Introduction • Tree Fruits • Small Fruits • Vegetables • Diagnostic Laboratory • Appendix A
Lee Ann Hayes
|A listing of companies providing vegetable seeds for the varieties listed in this report can be found in the Appendix on page 44.
This is a progress report and may not reflect exactly the final outcome of ongoing projects.
Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.
We are pleased to offer this 1998 Fruit and Vegetable Research Report as a means of sharing information generated from the UK faculty, staff, and students working in these commodity areas. This represents contributions from several departments in the College of Agriculture. The emphases in our research program reflect industry-defined needs, expertise available at UK, and the nature of research projects around the world generating information applicable to Kentucky. Please refer to the following article by Dr. Brent Rowell, editor of this research report and coordinator of the UK Vegetable Crops Team, for a general report and prospectus on Kentucky’s emerging fresh produce industry.
Although the purpose of this publication is to report research results, the report also highlights our Extension program and Undergraduate and Graduate degree programs that address the needs of the horticultural industries.
In addition to the more visible activities such as the state and area educational programs, the Extension program addresses the needs of the commercial industry and consumers of our products and services in more subtle ways. We provide training for county Extension agents so they can more effectively serve our clientele. Publications, videos, slide sets, newsletters, articles in state and national industry magazines, newspaper articles, radio spots, and television programs are important elements of our Extension program. Services such as the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, soil testing and interpretative services, and problem-solving services are other important activities. Although there are many facets to the Extension program conducted by the team of subject-matter specialists and county agents, there is a critical need for applied research related to components of production and marketing systems. This need and the “hands-on” approach required for many first-time commercial vegetable growers have out-stripped our human and financial resources.
We offer areas of emphasis in Horticultural Enterprise Management and Horticultural Science within a Plant and Soil Science Bachelor of Science degree. Here are a few highlights of our undergraduate program in 1998:
The demand for graduates with an M.S. or Ph.D. in Horticulture, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Agricultural Economics, and Agricultural Engineering is high. Our M.S. graduates are being employed in industry, Cooperative Extension, secondary and post-secondary education, and governmental agencies. There were nine graduate students in these degree programs conducting research related to Kentucky’s fruit and vegetable industry in 1998. Graduate students also participate in outreach programs and are involved in such educational activities as the annual fruit and vegetable conference and trade show co-sponsored by the Kentucky Horticultural Society and the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Association.
Welcome to the premier issue of the 1998 Fruit and Vegetable Research Report. This marks our first attempt to combine reports of applied research on both fruit and vegetable crops. These projects were conducted by Extension specialists, researchers, graduate students, and technical staff from the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and from several other departments in the College of Agriculture. Our intention is to provide Kentucky growers (and prospective growers) with a “one-stop shopping” report of what we have been doing to answer your questions and to provide you with new information. It is our hope that this information will help you to better compete in the local and national marketplace. We also hope you will let us know the kinds of problems we need to address in future research. We anticipate that the demands for research-based information and for extension programs to deliver that information will continue to rise with changes occurring in the tobacco industry and as new horticultural marketing opportunities develop in the state.
The status of the tobacco industry in 1998 reminds us of that famous cablegram of 100 years ago in which Mark Twain said “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Tobacco will likely remain important to Kentucky farmers for some years to come; however, no one denies that consolidation in the industry is taking its toll on smaller growers and that the long-range market outlook is unfavorable, to say the least.
In Kentucky, the words “alternative crops” have come to mean high-value, intensively grown crops having the potential to make up for declining or lost tobacco income. Although the term “alternative” may not be politically correct, it is still the word most commonly used by tobacco growers in describing vegetables and other high-value horticultural crops. These so-called alternative crops are nothing new. There have always been horticultural alternatives or supplements to tobacco for innovative individuals willing and able to make the investments in time, money, and energy. Kentucky has always had a small group of farmers who put their kids through school on “hort money” in addition to “tobacco money.” What is new is that the opportunities and markets for most horticultural crops are increasing dramatically.
The short- and long-term market outlooks for fresh produce are extremely favorable; consumption continues to rise (Figure 1). Although many factors contribute to this trend, an important one has been the rising awareness of health benefits associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. A growing body of medical research has established important linkages between increased consumption and favorable biochemical and pharmacological effects. These include such things as anti-allergy properties, anti-inflammation effects, and more importantly, reduced cancer risk. National and local markets have not been oblivious to these findings. Fresh produce now drives the business of the major chain supermarkets. Increasingly, these chains recognize the merchandising power of fresh, local produce to the advantage of Kentucky growers.
