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New Crop Opportunities, Phase IX
Houtz, R., D. Van Sanford, C. Dillon
Department of Horticulture
Tobacco has played a major role in Kentucky's economy, and many of Kentucky's family farms have been highly dependent upon tobacco as a primary source of income. But in 2007, Kentucky tobacco cash receipts totaled approximately $300 million, down from $674 million in 2000. Many of Kentucky's farms are small, averaging 163 acres, well below the U.S. average of 449 acres. Of the 84,000 farms in Kentucky in 2006, 63 percent had sales of less than $10,000 per year.
As income from tobacco has declined, interest in alternative crops, including horticultural enterprises, has risen dramatically. This interest continues to increase because of the tobacco quota buyout. Horticultural crops offer Kentucky growers potential alternatives, as the state trails neighboring states Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, and Virginia in produce and nursery crop acreage. A number of farms have successfully initiated commercial vegetable enterprises. Other farms are seeing the potential success of horticultural crops, but most lack the technical knowledge and management skills for immediate success with the required production/marketing systems.
Kentucky's grain crop producers are actively searching for ways to improve the market value of the crops they grow. An emphasis on bioenergy has increased the value of corn, and research is needed to determine which hybrids are best for ethanol production. Research is also needed to look at potential energy production utilizing other crops, including switchgrass. Other potential specialty grain types include green vegetable soybean and organic corn, wheat, and soybeans. Twelve horticulture and specialty grains projects will be conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky as part of this overall New Crop Opportunities, KY, project. The New Crop Opportunities Center will feature a Web site for 24-hour access to information on new crops for Kentucky, including the horticultural and specialty grains crops that are the focus of the Center's research. Center staff will answer questions from Extension agents and farmers, and will distribute new crop information at field days and conferences. The Center will facilitate the packaging of information from its field research and other sources for dissemination. The expected outcomes/impacts of this project will be an increase in knowledge among Kentucky farmers and county extension agents about production and marketing systems for a variety of new crops. This increase in knowledge should allow farmers to make informed decisions about which new crops to try, and how to market those crops, based on information available on the Center's specific research projects, as well as through its Crop and Marketing Profiles. The anticipated benefits include greater profitability for Kentucky's farmers as they successfully transition to a variety of crops that are new to them.
2010 Project Description
This project focuses on applied research to develop protocols for producing and marketing horticultural crops and specialty grains. Products include six new and 35 revised Crop Profiles, which provide information on marketing, production, and profit potential. Results and other information are disseminated via the New Crop Opportunities Center Web site at www.uky.edu/ag/newcrops. Information has been disseminated at: the UK Research and Education Center (Princeton) Field Day; the Horticulture Research Farm Field Day; the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting (Lexington); a workshop at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, as well as producer meetings throughout the state. Information was in the form of presentations, research reports, and crop profiles. The audience included farmers and extension agents.
In the first year of an irrigation systems project in 2008, tomato, blueberry and blackberry plots were established to examine the effects of pulsing irrigation on yield and fruit quality. Because fruit quality was expected to be affected the year following the initiation of the study, yield data was not taken for blackberries in 2008. In 2009, the study was doubled in size and modified using a completely automated system. Several outreach efforts associated with this project have been successful, including featuring the project at multiple field days and county extension meetings during the winter months.
The first field season in 2008 of a project involving an organic production system to control cucumber beetles in cucurbits focused on using row covers over extended periods of time with bumblebees as the pollinators. A control and typical uncovered and covered organic production practices were used as a comparison to longer row covered production methods. Aphids caused extensive damage to the extended row covered plots, making comparisons difficult. In 2009, in addition to the control and typical uncovered and covered plots, some plots had fabric covers reinstalled after pollination until harvest, while other plots utilized open-ended covers. The research results were explained to numerous groups visiting the plots, as well as in a presentation at the Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting in January 2010.
In a hydrangea project, various cultivars were planted in containers and grown in a high tunnel in 2008. These container grown plants are being treated with a range of fertilizer treatments for color manipulation. In the fall of 2009, a select number of hydrangea plants were removed from the high tunnels. New cultivars, not previously grown in the tunnels, were planted in the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010.
In an organic grain cropping systems project, two primary projects were conducted from June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010. The first involved three organic grain cropping systems. The second project tested organic no-till corn production systems.
