Michigan State’s Clarksville Horticultural Experiment Station plans to go more organic, converting much of its open space to organic and transitional tree fruit research.

The station, with 440 acres, currently is home to a variety of tree fruit trials and evaluations relating to rootstocks, orchard systems, scab-resistant varieties, integrated pest management, and more. The research station is an arm of Michigan State University Extension.

A new vision is planned for the station, with more emphasis on organics, said Phil Schwallier, station coordinator. MSU Extension plans to convert 30 acres of the station’s open ground to organic research this year for comparisons between organic, transitional, and conventional orchards. Blocks of organic apples and sweet cherries are being planted. In the coming years, there is room for up to 75 acres of organic fruits and vegetables that could be planted for different research projects, he said.
He noted that the Southwest Michigan experiment station is growing organic peaches, with the Northwest station growing organic cherries. "We’ll be the apple organic site, though we are trying sweet cherries as well."

They might even look at genetically modified organisms, Schwallier added.
The last phase of the new vision would be to establish trials involving agritourism and farm markets at the station. Research could compare different marketing systems and even bring consumers into the studies.

"We will continue our conventional work, but we plan to start organic and other work," Schwallier said. "We have plenty of room at the station, but additional funding from research projects will be needed to move forward."