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N.G. Creamer, K.R. Baldwin and F.J. Louws

More than 50 agents participated in a series of workshops that were offered as in-service training and as a graduate level North Carolina State University (NCSU) course worth four credits. The Organic Unit at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a 100-acre (40-ha) facility dedicated to research and education in organic farming systems, served as a home base for training activities. These training activities consisted of lectures, hands-on demonstrations, group discussions, field trips, and class exercises. Two unique features of the workshops were the interdisciplinary, team teaching approach and the emphasis on integration of information about interactions among production practices. This well-received, successful training program will serve as a model for future extension training. A training manual, slide sets, extension publications, and an organic farming web site are being created to provide agents with the resource materials they need to conduct county-based educational programming in organic production systems and enterprises. The model for extension training presented in this report is an effective means for engaging county agents in continuing education and professional development. Interdisciplinary teaching teams allow for a full, integrated treatment of subject matter and present a whole systems perspective to agents. Regularly scheduled, intensive sessions that accommodate busy calendars and utilize time efficiently provide a strong incentive for regular attendance. Awarding graduate level university credit hours for completion of required course work attracts and retains prospective student and agents. Encouragement of active participation by agents through hands-on field activities, open discussion of issues that impact agricultural and rural life, and field trips to view concepts presented in a real world context ensure that educational goals are fulfilled and that active learning takes place. This model should be used in future extension training programs.

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N.G. Creamer, K.R. Baldwin and F.J. Louws

Consumer demand for organically produced food and the desire by many farmers to eliminate chemical fertilizers and pesticides is increasing the need for research and educational programs to support organic farmers. To date, the land-grant universities and the cooperative extension service have been viewed by organic farmers as unresponsive to this need. The primary reason for the unresponsiveness has been inadequate training and resource materials available to extension agents. In 1998, we conducted an intensive training for agriculture agents in North Carolina. Funding was provided by the USDA SARE Professional Development Program. More than 50 agents participated in a series of workshops that were offered together as a graduate course worth four NCSU credits. Much of the training was conducted on the Organic Unit at The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a 100-acre facility dedicated to research and education in organic farming systems. The hands-on training consisted of lectures, demonstrations, field trips, and class exercises. The topic areas included soil biology/ecology; crop rotation; organic nutrient management; composting; cover crop management; organic weed, insect, and disease management; appropriate tillage practices; organic greenhouse management; marketing organic produce; integrating animals into organic crop production systems; delivery systems for disseminating information to organic producers, and; social and community development aspects of sustainable agriculture. Unique features of the workshops were the interdisciplinary approach to teaching them, and the integration of information about interactions between production factors. The training was very well-received and will serve as a model for future extension programming. A training manual, slide sets, extension publications, and a Web site are being created to further support agents as they conduct programming in their own counties.

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Iwan F. Labuschagné, J.H. Louw, Karin Schmidt and Annalene Sadie

Genetic variation in chilling requirement was investigated over three growth periods using clonal progenies of six apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] families derived from crosses of high and low chill requiring cultivars. Two quantitative measurements related to chilling requirement, viz., the time of initial budbreak (vegetative and reproductive) and the number of breaking buds over a specified time interval, were used as evaluation criteria. Genetic and environmental variances of the traits are presented as intra-class correlation coefficients for clones within and between families. For budbreak time, reproductive and vegetative, broad-sense heritability averaged around 75% and 69% respectively, indicating a high degree of genetic determination in this material. For budbreak number, moderate to low genetic determination was found with broad-sense heritabilities around 30%. Estimates of genetic components of variance between families were generally very low in comparison to the variance within families and predict potentially favorable responses to truncation selection on the traits within these progeny groups. Analysis of the data showed that distribution of budbreak time is typical of quantitative traits with means distributed closely around midparent values. Skewed distributions towards low budbreak number were obtained in varying degrees in all families.

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Iwan F. Labuschagné, J.H. Louw, Karin Schmidt and Annalene Sadie

Significant response to selection for budbreak number (NB) based on data recorded on 1-year-old shoots of young apple (Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.) seedlings (Expt. I) and branches from adult seedling trees (Expt. II) has been demonstrated in clonally propagated seedling trees. Between family variation for NB was low and masked by year × family interaction effects. Realized heritability for NB was estimated as 40% to 60%. Correlated response in uniformity and position of budbreak, and in the number and length of side shoots, was found. Association between the time of budbreak (TB) and NB, according to midparent and cross groupings, and according to the parental means, indicate a positive genetic correlation between these traits. Where data on adult trees were used as a measure of selection response and tested on young clonal trees, significant response and genetic variation was shown, confirming the presence of utilizable genetic variance and that this procedure may be successfully applied as an early screening method for increased budbreak in adult trees. Combined selection utilizing genetic variance between crosses as well as within crosses is proposed as the best procedure to increase the frequency of seedlings with increased budbreak and to improve adaptation to low winter chilling conditions.