The opportunities in horticulture are just beginning to be recognized in the state. While still lagging behind some of its neighboring tobacco states, Kentucky has taken great strides over the past three years in recognizing the importance of establishing marketing infrastructure for fresh produce. The Burley Tobacco Growers’ Association was one of the first Kentucky farm organizations to take a leading role in supporting horticultural crop marketing initiatives through its Commodity Growers Association. This organization, together with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and UK, helped obtain federal funds in support of four small vegetable producers’ cooperatives in 1997. In addition, the Kentucky Farm Bureau began its innovative Kentucky Certified Roadside Market program in 1996; this program has done much to advertise roadside markets and promote direct marketing in the state.
Perhaps the most radical changes have occurred within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Billy Ray Smith became Kentucky’s first Commissioner of Agriculture to take the marketing and promotion role of the KDA seriously when, at the insistence of local vegetable producers and the Kentucky Horticulture Council, he established the first Marketing Development Advisory Board in 1996. The Board’s task was to determine how hort marketing efforts might best be served by the KDA. In 1997, the Commissioner began hiring hort marketing professionals. These specialists are already having a significant positive impact on the marketing of Kentucky produce both within the state and nationwide.
Commissioner Smith recently divided the original Marketing Development Advisory Board into commodity-based committees, expanding its scope to include all Kentucky agricultural products. The Board will oversee the allocation of more than $5 million in state funds for marketing in 1999, $500,000 of which is dedicated to fruit and vegetable marketing efforts.
Significant market opportunities are in place, but two important questions remain: Will Kentuckians take advantage of these opportunities? Will the statewide agricultural extension and research system be prepared to meet the needs of a much larger clientele group interested in producing horticultural crops? No less than five new small farmer vegetable cooperatives or growers’ associations have organized themselves within the past three years in Kentucky— more than in the previous three decades combined. Most members of these associations are tobacco growers without prior experience producing horticultural crops. What these groups require most is personal, “hands-on” help. The Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture has been in the forefront of researching and providing information on these crops since at least the turn of the century. But increasing requests from new growers have severely stretched our resources. Our challenge is how to best help these new groups develop the skills required in order to supply a quality fresh (and highly perishable) product in sufficient volumes to a growing market.
Growers usually put variety trials at the top of the list when rating projects at a public institution’s research station. Kentucky growers are no exception. An ongoing testing program producing reliable and usable results is prerequisite to expanding and maintaining competitiveness in our commercial fruit and vegetable industries. Although variety testing has always been an important part of our work at the University of Kentucky, maintaining this program has become increasingly difficult given cuts in staffing and budgets at some of our research farms.
From 1988 to 1990, USDA funding through the “Hal Rogers Project” provided sufficient resources to conduct from 12 to 14 vegetable crop variety trials each year. Some of the trials in that period were conducted in cooperation with Small Farm Assistants at the county level, a program administered by Kentucky State University. For 1991-1993, TVA funds allowed for a continuation of some of these trials. Also in 1993, three variety trials were conducted as part of a special project with funding for that year only. The total number of trials has steadily declined since its peak in 1992 (Figure 2). The number has risen somewhat over the past two years due to the hiring of a support technician for eastern Kentucky based at the Robinson Experiment Station; however, it is not certain that funding will be available for that position beyond 1999. Due to lack of technical support and appropriate plot land, it is also no longer possible to conduct vegetable variety testing in the western part of the state at the Research and Education Center at Princeton.
Where possible, variety evaluation has been combined with other priority research areas. In cooperation with the Department of Plant Pathology, for example, several trials have been conducted in recent years to identify disease-resistant varieties. Whenever possible, these varieties have been recommended in ongoing integrated pest management (IPM) extension programs for fruit and vegetable crops.
The following individual reports are primarily cultivar trials but also include a range of research projects on everything from organic fertilizers to the search for the elusive “Kentucky Tomato.”
Figure 1. U.S. Fresh Vegetable Consumption.
Figure 2. Vegetable Cultivar Trials, 1987-1998.