Project Number: 8080-21000-029-10-N
Project Type: Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Sep 1, 2017
End Date: Aug 31, 2022
The objective of this project is to develop integrated research and technology to support infrastructure for small, rural farms in West Virginia (WV) and across the Appalachian region. Poverty in the Appalachian region remains high as rural economies continue to erode and businesses flee. Given the abundance of available land and water, rural agricultural development (particularly fruit crops) offers great promise to help alleviate this situation. However, rural farms across the US continue to suffer from poor profitability and a lack of access to modern technologies. The West Virginia Military Authority (WVMA) has recently embarked a large scale project called 'Patriot Guardens' (PG) that was designed to jump start fruit agriculture in WV by creating novel orchard systems on reclaimed mine land in partnership with regional growers. PG is working with veterans, farmers, and businesses throughout the mid-Atlantic region to help build the necessary infrastructure and markets for WV grown fruit products. The Appalachian Fruit Research Station (AFRS) has developed a number of innovative technologies and new fruit varieties that could help improve small, rural farm profitability through the development of high value niche markets and reduced production costs. It is the goal of this project to establish a partnership that will test, adapt, and deliver USDA-ARS technologies and germplasm directly to rural farms in the Appalachia and provide the necessary knowledge and training to ensure successful deployment. The long term goals are to promote economic development, increase access to fresh fruits within impoverished areas in the Appalachia, and strengthen US agriculture by better leveraging available land and water resources which are currently underutilized.
PG is currently on track to plant nearly 100,000 apple trees over the next three years on selected reclaimed mine sites, primarily within Muddelty, WV. PG is also building a state-of-the-art greenhouse and high tunnels for the production of various fruit and vegetable crops. These facilities will include building space, equipment, and staff to carry out research and development projects as well as a visitor center. These facilities will provide a unique opportunity for product development and testing coupled with outreach, education, and market development. AFRS has developed a suite of fruit tree varieties that are uniquely adapted to the mid-Atlantic climate and have high value traits. These include super sweet peaches and nectarines with superior flavor, high quality pear varieties resistant to fire blight (a disease which has all but eliminated pear production on the East Coast), a unique locally adapted kiwi variety, and peaches and nectarines with novel tree architectures that enable high density production. In addition, AFRS has developed novel horticultural technologies for berry fruit production, insect pest control, and safe, low cost methods for the control of post-harvest diseases. AFRS scientists and staff will work directly with PG staff to test and develop new germplasm and technologies for practical application on rural farms, identify market opportunities, and participate in education and training activities within the Appalachian region.