Discover CALS

See how our current work and research is bringing new thinking and new solutions to some of today's biggest challenges.

Programs, Projects & Partnerships

Organic research, programs and projects at Cornell may be found across numerous disciplines. Below find a list of current and past projects and programs led by our faculty and researchers.

Project dates

2016 to present

Two year collection of milk and forage production on organic dairies that feed no grain

Farmers interested in this market will need to make management changes to monitor herd health and production and to improve forage quantity and quality. This project will provide benchmarks to help them make an informed decision on whether grass-fed markets are a viable option for their farm.

Monthly data collection from 20 grass-fed dairies over two years

The project will develop benchmarks of milk and forage production to help farmers successfully monitor their grass-fed farms or consider transition to grass-fed production.

Key highlights

  • Of the 140 initial surveys we had 81 farmers return our initial survey. The project team was surprised to get such a high percentage of returns (58%).
  • The surveys provided a snapshot of: grazing practices, farm size, milk production, and other management practices unique to this style of milk production.
  • Collection of the data through the monthly Grass-fed Monitor (GFM) allowed us to collect feed intake, production numbers, and milk components on the twenty farms in the study.
  • This data was compiled and sent back to farmers monthly to see how they ranked within the group.
  • During the second year farmers used the monthly data to compare to their own production the previous year.
  • Heather Darby completed research on high energy forage varieties.


This was a Research and Extension Grant from NESARE.

Program members

PI - Fay Benson, and Abbie Teeter with the Cornell Small Dairy Program
Dr. Heather Darby, University of Vermont
Sarah Flack, Vermont consultant

For additional information

Project dates

4/01/19 - 3/31/20

Reducing Late Season Pesticide Use In Ag Systems

Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are an invasive species that has caused millions of dollars of crop damage each year through late season feeding on fruit. In 2010, BMSB caused $37 million of crop damage in the mid-Atlantic United States. The Samurai Wasp, Trissolcus japonicus is an Asian species of parasitoid wasp that reproduces by ovipositing into BMSB eggs, which prevents BMSB reproduction and reduces BMSB populations. Because of its ability to prevent the successful reproduction of BMSB, T. japonicus is under study as a potential biological control agent of BMSB.

The Redistribution of Samurai Wasp in NYS is providing an initial decline in BMSB populations

Our efficacy screening studies has shown that the use of Venerate XC Bio-insecticide can successfully be employed to reduce BMSB feeding on fruit in late season organic production. The Samurai Wasp compliments the use of organic production pest management efforts by reducing the population of BMSB, safely providing biological control outside of the organic production system. Presently our team have been distributed Samurai Wasp throughout the Hudson Valley and tree fruit production regions of western NYS in over 150 sites.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • Organic Efficacy Screening for Organic Tools to Manage Fruit Pests
  • National Outreach Efforts of BMSB Management Using Organic Tools via Webinar
  • Educating Organic and Conventional Tree Fruit Producers on the Use of Exclusion Systems for BMSB Management
  • Educational Outreach on the Use of Horizontal Sprayers to Reduce Offsite Drift for Conservation of Samurai Wasp


This work was supported by the New York State Apple Research and Development Program, New York Farm Viability, and Marrone Bio Innovations.

Project members

Art Agnello, Cornell Professor of Entomology
Elson Shields Cornell Professor of Entomology
Janet van Zoeren, CCE Lake Ontario Fruit Program

Publications and Other Resources

Expanding the Range of the Samurai Wasp, Trissolcus japonicus, in New York Orchards. New York Fruit Quarterly. Volume 25, Number 2, Winter 2017

Adam Alford, Thomas P Kuhar, George C Hamilton, Peter Jentsch, Grzgorz Krawczyk, James F Walgenbach, Celeste Welty. Baseline Toxicity of the Insecticides Bifenthrin and Thiamethoxam on Halyomorpha halys (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) Collected From the Eastern United States, Journal of Economic Entomology, 06 January 2020 , toz361,

