Client Corner: How do I transition to organic production?

Contributed by Craig Chase, ISU Extension Farm Management Field Specialist

How do I transition from conventional to organic crop production?

Changing from conventional to organic produc­tion is a regulated process. Organic “certification” requires that crops do not receive any synthetic chemicals including fertilizers or pesticides for three years prior to the harvest of the crops. As an example, to sell this year’s corn harvested on November 1, 2009, as organic would require that the land received no synthetic chemicals since October 31, 2006. While the tran­sition to certification time period is three years, the number of crops that need to be sold as transition crops could be two. For this example, crops grown in 2007 and 2008 must be grown using organic methods but cannot be sold as organic.

A Decision Tool is available to help analyze the transition process. The spreadsheet allows the user to choose which crops to change first as well as to develop a whole-farm summary to see how returns are affected each year of the transition process. The spreadsheet uses a five-year transition process. Conventional budgets are available for corn, soybean, and oat. Organic budgets are provided for corn, soybean, oat, and alfalfa. A blank budget is available to enable the user to input a crop that is not listed (e.g., barley, wheat, clover, etc.).

Helpful Links
Information File: Making the Transition from Conventional to Organic

Decision Tool: Organic Transition Decision Tool

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