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Archive | January, 2014

Commercial Organic Grafted Tomato Production

TomatoCommercial organic tomato production is lucrative but challenging. Marketable fruit can bring a good price but yield is reduced by crop disease and insect pressure, drought and flooding, non-optimal nutrient supplies and other factors. Grafted tomato plants can be less susceptible to some of these stresses, particularly certain nematodes and soilborne diseases. There is also evidence that grafted tomato plants tolerate unwanted extremes in soil moisture, low soil fertility and high soil salinity levels more effectively than ungrafted plants.

Grafting creates a direct, physical and one-time ‘hybrid’ plant with traits of the rootstock and scion varieties it contains. Rootstock and scion variety selection is the first step in using grafted tomato plants and the selection should be done very carefully based on traits that are important to you on your farm. Learn more about how thousands of combinations affect production outcomes and what Ohio State University is researching in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Pigs on Probiotics

Probiotics may help fight antimicrobial resistance.

Piglets fed probiotic Enterococcus faecium showed reduced numbers of potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli strains in their intestines, according to a team of German researchers. The research is important, because in 2006 the European Union prohibited the feeding of antibiotics to livestock as growth promoters. Therefore, the research team sought to investigate whether probiotics could substitute for antibiotics, by reducing pathogen populations in the intestines, says Carmen Bednorz of Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany. The study was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Antimicrobials are thought to promote growth in industrially grown livestock because without them, the rationale goes, in such close quarters, a surfeit of pathogens would slow growth. “Our data suggest that the feeding of probiotics could substitute for antimicrobials as growth promoters,” says Bednorz. “This could help to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Heritage Orchard

Photo by USDA NRCS

Photo by USDA NRCS

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is currently creating a 10-acre heritage orchard in Unity to preserve and protect Maine’s traditional apples and pears. The orchard will include over 500 specimens from every county in the state. The varieties that will be included date back to a time when most Mainers lived on farms and every farm had a small orchard of locally adapted selections. Many of these varieties are now on the verge of extinction. The Maine Heritage Orchard will be under the direction of MOFGA’s John Bunker, a nationally recognized expert in historic fruit. With the help of other agricultural historians, numerous “old timers” and hundreds of apple enthusiasts from around the state, Bunker has been assembling a unique collection of heritage fruit over the past 30 years. In an ongoing, state-wide treasure hunt for Maine’s ancient fruit trees, well over 200 varieties have been identified and saved. For more information visit www.mofga.org.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

New Bale Unroller Design Proves Effective

Photo by USDA NRCS

Photo by USDA NRCS

John Wilhoit and Timothy Coolong from the University of Kentucky have introduced a new technology that can make the application of organic mulches more efficient. The team altered a conventional round-bale unroller and designed experiments to document its efficiency.

“We modified an unroller so that the new design would be offset a sufficient distance for the tractor to straddle the row of plastic and unroll the bale in the space between adjacent rows of plastic,” explained Wilhoit and Coolong. “Then, we tested the efficacy of the modified unroller with several types of organic mulches for between-row weed control in organic watermelon. Mulching between rows can be an effective practice for controlling weeds; our modification makes mulching with round bales of hay or wheat straw more efficient.”

For the experiments, the offset round-bale unroller was used to apply hay and wheat straw mulch to between-row areas of ‘Crimson Sweet’ watermelon in 2009 and 2010. The mulches were applied at two thicknesses: one or two layers unrolled from round bales. “The results showed a significant mulch-type by year interaction for weed control,” the authors said. “One-year-old hay had less impact on weed control in 2010 compared with 2009, whereas other mulches had improved weed control in 2010. One-year-old wheat straw and new hay had the lowest levels of weed biomass compared with new wheat straw and the no-mulch control.”

The experiments also proved that the thickness of the mulch affected weed control, with mulches applied in two layers resulting in significantly less weed biomass than those applied in one layer.

“These results suggest that hay and wheat straw mulches can be an effective weed control practice when used in conjunction with cultivation,” Wilhoit stated. “Weed control with all of the mulches was significantly better than the control. Our results also indicated that adequate weed control could be achieved with a single layer of mulch, reducing costs for mulching with round bales. The hay and wheat straw mulches were effective in weed control, even at application rates in the 15,000 to 20,000 pound-per-acre range.”

This report appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Blood Calcium in Dairy Cows

 

Photo by USDA NRCS

Photo by USDA NRCS

The health of dairy cows after giving birth is a major factor in the quantity and quality of the milk the cows produce. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that subclinical hypocalcemia, which is the condition of having low levels of calcium in the blood and occurs in many cows after giving birth, is related to higher levels of fat in the liver. John Middleton, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, says these higher levels of fat are often precursors to future health problems in cows. “We found that about 50 percent of dairy cows suffered subclinical hypocalcemia and subsequent higher levels of fat in the liver after giving birth to their calves,” Middleton said. “These higher levels of fat in the liver are often tied to health problems in dairy cows, including increased risk for uterus and mammary infections as well as ketosis, which is a condition that results in the cows expending more energy than they are taking in through their diet. All of these conditions can decrease the amount of milk these dairy cows will produce.”

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Buffaloberry Potential

buffaloberry

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck.

New research has uncovered an underutilized berry that could be the new super fruit, the buffaloberry. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that buffaloberries contain large amounts of lycopene and a related acidic compound, methyl-lycopenoate, which are important antioxidants and nutrients beneficial for human health. The bright red fruit has a tart flavor and has historically been used as a source of nutrients for many Native Americans. The tree on which the fruit grows is a member of the olive family native to Western North America and is found on many Indian reservations, often where little else grows well. The findings of the study suggest that buffaloberry might be successfully grown as a new commercial crop on American Indian reservations.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.