2021 FVI Project Profiles

The projects below were reviewed and evaluated by farmers across the State and final funding decisions were made by the NYFVI board of directors. Farm Viability would like to thank our farmer reviewers for the time they invest in reading and scoring proposals. We would also like to thank the New York State legislature and Governor for providing us the opportunity to connect farmer’s needs to the development of agricultural research and education projects. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Hinchey, Assemblymember Lupardo and their Ag committees as they have helped their colleagues build knowledge about the food system and agriculture across the State.

A list of the projects can be found here.

Multi-Crop Projects

These projects will support more than one commodity area.

New York Bean Crop

Marketing New York State Grains and Legumes to the New York City Marketplace. During the pandemic, GrowNYC’s retail market saw demand for locally grown grains and legumes more than triple. With the expansion of its wholesale market, GrowNYC is well positioned to help NY growers access wholesale buyers. It’s a significant marketplace with NYC schools purchasing $1 million annually on beans alone. This project will help a dozen farm businesses, many of which aggregate product from neighboring farms. In future years, the resulting supply chain infrastructure will be accessible to farms across the State.  The best part? Working these crops into their rotations can provide farms a strong option to build soil health.

Nematodes are dispersed using sprayer equipment.

Persistent Biocontrol Nematodes:  Developing a Farmer/Applicator Friendly Formulation. Cornell Entomologist Elson Shields has been working with persistent entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) as a biocontrol pest management solution since 1992. His work has demonstrated that these microscopic worms can be used in conventional and organic systems as an effective solution for the alfalfa snout beetle, corn rootworm, black-vine root weevil in strawberries, and the Colorado potato beetle. The challenge? It can be hard to keep the nematodes alive until the crop is ready to be treated.  This project will focus on improving the shelf life and formulation of the substrate for this biocontrol agent to make the technology easier to use.

Surveying NY Farm Cash Rental Rates and Custom Service Fees to Improve Bargaining.
As farms continue to diversify and adjust to meet the challenges of our current agricultural economy, having solid resources and New York specific data to use while making key decisions, is more important than ever. For Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops producers, knowing the average rental rates for facilities and land, as well as ranges of custom service fees for things like hay harvesting activities, equipment use, and custom labor, can help farms make sound business decisions. Landowners and farmers often reach out to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Specialists across the State to understand what a fair price might be for land rental and custom cropping services. For years, the answer has been to check information from other State’s websites and make educated guesses. This project, led by Katelyn Walley-Stoll and Nicole Tommell, joined by a team of regional extension educators will gather and share New York specific data to create a better starting point for negotiations between landowners and farmers.

Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops

Anaerobic digester at Wagner Farms

Economic Feasibility Analysis of Dairy Farm Co-Digestion of Manure and Food Waste. New York State and the US dairy industry have established climate goals that will require a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with a specific focus on methane reduction by 2050. Recent NYS legislation requires large producers of food waste to divert disposal in landfills to recycling or use as feed. The use of manure anaerobic digestion (AD) and food waste co-digestion are meaningful ways to reduce methane emissions, while also producing renewable energy to offset fossil fuel GHG, and recycling nutrients. Markets for AD energy, especially renewable natural gas (RNG), are being established through other state fuel standard programs and climate strategies. It is critical that farmers have the information they need to better assess the opportunity to participate in co-digestion as a new business enterprise with an estimated potential revenue of $600 million per year. This project, led by Lauren Ray at Cornell University, will provide an economic feasibility analysis of the co-digestion enterprise, including required food waste tipping fees and RNG pricing, for 3 system sizes.

Farmer-Driven Evaluation of the Value of Manure. It is well acknowledged that manure can help build soil organic matter, enhance nutrient supply and cycling, and in general improve soil health and climate resilience. More than 20 years ago, the Land grant University developed a manure crediting system that guides farmers with manure management decisions. It recognizes that manure contains all the 17 essential nutrients for crop production and should be valued as a nutrient source, not as a waste. In this project, led by Quirine Ketterings who leads the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) at Cornell University, farmers will conduct on-farm trials to address two gaps in current knowledge: 1) the need for information about manure nutrient crediting of variable sources of manure (liquid, post digestors, solids, etc.) and application methods (with or without incorporation or injection); and 2) the potential economic, as well as yield and forage quality, benefits of manure as a replacement for synthetic nitrogen. The knowledge gained from these on-farm trials will be used to assess the current manure crediting system and identify if changes are needed.

Relationships of Feeding Management During the Close-up Dry Period and Forage Fiber Levels During the Fresh period with Postpartum Health and Performance. The three weeks prior to calving and three weeks postpartum are critical for successful dairy cow performance. Much has been learned about the benefits of feeding controlled energy diets to dairy cows in the weeks before calving and it is a common practice at many farms. The use of a higher starch diet postpartum is also thought to be beneficial. Despite adoption of these practices, there is significant variation observed in fresh cow performance across dairy farms. Cornell’s Tom Overton wants to understand if the variation is driven by diet, or feeding management. His project will observe current farm practices on 48 farms, collect additional inputs and analyze the data to better understand optimal precalving feeding management strategies as well as optimal diet fed during the postcalving period. This knowledge will help farms keep their herds healthy, productive, and profitable.

