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Peter Bretting

Plants provide humans with food, fiber, feed, ornamentals, industrial products, medicine, shelter, and fuel. As vegetation, they maintain global environmental integrity and the carrying capacity for all life. From an anthropocentric perspective, plants serve as genetic resources (PGR) for sustaining the growing human population. Research on PGR can provide basic knowledge for crop improvement or environmental management that enables renewable, sustainable production of the preceding necessities. PGR also provide the raw material for increasing yield and end product's quality, while requiring fewer inputs (water, nutrients, agrichemicals, etc.). The staples of life—30 or so major grain, oilseed, fiber, and timber species—comprise the “thin green line” vital to human survival, either directly, or through trade and income generation. Many crop genebanks worldwide focus on conserving germplasm of these staples as a shield against genetic vulnerability that may endanger economies and humanity on an international scale. Fewer genebanks and crop improvement programs conserve and develop “minor crops,” so called because of their lesser economic value or restricted cultivation globally. Yet, these minor crops, many categorized as horticultural, may be key to human carrying capacity—especially in geographically or economically marginal zones. The USDA/ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) contains a great number and diversity of minor crop germplasm. The NPGS, other genebanks, and minor crop breeding programs scattered throughout the world, help safeguard human global carrying capacity by providing the raw genetic material and genetic improvement infrastructure requisite for producing superior minor crops. The latter may represent the best hope for developing new varieties and crops, new crop rotations, and new renewable products that in the future may enhance producer profitability or even ensure producer and consumer survival.

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Richard R. Harwood

Our farm operations will face an array of challenges over the next decade that are increasing both in scope and intensity. Global markets, global supply, competition for water, land costs driven by the value of non-agricultural use, complexity of regulation, and consumer concern over what they perceive to be safe food are among the many challenges to farm enterprise sustainability. We will have to “contain” our soil, nutrients, crop and animal residues and production inputs within our field boundaries and in the upper layers of soil. We must do all of this while increasing productivity (achieving ever-higher nutrient and crop residue flow) and being cost-competitive. Many exciting advances are being made in engineering as well as in crop genetics. The most far-reaching, however, will be the contributions that will come from other parts of the biological revolution. The science of production ecology is helping us to better understand the myriad of biological and biogeochemical processes that we deal with daily. We are moving toward management of the genetics of pest populations. We will purposefully manage the diversity and amounts of crop residues in our fields which, in turn will control the populations of plants and animals in our soil. We will manipulate the incorporation and release of nutrients from organic fractions in our soil for containment and nutrient recycling. Our nutrient and chemical inputs will be targeted and largely supplemental rather than the direct mainstay of our production. If our production is to be a sustainable part of the landscape we must be seen to provide a high level and quality of hydrological and biodiversity services as part of our management of green space. The more advanced farms have pieces of this future in place now. Numerous examples will be presented from current research, focusing heavily on crop/soil interactions.

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Muddappa Rangappa, Harbans Bhardwaj, and Harry Dalton

Poster Session 9—Sustainable/Organic and Water Utilization in Horticulture 18 July 2005, 1:15–2:00 p.m. Poster Hall–Ballroom E/F

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J.P. Mueller, M. E. Barbercheck, M. Bell, C. Brownie, N.G. Creamer, A. Hitt, S. Hu, L. King, H.M. Linker, F.J. Louws, S. Marlow, M. Marra, C.W. Raczkowski, D.J. Susko, and M.G. Wagger

The authors gratefully thank the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program for funding the initiation of this experiment, and the USDA National Research

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A. Kalo, P.H. Hoepner, S.B. Sterrett, and J.F. Diem

Long-term goals of reducing environmental impacts associated with agricultural activities must include economic sustainability as well as production feasibility. This study compared the potential economic and environmental impact of two specific cropping systems [wheat/soybeans (w/s) vs. selected vegetable crops with wheat/soybeans (veg/w/s)]. Profitability of w/s was lower than the veg/w/s system but demanded a smaller, less extensive resource base of labor and machinery with fewer conflicts in resource utilization rates. The PLANETOR computer program (Univ. of Minnesota) was used to analyze the potential negative environmental effects of growing a particular crop mix within these two systems. Although some of the vegetable crops exceeded the targeted soil loss tolerance value (T-value) of 3 t/ha, the weighted average of the veg/w/s system was below the target T-value for soil erosion. Analyses suggest that the profits from vegetables in the veg/w/s production more than offset the negative impacts on soil erosion and the veg/w/s system would be more economically feasible than w/s. Potential impact of pesticide leaching and runoff from vegetable production as calculated by PLANETOR was less than that from w/s. Specific cultural practices, including soil/tissue testing to manage nutrient applications, could reduce nitrogen/phosphorus movement. The veg/w/s system may offer the necessary profit margins to allow adoption of more environmentally friendly production alternative.

