The Clemson Student Organic Farm offers research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students participating in special credit Creative Inquiry projects and directed on farm research.

One of the initiatives of the Sustainable Agriculture Program is to demonstrate successful examples of sustainable agriculture for the benefit of the community. Check out some of our recent research projects at the Student Organic Farm (SOF) and Calhoun Field Laboratory (below).

Current & Recent Projects

  • No-till vegetable production

    No-till tomatosCover cropping is a sustainable farming practice for both weed management and soil health. The SOF has experimented for several years now with "organic no-till" methods for vegetable production wherein a mature cover crop is killed and its residue left on the soil surface to serve as a weed barrier during the growing season. Two years of a replicated no-till vs. conventional till experiment at the SOF demonstrated the potential for cost and labor savings using no-till practices for summer vegetable production.

  • Hydronic heating season extension

    The purpose of this research is to determine the difference between using row covers with and without hydronic heating tubes for greenhouse production of leafy greens. Plant size and weight and nighttime minimum temperatures were recorded for each treatment. Preliminary results show that without row covers, hydronic heat tubes had little to no effect on nighttime minimum temperatures. Further, combining row covers and hydronic heat produced larger plants than uncombined treatments.

  • Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Trials

    Marketmore 76Organic growers are facing many challenges limiting their production of cucumbers, melons and squash. If you’ve ever tried to grow these crops in the eastern United States, you’ve probably had to fight with aphids, striped cucumber beetles, or downy mildew. To help address these challenges, an OREI grant known as ESO-Cuc, the Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project, is underway. ESO-Cuc is a collaboration of growers, extension agents, and university researchers working together to find solutions for you...more

Past Projects

  • Organic Soil Amendment Trials
  • Black Soldier Fly (BSF) Larvae Composting System
    Clemson Creative Inquiry students led by bio-energy ‘guru’ David Thornton have developed a pilot BSF composting system for bioconversion of food and farm waste into compost, animal feed and oil for biodiesel fuel production. The low-cost system is installed at the farm adjacent to a hoop house-type greenhouse to facilitate year round production of BSF. Various types of waste material (cafeteria food waste and cull vegetables from farm production) are placed into the system where the BSF larvae digest and convert the waste into useable materials for the farm. BSF pupa are collected and can be dried and pressed to extract oil for biodiesel, and remaining meal can be used as a chicken feed, fish feed, and fertilizer. More information can be found here:
  • Rainwater Harvesting System
    Nic Koontz, Biosystems Engineering undergraduate, worked at the Student Organic Farm for over two years. For his Senior Capstone Design class (BE 416), he decided that he wanted to build a rainwater harvesting system for the farm. He and two classmates, Hunter Hicks and Bryan Kohart, approached Dr. Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator,with their ideas and shortly thereafter began work. For detailed project information click here.
  • Compost Tea Foliar Spray Research
  • Ethnobotany Youth Garden Project
    What better way to get children interested in plants than to teach them about edible flowers, leaves used for band-aids, and roots that dye cloth pink? This is the philosophy behind The Ethnobotany Garden at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Ethnobotany is the study of human interactions with useful plants throughout history. The ethnobotany garden is a living display of important plants that have been utilized by various cultures. There are over 50 plants housed in the garden, each with a unique set of past and present uses. The Ethnobotany Garden is located behind the Hayden Conference Center at the South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson, SC. For more information and detailed project report please click here.
  • Calhoun Fields Hoophouse Project
    In 2005 the SOF crew began the process of building hoophouses at the Calhoun Field Laboratory. A hoophouse is simply a series of hoops covered by a plastic skin. Less permanent than the traditional greenhouse, the hoophouse offers an affordable alternative. The microsystem created by the hoophouse extends the growing season by protecting plants from cold temperatures. Plants such as tomatoes can be planted in a hoophouse much earlier in the season, allowing for earlier yield production. When cooler temperatures return in the fall, plants such as peppers can be planted in the hoophouse to allow for later yield production. For more project information please click here.

Cover crop fieldOptimizing No-till Cover Crops

Graduate Research in Sustainable Agriculture

Please contact: 

Dr. Geoff Zehnder
E143 Poole Ag Building
Clemson University
Clemson, SC 29634