The Effect of Full vs Partial Dietary Cation-Anion Difference (DCAD) Diets on Health, Production, and Reproductive Performance in Dairy Cows. Anionic or negative dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diets are a prepartum nutritional approach widely adopted on dairy farms in New York, the USA, and internationally, as an effective tool to lower the risks of milk fever and other health disorders after calving. It is well-accepted that prepartum negative-DCAD rations improve calcium metabolism around calving, which may explain the better health and production outcomes when compared with neutral to positive DCAD diets. However, the ideal prepartum DCAD level that allows for greatest milk production without comprising health and reproductive performance of dairy cows is not known. This project, led by veterinarian Mark Thomas with Dairy Health and Management Services, will include measurement of health, milk production, and reproductive outcomes, as well as the economics of each dietary treatment. The results will strengthen the understanding of negative DCAD feeding approach and allow dairy producers, nutritionists, and consultants to recommend an optimal prepartum diet.

Understanding Corn Silage Component Forage Quality as Influenced by Planting Date and Dry Matter at Harvest to Refine Harvest Management and Optimize Production. Feed costs are the highest cost on a dairy farm and optimizing homegrown forage in the cows’ diet is linked to overall farm profitability. Advances in forage testing and ration formulation related to the digestibility of both fiber and starch create the need to understand how these characteristics change as the corn plant reaches maturity and the implications for total available nutrients from the forage in ration formulations. This project will collect data on a range of growing environment variables including planting date, hybrid maturity, harvest timing and plant components to derive multiple nutritional quality combinations for analysis. This information will clarify the metrics used to determine optimum harvest timing in modern hybrids and allow farmers to make more informed decisions about the longer-term trade-offs that may be associated with their growing season decisions.

Precision Feed Management: Grass-Fed Beef Cattle. Grass-fed beef production accounts for roughly half of the state’s beef farms and the product’s popularity has increased significantly with climate conscious consumers. The challenge? Not all pastures, or pasture management approaches, provide high quality forage, and it can be hard to understand how a farm’s fields measure up. This project will work with at least 10 participating farms across NY state and will show how improved pasture and stored forage quality positively affects average daily gains, reduces days-to-harvest, and feed cost per pound of gain. The benchmarks created will help farms know what they need to do to alter their pasture management and/or forage production strategies to increase forage quality, improve daily gains and profitability. Results will be shared with participating farms, extension educators, and beef producers across the state.


Apples and Fireblight.

Changing weather patterns are contributing to an increase in fireblight in New York apple orchards. The bacterial disease thrives in warm, wet springs and results in significant economic loss in NYS every year. Susceptible cultivars and high-density orchards are at greater risk and existing management methods are expensive and not always effective. Guided by input from the Apple Review panel, the NYFVI board chose to invest in two extraordinarily innovative management approaches to this costly disease. Both approaches have the potential to prove effective in managing fungal and bacterial diseases in many New York crops.

An Innovative therapeutic solution based on RNA Interference for effective and durable management of fire blight in nursery stocks and mature apple trees. This project, led by Awais Khan at Cornell, combines his deep knowledge of the bacterial strains of fireblight and horticultural expertise, with an innovative RNA Interference based therapeutic solution developed by Silvec Biologics. If successful, a tree may only need a single treatment to stimulate its long-term ability to fight the pathogen. Silvec has demonstrated the technology’s ability to manage bacterial diseases of citrus, olives and grapes and is seeking government clearance for its use. This will be its first trial in apple trees. The ultimate goal for the product is to provide immunity for all bacterial and fungal diseases of apples.  

Amplifying the Power of Natural UV Light to Manage Fire Blight in New York State Orchards. This project is led by Mark Rea at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine Light and Health Research Center and supported by Cornell University. It brings together a multi-disciplinary team of physicists and plant pathologists with expertise in applied research and a commitment to sustainable solutions. It will explore the use of a novel mode of action of titanium dioxide (TiO2) a widely used food/cosmetic additive, and a disinfection catalyst in healthcare applications. A property of TiO2 that differentiates it among other catalysts is that it can become activated by both visible light and UV energy to kill bacteria. Lab and orchard trials will be conducted to understand the efficacy and economics of the approach.

Addressing The Loss of Chlorpyriphos to Manage Dogwood Borer in NY Apple Orchards. The loss of chlorpyriphos as a product requires tree fruit growers to modify specific management practices. While chlorpyriphos alternate and effective pest management strategies to control the early and mid-season pest complex are available, some of these tools have not been used and are unfamiliar to growers, or have not been fully tested to confirm consistent control. Many of these alternatives are approved for organic use, such as pheromone mating disruption and biologicals. This project, led by Peter Jentsch with Poma Consulting, will work in NY orchards to develop recommendations for the use of these new tools to manage the dogwood borer, part of the lepidopteran complex of insects.

