Achieving High Quality Brassica Crops on Diversified Vegetable Farms

Final Report for LNE04-202

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $126,956.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $10,214.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Ruth Hazzarad
University of Massachusetts
Co-Leaders:
Kimberly Stoner
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

The core of the project was a group of nine vegetable farmers who set goals for how they would like to improve Brassica quality in their unique production system. They spent two years working with project staff, consultants and each other to achieve this by changing their cultural and pest management practices over two growing seasons. They were supported by consultants in areas of variety selection, nutrient and water management, business planning and record keeping, pest management, and marketing as well as by technical staff who visited their farms to assist them implementing and evaluating changes. At the beginning of each season, staff visited each grower’s farm for pre-season consultation, took soil tests, and reviewed the grower’s goals and milestones with them. We visited the growers during each season to check on progress. Based on growers’ interests, researchable questions regarding heat tolerant as well as late season broccoli varieties and cabbage maggot scouting methods were addressed in several replicated field experiments in CT and MA. Outreach to a wider circle of farmers was accomplished through multiple channels; including farm tours, winter educational programs, newsletters, and publications (both electronic and printed).

The core group came together with consultants and staff in the first winter for a meeting which provided intensive information exchange. Here they set their goals for the project, planed what they would like to try the first season, and determined what resources they needed to do it. We also established goals for applied research projects for that season. This was followed up by contacts and farm visits with consultants and project staff, coordinated by technicians in MA and CT. Growers received a stipend of $400 per year to use as they wished in support of their goals. They planned to assess their new practices in side-by-side comparison where that was practical or in relation to past outcomes where it was not. Farm tours were planned at various times of the season to enable the core group to see firsthand the unique approach of other farms and discuss issues face to face, as well as to engage a wider circle of farmers.

After the first season, core group met with consultants and staff again on February 28, 2006. Here they evaluated their progress toward the goals they had set for themselves, received feedback and new ideas from consultants and their fellow growers, and revised their plans for the coming season. We also established goals for applied research projects for the 2006 season. This was followed up by contacts and farm visits with consultants and project staff, coordinated by technicians in MA and CT. More farm tours were scheduled, and our core group farmers hosted meetings at their own farms to showcase their progress and share their ideas and experiences with the wider agricultural community.

The final core grower meeting took place on December 11, 2006. Here the growers shared their experiences with this project, provided feedback to us and to each other, and laid their plans for how they would take what they learned and move forward with it on their own. We also began planning a formal ‘Brassica School’ which was held in the late winter of 2007. This school provided a public format for our growers to share the information and experience they acquired through participation in this project, and brought in speakers on topics that our growers felt would be important to the wider community of Brassica growers. The proceedings from that project are available online at the UMass Vegetable Program website (www.umassvegetable.org) under the Brassica crops sections.

Introduction:

To meet the goals of this project, at least twenty nine farmers were to adopt one or more practices which would result in higher crop quality during more of their target production season. The criteria for success were: higher yield per acre of marketable crop, reduced losses from pest damage or other causes, extended season for successful production, reduced use of high-risk pesticides, effective use of low-risk pesticides, access to new markets or better sales to existing markets, more efficient integration of all practices in their unique production system, or higher net return per unit of area. To meet these goals, we established a core group of 9 farmers, 7 consultants (in disease, insect, nutrient, and water management, business planning, organic production, and marketing) and 2 technicians who worked together throughout the project. We worked with a group of farmers diverse in their production methods, markets, growing philosophy, and backgrounds, and united in their desire to improve the quality, yield or length of production season in their Brassica crops. After an intensive winter meeting of this core group, the growers chose practices to try and goals by which to evaluate their progress over the next 2 growing seasons. Production questions identified by the growers about new management options were studied in replicated experiments on research farms. Growers evaluated management options through direct comparison of new to old practices or by comparison to previous years. Outreach programs, including field days on core farms and a Brassica School, reached a wider circle of growers in the Northeast, many of whom also tried new practices. Evaluation was achieved through records kept by the core participants and surveys completed by those who attended meetings, as well as a broad final survey.

Performance Target:

OBJECTIVES/PERFORMANCE TARGETS:

1. Of nine farmers who participate in the project for three years, and 300 farmers who learn about sustainable crop and pest management practices for Brassicas, 29 will adopt one or more practices which result in higher crop quality during more of their target production season.

Farmers who learned about sustainable crop and pest management practices for Brassicas: In 2005, through field days, farm tours, presentation, meetings, and workshops we presented information about sustainable crop and pest management practices for Brassicas directly to 510 growers and ag. professionals. Through newsletter articles and fact sheets, we indirectly provided information to over 590 growers in this year. The issues raised by the project were brought to a much wider audience by the Boston Globe, who ran a front page article on our work (“Researchers see cabbages and kings – Boost eyed for N.E. farmers” 11/29/2004, Appendix *). This article brought the work we are doing in this project to over 450,000 people throughout the greater New England area.

In the 2006 season our field days, farm tours, presentation, meetings, and workshops presented information about sustainable crop and pest management practices for Brassicas directly to 238 growers and agricultural professionals. Through newsletter articles and fact sheets, we indirectly provided information to over 500 additional growers in 2006. On August 4, 2006 one of our growers was featured in a front page article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette focusing on his work on growing and marketing baby cabbage. The Gazette is the leading newspaper in the area, with a subscription base in the tens of thousands.

