- Vegetables: asparagus, okra, sweet potatoes
- Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, other, row covers (for season extension), varieties and cultivars
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer
This project aims to improve the horticultural potential for three niche crops that are experiencing changing production feasibility in the Northeast as the climate warms. Working with three partner growers, project staff will conduct three on-farm trials, one each in sweet potatoes, okra, and asparagus. The sweet potato trial will compare new regionally adapted varieties to standard, southern-bred varieties and the effect of row cover on crop establishment to overcome short season limitations. Okra would also benefit from a longer growing season. We will test soil warming techniques with black plastic and row cover to hasten flowering using black plastic and row cover. The asparagus trial will compare the phenologic development and summer stress tolerance of standard varieties against new northern-bred and southern-adapted varieties. We will fit that data to growing degree day information to assess varietal suitability in the future climate. An economic comparison of the different cultural practices will be prepared for the sweet potato and okra trials.
Many of the growers who will benefit from this trial are from historically marginalized communities. Black, African refugee, and urban growers have strong cultural interest in okra and sweet potato production. The low-cost, environmentally responsible horticultural solutions we will investigate will be immediately applicable and accessible to the se communities. Asparagus recommendation arising from this work will offer these growers and other farmers a more resilient, long-term crop option for needed early-season income. Co-advertising for our interactive meetings and newsletter articles will extend outreach to growers from all communities.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to improve the horticultural potential for three niche crops that are experiencing changing production feasibility in the Northeast as the climate warms. One trial will be conducted in each crop; treatment economic comparisons will be made for okra and sweet potato trials.
1) Sweet Potato
Compare the early season growth and yield of new regionally adapted varieties to standard, southern-bred varieties that grow too slowly in our climate to realize a full harvest. We will also investigate the effect of row cover on early crop vigor.
The okra trial aims to meaningfully hasten flowering and lengthen harvesting season over bareground production using low-cost season extension tools: black plastic mulch, row cover, and both.
The asparagus trial will observationally compare the phenologic development and summer stress tolerance of standard varieties against new northern-adapted and popular southern varieties. Future varietal choices must show resilience to spring temperature swings to avoid frost damage and must tolerate hot summers. The best choice will have delayed spring emergence and heat tolerance.
For each trial, we will produce clear-cut, immediately applicable variety and cultural recommendations so growers can make production decisions to improve crop performance and profitability by an anticipated 10%.