Mechanically Harvesting Cider Apples Will Save Growers Money and Further Increase the Quantity and Quality of New York Hard Cider. With a ten-fold increase in hard cider (fermented apple juice) production in the U.S. over the last decade, there is need for more locally grown cider apples for this $1.5 billion industry. Data show that cider producers are willing to pay a significant premium for specialty cider apples. A sustainable increase in the state’s production of specialty cider apples will create new marketing opportunities for apple growers, provide opportunities for orchard expansion, and improve the quantity and quality of ciders made in NY. Unlike fresh market apples, those grown for cider can be mechanically harvested with machines that collect fruit from the orchard floor. Mechanical harvesting also minimizes labor and thus reduces production costs. This proposed two-year project will lay the foundation for mechanized cider apple harvest in small, mid-size, and large orchards by identifying suitable harvesting machines and knowledge to best manage apple maturity, ensuring a consistent and high-quality product. It will be led by Greg Peck at Cornell University.


Juice Grape Floor Management Strategies to Reduce Pesticide use and for Nutrient and Water Conservation through Cover Cropping. Many aspects of vineyard floor management have been studied independently and the industry would benefit from an integrated approach. Current practices degrade soil health and competitive weed species exhibit herbicide resistance. Cover cropping can crowd out competitive weeds while building healthy soils, but they also create competition for water and nutrients when vines need them most. Cover cropping strategies in wine grapes tend to receive irrigation to maintain growth and cover crops are used to decrease plant vigor in wine varieties. Cover crop use in juice grapes is more challenging. Nearly all acres are own rooted and unirrigated relying on soil water conservation for vine production. This project, led by Jennifer Phillips Russo a viticulture specialist with CCE, will develop and evaluate the efficacy and economics of best floor management practices in non-irrigated juice grape vineyards.

Inoculating replants with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in New York vineyards. Grapevines benefit from a symbiotic relationship with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Mycorrhizae play an important role in vine health, grapevine nutrition, and water relations. Anecdotally, soaking roots of young vines prior to planting in an AMF solution is common practice in vineyards on the West coast, however it is rarely practiced in Northeastern U.S. vineyards.  Project leader Justine Vanden Heuvel thinks that may be changing. Over the next two years she will be working with 15 growers to trial the use of AMF as they replace plants in their vineyards. Evaluation of impacts in grower trials and the replicated research vineyard trial will include characterization of root length colonization, leaf blade nutrient concentration, growth analysis, and a count of vine survival in both treatments. Long-term expected outcomes of adoption of an AMF soak include improved vine survival, improved vine growth, reduced need for subsequent replants, and potentially reduced need for chemical fertilizers on young vines. A cost benefit analysis will also be developed.


Protecting Onions in New York from Iris Yellow Spot Virus Through Strategic Management of its Thrips Vector. New York is a leading U.S. producer of onions, and the crop has an average farm-gate value of $50 million annually. Onion thrips and the virus they transmit to onions, Iris Yellow Spot Virus (IYSV), can cause economic losses as high as 50%. While thrips management in onions has been successful following the Cornell Thrips Management Guidelines, IYSV has gotten worse in some areas. Project leader Cornell entomologist Brian Nault suspects that current insecticide use patterns early in the season are permitting thrips adults to survive and spread IYSV. Objectives of this two-year project are to 1) identify the most effective adulticides for onion thrips control, 2) compare thrips densities and IYSV incidence in onion fields treated with or without the adulticide, 3) identify key risk factors for IYSV incidence in onion fields, and 4) develop a comprehensive thrips management program that reduces the incidence of IYSV. Results will be widely disseminated, and the knowledge will allow growers to mitigate the risk of IYSV outbreaks on their farms and protect this high value crop.

Phil Griffiths with his black rot resistant cabbage!

Development and On-Farm Testing of New Cabbage Market Classes. Cabbage is an accessible and affordable storage vegetable crop that is ideally adapted to NY state growing conditions, and a crop in which NY growers lead the world. This project, led by plant breeder Phillip Griffiths at Cornell University, will capitalize on two decades of work that has resulted in the development of cabbage breeding lines that are resistant to black rot and range in color from light pink through to deep purple. His work has shown that when green and pink/red/purple cabbage lines are combined, they generate a light through dark pink or rosé cabbage that typically has green outer leaves and an attractive pink interior flesh (almost like a watermelon) that is more tender, like a green cabbage. This project will trial and further develop these varieties, seek consumer insights on the product at New York City greenmarkets, and if successful provide growers significant new market opportunities. With improved black rot resistance these cabbage varieties can also be grown with fewer chemical inputs.