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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Orono, Maine » New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Research Project #425507

Research Project: Improved Crop Production Systems for the Northeast

Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

2014 Annual Report

1: Develop crop and cultural management practices to improve crop productivity and economic viability, and reduce diseases for conventional and organic food production systems in the Northeast. 1.1. Develop management practices and cropping systems that maintain or improve productivity and market quality, reduce soilborne and foliar diseases, reduce income variability and economic risk, and improve profitability and competitiveness for potato-based production systems. 1.2. Develop crop, biological, and cultural management practices to improve crop productivity, reduce diseases, and improve economic viability for conventional and organic vegetable production systems. 1.3. Determine activity, mechanisms of action, and improved means of implementation of selected biological and cultural practices for enhanced efficacy, utilization, and sustainability.

Our approach to improving crop productivity and enhancing economic viability for food production systems in the Northeast is through the development of improved biological and cultural management practices and cropping systems. There are many practices and amendments that have been previously identified, in ours and others research, as providing beneficial responses for these production systems. However, much research is still needed to determine the best ways to utilize and implement these practices in production agriculture. In our own previous research, through long-term cropping systems studies, we determined the areas that are the most crucial constraints to productivity in potato production systems, as well as some factors that were less important. Critical constraints were water availability, soil quality, and disease pressure, whereas previously studied criteria such as fertility and soil physical properties (which has already been well-worked out) were not critical factors. This proposed research is building directly on this previous research, further developing and refining management practices that have shown the greatest potential for reducing soilborne diseases, enhancing soil quality, and improving crop yields in a sustainable manner. Management practices of particular importance include the use of disease-suppressive rotation crops, cover crops, green manures, and biological control organisms. Special emphasis will be placed on the biological processes involved and the role of soil microbial communities in developing disease-suppressive, yield-enhancing cropping systems.

Progress Report
A series of research studies are being established with the goal of developing crop and cultural management practices to improve crop productivity and economic viability, and reduce diseases for conventional and organic food production systems in the Northeast. Specifically, in FY14, a new cropping systems study for potato production was established in Presque Isle, ME that builds on our previous cropping systems research by incorporating the principles and practices that have been proven successful previously, and putting them into functional rotation systems that can be utilized by growers for improved productivity and disease control. In these trials, new 3-yr rotations focusing on the management goals of soil conservation (through reduced tillage, cover crops), soil improvement (through compost amendment), and disease suppression (through use of disease-suppressive rotations, cover crops, and biological control) are being evaluated in conjunction with a standard 2-yr rotation and a non-rotation control for all aspects of plant growth and crop productivity, tuber diseases, soilborne and foliar diseases, soil microbial community characteristics, and economic viability. Additional studies that address the implementation of improved crop management and disease suppression in organic vegetable production are being established in trials at Newport, ME, in which different cover crop and disease-suppressive rotations are being evaluated in conjunction with organic legume, cucurbit, and solanaceous vegetable crops. Other component studies assessing biological control and the mechanisms of action for control of soilborne diseases are ongoing or have been established this FY. Currently, the field season is ongoing and first year results will be available soon. Thus, studies are now in place that will provide the information needed to improve crop production and sustainability for potato and organic vegetable production, which can lead to improved agricultural viability and rural economic vitality in the Northeast.


Review Publications
Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M. 2014. Management effects of disease-suppressive rotation crops on potato yield and soilborne disease and their economic implications in potato production. American Journal of Potato Research.
Bernard, E., Larkin, R.P., Tavantzis, S., Erich, M.S., Alyokhin, A., Gross, S. 2013. Rapeseed rotation, compost and biocontrol amendments reduce soilborne diseases and increase tuber yield in conventional and organic potato production systems. Plant and Soil. 374:611-627.
Olanya, O.M., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M., He, Z. 2014. Relationships of crop and soil management systems to meteorological variables and potato diseases on a Russet burbank cultivar. Journal of Agricultural Meteorology of Japan. 70(2):91-104.