The organic industry is the fastest growing agricultural segment in the United States, but low soil organic carbon, meager soil fertility and poor soil structure are keeping South Carolina farmers from reaping the benefits of this market. To help South Carolina farmers overcome these challenges and grow organic vegetables, Clemson University’s assistant professor Rongzhong Ye has received a $500,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a three-year study on improving soils to support organic vegetable production.
During this study, Ye and his team will strive to better understand how organic inputs and tillage affect soil biogeochemical processes essential for supporting soil health. The researchers will study soil microbial communities, carbon dynamics, nutrient processes and changes of soil health, as well as yields and nutritional quality of organic vegetables.
In addition to Clemson researchers, this project also involves researchers from the Rodale Institute Southeast Organic Center. This collaboration addresses priorities of the NIFA’s Organic Transitions Program which include understanding the effects of using organic practices such as organic manure, mulch, and/or compost additions, as well as using cover crops and reduced or conservation tillage on soil health and fertility.