- Animal Production: herbal medicines
- Crop Production: biological inoculants, crop yield, nutrient density
- Pest Management: aquired disease resistance
- Soil Management: soil microbiology
A healthy population of soil microorganisms can increase crop yields and disease resistance by improving the release and transport of nutrients, producing soil stabilizing humic compounds, creating symbiotic relationships that can improve plants’ resistance to pathogens, and improving abiotic stress tolerance. However, it remains unclear how to utilize these microorganisms to best achieve these results on small polyculture farms. The experiment will compare yields of five marketable crops (onion, fennel, ashwagandha, sweet basil, and parsley) under three treatment conditions at time of transplantation: untreated control seedlings, seedlings treated with commercial
mycorrhizal inoculant, and seedlings treated with a simplified on-farm produced IMO inoculant. In addition to measuring crop yields, a similar treatment design will also be used to measure resistance to downy mildew disease in sweet basil; basil downy mildew has become a significant disease in many New England organic farms leading to total crop loss. This study will clarify the wide variability in results from previous studies that have used commercial and IMO inoculants. Further, this study will provide data on a wider variety of crops, and a simplified on-farm protocol for IMO inoculant based on a Korean Natural Farming method. Outreach will focus on providing study
results and detailed guidance on utilizing fungal inoculants by presenting at conferences, submission of a report to four local publications, and local farmer outreach.
Project objectives from proposal:
My proposed solution is to design an on-farm research study using fungal inoculants to examine two concrete benefits to farmers: increased marketable crop yield and downy mildew disease resistance in sweet basil. My research will use a randomized block design method with five transplanted crops of commercial value (onions, sweet basil, ashwagandha, fennel, and parsley). The design will compare yields of these five crops and basil downy mildew disease resistance using a simplified on-farm indigenous microorganism inoculant, compared with a commercial inoculant, compared with a control. These two straightforward, measurable benefits of crop yield and disease resistance can then be readily shared with other Northeast farmers to allow them to decide whether to
implement similar IMO or commercial inoculant practices. All crops chosen are medicinal herbs currently grown by this farmer but also of potential interest to vegetable growers; all crops also have at least one prior study indicating a plant species/fungal symbiosis benefit. If benefits are shown, a simplified IMO protocol can then be provided to other farmers to utilize. This grant would further knowledge on a sustainable production method that is potentially profitable, environmentally sound and beneficial to the wider farm community.