In 2007, the UMass IPM Field School at Riverland Farm in Sunderland, MA focused on cabbage root maggot management and was attended by 12 growers.

Direct outreach to growers at meetings: total 760.

Outreach to the public: including the wider public audience reached by the 2005 Boston Globe article and the 2006 Hampshire Gazette feature, we have brought the work being done with local Brassica production to the attention of about half a million people across the New England area.

Farmers who adopted one or more practices which result in higher crop quality during more of their target production season: Surveys given to growers at several of our meetings indicate that at least 88 attendees (95% of those who returned onsite surveys) had learned something they intend to adopt on their own farms. A final survey was sent to the UMass Vegetable Notes email subscription list (>500 people, primarily growers) as well as any meeting attendees not already on the list for whom we had email addresses. We received 69 responses in total. Of these 69 respondees, 49 had attended one or more of meetings sponsored by the project Survey results indicate that 39 out of these 49 meeting attendees had learned something new at either the meeting or through one of our publications, and adopted a new practice or refined their understanding of existing practices in Brassica production.

2. These 29 farmers will achieve at least one of the following, based upon their own self-determined goals: higher yield per acre of marketable crop, reduced losses from pest damage or other causes, extended season for successful production, reduced use of high-risk pesticides, effective use of low-risk pesticides, access to new markets or better sales to existing markets, more efficient integration of all practices in their unique production system, or higher net return per unit of area.

Based on data collected at our final group meeting and compared to their baseline survey, all of the nine core growers have achieved at least one of their goals (listed under milestones). All 39 of the final survey respondees that had learned something new through our work on this project and adopted a new practice or refined their management techniques had experienced higher yield or decreased losses from at least one relevant factor (insects, disease, weeds, nutrient problems, etc) in their Brassica crops.

One of the key methods that this project employed was guiding growers in setting their own goals within the context of the project. This was something of a departure from our usual methods, in which we approach the growers with a list of our (extension) goals, generally in the context of a research project. It also relied heavily on grower to grower input, peer review of ideas, and accountability to a group of peers. This seemed to increase grower’s commitment to the project and is a method that we would like to employ in the future where it seems applicable.

Using surveys to record data on meeting attendees was another method that we relied heavily on for tracking the outcomes of our meetings and talks. This method was employed more rigorously in the later half of the project, leaving some gaps in our information for the first year. In the future we intend to use this method with more diligence, and also refine out survey questions to more closely reflect the information we need to extract from our audience.

We also used an email survey to collect our final data. This was very helpful even though we had somewhat low response rate (~10%). Our mailing list is large enough (~600) so that even a fairly low response rate can provide useful information. We are looking in to ways to increase the response rate, as this is a method we would like to employ in the future in other contexts

At the beginning of the project we had intended for all growers to use the New England Farm Account Book to track their receipts and expenditures. This method of record keeping did not work for all of our growers, and many of our growers had set goals for themselves that could not be accurately tracked by this method. After the first year we dropped this as a formal requirement of participation in the project.

In order to provide a comprehensive base of knowledge from which the participating growers could draw to meet their diverse goals, we provided consultants in a variety of areas. These consultants included John Howell (UMass Extension, fertility management), Dr. Rob Wick and Bess Dicklow (UMass Extension, Plant Pathology), Dr. Frank Mangan and Maria Moreira (UMass Extension, Vegetable Crop Marketing), Ed Stockman (organic management, season extension) and Rick Chandler (UMass Natural Resources Conservation, Farm Financial Recorkeeping). Consultants participated in planning meetings and were available to growers throughout the course of the project.

Outreach and the dissemination of information was a major part of this project’s goals. We applied a variety of methods to achieve these goals. Information was provided via our newsletter, posted on the web, distributed as printed materials at meetings, and directly via talks at conferences and twilight meetings. Based on our final survey results, meetings and conferences are a very effective way to distribute information. A majority of growers said they had first learned of at least one of the practices they have adopted at a meeting or conference, many of which were sponsored by this project. Newsletter articles were also listed as useful. One of the top categories for learning of new practices among those surveyed was talking with other growers. This is a huge side benefit of hosting meetings for growers – it provides a forum in which growers can exchange information with each other. Future meetings will include more time for both formal and informal grower to grower discussion.

As part of our pre-season grower visits, staff obtained a soil test from each farm and helped interpret the results. In 2006, we set up one-on-one meetings between growers and John Howell from UMass extension to discuss the results of their soil tests in great detail and answer questions about optimal strategies for managing the fertility in their fields. These meetings were very well received by the growers, and provided the opportunity for them to receive customized expert advice and expand their understanding of nutrient management.

