleton, OR. PRS™-probes showed an increase in nitrogen (N) supply associated with the observed grain yield response to N fertilizer. Similarly, PRS™-probes did not show a difference in nutrient supply for intercropping treatments when no grain yield response was observed. In general, intercropping did not benefit grain yield in this dryland agricultural system. PRS™probe measurements of nutrient supply were related to plant response to N fertilizer and intercropping treatments in a 1-year field experiment.

Key Words

Environmentally-friendly agriculture, Agribusiness