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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.
2009 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 in Lexington, the UK College of Agriculture Field Day in Princeton, the Kentucky Landscape Industries Field Day in Springfield, and the Wheat Science Field Day in Christian County. Seven new crop profiles were developed in 2009, while 37 crop profiles were updated.
In the sweet sorghum project, 50 F5:6 sweet sorghum lines were tested in replicated plots at Lexington. Height, lodging, heading date, brix (sugar concentration) and weight were measured. Experimental lines were identified that exceeded the check varieties Dale and Simon in brix and stalk weight. 816 F4:5 lines were grown in a selection nursery. These consisted of two lines from each of 408 F4 families. Families were evaluated for earliness, lodging, and leaf and stem diseases. One plant was harvested from the better of the two F4:5 lines from the best 75 families.
In the sweet sorghum for ethanol project, samples of sweet sorghum were collected to evaluate their potential ethanol production. Juice yield and sugar concentration, biomass yield, and starch yield were measured from plant maturity to the killing frost. A single roll juicer was used that extracted only two-thirds of the soluble sugar.
In the soft winter wheat project, a fungicide- versus non-fungicide-treated evaluation of fusarium head blight (FSB)-inoculated wheat varieties was conducted at two locations. Yield data were collected and analyzed, but milling and baking quality data are not yet available. Also, a naturally FHB-infected variety trial was conducted in Logan County. Yield, milling and baking quality data have been collected and analyzed. Although fungicides were not used, the effect of FHB was removed by severe cleaning of the grain.
In the organic grain crop project, experiments were conducted comparing three organic grain cropping systems (corn following 18 months of orchard grass/red clover mixed forage; corn following hairy vetch, rotated with soybean following winter rye; and corn following winter wheat and double crop soybean).
In the organic apple orchard project, organic sprays used to control diseases included streptomycin and fixed copper to control fire blight, sulfur to control sooty blotch, flyspeck, and powdery mildew, Kaligreen (potassium bicarbonate) to control powdery mildew, and fixed copper to control rust diseases. Organic sprays used for insect control included Surround (kaolin clay) to control plum curculio, Neem and dormant oil to control mites and aphids, and Entrust (spinosad) to control leaf rollers, leaf hoppers, and apple maggot. Pheromone traps were used to control codling moth. Bagging treatments, including Japanese bags, deli bags, and nylon footies were tested in 2009 as physical barriers against insects and diseases.
2009 was the first year for sales of KN Morris, the male sterile sweet sorghum hybrid released under this project by the University of Kentucky and USDA Lincoln, NE. In February 2009, the superior sorghum syrup award was presented at the National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association meeting to a grower whose syrup was made from KN Morris. The hybrid yields 25 percent more juice than other cultivars, and lack of seed formation leads to less lodging. Net profits of more than $2,000 per acre are possible with sweet sorghum.
In the sweet sorghum for ethanol project, a more efficient extraction system similar to what is used by the sugar cane industry could have resulted in production of 530 to 700 gallons per acre of ethanol at one site. The potential ethanol yield varied from 420 to 700 gallons per acre from samples taken from a second, larger site. The larger field size likely resulted in greater variability between sampling dates. The maximum potential ethanol yield from corn would be no higher than 420 gallons per acre. The main disadvantage of sweet sorghum for ethanol production is the short shelf life of the juice, due to high sugar content. But the addition of yeast under non-sterile conditions allowed for 95% of the sugar to be converted to ethanol. Fermenting the juice into ethanol on-farm appears to be feasible; however, methods to convert the ethanol into a more concentrated form would be required to reduce storage and transportation costs. And the development of equipment for large-scale harvest of sweet sorghum is required. If starch and cellulosic ethanol are considered, sweet sorghum would likely produce from 50 to 100% more ethanol per acre than corn grain and stover.
In the wheat project, while there was a slight reduction in gluten strength associated with FHB infection, it did not significantly affect genotypic rank for this trait. Strong gluten types (suitable for crackers in the soft wheat region) were easily identified under epidemic conditions. This information will be added to the growing body of evidence that suggests it is possible to breed FHB-resistant wheat varieties with the desirable milling and baking traits. The impact will be on farmers growing the varieties and millers accepting them.
In the organic grain project, the best results to date have been with corn, although when premiums for organic grains are factored in, soybean and wheat have also been competitive. The three organic cropping systems studied appear to result in differing corn productivity, and to require different management strategies.
In the organic apple orchard project, Japanese bags and deli bags provided some level of control against rust, powdery mildew, fungal diseases, and codling moth. Nylon footies had higher incidence of fungal diseases than other treatments. In 2009, its third year, the orchard was allowed to bear fruit. Only preliminary data was obtained from the fruit as abnormally high rainfall led to significant disease problems. Fire blight, cedar apple rust, sooty blotch, and flyspeck were the most significant diseases present. The most significant insect pests included plum curculio, codling moth, and stinkbug.
Grabau, L.J., Oad, F.C., and Harris, L.C. 2009. Comparisons of organic grain cropping systems in Kentucky. Electronic conference proceedings (abstract), American Society of Agronomy Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA. November, 2009.
McMaine, J., Suarez, A., and Grabau, L.J. 2009. Bokashi as an organic fertilizer alternative for winter wheat. Electronic conference proceedings (abstract), American Society of Agronomy Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA. November, 2009.
Souza, E., Mundell, N., Sarti, D., Balut, A., Dong, Y., and Van Sanford, D. 2009. Can Host Plant Resistance Protect the Quality of Wheat from Fusarium Head Blight Page 154 in Proceedings of the 2009 National Fusarium Head Blight Forum, Orlando, FL.