Applied research was a small component of this project, although the experiments were rather work intensive. We spent two field seasons trialing different broccoli varieties for both heat tolerance (2005, 2006) and late season quality (2006 only). This research topic was the outcome of core growers’ interest in extending the fall broccoli harvest season earlier, to the beginning of September. Broccoli harvested at that time initiates heads during the hottest part of the summer; head initiation is the critical period for heat injury. Hence, finding varietal resistance to heat injury is a key factor to high quality broccoli for late summer harvest. At the UMass Crops Research and Education Center in the summer of 2005, we monitored two plantings of eight different varieties of broccoli to determine how quickly each variety reaches the critical stage for heat stress, and how long each variety took to reach harvest after the critical period had passed. All experiments were planted with five replications of each variety and a total of five plants of each variety per replication. We also took harvest samples and compared the severity of heat damage across the different varieties and planting dates. We harvested, scored, and weighed the heads roughly every three days throughout the harvest period. Heads were scored for several different heat-related injury factors – bud evenness, head evenness, bud damage, and number of leaves in the head. We also rated the head as wholesale quality, farmers market quality, and unsalable. We based these categories on personal observations of the quality available in each market. This allowed us to asses the quality of each variety and planting date for a late summer broccoli harvest. We selected varieties that are considered to have some degree of heat tolerance. These varieties include Amadeus, Gypsy (Johnny’s), Hepathlon (Noresco), F71-29A (Know-You), BL 10, Concord, Marathon (Rupp), and Windsor (Harris). In 2006 we repeated the summer trial with only one planting date, and substituting Arcadia for BL10. In 2006 we also looked at varieties for cold season production, using similar methods to those listed above but using varieties reputed to be more suitable for production into the winter: Windsor, Gypsy, Diplomat, Marathon, Alborada, Arcadia, Everest, and Bellstar. The results of this work were presented at the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference 2007, at project meetings, at the Brassica School, and through Vegetable Notes.

In addition to the broccoli trials, in 2005 we did some basic variety trials for Gai Lan, or Chinese broccoli, for one of our growers who were interested in marketing it to restaurants. These trials simply entailed planting out small plots of several different varieties – Green Lance, Happy Rich, Chang’s, Chinese Kale, Pieracicaba, and Kailaan. Data on yield and harvest interval were recorded. The intended markets proved uninterested, so these trials were not repeated.

Given the interest among our core growers in season extension, this project also helped to support a cold-hardy Brassica greens experiment at the UMass Crops Research and Education Center. This experiment has been run over three consecutive winters, selecting plants for cold hardiness, leaf quality, and late bolting. In addition, we looked for differences in susceptibility to flea beetle damage between overwintered and spring planted Brassicas. Arugula, Thick Stemmed Mustard and Segregating Mustard seeds were planted in the greenhouse in September of 2005 and then planted in the field in late October of 2005. In 2006 we used a Mizuna-Tatsoi-Maruba cross (MTM) (Brassica rapa) from Bryan O’Hare (Lebanon, CT), Siberian Kale (RRK) (Brassica ) from Dan Pratt (Hadley, MA), Mixed Mustard (MM) greens(Brassica juncea) and Arugula (AR) (Eruca vesicaria cv sativa) from the overwintered plants of 2005-2006 (obtained from Brett Drosdhal in 2005). Plant spacing was 6” in row and 6” between rows. The three varieties were planted in four separate blocks. Row cover (‘Typar’) was placed over the transplants a week after planting. Metal hoops were placed 3 feet apart under the row cover for extra support. Spring crops were seeded in April. Row cover was removed after spring crops germinated. Yellow sticky cards were used to monitor flea beetle activity (changed twice weekly) in each plot. Leaves were sampled in overwintered and spring crops at the appropriate leaf size, to determine feeding damage (# holes per leaf; # holes per sq. inch based on leaf length and width using area of an oval as estimate of leaf area). Overwinter greens were cut once or twice, then allowed to bolt and set seed after plants were selected. Selections were based on leaf quality and late bolting. Selections from this experiment are ongoing and a third experiment is being conducted in winter 2007-2008. In the first two experiments, we did found significant reduction in flea beetle damage on the overwintered varieties compared to spring-seeded crops of the same seed lot. Seed from all of our selections is available to growers in limited quantities.

Experiments were conducted at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to determine optimal scouting methods to determine when row cover or other controls should be applied to prevent cabbage maggot damage. We were not able to identify a specific period when row covers would be most effective. We tried monitoring adult activity with yellow sticky cards and monitoring egg laying by looking for eggs at the bases of the plants. Both of these techniques were time-consuming, and neither gave us satisfactory predictions of when damage was likely to occur. In addition, growers had other problems with row covers in the fall – increased aphid infestation, reduced yield, and poor quality. These results were mirrored by on-farm trials at Holcomb and Appleton farms.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Erin Amazzane
  • Rick Baruc
  • Kathy Caruso
  • Andrew Cavanagh
  • Rick Chandler
  • David Dumaresq
  • Walter Greist
  • Sam Hammer
  • Jenny Hausman
  • John Howell
  • Amy Klippenstein
  • Frank Mangan
  • Edwin Matuszko
  • Maria Moreira
  • Nou Yang

Research

Materials and methods:

One of the key methods that this project employed was guiding growers in setting their own goals within the context of the project. This was something of a departure from our usual methods, in which we approach the growers with a list of our (extension) goals, generally in the context of a research project. It also relied heavily on grower to grower input, peer review of ideas, and accountability to a group of peers. This seemed to increase grower’s commitment to the project and is a method that we would like to employ in the future where it seems applicable.

Using surveys to record data on meeting attendees was another method that we relied heavily on for tracking the outcomes of our meetings and talks. This method was employed more rigorously in the later half of the project, leaving some gaps in our information for the first year. In the future we intend to use this method with more diligence, and also refine out survey questions to more closely reflect the information we need to extract from our audience.

We also used an email survey to collect our final data. This was very helpful even though we had somewhat low response rate (~10%). Our mailing list is large enough (~600) so that even a fairly low response rate can provide useful information. We are looking in to ways to increase the response rate, as this is a method we would like to employ in the future in other contexts

At the beginning of the project we had intended for all growers to use the New England Farm Account Book to track their receipts and expenditures. This method of record keeping did not work for all of our growers, and many of our growers had set goals for themselves that could not be accurately tracked by this method. After the first year we dropped this as a formal requirement of participation in the project.

