2018 FVI Project Profiles

One of the strengths of Farm Viability is our focus on funding the best proposals received in any given year.  In 2018, we received an exceptionally high number of proposals, from a more diverse group of organizations than in the past. The chart below illustrates how the funds were allocated by organization. 

Following are profiles of each of the funded projects. You’ll find a list of the 2018 FVI projects here.

Apples and Other Fruit

Speed Matters when it’s Fire Blight in Apple Orchards
Apple growers know that fire blight can wipe out entire orchards, and researchers have been working for decades to develop effective management tools. However, it can be difficult to distinguish fire blight from other blight and tree declines. Currently a grower must wait for results to come back from a lab, delaying management practices that can allow the pathogen to spread throughout the orchard to healthy trees. At the same time, excessive antibiotic applications are expensive and can lead to antibiotic resistance. What’s the solution? New in-orchard pathogen detection devices and kits. Awais Khan with Plant Pathology at Cornell University, Geneva will be testing four new approaches for rapid, precise, sensitive, and cost-effective DNA-based fire blight pathogen detection in orchards. Two approaches are based on commercially available lateral-flow immunoassay kits. The other approaches are based on Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) based pathogen detection. At the end of the project growers will know which approach is the most cost-effective and how to implement the protocol in their orchard to make fire blight management decisions quickly.

Where there’s grape mealybug, fruit lecanium scale, and ants there may be leafroll virus: Developing targeted management strategies for Long Island vineyards. Grapevine leafroll virus is a debilitating disease affecting many NYS vineyards. Infected vines suffer losses in fruit quality and yield, as much as 50%. Leafroll virus is often introduced via infected plant material. However, growers have observed the spread of virus symptoms within established vineyards. Studies in upstate NY suggest that grape mealybug and fruit lecanium scale may be spreading the virus. These insects are widespread in Long Island vineyards perhaps due to Long Island’s more moderate climate. Alice Wise and Faruque Zaman, both with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, will lead this project to characterize insect vector populations, their association with foraging ants, and to verify their connection to the spread of leafroll disease. Ultimately, the goal is to develop scouting protocols and spatially-based management guidelines through the use of GPS technology. This will allow growers to control the spread of leafroll disease through targeted treatments rather than a whole farm approach.

Dairy and Field Crops

Extended Shelf Life Milk: What’s it Worth to a Dairy Farmer?
Plant based beverages and online sales are driving an increasing interest in developing milk with an extended shelf life. In previous Farm Viability funded projects, Martin Wiedmann of Cornell’s Quality Milk Improvement Program identified the sources of spore-forming bacteria involved in dairy product spoilage, including those responsible for nearly 50% of fluid milk spoilage. The work also identified teat end and laundered towel spore levels as being important factors associated with the transmission of spores from the environment into the raw milk supply. This project will evaluate and standardize large scale on-farm implementation of proven interventions to reduce raw milk spore counts. It will quantify the impact of these interventions and associated reduced spore counts on fluid milk shelf life, allowing producers to determine the economic benefits of low spore raw milk. This information will allow for rational determination of appropriate premiums for low spore raw milk.

Optimizing Nitrogen Management based on Yield Stability Zones
Farmers know that some parts of their fields consistently outperform others, yet the ability to differentiate management practices based on that knowledge has been lacking. With GPS and yield monitors on corn choppers/combines, a recently released data cleaning protocol, and new statistical techniques, it is now possible to create and evaluate management zones based on multi-year yield stability. In this approach, developed by the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) at Cornell and collaborators, fields and areas within fields can be divided into four management zones (quadrants): consistently high performing, consistently low performing, and two areas that deliver variable results based on the year. Lead of the NMSP, Quirine Ketterings, and her team will work with six New York farms to evaluate how corn responds to N application at planting for each quadrant within two fields per farm. Additionally the team will collect NDVI images (UAV and satellite imagery) and evaluate previously developed algorithms to predict end of season corn yield and crop responsiveness to additional N.

