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Agriculture

Preserving and improving soil health/quality/resiliency continues to be an area of strong interest and concern for MA land stewards. Not unique to MA, this concern has been echoed across the region and nationally leading NRCS to emphasize soil health awareness as a continued priority with a special emphasis on cover cropping.

The objectives of this project are to conduct research and extension outreach to reduce feed and fertilizer purchase, increase farmers income and demonstrate best management practices to reduce non-point source pollution related to agriculture and equine operations.

The aim of this project is to enhance our understanding of the ovarian, embryonic and uterine factors that regulate developmental competence of oocytes, pre-implantation embryo development and uterine conditions so that the declining fertility rates and increased embryonic losses among dairy cattle as well as beef cattle and sheep, can be overturned. Therefore, by reversing these declining rates of fertility, we expect to make agricultural production more efficient, profitable, and competitive.

Over 75 named and numbered peach/nectarine and plum varieties/selections are under casual evaluation and demonstration at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. Most of them are varieties/selection from the Fruit Acres/Stellar, Paul Friday/Flaming Fury, and Rutgers/Adams County Nursery breeding and variety introduction programs. Data collected includes flowering, yield, and fruit quality (size, color, firmness, brix, maturity, and taste/consumer acceptance), and  pest susceptibility.

In New England, European corn borer and pepper maggot are the most common insect pests of pepper fruit. In many locations, peppers picked at the green stage are only marginally affected by ECB, but those left in the field long enough to ripen fall prey to ECB, then to soft rots. During the 2012 season, the UMass IPM team worked with several growers to see if releases of Trichogramma could increase their yield of healthy bright red and yellow fruit. 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst recognizes the importance of reliable and prompt diagnosis of plant problems for the turf, floriculture, vegetable, nursery, urban forestry and landscape industries. We serve farmers, horticulturists, landscape contractors, turf managers, arborists, nurseries, and others in agriculture and the green industries. The lab also assesses ticks for Lyme disease as a service to the public.

Preharvest drop of fruit can result in losses to a grower that may exceed 50% of the total crop. There is a need to find effective ways to keep fruit on the tree until it achieves an acceptable level of quality and maturity. Compounds that can potentially be used to influence preharvest drop are also known to affect ripening and fruit quality. Therefore, the effect of strategies that control preharvest drop must also be evaluated for their effects on fruit quality and storage potential.

A key aspect of food markets are their vertical structures: products move along supply chains from manufacturers (or farmers) to wholesalers to retailers or food service operators to consumers. Interactions among firms in these chains give rise to a variety of economic issues that are no less important than those studied in horizontal interaction (i.e. firms competing for the same end consumer), yet previous work has tended to focus on the latter.

To strengthen the rural economy, successful strategies are always needed to reduce farm production cost and increase product values. Organic waste is generally disposed of by being left on the field to decay and/or burned. These treatments yield low values and may cause environmental pollution. Production and use of bio-oil and biochar from organic wastes could improve soil and environmental quality, provide renewable energy and reduce fossil fuel dependency, and increase soil carbon sequestration and mitigate global warming.

There has been a steadily increasing demand for craft beer in the United States in the past 2 decades, especially the northeastern and western regions of the country. Currently, there is an insufficient body of research regarding varieties and fertility management plans that would permit growers in the pioneer valley to produce malting-quality barley. Barley must fit into a range of specific quality parameters, such as percent protein and the near absence of Deoxynivalenol (DON, produced by Fusarium head blight), to be suitable for malting.

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