Dig Deeper

Rodale Institute Partners with CowMaster to Offer New Line of Co-Branded Organic Bovine Health Products

cowmaster logo color cropped


Rodale Institute to Partner with CowMaster to Offer
New Line of Co-Branded Organic Bovine Health Products


Aaron Kinsman
Office: 610-683-1427
Mobile: 215-589-2490


January 22, 2015 (Kutztown, PA) – Rodale Institute, a non-profit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach, today announced that they have partnered with CowMaster to provide botanical formulas from certified organic and wild-crafted sources to dairy farmers. Through the partnership, 20% of all CowMaster profits will be donated to Rodale Institute. “Rodale Institute’s new partnership with CowMaster will not only generate a new source of funds for our continued research, education and outreach in the field of organics, but will also enhance the health and well-being of dairy cows around the world,” said Rodale Institute Executive Director, ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood.

CowMaster is the developer of botanical preparations to enhance milk quality, digestion, conception and general health. These products have all been approved for use by organic certification agencies in the United States and Canada. Founded by Dr. Hubert Karreman, Adjunct Veterinarian at Rodale Institute and 5th generation Chinese herbal medicine manufacturer, Mr. Gao Bobo, CowMaster builds on their years of experience providing botanical preparations for bovine health.

A former member of the National Organic Standards Board which creates the rules for the USDA Organic Certification, Dr. Karreman has provided veterinary care to both organic and conventional dairy farmers for over 20 years. Karreman’s arrival at the Institute last year closely followed Smallwood’s decision to bring livestock to the Institute’s research farm for the first time in 2010.

“For decades, farmers of all walks have sought out Rodale Institute’s expert advice, organic and conventional. We are honored to offer a co-branded line of bovine health products alongside the Rodale name,” said Dr. Karreman. Co-branded Rodale Institute /CowMaster products include:

♦ Phyto-Mast: To enhance milk quality. For Lactation or Dry-Off. The most scientifically tested natural product for dairy cows in the world.
♦ GetWell: To enhance health. A balanced blend of botanicals that have well-known, strong antibacterial and healing properties.
♦ EatWell: To enhance digestion. Used orally to promote gut motility, digestion and appetite.
♦ HeatSeek: To enhance conception. A balanced blend of female botanicals in tablet form which enhances the visual signs of estrus.

Since its founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been committed to groundbreaking research in organic agriculture, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating people about how organic is the safest, healthiest option for people and the planet. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30% higher. This year, 2015, marks the 34th year of the trial. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots, new techniques for weed suppression and organic livestock.



Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet.

For more information:



For CowMaster:
Toll Free: 1-844-209-COWS (2697)
Julie Kelly, Communications Coordinator

Farm Photo Friday: January 23, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!


The moment you've all been waiting for... Our new hog facility is almost completed! You've seen plenty of photos from a distance, so today you'll get a peek inside the pigs new crib.


Only one of these doors will be open at any given time, opening to fresh pasture. As the pigs are rotated to new pasture, the next door will be opened for them to graze. From the sky, the operation will look like spokes on a wagon wheel, with the facility in the center.


Miss Peggy was introduced to our Farm Photo Friday friends just last week. She's smiling to show how much she's enjoying herself here at Rodale Institute!


This week, she was introduced to the piglets. She's already receiving sweet smooches so she must be assimilating nicely.


Today is Lauren Cichocki's day off. What's she doing here? As the Animal Husbandry Coordinator, she keeps tabs on all the animals' health.


Houdini is having some breakfast. From this angle, he looks like a Kong-sized hog who could eat Stephanie Zimmerman and Lauren in one chomp! Watch out ladies!


"This is our lunch. Goat get your own!"


The cold doesn't seem to bother these Buff Orpingtons one bit...


The donkeys, on the other hand, are so over winter. This photographer overheard them talking about getting tickets for a cruise to Bermuda. A donkey can dream, can't he?


