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Stockbridge School of Agriculture

Climate Change: Characterizing Plant Responses to Current and Future Levels of Carbon Dioxide and Ozone

Timothy and alfalfa are important forage crops that are fed to domestic animals. In future climate change, they will be exposed to elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3). We know little about how common varieties of these perennial plants respond to current levels of CO2 and O3. We do not know how cultivars of these plants would respond to future elevated levels of CO2 and O3.Plants will be exposed to current and future levels of CO2 and O3 in greenhouse exposure chambers.

Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources

The market for specialty foods targeted for Latino populations is especially strong in New England. While most of these foods are imported, many can be locally grown, offering a strong and increasing market for local farmers. We will work to evaluate germplasm of Latin American specialty crops with the objective of identifying parental materials to initiate a breeding program for these crops.

Developing Crambe Abyssinica and Brassica Juncea as Ideal Biofuel Crops via Manipulating Tolerance to Multiple Abiotic Stresses

This project will develop and diversify Crambe (an oilseed crop) and brassica (mustard green) species as dedicated bioenergy crops for biodiesel production. The proposed strategy will increase crop biomass and seed yields while growing these crops on marginal and heavy-metal-contaminated lands, thus increasing both yield and arable acreage. This approach to cultivation on contaminated sites and marginal lands will not create competition for land or displacement of food crops.

Developing Quality Chinese Medicinal Herb Production in the Northeast

"Increased consumer interest in complementary and alternative healthcare in the United States has led to rapid growth in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) in the Northeast. As part of their patient care, AOM practitioners frequently prescribe Chinese medicinal herbs (CMH), nearly all of which are imported. These imports currently face questions regarding quality and purity. Local production of CMH represents an opportunity for growers to produce cash crops for an untapped market and to provide of safe, secure, and quality herbs for AOM practitioners.

Development of More Sustainable Disease Management Tactics for Apple Production in the Northeast

Apples are a high value crop in Massachusetts and in the entire Northeastern United States, with an annual farm-gate value of $11.6 million and $550 million, respectively, in 2008. Nearly 100,000 acres are devoted to apples in the Northeast, with 4,000 of those in Massachusetts. Apples in the Northeast are attacked by dozens of pests, both arthropods and diseases, and, as a result, apple production is one of the crops listed in the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list - a list of the fruits and vegetables that on average use the most pesticides in their production.

Flies Impacting Livestock, Poultry and Food Safety

House flies are the major vector of numerous food pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli). It has been suggested that the fly crop is the major reservoir for the pathogen and also that this is where horizontal transmission of antibiotic resistance occurs. The salivary glands of most flies involved in vectoring pathogens are also involved in pathogen transmission and their nutrient and pathogen uptake while feeding. We know very little about those factors involved in the regulation of both crop filling and emptying.

Functional Genomics to Investigate and Characterize Genetic Factors Governing DMI-Sensitivity in Sclerotinia Homeocarpa

This research involves utilizing genomics and molecular biology tools to understand the basis of DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicide resistance dollar spot, the most important disease of turf grasses for golf courses. For this, we will take advantage of cutting-edge research tools in genomics and molecular biology to shed light on how the dollar spot fungus is able to overcome fungicides at the molecular level.

Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops Through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection

The topic of nutrient density in food crops has been active among consumers, producers and the scientific community in recent years. Literature on food composition demonstrates that the mineral nutrient density of vegetables has fallen in the past 50 years. This decline is associated with two factors: declines in soil fertility and with the genetics of plant cultivars that accumulate yield at higher rates than they accumulate mineral nutrients.

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