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Agriculture

Water is an increasingly scarce resource for agriculture thus engineering plants that use water efficiently is a primary goal forscientists. A recent approach in achieving water-efficient crops is to breed or engineer plants that can rapidly open and close their stomata in changing environments (Lawson and Blatt 2014, Raven 2014). During the day, plants may become shaded or enjoy a sudden but transient increase in sunlight as sun angles change (or are reflected) or as clouds and/or other obstacles block the sun.

Chlamydiae are implicated in a variety of clinically and economically important diseases in livestock and companion animals. These bacteria are associated with abortion, conjunctivitis, encephalomyelitis, enteritis, pneumonia, and polyarthritis in ruminants. Infection with these bacteria is the most common cause of abortion in sheep and goats and also causes zoonotic infection in humans which, in pregnant women, can result in spontaneous abortion.

Apples are a high value crop in Massachusetts and in the entire Northeastern United States, with an annual farm-gate value of $11.6 million and $550 million, respectively, in 2008. Nearly 100,000 acres are devoted to apples in the Northeast, with 4,000 of those in Massachusetts. Apples in the Northeast are attacked by dozens of pests, both arthropods and diseases, and, as a result, apple production is one of the crops listed in the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list - a list of the fruits and vegetables that on average use the most pesticides in their production.

Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station Project MAS00488
Duration: October 2015 - September 2019

Threats to the sustainability of cranberry production in MA and elsewhere in the U.S. come from many sources: consumer demands for sustainable but inexpensive products, commodity pricing in an industry that is currently over-supplied with juice concentrate, changes to industry fruit quality standards, rising costs for energy and pest management products, and changing standards in pesticide use to accommodate global marketing.

Cranberry production has a long history in Massachusetts (MA) that adds important economic and aesthetic value to the region.  About 30% of U.S. acreage and the two largest cranberry handler companies are located in Massachusetts. This crop has the highest farm gate value of any food crop in the Commonwealth, $99.8 million in 2012 (USDA, 2015).

Plants are capable of producing a great diversity of relatively small organic chemicals that are called “secondary”, or, more recently, “specialized” metabolites, because they are not involved in central metabolism (Gang, 2005; Weng and Noel, 2012). Currently, well over 200,000 distinct molecules are known to be produced by plants and found to serve many important roles. As pigments, scents, and flavors they attract pollinators and seed dispersers (Gang, 2005).

Armored scale insects include many destructive pests of orchard crops, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture, costing an estimated two billion dollars per year in the US. They also have an extraordinary tendency to be invasive. As of 2005, the US had 132 species of armored scale insects introduced from other countries, comprising fully 40% of armored scale species in the US. Most of these (64%) were considered pests. About one new invasive diaspidid species is detected in the U.S. every year.

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is an important crop in the United States and approximately 38,000 tons were produced in Massachusetts in 2006, with a value of $7.5M (National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA). About 92-percent of the Massachusetts crop is consumed fresh or marketed as processed products, while 8-percent is re-used as seed tubers. Tuber sprouting during storage, caused by dormancy release of tuber buds, leads to undesirable loss of weight, turgidity and texture alterations.

Mitochondria are cellular organelles which are often referred to as the "powerhouse" of the cell. Their many functions include generating the chemical energy utilized by cells, as well as roles in cell signaling, differentiation, cell growth and even cell death. It has been shown that chronic exposures to organic pesticides such as Rotenone, which inhibits mitochondrial function, can result in pathological conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

Research Project Year: 2012

The goal of the proposed research work is to evaluate the addition of biochar as a soil amendment in a temperate agricultural field and in the greenhouse using live field soil.

Specific objectives of this study include:

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