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Agriculture

Increased use of biomass fuels is a promising option for renewable fuels that could decrease our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, we currently do not have clear knowledge about the plant traits that should be considered bioenergy traits and should be subjected to breeding and selection. We propose to use a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with two promising plant biomass transformation techniques (biological and thermochemical conversion) to examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency.

The cranberry industry in Massachusetts faces many challenges. In the past ten years, growers have gone from receiving record high prices for their fruit to record low prices. Although the industry has rebounded, the focus to remain economically competitive and environmentally sustainable has sharpened. It is anticipated that the industry may lose some acreage due to attrition and that smaller growers may sell their land. As with all farmers, energy costs are rising quickly, impacting the bottom line. Growers must develop and adopt innovative technology to remain competitive.

Fruit farms and vineyards provide open space and scenic vistas that add significantly to the quality of life in Massachusetts. The lands surrounding agricultural production provide buffer zones for native species of plants and animals and corridors for their movement or expansion. To remain a vital part of the Massachusetts economy, both new and established growers must learn to produce crops sustainably and to adapt production systems to market opportunities. New varieties provide fruit farmers with opportunities for enhancing production, quality, sales and consumption. 

Our goal is to evaluate the role and causative mechanisms of parasitic mites, viruses, and microbes in pollinator abundance and honeybee colony success. Isolation of total RNA and DNA from bee guts will be performed following standard methods currently used in our laboratory. Bee infection status with viruses and the eukaryotic parasites Crithidia and Nosema will be determined by PCR and rtPCR analyses to detect viruses and parasites using RNA and/or DNA extracted from guts as template.

The Extension Vegetable Management Team team have engaged new stakeholders, revitalized our applied research program, and responded to regulatory changes impacting stakeholders. We have been successful in garnering external funds to support the expansion of this project and the scope of our efforts to address stakeholder needs.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) Research and Education Grant Project LNE 12-316.
Duration: June 2012 - June 2016

The project addresses how flowering plants achieve fertilization, which if unsuccessful will result in reproductive failure, devastating agricultural productivity. Pollen grains germinate on the stigma, the receptive surface of the female organ pistil. Each pollen grain hydrates and extrudes a pollen tube whose function is to transport two sperm cells carried in its cytoplasm to the female gametophyte inside an ovule, usually located at some distance from the stigma.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) Professional Development Program (PDP) Grant
Duration: September 2015-April 2018

Improving water management is of increasing importance in horticultural operations. A growing global population and changes in water availability will mean that less water will be available for ornamental plant production. There are also a growing number of federal and state regulations regarding water use and runoff from production areas. Better irrigation and fertilization management practices will help to limit the environmental impact of container plant production by limiting the runoff of water and nutrients from nurseries.

Livestock farms face a number of environmental concerns including both water and air quality issues. Stakeholders and regulators agree that attaining the dual goals of profitability and environmental accountability are major challenges facing animal agriculture. Under current economic conditions with increasing input costs and stagnant or decreasing product prices, many farms are struggling to survive. The additional costs of mitigating environmental impacts may accelerate farm exit.

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