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The diverticulated crop organ of the common house fly, which is the major insect vector of numerous human food pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli) is the major reservoir or storage area for this, and other, important food pathogens. It has also been demonstrated that this is where horizontal transmission of antibiotic resistance to E. coli occurs. Thus, the diverticulated crop organ is an essential component in the transmission cycle between pathogens and human foods/food crops.

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.

Unique among crop species, legumes produce their own nitrogen nutrient through a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria collectively known as rhizobia. This nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is a complex system, and currently we know too few of the molecular players involved. This project will optimize two methods to reduce the activity of a given gene, and use these methods to screen for legume genes required for the function of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis.

Many bee pollinators are in decline, and exposure to diseases has been implicated as one of the potential causes Novel work in my lab found that consuming sunflower pollen dramatically reduced bumble bee infection by a gut pathogen. These are excited results, but at this point we have established this effect only in the lab, with a single sunflower variety, one bumble bee species, and one pathogen species.

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.

Current agricultural practices on available arable land will not meet the nutritional needs of a population that will reach nine billion people by the middle of this century (Ray et al. 2013). In parallel, climate change will increase extreme weather events, including drought (Dai, 2011, Trenberth et al., 2014), and continued urbanization of farmland is eliminating arable land (Song et al. 2015). There is a clear need for sustainable agricultural innovations that can increase yields and provide food security without incurring environmental degradation.

Improving human nutrition without artificial fortification of food or use of supplementary mineral nutrients is important in reducing malnutrition. Malnutrition from deficiencies of mineral elements is reported to be on the rise worldwide, even in the United State; it is estimated that half of the world population suffers from mineral nutrient deficiencies, limiting their physical, intellectual, and mental health activities. The deficiencies appear to derive from diminished contents of mineral nutrients in foods of plant (vegetables, fruits) or animal (meats, milk, cheese) origins.

Massachusetts has over 1,000 growers producing greenhouse crops in 12 million square feet of protected growing space (2002 Census of Agriculture). Most of Massachusetts’ greenhouses are heated with either fuel oil or liquid propane. While there are no firm figures available, we estimate that total use of fossil fuels for greenhouse heat is equivalent to nearly 1 million gallons of fuel oil, with emissions in the range of 22 million pounds of CO2 annually.

We will evaluate the influence of rootstocks on temperate-zone fruit tree characteristics grown under varying environments using sustainable management systems.  This will help allow us to better assess the impacts of biotic and abiotic stresses on scion/rootstockcombinations in temperate zone fruit trees and to enhance the sustainability of temperate fruit farming through development and distribution of research based information utilizing eXtension.

The overall objective of this research is to use beneficial bacteria and fungi to improve medicinal and aromatic plant yields quantitatively and qualitatively. Specific objectives are:

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