In order to provide a comprehensive base of knowledge from which the participating growers could draw to meet their diverse goals, we provided consultants in a variety of areas. These consultants included John Howell (UMass Extension, fertility management), Dr. Rob Wick and Bess Dicklow (UMass Extension, Plant Pathology), Dr. Frank Mangan and Maria Moreira (UMass Extension, Vegetable Crop Marketing), Ed Stockman (organic management, season extension) and Rick Chandler (UMass Natural Resources Conservation, Farm Financial Recorkeeping). Consultants participated in planning meetings and were available to growers throughout the course of the project.

Outreach and the dissemination of information was a major part of this project’s goals. We applied a variety of methods to achieve these goals. Information was provided via our newsletter, posted on the web, distributed as printed materials at meetings, and directly via talks at conferences and twilight meetings. Based on our final survey results, meetings and conferences are a very effective way to distribute information. A majority of growers said they had first learned of at least one of the practices they have adopted at a meeting or conference, many of which were sponsored by this project. Newsletter articles were also listed as useful. One of the top categories for learning of new practices among those surveyed was talking with other growers. This is a huge side benefit of hosting meetings for growers – it provides a forum in which growers can exchange information with each other. Future meetings will include more time for both formal and informal grower to grower discussion.

As part of our pre-season grower visits, staff obtained a soil test from each farm and helped interpret the results. In 2006, we set up one-on-one meetings between growers and John Howell from UMass extension to discuss the results of their soil tests in great detail and answer questions about optimal strategies for managing the fertility in their fields. These meetings were very well received by the growers, and provided the opportunity for them to receive customized expert advice and expand their understanding of nutrient management.

Applied research was a small component of this project, although the experiments were rather work intensive. We spent two field seasons trialing different broccoli varieties for both heat tolerance (2005, 2006) and late season quality (2006 only). This research topic was the outcome of core growers’ interest in extending the fall broccoli harvest season earlier, to the beginning of September. Broccoli harvested at that time initiates heads during the hottest part of the summer; head initiation is the critical period for heat injury. Hence, finding varietal resistance to heat injury is a key factor to high quality broccoli for late summer harvest. At the UMass Crops Research and Education Center in the summer of 2005, we monitored two plantings of eight different varieties of broccoli to determine how quickly each variety reaches the critical stage for heat stress, and how long each variety took to reach harvest after the critical period had passed. All experiments were planted with five replications of each variety and a total of five plants of each variety per replication. We also took harvest samples and compared the severity of heat damage across the different varieties and planting dates. We harvested, scored, and weighed the heads roughly every three days throughout the harvest period. Heads were scored for several different heat-related injury factors – bud evenness, head evenness, bud damage, and number of leaves in the head. We also rated the head as wholesale quality, farmers market quality, and unsalable. We based these categories on personal observations of the quality available in each market. This allowed us to asses the quality of each variety and planting date for a late summer broccoli harvest. We selected varieties that are considered to have some degree of heat tolerance. These varieties include Amadeus, Gypsy (Johnny’s), Hepathlon (Noresco), F71-29A (Know-You), BL 10, Concord, Marathon (Rupp), and Windsor (Harris). In 2006 we repeated the summer trial with only one planting date, and substituting Arcadia for BL10. In 2006 we also looked at varieties for cold season production, using similar methods to those listed above but using varieties reputed to be more suitable for production into the winter: Windsor, Gypsy, Diplomat, Marathon, Alborada, Arcadia, Everest, and Bellstar. The results of this work were presented at the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference 2007, at project meetings, at the Brassica School, and through Vegetable Notes.

In addition to the broccoli trials, in 2005 we did some basic variety trials for Gai Lan, or Chinese broccoli, for one of our growers who were interested in marketing it to restaurants. These trials simply entailed planting out small plots of several different varieties – Green Lance, Happy Rich, Chang’s, Chinese Kale, Pieracicaba, and Kailaan. Data on yield and harvest interval were recorded. The intended markets proved uninterested, so these trials were not repeated.

Given the interest among our core growers in season extension, this project also helped to support a cold-hardy Brassica greens experiment at the UMass Crops Research and Education Center. This experiment has been run over three consecutive winters, selecting plants for cold hardiness, leaf quality, and late bolting. In addition, we looked for differences in susceptibility to flea beetle damage between overwintered and spring planted Brassicas. Arugula, Thick Stemmed Mustard and Segregating Mustard seeds were planted in the greenhouse in September of 2005 and then planted in the field in late October of 2005. In 2006 we used a Mizuna-Tatsoi-Maruba cross (MTM) (Brassica rapa) from Bryan O’Hare (Lebanon, CT), Siberian Kale (RRK) (Brassica ) from Dan Pratt (Hadley, MA), Mixed Mustard (MM) greens(Brassica juncea) and Arugula (AR) (Eruca vesicaria cv sativa) from the overwintered plants of 2005-2006 (obtained from Brett Drosdhal in 2005). Plant spacing was 6” in row and 6” between rows. The three varieties were planted in four separate blocks. Row cover (‘Typar’) was placed over the transplants a week after planting. Metal hoops were placed 3 feet apart under the row cover for extra support. Spring crops were seeded in April. Row cover was removed after spring crops germinated. Yellow sticky cards were used to monitor flea beetle activity (changed twice weekly) in each plot. Leaves were sampled in overwintered and spring crops at the appropriate leaf size, to determine feeding damage (# holes per leaf; # holes per sq. inch based on leaf length and width using area of an oval as estimate of leaf area). Overwinter greens were cut once or twice, then allowed to bolt and set seed after plants were selected. Selections were based on leaf quality and late bolting. Selections from this experiment are ongoing and a third experiment is being conducted in winter 2007-2008. In the first two experiments, we did found significant reduction in flea beetle damage on the overwintered varieties compared to spring-seeded crops of the same seed lot. Seed from all of our selections is available to growers in limited quantities.

