A nearly $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Initiative will fund an organic farming research project led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Specifically, the grant will support studies needed to develop national guidelines and best practices for using animal-based manure to improve soil quality and nourish crops.
Raw and minimally processed animal manure has been shown to be a rich source of nutrients for improving soil fertility and quality, offering organic farmers an alternative to chemical fertilizers, according to UC Davis. Animal-based soil amendments, however, may also contain naturally occurring microbes that can cause food-borne illnesses in people, the university further noted.
“This study is designed to determine how much time should pass between the applications of untreated animal manure in the field and crop harvest, in order to minimize any risks that these microbes might pose to consumer health,” said Alda Pires, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVPM, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who is leading the project.
Other project collaborators include the University of Minnesota, University of Maine, USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Beltsville Agricultural Center, USDA Economic Research Service’s Resource and Rural Economics division, Cornell University and The Organic Center.