- Fruits: apples
- Crop Production: fertigation, fertilizers, irrigation, pollination
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Pest Management: chemical control, cultivation
Problem and Justification: The tri-county (Somerset, Worcester, and Wicomico) area on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (MD) was the hub for multiple fruit crop cultivation including apple. However, the current commercial apple production is zero in Somerset and negligible in Worcester, and Wicomico counties. In spite of growing demand for local produce and higher economic potential of apple cultivation no work has been done on the establishment of apple orchards on the Eastern Shore. Watermelon is the major fruit crop in the lower three counties. However, availability of watermelon is restricted to summer season only. There is an urgent need of diversification of fruit crops cultivation and extension of the fruit growing season. Returning apple orchards to the eastern Shore is one promising option for accomplishing this diversification. This project will aims to enhance farm income, promote local produce, reduce the carbon footprint, and concomitantly rejuvenate the lost apple legacy on the Eastern Shore to boost agro-tourism and encourage the agricultural economy. These outcomes will be achieved by the successful establishment of a multi-variety apple orchard at UMES.
Solution and Approach: We recently established an apple orchard with more than 30 different apple varieties for demonstration and outreach programs to popularize the apple cultivation on the Eastern Shore of MD. We have multiple rootstock/scion combinations suitable for varied edaphic conditions prevalent on the Eastern Shore. In addition, we planted varieties with variable harvesting maturity to extend the availability of apple fruit in the local markets. Our approach will increase farm income and simultaneously promote the crop diversification. This developing orchard will be used for teaching, demonstration, and training site for agriculture service providers, extensions agents, stakeholders, state agriculture coordinators, industry personnel, and farmers to generate responsible human resources to tackle food safety and security problems in this economically weaker section of the state. Moreover, our project will promote cooperation between the local farmer community and the University for continued agricultural prosperity within our region. Our approach would help in transforming the poultry feed dominating agricultural industry towards diversified sustainable agriculture, which may help in the establishment of a fruit industry on the Eastern Shore.
Performance targets from proposal:
Apple team members (3 or 4) who enrich their knowledge of apple orchard establishment and management through this project will teach 15 farmers about successful orchard establishment and management by incorporating information learned into fact sheets, workshops, field days, and in-orchard training. Team members will also provide individual consultation and advice to interested growers. In addition, team members can also facilitate farmer’s visits to UMES apple orchard for live demonstrations. Team members can also provide online study material to targeted audience.