Extension Vegetable Program Completed Projects
In 2018, Extension personnel from the Universities of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island documented production practices and took soil and leaf samples from 20 tomato high tunnels in those 4 states, with support from the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers' Association. Soil and tissue samples were analyzed at the Universities of Maine and Massachusetts labs. View the project report for guidelines for optimizing tomato production based on the data collected. NOTE - this project surveyed current practices and conditions in a variety of tunnels; additional research is needed to quantify the impact of different management and fertilization practices.
Improving management of cucurbit diseases, especially cucurbit downy mildew (CDM), has been consistently identified by growers and processors in MA as a major research priority in the past ten years. In 2004, new strains of CDM arrived which had overcome resistance that was then standard in all cucumber varieties and adequately controlled the disease. Since that time, growers have struggled to produce late-season cucurbit crops, and have experienced yield losses to fall-harvested crops such as winter squash, as ripening and curing of fruit is now routinely cut short due to late-season disease. In 2016, the UMass Vegetable Extension Program conducted 2 research trials to evaluate new downy mildew-resistant cucumber cultivars and to evaluate the impact of combining the use of host-resistance with the use of alternative, reduced-risk fungicides that can be used in organic cropping systems.
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.
In New England, European corn borer and pepper maggot are the most common insect pests of pepper fruit. In many locations, peppers picked at the green stage are only marginally affected by ECB, but those left in the field long enough to ripen fall prey to ECB, then to soft rots. During the 2012 season, the UMass IPM team worked with several growers to see if releases of the parasitic wasp Trichogramma ostrinae could increase their yield of healthy bright red and yellow fruit. In the process, the team observed increased incidence of pepper anthracnose in the fields in which they were working.
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.
We worked with Massachusetts growers on a broad range of activities related to Integrated Pest Management for diversified vegetable and fruit farms. One of the core components of this project is working with several 'mentor farms,' who grow both fruits and vegetables and are open to expanding their use of advanced integrated pest management techniques as well as working with us to better understand how a diversified farm can use IPM. We also conducted field trials on-farm and at our research farm on IPM methods identified by growers as their priorities each year. We shared what we learn on each of these farms by holding twilight meetings, posting pest alerts, and writing IPM articles for publication on our websites, newsletters, and facebook page.
Beginning in 2010, project participants at the Universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Extensions, along with two local food organizations, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) in western MA and Seacoast Eat Local (SEL) in eastern NH conducted research trials, and collaborated with winter vegetable producers throughout New England on methods for production, storage, and marketing to strengthen this aspect of the regional food system.
Reduced and modified tillage (RT) systems (e.g. no-, zone-, strip) represent strategies to reduce soil degradation and erosion and protect water quality. Previous research has shown that these tillage systems can provide the environmental and economic benefits of a RT system for many vegetable crops without the harvest delays or losses observed in straight no-till.
This project focused on shelled corn, a renewable heat source that can be grown and used in Massachusetts more cheaply than fossil fuels, using available and proven technology. Changing to energy sources that can be produced locally, travel a short distance from producer to user, and that have a high ratio of energy output to fossil fuel input is key to a viable future for farming in Massachusetts.