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There is growing interest in the use of short-season summer annual legumes or grasses as cover crops and green manures in vegetable production systems. Cover crops can provide a significant source of nitrogen (N) for subsequent crops; reduce erosion, runoff, and potential pollution of surface waters; capture soil N that might otherwise be lost to leaching; add organic matter to the soil; improve soil physical properties; impact insect and disease life cycles; and suppress nematode populations and weed growth. There can be potential drawbacks, such as cooler soils in the spring, and the additional cost of seeding the cover crop. These factors must be considered depending on the particular cash crops and cover crops being grown.
Throughout this manual we have discussed how organic farmers strive to build healthy soil in order to create the best possible environment for plant growth. A healthy soil is primarily defined by its fertility, which in turn depends largely on the interactions of its physical, chemical, and biological properties.
Passage of the the National Organic Program’s final rule in 2001 marked the beginning of an exciting era of growth for organic livestock production in the United States. The 2001 national standards replaced multiple and often conflicting sets of standards that private and state- sanctioned certifying groups established beginning in the early 1970s. Conflict- ing interpretations frequently arose on farms and in the marketplace as the various certifying organizations tried to enforce multiple sets of standards. As a result, organic proponents lobbied through the 1980s for passage of federal legislation to establish uniform rules and unite the fractionalized organic farming community. The Organic Foods Production Act was passed in 1990, but it took another 10 years of work by proponents and legislators to produce the 2001 final rule.