Angelita L Acebes-Doria et al. Season-Long Monitoring of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) Throughout the United States Using Commercially Available Traps and Lures, Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 113, Issue 1, February 2020, Pages 159–171,

Abram P.K. et al. 2017 Indigenous arthropod natural enemies of the invasive brown marmorated stink bug in North America and Europe. J Pest Sci (2017) 90:1009–1020
DOI 10.1007/s10340-017-0891-7

Kevin B Rice Robert H Bedoukian George C Hamilton Peter Jentsch Ashot Khrimian Priscilla MacLean William R Morrison, III Brent D Short Paula Shrewsbury Donald C Weber
Nik Wiman Tracy C Leskey. Enhanced response of Halyomorpha halys (Stal) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) to its Aggregation Pheromone with Ethyl Decatrieonate. Journal of Economic Entomology, tox316, 20 December 2017

For more information

The Jentsch Lab 


Project Dates

2016 - present

Promoting orchard sustainability through integrated weed and soil management practices

Weed management in young apple orchards is critically important; sustained weed pressure limits tree growth and can have long-term impacts on yield. Traditional organic weed management strategies (i.e., cultivation and herbicide application) limit carbon returns and frequently disturb soil, thus degrading soil health. This long-term project aims to evaluate integrated weed management strategies and assess their influence on soil health and tree productivity.

Understanding barriers to adoption; transitioning results into recommendations

Despite decades of research into mulching and other alternative weed management strategies for organic apple orchards, cultivation and herbicide use remain common. The current study has started to demonstrate that mulches overlaid with organic herbicides provide sufficient weed control. We are also working with commercial apple growers to overcome barriers to adoption.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • Mulch plus organic herbicide yields the highest degree of weed suppression, lowest weed biodiversity, greatest improvement in soil health (organic matter, soil protein, soil respiration, and active carbon), and largest increase in tree growth
  • Cultivated plots have the highest weed biodiversity
  • Yield, a critical factor, will be evaluated for the first time in fall 2018
  • Additional years of study are necessary to understand the long-term impacts of these treatments on weed communities and soil health
  • A factsheet will be developed to share recommended practices for bark mulch application, pertinent results, comparative partial budgets, and cost-sharing opportunities


Toward Sustainability Fund (2016-2017), Extension and Outreach Assistantship (2018-2020)

Project members

Gregory Peck, David Zakalik, Michael Brown, Kate Brown, Cornell Orchard Interns

Publications and other resources

For more information

A Grower's Guide to Organic Apples

Project dates

2016 - Present

National breeding program focused on three legume cover crops

Unlike cash crops, cover crops have not been bred to optimize the traits that farmers need, particularly for specific regions of the United States. Organic farmers often rely on important management services from legume cover crops like winter pea, hairy vetch, and crimson clover. However, few regionally adapted varieties of these cover crops are available.

New varieties that can better meet the needs of organic farmers

The goal of this project is to improve organic production systems by addressing persistent challenges with legume cover crop performance and consistency. As part of a multi-site network, we planted legume nurseries and advanced line trials for selecting germplasm that performs well in the northeast United States. By the end of the project we hope to release improved winter pea, hairy vetch, and crimson clover varieties.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • The top four traits chosen by organic farmers in our national survey about desired cover crop traits were: nitrogen fixation, winter hardiness, biomass production, and early vigor.
  • Best performing lines from the first two years of selection have been planted in replicated advanced line trials across all sites for the 2019 season.
  • In the 2018 field season, 6% and 10% of hairy vetch plants that survived the winter were selected for seed-saving from the ‘early flowering’ nursery and ‘regular flowering’ nursery, respectively.


USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Project: MD.W-2015-07406)

Project members

Matthew Ryan, Sandra Wayman, and Laurie Drinkwater

Publications and other resources

Wayman, S., Kucek, L. K., Mirsky, S. B., Ackroyd, V. J., Cordeau, S., and Ryan, M. R. 2016. Organic and conventional farmers differ in their perspectives on cover crop use and breeding. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 32:376-385.

