Whats up in the organic world for June 19-23


*** For Healthy Cover Crops: Learn About Seed Sources













*** Nurse says tea good for what ails


*** Ethanol Facility Powered by Renewable Energy From Dairy Waste
Planned For Fair Oaks Dairy Farm in Indiana


*** POSITION:   Extension Educator, Fruit & Ornamentals, Berrien County 




For Healthy Cover Crops: Learn About Seed Sources!

Brook J. Wilke and Sieg Snapp, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences,
Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University


        Perhaps you have experienced problems establishing cover crops
on your farm, even during relatively good growing conditions. Often,
inadequate moisture and cold temperatures make establishment and growth
of late summer and fall seeded covers difficult, but what about the
times when these limiting factors just could not explain the poor stand?
A potential solution to this problem is learning more about your cover
crop seed. Where and when was it grown?  Is it a named variety? How was
the seed processed? How old is it? These are just a few of the questions
you might ask before purchasing cover crop seed if you want to reduce
the risk of poor establishment and growth.

        Plants are plastic, meaning that they can adapt in certain ways
to handle different environments. But genotypes will usually be most
productive in their natural habitat. A classic experiment performed by
Clausen, Keck, and Hiesey in 1940 showed that three varieties of sticky
cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa) were naturally found at three
different altitudes. When the three ecotypes were grown together at each
of the three altitudes, they were all proportionally most productive in
their native habitat. Cover crop species follow these same general rules
and it matters where your cover crop seed is produced. Often, legume
cover crops are grown for seed in U.S. west coast states such as Oregon
and Washington, where the climate is quite different than what is found
in upper Midwestern states.

        For example, hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) is often cultivated in
Oregon for seed and then sold through retailers in Midwestern and
Eastern states. This hairy vetch variety is most likely adapted to an
environment that has a much milder temperatures and year round gentle
precipitation rather than the variable rainfall and harsh cold
temperatures in the fall and winter that we face in the upper Midwest.
It may grow on your farm, but probably not as well as a variety that was
produced in closer proximity with similar environmental conditions.
Sometimes hairy vetch sold in Michigan may have establishment problems
and grow poorly.  If this is observed, determine where the seed was
produced, and if it is a genetic type that is adapted to the Midwest.
Also make sure your seed is inoculated with the proper strain of
Rhizobium, a bacteria that is essential for nitrogen fixation and legume
growth. Legume cover crop establishment is difficult enough, and finding
the right variety or selection will improve the success of your cover
crop in the environments found on your farm.

        It may also be helpful to evaluate the time of the year when the
cover crop seed was grown. Cover crops can be sown at different times of
the year and still produce seed sometime during their lifetime. However,
some species such as winter rye and winter wheat generally require
vernalization (winter stress) to bolt, flower and produce seed.  A few
varieties of cereal rye are summer annuals and do not require this
vernalization to produce seed. These generally are less winter hardy
varieties. The same goes for winter annual legumes. Hairy vetch
varieties grown in areas with very harsh winter environments such as
Minnesota are most likely cultivated as a summer annual and will not
necessarily be winter hardy, even in relatively warmer climates. Finding
a commercial source that produces seed locally, or growing your own
seed, are some of the ways that farmers can insure that cover crop seed
is suited to an area.

        Many identified cultivars are available for the cover crop
species we use. Cover crops such as red clover and winter wheat have
been cultivated for many years and numerous cultivars have been
developed. Buying a named variety of a cover crop will reduce genetic
variability and help insure cover crop establishment and successful
growth.  Common varieties are generally more inexpensive but carry the
risk of having changed over time, which may actually increase or
decrease establishment and growth (depending among other factors on
whether they were exposed to local selection pressure or selection
pressure in a different climate). An example is the dry or cold fall
conditions found in the upper Midwest, where common varieties produced
locally may be more genetically diverse and exhibit more balanced
germination and growth across fluctuating environmental conditions.
Don't be afraid to use diverse assemblages of cultivars or cover crop
species to buffer strenuous fall environmental conditions and stabilize
your cover crop establishment. Often times, retailers will mix species
and varieties of seed for you, but it is important to communicate your
environmental conditions and the type of mixture required for different
cover crop uses on the farm. 

