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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Identify and establish the relative contribution of factors that limit sustainability of selected food production systems in the Northeast. 1.1 Determine the importance of soil management, plant disease, crop rotation, water management, and their interactions on soil biological, chemical, and physical properties; crop productivity and quality; and economic viability of food production systems. 1.2. Determine the relative impacts of conventional and alternative food production systems on natural resource quality including soil carbon sequestration, soil nitrogen cycling dynamics, and greenhouse gas emissions. 1.3. Determine the physical, chemical, and biological factors that impact manure-borne zoonotic pathogen ecology (i.e., survival, persistence, and transport) in organic and conventional vegetable production systems. 1.4. Quantify land availability and soil suitability for selected food production systems in the Northeast. 2: Develop production strategies and management practices that reduce constraints, increase productivity, and enhance sustainability of food production systems in the Northeast. 2.1. 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. 2.2. Develop attenuation practices that reduce and/or inactivate manure-borne zoonotic pathogens at critical control points to increase organic and conventional vegetable food safety/security at regional and national scales.

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 the constraints to potato system sustainability, in FY 2011 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. Demonstrated the role and utility of Brassica rotation crops for reducing disease and increasing yield in potato production. The use of effective disease-suppressive rotation crops can reduce crop losses, increase quality and productivity, and enhance sustainability of crop production systems. Assessing 10 years of field trials using Brassica rotation crops in the Northeast, ARS researchers at Orono, ME, determined how to best integrate these crops into potato rotations, including which crops to use, what diseases are affected, and how to implement and manage these crops. Yield was significantly improved in 52% of the trials, with increases up to 38%. Potato diseases (including black scurf, common scab, powdery scab, and verticillium wilt) were significantly reduced in a majority of the trials. This research demonstrated that Brassica rotation crops can improve disease management and productivity of potato cropping systems, providing better management options for potato growers, and has lead to substantial implementation of these disease-suppressive rotation crops in commercial production systems.

2. Developed new geospatial databases for assessing potato cropping and production patterns in the Northeast. Geospatial frameworks help resolve patterns and trends in production environments that may enable improvements in adaptive management strategies that enhance yield, profitability, and sustainability. ARS researchers in Orono, ME, used geospatial analyses to integrate multiple remotely-sensed crop, soil, and land use databases for 12 New England States and evaluate patterns of agricultural land use, crop rotations, and economic productivity. This research provided the first crop-soil suitability models developed for the New England states, resolved crop rotation patterns for potato, and facilitated evaluation of the benefits and economic impacts for select alternate crops. This information provided much more accurate assessments of potato production and cropping practices in relation to spatial aspects of soil and land use than previously available, and is useful for assessing management components and improving crop production and sustainability.

3. Demonstrated the effects of irrigation and cropping systems on soil organic matter composition and Phosphorous distribution. Soil organic matter (SOM) and different forms of Phosphorous (P) play important roles in soil fertility and sustainable crop production, but more information is needed regarding how these are affected by various management practices so farmers can manage them accordingly. ARS researchers at Orono, ME, using advanced techniques such as Elemental and Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectroscopic Analysis and sequential fractionation, evaluated the effects of different potato cropping systems and irrigation on SOM composition and soil P distribution over several years. Both rotation and irrigation significantly affected SOM and P distribution, but in different ways. This research improved our understanding of how cropping and water management practices affect OM and may be useful for developing improved management practices.

4. Demonstrated that high moisture and cover crops decrease the survival of human pathogen and microbial food contaminant E. coli 0157:H7 in soil. Understanding factors affecting the survival and dispersal of human pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 within agricultural fields is of the utmost important to the safety and security of agricultural food systems. ARS researchers at Orono, ME, evaluated the effect of water content and the organic cover crop crimson clover on the survival of E. coli 0157:H7 in greenhouse experiments. Results showed that both higher moisture levels and the presence of cover crops significantly reduced the survival of E. coli 0157:H7, indicating the potential for a combination of these factors to significantly reduce E. coli populations within the field environment. This research provided documentation of viable and readily implementable cultural approaches for reducing the potential for agricultural contamination by this important pathogen.

5. Provided new information on the composition and environmental management of animal manure. Animal manure is traditionally regarded as a valuable resource of plant nutrients. However, there is an increasing environmental concern associated with animal manure utilization due to high and locally concentrated volumes of manure produced in modern intensified animal production. Although considerable research has been conducted on environmental impacts and best management practices, the environmental chemistry of animal manure has not developed accordingly. An ARS researcher at Orono, ME, organized, edited, and wrote substantial portions of a new book that analyzes and interprets the basic knowledge and latest research on the environmental chemistry of animal manure. This book incorporates and summarizes all the latest information regarding characterization, modeling, and fate and transport of organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, and heavy metal compounds, as well as agricultural issues and environmental concerns.