What Makes the Good Part of the Field Good? Understanding Key Drivers of Yield Stability in Corn Fields. This project, a companion piece to Ketterings’ work, will use historical yield data sets from participating farms, as well as extensive soil sampling and apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) maps to help the crops tell their story of what helps them thrive. Led by Erasmus Oware at the University at Buffalo it will use multivariate statistical pattern recognition tools to identify the common factors in each quadrant. Comparing the identified high-yield drivers and their respective range of optimal values with those of the low yielding zones will provide insights into the yield-limiting factors to support decision making in Kettering’s project. The knowledge gained about optimal range of yield drivers may also help farmers boost crop yield over time through the addition of other appropriate amendments, in underperforming quadrants. Post-project yields will be compared to historical yield to evaluate per acre increased in yield.

When is Good, Good Enough in Corn Silage KPS? There are approximately 620,000 dairy cows on over 4,500 dairy farms in NYS. It is widely accepted that forage quality is a key factor in farm profitability. In corn silage the processing of the corn kernels, which
occurs during harvest, affects the starch availability to the cow, which in turn affects milk production efficiency. Other work has defined the optimum Kernel Processing Score (KPS) as 70 or above. This project, led by Joe Lawrence with PRO-DAIRY at Cornell, seeks to understand the point of diminishing return, in time and financial investment needed, to achieve KPS above 70. Work will take place on dairy farms across the state. Additionally, the relationship between KPS and fermentation will be evaluated. At the end of the project, farmers should have the information they need to determine if committing additional resources to increasing KPS makes economic sense.

Sulfur, What Fields Need It and When? Since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the introduction of sulfur free phosphorus fertilizers and pesticides, secondary addition of sulfur to fields through atmospheric deposition and fertilizer application has significantly decreased in New York. Yet, it is well known that sulfur is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development. New York’s soybean growers are eager to learn more about managing this important nutrient. This project, led by Jodi Letham of CCE’s NWNY Dairy and Livestock team, will work with farms across the region to better understand their soils and identify if sulfur is limiting their production. The farms will also identify key factors that lead to sulfur deficiencies, such as crop rotations, reduced manure applications, and soil health. As a result of the project, farmers will understand how to identify fields with the potential to become sulfur deficient and utilize innovative techniques to better manage their crop production, increase yields, quality, and profitability, while improving field conditions.

Green Industry

Bringing Back the Impatiens for Nurseries and Greenhouses
Prior to 2011, the impatiens plant was one of the most popular annual flowers for gardens and landscaping. The plant’s ability to grow and flower in full shade or sun, as well as the presence of a wide range of color forms, led to a large and devoted following among consumers, greenhouse growers, and garden centers. Unfortunately, the devastating fungal disease, impatiens downy mildew (IDM) entered the U.S, and by 2011, the infection had spread across the nation and decimated the plant. New York sales dropped from $10 million in 2009 to only $1 million in 2014. Mark Bridgen with Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research Center and Extension program, has a plan to bring back this powerhouse flower. His lab has bred 2 exclusive lines of impatiens hybrids that are resistant to IDM. This project will develop IDM resistant lines into colorful seed propagated lines for commercial introduction.

Hemp and Hops

Understanding How to Grow Quality Hemp in New York State
Hemp is an extremely versatile crop and is grown extensively outside of the United States. The grain can be used for both human consumption and animal feed, the stalks can be used for fiber and the oils can be used in for cooking, fuels and pharmaceuticals. Recent initiatives led by New York State are driving interest in growing hemp. Currently there is little field tested knowledge about producing a quality crop in New York’s soils and growing conditions. Nor is there an understanding of best management practices based on the end product of the crop. This project, led by Jen Gilbert Jenkins at Morrisville State College will develop nitrogen rate recommendations based on grain and fiber yields; provide guidance for growing hemp for dual purposes versus maximizing the potential of a single use; and quantify the value of NDVI imagery as a tool in crop management.
Research will be conducted on local farms as well as at the college.

