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USDA-SARE grants fuel N.Y. horticulture

SARE logoSince 1988, the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has funded projects across the country aimed at advancing agricultural innovation that promotes profitability, stewardship of the land, air and water, and quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities.

This year’s crop of funded projects targeted at horticulture crops in New York include:

Professional development grant

Soil management in berry crops as a model for management education – Will provide in-depth berry crop and soil management training to educators throughout the Northeast and develop a web-based resource emphasizing a whole-farm approach to nutrient management for berries. (Marvin Pritts, Department of Horticulture.)

Partnership grants

Managing garlic bloat nematode using biofumigant cover crops – Will test the effectiveness of sorghum-sudangress and mustard in eliminating this pest from the soil and determine how long the nematode survives in the soil without a host plant. (Crystal Stewart, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Johnstown, N.Y.)

Determining the potential for organic material use in Northeast commercial pear production – Will test the effectiveness of two new organic controls (a kaolin product and refined horticultural oil) for pear psylla and leaf spot — two pests that defoliation, reduced fruit quality and yield, and premature decline or death of trees. (Peter Jentsch, NYSAES Hudson Valley Lab, Highland N.Y.)

Preventing erosion of muck soils by reducing tillage in onion production – Will evaluate improvements needed for commercial onion production using minimum tillage combined with cover crops, nutrient availability and the potential to reduce fertilizer needs, and the use of in-furrow fungicides to minimize losses from damping off. (Christine Hoepting, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Albion, N.Y.)

Control of spider mite in eggplants and thrips in sweet peppers using guardian plants and predators – Will test marigolds to control thrips on field-grown peppers, a practice that has already proven effective in greenhouses. Will also test beans as a guardian plant against spider mites in eggplant. (Carol Glenister, IPM Laboratories Inc., Locke, N.Y.)

Integrating ground cover crops and new herbicide strategies (conventional and organic) for tree growth and soil health – Will adapt existing research on semi-dwarf trees to intensive high-density systems and measure effects of ground covers and herbicides on tree growth, health, and production. (Deborah Breth, Lake Ontario Fruit Program, Albion, N.Y.)

Customer identification and communication education for scale-specific commodities – New and small-scale farmers growing for niche and local food markets need enterprise-specific information on how to reach customers and the key components of a marketing plan. Will work with seven farms to assess current effectiveness, customer perceptions, and the overall communications and marketing plan for each enterprise. (Laura Biasillo, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Binghamton, N.Y.)

Farmer grants

Organic Brussels sprouts in the Northeast: Variety, pest control, and storage trials – Will evaluate six Brussels sprouts varieties for disease and heat resistance and storage characteristics, and another variety will be tested for response to Neem and Safer against an untreated control. (Robin Ostfeld, Blue Heron Farm, Lodi, N.Y.)

Investigating effects of beneficial microbial inoculants on potatoes – Will test a mix of beneficial inoculants on the emergence, growth, leaf sap, texture, flavor, and tuber Brix of Red Norland potatoes, and evaluate whether improved yield and quality will improve income. (Marina Machahelles, Shoving Leopard Farm, Red Hook. N.Y.)

Growing scab-free apples without fungicides – Will test whether intensive mowing, vacuuming, and pruning can reduce or eliminate scab in an orchard with mixed resistance planted on a wider grid for improved air circulation. Test is in combination of a farmer design for improved vacuuming and an compost to speed decomposition of remaining orchard debris. (Louis Lego, Elderberry Pond Farm, Auburn N.Y.)

A multipurpose tool for small farmers – Will refine design of multifunctional planter that can increase garlic planting fivefold (compared to planting by hand) for maximum simplicity, affordability, and ease of use. Will build and test a general base unit and garlic-specific and potato-specific platforms, and work with engineer to develop plans, costs, and material lists. (Fred Forsburg, Honeyhill Farm, Livonia, N.Y.)

Visit the Northeast SARE website for more information about these projects and grant opportunities. All 2011 NESARE awards are profiled in the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture.

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