 Is that a nice loaf of bread in a warm oven? No! Rae Moore, Research Technician and Dr. Kris Nichols, Chief Scientist, are sterilizing sand. Why would they ever sterilize sand? One of our current research experiments is testing out what happens when compost extract is applied to plants. Will it help the crop grow? Will it help the weeds grow? Both? One and not the other? We will see! But we want to be sure that the only biology at work in this experiment comes from the compost extract, so the sand will need to be totally sterile.


The caption is tough to read, so here's what it says: "Almost 40% of household water use during the summer is for lawns and gardens. Rain barrels help conserve water and save money." Want to learn how to make your own? Register now for our workshop, "Make Your Own Rain Barrels!"


Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team member, just completed this heated bed in the greenhouse. To save some money on heating, the temperature for the greenhouse will be turned down, but we will still be able to start plenty of produce thanks to this heated bed.


The plastic has tiny holes to let water drain. Heating pads will be placed on top of the tarp.  The tarp will keep in sand, which will fill the bed.  The sand conducts heat from the heating pads to warm the trays of starts so that the seeds will be warm enough germinate.

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

Garden Internships

Rodale Institute is offering an educational and hands-on opportunity for interns to learn and practice the fundamental principles of Organic plant cultivation and garden maintenance. In 2015, the garden will undergo renovation of existing beds. New garden areas will include a Medicinal Plant Garden, Demonstration Garden and Cut Flower Garden. Interns will have the opportunity to work with a diverse selection of plant material including vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.

The garden intern will be involved in all aspects of garden establishment and maintenance including:

♦  Seeding in the greenhouse, watering and maintenance of greenhouse plants.
♦  Establishment of garden beds, assisting in garden layout and spring planting of transplants.
♦  On-going plant care including: pruning, dead-heading, watering, mulching, and weeding.
♦  Harvest of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
♦  Implementation of organic pest control measures when needed.
♦  Preparation and application of Compost Teas.

Must be able to routinely lift 50 pounds, move freely around the farm, have the ability and willingness to operate machinery, and be able and willing to work under adverse weather conditions. Must have attention to detail, follow directions, and maintain accurate garden records.

To apply, please send a letter of interest and your resume to Maggie Saska, Plant Production Specialist maggie.saska@rodaleinstitute.org

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship

stLukesSliderRodale Institute is seeking enthusiastic individuals with a positive spirit to apply for an internship at the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. The farm is a partnership between the Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s Hospital to create an innovative farm-to-institute model. The farm provides produce to all six hospitals in the St. Luke’s health network. In 2015 the farm will also pilot a small CSA program for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm is embarking into its second growing season and requires strong and confident individuals to join the team. Interns will be trained in greenhouse production, field work, pest & weed management, farm equipment, record keeping, irrigation, CSA distribution, bee keeping, Wholesale distribution, and various other skills associated with the day to day operations necessary to run an organic farm. Interns will also have access to educational opportunities and training at the Rodale Institute.

SLUHN.Intern Interns must be committed to the farm’s success, and in turn, the farm will be committed to the intern’s success. The program strives to help launch interns into a farming career by proving a solid foundation in agriculture and helping interns make connections in the field of agriculture both literally and figuratively.

Interns will be provided with on-site housing, access to vegetable, and a small stipend. The internship will begin in April and end in November.

Rodale Institute believes healthy soil, produces healthy food which produces healthy people. The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship is an amazing opportunity for interns to begin an agricultural career, uphold the Rodale Institute’s mission and change our current food system for the better.

To apply, send a letter of interest and resume to Lynn Trizna, Project Manager at lynn.trizna@rodaleinstitute.org

Farm Photo Friday: January 16, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!


Hello again, Farm Photo Friday Friends! Meet Miss Peggy.
Miss Peggy, how about a kiss for our Farm Photo Friday Friends?


These pigs are enjoying new pasture today where we've planted radishes and some of their favorite grasses. But what's that in the background?


In the back ground you can see that their new facility really came together this week with a tarp...


And wow! When you zip this thing up, it fits really well!


Even though they haven't moved in yet, the pigs are feeling so appreciative they could just kiss Stephanie Zimmerman, Strategic Solutions Team Member.


