UNL, NDA Receive Grants for Specialty Crop Research

UNL, NDA Receive Grants for Specialty Crop Research

Specialty crop research in Nebraska is getting a boost from almost $700,000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study hops, dry beans, and wine grapes; to monitor invasive pests; and to encourage healthy snacking in schools. The awards, administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), were for 10 projects in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (10 projects) and four at NDA.

The grants were awarded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to support research, development, and marketing of specialty crops. Specialty crops are generally defined as fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey and some turf and ornamental crops.

“Nebraska’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program helps add value to the state’s agricultural industry by encouraging the growth and development of more distinctive crops,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman. “By focusing on research and production, this year’s SCBGP projects will benefit specialty crop producers across the entire state.”

NDA was awarded $55,656.72 to administer the Nebraska program.

University Grants

Herbicide Drift in Specialty Crops: Injury, Yield Loss, and Residue Persistence

This partnership between the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) will enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in Nebraska through research on off-target crop injury from dicamba and 2,4-D choline + glyphosate drift. Project results will increase knowledge among Nebraska farmers about the potential economic consequences of herbicide drift in specialty crops.
Project lead: Samuel Wortman, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Grant: $79,854

Hop Cultivar Performance Evaluation Phase 2

IANR researchers will evaluate eight commercial hops cultivars at four locations across the state to determine their potential for commercial production. Measurements will include growth rate, flower timing, harvest cone weight, and analytical analysis of alpha and beta acid content for each cultivar. Research results and educational programming will provide valuable decision-making information for growers interested in this specialty crop.
Project lead: Stacy Adams, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Grant: $24,703

Maximize Hop Yields by Modeling Plant Growth

Researchers will implement Arable Mark P001 sensors at five hop production sites in eastern Nebraska to collect data on the environment and hop growth over three growing seasons. Growth potential models will be developed from the data to provide growers with information on pruning, training, and harvest dates, as influenced by environmental factors.
Project lead: Keenan Amundsen, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Grant: $45,900

Development of Optimal Hop Drying Techniques for Nebraska

The University's Industrial Agricultural Product Center in Biological System Engineering (IAPC) will conduct a series of experiments to determine the optimal drying conditions for hops in Nebraska. Nebraska Extension will share the results with growers through a hop quality and safety manual, workshops, related conferences, publications, and through related organizations such as the Nebraska Hop Growers Association.
Project lead: David Mabie, Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Grant: $116,259

Response of Chickpea and Dry Yellow Field Pea to Inoculum, Fungicide, and Endomycorrhizal Fungi

UNL researchers will conduct an experiment to evaluate types of inoculum from different origins to determine which inoculum is best suited for use in western Nebraska. The secondary objective is to evaluate other seed treatments, such as fungicides and endomycorrhizal fungi, to identify whether yields can be enhanced when used alone or with an appropriate inoculum.
Project lead: Cody Creech, Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Grant: $25,281

Slow-Darkening Pinto Bean Winter Seed Increase in New Zealand

To meet industry demand, UNL's Dry Bean Breeding Program will increase the seed of promising varieties of slow-darkening pinto beans with high yield potential, multiple disease resistance, and broad adaptation in winter nurseries in New Zealand. The next crop season they'll test them in on-farm trials in western Nebraska. The goal is to release at least one slow-darkening pinto bean cultivar that is well adapted to western Nebraska growing conditions.
Project lead: Carlos Urrea Florez, Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Grant: $60,050

Identifying a Cowpea Variety with High Yield, Quality and Disease Resistance for Western Nebraska

Replicated yield trials will be conducted on 10-20 varieties of cowpea in three western Nebraska counties. Researchers from the Panhandle Research and Extension Center will collect data on flowering, foliar diseases, plant height, maturity, and seed yield. Disease data and production information will be collected from at least five cowpea producers in Nebraska. Cowpea seed from the variety trials and commercial production will be assessed for quality and compared with an industry standard. Results will be shared with growers to aid decision-making.
Project lead: Dipak Santra, Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Grant: $19,440

Evaluation of Rows Spacing and Plant Population Impacts on Dry Bean Direct Harvest and Weed Suppression

A series of field studies will be conducted over three years to evaluate optimal row spacings and planting populations to maximize dry bean yield and quality, facilitate direct harvest, and improve weed suppression. A trial will be established over two years at the university's Panhandle Research and Extension Center to determine optimal dry bean populations at a variety of row spacings (10- and 15-inch compared with the well established 22-inch spacing). Within each of the three-row spacings, four plant populations will be used: 115,000, 100,000, 85,000, and 70,000 plants per acre.
Project lead: Nevin Lawrence, Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Grant: $25,920

Snack Time with Specialty Crops: Increasing Specialty Crop Consumption Through Access and Tastings at Schools

The university’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Program will promote increased consumption of specialty crops by distributing them at established mobile food pantries at Lincoln schools. The project combines access with education and tastings prepared by a local chef. The sampling will provide a visceral experience that shows students new and exciting ways to consume these healthy snacks.
Project lead: Larry Van Tassel, Department of Agricultural Economics. Grant: $39,363

Grafting to Delay Spring Bud Break for Nebraska Wine Grapes

In a project advancing the growth of wine grapes in Nebraska, UNL will graft an early bud breaking grape cultivar onto a rootstock of a grape cultivar that breaks winter dormancy later in the spring. Delaying bud break by as little as three to four days could mean the difference between a productive year and a nonproductive year. If successful, this grafting technique will have an immediate and positive impact on the grape and wine industry not only in Nebraska but everywhere spring frost and freeze events are an issue.
Project lead: Paul Read, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Grant: $74,309.

NDA Grants

Japanese Beetle Survey

A comprehensive survey will be conducted to document the presence or absence of Japanese Beetle in Nebraska and to provide certification to facilitate out-of-state shipments of Nebraska-grown nursery stock. This survey will help keep interstate and international markets open to Nebraska nursery stock. Project activities include setting, monitoring. and retrieving approximately 175 Japanese Beetle traps statewide, monitoring treatment of nursery stock for Japanese Beetle, and conducting inspections of facilities and product as part of the certification process. Grant: $36,600

Potato Cyst Nematode Survey

This project is designed to maintain Nebraska’s Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) pest-free status by requiring official soil surveys of 20% of seed potato and 2% of commercial potato production fields  (with a focus on known international shippers) to confirm the presence or absence of PCN. Should PCN be found, survey data can be used to determine the extent of the infestation and potentially mitigate the impact on trade. Grant: $41,615

Columbia Root-Knott Nematode Survey

This project is designed to maintain Nebraska’s Columbia Root Knot Nematode (CRKN) pest-free status by conducting comprehensive soil surveying throughout the state to confirm the presence or absence of CRKN in Nebraska. If CRKN is found, the information could be used to determine the extent of the infestation and potentially mitigate the impact on trade. Nebraska currently has a CRKN exterior quarantine to protect the state from the introduction of this pest. Grant: $24,300

Thousand Cankers Disease of Walnut Survey

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture will conduct a survey for walnut twig beetle across the state and confirm compliance with the Nebraska Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) of walnut quarantine through inspections. The results of this survey will be used to confirm the presence or absence of TCD in the state. This will allow for movement of products, like nursery stock and scion wood, out of state. If TCD is found, the information could be used to determine the extent of the infestation, and potentially mitigate the impact on trade. Grant: $26,450

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