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Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station

Harnessing Chemical Ecology to Address Agricultural Pest and Pollinator Priorities

The plum curculio is an extremely destructive key pest of stone and pome fruit in commercial orchards in eastern North America. In fact, in a survey of over 100 MA and RI apple growers (conducted in mid-April 2018 by J. Piñero) this insect pest ranked first in importance. Conventional growers typically apply broad-spectrum insecticides to control plum curculio. The main goal of this project is to evaluate the attractiveness of aromatic compounds to overwintered plum curculio and to other early-season pests.

Sustainable Solutions to Problems Affecting Bee Health

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.

Exploring Data, Information Needs and Existing Tools to Protect Forests and Forest Resources in a Variable Climate

To increase resistance and resiliency to climate change, forest management practices will need to change to ensure species and structural diversity, and adjust to emerging threats, such as invasive species, pests and diseases.  As a result of this need, there has been a flurry of development of science-based products and tools to incorporate the additional complexity of climate change and inform decisions about forest management and conservation.

Assessment of the Mineral Nutritional Value of Vegetable Crops Grown in Organic or Conventional Systems of Farming

Experiments will be conducted in the greenhouse and in the field with leafy vegetables to investigate if the mineral nutrient content of these foods can be enriched through fertilization of the crops. This research will address investigations of mineral nutrients, suggested to include phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc, which the investigators have the capability of analyzing in their laboratories. The research will emphasize investigations with lettuce that can be cycled rapidly in greenhouse or field production.

The Working Group on Improving Microbial Control of Arthropod Pests

The goals of this project are to: 1) study and improve microbial control options in IPM strategies for: a. arge acreage crops (alfalfa, corn, dry beans, potatoes, and small grains) b. orchard systems (fruits and nuts) c. small fruits and vegetables (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and vegetables) and d. urban and natural landscapes, rangelands, and nurseries.

Gene Discovery for Improved Iron Nutrition in Maize

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.

Assessing Agricultural Productivity and Informing Adoption of Dual-Use Solar Arrays on Massachusetts Farmland

Dual-use systems are still novel, and to a degree experimental. What agricultural activities are most compatible with dual-use is not well understood, nor is whether the new incentive will be sufficient to spur significant adoption of dual-use cropping systems. UMass has important roles in the development and adoption of dual-use systems. First, UMass Extension will serve as a clearinghouse of information and an educational resource for the agricultural and solar energy communities regarding the new technology and new incentive program.

Understanding Pollen - Pistil Interaction as a Basis Towards Improving Reproductive Yields in Plants

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.

Renewing an Agriculture of the Middle: Value Chain Design, Policy Approaches, Environmental and Social Impacts

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.

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