Competitive Grant Summaries
Resuscitate Your Soil: Identifying Factors to Improve Plant Production via Soil Health
Michigan soybean growers routinely produce more than 84 million bushels of soybeans across 2 million acres of land, resulting in a $1.25 billion contribution to the state’s economy. Soybean growers have not seen the same yield increases that corn growers have encountered over the past decade, however.
Soybean’s ability to fix and utilize atmospheric nitrogen has resulted in more focused soil productivity research to occur in corn agroecosystems, which are responsive to nitrogen. Little is known about the influence of cover crops and soil amendments on soybean yield and nodulation or on soil health. Conversely, little research has been dedicated to evaluating changes in soil microbial community diversity due to cover crops and soil amendments. Project GREEEN researchers worked to fill these knowledge gaps and found that growers who employ a cover crop in their crop rotations before planting soybeans are more likely to observe increased yield and enhanced long-term soil health.
Enhanced profitability for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers through confident decisions on when insecticide sprays can safely be withheld
Insect pests such as codling moth (CM) in apple are a constant threat to Michigan fruit production and drain its profitability. It’s imperative that serious pests such as CM are consistently suppressed below tolerable limits, but it is unwise and wasteful for growers to apply insecticide sprays unnecessarily. Unwarranted sprays negate the positive effects of natural enemies and decrease an insecticide’s lifespan by speeding the development of resistance. In theory, growers knowing the maximal number of pest individuals possibly present in an amount of crop can predict the maximal percent of infestation and make an evidence-based decision on whether to spray insecticides. Until recently, pest management science had not discovered a way to measure the absolute density of pests in a manner that was quick, practical or reliable. Project GREEEN supported ground-breaking research that validated procedures for translating pest numbers into accurate estimates of absolute pest density. These findings elevate the science of spray decisions and are directly transferrable to a wide range of pests extending across fruit, vegetable, field, forestry and ornamental crops.
DNA Chip-based Diagnostic Sensors for Plant Pathogen Detection and Food Security
At present, the ability to quickly and confidently detect and diagnose plant pathogens often relies on classical visual methods (e.g., microscopy, symptom development). In some cases, these methods provide information to make a preliminary diagnosis, but they can also be time-consuming and unreliable.
Emerging diagnostic methods exploit the specificity and sensitivity of DNA to detect pathogens at low levels. Recent MSU research has generated genomic resources for the testing, development and implementation of a hand-held, DNA-based diagnostic device for the detection of plant pathogens. Project GREEEN supported the development and testing of several molecular-based assays for the detection of
Pseudoperonospora cubensis, the causal agent of cucurbit downy mildew, a pathogen threatening Michigan pickling cucumbers. Researchers are working to refine a molecular-based detection device for the pathogen and to develop a field-based protocol for its use in grower fields and processing facilities.
Biotechnological Means for the Development of Drought-tolerant Crops
Drought is one of the most costly natural disasters affecting crop productivity. It is estimated that global crop losses due to drought exceed $10 billion annually. In 2012, more than half of all U.S. counties (1,584 in 32 states, including many Michigan counties) were designated natural disaster areas because of drought-caused crop losses. Michigan agriculture faces new challenges brought by future water restrictions due to alternative and expanding water use coupled with diminishing water resources and decreasing rainfall. Recently, MSU researchers discovered a novel drought tolerance gene in Arabidopsis thaliana, a well-known model plant species, and named it XERICO (“drought-tolerant” in Greek). Transgenic plants overexpressing XERICO show dramatically increased tolerance to drought stress. With the support of Project GREEEN, MSU researchers are making important and promising progress toward developing XERICO-mediated drought tolerance technology for economically important crops through investigation of XERICO expression and regulation.
Digital Food Safety Record-keeping Implementation Plan
In 2013, the FDA released the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule, which sets various requirements to track a large number of on-farm activities. Utilizing current technologies could make it substantially easier to comply with the record-keeping requirements for each of these activities. Technologies exist that allow growers to utilize smartphones to keep digital records that can be automatically date stamped and serve as a record of food safety activities and compliance. Project GREEEN researchers set out to identify the most effective digital record-keeping technologies and to provide guidance to growers as they made decisions about future technology investments. Researchers also provided factsheets outlining how to use existing technologies to create digital records.
