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Agriculture

Phytophthora species consistently rank as some of the most devastating disease agents in Massachusetts farms. Two species, P. infestans and P. capsici, attack regionally important vegetable crops, including cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes. In 2007, over 8,000 acres of vegetable crops susceptible to infection by P. capsici and P. infestans were harvested in Massachusetts.

The agricultural community needs to improve nutrient use efficiency for modern cropping systems to ensure agronomic viability and environmental quality. Improving efficiency will require more than new technology. It will require a different approach to nutrient management: the use of adaptive management concepts and processes. Expected outcomes/impacts of this work include:

We worked with Massachusetts growers on a broad range of activities related to Integrated Pest Management for diversified vegetable and fruit farms. One of the core components of this project is working with several 'mentor farms,' who grow both fruits and vegetables and are open to expanding their use of advanced integrated pest management techniques as well as working with us to better understand how a diversified farm can use IPM.  We also conducted field trials on-farm and at our research farm on IPM methods identified by growers as their priorities each year.

Fire blight is a major threat to apple production in USA. It can destroy thousands of high density trees per farm in epidemic conditions. Our priority is to address this threat by development of pest risk assessment through quantifying survival of fire blight bacterium Erwinia amylovora in wood cankers as main sources for infection. We will determine its survival in relation to apple and pear cultivar susceptibility, tree drought stress, and winter cold. Current fire blight prediction models assume successful fire blight survival in cankers every year.

Classical biological control provides a sustainable, green method of controlling invasive pests permanently. The number of such pests increases yearly with each new invasion. The separate objectives in this project address a series of such invaders. The intended outcome of each objective (project) is to safely and permanently lower the density of the pest and avoid the damage it causes. Outcomes will be healthier forests and other natural ecosystems and reduced pesticide use in crops.

Our goal is to identify molecular interactions between mammal hosts and African trypanosomes that affect the development of protective immune responses as well as pathophysiologic processes. African trypanosomes are flagellated protozoa that cause sleeping sickness in people and Nagana in domestic animals. These diseases are fatal if left untreated. The diseases are endemic in the humid and semi-humid zones of Africa affecting a landmass of 10 million km 2 and 36 countries.

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.

In an effort to reduce dependence on petroleum, promote economic growth and diversification, and reduce human-induced climate change, the United States has developed a strategy that includes bio-based production of energy and compounds that can be used as precursors for industrial processes. It has been suggested that microorganisms with differing physiological capacities may provide an opportunity to generate commercially valuable products in a more sustainable, commercially viable manner.

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.

Research Project Year: 2014-2018

Background

Corn silage is a primary source of feed on most New England dairy farms, and feed is the largest annual expense. The corn growing season spans mid-May through early-October, with variation according to weather, region, and the maturity period (days to harvest) of the corn that the farmer selects. Corn planted in Massachusetts ranges from 85 days to maturity to well over 114 days to maturity.

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