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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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Mengmeng Gu, James A. Robbins, Curt R. Rom, and Hyun-Sug Choi

Net CO2 assimilation (A) of four birch genotypes (Betula nigra L. ‘Cully’, B. papyrifera Marsh., B. alleghaniensis Britton, and B. davurica Pall.) was studied under varied photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) and CO2 concentrations (CO2) as indicators to study their shade tolerance and potential for growth enhancement using CO2 enrichment. Effect of water-deficit stress on assimilation under varied PPFD and (CO2) was also investigated for B. papyrifera. The light saturation point at 350 ppm (CO2) for the four genotypes varied from 743 to 1576 μmol·m−2·s−1 photon, and the CO2 saturation point at 1300 μmol·m−2·s−1 photon varied from 767 to 1251 ppm. Light-saturated assimilation ranged from 10.4 μmol·m−2·s−1 in B. alleghaniensis to 13.1 μmol·m−2·s−1 in B. davurica. CO2-saturated A ranged from 18.8 μmol·m−2·s−1 in B. nigra ‘Cully’ to 33.3 μmol·m−2·s−1 in B. davurica. Water-deficit stress significantly reduced the light saturation point to 366 μmol photon m−2·s−1 but increased the CO2 saturation point in B. papyrifera. Carboxylation efficiency was reduced 46% and quantum efficiency was reduced 30% by water-deficit stress in B. papyrifera.

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Curt R. Rom, R. Andy Allen, Donn T. Johnson, and Ronald McNew

The NE-183 project was established in 1993 and the first trial planted in 1995 with the objective of evaluating new apple cultivars for horticultural, pest and disease resistance, and qualitative characteristics. Arkansas (AR) is the southernmost location for the initial planting. The following cultivars are in AR trial: `Arlet', `Braeburn', `Cameo', `Creston', `Enterprise', `Fortune', `Fuji', `Gala Supreme', `Ginger Gold', `GoldCrisp', `Golden Delicious', `Golden Supreme', `Goldrush', `Honeycrisp', `NY75414-1', `Orin', `Pristine', `Sansa', `Shizuka', `Suncrisp', `Sunrise', and `Yataka'. Bloom of `Braeburn', `Yataka', `Orin', `Gold Supreme', `Fortune', and `Enterprise' were early and may be exposed to annual spring frosts. The following cultivars ripened in July or August and may be too early for southern markets: `Pristine', `Sunrise', `Sansa', `Ginger Gold', `Arlet', `Honeycrisp', `Golden Supreme', and `Orin'. The following cultivars were very precocious and had yields >7.5 kg/tree in the third growing season: `Fuji', `Enterprise', `Creston', `Golden Delicious', `Ginger Gold', `Suncrisp', and `Goldrush'.

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Jayasree Ravi, Donn T. Johnson, Barbara A. Lewis, and Curt R. Rom

In 1995, greenhouse and orchard experiments of 11 apple cultivars were conducted in Fayetteville and Clarksville, Ark. Weekly cumulative mite days (CMD) were regressed against leaf bronzing (colorimeter value L) and compared among cultivars. European red mites, Panonychus ulmi and two-spotted spider mites, Tetranychus urticae, were found on leaves. `Liberty', `Royal Gala', and `Stark Spur Red Rome Beauty' had significantly more mites (>1940 CMD) than did `Arkansas Black' (1303), `Jonafree' (1150), and `Northern Spy' (973). A low CMD on `Northern Spy' caused leaves to bronze faster [y = 29.04 + 0.006(x); R 2 = 52, P = 0.0002] than did a high CMD on `Liberty' [y = 30.41 + 0.0027(x); R 2 = 70, P = 0.0001]. Field estimates were made of spider mites/leaf and bronzing from 20 June to 7 Aug. `Stark Spur Red Rome Beauty' and `Stark Spur Law Rome' had significantly more CMD than did `Northern Spy' and `Arkansas Black'. Apple cultivars differed in carrying capacity to mites (susceptibility) and how fast leaves bronze in response to mite feeding. Cultivar differences in hairiness of the lower leaf surface were not correlated to CMD.

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Hector German Rodriguez, Jennie Popp, Curt Rom, Heather Friedrich, and Jason McAfee

Numerous apple (Malus ×domestica) research experiments have shown that organic apples can be both profitable and sustainable, especially in the Pacific northwestern United States. However, there is limited published research on the profitability of organic apple orchards in the southern U.S. region. Surveys of southern U.S. stakeholders have indicated that great opportunities exist for markets of both fresh and processed fruit, but significant challenges still exist. These challenges include a lack of information available on the economic impacts of different organic production practices and the potential returns available from organic production. In response to these challenges, we developed a user-friendly interactive economic decision support tool using spreadsheet software to simulate organic apple production in Arkansas and across the southern United States. The purpose of this interactive economic decision support tool is 2-fold: 1) to assist producers in the evaluation of costs, returns, and risks associated with their organic apple orchard and 2) to assess changes to cost, return, and risk as expected costs, prices, and/or yields change. The production budget components of the interactive economic decision support tool estimate variable and fixed costs, gross revenues, and net returns for 18 years of production. In addition, this interactive economic decision support tool provides economic analyses regarding: 1) the operation’s breakeven (price and yield) points, 2) sensitivity analyses or “what if” scenarios related to changes in costs and returns, and 3) risk assessment by calculating the probability of obtaining a positive net present value (NPV) over the life of the organic apple orchard. This manuscript describes the development of this interactive economic decision support tool and provides an example of how it works.