Producing Greenhouse and Nursery Plants that are Safe for Pollinators in the Yard and Garden
In 2013 and early 2014, protests, publications, press releases and advertisements targeted retail stores and garden centers as selling flowers, trees and shrubs that were toxic to bees. Staged protests at selected garden centers of a large retail chain demanded that the stores remove neonicotinoid insecticides from their shelves and not sell plants treated with neonicotinoid insecticides. The protests received wide media attention and put enormous pressure on major garden centers to take action. Michigan is ranked third in the nation in floriculture, with an annual wholesale value of $402.7 million, so if Michigan growers lose large contracts with retailers, it would have a negative effect on Michigan’s economy. Project GREEEN supported a complete review of scientific literature, which indicated that greenhouse and nursery plants sold at garden centers have little impact on managed colonies of honeybees. Communication made as a direct result of this project had an important effect on the neonicotinoid and bees crisis; sale volumes actually increased in spring of 2014 compared with previous years, and no loss of sales that could be attributed to the misperception that garden center flowers are toxic.
Long-term Management of Multiple-resistant Palmer Amaranth in Michigan Field Crops
Multiple-resistant Palmer amaranth (MR-PA), the greatest weed threat to field crop production, was recently confirmed in Michigan. MR-PA has been economically devastating to southern U.S. row crop farmers, and initial research indicates that it has been extremely difficult to manage in Michigan. Extended emergence patterns, a rapid growth rate and prolific seed production, combined with the propensity to develop resistance to multiple herbicide site-of-action groups, make this weed difficult to manage. To prevent a dramatic increase of this devastating weed in Michigan, long-term management strategies need to be implemented. MSU researchers used Project GREEEN funds to better understand how this non-native, detrimental weed has adapted to Michigan’s climate and cropping systems. Their research has provided information to growers on how to reduce MR-PA infestations through crop rotation and management strategies.
Utilizing Sulfur to Improve the Nitrogen Use Efficiency of Corn Production
Michigan corn growers annually produce more than 300 million bushels of corn, resulting in excess of a $1 billion contribution to the state’s economy. Reports of sulfur applications increasing corn yields have occurred throughout the upper Midwest Corn Belt. Decreased atmospheric deposition of sulfur, increased purity and usage of concentrated fertilizers, less incidental sulfur in pesticides and increased usage of minimum tillage systems have all resulted in a decreased soil supply of sulfur to crops. Sulfur may improve not only corn yield but also nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency. The result is similar or increased yield with decreased amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Project GREEEN researchers worked to determine the influence of sulfur and nitrogen application rates on nutrient uptake, grain yield and agronomic efficiency of applied nitrogen fertilizer. They identified soil conditions and nitrogen management programs under which supplemental sulfur application has potential to improve the yield and nutrient efficiency of Michigan corn production.
Impact of Field Piling and Maus Transfer on Sugar Beet Storability
In 2004, the Michigan sugar beet industry lost approximately $25 million because of damage incurred in field storage piles. Uncharacteristically warm late winter temperatures and large pile dimensions led to excessive sprouting and decay that rendered thousands of tons of harvested beet roots unusable. The unusual 2004 storage season and trends of increasing winter temperatures in Michigan highlight the need to understand factors that lead to sugar losses in the storage campaign. Project GREEEN supported the long-term goal of MSU researchers to develop and implement effective techniques that improve the storability of field-stored sugar beets. They were also interested in determining if the current system of handling sugar beets compromises their root storability. Researchers found that harvesting operations severely damage harvested beets and made improving harvest processes a priority in response to the findings of this study.
