Jun 14, 2022
Project to look at farming system approaches to coffee leaf rust disease

The Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research have announced the first award for the 2021/22 OFRF organic research grant cycle. Colehour Bondera of Kanalani Ohana Farm was awarded $19,900 to research organic farming systems options for controlling Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) on five organic farms in Kona, Hawaii.

This farmer-led research project takes a whole-systems approach to evaluate plant health-based options for managing CLR, a potentially devastating disease for all coffee growers but especially organic farmers. Long-term organic growers have seen limited efforts in the state to explore or disseminate information about organic approaches to dealing with this new coffee disease.

“Funding from this OFRF grant provides an opportunity to help working farmers address the arrival of a new pest via farmer-directed research,” said Bondera. “By seeking community involvement and buy-in, this project supports the work of five participating organic farms to learn and work with Hawaii-produced coffee tree inputs to seek impacts at controlling the pest, coffee leaf rust – CLR, which currently has no known long-term solution in the global coffee industry.”

The project will research coffee leaf rust management by increasing biodiversity, using on-farm and island-made inputs and sequestering more carbon through increased soil organic matter. The impacts of additional fertilizer and indigenous micro-organisms (IMO) sprays on reducing CLR will be monitored and tested, with University of Hawaii organic system faculty assisting with analyses. Farmers will oversee research, data analysis and dissemination through already established networks in the community.

“We are thrilled to be able to invest in this research that supports the success of a key organic crop in Hawaii,” said Brise Tencer, OFRF executive director.

This year’s program prioritized farmers, early career researchers and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants. Six projects focused on climate mitigation and building on-farm resilience have been awarded a grand total of $119,817 in funding. The 2021/22 cycle was made possible by a $66,000 grant from FFAR and matching funds from OFRF and its research partners.

“FFAR is thrilled to support six organic research grants through this collaboration with the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” said LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director. “These research grants are funding audacious soil management techniques that enhance crop productivity, improve environmental health and support increased farmer resiliency to severe weather events.”

To date, OFRF has invested over $3 million in 361 grants across North America to advance scientific knowledge and improve the ecological sustainability and economic prosperity of organic farming systems. All OFRF-funded research must involve farmers or ranchers in project design and implementation, take place on certified organic land, and include strong education and outreach components. All research results are freely available in OFRF’s online database.


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