        Cover crop seed is cultivated, harvested and sorted (if
necessary) in several different ways. Certain techniques will be much
more destructive to the seed than others. Perhaps you have had an
experience where your seed was cracked or had a high amount of chaff. Be
specific about obtaining seed that was harvested to be planted again and
not just for grain. Also, inquire about the age of the seed before
purchasing it. Since cover crop seed is not mass produced, it is
sometimes stored for several years before being planted. In some cases,
storage time will have moderate effect on germination rates, but when
available, obtaining fresh cover crop seed is ideal.   

        You may find yourself asking questions like, "Should I buy the
seed that was grown in my county five years ago or last years seed from
2,000 miles away?" Or, "Do I want the crimson clover cultivar that
establishes well in dry conditions but might not over-winter on my
farm?" Don't deliberate on questions like these so much that it causes
you to lose sleep, but keep in mind that minor details may make a large
difference when establishing cover crops during variable growing
conditions in the fall. If you are considering saving your own cover
crop seed, this will require understanding of the reproductive systems
of different species.  Information is widely available regarding how to
select and save seed from many plant species, including websites such as and general information about cover crop rates
and seeding techniques for Upper Midwest cropping systems is available





The United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting
public comments regarding the commercial approval of a genetically
engineered plum, known as "C5." The approval of C5 would be the first
widely released genetically engineered (GE) tree in the United States.
Approval of C5 will also pave the way for more GE tree and fruit
varieties, including peaches, cherries, and apricots. GE tree pollen can
drift for several miles, leading to contamination of neighboring organic
crops and indigenous trees. The USDA is currently accepting public
comments on this issue. 

Learn more and Take Action:




A lawsuit filed by the United Farmworkers of America against the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has forced the agency to begin
phasing out a highly toxic organophosphate pesticide that has
contaminated food and poisoned farmworkers. The pesticide,
azinphos-methyl ("AZM"), is used on a variety of food crops, including
potatoes, cranberries, and peaches. AZM is a highly toxic neurotoxin
derived from nerve agents used during World War II. In 2001, the EPA
found that AZM posed unacceptable risks to farmworkers, but due to
industry pressure, the agency kept it on the market. "This pesticide has
put thousands of workers at risk of serious illness every year," said
Erik Nicholson of the United Farmworkers of America. The EPA will phase
out AZM over the next four years.  

Learn more:




The largest retailers and distributors of milk and dairy products in the
U.S. are considering eliminating rBGH from their products. According to
the trade journal Dairy Food and Market Analyst, Wal-Mart and Dean Foods
have begun pressing suppliers for a larger supply of milk produced
without rBGH, in response to increasing consumer demand. The synthetic
hormone rBGH is a genetically engineered drug designed to make dairy
cows produce more milk. The controversial hormone has been banned in
Europe and Canada due to its links to increased risks for cancer and
antibiotic resistance. Despite these bans, 18% of U.S. dairy cows,
especially those on factory-style farms, continue to be injected with
the drug. Over the past few years, millions of consumers have switched
to milk and dairy products from organic farms, which ban the use of rBGH
and antibiotics. Starbucks, by the way, is still serving up coffee
drinks across the country that are laced with rBGH--another good reason
to patronize local independently owned coffee shops that offer organic
and Fair Trade alternatives.  

Learn more:



More and more... our body knows what it needs!! I always said, "When you
crave a food it because you are lacking something contained in that
food/drink."   Cheers!!! 

COFFEE PROTECTS DRINKERS' LIVERS: A study published in the journal
"Archives of Internal Medicine" indicates that coffee may greatly reduce
the risk of liver damage in those who consume alcohol regularly. Every
daily cup of coffee reduced the incidence of cirrhosis, a condition that
destroys liver tissue, by 22 percent, according to researchers at the
Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. However, Dr. Arthur Klatsky, the
leader of the study, said the results "should not be interpreted as
giving a license to drink without worry, because of all the other
problems connected with drinking." adding, "the only proper advice is to
drink less."  

Learn more:


researchers at Oregon State University reveals that a natural ingredient
found in beer may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The ingredient,
found in the hops used to brew beer, is xanthohumol, and belongs to a
group of plant compounds called flavonoids that can trigger the death of
cancer cells along the surface of the prostate gland. Researchers are
quick to point out the amount of xanthohumol in beer is far too low to
be of any benefit, estimating it would require consuming a case of beer
per day to activate the positive effects. German brewers have already
responded by creating a beer with ten times the amount of xanthohumol,
marketing it as a "healthy beer." 

