1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1) To identify and establish the relative contribution of factors that limit potato system sustainability in the Northeast, and 2) to develop production strategies and management practices that reduce constraints, increase productivity, and enhance sustainability of potato and other production systems in the Northeast.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Research will be conducted to 1) identify the constraints to potato system sustainability and 2) develop practices and management strategies to overcome or reduce those constraints. Limitations to sustainability will be identified through interdisciplinary evaluation of cropping 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; profitability and risk; nutrient availability; and their interactions. Simultaneously, research will be conducted to overcome or reduce these limitations through enhanced plant disease 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 potato 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. No where is this more evident than with the potato industry, where land used for 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 the constraints to potato system sustainability, we evaluated in FY 2009 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; plant diseases; profitability and risk; nutrient availability; 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.
1. Increased Productivity of Potato Systems by Improving Soils. Potato yield in the Northeast has remained stagnant for over 50 years, despite increased inputs of pesticides, nutrients, and water. We showed that by improving soil quality, potato plants developed more leaf area with greater and longer lasting photosynthetic potential, thereby increasing yield by as much as 50%. Results showed that management practices to improve soils can substitute for supplemental irrigation in the cool, humid Northeast. This provides growers with new technology that conserves water and makes them more competitive in the global economy.
2. Suppressed Plant Diseases with Rotation Crops. Numerous soilborne diseases are a persistent problem in potato production. We evaluated several rotation crops having biofumigation potential for their impacts on soilborne diseases when managed as full season, green manure, or fall cover crops. Canola and rapeseed rotations reduced certain soilborne diseases by 30-80%. This research provides growers with specific rotations useful for naturally controlling soilborne diseases.
3. Provided Technology for Improving Water Use Efficiency in Blueberry Production. Blueberry is one of the most healthful fruits for human nutrition, and over 40% of lowbush blueberries produced in North America are grown in Maine. We combined meteorological data with several years of field lysimeter measurements to calculate crop coefficients for irrigated blueberry. This allows growers to determine crop water use from readily available meteorological data alone, substantially increasing their ability to improve water use efficiency for irrigated blueberry production.
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Research accomplishments from this project will benefit small farms, because approximately 26,560 farms in the New England Region (94%) are classified as small farms (2002 Census of Agriculture).