Awards totaling $1.2 million for 10 projects to grow New York agriculture through research, protection and promotion of the state’s specialty crops were announced last week.
Projects for specialty crops, which rank highly in the nation in terms of both production and economic value, will receive money through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to provide assistance for research and grower education projects to boost competitiveness of New York farms and enhance long-term viability of agri-businesses.
Specialty crops include a wide range of agricultural products, including fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs and commercially-grown trees.
Six grants for research and grower education projects based at Cornell University will help provide innovative solutions for a number of critical pest, disease and other profitability challenges to help New York’s farmers improve their practices, enhance operations and remain competitive.
In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets will implement four statewide initiatives that will benefit a broad spectrum of specialty crop commodities by providing increased sales and marketing opportunities, and support economic development in local communities throughout the state.
Funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help states improve the competitiveness of specialty crops. The Department of Agriculture and Markets administered the program in cooperation with the New York Farm Viability Institute, which evaluated proposals in the areas of food safety, research and grower education, and marketing.
The following six research and grower education projects based at Cornell University were awarded funding:
** $105,568 to increase consumer demand for fresh, local vegetables year-round by supporting farmer entrepreneurs with the necessary business analysis tools to successfully enter the emerging field of controlled environment agriculture.
** $51,916 to help growers reduce pesticides by 30 to 40 percent and improve growers’ profitability by offering a series of one-day, in-depth training courses on state-of-the-art spray application techniques.
** $112,149 to evaluate management strategies of leafroll viruses and develop a comprehensive, integrated pest management (IPM) program to be disseminated to the local grape community to increase the overall quality of production and vineyard profitability.
** $111,561 to find better ways to fight the damaging Cercospora leaf spot disease, which affects beets. New York is the nation’s second largest producer of table beets for the fresh and processing markets, and demand is likely to continue to rise with the opening later this year of Love Beets USA, LLC’s new beet processing and packaging plant in Rochester. Efforts will include research to find a more effective fungicide, as well as developing optimum methods for rotating crops and disease and weed management strategies;
** $108,977 to reduce the impact of leaf mold in tomatoes produced in high tunnels (covered structures where tomatoes grow horizontally on tall trellises.)
** $109, 829 to help New York apple growers adopt precision management techniques to reduce loss and ensure that a higher percentage of Honeycrisp apples meet the quality criteria necessary for the fresh market. Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program will coordinate this project.
The following four promotion and marketing projects were awarded funding:
** $280,000 to educate consumers about the many environmental, economic, and health benefits of specialty crop consumption.
** $100,000 to increase the capacity of schools to procure and serve locally-produced specialty crops and help schools in carrying out their farm-to-school plans and initiatives.
** $90,000 to assist specialty crop industry groups in providing information, raising awareness and promoting the state’s specialty crops to buyers and sales leads at the New York Produce Show in New York City.