2017 Project Profiles

New York is fortunate to have such a broad range of agricultural products produced in the state. One of the strengths of Farm Viability is our focus on funding the best proposals received in any given year. 

In 2017, we received a large number of stellar field crops proposals, while last year vegetables rose to the top.  The chart below illustrates how the funds were awarded among commodity areas.

Projects in the “general” category help farmers in two or more categories. Projects labeled as “niche” refer to the size of the market, for example the equine projectfunded with Jefferson County Community College.

Apples and Grape Projects

Development of Effective Spray Program for Post-Infection Fire Blight Management in Apples and Cost-Benefit Analysis of its Key Components
NY apple growers are experiencing more years with warmer weather during bloom. The bad news? These temperatures create favorable conditions for fire blight, a devastating bacteria, that has caused severe losses in orchards across the state. Current spray options are often overused and may create antibiotic resistance, while poor management may lead to lingering rootstock infections that can decimate an entire planting. Srdjan Acimovic with Cornell University has a plan to educate growers how to best manage an outbreak, and is testing for effective spray options including copper and bark penetrants to help growers manage this disease after the infection, in a cost effective manner.

Improving Apple Grower Profitability through Precision Management Smart Ap
Managing crop load is a critical factor in improving the profitability of apple orchards. That’s why Farm Viability has funded several projects to develop thinning and irrigation models that help a grower achieve optimum fruit size and yield. Jaume Lordan Sanahuja of Cornell University wants to move the data analysis necessary to implement precision management out of the office and into the orchard. Her project will develop a new smartphone ap that will allow a grower with a bluetooth connected wireless caliper to measure the fruit and send the data directly to the application in the smartphone. The app will access the model and provide real time guidance, turning a multistep, two person task into a simple one person effort.

Using Drone Imagery to Guide Selective Harvest in Wine Grape Vineyards
The practice of selective harvesting for different grades of fruit quality in wine grape vineyards is common among large producers. The harvest plans are guided by NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) maps which provide an indication of vine vigor throughout the vineyard. In Australia, NDVI based selective harvesting has been demonstrated to improve net returns by as much as $1880/acre. Unfortunately, the expense of hiring a service to image a small vineyard has limited the use of this valuable tool. Justine Vanden Heuvel of Cornell University has a one-word solution: Drones. Her project will help Finger Lakes wine grape growers learn how to use drones to collect NDVI images of their vineyards. These images will allow growers to develop data-based selective harvest plans and maximize the economic potential of their fruit.

Dairy Projects

Increasing Dairy Farm Profitability by Reducing the Interbreeding Interval and Optimizing Conception Rate of
Lactating Dairy Cows
A farm that can more accurately detect when its cows are in heat, and has a short interbreeding interval of 35 days or less and 35% or higher conception rate using timed artificial insemination services will have a 5 to 8 percentage points greater 21 day pregnancy rate compared to other herds. This improvement in reproductive performance translates into $38 to $76 per cow per year. Julio Giordano of Cornell University has a research plan that will help improve reproductive performance by tackling the major problems reducing pregnancy rate; long interbreeding intervals, poor estrus detection, and poor conception rate for second and greater AI postpartum.

Improving Dairy Cow Health and Reducing Dairy Farm Labor Cost by Automating Health Monitoring and Management.
There’s a plethora of automated health monitoring systems on the market for dairy farms. These sensor based systems can monitor rumination, physical activity, eating time, and lying time as predictors of a cow’s overall health. Unfortunately, the market is lacking independent control studies to understand if these systems can identify health issues more accurately and cost effectively than a traditional labor force. Julio Giordano of Cornell University will be enrolling 1200 dairy cows in a study to learn the pros, cons and economics of these systems.

Dairy Workforce Online Educational Program
ProDairy has been running a great webinar series helping dairy farms educate their workforce on a wide variety of production topics. Offered in both English and Spanish, it has been well received. Cathy Barrett will be leading a project to make the webinar series even better by improving the quality of the videos for maximum impact.

Field Crops

Refining the Algorithm to Optimize Variable Rate Seeding in New York State
Since 2014, Savanna Crossman, with the Advanced Agriculture Alliance has been collecting data in NY’s corn and soybean fields. Topography measurements, soil types, nutrients and crop yield have all been gathered and precisely mapped. An algorithmic model was developed to identify the optimum hybrid/variety placement and plant population in corn and soybean given varying soil and climate conditions. The project, which started under the umbrella of the NY Corn & Soybean Growers Association has gone very well. Its early prescription maps are predicted to increase profit by up to $60 an acre. The next stage of the work will further validate the prescription maps, and refine the algorithm through the addition of more data.

Decision Agriculture: Managing Nitrogen and Yield in Corn and Forage Sorghum Utilizing Drone NDVI Imaging.
Identifying the best timing for nitrogen application is an ongoing quest for farmers growing corn and other forages. The goal is to ensure that available soil resources can meet the crop’s ongoing needs to maximize yield while reducing the risk of N loss to the environment. Quirine Ketterings of Cornell University and collaborators will be evaluating the use of drone-generated normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) maps as tools for predicting yield and N needs of corn and forage sorghum. The specific question her team seeks to answer is: how to account for time of day (sun angle) and/or cloud cover/light intensity, in addition to defining the best growth stage for collecting imagery. In short, it’s about developing a standard operating procedure for using drones to collect NDVI imagery to ensure consistent, actionable data.