Cynthia James, ASC Program Manager, is getting ready for the upcoming ASC season by selecting and ordering seeds, working on plot plans and reviewing applications for ASC interns! Want to intern at the Rodale Institute? Check this out!


Here is where the sheep and goats get along together in harmony. However, some of the younger buck goats have been a bit rambunctious this week. Shay-ay-ay-ay-ame on them!


Sharing space with Cynthia is Maggie Saska, Plant Production Specialist. Maggie is taking a look at the tool offerings from our good friends at Corona!


SEED SWAP tomorrow! The Winter Warm Up is tomorrow at 11am-2pm and is a great opportunity to meet other growers, swap seeds, order from our various seed catalogs and get expert advice!


How many farms do you know of that have a server room? Not many. Jay Belanger is our Part-time IT Administrator and is seen here demonstrating the new telephone system. Jay is a behind the scenes, bona fide tech wiz and one of our best kept secrets. Until he made it onto world famous Farm Photo Friday.


What a special treat we had today for lunch! Michael Schmaeling, Facilities Team Member, and Molly Sweitzer, Marketing and Sales Specialist, worked together to whip up a wonderful wunch. Er... lunch.


Not only did they serve up some fried fish but we were also treated to a hardy stew of venison and bear meat!


Mike hunted and harvested the meats for the whole meal. Way to go and thank you Mike!


Lunch is over. Back to work! Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team Member, is already ahead of the game. Dan designed and constructed this root washer from a rain barrel.


We were able to catch up with him as he was putting the final pieces into place. They fit perfectly, just as planned. An exciting moment!


With the root washer now in place at the greenhouse, we chalk up one more solid improvement to the farm - thank you Dan!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

Why Chipotle’s pork problem is good for farmers

By Coach Mark Smallwood, Executive Director

News that Chipotle pulled pork from many of its menus, due to an issue with one of their supplier’s animal welfare practices, has been blowing up all over the news and social media. The Washington Post and others believe that the company’s high standards for animal welfare are laudable, but at this point a real problem.

In my mind, this is a good problem.IMG_6468

I applaud Chipotle for holding their farmers to high standards. Chipotle seeks out farmers who raise hogs according to strict animal welfare practices. And I thank them for not compromising their principles, and for pushing production to be more humane.

So this “pork problem” is not a problem at all.

It’s an opportunity for farmers to get ahead of the curve and work with restaurateurs and grocers who demand healthy, humanely raised organic products for their customers.

There are not enough organic farmers in the United States. At Rodale Institute, we’re working to change that. On our 333 acre organic farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania we have a robust organic pork operation that is setting the standard for best practices in raising hogs.

In developing our hog operation, we learned a few things…

1. Organic hogs, including breeding stock, are difficult to source.
2. Demand for humanely raised organic pork exceeds current supply.
3. Farmers can profitably raise organic pork on underutilized, marginal land.

IMG_7043Just this week, we began construction on a new facility for our hogs that will revolutionize the way we raise pastured pork in the United States. The beauty of this facility is that it can be scaled up for farmers who wish to have a large-scale operation, but also scaled down for farmers who wish to have just a few animals.

How do we do this? Our hogs are raised on pasture in a facility that offers them shelter, but also open access to the outdoors. We focus on heritage breed animals that thrive on pasture. We plant crops for them to forage, cutting down on feed costs, while also managing our land effectively.

Our goal is to help farmers transition to organic or begin farming organically. Restaurants like Chipotle, which hold as their mission to serve “food with integrity,” are experiencing explosive growth.

Now, the farming community needs to catch up and make Chipotle’s “pork problem” no problem.

Farm Photo Friday: January 9, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute!

Happy New Year, Farm Photo Friday friends! We hope you enjoyed the holiday break. We've been busy, so here is an update on some of the new and exciting projects we have going on!


Our new,state of the art hog facility is getting closer and closer to completion every day. It's a thrill to see the progress! Here is a shot from the beginning of the week, in which you can see there are four arches already up.


And today, there are 8 arches in place and ready for the skin to go on!


Ross Duffuield, Farm Manager, and Lauren Cichocki, Animal Husbandry Coordinator, bask in the glory of progress!


