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New Horicultural and Grain Crop Opportunities for Kentucky
D. Ingram, D. Van Sanford, C. Dillon
Department of Horticulture
Agricultural production is an important part of Kentucky's economy, and tobacco has played a major role. With the termination of the federal tobacco program, a large percentage of tobacco farmers are no longer growing the crop. Kentucky farmers need alternative crops to replace income lost from tobacco. This project will help determine more profitable production and marketing systems for horticultural and specialty grains crops and to aid farmers in adopting those systems.
2008 Project Description
This project involves applied research to develop protocols for the production and marketing of horticultural crops and specialty grains to help Kentucky farmers make their enterprises more profitable.
Crop information and research results are disseminated via the New Crop Opportunities Center Web site at www.uky.edu/ag/newcrops, and at field days and meetings. Results were presented at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting, the Entomological Society of America National Meeting, the Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, and at the Horticulture Research Farm Field Day.
One project supports management of Japanese beetles (JB) and green June beetles (GJB) to help grape growers reduce chemical inputs and production costs. Vines received one of three experimental spray regimes to protect them from JB defoliation. The regimes were carbaryl sprayed every 7 days, every 14 days, or no treatment. GJB flight was monitored with traps that were baited with attractant lures, and numbers of beetles present on all clusters of grapes were counted at least weekly.
In the high tunnels project, seven varieties of blackberry, six of blueberry, and nine of raspberry were planted in 2007 in two plots, one outside and one inside a Haygrove high tunnel on the organic section of the UK Horticulture Research Farm. High tunnels allow growers to expand their marketing window for small fruits and berries by extending their harvest season, and help control disease and insect pests. Two new late-maturing varieties of blueberries, Chandler and Aurora, were added to the high tunnel and outside plots in 2008. Flowers were removed by hand to delay the production of blueberries until at least their third season of growth. A cedar and wire trellis support system was constructed for blackberries. Second-year plants developed fruit, but yields inside and outside were negligible, so data was not collected. Three additional varieties of raspberries, Jaclyn and Lauren (June-bearing) and Josephine (fall-bearing) were planted both inside and out. A cedar and T-post trellis was put in place for inside and outside raspberry plots. The Haygrove high tunnel is included on informal tours of the research farm for students and the public.
Research on romaine lettuce cultivars continued in response to interest in romaine production east of the Mississippi River, which would lower the cost of transporting lettuce to markets in the eastern United States. Seventeen romaine lettuce cultivars were seeded in the greenhouse on February 27, and transplanted to the field on April 4 with four replications. Plants were transplanted into raised beds with black plastic mulch and trickle irrigation. Ten plants from each cultivar and each replication were harvested and evaluated.
Work continued with the sweet sorghum breeding program, which is focused on developing improved varieties for sorghum syrup production. The University of Kentucky released the first ever sweet sorghum male-sterile hybrid, 'KN-Morris.'
Expected impact of New Crops research includes improved production techniques that will benefit organic growers. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007, and were expected to reach nearly $23.6 billion in 2008.
This research included projects on organic fruits. In the raspberry high tunnel study, field observations indicated that raspberries in the high tunnel had much lower levels of disease and insect pests and higher levels of beneficial insects than those in outside plots. The possibility of harvesting between 1,500 and 2,500 half pints from a 25-foot by 100-foot high tunnel indicates the earning potential of high tunnel raspberry production.
Because demand for organic small fruits has increased steadily over the past decade, improved production techniques will help growers take advantage of a growing market. The grape project will help growers reduce pesticide use in controlling Japanese beetle (JB). Concord vines suffered little JB defoliation, and weekly and biweekly spray regimes did little to increase yield. For Norton grapes, both spray regimes significantly increased yield compared to non-treated vines, but there was no difference between 7- and 14-day spray intervals. The data indicate that growers can reduce spray frequency by half without suffering economically. By August 7, most clusters on the varieties Foch, Jupiter, and St. Croix had been entirely consumed by GJB. Chambourcin, harvested on September 5, had 93 percent marketable grapes. Norton, the latest-ripening cultivar, was harvested September 15 and received no visible GJB damage. This project showed that GJB can destroy early ripening cultivars of grapes if sprays are not used, while cultivars that ripen late in the season suffer minimal damage.
In the romaine lettuce trial, all cultivars except Jericho had acceptable color, plant frame, and leaf texture. PIC 714, Green Forest, Ideal, and Green Towers were the highest-rated cultivars overall. A related spacing study showed that optimum spacing for the raised bed with plastic mulch and trickle irrigation system is between 9 and 12 inches. Romaine lettuce offers an opportunity for an early/short season crop for growers who want to extend their growing season.
Seed of the sweet sorghum hybrid 'KN-Morris' will be available from the Kentucky Foundation Seed Project for the 2009 growing season. The hybrid yields 25 percent more juice than other cultivars, resulting in more syrup. The lack of seed formation also means the crop experiences less lodging. Kentucky is one of eight states that produce about 90 percent of U.S. sorghum syrup. Sweet sorghum syrup produced in 2004 was worth more than $12 million, yet the current acreage is estimated to be just over one-half of Kentucky's potential. The average yield for sweet sorghum is 175 gallons per acre, but yields can go as high as 200 to 300 gallons per acre. With sorghum syrup selling for $20 to $25 per gallon, net profits of more than $2,000 per acre are possible with higher yields.
Hammons, D.L., Kurtural, S.K., and Potter, D.A. 2008. Impact of Japanese Beetle Defoliation on First-Season Crop Yield and Berry Quality. University of Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report PR-572: 15-16.
Hammons, D.L., Kurtural, S.K., and Potter, D.A. 2008. Phenological Resistance of Grapes to Green June Beetle Damage. University of Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report PR-572: 16.
Law, D., and Williams, M. 2008. Organic Small Fruit Production Using Haygrove Tunnels: Second-Year Update and Raspberry Production Yield Information. University of Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report PR-572: 28-30.
Montross, M.D., Pfeiffer, T.W., and Crofcheck, C.L. 2008. Cultural Practices Influencing Ethanol from Sweet Sorghum in Kentucky. 30th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals Program (abstract), New Orleans, Louisiana (Poster 1-18).
Spalding, D., and Coolong, T. 2008. Romaine Lettuce Spacing Study. University of Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Crops Research Report PR-572: 37-38.