Optimize Selection/Management of Short Season Sorghum/Millet Varieties for NY
Great forages make great feed for New York’s 600,000 plus head of dairy cattle. Tom Kilcer of Advanced Ag Systems will be trialing new varieties of short season sorghum and millet as an alternative to corn silage. The project will calculate nutritive value of millet and sorghum at various maturities, which in turn can reduce feed costs, the largest portion of a dairy budget. These crops can be particularly valuable for organic dairy farms who often find it labor intensive to manage the weeds in their corn crops. This project builds on several other successful efforts by Kilcer to bring valuable winter forages to New York State.

Biological Control of Corn Rootworm using Native NY Entomopathogenic Nematodes
Cornell University’s Elson Shields and his team have been working with bio control nematodes for more than a decade. These microscopic creatures, which are usually persistent in the soil after single applications, have been proven to be effective in managing the Northern New York Alfalfa Snout Beetle by feasting on its larvae. Shields and his team suspect the same nematodes may also be controlling corn rootworm as the nematodes continue to be found in the fields in the years they are planted in corn. Preliminary trials at a Cornell research farm seem to confirm the theory. This project will allow the team to work on commercial farms to validate the preliminary trials. This is a critically needed project as the current practice of using corn that has been genetically modified to withstand corn rootworm has proven ineffective in some areas in New York in both 2014 and 2016.

Open Field Study with Avipel Shield Seed Treatment on Field Corn to Deter Birds from Feeding on Corn Seedlings
Crows, ravens, black birds, starlings, grackles Canadian geese, sea gulls and wild turkeys all like to feast on newly planted corn fields, creating significant reductions in yield for New York farmers. It’s understood that Avipel Shield, a bio pesticide that uses anthraquinone an extract from the rhubarb plant, is effective in keeping birds away from green strips at airports and off of New York’s golf courses. Ken Wise with Cornell University will be conducting a state wide research project to determine if corn seeds treated with the same product will also deter birds from feeding on newly planted corn and corn seeding.

Vegetables Projects

Determining the Potential of Electrical Conductivity Maps to Improve Farm Operations for NYS Vegetable Growers.
Erasmus Oware is with the Department of Geology, at SUNY Buffalo. In this project, his knowledge about different soil structures and their ability to hold water and nutrients will be put to work on behalf of NY vegetable growers. The precision agriculture project’s first step will be to generate electrical conductivity maps of participating grower’s fields. The mapping data will be collected by pulling specialized equipment with built in GPS across the fields with a tractor. The resulting data will help farmers understand on a foot-by-foot basis the varying characteristics of their soil. Working with Oware and the CCE Vegetable program, they will use the soil characteristics, and type of crop to create sub-field management zones with water and nutrient plans tailored to each zone. Resulting yields will be compared to historical yields to understand the potential benefits of these management zones.

Evaluation of Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos Insecticides for Controlling Cabbage Maggot in Brassica Vegetables
New York grows 9,200 acres of cabbage annually, worth an estimated $58 million. Pest control in brassica vegetables, such as cabbage, is a critical need for growers of this high volume crop. Current pesticides are under increased EPA scrutiny and organic growers are lacking strong options. Faruque Zaman, an Entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, will lead a project to test the effectiveness of seven additional pest control options for conventional and organic growers. Exclusion netting, bio control nematodes, and five insecticides, one of which is approved for use by organic growers will all be evaluated over two growing seasons.

Trials to Reduce Onion Rot
In 2016, dry weather improved the storage attributes of NY’s onion harvest and seemed to reduce bacterial rot. While Steven Beer and his team at Cornell were able to learn more about the use of sodium hypochlorite to reduce onion rot, further research is required to fully understand the potential benefits. An earlier trial had found that simple mid-season sprays of sodium hypochlorite, “bleach” or “pool chlorine” reduced decay. In 2017, the team will conduct more on farm trials. The end goal is a robust dataset to support NYS DEC and EPA registration of sodium hypochlorite to reduce rot of onions.

General and Niche Projects

Scaling Up: Developing New and Additional Wholesale Enterprises with Greenmarket Farmers
New York City’s wholesale market buyers are clamoring for quality NY grown fruit, vegetables and dairy products. FARMroots, the technical advisory program of GrowNYC, plans to help NY Greenmarket growers successfully navigate the wholesale market and diversify their marketing channels. The project includes extensive market research to determine the specific needs of regional buyers, and technical assistance support to help growers determine their best point of entry, cost of production, profit margin, and scalability of wholesale products. The project will also help growers take advantage of new opportunities, created by the GrowNYC Regional Food Hub, and continue to grow the percentage of local food consumed in the region.

Equine Small Business Development
According to the 2012 USDA NASS survey, there are almost 5,000 horses on 700 farms in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Entrepreneurs often enter these businesses as a second career driven by their passion for animals. Jefferson Community College will be launching a pilot program to help these equine boarding operations succeed. The educational program will focus on business management as well as animal management skills to meet the unique challenges of this industry. The low cost program represents a unique and replicable model that leverages the strengths of SUNY, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the NYS Small Business Development Centers.