OARS re-cap

This was the first Organic Ag Research Symposium, held pre-MOSES in La Crosse. I think the idea was to add a separate format for researchers to talk organic science outside of the larger MOSES scene, which is more practical (although I think fairly appreciative of research). Attendees were mostly researchers and students with a few exstension people, funding organizations, and farmers. There were a lot of talks on organic seed breeding, a few on organic management, biocontrol. I was on a panel on Soil Health presenting my Masters work alongside a talk by Richard Kremer about increasing OM with alley grasses in an apple orchard and a talk from Stuart Grandy on increases in microbial growth efficiency in organic systems due to regular legume inputs. There was a strong showing from UW, including Bill Tracy, Julie Dawson and Erin Silva’s work. There’s an interesting tension in this area of research between trying to figure out how the systems work and trying to prove that organic systems are an improvement over conventional systems. The keynote speaker, Chuck Benbrook, brought up some very compelling evidence that organic products could apply to the USDA to make label claims on some food safety and health issues, especially pesticide residues and antioxidant content of fruits and veggies, and the omega-3/omega-6 ratio of organic dairy. It was productive and interesting to talk with people working in so many different fields, but the conference would have benefited from more attendees and less dispersal into different sessions, so that part could have been maximized. The organizers did a great job of including lots of student presenters and subsidizing the conference for them, though.