Monday, January 12, 2015

2014 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day

Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

The Department of Horticulture in partnership with Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (IFVGA), Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture organized the 2014 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day at the Horticulture Research Station, Ames IA on 11 August, 2014. The event was coordinated by Dr. Ajay Nair, Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture. Other researchers who assisted include Drs. Jeff Iles (Dept. Chair), Paul Domoto, Diana Cochran, Gail Nonnecke, Mark Gleason and Amy Toth. The field day attracted 75 participants that included growers, extension personnel, county horticulturists, post docs, and graduate students. The field day provided research-based information on a variety of topics including high tunnel bramble and tomato production, effect of biochar on onion production, honey bee health and behavior, summer cover crops preceding fall vegetable production, and apple root stocks and training systems.

The event started at 2:00pm with a welcome note from Dr. Jeff Iles and Mr. Nick Howell (Farm Superintendent). He also introduced the new Fruit Specialist Dr. Diana Cochran. Mr. Darrell Geisler (President, IFVGA), Ms. Liz Kolbe (PFI), and Dr. Mark Rasmussen (Director, Leopold Center) also attended the field day and interacted with growers. The Field day gave growers an opportunity for a real time assessment of new, innovative, and sustainable research initiatives in the area of fruit and vegetable production. The first stop was the high tunnel bramble and tomato project which was well received by the audience. Growers discussed several topics such as cost, construction, maintenance, and production methodologies in high tunnel crop production.

Dr. Amy Toth’s bee research lab showcased various ongoing research projects on carpenter and honeybees. Dr. Nair’s research on summer cover crops for vegetable production attracted a lot of interest, especially with growers interested in exploring cover crops as a tool for weed suppression and building of soil organic matter. Mr. Ray Kruse, a graduate student in the department, highlighted a relatively new cabbage cultivar called Caraflex that has small heads with good wrapper leaves, sweet and mild cabbage flavor and is in the form of a tear drop. Mr. Brandon Carpenter, from the Research and Demonstration Farms and a former graduate student of the department, shared his experience of starting a new asparagus planting for future research. Participants also got a taste of new and innovative approach of no-till garlic production integrating cover crops such as sorghum sudangrass, sunn hemp, and cowpea. This was a research project started by Mr. Dana Jokela, a graduate student. Dr. Domoto showcased the apple cultivar and rootstock trial and emphasized the importance of selecting appropriate cultivars that can grow well in Iowa and produce higher yields. Graduate students from the Department of Horticulture (Ms. Leah Riesselman, Ms. Jennifer Tillman, Mr. Dana Jokela, and Mr. Ray Kruse) actively participated in the event by engaging growers in their research projects and answering questions. The afternoon session of the field day was followed by dinner at the farm. After the dinner growers mingled with farm staff, researchers and graduate students and had discussions on needs and challenges for the fruit and vegetable industry in Iowa.

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