2010 OCIA R&E Scholarship Recipients
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Awards - OCIA Research & Education Scholarships

The Organic Crop Improvement Association Research and Education Board (OCIA RnE) awarded its annual postgraduate scholarship to Iris Vaisman, of the University of Manitoba, at its annual general meeting in February, 2010.  Iris’ research investigastes ways of reducing tillage in organic agriculture on the Canadian Prairies. Faced with an abundance of incredibly high quality candidates this year, OCIA RnE awarded 5 additional student prizes.

OCIA RnE is an international not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to supporting organic research that farmers want, facilitating professional development for organic farmers, and building connections for organic research and education. 2010 is the sixth year in which they have awarded a post graduate scholarship.

Iris VaismanIris Vaisman is a member of the team working with Martin Entz at University of Manitoba. Her research has focused on assessing the roller crimper as a tool to reduce tillage in terminating green manures. Green manures offer tremendous soil benefits, such as supplying nitrogen, feeding soil organisms and reducing weed levels. In organic systems it has been common practice to disc or cultivate green manures to incorporate them into the soil at bud or flowering. This need for incorporation has been a limitation to developing an organic no-till system.


The roller crimper was developed by farmers in South America and popularized as a key component of Rodale’s “No-till organic” system. The roller crimper crimps the stems of green manures, and rolls them flat. The residue can suppress weeds and reduce evaporation losses from the soil surface. This technology is being tested on the Canadian prairies by both University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan researchers. Further work will be required to adapt this technique to our shorter season and dryer climate.


In Iris’ research, she is comparing different rolling treatments, with and without additional tillage for termination of a pea and oat green manure. She is looking at soil and weed measurements and yield of wheat in the year following the green manure. She is also comparing chickling vetch, hairy vetch and Indianhead lentil as green manure in roller and tillage treatments. Iris is working both on organic research plots in Carman, MB and on Moose Creek Organic Farm near Oxbow, SK. We look forward to hearing more about her research as she progresses in it.


OCIA RnE board felt compelled to honour a further 5 scholarship candidates. “The quality of candidates this year was just stellar,” explained Martin Meinert, chair of the RnE board, at their AGM. “We’ve seen a tremendous step forward in research in the last few years. These candidates were really close. We are proud to recognize all of them”.


The additional 5 scholars to be honoured are Nicole Ward, from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA; Clare Sullivan, from University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK; Kathleen Hilimire, from University of California, Santa Cruz, CA; Suzanne O’Connell, from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC and Sarah Broughton from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.


Nicole Ward has been studying the organism that causes soybean rust. It has been devastating to soybean yields in warmer climates, and has recently moved into the United States. Nicole identified a fungus associated with soybean rust, determined that it was a parasite of the rust organism, and is testing its potential as a biological control for this invasive disease.


p1010830Clare Sullivan, like Iris Vaisman, is studying ways of reducing tillage of annual green manures using the roller crimper. Clare is using 4010 forage pea and small seeded faba beans as green manures, and looking at the timing of termination, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling and moisture balance of residues.

Kathleen HilimireKathleen Hilimire is looking at ways to improve soil quality using poultry. She is using a system that incorporates free-range poultry, on temporary grass/legume pasture, to reduce tillage, improve fertility, and bring value to the soil building phase of the rotation.


Suzanne OConnellSuzanne O’Connell is studying decomposition of green manures, and the role of soil microbes in nutrient cycling. Her goal is to find green manure systems for warm humid environments that release nutrients in a timely way for following cash crops.


Sarah BroughtonSarah Broughton’s goal is to develop an organic, reduced-tillage Spring broccoli production system utilizing cool season cover crops as living mulches.


The caliber of these scholars and of the quality of research to which they are dedicating themselves bodes well for the future of organics. The strong emphasis on understanding and using biological processes and reducing potentially harmful practices suggests that organics will continue to move forward as an environmentally friendly system.

Brenda Frick, Ph.D., P.Ag.

Coordinator, Organic Research and Extension



Last Updated on Saturday, 25 August 2012 14:57