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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING SUSTAINABILITY OF FOOD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN THE NORTHEAST

Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Quantify land availability and soil suitability for selected food production systems in the Northeast.

2. Develop management practices that maintain or improve productivity and market quality, reduce soilborne and foliar diseases, reduce income variability and economic risk, and improve profitability and competitiveness.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Research will be conducted to.
1)identify the constraints to sustainability of selected food production systems and.
2)develop practices and management strategies to overcome or reduce those constraints. Limitations to sustainability will be identified through interdisciplinary evaluation of selected food production systems designed and managed as a) Status Quo, b) Soil Conserving, c) Soil Improving, and d) Pest Suppressive Systems under both irrigated and rainfed management. Each system will be evaluated for its impacts on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties; plant growth; plant diseases; human pathogens; profitability and risk; nutrient availability; and their interactions. Simultaneously, research will be conducted to overcome or reduce these limitations through enhanced plant disease control, manure-borne zoonotic pathogen control, management options to increase productivity and improve economic viability, and by incorporating bioenergy crops into the cropping systems. The sustainability of each system and alternative management practice will be evaluated and transferred to growers in a decision support system through multiple avenues, including distribution on compact disks, hands-on demonstration at grower meetings, and on-farm trials. The research and technology transfer endeavors proposed in this project are expected to enhance food system sustainability, thereby improving agricultural viability and rural economic vitality in the Northeast.


3.Progress Report:
Agricultural production in the New England Region has seriously declined in recent years. Nowhere is this more evident than with the potato industry, where potato production has decreased by over 100,000 acres during a 30 year period. Sustainable cropping systems and management practices are needed to improve agricultural viability and rural economic vitality in this region. To identify constraints to potato system sustainability, in FY 2012 we continued evaluations of Status Quo, Soil Conserving, Soil Improving, and Disease Suppressive Systems under both irrigated and rainfed management for their impacts on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties; plant growth and yield; plant diseases; plant nutrient availability and uptake; and their interactions. To develop management practices to reduce these constraints, we evaluated several crop rotations and amendments to enhance plant disease control, as well as different soil and crop management options to increase productivity and improve economic viability. Research was also continued to quantify our capacity to produce food in the Eastern Seaboard Region from VA to ME. Geographic Information Systems of soils and land-use were developed and linked for the New England Region to provide the framework for this regional food systems evaluation.


4.Accomplishments
1. Disease-suppressive cropping system reduces soilborne diseases, increases tuber yield, and enhances sustainability for potato production. Soilborne diseases and declining productivity over time are serious problems for potato production in the Northeast. In extended field studies of potato cropping systems focused on the goals of soil conservation, soil improvement, and disease suppression, ARS researchers at Orono, Maine determined that a disease-suppressive cropping system, which utilizes Brassica and other rotation and cover crops in a 3-yr rotation, maintained low disease levels and high relative yields through multiple crop rotation cycles (over 8 years), with results significantly better than other rotations tested, under both irrigated and rainfed conditions. Over time, other systems, such as a standard 2-yr small grain-potato rotation and continuous potato, broke down to produce high disease levels and declining yield. This research demonstrated that the use of effective disease-suppressive rotation crops can reduce crop losses, increase quality and productivity, and enhance sustainability of crop production systems, and that long-term assessments are needed to fully determine the effects of management practices over time.

2. Developed new geospatial databases for assessing food cropping and production patterns in the Northeast. Development of effective regional food systems holds much potential for improving health, nutrition, and poverty problems. But before progress can be made towards improving the access, affordability, and appropriateness of locally-produced food in the Northeast, better tools are needed for the analysis and assessment of current and future food production capacity within the region. In cooperation with a team of University researchers and ARS researchers from Beltsville, MD, ARS researchers from Orono, Maine developed a 13-state collection of geodatabases that brings together available spatial information on cropping systems and crop production, soils, land use and quality, and water resources throughout the entire region. These mapping products provide integrated information on past and present farmland extents and productivity, and are being used with forecasting models for improving future farm and crop productivity. Through integration of multiple layers of useful data in these geodatabases, this work provides the structural basis and framework for achieving larger project goals and will be used to help improve the access and affordability of locally-produced food for the northeast region.


Review Publications
Defauw, S.L., He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Mansour, S. 2012. Sustainable potato production and global food security. In: He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., editors. Sustainable potato production: global case studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer. p. 3-19.

He, Z., Honeycutt, C., Olanya, O.M., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M., Frantz, J. 2012. Comparison of soil phosphorus status and organic matter composition in potato fields with different crop rotation systems. In: He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., editors. Sustainable Potato Production: Global Case Studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer. 61-79.

Frantz, J., Larkin, R.P., Trusty, G.M., Honeycutt, C., He, Z., Olanya, O.M., Halloran, J.M. 2012. Comparing modeled productivity to historical data in New England potato production systems. In: He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., editors. Sustainable Potato Production: Global Case Studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer. p. 81-85.

Fortuna, A., Honeycutt, C.W., Vandemark, G.J., Griffin, T.S., Larkin, R.P., He, Z., Wienhold, B.J., Sistani, K.R., Albrecht, S.L., Woodbury, B.L., Torbert III, H.A., Powell, J.M., Hubbard, R.K., Eigenberg, R.A., Wright, R.J., Allredge, R.J. 2012. Links among nitrification, nitrifier communities and edaphic properties in contrasting soils receiving dairy slurry. Journal of Environmental Quality. 41:262-272.

Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., Olanya, O.M., Halloran, J.M., He, Z. 2012. Impacts of crop rotation and irrigation on soilborne diseases and soil microbial communities. In: He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., editors. Sustainable potato production: global case studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer. p. 23-41.

Olanya, O.M., Honeycutt, C., He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M., Frantz, J. 2012. Early and late blight potential on Russet Burbank potato as affected by microclimate, cropping systems and irrigation management in North-eastern United States. In: He, Z., Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., editors. Sustainable Potato Production: Global Case Studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer. 43-60.

Last Modified: 4/21/2014
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