Imaging Technologies for Enhancing Agricultural Productivity, Cercospora Leaf Spot Rating as a Case Study
Sugar beets accounts for 55 percent of the total sucrose produced in the United States, and 13 percent of the crop is produced in Michigan. The annual value is more than $2.2 million. Diseases significantly reduce the yield from this crop, and Cercospora leaf spot (CLS) is among the most serious. Currently, the most effective method for managing CLS is to plant resistant cultivars. Resistance is determined in controlled field disease nurseries. A 10-level rating system is used to provide year-to-year consistency in evaluations of disease in nurseries, but it has three critical drawbacks that render it ineffective. Project GREEEN supported the development of a novel computer-vision system that paves the way for an entirely new rating and monitoring methodology by analyze plant images to estimate CLS ratings. This system is superior to the current manual disease rating scheme in efficiency and accuracy.
Developing Strategies to Reduce Bacterial Canker in Michigan Cherry Orchards
To take advantage of the eat-local movement and the strong regional demand for high-quality, locally grown cherries, the Michigan sweet cherry industry has been augmenting its traditional orchards with new orchards of fresh market varieties. These orchards employ precocious, dwarfing rootstocks planted at increased densities for intensive, high-value production. However, bacterial canker, caused by Pseudomonas syringae, has proven to be a limiting disease for Michigan cherry production because effective control measures are minimal. Project GREEEN researchers responded by setting out to identify holistic disease management strategies. The team developed a repeatable, parameter-controllable research system to rapidly test and interpret experimental results of using potential control measures that include antibiotics, biocontrols (such as naturally competitive microorganisms) and plant resistance inducers. Their efforts led to improved protocols for testing potential control materials, as well as expanded knowledge of conditions during which plants are susceptible to infection.
Monitoring and Management of Spotted-wing Drosophila in Cherry
Spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) is currently the most important invasive threat to the Michigan cherry industry. Infestations of Michigan’s blueberry, day-neutral strawberry, blackberry and red raspberry crops are also quite severe if the pest is not managed. Losses in 2012 exceeded $26 million. MSU researchers recognized that there were gaps in their ability to predict when cherries were most susceptible to SWD infestations and to advise growers about insecticides. Project GREEEN researchers conducted field-lab assays and field trials to provide vital information to Michigan’s tart and sweet cherry industries about the timing of activity and management of SWD. Their efforts have played an important role in helping Michigan cherry growers maintain their current integrated pest management programs and avoid tens of millions of dollars in damage from the pest.
Understanding Environmental Effects on Fungicide Uptake and Efficacy in Blueberries and Grapes to Optimize the Cost/Benefit Ratio
Fungicides differ in their behavior on and in plants. Some are strictly protectants that remain on the plant’s surface; others are systemic—they are absorbed by plant tissues. A fungicide’s active ingredient and additives determine its mode of action and physical behavior. The effect of precipitation on fungicide performance is poorly understood. Similarly, it is not clear if a strong rain event is equal to multiple small rain events in wash-off potential. Because of the dearth of information, growers depend on folklore to guide their fungicide-application decisions. Using accurate and precise knowledge of fungicide behavior in relation to environmental factors, Project GREEEN researchers helped Michigan growers reduce unnecessary or poorly timed fungicide applications. Their findings show that rainfall amount and intensity, as well as temperature, significantly affect fungicide uptake and retention, and need to be considered when striving for optimal benefits of fungicide applications.
Development and Delivery of Effective Entomopathogenic Fungi and Nematodes for Managing High-tunnel Tree and Small-fruit Insect Pests
Many Michigan growers have relied on organophosphate (OP) sprays, commercially known as Guthion, for more than 40 years to control insect pests of trees and small fruit. With the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996, fruit producers have gradually lost access to historically reliable tools for managing key pests. Guthion and other OP sprays have been eliminated in most crops, including apples, cherries and blueberries. Since 1996, immense resources have been invested into developing a suite of biological and insecticide alternatives that, when coupled with heightened monitoring, mechanical controls and semiochemistry, reduce pest populations. With Project GREEEN support, MSU researchers have made significant efforts to improve growers’ understanding of how entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi interact with their environment and how those environments may be modified to improve efficacy against target pests.