Experiments were conducted at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to determine optimal scouting methods to determine when row cover or other controls should be applied to prevent cabbage maggot damage. We were not able to identify a specific period when row covers would be most effective. We tried monitoring adult activity with yellow sticky cards and monitoring egg laying by looking for eggs at the bases of the plants. Both of these techniques were time-consuming, and neither gave us satisfactory predictions of when damage was likely to occur. In addition, growers had other problems with row covers in the fall – increased aphid infestation, reduced yield, and poor quality. These results were mirrored by on-farm trials at Holcomb and Appleton farms.

Research results and discussion:

Core Group:
1. 9 farmers join the project & assess baseline conditions (fall 2004)
Nine growers were selected for the project and filled out an extensive survey to determine their baseline conditions. The nine farmers were selected from a pool of thirty applicants. They were chosen to reflect diverse production methods and project goals, so that their experiences will be applicable to the widest possible audience in the agricultural community. The range of farm and farmer characteristics included: organic and conventional; marketing wholesale and through CSA, restaurants, farmers market and farmstands; field and hoophouse production; both women and men; one half to 6 acres of Brassicas; in business for less than five years to more than 35 years; in Connecticut and Massachusetts; born in the US or born in another country.

2. Core group, staff & consultants meet. Growers set goals & plan changes in practices, follow up with staff and consultants on implementation (winter 2005).

The core group met with staff and consultants on January 10, 2005 to set goals, discuss strategies for achieving those goals, and create an action plan for the upcoming growing season. Before the beginning of the growing season each grower was visited individually by staff and/or consultants for follow up and further consultation.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS:
 Amy Klippenstien – Wants to adjust broccoli production methods to reduce peaks and valleys in harvest; analyze profitability of Brassica crops on a bed foot basis, increased use of season extension for mixed Brassica greens.
 Nou Yang – Improving Brassica production methods in order to increase yields and reduce hand labor; special emphasis on learning better weed and fertility management.
 Jenny Hausman – Better root maggot control in fall rutabaga; improved production methods in broccoli (particularly variety selection and spacing for different times of the year); and for Brussels sprouts to determine the best technique for producing consistent sized sprouts on the stalk for a one time harvest.
 Sam Hammer – Primarily interested in season extension, learning about root maggot scouting and control, and flea beetle management.
 Edwin Matuszko – Really wants to find a way to make growing cabbage profitable so he can continue to grow it.
 Kathy Caruso – Increasing broccoli yield, and improving Brassica production methods in general.
 Walter Griest – Interested in developing a system for bed production of Brassicas that will make using row cover for flea beetle control easier and more practical.
 Ricky Baruc – Wants to learn better organic methods for controlling lepidopteron pests in leafy Brassicas; testing Chinese broccoli varieties for the restaurant market; and starting to produce a micro mix crop.
 Dave Dumaresq – Wants to be able to produce a decent crop of broccoli by Labor Day while incurring minimal risk from heat damage.

3. One farmer hosts on-farm meeting. Core group tries changes in crop & pest mgt practices & marketing w/ support from technical staff & consultants (spring/summer 2005).
David Zemelsky (Durham, CT) hosted an on-farm meeting on February 17th to demonstrate effective methods for winter production of high quality Brassica greens, a topic of interest to many in the core group. A CRAFT meeting focusing on Brassica production was held at Nou Yang’s farm in Bolton, MA. All of the core members implemented changes in their production strategies in accordance with their goals, and were visited by staff during the growing season.

4. One core farmer hosts on-farm meeting. Nine farmers attend two-day meeting, review results from farms & research trials with each other and advisors, plan for 2006 season. Three give talks at winter grower meetings (fall/winter 2005-2006).

Jennie Hausmann and Bruce Wooster hosted a twilight meeting at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA on October 19th 2005 to showcase the results of the Brassica projects on their farm. Core-group growers Sam Hammer, Dave Dumaresq, and Walter Griest attended. Other growers at the meeting completed a short baseline survey on their Brassica production.

Our annual core group winter meeting for the 2006 season was held on February 28, 2006. Our growers preferred an intensive one day meeting rather than spreading it over two days. Most of our growers elected to host on-farms meetings during the growing season rather than to talk at winter meetings, in order to be able to display their Brassicas in production.

5. Participants change practices and evaluate results. Two growers host on-farm meetings (spring/summer 2006).
All of our participating growers implemented changes in accordance with the plans set at the February winter meeting. Five growers’ hosted meetings on their farms during the 2006 growing season (listed below).

