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Wheat & Small Grains Timely Topics – Organic Production

The WSU Wheat Beat Podcast

Introducing the WSU Wheat Beat podcast, a new podcast brought to you by the WSU Extension Dryland Cropping Systems Team. Each week your host, Drew Lyon, will sit down with a WSU or USDA-ARS researcher to discuss the latest research related to small grains production systems in eastern Washington. Episode 1 will feature a discussion… » More ...

Organic Case Studies Publication

The latest bulletin published by the Small Grains Team is PNW683 – Organic Small Grain Production in the Pacific Northwest: A Collection of Case Studies. The publication includes 12 case studies of organic grain farms that encompass three precipitation zones of the rainfed Inland Northwest, plus farms using full- and supplemental irrigation.

The farmers interviewed for the case studies discussed their philosophy for organic farming, methods of transition to organic production, crop rotation, soil fertility, seedbed preparation, plus weed and pest management. They also discussed marketing methods and techniques that had worked well (or not) on their farms. In addition, they offered tidbits of advice for farmers considering organic production.

As the case studies are comprised of individual’s experiences and opinions, they do not constitute formal recommendations by WSU Extension. Each case study does include complementary and pertinent information on the National Organic Rules and Certification.

PNW683 is available, free of charge. Go to the Organic Production button on the left side of the page, then click on Case Studies. The online version of the document includes hyperlinks to other sections or websites. These links are lost in the printed version.


If you encounter any problems with these links or when downloading files, please contact Blythe Howell at blythe.howell@wsu.edu as this publication is unique in its size and complexity.

The case studies were authored by Louise Lorent, Associate in Research; Diana Roberts, PhD; and Ian Burke, PhD. Funds were provided by a grant from OREI (Organic Research and Extension Initiative) and a Hatch Project.

For questions regarding the case studies, contact Diana Roberts at robertsd@wsu.edu.

Get a Refund for Your Organic Certification Fees Through Cost Share

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program offers funds to organic producers and handlers to assist them with costs of certification.

Who Qualifies?

If you:

  • are an organic farmer, processor or retailer,
  • received/updated your organic certification from October 1, 2013- September 30, 2014,
  • have an organic operation with a scope in crops, wild crops or livestock,

you may be eligible for a refund of up to 75% of your certification costs, with a maximum of $750 per scope of operation.

What fees can be reimbursed?

For WSDA Organic Program clients, fees eligible for a refund include: Annual Fees, Application Fees, Site Fees, Certification Fees, Inspection Fees and Expedite Fees as designated under chapter 16-157 WAC.

How to Apply?

  • If you are certified Organic through the WSDA Organic Program: complete, sign, and submit the Statewide Payee Registration form. The form can be found here: http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/organic/
  • If you are certified Organic through another USDA accredited certifier and your business is located in Washington State: complete, sign, and submit the Statewide Payee Registration form, along with a proof of organic certification and an itemized paid receipt of fees paid for certification

Submit your application directly to WSDA before December 1, 2014

  • By e-mail at organic@agr.wa.gov
  • By fax to: Attention: Organic Program, 360-902-2087
  • By mail to: Washington State Dept of Agriculture, Attention: Organic Program, PO Box 42560, Olympia WA 98504-2560

Find more information about the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

Does Organic Production Result in Lower Protein Content?

Environmental conditions impact grain quality parameters. For example, soil available nitrogen can affect protein content. Do organic management practices result in lower protein content? If that’s the case, is the end product quality at risk? Researchers from Washington State University and Montana State University compared quality of organic versus conventional wheat. Their findings on protein content are presented in this post.

In Montana, scientists looked at hard red spring wheat. Protein content of hard red wheat tended to be lower in organic than in conventional systems, but that was a consequence of fertility regime: if the organic crop was preceded by winter pea instead of spring pea, the gain of soil nitrogen was enough to bridge the protein % gap with conventionally grown wheat. Researchers also looked at bread loaf volume, which is directly related to protein content. Again, it tended to be lower (a sign of low protein content) for organically grown wheat, but bread loaf volume from high-fertility organic systems was as high as bread loaf volume from conventional systems.

In Washington, researchers compared soft white winter wheat produced under conventional and organic systems. Protein content was lower for wheat grown in low-fertility organic systems. It was equivalent for conventionally grown wheat and wheat grown under a high-fertility organic regime. Low protein content is desirable in soft wheat, as it results in higher sponge cake volume (a typical end-product of soft white wheat flour). For soft white wheat, low-fertility organic practices had the advantage: they resulted in a low protein wheat which produced a high volume sponge cake.

To bank on highest quality for all class of wheat, sound organic practices should supply as much nitrogen as possible for a  hard red wheat crop, and less so for a soft white wheat year. Use your rotation to achieve this tough challenge: if using cover crop to supply nitrogen to your organic system, follow the cover crop with hard red wheat to capture a maximum of the protein and the premium. Have a soft white following the hard red to take advantage of the diminished nitrogen supply.

To learn more about grain quality under organic management, consult these posters: Pat Fuerst Tilth poster 2011 and Wheat Quality in Organic, No-till and Conventional Cropping Systems

You can also consult the Soil Management page for more information on cover crops and soil nitrogen in organic systems.

Washington State University