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Heather Friedrich*, Curt R. Rom, Jennie Popp, Barbara Bellows, and Donn Johnson

Interest IN and conversion to sustainable agriculture practices, such as organic agriculture, integrated pest management or increasing biodiversity, has been increasing for a number of years among farmers and ranchers across the United States In order to meet the needs of producers, university researchers and educators must adapt their program areas to reflect this change toward sustainable agriculture practices. Although consumers, producers, and extension workers have been surveyed regarding their attitudes and interests in sustainable agricultural practices, few surveys have examined sustainable agriculture perceptions among university agriculture professionals. The object of this study was to survey 200 agriculture professionals, including research scientists, classroom educators of the Land-Grant agricultural college and the Cooperative Extension service of a southern state with a traditional agricultural economy in order to determine their perceptions and attitudes toward sustainable agriculture and to gather information on current research and education activities relevant to sustainable agriculture. Seventy-eight questions were asked concerning professional incentives, personal and professional importance of topics under the sustainable agriculture rubric, current research and educational activities, and demographics. By conducting this research we hope to identify factors that are an impedance or assistance to future research and education to support sustainable agriculture. The survey findings will provide a foundation for directing and developing agriculture research and education programs for row crops, fruit, vegetable and livestock production.

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Amy Fulcher, Dava Hayden, and Winston Dunwell

The objectives of Kentucky's Sustainable Nursery Production Practices Extension Program are for 1) the Kentucky nursery industry to continue sustained growth and 2) Kentucky growers to produce high quality plants, efficiently use pesticides, be stewards of their land and Kentucky's environment. Sustainable Nursery Program Components are 1) Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Nursery Scouting, Scout Training and Scouting Education for growers, Extension workers, and students; 2) Best Management Practice (BMP) Workshops: BMP VI: Disease Demolition Workshop; 3) Production Practice Demonstration: Pruning Training, Pesticide Handling, and Safety and Environmental Stewartship. 4.) Research: Pruning protocols; Media and media amendments; Precision Fertilization and Irrigation. The Kentucky Nursery Crops Scouting Program scouting guidelines were developed and contained: a weekly scouting/trapping guide; a listing of which pests to look for and on what host plants, and a detailed methodology of precisely how to look for the pest, its damage, and how to record this information such that comparisons could be made across nurseries and seasons.

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Daniel Schellenberg, Ronald Morse, and Gregory Welbaum

Poster Session 12—Organic/Sustainable Horticulture 28 July 2006, 12:00–12:45 p.m.

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Victor A. Wegrzyn

Sustainable production systems are characterized as systems that can be physically and biologically maintained in perpetuity, can avoid adverse environmental and health problems, and can be economically profitable. Organic vegetable production systems are one example of sustainable farming enterprises. In California, organic production and postharvest handling techniques are closely defined by legislation. Of the several grower groups representing organic farmers in the state, the California Certified Organic Farmers is the largest, representing 382 growers that farmed a total area of 10,375 ha in 1988. Of these, 200 growers are vegetable producers. Another organization active among organic growers in California, as well as Mexico, Central American countries, and the Caribbean, is the Organic Crop Improvement Association. Marketing organizations such as the Nutri-Clean Program, which tests produce for pesticide residues and certifies specific residue standards, and the Organic Market News and Information Service facilitate the sale of organic produce in California. Cultural practice information for organic vegetable production is difficult to find, particularly techniques that would allow a grower to switch from conventional to organic production. University researchers and extension workers have so far been of little help, although the Univ. of California Sustainability Program at Davis is beginning research and education activities. Funding for these activities is inadequate, and the program is understaffed. There is need for long-term, interdisciplinary, on-farm studies to study organic production techniques in a realistic setting. At present, the reward system in place in land-grant institutions offers little encouragement to researchers to engage in this kind of work. There are formidable obstacles to increasing the use of organic materials for crop fertilization. The nutrient content of the state's manure and organic waste supplies is probably insufficient to meet the fertility needs of California's crops. In addition, since the majority of land currently producing vegetable crops in California is leased, long-term soil fertility investments are a risky undertaking.

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Gary W. Stutte

NASA has investigated the use of recirculating nutrient film technique (NFT) systems to grow higher plants on long-duration space missions for many years and has demonstrated the feasibility of using recirculating systems on numerous crop species. A long duration (418-day) experiment was conducted at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to evaluate the feasibility of using recirculating hydroponics for the continuous production of Solanum tuberosum L. `Norland'. The productivity of four sequential batch plantings was compared to staggered harvest and plantings. The accumulation of bioactive organic compounds in the nutrient solution resulted in reduced plant height, induced early tuber formation, and increased harvest index of the crops in both production systems. The changes in crop development were managed by increasing planting density and reducing cycle time to sustain production efficiency.

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James J. Ferguson, Elizabeth Lamb, and Mickie Swisher

With funding to increase support for organic farming research at land grant universities, organic growers have collaborated with faculty and administrators to develop an undergraduate, interdisciplinary minor at the University of Florida. Required introductory courses focus on general concepts of organic and sustainable farming, alternative cropping systems, production programs, handling, and marketing issues. An advanced horticulture course requires intensive examination of certification procedures, farm plans, soil fertility, and crop management, all of which are integrated into a required field project. Extension faculty have also fostered development of this new curriculum by coordinating regional workshops and field days in collaboration with organic growers and by developing educational materials on organic certification and related issues.

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C.R. Rom, H. Friedrich, and K. Harper

Higher education curricula should be alert to trends in production and science, and responsive to needs of producers and consumers in our society. A recent trend has emerged nationally and internationally for the production and consumption of certified organic produce which is increasing at a significant rate. Following the creation of the National Organic Program and formal federal regulations for certification which govern production, it has been questioned whether horticulture programs in land grant institutions have adjusted curricula appropriately to train producers, consultants, extension specialists, teachers and research scientists to be engaged in organic production systems. According to USDA statistics, several states in the southern region have significantly fewer certified organic farms and certifying agencies than the northeast, Midwest or western regions. A review horticulture and crops programs at 36 land grant universities (1862 and 1890) in 14 southern region states indicated although several institutions had research and outreach programs for sustainable and organic production, there were only three classes on organic gardening, two classes on organic crops production, and one field-based organic production course that could be identified in existing curricula. It appears that with the growth of the organic industry worldwide that students in programs in the southern region may be under-served in this educational area. Further, it may be questioned whether the lack of production and certifying agencies in the southern region is associated with the lack of science-based education provided by the land grant universities. A recent survey of faculty indicated a perceived need for stand-alone coursework on organic, sustainable, and ecologically-based production systems.

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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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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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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.