Organic Agriculture

Comparison of Mulches for Weed Management in Organic Sweetpotato Production

Organic agriculture has gained international recognition as a valid alternative to conventional food production. The demand for organic food products has recently increased in the U.S. and worldwide. The production of organic crops in the Southeastern U.S., including Tennessee, presents various challenges, including weed management which is perhaps the most challenging.

Sweet potatoes are a highly nutritious staple food crop. Dr. Dilip Nandwani has begun research on utilization of various mulches, which can suppress annual weeds and offer other important benefits such as organic matter, nutrients, moisture conservation, soil protection, and moderation of soil temperature in organic sweet potato production.  Research is being conducted following specifications of the National Organic Program into a certified organic research and demonstration farm at the Tennessee State University.

Dr. Nandwani took the first step toward this goal by converting a ten-acre plot at TSU's traditional farm into a Certified Organic farm and initiated organic agricultural research studies.  Research on sweet potato and specialty vegetables is underway in organic management systems at the certified organic fields and TSU is moving forward with its longstanding goal of enhancing agricultural programs and facilities to become a world leader in Sustainable Organic Farming.

Specific research efforts and impacts include:

  1. Identify, assess and promote organic farming practices suited to limited-resource growers;
  2. Compare organic versus conventional food production nutritional value such as antioxidants and Carotenoid content (vitamin A);
  3. Identify production challenges prevalent in organic management systems growing vegetables;
  4. Provide professional, efficient and objective organic certification process guidelines to farmers;
  5. Promote specialty or alternative crops to Tennessee growers; and
  6. Evaluate costs and identify risks associated with organic farming, and compare them with conventional production systems


Cucumbers    Heirloom Tomatoes 
 Melon  Beans, melon and cantaloupe    Field 6 weeks after planting
Research student collecting data on organic sweet potato Field tour at the 2014 Small Farm Expo   Organic Sweet Potato -- wow!


No Mulch (control)
Control Plot (no mulch)
Plastic Mulch
Plastic mulch
Pine Needles
Pine needles
Wheat Straw
Wheat straw


Organic Heirloom tomatoes taste good! I love organic green tomatoes! Bountiful harvest of butternut squash Harvesting organic cucumbers
AGSC3210 Class in the field



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