They also had some fun testing it out before it's ready for the pigs. This is where the pigs will poke their heads out, as demonstrated here.


If you have ever seen a Farm Photo Friday before, you know that we have some pretty darn good lookin' goats. Many people tell us that they want these goats. Well, he's sired three bucks and they are available for sale! Time to start your own goat farm or add to your operation!


Some people think it's been cold out lately, but Zorro can't wait for it to get really cold!


Here is Alfalfa, the eldest of our young bucks available for sale!


Alfalfa is closing his eyes and envisioning what his future home will look like!


Be sure to mark your calendar for our upcoming event, the Winter Warmup! Swap seeds and get your garden plan ready for the growing season with our awesome catalogs full of new varietals.


Meanwhile, in the labs, we catch up with Rick Carr, Compost Production Specialist. This freeze-dryer takes compost extract which has been filtered and then frozen, and through the process of sublimation, transforms the frozen compost extract into a powder for alternative methods of application.


And here is the result!


This powder may not look like much, but rest assured, it is chock full of microbes! They're dormant once they are freeze-dried, but add some water, and these little micro-critters will go crazy!


Rick also wanted to show off another one of the lab's new toys! This Autoclave comes in very handy for sterilizing several different types of growing media, from soil to auger.


Bill Lenhard, Strategic Solutions Team Member, is painting one of the rest rooms in the main house, where the main offices are located. You can always find Bill taking great pride in his great work. Thanks Bill!


Elsewhere on the farm, Maggie Sazka, Plant Production Specialist, checks the temperature and water levels in the greenhouse. For a few brief moments, she's happy to be out of the cold!


After hunting for more Farm Photo Friday material, we have Ross back in the frame. Here's to you, Ross! Ross and Lauren (out of the frame) muck the oxen stalls and feed them some breakfast.


Lewis and Clark enjoy some organic hay. Hay - it's what's for breakfast.


Lewis licks his lips. Must be some pretty good hay today!


Ross is testing the waters, so to speak, to see if this rooster will let him pick him up. This shot is about as far as he got with that one!


Remember those cute little piglets just a few months back? They grow so fast! Here they are, about to have a pig party. They just need someone to 'break the ice.'


Ross gets to work on breaking up the ice with a mallet - and a very interested audience.


The others hear the ice breaking - must mean the pig party has started!


Could it be, that Lauren is having a chuckle at Ross's troubles? No, not possible. She would never!


And finally... Success!


Here the pigs learn that water is impossible to drink while frozen. But it is crunchy, which is pretty  fun!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!


Goats for Sale!

Rodale Institute has Certified Organic Nigerian Dwarf Goats for sale!

The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature dairy goat originating from West Africa and developed in the United States. Nigerian Dwarf goats are known for their high quality milk, often with exceptionally high butterfat content. Nigerian Dwarves are gregarious, friendly, hardy animals that thrive in almost any climate.The medium length ears are erect and alert. The face is either straight or slightly dished. The coat is of medium length, and straight. The Nigerian Dwarf is the only dairy breed known to occasionally have blue eyes. Both brown & blue eyed animals are encountered with no preference being given to either eye color. Any pattern, color, or combination of colors is acceptable.

Each goat is registration with the American Goat Society and is certified organic.

Currently available goats are listed below.  Each buck is $400.

Interested buyers should contact Lauren Cichocki at lauren.cichocki@rodaleinstitute.org or at 610-683-1483.

Doe: Tukswitt Farm IrisAlfalfa2

Buck: Phoenix Rising Farm Mask of Zorro

Name: Alfalfa

Gender: Buck

DOB: 5/1/2014





















Organic Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)

By Gladis M. Zinati, Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist

The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Stål) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), native to Japan, South Korea, and China, has emerged as one of the most devastating pests of northeastern United States agriculture. Since its introduction in the mid-1990’s to Allentown, PA, BMSB has spread across North America and is now present in 41 states and eastern Canada, causing the greatest crop damage in the mid-Atlantic region and a homeowner nuisance. In 2006, BMSB caused severe damage in fruit trees in NJ and PA and high numbers were found in soybeans and ornamentals. In 2010, high populations of BMSB severely damaged tree fruit orchards, with up to 90% of the peach crop at some mid-Atlantic farms damaged and an estimated $37 million loss to other mid-Atlantic tree fruit. Due to diverse host plants, BMSB has established itself as a primary pest in tree fruit crops and population pressure currently remains high.