For more information

Cornell has a decades-long history of helping New York’s organic dairy farms – which now number more than 700 – through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

That effort is currently centered in the New York Organic Dairy Program, which provides information to all sectors of the organic dairy industry, including consumers, retailers, processors, and organic certifiers, as well as farmers.

Current activities include:

  • Organizing and hosting New York Certified Organic meetings. Each winter since 1996, more than 100 producers gather in Jordan Hall at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva for a series of three day-long meetings focusing on dairy and field crops.
  • Participating in the New York Organic Dairy Task Force. This group of producers, processors, organic certifiers, and others meets twice a year to discuss and develop strategies to grow a sustainable organic dairy industry for New York State.
  • Grass-fed milk market project. USDA-SARE funded research and education program that helps farmers assess if the grass-fed milk market is an appropriate fit for their farm and provide management and monitoring tools to help them overcome barriers.
  • Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. New York Organic Dairy Program is part of this national program that matches apprentices seeking careers in grass-based farming with master graziers.
  • Soil health trailer. Travels the state demonstrating how pasture-based farming can improve soil health and providing grazing management education. View video

Featured resources:

See also:

Field Crops section of this site for information on growing organic grain and forages.


To learn more about organic dairy, contact:

The New York State Soil Health Initiative seeks to build on the current strengths and momentum of key stakeholders and coordinate a network for information exchange, prioritization, and identification of barriers and opportunities in order to facilitate farmer adoption of soil health practices.

The mission of the New York State Soil Health Initiative is to:

  • Recruit a network of farmer collaborators for sharing innovation, and for monitoring and documenting soil health benefits.
  • Evaluate soil health economic benefits such as reduced input costs and capital investments, improved resiliency to extreme weather, and new market opportunities.
  • Provide fresh outreach materials and support practitioner training, field days, and soil health assessments on collaborating farms from all types of systems.
  • Develop a soil health “road map” and coordinate a NYS “Soil Health Summit” that will include presentations and panels composed of farmers, researchers, government and non-government organization representatives, policy-makers and other stake-holders.

Project Dates

2009 - Present

Improving vegetable varieties for organic systems

The NOVIC project was initiated to address a need for vegetable varieties adapted to organic production systems. The Collaborative includes public plant breeders from Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Colorado State University, Cornell University, Extension associates, USDA-ARS-PGRU, the Organic Seed Alliance, and organic farmers in each region.

Using participatory plant breeding and grower training to build better organic seed systems

The project includes variety trialing using a “Mother-Daughter” trial design with replicates at University research sites and working organic farms to compare commercially available cultivars as well as participator breeding lines.

NOVIC also uses participatory plant breeding methods to develop new varieties. Plant breeders use grower feedback to develop and test new varieties bred for organic systems.

Outreach events train farmers in on-farm plant breeding and seed production in regions across the country and provide opportunity for farmer-to-farmer learning and collaboration. These events also build connections and collaboration between breeders, seed companies and growers.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • 9 crops being developed for organic agriculture
  • 12 new commercial organic varieties released
  • 40 states where new varieties have been sold


Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant (USDA NIFA). Award #2018-51300- 28430

Project Members

Michael Mazourek, Kristen Loria, Crystal Stewart (CCE), Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Colorado State University, Organic Seed Alliance, USDA-ARS-PGRU

For More Information


This project is a collaborative effort between scientists and organic farmers. Our intent is to find methods for further improving organic cropping systems. By comparing cropping systems that use different approaches to building soil quality, the project will reveal effects of compost, cover crops and tillage practices on soil physical and biological quality. It will also reveal interactions between soil quality and weed, insect, and disease management. We also expect to identify practices that assist in transition from conventional to organic management.

The approach of the project is to duplicate the essentials of innovative and very well managed organic vegetable and grain farms on experiment station fields where the systems can be studied intensively. These exemplary systems will also be compared to variations that represent:

  • more typical organic practices
  • practices that capture essential aspects of the exemplary systems, but are more easily adopted by other growers
  • practices that push the exemplary system the "next step"

A web- and field-based course based on the experiments will provide in-depth information on how organic systems work. 

