- Fruits: berries (other), berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (cranberries), berries (strawberries)
- Crop Production: fertigation, foliar feeding, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, application rate management, tissue analysis
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, mentoring, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Commercial berry growers in the Northeast have traditionally made standardized fertilizer applications based on crop age. This practice continues today, some 10 years or more after commercial berry crop guidelines for analysis-based fertilization programs became widely available. Adoption of soil health improving practices has also been slow. Research demonstrates an analysis-based approach to berry crop nutrition provides increased yields along with better fruit quality and plant health. Use of soil health management practices (i.e. cover cropping) has been shown to reduce weed, nematode and soil-borne disease pressure, along with improving soil tilth, organic matter and nutrient content. Rising costs of products and concerns about environmental impacts of fertilizers make a whole farm approach to berry crop nutrient and soil management highly desirable. Ag educators, frequently called on to cover multiple commodities and/or information areas outside their field of expertise, often struggle to assist commercial berry growers with berry crop soil and nutrient problems. No single comprehensive resource on this topic is currently available for either educators or growers. This 2 year project, led by Dr. Marvin Pritts, Small Fruit Horticulturalist and Berry Crop Nutrition Specialist, will provide in-depth berry crop nutrition and soil management training and resources for ag educators and the commercial berry growers they serve. Year one of the project will focus on helping ag educators build berry crop nutrient and soil management expertise through 1) a series of 12 in depth webinars and case study learning modules on the subject and 2) development of internet resources to be used by educators in grower training. Year 2 of the project will focus on assisting ag educators to 3) develop and implement grower training programs and 4) carry out one-on-one consultations with participating growers. Year 2 will also involve educators in monitoring adoption and success of analysis-based berry crop nutrient and soil health management by growers. A whole farm soil and nutrient management decision tool for commercial berry crops will be developed from existing resources. This tool, along with accompanying ag educator and commercial grower training materials, made available via an internet web site, will provide a “one-stop-shop” resource for ag educators interested in building skills or providing training and/or commercial berry growers interested in improving berry crop soil and nutrient management. Soil and nutrient management principles and practices gained through this project will have application to other crops currently or in the future. Fifty educators from across the Northeast will participate in an in depth webinar series to expand their expertise in berry crop nutrient and soil management; of those, 15 will develop and deliver outreach programs on the same, reaching 150 berry growers who manage a total of 750 acres of berry crops; 50 growers will participate in preliminary soil, nutrient and soil health testing, receive one-on-one assistance with interpretation of results, and implement analysis-based fertilization and soil health management practices on farm.
Performance targets from proposal:
1. 150 ag educators from the Northeast are invited to participate in the project through e-mail notifications, mailed brochures, extension calendar postings and professional development opportunity listings. July – August 2011
2. Out of those educators invited to participate, 50 will gain basic understanding and build expertise in commercial berry crop nutrition and soil management by participating in a series of 12 in-depth webinars on the subject and completing learning modules on interpretation of soil health and nutrient test results. Changes in learning will be recorded through use of pre and post-training berry crop soil and nutrient knowledge tests. September 2011 – March 2012
3. Of those educators completing training, 15 will develop and deliver grower education programs using training materials provided to 10 or more commercial berry growers in their county or region. March 2012 – December 2012
4. 500 commercial berry growers from the Northeast will be invited to improve soil and nutrient management skills by attending grower training through monthly berry newsletters, e-mail event calendars and mailed invitations. 150 growers will participate in soil and nutrition management training. . Changes in learning will be recorded through use of pre- and post-training berry crop soil and nutrient knowledge tests. January 2013 – March 2013
5. Out of those 150 growers attending, 48 will be recruited to participate in first time soil/leaf analysis and soil health testing, along with receiving one-on-one assistance with interpretation of results and advice for implementing knowledge gained on farm from educators. March 2013 – September 2013
6. Changes in educator practice will be documented through post project educator interviews by the project coordinator. One-on-one interviews of participating growers will document adoption of new knowledge and practices. December 2013, 2014, 2015
7. Fifty educators from across the Northeast will participate in an in depth webinar series to build their expertise in berry crop nutrient and soil management; of those, 15 will develop and deliver outreach programs on the same, reaching 150 Northeastern commerical berry growers who manage a total of 750 acres of berry crops; 50 growers will participate in preliminary soil, nutrient and soil health testing, receive one-on-one assistance with interpretation of results, and implement analysis-based fertilization and soil health management practices on farm. June 2011 – December 2013.