In another project evaluating corn hybrids for ethanol production, 28 varieties were planted at four locations in 2009. In a novel soybeans project, 11 varieties were planted at five locations in 2009.
In the irrigation project, data in 2009 for tomato indicated that water usage could be reduced significantly without yield or quality being diminished. Blackberry and blueberry data showed that the pulsing system utilized slightly more water than a conventional system, which may limit its effectiveness on these crops. The success of the system on tomato led to a successful grant being funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to determine and demonstrate the positive benefits of pulse irrigation on crop water use and nutrient leaching. This grant includes two additional plots on the Horticulture Research Farm and four on-farm demonstration sites throughout the state. This project has led to a reevaluation of irrigation in Kentucky and will lead to new recommendations for growers resulting in a cost savings to them and a reduction in water usage in vegetable crops.
The 2009 Organic Industry Survey showed sales of organic foods jumped almost 16% in 2008, totaling $22.9 billion. Phase IX research includes projects on organic production of cucurbits and grains. Expected impact of the organic projects includes improved organic production techniques. Growing organic muskmelon is challenging because cucumber beetles spread Erwinia tracheiphila bacteria, which can cause severe damage. In 2009, this research achieved positive results with plots where fabric covers were reinstalled after pollination until harvest, and with open-end covered plots. The results from the first two years were used in a successful USDA grant proposal for continued study with Iowa State and Pennsylvania State Universities.
In the hydrangea project, no data was taken on the new cultivars during the establishment phase. Data is being taken on bloom production of established plants.
Results from the first organic grain crops study showed corn yields to be similar to the average of the conventional hybrid performance trials conducted on the same farm. Soybean yields have been somewhat more variable, generally lower than conventional comparisons. On the other hand, wheat yields ranged from higher to similar to lower than conventional comparisons. Results from the second study will soon be compiled as a graduate student's M.S. thesis, and have shown that hairy vetch was a better prior cover crop for no-till corn than was winter rye, in part due to higher levels of available N in soils. A preliminary test of no-till organic soybean showed that rye residue was very effective in weed suppression as compared with a plowed organic check.
In the corn for ethanol project, Gateway 7811 was the highest yielding variety at 233.7 bushels per acre, while LG SEEDS LG 2641VT3 produced the most gallons of ethanol per acre of the 28 varieties tested with 621.1. LG SEEDS LG 2641VT3 did not differ significantly in terms of yield from Gateway 7811 (227.9 bu/ac). IA3041 (low linolenic) at 70.9 bushels per acre was the highest yielding novel soybean variety in maturity groups II and III. KS4607 (high protein) had the highest yield among maturity group late IV at 66.0.
Coolong, T., Strang, J., Lentz, A., Warner, R., Hoffman, O., and Wilhoit, J. 2009. The Effects of Pulsing Drip Irrigation on Tomato Yield and Quality in Kentucky. University of Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Research Report PR-603: 39-40.
Frey, J., Suarez, A., and Grabau, L.J. 2009. Weed control in no-till organic soybean. Agronomy Abstracts, Annual Meeting, American Society of Agronomy, Pittsburgh, PA.
Ghosheh, H.Z., and Grabau, L.J. 2009. Enhancing sustainability of farming systems by integrating crop and animal production activities: Easier said than done. Agronomy Abstracts, Annual Meeting, American Society of Agronomy, Pittsburgh, PA.
Grabau, L.J., Oad, F.C., and Harris, L.C. 2009. Comparisons of organic grain cropping systems in Kentucky. Agronomy Abstracts, Annual Meeting, American Society of Agronomy, Pittsburgh, PA.
Lacefield, E., and Kalberg, K. 2009. 2009 Kentucky Soybean Performance Tests, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Progress Report, PR-588. http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/pr/pr588/pr588.pdf
McMaine, J., Suarez, A., and Grabau, L.J. 2009. Bokashi as an organic fertilizer alternative for winter wheat. Agronomy Abstracts, Annual Meeting, American Society of Agronomy, Pittsburgh, PA.
Pearce, W.L., Curd, R.W., and Lee, C. 2009. 2009 Kentucky Hybrid Corn Performance Test, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Progress Report, PR-587. http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/pr/pr587/pr587.pdf