Project Dates


On-farm support, research projects and partnerships that further the organic industry

Organic fruit and vegetable growers in eastern New York need a trusted source for research-based information related directly to the challenges facing them on their farms.

The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program provides on-farm support to organic growers in troubleshooting pest and disease concerns, soil health and fertility management, and business management. We conduct applied research on organic farms including variety trials, organic amendment trials, and biocontrols trials. Finally, we work with project partners such as NOFA NY and Grow NYC to offer organic field days and meetings for growers.


Research projects are funded through Northeast SARE, New York Farm Viability, and Specialty Crop Block Grants

Project members

Crystal Stewart
Teresa Rusinek
Ethan Grundberg
Elisabeth Hodgdon

For more information

The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program website -

Challenges and tradeoffs with using tillage and cultivation for weed management

Overreliance on soil tillage and cultivation in soybean production can degrade soil health. Although often effective at reducing weed competition and associated yield losses, moldboard plowing and interrow cultivation are also very time consuming. Such practices can also leave soil vulnerable to soil erosion from heavy rain events, which have increased in frequency in New York.

Developing management guidelines for organic rotational no-till soybean production

Rolled cover crops can be used as mulch, allowing organic farmers to no-till plant soybean. Replacing inter-row cultivation with mulch in organic soybean can improve soil health and decrease labor and fuel requirements. With careful planning and proper equipment, farmers can integrate organic rotational no-till soybean into their crop rotations to increase the sustainability of their operations.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • Yields of organic no-till soybean are comparable to traditional tillage-based organic soybean in most years.
  • The economic optimum planting rate in organic no-till soybean is substantially higher than the recommended planting rate in conventional soybean.
  • Cereal rye can dry out fields during wet years, allowing no-till planting when tilled fields were too wet to access. However, if there is a spring drought, soybean seed placement, emergence, and growth can be poor.
  • Compared to a no cover crop control treatment, rolled cereal rye resulted in improved water infiltration and soil respiration, which is a measure of soil microbial activity.
  • Soybean yields were higher at earlier compared to later planting dates, but early cover termination was less effective and resulted in cover crop seed production.


USDA NIFA Hatch Program (2013-14-425) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG, 2014-51106-22080)

Project members

Jeff Liebert, Kiera Crowley, Chris Pelzer, Sandra Wayman, and Matthew Ryan.

For more information

Project Dates

2016 - present

Does Trichogramma ostriniae have potential for controlling western bean cutworm in the field?

Western bean cutworm (WBC) is a pest of field corn, sweet corn, and dry beans that first arrived in NY in 2009 from its historic range in the western high plains. In the intervening years, it has increased to economically damaging levels. Organic growers of the three host crops need effective options for managing it.

Trichogramma ostriniae (Tost), a commercially available egg parasitoid most commonly released to control European corn borer, had previously been shown to parasitize WBC egg masses in the lab. We wanted to know if Tost would parasitize WBC in the field and reduce crop damage.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • We released Tost in organic sweet corn, field corn, and dry bean fields at a rate of 90,000 per acre. Releases started the week after moths were first caught in pheromone traps through the week after peak flight. We collected egg masses in sweet corn fields to estimate percent parasitism. In field corn and dry beans we surveyed damage in release and non-release areas.
  • Of 55 egg masses collected from sweet corn fields, an average of 70% were parasitized, with 74% of eggs within an egg mass parasitized.
  • In field corn, WBC damage levels were not different between release and non release areas. In dry beans, infestation levels in the were too low to compare damage in release and non-release areas. We didn’t collect egg masses in either field corn or dry beans.
  • Egg masses collected from release areas in field corn in 2018 showed some parasitism. This will be explored more thoroughly 2019.
  • Additional study is needed to assess the potential for Tost to control WBC in these crops.


NESARE funded Project ONE16-271

Project members

Abby Seaman, NYS IPM Program
Jeffrey Gardner and Mike Hoffmann, Department of Entomology

For more information