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Agriculture

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is an important crop in the United States and approximately 38,000 tons were produced in Massachusetts in 2006, with a value of $7.5M (National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA). About 92-percent of the Massachusetts crop is consumed fresh or marketed as processed products, while 8-percent is re-used as seed tubers. Tuber sprouting during storage, caused by dormancy release of tuber buds, leads to undesirable loss of weight, turgidity and texture alterations.

Mitochondria are cellular organelles which are often referred to as the "powerhouse" of the cell. Their many functions include generating the chemical energy utilized by cells, as well as roles in cell signaling, differentiation, cell growth and even cell death. It has been shown that chronic exposures to organic pesticides such as Rotenone, which inhibits mitochondrial function, can result in pathological conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

Research Project Year: 2012

The goal of the proposed research work is to evaluate the addition of biochar as a soil amendment in a temperate agricultural field and in the greenhouse using live field soil.

Specific objectives of this study include:

This projects involves two aspects of equine operations: manure handling and a comparison of footing materials. Proper manure handling and disposal is a special concern for the horse owners operating on small acreage in close proximity to neighbors and water bodies. Rather than a liability however, horse manure can be a valuable asset to equine facilities. In this project we will evaluate two simple low cost aerated static composting systems for typical small acreage horse and/or livestock operations. Establishment of sacrifice lots are crucial to pasture management in horse farms.

Funded by: Northeast SARE Partnership Grant Program

During the winter of 2015-16, UMass Extension and Queen's Greens partnered to study the efficacy of several OMRI-approved biofungicides to reduce severity of damping off, improve stand and yield of spinach. We conducted lab and field trials to: a) determine if certain biocontrol organisms are more cold tolerant than others and would thus be better suited for use in winter production systems; and b) if any of the products evaluated can significantly increase crop yield and quality.

The goal of this project is to adapt UMass Extension produce safety training materials for vegetable and fruit growers to address the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule, and to work with other agricultural organizations around the state to broaden the audience for training delivery. In the long term, we aim to establish a training program and curriculum that continues to meet and respond to the needs of MA produce growers by supporting and encouraging a culture of on-farm food safety.

Each year we meet with an advisory panel of conventional and organic growers from across Massachusetts to identify crop and pest management trials of greatest concern to the farming community.  We then contact grower organizations such as the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and commercial seed and crop protection companies to sponsor trials and treatments that target the pest management concerns of our stakeholders.

The micronutrient iron (Fe) is essential for photosynthesis, respiration, and many other processes, but Fe is only sparingly soluble in aqueous solution, making adequate acquisition by plants a serious challenge. Fe is a limiting factor for plant growth on approximately 30% of the world's arable lands. Furthermore, iron is highly reactive and, if over-accumulated, can cause cellular damage.

Unique among crop species, legumes produce their own nitrogen nutrient through a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria collectively known as rhizobia. This nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is a complex system, and currently we know too few of the molecular players involved. This project will optimize two methods to reduce the activity of a given gene, and use these methods to screen for legume genes required for the function of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis.

Here, we propose to use a model grass species, Brachypodium distachyon, to initiate discoveries that can help realize the potential of plant-based renewable energy sources. With the research proposed, we will be discovering the extent of natural variation in traits relevant to biofuel production and identifying candidate loci controlling these variable traits. Our use of natural diversity to identify phenotypes that lead to greater fuel efficiency, and to ultimately identify genes underlying desirable feedstock traits, will aid in the development of optimal plant feedstocks for biofuel.

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