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Bruce H. Barritt, Curt R. Rom, Bonnie J. Konishi, and Marc A. Dilley

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Neal Mays, Curt Richard Rom, Kristofor R. Brye, Mary C. Savin, and M. Elena Garcia

The highly weathered, mineral, and often eroded and acidic soils of the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas generally have low soil organic matter (SOM) concentrations as a result of rapid organic matter turnover rates in the warm, moist climate. Orchard management practices that can improve SOM may also improve other soil quality-related variables for sustained production, which is an explicit goal for the National Organic Program (NOP). Therefore, beginning in Mar. 2006 and continuing for seven seasons, annual applications of municipal green compost, shredded office paper, wood chips, and mow-blow grass mulch groundcover management systems (GMS) in combination with composted poultry litter, commercial organic fertilizer, or a non-fertilized control as a nutrient source were implemented to evaluate their ability to alter near-surface soil quality in a newly established, organically managed apple orchard in the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas. The SOM concentration in the top 10 cm averaged 1.5% across all treatments at orchard establishment in 2006, but by 2012, SOM concentration had increased in all GMS and more than doubled to 5.6% under green compost. Similarly, soil bulk density in the top 6 cm, which averaged 1.34 g·cm−3 among treatment combinations in 2006, decreased in all GMS by 2012. Either green compost or shredded paper had the largest concentration of total water-stable aggregates across all aggregate size classes in the top 7.5 cm, whereas no differences among GMS were observed in the 7.5- to 15-cm soil depth. Green compost applied alone or in combination with commercial fertilizer had the largest estimated plant-available water (17.9% v/v) among all treatment combinations. Many soil quality-related variables measured in the various organic GMS had numerically greater values compared with an adjacent conventionally managed orchard on the same soils. Implementation of these GMS appears to provide apple producers in the Ozark Highlands and similar regions a tangible means of meeting NOP requirements for improving soil quality concurrent with production of certified organic crops. The findings also have implications for conventionally managed orchards, which have maintaining or improving soil quality as a management goal.

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Christopher I. Vincent, M. Elena García, Donn T. Johnson, and Curt R. Rom

The broad mite (Polyphagotarsonemus latus) was found in association with leaf-curling symptoms on primocane-fruiting blackberry (Rubus rubus) in Arkansas in 2007–2009. Broad mite had not been previously reported on blackberry. The plots sampled in this study were part of a study comparing harvesting in the fall versus harvest in spring and fall, high tunnels versus ambient conditions, and three genotypes, all under organic production. Leaves were sampled, broad mites per leaf counted, and leaf area and trichome density measured. Results indicated that broad mite is capable of overwintering in a moderate temperate climate and that it reduces leaf area of primocane-fruiting blackberry. The fall-only harvest system had fewer broad mites than fall and spring harvest. There were a range of genotype effects on broad mite populations, including one genotype, ‘Prime-Jan®’, on which broad mite populations remained low, and one genotype, APF-46, on which mite populations grew significantly. Observations indicate that the broad mite may be a pest of ‘Prime-Ark® 45’, another primocane-fruiting cultivar.

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Héctor Germán Rodríguez, Jennie Popp, Michael Thomsen, Heather Friedrich, and Curt R. Rom

Extending the production season of blackberry (Rubus subgenus Rubus) cultivars allows producers the opportunity to potentially receive better prices. Producers could benefit from out-of-season production by sustaining cash flow during more of the year and thereby expanding their market. The objective of this study was to compare the present value (PV) probabilities of being able to cover the total cost (TC) of production (break-even) for open-field and high tunnel production systems for the primocane-fruiting blackberry cultivar Prime-Jan® in northwestern Arkansas. (PVs) of gross revenues (GRs) of each production system were simulated 500 times. Total yields were higher in the open-field system in the first 2 years of production and consistently higher in weeks 33 to 34 and 36 to 37 than high tunnel production. It seems that there are no yield benefits from the high tunnel system early in the harvest season, except in the first year of primocane-fruiting production. The break-even probability was sensitive to the different percentage of yield sold, the percentage of the retail price received by the producer, and the production system analyzed. Even though the potential gross returns obtained with the high tunnel system are high (when compared with open-field production), the PV distributions of the gross returns do not offset the high tunnel TC in half of the simulations. Conversely, open-field production proves to be more profitable both in magnitude and in terms of the likelihood of exceeding the break-even threshold over the productive life of the enterprise.

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Tahir Rashid, Donn T. Johnson, Don C. Steinkraus, and Curt R. Rom

Insecticides were compared for control of codling moth (Cydia pomonella) and oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta), and effects on european red mites (Panonychus ulmi) and predatory mites (Neoseiulus fallacis) in `Red Delicious' apple trees (Malus ×domestica). Ten days after treatment with azinphosmethyl, celerylooper (Anagrapha falcifera) nuclear polyhedrosis virus, rotenone-pyrethrin, or codling moth granulosis virus, fruit damage by larval codling moth and oriental fruit moth was significantly less than trees treated with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki or water (control). Trees treated with azinphosmethyl or celery looper nuclear polyhedrosis virus had fewer damaged fruit where larvae exited than did other treatments. By 21 days after the last treatment, all treatments had significantly more wormy or damaged fruit than did azinphosmethyl. At 10 days after treatment, the two viruses were more deleterious to codling moth than to oriental fruit moth causing a <1:3 ratio of these larvae compared to >3:1 ratio for the other treatments. On 16 June, 100 predatory mites were released onto the trunk of each tree. The minimum ratio of predatory mites to european red mites (>1:10) that favors biological control of european red mites occurred in all treatments by 14 July, except those treated with azinphosmethyl or rotenone-pyrethrin that had significantly more cumulative mite days of european red mites than the other treatments. The use of azinphosmethyl delayed biological control of the european red mites until 27 July whereas rotenone-pyrethrin treatment never attained biological control of the mites.