1. Edwin Matuszko, Twin Oaks Farm, July 18. Participants had hands-on practice in scouting cabbage for caterpillars, and learned how to identify caterpillars and beneficials and decide when to spray according to threshold. Edwin showed his baby cabbage crop and discussed his marketing goals. The meeting also showcased innovations that Edwin was implementing in other crops.
2. Dave Dumaresq, Brox Farm, August 15. Participants scouted Dave’s fall broccoli for caterpillars and learned how to identify pests and beneficials. Dave discussed his harvest goals and broccoli varieties. The meeting also showcased new IPM and conservation practices that Dave was implementing in other crops.
3. Kathy Caruso, Upper Forty Farm, September 24. This meeting was rained out by a torrential downpour.
4. Sam Hammer, Holcomb Farm, October 25. We toured fall plantings of Brassica greens, root crops and Brussels sprouts and discussed management for Alternaria and black rot, cabbage maggot and flea beetle. Black rot had severely stunted the Brussels sprouts. We discussed seed quality issues and crop rotation, use of row covers, and scouting methods. Sam described his benchtop production methods for the winter greens CSA share and talked about what he had learned.
5. Amy Klippenstein, Sidehill Farm, November 14. We toured two types of winter greenhouses, both filled with greens for salad mix, and discussed Amy’s plans for an interior quilted row cover, and her varieties, planting dates, harvesting and marketing methods.
The core group also wanted to learn more about overwintered greens; as a result, the project organized a meeting at the farm of Bryan O’Hara, Lebannon, Connecticut, on March 10, 2006. Bryan showed his production methods for low-tunnel overwintered greens, harvested through late fall and again in early spring. He shared packets of seed from greens he had selected for hardiness and productivity on his farm, including a mizuna-mibuna-tatsoi cross. This meeting was attended by over 40 people.

6. One day meeting to share results. 8 growers report achieving their goals (fall/winter 2006-2007).
The final core group meeting occurred on December 11, 2006. Based on data collected at our final group meeting and compared to their baseline survey, our nine core growers have achieved at least one of the goals listed above (see Outcomes section for details).
Wider Circle:
1. 150 Vegetable growers hear about the project & sustainable Brassica production (meetings, publications). (winter 2005).
With field days, farm tours, presentation, meetings, and workshops we have brought information about this project and sustainable Brassica production directly to 510 growers and ag. professionals. Through newsletter articles and fact sheets, we have indirectly provided information to at least another 593 growers. A front page article in the Boston Globe detailing the work we are doing in this project reached an audience of over 450,000, some of whom were undoubtedly growers and all of whom were potential customers for our growers.

2. 20 Growers try something new. 25 growers learn about innovative production and marketing practices at on farm meetings. (spring/summer 2005)
An on farm meeting co-sponsored by Eastern Massachusetts CRAFT focused on Brassica production at held at Nou Yang’s farm in Bolton, MA. Jennie Hausmann and Bruce Windsor hosted a twilight meeting at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA on October 19th 2005 to showcase the results of the Brassica projects on their farm. This was attended by 40 growers. UMass Extension held a field day at the UMass Crops Research and Education Center on July 12, 2005, attended by 69 people.

3. 150 additional growers learn about innovative management strategies at farm tour, winter grower meetings (including Brassica School), & in newsletters & publications. (winter 2006)
As noted in the milestones section, in 2006 over 800 growers learned about the innovations presented by this grant through meetings, newsletters, publications, and the Brassica School. The Brassica School was attended by roughly 50 people, representing a cross section of the agricultural community. Topics covered included plant nutrition (presented by John Howell, UMass extension), the physiology of flowering in heading Brassicas and it’s relationship to heat tolerance (Dr. Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell University), managing insects & diseases in Brassicas (Ruth Hazzard & Bess Dicklow, UMass extension), broccoli variety selection (Andy Cavanagh, UMass extension), and new markets for Brassicas (Frank Mangan, UMass extension). In addition, there was a marketing panel discussion including representatives from Whole Foods Market, MA Farm to School Program, Red Tomato Marketing, and The Night Kitchen restaurant. We also held a grower to grower discussion led by members of the project – Edwin Matuszko, Dave Dumaresq, Amy Klippenstein, and Ricky Baruc.

4. 50 growers try a new practice in Brassica production.(spring/summer 2006)
Out of the 93 meeting attendees who returned our on-site surveys, 95% said that they had learned something at the meeting that they would try on their own farms, primarily in the areas of variety selection, season extension, nutrient management, and general crop production methods (spacing, transplant timing, rotation strategies, etc). These 93 returned surveys represent only about 10% of the total attendance of all of the meetings and talks in which we presented information related to this project. It can be projected that a similar percentage of attendees for whom we do not have surveys may also try a new practice as a result of attending the talk or meeting.

5. 70 growers respond to survey and 21 report achieving higher quality and yield in Brassicas. (fall/winter 2006-2007)
In early 2008, a formal online survey was sent to the entire UMass Vegetable Notes email subscription list as well as the attendees of previous meetings. Roughly 600 surveys were sent out, and the survey was also posted to the front page of the UMass Vegetable IPM website (www.umassvegetable.org). We received 69 responses in total. Of these 69 respondees, 49 had attended one of the relevant meetings. Survey results indicate that 39 out of these 49 meeting attendees had learned something new at either the meeting or through one of our publications, adopted a new practice or refined their understanding of existing practices in Brassica production, and experienced higher yield or decreased losses in their Brassica crops.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Most of the outreach for this project was in the form of meetings, which are listed in the sections above. Some of the talks given in relation to this project are listed below.