6. Validated disease prediction models and survival potential of the late blight pathogen. Potato late blight and tuber blight is a devastating disease of potatoes and accounts for significant losses in potato crops. To improve disease management potential, ARS researchers at Orono, ME, assessed survival potential and factors conducive for disease outbreak, as well as methods to improve tuber blight prediction. We validated a tuber blight prediction model using data from field experiments in Michigan from 2000 to 2009. The regression model correctly predicted tuber blight incidence in 7 out of 9 years. Potential for late blight outbreak based on temperature and relative humidity was estimated to range from from 0 to 64%, and varied during the season. Enhanced tuber blight prediction coupled with more reliable disease outbreak probability determinations as outlined in this research can help optimize fungicide application and greatly enhance late blight management.

Review Publications
Olanya, O.M., Hakiza, J.J., Nelson, R.J., El-Bedewy, R., Namanda, S., Kakuhenzire, R., Wagoire, W.W., Imelda, K., Ngombe, B., Musoke, C., Ewell, P.T. 2010. Comparative assessment of pest management practices in potato production at farmer field schools. Food Security Journal. 2:327-341.

He, Z., Honeycutt, C.W., Olanya, O.M., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M. 2011. Soil test phosphorus and microbial biomass phosphorus in potato fields. International Journal of Food, Agriculture, and the Environment. 9(1):540-545.

Ohno, T., He, Z., Sleighter, R.L., Honeycutt, C.W., Hatcher, P.G. 2010. Ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry and indicator species analysis to identify marker components of soil- and plant biomass-derived organic matter fractions. Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. 44:8594-8600.

Nyankanga, R.O., Olanya, O.M., Ojiambo, P.S., Wien, H.C., Honeycutt, C.W., Kirk, W.W. 2011. Validation of a tuber blight (Phytophthora infestans) prediction model. Crop Protection Journal. 30:547-553.

He, Z., Honeycutt, C.W., Zhang, H. 2011. Elemental and fourier transform infrared spectroscopic analysis of water and pyrophosphate extracted soil organic matter. Soil Science. 176:183-189.

Waldrip, H.M., He, Z., Erich, S. 2011. Effects of poultry manure amendment on soil phosphorus fractions, phosphatase activity, and phosphorus uptake. Biology and Fertility of Soils. 47:407-418.

Larkin, R.P., Griffin, T.S., Honeycutt, C.W. 2010. Rotation and cover crop effects on soilborne potato diseases and soil microbial communities. Plant Disease. 94:1491-1502.

Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., Griffin, T.S., Olanya, O.M., Halloran, J.M., He, Z. 2010. Effects of different potato cropping system approaches and water management on soilborne diseases and soil microbial communities. Phytopathology. 101:58-67.

Hunt, J.F., Honeycutt, C.W., Yarborough, D. 2010. Effect of pine-bark mulch on lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) water demand. International Journal of Fruit Science. 10:390-415.

Frantz, J., Ling, P. 2011. Growth, partitioning, and nutrient and carbohydrate concentration of Petunia x hybrid Vilm. are influenced by altering light, CO2, and fertility. HortScience. 46:228-235.

He, Z. 2011. Environmental chemistry of animal manure. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers. 459 p.

Zhang, M., He, Z., Zhao, A., Zhang, H., Endale, D.M., Schomberg, H.H. 2011. Water extractable soil organic carbon and nitrogen affected by tillage and manure application. Soil Science. 176:307-312.

Zellner, W., Frantz, J., Leisner, S. 2011. Silicon delays tobacco Ringspot virus systemic symptoms in Nicotiana tabacum. Journal of Plant Pathology. 168(15):1866-1869. DOI:10.1016/j.jplph.2011.04.002.

Rothrock Jr, M.J., Vanotti, M.B., Szogi, A.A. 2011. Long-term preservation of Anammox bacteria. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jplph.2011.04.002.

Larkin, R.P., Honeycutt, C.W., Olanya, O.M. 2011. Management of Verticillium wilt of potato with disease-suppressive green manures and as affected by previous cropping history. Plant Disease. 95:568-576.

Last Modified: 06/24/2017
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