Organic farms must have diverse crop rotations. To achieve a rotation of more than two years, crops other than corn and soybeans (or soybeans-wheat double crop) should be considered. This page is intended to be a resource for farmers interested in expanding their rotation to include some grain crops that are in demand in North Carolina and in the eastern US.
Sunflower Seed: Organic sunflower seed is used in bird feed, for sunflower oil and the meal for livestock feed. Sunflowers are a summer annual crop that can be managed similar to other summer grain crops. The links from this page lead to production information for sunflower seed, though not necessarily organic sunflower seed production. There is no information available on organic sunflower production in North Carolina, so adjustments to the management systems recommended must be made to fit in a certified organic operation.
Buckwheat: Buckwheat is a summer annual broadleaf grain, and is used to produce food-grade flour and sometimes livestock feed. It thrives in cooler climatic conditions, but is not frost-tolerant. Buckwheat is fast growing and is probably best planted for production in early summer (after the last frost) or in late summer (about 8-10 weeks before the first frost) in North Carolina, although it can be grown anytime in the summer. The links from this page lead to production and marketing information for buckwheat. There is little information available on organic buckwheat production in the southeast, so adjustments to the management systems recommended must be made to fit NC's climate and into a certified organic operation.
Triticale: Triticale is a cross between rye (Secale cereale) and wheat (Triticum aestivum). It is grown primarily as a cover crop in North Carolina, but can be grown as a high protein grain crop. NCSU has an excellent triticale breeding program, and varieties coming out of it are well adapted to North Carolina. Currently, the only variety recommended is 'Arcia'. It performs very well as a grain crop in North Carolina. It has high yields, is very winter hardy, stress resistant, and has no insect or disease problems. Triticale can be managed exactly like wheat. See wheat production information from NC State University and organic production information on this site.
Grain Sorghum (Milo): Organic milo is used in livestock feed and sometime in bird feed. Milo is currently grown conventionally in eastern North Carolina, and production information for milo is available. However, to produce organic milo, adjustments to the management systems recommended must be made to work in a certified organic operation.
Cover Crop Seed Production: The demand for organic seed is greatly increasing in the Southeast. The Saving Our Seed Project determined that organic cover crop seeds, specifically, brown-top millet, buckwheat and soybeans, were one of the types of organic seed most needed by organic farmers in the southeast. Contact the Saving Our Seed Project for more infomation
Food-grade Soybeans: Organic food-grade soybeans are used for tofu, soy milk and other soy food products. These beans are produced with similar production practices as organic feed-grade soybeans, but require more careful harvest and handling to avoid broken, diseased or stained beans. The price for food-grade soybeans is generally higher than for feed-grade beans, however, the yield per acre may be lower.
Spelt (Triticum aestivum var. spelta): Spelt is a grain that is in growing demand for food-grade milling. It is a subspecies of wheat, and is sometimes used in livestock feed as well. It is possible to grow spelt in North Carolina, but little to no research has been done on spelt production in the Southeast.
Blue Corn: Blue corn is another grain growing in demand for food-grade milling. It is a specialty dried corn that is used mainly for making tortillas and chips. This type of corn could bring a very high premium grown organically--even higher than organic field corn. Because it is a food-grade corn, much more care must be taken in producing and harvesting the corn. Yields may not be as high as regular field corn, but the return may be worth it. Markets for blue corn are scarce and to find a reliable market some research must be done. Buyers may want a certain variety of blue corn grown, so it is a good idea to find a buyer (or market) before planting.