Benefits and Challenges of Organic Research Sites and Facilities

Organic Agriculture January 27, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota

The benefits and challenges of organic certification for research stations include:

  • Access to Funds – Many grants now require that organic research be conducted on certified organic or transitional land.
  • Credibility of Results – Conducting “systems” research under certified organic conditions establishes credibility with organic farmers, researchers, and funders.
  • Marketability of Products as Certified Organic – Selling the crops on the organic market opens up the possibility for real-life economic analysis of the research project.
  • Ability to Educate Others (faculty, staff, students, farmers) on Standards and Certification Process – There is no substitute for experience to learn, and then teach, organic production methods and requirements.
  • Marketability of the Program – Researchers, students, farmers, funders, and others interested in organic agriculture are drawn to certified organic research programs.
  • Implementation of a Quality System – Certification mandates documentation and discipline, which, while challenging, has numerous long-term benefits for the institution.
  • External Evaluation – The organic inspector and the certification review process bring an additional level of external review.
  • Internal Coordination/communication/teamwork – Certification of the research station requires teamwork on issues such as equipment cleaning, input application, crop segregation, planning and mapping, and the sequencing of events.
  • Multi-disciplinary Research Opportunities – Maintaining a certified organic research station provides the foundation for multi-disciplinary research. For example, soil scientists often work with hydrologists, entomologists, plant breeders, and agronomists; organic products from the research station can be analyzed by food scientists or used for feed for organic animal science research; or, economists can study the profitability of the organic production system.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.