Monitoring for Brown Marmorated Stinkbug and Other Potential Invasive Pests
Invasive species have become increasingly problematic for North American fruit crop industries. The brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB) is currently the best documented and greatest threat to the Michigan apple and peach industries. It also can be problematic in cherry. BMSB adults were detected in six Michigan counties in 2011 and two additional counties in 2012. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers Michigan a region of high suitability for other potential invasive pests of apple and peach, as well. Among the most severe threats are the light brown apple moth and summer fruit tortrix. Project GREEEN researchers developed monitoring programs and educational resources to provide timely and vital information to Michigan’s stone fruit growers. Their findings have played an important role in helping Michigan fruit growers maintain their current integrated pest management programs and avoid tens of millions of dollars in damage by this pest.
Combatting Spotted-wing Drosophila in Michigan Berry Crops
Research on the spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) in Michigan has been ongoing since the discovery of the invasive fly pest in southwestern Michigan in late 2010. Over the past four years, the MSU research and Extension staff, in collaboration with researchers in elsewhere in North America and in Europe, have made great strides in understanding the timing, distribution and control of this fly. Despite these advances, SWD continues to have significant economic impact on the Michigan berry industries. With support from Project GREEEN, MSU researchers have developed and delivered research-based recommendations to Michigan berry growers about keeping their fruit free of SWD. These recommendations, delivered through printed and online methods, have significantly reduced losses due to this pest.
Tactics for sustainable grape berry moth management in vineyards
Grape production in Michigan is threatened by economic losses to grape berry moth, increasing restrictions on pesticides and growing costs of production. Project GREEEN researchers tested and implemented management tactics to reduce populations of grape berry moth in Michigan vineyards, thereby meeting industry priorities for production practices that minimize dependence on pesticides while reducing costs for growers. The team designed and developed a system for targeted application of reduced-risk insecticides to vineyard regions where insect pests are most abundant. Their simple, cost-effective modifications to existing sprayers allow for spatially targeted applications of reduced-risk insecticides and improved control of insect pests.
Bee Attractants for Improved Pollination of Michigan Apples, Blueberries and Cherry
Spring-blooming apple, blueberry and sweet and tart cherry crops are highly dependent on pollination. The need for bees during bloom is especially crucial in Michigan, where cool spring weather often means pollination must occur within a short window of time. Good pollination translates into higher yields, better fruit quality and, ultimately, higher returns for growers. Fruit growers annually pay beekeepers for pollination services to supplement wild pollinators in an effort to ensure good pollination. The cost of these services has increased dramatically—Michigan fruit growers now pay double the 2005 rental fee. Given these challenges, MSU researchers used Project GREEEN funds to give renewed attention to honeybee attractants as a means of increasing bee visitation to treated crops. Researchers examined the potential of deploying bee attractants using two types of dispenser systems to increase pollination and yield. Unfortunately, neither dispenser system provided a consistent increase in bee activity or crop yield.
Comparative Evaluations of Phytotoxicity and Efficacy of New Herbicides for Grapes
Weeds are a serious problem in Concord grape production. Weeds in a trellised vineyard can compete with grapevines for water and nutrients. The perennial nature of the crop, the long life of plantings, the shallow rooting of the vines and the general sensitivity of grapes to environmental conditions contribute to the difficulty in maintaining weed-free vineyards. Several new herbicides have been registered for grapes, and others are under evaluation. Observations and data from Michigan vineyards are imperative to safe and effective use of these new tools in grapes. Project GREEEN supported the evaluation of new and registered herbicides’ effectiveness against weeds. Additionally, MSU researchers evaluated these herbicides’ effects on crop safety. They also designed Extension programs to introduce new herbicides to grape growers and to educate growers on their use.
Landscape & Nursery
Delivering Tools to Floriculture Producers to Combat a New Downy Mildew
Impatiens bedding plant production in the United States has steadily declined because of battles with downy mildew (DM). The industry was valued at $62.9 million in 2014, approximately half of the 2010 industry ($112 million). The plant flowers profusely and is valued for its long-lasting color in shady areas of the garden. DM, an emerging and widespread disease caused by the water mold pathogen Plasmopara obducens, rapidly deflowers, defoliates and kills impatiens, which cannot be cured once they are infected. Recent reports of oospores, which allow the pathogen to overwinter and persist long-term in landscape beds, have raised concerns that DM could become an even more persistent problem. MSU researchers used Project GREEEN funds to better understand the biology of this new downy mildew pathogen and to develop management strategies that support continued production of this valuable bedding plant. They found that manipulating environmental conditions in the greenhouse limits downy mildew and that fungicides applied in the greenhouse can extend protection to impatiens for months in the landscape.
Biochar Amendments in Sandy Soils: Evaluating Effects on Soil Moisture, Nutrient Losses and Tree Seedling Growth
Jessica R. Meisel
Biochar is a porous charcoal byproduct of the gasification of biomass for bioenergy. Studies investigating the application of biochar to soil have demonstrated dramatic increases in soil water-holding capacity and nutrient availability, decreases in nutrient loss via leaching, decreased need for fertilization and increases in plant growth in nutrient-poor soils. The persistence of biochar in soil suggests potential for long-term value without repeated application. There have been numerous calls for the use of biochar as a soil amendment to increase crop productivity and sequester atmospheric carbon; however, the specific effects of biochar vary by bioenergy feedstock, production process and soil type. Project GREEEN researchers uncovered information about the environmental effects of biochar application to soils of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, and explored optimal application rates for its use as a soil amendment in Michigan’s Christmas tree industry.
Does the Role of Branding on Plant Quality Perceptions Vary by Age Cohort?
Michigan’s long history as a diverse ornamental horticulture production sector has depended greatly on the fact that gardening is an American cultural tradition. Younger generations have not embraced gardening to the same extent nor in the same manner as previous generations, however. The waning interest in gardening has decreased revenue and profits at retail garden centers and also has had a profound effect on production nurseries and greenhouses, wholesalers and distributors. Branding is one key means of differentiating products from various competitors, and branded products are often sold at a higher margin. Branding is relatively new to ornamental horticulture, and investigations of the types of consumers who utilize branding information are relatively sparse, so Project GREEEN supported the investigation of the role of plant brands in plant quality perceptions and product choices. Behavior was studied across three categories to better understand the marketplace: level of involvement, level of expertise and age. Researchers found that branding does play a role in product selection and that the effect differs by age cohort, with younger consumers looking at the plant brand more than older consumers.
Early Detection of Emerald Ash Borer Using Non‐destructive Technologies
Populations of emerald ash borer (EAB) require multiple years for insect development before external symptoms of EAB infestations are readily perceptible, undermining the utility of relying solely on early visual monitoring systems. Given the quick landscape‐level spread of EAB in Michigan since its identification in 2002, it is extremely imperative to develop cost‐effective, regional-scale approaches for previsual classification of future risk of infection by EAB in its outlier regions. Traditional approaches for diagnosing forest health problems usually involve foliar analysis and soil analysis. These analytical techniques generally require wet‐chemical laboratory procedures that can be tedious and expensive. Project GREEEN funding supported efforts that will lead to cost-effective, portable, field‐based devices that incorporate three non‐destructive technologies. Ultimately, these technologies will allow for the rapid, early detection of EAB in Michigan by providing landscape‐level classification of differing levels of EAB risk in regions near outlier populations of EAB.
Effects of Drought and Traffic Stresses on Physiological Responses and Water Use Characteristics of Creeping Bentgrass and Annual Bluegrass
Creeping bentgrass (CBG) and annual bluegrass (ABG) are the two turfgrass species predominantly used on Michigan golf course greens. ABG is a highly competitive weed species in CBG greens. Because a large number of Michigan golf course managers are unable to combat ABG encroachment on CBG greens, they must actively culture and manage ABG as turfgrass on their greens. ABG is sensitive to numerous abiotic, biotic and turf management stresses and is difficult to manage. Project GREEEN researchers conducted a two-year field study in which they evaluated water use requirements for ABG and CBG under simulated golf course conditions; assessed CBG physiological responses to set, automated irrigation levels; and quantified ethylene evolution directly in the field for use as a potential indicator of stress in ABG and CBG. Their findings allow for better recommendations to turfgrass managers about irrigation, especially those employing automated irrigation systems.
Development of Genetic Stocks for Cucumber Fruit Resistance to Phytophthora capsici
Each year, the pickling cucumber industry prioritizes its greatest production problems. For the past 10 years, downy mildew and Phytophthora capsici (P. capsici) have rated Nos. 1 and 2. The annual estimated costs of these diseases are $3 million spent on fungicide sprays and an additional $2 million of lost production. There is a great need for the development of disease-resistant cucumber varieties that will provide economic and environmental benefits such as reduced product loss, reduced cost and labor investment for fungicide sprays, and reduced pesticide use. With the support of Project GREEEN, MSU researchers have taken the first step in supplying Michigan growers with such a solution. They have identified three cucumber accessions as possible sources of resistance to fruit infection by P. capsici, and carried out screening and development of a true-breeding line for subsequent breeding efforts.
The Birth, Evolution and Death of Pathogenicity: Alternative Splicing as a Mechanism of Regulated Virulence in Plant Pathogens
MSU researchers used Project GREEEN funds to support their ongoing work to understand how plant pathogens evolve and to modulate virulence in association with host resistance and defense signaling in plants. This research will provide insight into the processes that influence and drive pathogenicity, providing a foundation for disease management through plant breeding and pathogen detection. To accomplish this, Project GREEEN researchers examined the interaction between cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and the pathogen Pseudoperonospora cubensis, the primary threat to cucurbit production in Michigan and around the globe. They successfully cultivated a knowledge base that directly translates research in the lab to field-based applications. Subsequently, they created a conceptual framework to elucidate the mechanism of pathogen adaptation to host and environment. By addressing key fundamental gaps in the understanding of how plants and pathogens interact, MSU researchers will also build a foundation for understanding and defining how obligate plant pathogens develop within and overcome host systems.
Developing Methyl Bromide Alternatives for the Fresh Market Vegetable Industry
Michigan’s fresh market vegetable growers lost an effective option for early season preplant soil fumigation when the registrant withdrew Iodomethane, trade name Midas, in 2011. Iodomethane had been considered a key replacement product for the fumigant methyl bromide, which had been phased out of use in the United States with few exceptions. Fumigation is a key tool for managing destructive soil-borne pathogens, including Verticillium spp., Fusarium spp. and Phytophthora spp., which are responsible for significant losses of eggplant, melon, peppers, squash and tomatoes. In response to requests from growers in southwestern Michigan, Project GREEEN researchers identified alternative fumigants, plastic films and fungicides for use on commercial farms to manage soil-borne pathogens. Their research showed that the fumigants and specialized films developed to replace methyl bromide are not universal and offer challenges in implementation and pathogen protection. In contrast, soil-applied fungicides can provide season-long disease control for key vegetable crops without the cost of expensive fumigants and mulches.
New Disease Problems Threaten the Michigan Onion Industry
Michigan ranks seventh in the United States in storage onion production, but production has declined since 2010. That year, 100 million pounds of onions were produced, but by 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported only 72 million pounds, a reduction of $2 million dollars. Foliar and soil-borne diseases are responsible, in part, for the decrease in acres planted and the reduced profitability of this crop to Michigan’s economy. Tools to better identify and limit fungal and bacterial pathogens, along with key management strategies, are necessary to ensure high yields and high-quality, marketable onions. Because of research led by Project GREEEN researchers, Michigan onion growers can now recognize symptoms of new bacterial diseases in their fields. Along with treatment options, the researchers also identified cultivars that are less susceptible to pink rot and the newly identified disease anthracnose.
Development of an Integrated Pest Management Program for Two Celery Insect Pests in Michigan
Michigan ranks in the top three states for celery production. With a market value of $19 million, 98.5 million pounds of celery were harvested in Michigan in 2015. Most of Michigan’s commercial celery production occurs in muck soils in southwestern Michigan. Aphids are a major celery pest; the aphid Aphis spiraecola was recently identified as the species responsible for recent infestations in southwestern Michigan celery fields. Growers had been unable to manage this aphid with conventional broad-spectrum insecticides and were in need of an integrated pest management program that effectively controlled outbreaks while maintaining natural enemy populations. With Project GREEEN support, MSU researchers developed integrated management protocols that contributed to the successful control of Aphis spiraecola while preserving natural enemy populations and without exacerbating other pest problems.
Understanding Factors that Affect Color Retention of Black Dry Edible Beans
Michigan is the top producer of black beans in the United States, accounting for 57 percent of national production, with a value of $61 million. Black beans are commonly sold as a canned product; retention of the black color in canned black beans is a key attribute in finished product quality and is very important for consumer acceptance. Changes in production practices and black bean varieties may influence canned black bean quality. As growers switched to using direct harvest systems with upright varieties, the use of preharvest herbicide applications to desiccate green tissue and weeds that can interfere with harvest became common practice. With support from Project GREEEN, MSU researchers identified the effects of various preharvest treatments on dry bean desiccation, yield, and canned color and quality, which ultimately allows for better recommendations and equips Michigan growers to have a competitive advantage in the black bean market.
The Soil Health Initiative: Crop Rotations for Enhancing Soil Health, Plant Health and Disease Management in Potato Production
Michigan ranks seventh in national potato production but is plagued by many soil-borne diseases that are not well controlled. Additionally, the Michigan potato industry has been suffering from declining yields that have triggered grower concerns about their ability to serve high-demand markets. Soil-borne disease complexes are recognized as the cause, but soil ecology is not adequately understood and disease management has been inconsistent. MSU researchers used Project GREEEN funding to expand the knowledge of pathogenic interactions in soil, providing a foundation on which to build biologically based management strategies and sustainable disease management practices. These insights will increase profit, reduce costly inputs and taxing environmental effects, and reduce potato yield loss due to soil-borne diseases. It also increases the understanding of strategies to enhance soil and plant health for improved soil-borne disease control.
Aster Leafhopper Management and Aster Yellows Detection in Michigan Carrots and Celery
Aster yellows phytoplasma (AYp) is a disease that infects vegetable crops such as carrots, celery and lettuce, making them unmarketable. The aster leafhopper, Macrosteles quadrilineatus, is the primary vector of AYp, and control of the disease depends on managing the leafhoppers and restricted use of broad-spectrum insecticides that target them. Unfortunately, these insecticides also have unintentional negative effects on beneficial insects. MSU Plant Diagnostic Services used to offer AYp testing of leafhoppers to Michigan growers for a fee, but as of May 2013 this service had been suspended. Michigan celery and carrot growers indicated that this is an important service. Because private companies do not currently provide a suitable solution for growers, Project GREEEN researchers provide the diagnostic services to growers and are working to improve the testing procedure. In 2014, they sampled leafhoppers from 50 Michigan fields to detect AYp and calculated a threshold for insecticide application, communicating results to growers in several ways.
Improvement of Potato Maturity and Stress Graphical Tool on Enviroweather
Michigan’s potato industry suffers losses of $1.5 million to $2.5 million each year because of weather-induced crop stress that affects quality and causes potatoes to deteriorate in storage. Growers need specific information about potential stresses to manage their crops and minimize losses before harvest and during storage. The MSU Enviroweather program provides growers with access to weather information through its network of weather stations that continually measure, record, display and archive local weather data. The data is used in online tools and applications that give growers information relevant to their crops. In 2012, one such tool—the Potato Maturity and Stress Graphical Tool—became available, but it lacked the ability to analyze and make comparisons between crops grown in different fields or during different growing seasons. This information is helpful to growers because it allows them to retroactively discover how stress events affected potato crop yield and quality. In direct response to growers’ requests, work supported by Project GREEEN resulted in the addition of this functionality to the tool.
More from 2015 Project GREEEN Legislative Summary
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