The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.
As the world population grows, farmers will not only need to meet increasing demands of food, but also keep nutritional values high. Recently, it has been proposed that the nutrient quality of food has declined from baseline values to which food has been compared for decades. This decline in nutritional value is thought to be associated with changes in the soil in which crops are grown.
Few research sites exist globally that have both organic and conventional production practices set up side-by-side in the same soils with a rich data history needed to make this type of scientific comparison possible. Rodale Institute’s FST project is one of those sites.
This grant will aid the FST project in analyzing the nutrient density of both organically and conventionally grown oats, measuring the nutrient density of the soil, analyzing the links between the soil health of the systems and crop nutrition, and disseminating information generated within this project to a broader audience.