Learn more:

Nurse says tea good for what ails

Garden supplies ingredients for medicinal blend.

Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- As the midmorning light filtered through her
kitchen windows, Angela Macke sipped a cup of tea and looked out at the
vines and gardens and fruit trees just starting to awaken for spring.

Dotting the fertile valley around her Leelanau Peninsula home and
sloping down the surrounding hillsides, the gardens supply the herbs and
flowers and some of the fruits that find their way into her signature
teas and tisanes.

Since leaving her job as a registered nurse at Munson Medical Center to
become a master gardener, Macke has been more in tune with the rhythms
of nature and the peace and satisfaction that working among it brings.
They're the same feelings she associates with the ancient ritual of tea,
which she's enjoyed all her life.

"For many people, drinking tea is about this simple lifestyle, about
slowing down and spending time with kids and family," said Macke, who
has a husband and two young children.

A native of Whitehall, Mich., Macke's interests in gardening, health and
tea converged a few years ago when she began to research her favorite
beverage. Though she was already sold on the medicinal benefits of tea,
having experienced them to relieve an autoimmune disease, she said she
discovered that most tea bags contain lower grades of tea with
ingredients that are crushed rather than whole. 

Deciding she could do better, she began to blend her own high-quality
loose leaf teas using herbs and flowers from her organic gardens, giving
them away as Christmas gifts. Teas in loose leaf form not only taste
better, but have more benefits, she said.

What began as a hobby soon blossomed into a cottage industry called By
the Light of Day. Now Macke produces 36 blends of black, green, white
and oolong teas, plus fruit melange, chakras, tisanes -- an infusion of
anything but tea -- and red tisanes.

With names like Leelanau Licorice and Peaceful Peninsula, the premium
organic teas are as beautiful and fragrant as they are tasty. Each is
blended by hand in 5-pound batches in her certified organic kitchen,
then stored in chests away from heat, light and moisture.

"It's the real article," said Macke, whose tea leaves come from
certified organic and fair trade farms in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal,
Taiwan and China. "This is how tea is blended historically."

Starting with a base leaf, she scents it with oil, then adds herbs,
flowers, fruits and other ingredients she either freeze-dries or dries
in an oven or food dehydrator. Careful drying extends the tea's shelf
life, she said. 

"With my teas, it's forever because it's down to three percent moisture.
Normally it's three years," she added.

In keeping with her philosophy that people need to know what they're
putting in their bodies, Macke lists all the ingredients in her teas.
For instance, her Creamy Earl Gray blend starts with black Assam tea
scented with oil of bergamot and vanilla, and includes vanilla beans,
blue cornflowers and lavender.

Most of the ingredients are grown on her 12-acre property, almost a
quarter of which is given over to thousands of herb and flower plants
like cornflowers and chrysanthemums, lemon balm and lemon grass,
chamomile, lavender and assorted mints. She harvests them all summer
long. There are also assorted berry bushes, fruit trees and grapes for

Other fruit is supplied by local Community Supported Agriculture farms
or, in the case of tropical fruit, by other U.S. organic farms.

Little by little, Macke is also growing her own tea. She purchased 10
tea plants called Camellia sinensis from a North Carolina nursery and is
clearing land for more every day. 

Although the evergreen shrubs are indigenous to Asia -- Zone 8, as
compared to northern Michigan's Zone 5 -- she's hoping her property
offers the right combination of light, air, drainage and slightly acidic
soil to allow them to thrive.

On the market for only a year, Macke's tea line is sold at nearly two
dozen locations around the region and as far away as Lansing, Grand
Rapids and Frankenmuth, Mich. It's also served at several area

"Tea is being touted as having a lot of health benefits, so people are
picking up that message," said Bruce Vaughan, owner of Silver Tree Deli
and Cafe, a Suttons Bay delicatessen and wine and spirit shop where
Macke's teas are sold and served. "And teas are less acidic so they
don't tend to mess with your stomach like coffee does. With black tea,
you can still get a nice punch of caffeine."

Since introducing Macke's line, the store has gone from preparing tea
the generic way -- with a bag in a cup of hot water -- to brewing and
serving it in individual teapots, Vaughan said. More and more, customers
are turning to the coffee alternative.




Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resources Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)



If you would like to access previous postings to the Mich-Organic listserv you can copy and paste the following URL into your browser address bar