The VPSL is currently focused on a range of research projects in the areas of vegetable grafting, fertility management and quality. It also continues to contribute to the domestication and commercialization of Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), a plant known for its production of natural rubber and inulin, and to the development of superior potato varieties.
Grafting studies are underway in open field, high tunnel and controlled environment settings and in conventional and organic production systems. Studies involving tomato, pepper, watermelon and cantaloupe are located at the OARDC and on area farms. The goal of this work is to maximize the performance of grafted plants from preparation through harvest. This work is supported in part by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative.
A new statewide effort to document the status of vegetable soils based on soil test results is underway. The VPSL is working with Ohio vegetable growers to compile a database of soil test results that will guide future research and extension activities. This work is supported in part by the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program. Contact the VPSL for more information. Also ask about our participation in collaborative efforts to develop algae-based biofertilizers and to evaluate other commercial natural products reported to enhance vegetable crop growth and yield.
Brix is among the most commonly measured characteristics of fruits and vegetables. However, the optimal use of Brix values is rarely obvious. In 2012, the VPSL developed four fact sheets regarding Brix values (i.e., tips for obtaining and using them). It continues to study relationships between vegetable crop management and Brix, as one step in enhancing overall crop quality.
North America has a huge and growing appetite for natural rubber and inulin. TKS has the potential to supply both feedstocks, limiting the amounts that are currently imported. Therefore, commercial production and processing of TKS in Ohio and large tracts of the northern U.S. would strengthen on- and off-farm business there. With its PENRA partners, the VPSL continues to develop TKS germplasm and to develop seeding methods that maximize TKS stand establishment. Seed harvest in 2013 is nearly complete and root harvest is approaching quickly. Where TKS is not yet a commercial crop, potato is an enormously important one throughout the Eastern U.S. The VPSL is cooperating with potato breeding programs in ME, NY, NC and the USDA in the evaluation of more than 100 varieties and pre-commercial lines.
Extension activities are also important to the VPSL. Recently, it has contributed to tours of commercial and research farms, delivered production workshops, addressed individual grower questions, participated in industry roundtables, initiated the development of fall-winter programs, and authored publications. We are particularly pleased that Version 2 of our Vegetable Grafting Guide will be released soon. The new guide contains new sections and updated content throughout. The release of the new guide will be announced here.