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Extension Vegetable Program Projects

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.

Across the Northeast, high-tunnels are being used with increasing frequency to lengthen the season of spinach and other greens to have produce to sell all winter long.  In this high intensity, year-round system, insect and disease pests build up over time and can become difficult to control.  In this study, UMass Extension partnered with Queen’s Greens—a commercial vegetable farm with a focus on year-round production of organic greens—to evaluate efficacy of biopesticides to improve germination, reduce disease severity, and improve yields in winter-grown 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.

Soil testing

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.

Pest scouting

This project will address the need for a scouting and pest advisory network that spans the range of climate zones from north to south in New England and is responsive to seasonal fluctuations in weather and crop conditions. Using field walks and weekly scouting visits at sentinel farms in Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we will provide growers with hands-on training in IPM methods for key pests and/or diseases in vegetable and fruit crops.

Ruth Hazzard in cabbage field

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.

Our Project goal is to deliver effective and timely IPM information and recommendations to MA vegetable and fruit growers that enable these specialty crop growers to achieve increased profitability while reducing adverse risks to human health and the environment.