What is in this article?:
• In 2012 North Carolina farmers grew approximately 12,000 acres of organic grain crops with much of that acreage being in a double-crop system.
• It’s a small, niche part of the overall agriculture picture in the state, but it is growing and profitable for most growers.
Seven or eight years ago there was no organic grain production in North Carolina.
Today organic corn, soybeans, and most recently wheat are becoming commonplace in the state, according to North Carolina State University organic crops specialist Chris Reberg-Horton.
“For the first few years I worked here, my primary interest was corn and soybeans, because that's where our growers were making the most money. Now, it appears in many cases wheat is more profitable, so we are now focusing more on this crop,” Horton says.
“We also have crushers coming into our state to buy organic sunflower and canola. They do it all with forward contracts, so it's very attractive for growers, because they have a set price before they ever put seed in the ground " he adds.
Short rotations with only two summer grain crops and one winter crop is a real problem for organic production. With the addition of sunflowers in the summer and canola in the winter growers have many more rotation options, Horton says.
“We also have several thousand acres of organic sweet potatoes and 45 registered organic tobacco growers in the state. So, in the organic realm we are beginning to get more diverse and growers are beginning to have more options for rotation crops, which can be a significant benefit to organic production.
“Organic canola is becoming very attractive in North Carolina, because we don't have the contamination problems common in other growing areas of the country.
“AgStrong, a north Georgia based company has been aggressive in lining up canola growers in recent years. Having canola as a second profitable winter crop with wheat gives organic growers in the state more options for year-long production’” he says
Canola is a wind pollinated crop and in some parts of the country cross-pollination of organic and non-organic canola has been a problem. In North Carolina we don't have large acreages being produced in a small geographic area, so contamination is less of a problem here, Horton says.