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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Food Quality Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429100

Research Project: Effects of Muskmelon Cultivar and Cover Crops on Soil Biodiversity, and Plant and Human Disease Suppression During Organic Production

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-43440-005-04-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 1, 2015
End Date: Aug 31, 2018

Objective:
To determine the effects of organic management practices on the soil bacterial profile, plant disease onset and development, and the quality and shelf life of muskmelons. USDA-ARS will be responsible for the evaluation of sensory attributes of muskmelons produced under the planned organic management practices. The University of Maryland (Cooperator) will be responsible for overall project management, growing and harvesting muskmelons, and analyzing the soil microbial community and the performance of muskmelon crops under various testing conditions.

Approach:
Approaches involved include: 1) Assess the effects of three no-till cover crop systems (hairy vetch, clover + rye, and hairy vetch + rye) and bare ground in an organic and in a transitioning muskmelon farm system at two locations on soil bacterial communities and disease (anthracnose, gummy stem blight, Alternaria leaf blight, and bacterial wilt), and on pest (striped cucumber beetle) incidence and severity; 2) Evaluate muskmelon cultivars and cultural practices as management options in an organic and in a transition farm system at two locations on the East Coast; and 3) Evaluate the best muskmelon production system from previous field experiments in years 1 and 2, integrating cover crop, cultivar and spray program in an organic and in a transitional farm system. Methodologies will include conventional and organic growing practices, cultural and molecular methods for soil bacteria community analysis, and sensory and instrumental analysis of quality and consumer preference of harvested melons.