UC ANR's new organic institute is swinging into action

Jun 10, 2020

The newly appointed Presidential Director for the Clif Bar Endowed Organic Agriculture Institute, Houston Wilson, has already initiated a needs assessment of organic agriculture in California, reported Lee Allen in Western Farm Press. Wilson is using surveys and focus groups to determine production needs within target commodities.

“Our mission will be to develop research and extension for organic production of things like tree fruits, tree nuts and raisins, commodities representing a significant portion of the entire Central Valley, but with very different cropping systems," Wilson said.

The diversity of California agriculture is represented in scale and systems - from orchards to vineyards to row crops and rice production.

"We're working on a cost-benefit analysis for commodities across the state to determine where gains can be had by developing better organic practices," Wilson said. "The argument about whether or not organic production can produce more yield is a hot topic. There are arguments that say organic can't yield as much as conventional and that may be because not that much has been invested in the organic effort compared to conventional agriculture. Metaphorically, it's like comparing a veteran player with a new kid on the team."

Price premiums for certified organic produce entice growers to convert to organic.

"Our job is to work with them, to identify and develop industry practices that make (organic production) move even more alluring," Wilson said.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist