Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grant Opportunity for Western NC Farmers!!



WNC AgOptions Grant Period Open!

WNC Agricultural Options is now accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. The program helps offset farmers' risk of starting ventures or growing new operations with $3,000 and $6,000 grants. The application deadline is Nov. 14.  The program made one noteworthy change to its application process: the deadline is no longer a postmark cutoff date. Applications must be at the WNC Communities office in Asheville by November 14.

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission has notified WNC AgOptions leaders that the program will be funded for another two years. The Commission expects to increase the amount of funding so that WNC AgOptions can give more farmers grants in 2017 and 2018 than in recent years.

Applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension Agents to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at www.wncagoptions.org or at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Extension Agents remain a resource for farmers throughout the year as they complete their projects.

Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has awarded more than $2 million to 456 farmers. The program serves a diverse array of farmers, including many noteworthy agritourism projects. WNC AgOptions offers grants for farms in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Clay, Cherokee, Cleveland, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.

(This was copied directly from the Buncombe County Extension Center newsletter)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

WNC Farmlink News-including the first video!

The WNC Farmlink program is growing and expanding! Check out the first of what we hope are many videos about the program, the services offered, how to negotiate farmland purchases and leases, and the people the program serves. The videos are being made by the two people highlighted below.
Thank you, Leo Stefanile, for your great camera and editing work! Leo is a multi-talented research assistant in our program.

Recently, WNC Farmlink teamed up with NC Farmlink to combine their databases so they could offer a "one-stop shop" for North Carolina farm seekers and land owners. Here are the links to the farm seeker database and the farm owner database. WNC Farmlink is unique because there is a person located in the western North Carolina dedicated to helping people through the process of finding, buying, selling, and leasing farmland.
Suzanna Denison is the WNC Farmlink land access coordinator. She is an extension assistant in my program at NC State University with an office in the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy offices in downtown Asheville, NC. The unique aspect of WNC Farmlink is that Suzanna is located in western NC to provide personalized one-on-one consultations to people in the region. She also organizes workshops for farm seeks and owners, helps landowners understand all the options available to them, and helps beginning farmers negotiate equitable leases and prepare logistically and financially for long-term land tenure and purchase. 
  
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, in partnership with Organic Growers School and WNC Farmlink, was recently awarded a $600,000 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant which will help support this program over the next three years.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cucurbit Downy Mildew present in Western North Carolina




We are conducting screening trials for the multi-state Organic Cucurbit Breeding project. We are growing cucumber, melon, and squash varieties and breeding lines and looking for resistance to several diseases and insects. The most important disease we want resistance to is Downy Mildew. Usually it is a huge problem for us and takes down susceptible plants by mid-July. But this year, our field plots look great because we have not had Downy Mildew. But, that will probably end soon as Downy Mildew has been diagnosed in the region, as our pathologist, Inga Meadows, explains in this article:
 
Cucurbit Downy Mildew Found in Ashe and Haywood Counties
- Written By Inga Meadows, Plant Pathologist, NC State University

Cucurbit downy mildew has been reported on pumpkin and cucumber in Ashe and Haywood Counties, respectively. Downy mildew, caused by the oomycete Pseudoperonospora cubensis, infects leaves and can result in significant yield loss.  

It was reported through the CDM IPMPipe on pumpkin in Ashe County on August 10, 2016 and by an NCDA Agronomist in Haywood County on August 12, 2016.

Cucurbit downy mildew is a foliar disease that affects all commercial cucurbits (cucumber, cantaloupe, squash, watermelon, pumpkin, etc.), but is most severe on cucumbers. Growers are advised to actively scout for the disease and initiate preventative sprays in cucurbit crops immediately. 

The Cucurbit Downy Mildew factsheet, previous alerts, North Carolina fungicide efficacy trials, and The Southeastern US Vegetable Crop Handbook provide recommendations for chemical control options. Growers should use intensive spray programs (every 5-7 days) once disease if found in their fields, especially if weather conditions are conducive to disease (wet and cool weather). The downy mildew pathogen can become resistant to fungicides very quickly. It is critical that growers alternate products in their fungicide programs and tank-mix with a protectant with every application to protect the few chemistries we have that are still highly effective in controlling downy mildew.

If you think you have downy mildew in your field, please contact your local Extension agent and send photos and/or physical samples to the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. Reporting the occurrence of cucurbit downy mildew to the CDM IPM pipe helps us protect our state's cucurbit industry by providing them with timely disease management information.

Friday, July 29, 2016

An Update from the NC Research Hop Yard-End of July Report



This article was written by Kelly Gaskill, Research Assistant and our resident hops grower:
 
We are just a few short weeks away from our first harvest at the NCSU Research Hop Yard in Mills River, NC. The plants are looking pretty darn good this year after a somewhat slow start. We finally have the rains we were hoping for in early summer. We did have downy mildew early on, but with our weekly spray schedule we have kept the disease at bay. The regular pests were certainly showing up, too; spider mites, leaf hoppers and Japanese beetles. These were managed with a miticide and insecticide. More recently we have been experimenting with predator mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis). So far they seem to be effectively controlling the spider mite pest population.
In early July the plants started sending out a new flush of side shoots on the lower three feet of the bines. They did this last year too, making a decent sized second harvest and boosting yields. 
However, this harvest season will be different than the previous five years due to the use of a harvesting machine on loan from the great folks at Hopsharvester. We are currently in the process of fine-tuning the harvester to adapt to our plants that are less vigorous then those up north where the machine was developed. When fully functioning it can pick 180 bines per hour! 
As for the varieties- Canadian Red Vine is once again loaded with cones and we anticipate another monster harvest from this one. We propagated 15 rhizomes this spring and these plants are loaded with cones too! This variety is an exciting one to be sure! In other news, Nugget, a typical high yielder is showing very few cones this year and I can’t pin point the reason. Ah, the ups and downs of hop growing in the Southeast. Happy Weekend Everyone! 
 PS: You can still sign up for our monthly research hop yard tours when we will be demonstrating the harvester. Go to Hop Yard Tours

Friday, July 8, 2016

Annual Alternative Crops and Organics Research Tour AND Biodynamic Workshop

This is an annual event that many people come to every year to see what we are up to on the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC. The morning tour is focused on our certified organic research on vegetables, our hops breeding, and our truffle project. In the afternoon, you can join us for lunch and a workshop on Biodynamic agriculture. There are a number of large markets and processors searching for Biodynamic product. We will tell you what Biodynamic agriculture is and why we are interested in studying it. There will be two Biodynamic farmers to discuss their operations and a representative from Demeter USA will explain how to become certified.

We ask you to register ahead of time so we know how many people to plan for. The tour is free and the workshop with lunch is $10. Spacing for the workshop is limited, so don't wait.
Here is a link to the website with more information, the agenda, and registration:
Alternative Crops and Organics Tour and Biodynamic Workshop Registration

Thank you to our sponsor for making this program affordable for everyone:
http://brandt.co/

Thursday, July 7, 2016

2017 South Atlantic Hops Conference-Sponsor and Exhibitor Registrations Now Open

The 2017 South Atlantic Hops Conference will be held March 24 and 25 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, NC. Mark your calendars now for this fun and educational event. Registrations are now open for sponsors and exhibitors. General registration will open shortly. I can tell you there will be a tour on Friday and the educational programming will be on Saturday. Here is a link to the

Friday, June 24, 2016

Come See What We Are Doing at the Mountain Research Station Field Day June 30, 2016

The Mountain Research Station is having a general station field day and you are welcome to come. The event will start at 2:30 with opening remarks from administrators from NC State and the NC Dept of Agriculture & Consumer Services. That will be followed by presentations on crop management during dry conditions, pasture/feed management during drought, and a pollinator update. From 4:00 to 5:30 there will be two tours to choose from. One will focus on beef production management and research. The other tour will be of our organic research unit, a pumpkin variety trial, and a study on biodegradable plastic mulch. The event will end with a supper sponsored by Carolina Farm Credit and Haywood Soil and Water.

This will be just a quick early season overview of our organic research on tomatoes, cucurbits, and peppers and our initial biodynamic work on peppers. We will also have a field day and workshop focused solely on our studies in late July.


Here is an agenda for June 30. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jeanine's Thoughts on Farm Sustainability

Rosemary Gordon with Growing Produce interviewed me about what I thought farm sustainability meant. Here is a link to the article she wrote based on that interview:

8 Ways To Make Your Farm More Sustainable

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Results from Two Years of Organic Cucurbit Trials in Western NC

This article was written by Dr. Luping Qu, research specialist in our Alternative Crops and Organics Program in the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. This project is funded by USDA Grant number: 2012-51300-20006 with the project name  Organic Cucurbit Research: Critical Pest Management Challenges. The project is led by Dr. Michael Mazourek, Cornell University. These are preliminary results from the western North Carolina location. this study will continue for another growing season in 2016. A full report for all the sites and papers will be published later. You can follow this project on eOrganic here. 
 

Cucurbit downy mildew (CDM), the striped cucumber beetle (SCB) and aphid vectored viruses can cause significant damage and limit cucurbit production on organic farms. The Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project (ESO-Cuc) addresses the three universal pest and pathogen challenges. This research project  approaches the management of these issues through disease forecasting, seed and variety choice, and production techniques such as trap cropping, row covers, and high tunnels. ESO-Cuc, the Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project is a collaboration between Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Auburn University, and the Organic Seed Alliance.

Started in 2014 and continued in 2015, we conducted replicated field trials for this project at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC.  Trialed crops include cucumber, melon, and summer squash/zucchini.  For each crop eight open pollinated (OP) and hybrid cultivars that were either widespread standard cultivars or novel sources of disease resistance were planted in the field in each year following a randomized complete block experimental design with three replications. Seeds were greenhouse started in 50-cell flats. Melons were transplanted in the field on June 4 and cucumbers and summer squash were transplanted on June 20.   Field preparations included raised beds, black plastic mulch, and drip irrigation. Between row spacing was 9 x 9 feet (center to center) and in row spacing was 2 feet for melon and summer squash and 1 food for cucumber.  Row cover was used as a physical barrier for two weeks after transplanting for protecting young plants from damage by cucumber beetles in 2014. In 2015, row cover was applied for melons for 4 days after transplanting and had to be removed because the weather was too warm to keep it on without causing damage to the plants. Between row weed control was done by hand, cultivator, and laying straw.  No disease control was practiced. 

Cucumber beetles were observed in the filed in 2014 during the later stage of plant growth and the population was too small to cause visible plant damage. In 2015, these beetles showed up a few days after transplanting and damaged the young plants to some degree but plants outgrew the damage. Whether the beetle effect at young plant stage caused any fruit yield reduction was not assessed.   
CDM cause significant damage to death to cucumber plants and less significant damage to melon and summer squash.  At our site in both years, CDM was first observed on cucumber on about July 24 on the most susceptible cultivar Boston Pickler and the plants could be killed by the disease in three weeks. The most CDM resistant cucumber cultivar was DMR–NY 264. This cultivar fruits late and CDM caused insignificant damage to the plants at late growth stage.

Powdery mildew was observed on melons in 2014 and on summer squash in 2014 and 2015. Virus disease was not observed/screened at our trial site.   

DISEASE
Cucumber
Downy mildew was first observed on cucumbers on 7/25/2014 starting with the variety Boston Pickler. The disease developed quickly. There were no symptoms on 7/23, but by 7/28 this variety had been severely damaged by the disease. Progression of the disease was recorded by photo images as shown in the figure below of the variety Boston Pickler.
Downy mildew had developed on all other varieties except DMR-NY 264 by 7/28/2014. Downy mildew was first noticed on DMR-NY 264 on 8/20/2014. Leaf samples were taken on 9/2/2014 and downy Mildew was confirmed by the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic.  
Melon
Downy mildew was first noticed on Earlichamp melons on 7/28/2014 and it developed fast. The melons of this variety ripened quickly, too. It was difficult to differentiate the diseased leaves from natural senescence.  The disease developed on other varieties a few days later.

Summer squash
Powdery mildew was first noticed on Black Beauty, Gentry, and Multipik on 8/1/2014. Gentry and Multipik appeared to be more susceptible to this disease. Downy mildew occurred later and was obviouson 8/13/2014. Because the presence of powdery mildew, downy symptoms were not readily easy to visualize. 
HARVEST RESULTS

Cucumber
Cultivar
Days to maturity from
Fruit #/Plant
Type

Seeding
Transplanting


DMR-NY 264
60
44
32.1 ±  7.4  A
slicer
Alibi
48
32
21.3 ± 2.5    B 
pickler
Boston Pickler
48
32
8.0 ± 1.5      C
pickler
Marketmore 76
52
36
7.2 ± 2.5      C
slicer
Marketmore 97ff
50
34
6.7 ± 3.5      C 
slicer
MM80BW
50
34
6.7 ± 0.9      C 
slicer
Straight 8
48
32
2.8 ± 0.8      C  
heirloom
Diva
48
32
1.8 ± 0.9      C
beit alpha

Melons
Cultivar
Days to maturity from
Fruit #/Plant
Type

Seeding
Transplanting


Wrangler
75
56
7.6 ±  0.8  A
muskmelon
Athena
78
59
5.8 ± 0.3   B  C
muskmelon
PMR Delicious 51
78
59
6.4 ± 1.0   A   B   C
muskmelon
Hannah’s Choice
78
59
7.2 ± 0.4   A   B  
muskmelon
Superstar
75
56
5.4 ± 0.0   C 
muskmelon
Diplomat
73
54
5.9 ± 0.6   B   C 
Galia
Earlichamp
73
54
6.1 ± 0.3   B   C  
muskmelon
PI124112
80
61
6.6 ± 0.2   B   C
Wild

Summer squash/zucchini

Days to maturity from


Cultivar
Seeding
Transplanting
Fruit #/Plant
Type
Multipik
41
25
34.9 ± 3.8  A
Straightneck summer squash
Gentry
43
27
34.9 ± 0.6  A
Crookneck summer squash
Success PM
47
31
27.7 ± 2.8   B
Straightneck summer squash
Zucchini Elite
41
25
19.6 ± 2.1   C
Green zucchini
Dunja
41
25
13.9 ± 1.0   C  D 
Green zucchini
Romulus
56
40
12.9 ± 1.3   D
Green zucchini
Black Beauty
43
27
12.2 ± 2.6   D
Green zucchini
Golden Zucchini
41
25
10.5 ± 1.9   D
Golden zucchini