Fresh from the Field, July 26, 2018

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Fresh from the Field is a weekly album showcasing transformative impacts made by partners supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Editor: Falita Liles                                                                                              July 26, 2018

Success Stories 

Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts MRF Impacts Onions USDA photo

Managing Onion Pests and Diseases May Lead to a $13 Million Increase in Crop Value

Onions are a widely grown and consumed vegetable in the United States, but some growers are abandoning onion farming because of losses due to pests and pathogens.

Researchers at land-grant universities across the country have teamed up to help onion farmers overcome these challenges. They have illuminated effective ways to manage pests and diseases and identified onion varieties with greater resistance or tolerance. These advances have transformed how onions are grown around the world, making production more sustainable for farmers and ensuring a stable supply for consumers.

Cornell University researchers developed an integrated pest management (IPM) program for thrips that combines selective insecticides, appropriate tank mixes and additives, spray thresholds, resistance management, and reduced nitrogen fertilizer use. Growers who used the program made 75 to 80 percent fewer insecticide applications per field and saved an average of $265 to $300 per acre. In the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon, adopting IPM practices to control thrips could increase onion crop value by more than $13 million per year.

NIFA supports this research through the Multistate Research Fund.

Read the full story at the Multistate Research Fund Impacts Page. USDA photo. 

News Coverage

Fresh From the Field NIFA Impacts SCRI GettyImages-495715543

Biogradable Plastic Mulch 

Biodegradable mulches have been promoted as an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic mulches. However, according to Washington State University graduate student Henry Sintim, more research is needed to determine how much these mulches actually do degrade and what impacts they might have to the soil.

It is assumed that microorganisms in the soil break down the biodegradable plastic mulch mainly to water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. But to what extent?

Sintim’s Western SARE-funded graduate student project tests four biodegradable plastic mulches. The good news is that in the early stages of the project the biodegradable plastic mulches maintain soil microclimate similar to the polyethylene mulch and provide similar benefits. While the project is still on-going, composting the mulches resulted in more degradation than tilled in soil so this could be a viable disposal method.

NIFA supports this research through the Western SARE grant program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Learn more about biodegradable mulch at the University of Tennessee. Photo credit: Getty Images. 


 Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts Strong and stable, CLT can be used as walls  Photo courtesy of Structurlam

Cross-Laminated Timber Development

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) are massive building panels can be manufactured with lumber from thin trees that are susceptible to pest outbreaks and pose catastrophic fire threats. CLT can allow faster construction and is beginning to revive local economies in the Northwest. 

Since 2011, researchers at Washington State University’s (WSU) Composite Materials and Engineering Center have worked with local companies, governments, and economic development groups to improve the performance and manufacturing process of cross-laminated timber as well as analyzing cost effectiveness and logistics of a rural to urban supply chain. 

WSU is already working with milling and manufacturing partners to launch a supply chain in Eastern Washington and to identify other Western Washington opportunities.

NIFA supports this research through McIntire-Stennis Capacity Grants.

Learn more at CleanTech AlliancePhoto courtesy of Structurlam.

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Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts July 26