R. Hazzard, A. Cavanagh. Heat Stress and Heat Tolerance in Broccoli for Late Summer Harvest. 2007 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference. December 12, 2007, Manchester NH
Hazzard, R, A. Cavanagh and A. Brown. May-Sept. 2007. IPM Field Schools. Sunderland, Hatfield, Northbridge, Westport and Sheffield, MA.
Hazzard, R. and D. Dumaresq. August 15, 2006. IPM Training Session in Sweet Corn and Brassicas. Brox Farm Twilight Meeting. Dracut, MA. Demonstration and hands-on field training. (35)
Hazzard, R. A. Cavanagh and E. Matuszko. July 18, 2006. IPM Training Session in Perimeter Trap Cropping and Brassicas. August 15, 2006. Twin Oaks Farm Twilight Meeting. Hadley, MA. Demonstration and hands-on field training.
Hazzard, R. Achieving high quality Brassica crops. NOFA-Massachusetts Winter Conference, January 21, 2006 (40)
Hazzard, R Materials for beating flea beetles in Brassicas. Biorationals and Biological Pest Control Session. 2005 New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference. December 13, 2005, Manchester NH.
R. Hazzard, A Duphily & A. Cavanagh. Broccoli variety trials: evaluating heat tolerance in summer grown broccoli. UMass Crops Research and Education center Field Day, July 2005

In addition to these talks, this project generated the following publications:

Boston Globe, November 29 2004. Researcher Sees Cabbages and Kings – boost eyed for N.E. farmers
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.3 May 12 2005. Cabbage Maggot & Onion Flies
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.3 May 12 2005. Flea Beetle in Brassicas
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.4 May 25 2005. Brassica Pests
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.9 May 30 2005. Brassicas: Caterpillars and Flea Beetles
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.14 August 4 2005. Cabbage: Internal Tip Burn
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 16 No.19 September 9 2005. Brassicas: Fall Diseases
VegNotes Newsletter, vol 17 No.4 May 12 2006. Heat Stress and Heat Tolerance in Late Summer Broccoli
Hampshire Daily Gazette, vol 220 No. 285 August 4 2006. A Heads Up Experiment – Hadley growers testing a niche market for baby cabbages
Cavanagh, A. ed. 2007 New England High Quality Brassica School Handbook.
Cavanagh, A. and R. Hazzard, 2007. Heat Stress and Heat Tolerance in Broccoli for Late Summer Harvest. Pages 174-177 in Proceedings of the New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference.

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The core group of growers we worked with had diverse goals and unique needs, and so our response to those needs was also unique. For instance, we helped Nou Yang learn how to use a flame weeder and a stirrup hoe; Edwin Matuszko received assistance in developing marketing and point of sale materials for his baby cabbage, we trained Sam Hammer and one of his interns in using yellow sticky cards to trap cabbage maggot flies, Kathie Caruso got a comprehensive plan for broccoli production, we ran several broccoli variety trials at the request of Dave Dumaresq, Ricky Baruc received one on one training in scouting for and identifying lepidopteron pests in his Brassicas, Walter Griest was helped in locating black locust lumber for his bed covering system, we helped Amy Klippenstein develop spreadsheets to track her profits and expenditures, and Jamie Barrett received counsel in designing experiments to test differing methods of Brussels Sprout production. This represents just a small subset of the varied needs that growers had, and the varied ways we responded to those needs.

Out of our core growers,
• Amy Kilppenstien is moving toward more late-season crops, and will continue to experiment with this after this grant expires. She has also revised her record keeping increasing her understanding of which crops turn the best profit, and has made several major shifts in her production based on this new information.
• Nou Yang has learned more about fertility and pest management. He has had direct help interpreting his soil test results and implementing their recommendations, and experienced increased yield as a result he has increased his sales at Boston area farmers markets. Nou is extremely satisfied with the assistance he received; and as a result of this hands-on type of training he is planning to pass his new knowledge on to other farmers at Bolton Flats.
• Jennie Hausmann took a hiatus from farming, but was replaced by Jamie Barret as the manager of Appleton Farms. Jamie continued with the project in her place, experimenting with different broccoli spacing and methods of Brussels sprout production. The information he gained from these experiments has informed his production methods, increased his per acre yield for these crops, and been useful to other growers. Jennie has recently started her own farm, based in southern NH and serving markets in both NH and MA; and using the information she gained from this project in her current Brassica production. Jamie reports that as a result of this project he has improved his record keeping system overall.
• Sam Hammer has experimented with winter greens production in his operation, allowing him to expand the ‘winter share’ he offers through his CSA.
• Edwin Matuszko has done extensive work developing a market for his ‘baby cabbages’, which increased his sales of this product and landed him on the front page of our largest local newspaper. His baby cabbage is currently being marketed to Whole Foods by Red Tomato.
• Kathy Caruso experimented with new broccoli varieties, cropping schedules, and spacing; some of which have been incorporated into her production.
• Walter Griest has developed an innovative system for simplifying the management of row cover in a raised bed system, and is sharing the design of his unique system with anyone who is interested.
• Ricky Baruc has achieved better kale and collard production through improved scouting practices and use of organic controls, and is continuing to experiment with season extension techniques to expand his greens production into the winter. Through this project he was also able to refine his variety selection for greens production and add microgreens to his list of offerings to his restaurant customers.
• Dave Dumaresq has successfully added a late summer broccoli crop through variety selection, and determined that the best option for late extending his season into the winter was to stock his last broccoli planting with varieties that produce heavy sideshoots.
More details are provided in Grower Reports.
Our growers are all committed to continuing with the changes and refinements that they have made in the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons. Several of them are pursuing further opportunities to experiment with methods for improving their Brassica production.

