In the Midwest, climate change has increased the difficulty of growing tomatoes through more frequent precipitation events, colder, wetter Springs, and colder Falls. These conditions leave tomatoes more susceptible to disease and shorten the harvest season, resulting in less yield and profit.
Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) increase a plant’s ability to acquire nutrients from the soil, by increasing the plant roots’ absorptive surface area through hyphal extension (Cavagnaro et. al., 2014). If AM fungal partners are able to increase the nutrient absorption for plants, they may have a positive impact on disease resistance and yield.
Commercial fungal inoculants have become readily available as an option for sustainable farmers. Products are touted to improve nutrient efficiency, root system growth, and water absorption; however, limited research is available as to the impact of these products on tomato production.
Our study will examine if commercial fungal inoculant can have an impact on yield or disease resistance in tomatoes. If fungal inoculants can impact the disease resistance and yield of tomatoes, farmers could further the ecological health of their farms by decreasing their fungicide usage, and increase their economic viability through increasing profits from their tomato harvests.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate the impact of AMF inoculant on yield and disease resistance on field tomatoes.
- Involve approximately 80 local high school students in on-farm field research that will supplement their learning with “real world” application of their lessons.
- Share findings with farmers through newsletters, journal articles, conference presentations, and a field day or workshop.