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Agriculture

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.

This proposal is about programmed cell death and sex determination in maize and the grass family. Programmed cell death is best defined as genetically encoded, actively controlled cellular suicide. Programmed cell death is of fundamental importance in plant development. For example, xylem cells undergo programmed cell death and create an interconnected network of hollow tubes essential for water transport.

Reduced and modified tillage (RT) systems (e.g. no-, zone-, strip) represent strategies to reduce soil degradation and erosion and protect water quality. Previous research has shown that these tillage systems can provide the environmental and economic benefits of a RT system for many vegetable crops without the harvest delays or losses observed in straight no-till. Reduced Tillage systems can improve both, soil quality and soil drainage, potentially reducing Phytophtora blight among other soil borne pathogens.

We will develop a mathematical model that predicts how farmers (or firms) will make decisions when choosing between two markets. The markets we will study include a wholesale market, where farmer's products are no different from all other farmers, and a farm-to-school market where the farmer's products are differentiated (the farmer is known and the products are known to be locally produced). We will then design economic experiments that could be used to test the model's theoretical results.

An estimated 437,000 incidences of produce-related foodborne illnesses occur each year in Massachusetts alone. In addition to morbidity and mortality, the estimated cost as a result of the illnesses is $903 million.

Vigorously growing plants require adequate, but not excessive, essential nutrients. Nutrients must be provided in the right form, at the right time, and at the right place. Management of all nutrients sources (i.e., soil, commercial fertilizer, compost, and animal and green manure) within the constraints of the production system is fundamental to both economic viability and environmental quality. Poor management of plant nutrients can lead to economic losses and environmental degradation of soil, air, and water quality.

There is uncertainty about the effects of future climate on agricultural crop plants. Alfalfa is a crop that is used to provide feed for animals leading to meat production. This research will include experiments under controlled conditions that will allow prediction of how alfalfa plants will respond to future elevated CO2 (800ppm) and elevated ozone (O3) (80ppb). How these elevations affect plant growth and the nutritional value of the plants will be determined.

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