Unique New York Hops to Meet the Needs of the New York Market. As New York farmers began planting hops to support the then nascent New York breweries, they turned to tried and true varieties.  Now that the marketplace is established, the State’s hop growers need to differentiate their product. Fortunately, New York’s history as a hops producing state means that there are many “feral or wild” plants providing a vast diverse gene pool, with a proven resistance to fungal diseases. These native plants have the potential to help growers develop hop varieties that have disease resistance and unique flavor profiles. Steve Miller of the Northeast Hops Alliance will create a multi-year project to identify, evaluate and bring forth new hop varieties for the purpose of advancing the hop and brewing industries in New York State. Specifically, this project will provide growers with the methods to evaluate these new varieties to bring them into the market place.


What Do Biofungicides Contribute to Management of Powdery
Mildew and White Mold?
Growers have been clamoring for solutions to powdery mildew in cucurbits and white mold across several crops. Simply increasing the use of fungicides, both organic and conventional, can lead to fungicide resistance and harm the environment. Biofungicides–both microbial and botanical –are known to reduce cucurbit powdery mildew infection, but may be less effective than conventional fungicides when used alone. Additionally, new microbial products continue to become available. This project, led by Amara Dunn with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program will seek to understand which products work best in conjunction with current conventional and organic fungicides. Each spray that can be eliminated could save a farm up to $88/A and/or increase the overall yield of the crop. Another win? The value of NDVI imaging to monitor plant health using either a handheld tool or sensors on a tractor will also be explored.

Another Tool in the Toolbox? Practical application of UV light to suppress plant pathogens. A second project is also focusing on powdery mildew in cucurbits. Led by Mark Rea and his team at Renssaelear Polytechnic Institute (RPI), it builds on their success using UV light, built into an apparatus that is towed behind a tractor at night, to manage powdery mildew in strawberries. The project’s first step will be to explore the relationship between the amount of UV light, timing (at night) and duration to determine the number of UV light sources and the speed of the tractor needed to be effective against the pathogen in cucurbits. The light apparatus will be designed by the RPI team and built at a local farm’s machine shop. Presuming the approach is efficacious and cost effective, DIY plans will be made widely available. The team will also conduct lab studies to determine dosing to combat downy mildew. The long term goal is for a farm to be able to adjust the towing speed or interchange lights on the apparatus based on the pathogen being fought.

Biodegradable Seed Coatings to Protect Cabbage Seedlings. Naturally occurring antimicrobial enzymes can fight diseases, such as black rot and damping off, which can affect all seeds and seedlings, especially when started in greenhouses. The challenge? How to ensure that those enzymes are strong enough to protect plants early in germination from pathogens in the soil. While at Cornell, Zymtronix CEO Stéphane Corgié, developed a control technology that stabilizes enzymes to make them more robust and efficient. Today his company licenses the patented technology from Cornell University. This project, led by Zymtronix’s Marie Donnelly, will work with New York farmers to demonstrate that biodegradable seed coatings can prevent damping off and avoid the need for chemically treated seeds, starting with cabbage, one of NY State’s largest crops.

Tomatoes resistant to bacterial & fungal diseases to sharply
reduce use of chemical sprays
. NYS tomato growers risk loss of tomato yield and fruit quality due to bacterial and fungal diseases favored by high humidity and frequent rains typical in our region. Currently available tomato hybrids are resistant to major fungal diseases and allow for reduced fungicide usage. However these plants are still susceptible to bacterial diseases common or increasing in NYS. This project, led by Martha Mutschler at Cornell University will improve the current hybrids by adding resistance to bacterial diseases. This work will allow for decreasing or eliminating both copper and fungicide sprays currently used to produce marketable tomatoes. For growers this lowers production cost, increases profitability, and reduces risk of loss of fruit quality and yield. These benefits will be useful to any size farm, using conventional or organic production, since all would benefit from reduced risk of loss.