Identifying BMSB

BMSB adults are relatively large compared to other stink bugs, measuring 1/2 - 2/3” long and 5/16” wide (Photo 1). Their name “marmorated” means banded or streaked, as in their appearance. The two white bands on their antennae, the black and white banding on the abdomen, the smooth shoulder, and the mottled brown legs are distinguishing characteristics of BMSB that can help differentiate them from native stink bugs.


BMSB adults and nymphs use their straw like mouthparts to feed on the internal plant tissues. The action of sucking out the juices from fruits, vegetables, and seeds creates cork-like pockmarks and deformations that make fruits (such as apples, peaches, and pear) and vegetables (tomato, pepper, sweet corn) unmarketable.

BMSB Biology

In the spring, BMSB adults emerge from overwintering sites (houses, barns, storage buildings, and dead trees) and become active on nearby crops such as peach, hardwood trees, and shrubs during warm sunny days. Adult BMSB have the capacity to fly more than a mile and some have been shown to have the ability to fly over 31 miles. In the spring and throughout the summer, BMSB adults feed, mate, and lay eggs. The adult female BMSB lays barrel-shaped, white to pale-green eggs in clusters of 28 eggs on the underside of plant leaves. The BMSB female can lay 4-10 egg masses in her lifetime. BMSB have five nymphal growth stages, known as instars.

The first instar BMSB nymphs have an orange abdomen with brown rectangular markings. As the nymphs get older, they show banded antennae and legs with rust-colored abdomen and broad brown markings. Development from egg to adult takes approximately 32-35 days, and as adults and all nymphal instars can feed and cause injury to their hosts. Nymphs and adults can be found on a wide range of plant species that bear buds, pods, and fruiting bodies. Their wide range of hosts include soybean, sunflower, cayenne pepper, tree of heaven, eggplant, tomato, Swiss chard, corn, cherry, moth orchid, mimosa, mulberry, and crabapple.

Monitoring and Management Tactics

The large host plant range, its high mobility, and lack of natural enemies make monitoring this pest in both conventional and organic agricultural systems a critical, yet challenging task. In October 2012, Dr. Anne Nielsen, an Extension Entomologist at Rutgers University, and collaborating institutions including Rodale Institute were awarded a grant funded by USDA – NIFA OREI program # 2012-51300-20097, entitled, Whole-farm Organic Management of BMSB and Endemic Pentatomids through Behavior-based Habitat Manipulation.

As part of a multi-state project, Rodale Institute participated in the investigation of the temporal and spatial movement of BMSB and native pentatomids and their aggregation in order to identify potential organic pest management strategies.

In 2012 and 2013, we investigated overwintering structures and fabrics, cone traps on wooden pyramids, trap crops, and overwintering bug houses to better understand stink bug dispersal and aggregation. Below are the details and results of these tactics:

Overwintering structures and fabrics

In November of 2012, we surveyed structures such as buildings, offices, attics, sheds, greenhouses, barns, and garages at Rodale Institute for overwintering BMSB and recorded the number of dead and live adults per structure. We found living overwintering BMSB adults in the book store, the Siegfriedale House, and the pavilion. Within these structures we also identified fabrics in which BMSB preferred to hide and overwinter. Overwintering BMSB were generally found hiding in dark-colored and water proof rain coats and black fabric “Grow Bags” (Photo 4).

Cone traps on wooden pyramid

After an overwintering period, in the early spring BMSB adults emerge from wooded areas and human-made structures and begin feeding (sucking) on green plants to nourish themselves and mate in spring. They then moved to crops such as peaches, followed by berries, tomatoes, and peppers, and finally to apples and field crops.