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Gary R. Cline and Anthony F. Silvernail

171 POSTER SESSION 27 Sustainable Agriculture

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Mary M. Peet

It is often difficult to obtain information on producing vegetables using `sustainable' practices such as reduced inputs of pesticide and commercial fertilizers. Lack of such information is often cited by conventional farmers and extension agents as a reason for not adopting or assisting others in adopting sustainable techniques. As part of a Southern Region Low Input Sustainable Agricultural (LISA) Program, we are compiling a database which will include techniques for vegetable production acceptable to `organic' farmers as well as those acceptable to conventional farmers. This information source will include information on 17 specific vegetables and well as chapters on general topics such as cover crops and weed control. We hope to make this information available both as a production manual and by way of an electronic information retrieval system. Steps in the development of this project include initially soliciting input from farmers and extension workers on the preferred content and format and conducting an on-going evaluation by these groups as segments are developed. The database should be available within 2 years in both electronic and hardcopy versions.

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Snake C. Jones and Kirk W. Pomper

Kentucky State Univ. (KYSU) emphasizes research on developing alternative, high-value crops and sustainable agriculture methods for use by limited-resource farmers. Since 1990, KYSU has maintained a research program to develop pawpaw into a new high-value tree fruit crop. With its high tolerance for many native pests and diseases, pawpaw shows great potential as a crop for organic and sustainable production. The objectives of KYSU's pawpaw research program include: 1) variety trials; 2) development of new or improved methods of propagation; 3) collection, evaluation, preservation, and dissemination of germplasm; and 4) sharing of information on pawpaw with scientists, commercial growers and marketers, and the general public. To aid in dissemination of information on pawpaw, a web site has been developed (http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu) that includes information on current and past pawpaw research at KYSU and information on the PawPaw Foundation. On this site, there are a selected bibliography of publications on pawpaw and related species; pawpaw recipes and nutritional information; a guide to buying and growing pawpaws; photos of pawpaw trees, flowers and fruit; and links to other web sites with pawpaw information. In the future, the site will include results from the pawpaw regional variety trials and the database for the National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Asimina spp., located at KYSU. The pawpaw information web site will be an increasingly useful aid in the introduction of pawpaw as a new, potentially high-value, tree fruit crop.

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Mohan Selvaraj* and Mathieu Ngouajio

The inclusion of cover crops into cropping systems may influence soil microbial activity which is crucial to sustained crop production. A study was conducted to measure short term effects of summer and winter cover crops on soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) in a cucumber-tomato rotation system. The experiment was established in Summer 2002 as a factorial of summer cover crops (planted either as fallow or after harvest of cucumbers) and winter cover crops (planted in September). The design was a split-block with four replications. The main plot factor was summer cover crop and consisted of five treatments; sorghum sudangrass fallow (SGF), cowpea fallow (CPF), sorghum sudangrass after cucumber (SGC), cowpea after cucumber (CPC) and bareground fallow (BGF). The sub-plot factor was winter cover crop and consisted of three treatments including cereal rye (CR), hairy vetch (HV) and bareground (BG). In spring of 2003, soil samples were collected in each treatment at 30 days before (30 DBI), 2 days after (2 DAI) and 30 days after (30 DAI) cover crop incorporation. MBC was measured using the chloroform fumigation-incubation method. Both summer and winter cover crops affected soil microbial activity. MBC in the summer cover crop treatments at 30 DBI was 47.7, 51.4, 49.2, 43.7 and 42.5 μg·g-1 soil for SGF, CPF, SGC, CPC and BGF, respectively. At 30 DAI, 113.1, 88.9, 138.5, 105.6, and 109.3 μg·g-1 soil was obtained in SGF, CPF, SGC, CPC, and BGF plots, respectively. Soil MBC was similar at 2 DAI in the summer cover crop treatments. Among winter treatments MBC was similar at 30 DBI and 30 DAI, but significant at 2 DAI with values of 62.8, 53.3, 59.3 μg·g-1 soil for CR, BG, and HV, respectively.

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Robin G. Brumfield

Since World War II, U.S. agriculture has reduced production costs by substituting petrochemicals for labor. Adverse impacts from chemical intensive agriculture include increased pest levels, groundwater and surface water contamination, soil erosion, and concerns about harmful levels of pesticide residues. Sustainable farming programs such as integrated crop management (ICM) and organic farming encourage farmers to use systems that reduce the adverse impacts of chemical agriculture. However, before farmers adopt an alternative system, they must determine that economic benefits from the alternative farming activities exceed the costs incurred. Unfortunately, relatively few studies have compared the cost of organic crop production with conventional production systems. Results of these studies are mixed. In some studies, organic systems are more profitable than conventional systems with organic price premiums, but are not economically viable without price premiums. In one long-term study, the organic system was more profitable than a conventional one if the cost of family labor was ignored, but less profitable if it was included. In some studies, net returns were higher for ICM than for conventional or organic systems, but in others, they were higher. Results also vary on a crop by crop basis.