Economic Analysis

  • Our growers had diverse goals in this project. Some of them are easily translated into clear economic data; others are not. For instance, one of Amy Klippenstein’s goals was to get a direct understanding of her relative profits for Brassica crops on a bed foot basis.
    For three seasons, she collected information on inputs to each individual crop that they grow. Everyone on the farm recorded how much time they spent on each crop each day. At the end of the season, they were able to quantify labor hours spent on seeding, transplanting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, washing and packing each crop. Other inputs, such as seed, potting soil, plastic mulch, and remay were also counted. She made some important – and rather startling – discoveries about the profitability of certain crops, and adjusted her plantings accordingly. For instance, she discovered that she was losing $0.16 per bed foot on broccoli, which she was growing a lot of at the time. Most of her broccoli was replaced with a Brassica based greens mix, which was one of the crops she found out was the most profitable. She now has the hard information that she needs to optimize her acreage for maximum profit.

    In contrast, Kathy Caruso’s major goal was to improve her broccoli crop by increasing her understanding of nutrient management and crop management factors such as timing and spacing. She was provided with a great deal of information by consultants and the other growers in the project. In 2005 she applied this information and had record yields – and record profits – from her broccoli crop. In 2006, much of her broccoli was never planted due to flooding in her fields, and so her profits were at record lows. This leaves us without clear data on the increase in profitability over the course of the project due to her increased knowledge.

    Edwin Matuszko and Sam Hammer are still experimenting with new products (baby cabbage and winter greens, respectively). Edwin is getting a significantly higher price for his baby cabbages than he was for his standard cabbage. As a result of the Brassica School, Red Tomato became interested in marketing baby cabbage and Brussels sprouts. They are working with Edwin and with supermarkets to build the market, determine the best harvest window, size, and packaging. Edwin grew for this market in 2007, and is expanding his production of baby cabbage in 2008. Sam Hammer knows that he has a market for his product, but in his first attempt at growing winter greens he found that the labor costs associated with his planting methods were severely impacting the profitability of the crop, and so he is going forward with different methods to try to bring those costs down. As of the end of the project he was still refining his methods.

    Jamie Barret experimented with different methods for producing Brussels sprouts, and found conclusively that topping the plants led to the largest sprouts. He also experimented with different spacing for his broccoli, found that tighter spacing produced adequate head quality, and thus and was able to increase per acre yield considerably. Appleton Farms is a CSA, and so the impact on profit is indirect; but long-term farm viability in any situation requires maximizing yields and minimizing inputs.

    Ricky Baruc was able to reduce losses in his collards and kale by applying IPM techniques including scouting and appropriate use of Bt sprays. He added microgreens to his list of offerings and narrowed down which varieties in his greens mix are the most profitable. All of these changes increase overall farm viability, both by increasing yield and by increasing the diversity of the products offered to market.

    Dave Dumaresq was successful in extending his broccoli harvest season. In the late summer this gives his customers more local produce to choose from, and in late fall it adds to his product mix and allows him the opportunity to keep his stand open later in the season.

    Nou Yang He is part of a group of Hmong farmers who have growing Asian crops at Bolton Flats Mentor Farm for 20 years. He received help from both consultants and other growers on a wide variety of topics, from weed management to soil testing to insect management. He adopted the use of a flame weeder, which saved one to two rounds of hand weeding. He also learned about fertility management and the application of fertilizer and lime. He tested a small scale seeder and get a better stand of mustard, boc choi, and gai lan. These new skills allowed him to increase his yields and decrease the amount of time spent weeding, and as a result of this hands-on type of training he is planning to pass his new knowledge on to other farmers. This increase in knowledge increases the viability of the whole farm.

    Walter Griest has created an innovative system for securing row cover in raised beds. While there is no direct way to measure the impact of this method on farm viability, any innovation that saves the grower time and effort represents an improvement in the overall sustainability of the farm.

    In general, this project has increased the knowledge of the participating growers, as well as a large circle of people who were provided information by meetings and publications funded by this project. This information is used by growers to refine their production methods, which will increase farm viability over a longer time scale than can be tracked by this project.

Farmer Adoption

In addition to the 9 growers who formed the core group of this project, 88 out of the 93 people who returned surveys after meetings said that they had learned something new that they would try in their Brassica crops. A final survey was sent to the UMass Vegetable Notes email subscription list (>500 people, primarily growers) as well as any meeting attendees not already on the list for whom we had email addresses. We received 69 responses in total. Of these 69 respondees, 49 had attended one of the relevant meetings Survey results indicate that 39 out of these 49 meeting attendees had learned something new at either the meeting or through one of our publications, and adopted a new practice or refined their understanding of existing practices in Brassica production. If the percentage of respondees who reported adopting a new practice is extrapolated to the larger circle of contacts for which we have no survey data, we can assume that a significant number of growers across New England are testing new methods or refining their management based on information provided as part of this project.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

The Brassica family is large and diverse, and the range information needed to produce high quality Brassica crops is correspondingly broad. In terms of insect pests, flea beetles (for leafy greens) and cabbage maggots (primarily for root crops) are often difficult for growers to control. Organic growers in particular have very limited options with which to control these insects. Feedback we received from growers who attended out meetings indicated that nutrient management was an area where they felt they needed more information specific to Brassica crops.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.