To monitor the temporal and spatial dispersal of BMSB adults from the overwintering structures to nearby outdoor areas, in the Spring 2013 we set up four cones traps each attached to black wooden pyramids.

A combination of vapor tape (to kill bugs) and pheromone “Dead-Inn” traps from AgBio were placed within the cones. The traps were deployed on each side the Siegfriedale House (four cardinal directions). The house is surrounded by wooded area from the north and small herb and vegetable garden from the west .

Between April 18 and June 10, we collected and recorded bugs trapped in the cones twice a week. Our first BMSB adults (four females) were collected in the west trap on May 20. Four and 10 days later, two male adults were also caught in the west side cone trap. By June, more males and females were seen in the east and south cones.

Trap Crops

Early June of 2013, we tested five different plant species (admiral pea, sorghum, sunflowers, okra, and millet) as potential trap crops. We assessed the relative attractiveness of these different potential trap crops to BMSB by monitoring and recording BMSB abundance and life stages per crop. There were five rows of each plant species per 20 ft x 10 ft plot and five replicate plots for a total of 25 plots planted in Latin square design.

 Monitoring BMSB: by crop and direction

Admiral pea flowered and died quickly before BMSB monitoring started. During weekly monitoring, we did not see any BMSB egg masses, nymphs or adults until August 21, 2013. On September 4th the first BMSB adult and nymphs were seen on fruit heads of sunflower, millet, and sorghum. Adult spined-soldier stink bugs (a natural enemy) were observed on millet, sunflower (Photo 9), okra, and sorghum towards the south of plots, near the woods. The last BMSB adult was observed October 2nd on the east side of sorghum (which was senescing) in a plot close to the wooded area.

It is important to note that beneficial insects (natural enemies of BMSB) (Photo 11) such as katydid, spiders, lady bugs, praying mantid, and wasps were also found on the plants where BMSB adults and nymphs were feeding.

Overwintering shelter trap

We participated in a multi-state project to monitor BMSB adult preference for overwintering location and cardinal direction of overwintering structures. The idea was to use materials that are commonly found on farms to create a shelter to “trap out” overwintering BMSB. Based on our scouting record from fall 2012, we identified two structures to setup and deploy overwintering BMSB shelter traps: the pavilion and the Siegfriedale House. These two structures are bordered with wooded area and organic crops. The shelter traps were made of wood, coated with white weatherproof paint and stuffed with 1m2 of used row cover.

We deployed the shelter traps on September 16, 2013. Four traps were placed outside and four inside on each side of the two selected structures.
On November 8, 2013, we checked and counted BMSBs in trap houses. At the garden pavilion, in outdoor houses, overwintering female adults were concentrated in the east side, followed by the south and west side. Interestingly, only one male adult was found in the trap house located on the northern side. Indoor, however, female adults were in the north and west houses and the male adults were on the south and east side. At the Siegfriedale House, BMSB adults were not seen in either the outdoor or indoor trap houses.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) feeds on a diverse array of crops, damaging a variety of fruits and vegetables, and significantly impacting farmer profits, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region. Populations of this pest may increase with food availability, warm climate, sunny days, absence of natural enemies, and lack of management.

Organic farmers should scout their homes and farm structures during the fall/winter season to discover overwintering sites for BMSB adults. In the spring, growers can monitor for BMSB using observational sampling. Additionally, growers can set up pheromone traps, such as the “Dead-Inn” trap from AgBio or the stink bug trap from Rescue.

After testing multiple plant species as potential trap crops for BMSB, we have identified sunflower and red sorghum to be two crops that are highly attractive to BMSB. These two crops are tall, brightly colored, and have seeds that are good protein sources. Thus, planting these two plants as trap crops around the perimeter of a cash crop may reduce BMSB movement into and percent injury on the cash crops. Additionally, these trap crops attract and provide resources for natural enemies (i.e. katydid, lady beetle, and wasps), which may help enhance their populations and naturally reduce BMSB abundance. The integration of these management strategies have wide appeal for reducing crop losses for both organic and conventional farmers.
We are currently testing the effectiveness of using sunflower and sorghum as trap crops to manage BMSB population in organic cropping system and increase marketability of pepper cash crop. Stay tuned for future information on this topic.

