- Agronomic: soybeans
- Crop Production: crop rotation
- Education and Training: workshop
- Farm Business Management: marketing management, feasibility study, market study
- Pest Management: row covers (for pests)
Small farmers face severe challenges in today’s agricultural situation. Low commodity prices are pushing sons and daughters of farmers out of agriculture to look for higher paying careers. Demand for tobacco, a crop that until now has provided a steady income to farmers throughout Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, has fallen off as efforts to reduce smoking succeeded. The federal government has cut tobacco quotas by half for the last several years. Alternative crops are needed. Interestingly, at the same time, the new USDA Food Pyramid recommends that each American eat 4-5 servings of fruits or vegetables daily. Spurred on by the dietary guidelines, Americans have recently increased the proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet, and decreased the amount of meat they eat. A serious search for alternative sources of protein is underway in many homes. And the demand for food free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetic modification is expanding and is a main cause for the explosive growth of the natural food industry over the past 15 years. In this climate, a convenient, tasty, and even familiar vegetable, the vegetable soybean, or edamame, is becoming welcome on the table and at the supermarket. But which variety is best in the market garden? Which is most resistant to pests and disease? Which produces the highest yield? Which consistently has the most beans per pod? Which looks best steamed and ready to eat? And most importantly, which is the tastiest? The solution to these queries lies in taste research. We’ll plant the six varieties, then monitor and measure the results for objective data. For the subjective part, we’ll hold tasting sessions with human subjects who will describe and rate the varieties in a blind taste test. We will measure the yield and season objectively. A panel of tasters will rate each edamame variety on taste, texture, eye appeal and ease of shelling.