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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Development of Grafting Technology to Improve Sustainability and Competitiveness of the U.S. Fruiting Vegetable Industry

Location: Subtropical Plant Pathology Research

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. To optimize grafting technologies to reduce costs of producing and distributing grafted seedlings and to make the technology readily available to U.S. open-field producers.

2. To integrate discovery-based, applied and on-farm research to optimize field production outcomes.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Growers of tomatoes and melons currently face many environmental, technical and market forces that demand innovative solutions to overcome constraints or to expand into emerging markets. For example, much of the fruiting vegetable industry, particularly in the southern production regions, has relied on fumigation as the primary soilborne pest management tactic. In contrast, emerging markets include extended season production using high tunnels, organic and specialty varieties, increased immigration, with an associated demand for fresh vegetables, and a general heightened awareness of health benefits with fresh vegetable consumption. Host genetics, if properly developed and deployed, offers sustainable mechanisms to manage soilborne pests and optimize productivity. By uncoupling root genetics from scion genetics through grafting, growers can produce superior varieties to meet market needs or rapidly adapt to new market conditions, yet choose site-specific rootstock solutions to soilborne pests and farming systems.


3.Progress Report:

This research is related to inhouse project objective 3. Identify combinations of pest control tactics that interact synergistically to improve pest control, are practical to implement, and will minimize environmental disruption. Research activities will focus on identifying combinations of pest control tactics that produce synergistic effects and minimize disruption to conventional crop production practices.

The goal of this cooperative project is to mitigate limitations of grafted seedlings for U.S. open-field vegetable production to eliminate or reduce methyl bromide use for controlling soil-borne pests. During this reporting period, initial field experiments were conducted in Florida, in cooperation with commercial growers, including a field experiment evaluating grafted heirloom tomato production, performed in cooperation with an organic grower in St. Lucie, County FL. Also microplot, greenhouse, and growth chamber experiments were conducted to evaluate grafting techniques, virus resistance, and nematode susceptibility, and data was collected and is being analyzed. Additional field trials were designed and scheduled for Fall 2012, in cooperation with organic and sustainable growers in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. Rootstock trials were planted at two sites which included trials of 16-18 rootstocks under conventional and organic culture. Most of the rootstocks used were commercially available. USDA, ARS researchers are active in Executive and Advisory Team meetings, and commodity (tomato and cucurbit) Working Groups. Numerous conference calls (2/27, 3/13, 3/27, 4/19, 4/23, and 6/21) have been attended to coordinate Advisory Team, Executive Team, and Working Group activities, and an informational webinar was led by cooperators at North Carolina State University on 4/26. In addition, the ARS PI was invited to give a symposium presentation on grafting for nematode control at the 2012 Annual Phytopathological Society Meeting, and members of the research team are actively involved in planning a symposium and stakeholder workshop at the Annual International Conference for Methyl Bromide Alternatives.


Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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