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 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 2010 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 initiated 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.
1. Management Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Potato Production Systems. Very little is known about the greenhouse gas emissions in potato production systems. ARS scientists (at Orono, ME) quantified carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from Status Quo, Soil Conserving, and Soil Improving potato-based cropping systems that are specifically designed to contribute to a nationally coordinated research project termed ‘GRACENet’. The Soil Improving system resulted in the highest cumulative CO2 emissions, yet the lowest cumulative N2O emissions. Spikes in both CO2 and N2O appeared associated with soil disturbance during the potato “hilling” operation. This research showed that changes in tillage practice, crop rotation, and soil amendment can be used to alter daily and seasonal greenhouse gas emissions from soils in potato production.
2. Disease-Suppressive Rotation Crops may reduce Verticillium Wilt. Verticillium wilt is a persistent soilborne disease problem that becomes particularly important after many years of potato production. ARS scientists (at Orono, ME) evaluated potential disease-suppressive rotation crops for their ability to reduce wilt problems in a severely infested potato field. Results showed that biofumigation crops, such as mustard green manures, could reduce wilt by about 25%, but that multiple years of disease-suppressive crop remediation were needed to maintain low disease levels. This research provides growers with specific information on rotations useful for naturally controlling this important disease, as well as how to best integrate these rotations into their production system.
3. Predicting Late Blight on Potato. Late Blight accounts for significant losses of potato in both field and storage environments; however, few models are currently available for predicting Late Blight on tubers. ARS scientists (at Orono, ME) evaluated a tuber blight prediction model, developed in New York, with weather and plant growth data from a field site. The model correctly predicted tuber blight incidence in 7 out of 9 years. This has the potential to improve the accuracy of Late Blight prediction on potato tubers, thereby enhancing disease management in both field and storage environments.
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).
He, Z., Honeycutt, C.W., Griffin, T.S., Larkin, R.P., Olanya, O.M., Halloran, J.M. 2010. Increases of soil phosphatase and urease activities in potato fields by cropping rotation practices. Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment. 8:1112-1117.