For information related to this article contact Dr. Gladis Zinati at gladis.zinati@rodaleinstitute.org

This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2012-51300-20097, titled:  Whole-Farm Organic Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) and Endemic Pentatomids through Behavior-Based Habitat Manipulation, from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This article was approved of by Dr. Anne Nielsen, Rutgers University prior to publishing.

Turning the Brown Gold to Yellow Gold

By Gladis Zinati, Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist

Hand harvesting and combining rest of the corn.

Hand harvesting and combining rest of the corn.

Compost is a typical nutrient amendment used in small-scale agriculture, while large scale, mono-crop agriculture often is dependent on synthetic N-P-K fertilizers.  Dan Hunsicker, a non-organic corn grower in Berks County, Pennsylvania, grows continuous corn in a no-till system without organic amendments or cover crops.

While attending Rodale Institute’s annual on-farm field day in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Dan learned about the benefits of amending soil with high-quality compost produced aerobically throughout the composting process, and how well it could improve soil health and plant yield. In the past few years, Dan realized that his corn yield is not as high as he anticipated. Therefore, he wanted to investigate whether the use of compost or “brown gold” produced at Rodale Institute, would re-energize his soil to increase corn yield.

In 2013, Rodale Institute scientists and Dan received a Northeast SARE Partnership grant to demonstrate the impact of using high-quality compost with and without compost extract on soil physical and chemical properties as well as corn grain yield.  As a farmer collaborator on the project, Dan allowed Rodale’s research team to use his land for the research study, and provided his equipment and time.

Dan prepared the land and three weeks before planting, researchers applied high-quality compost, prepared at Rodale Institute, at the rate of 1 ton per acre on plots designated for compost treatment. For treatments with compost extract, Dan retro-fitted his planter for compost extract application at planting. These plots also received two applications of compost extract (one- and two-months after planting) using backpack sprayer.

Dan was personally involved in the entire project and eagerly awaited the results from the soil and plant samples collected by the research team as well as yield data. Soil was sampled throughout the season and analyzed for physical and chemical properties. At harvest, plant and grain samples were obtained by sampling the whole plants and corn ears from 20-foot long strips in two adjacent middle corn rows. Dan harvested the remaining plants for grain.

After only one cropping season, soil bulk density in the combined compost and compost extract treatment was 87 lb/ft3 (1.39 g/m3) compared to 90.5 lb/ft3 (1.45 g/m3) in the treatment without organic amendments (Dan’s standard practice). In addition, the percentage of soil organic matter in the combined organic treatment was 3.41% while in Dan’s standard practice, it was 3.07%. Lowering soil bulk density reduces compaction and increasing soil organic matter potentially enhances soil biological activity, chemical reactions, and soil physical structure which are all indicators of soil health.HarvestingCorn

While there was no significant increase in plant biomass between treatments, the compost treatment increased corn grain yield by 10 bu per acre. Dan refers to corn as the “yellow gold”. He sells his corn to the pet industry which requires higher quality corn for a premium price ($5.50 a bushel on average). This equates to an additional $45.00 per acre in revenue or $165,000 annually for Dan’s 3,000 acre operation.

Dan was very pleased with the results of the field trial, and predicted that if he continued to use high-quality compost with extract year after year in his no-till corn system, he can enrich his soil with organic matter, improve soil structure and increase his corn yields without a doubt. With time, he potentially could reduce using petroleum-derived fertilizers and turn to organic amendments for feeding his soil microorganisms and plants. Dan is also interested in modifying his sprayer to apply frequent applications of compost extract during the growing season to boost corn production. Dan is now on the path of turning “brown gold” into “yellow gold” for more “green” by adding organic amendments to his no-till system.


This material is based upon work supported by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE SARE), under Grant Agreement Number: ONE13-186,  Project Title:  Impact of Using High Quality Biological Compost and Compost Extract on Corn Production, Plant Nutrient Content and Soil Quality.

If you'd like to download a pdf of this article, click here.