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Iwan F. Labuschagné, J.H. Louw, Karin Schmidt and Annalene Sadie

Absence or long delay of budbreak, also known as prolonged dormancy, is the most important symptom during incomplete dormancy. Budbreak number was evaluated to quantify seedling response to chilling and selection on excised and intact 1-year-old apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) seedlings under controlled and natural environmental conditions. Indices based on: 1) the number and distribution of budbreak (prolonged dormancy grade = PDG); 2) the number of buds breaking, including shoot length with increased budbreak as part of the calculation (prolonged dormancy index = PDI); and 3) budbreak number per 100-cm shoot (NB) were tested in association with budbreak time (TB). The indices expressed the effects of cold treatments that induce earlier and higher numbers of budbreak. PDI and NB, but not PDG, identified families with increased budbreak. Seedlings with high PDG and NB were also associated with families in which high chill requiring parents were used, indicating that TB as pre-selection criterion may fail to identify seedlings with increased budbreak. Response to pre-selection for increased budbreak using PDG could be verified with the PDS and NB indices in seedlings and seedling clones. The NB of intact 1-year-old shoots under natural conditions is recommended as a pre-selection criterion against prolonged dormancy in suboptimal winter conditions.

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Leonor F.S. Leandro, Lisa M. Ferguson, Frank J. Louws and Gina E. Fernandez

Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchnesne) growth and productivity were compared in fumigated and nonfumigated production systems. Strawberry transplants grown in potting mix amended with Trichoderma hamatum (Bonord.) Bainier, strain T382, Trichoderma harzianum Rifai, strain T22, or untreated, were planted in field plots treated with compost, compost amended with T. hamatum strain T382, Telone-C35, or not treated. Plants were sampled throughout the growing season, and dry weights of roots, crowns, leaves, flowers and fruit, leaf area, and total and marketable yield were determined. Trichoderma amendments to the potting mix improved plant dry weight and leaf area of strawberry transplants in the first year and suppressed root rot incidence in the second year but did not affect plant growth or disease incidence once the plants were set in the field. Field plants in fumigated plots had greater root, leaf, and crown dry weights, leaf area, and yield compared with plants in the other soil treatments. We conclude that Trichoderma amendments (1) alone had little benefit to plug plant growth and (2) in combination with compost, had no benefit to strawberry plant growth in the field. The task remains to develop a reliable and sustainable strawberry production system that does not rely on chemical fumigants.

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D.C. Sanders, L.M. Reyes, D.W. Monks, K.M. Jennings, F.J. Louws and J.G. Driver

Tomato, pepper and cucumber were grown for consecutive years using compost from two North Carolina cities (Lexington and Edenton) and McGill Composts (CMC) sources and CMC amended with Tracoderma 382. Treatments included compost with an untreated control and Telone C-35 (Telone) with and without additional fertilizer. The objective was to evaluate compost influence on yield and pest management. Results showed significant differences between treatments and among years. Cucumber and pepper had higher total and marketable yields in 2005 than in 2004. Although tomato yield was lower in 2005 than in 2004 it was evident that CMC+Telone had a higher marketable and total plant dry weight in both years. Two year data showed that combinations of treatments with CMC and Telone (Telone+fertilizer, CMC+Telone, CMC+T382) produced higher yield for tomato and cucumber. Composts from Lexington and Edenton produced more number 2 grade peppers, but treatments did not differ in total and marketable yield. In general compost treatments with or without amendments showed better results in crop yields than the control. Weed counts by species were determined on all plots. Pepper had the greatest number of weeds relative to cucumber and tomato. Organic amendments seem to increase the action of the compost source in several crops. Combination of treatments may depend on the particular crop.

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D.C. Sanders, L.M. Reyes, D.W. Monks, K.M. Jennings, F.J. Louws and J.G. Driver

Tomato, pepper, and cucumber were grown for consecutive years using compost from two North Carolina cities (Lexington and Edenton) and McGill Composts (CMC) sources and CMC amended with Tracoderma 382. Treatments included compost with an untreated control and Telone C-35 (Telone) with and without additional fertilizer. The objective was to evaluate compost influence on yield and pest management. Results showed significant differences between treatments and among years. Cucumber and pepper had higher total and marketable yields in 2005 than in 2004.

Although tomato yield was lower in 2005 than in 2004 it was evident that CMC+Telone had a higher marketable and total plant dry weight in both years. Two year data showed that combinations of treatments with CMC and Telone (Telone+fertilizer, CMC+Telone, CMC+T382) produced higher yield for tomato and cucumber. Composts from Lexington and Edenton produced more number 2 grade peppers, but treatments did not differ in total and marketable yield. In general compost treatments with or without amendments showed better results in crop yields than the control. Weed counts by species were determined on all plots. Pepper had the greatest number of weeds relative to cucumber and tomato. Organic amendments seem to increase the action of the compost source in several crops. Combination of treatments may depend on the particular crop.

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Janet F.M. Rippy, Mary M. Peet, Frank J. Louws, Paul V. Nelson, David B. Orr and Kenneth A. Sorensen

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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 Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is dedicated to farming systems that are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Established in 1994 at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS) Cherry Farm near Goldsboro, N.C.; CEFS operations extend over a land area of about 800 ha (2000 acres) [400 ha (1000 acres) cleared]. This unique center is a partnership among North Carolina State University (NCSU), North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University (NCATSU), NCDACS, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), other state and federal agencies, farmers and citizens. Long-term approaches that integrate the broad range of factors involved in agricultural systems are the focus of the Farming Systems Research Unit. The goal is to provide the empirical framework to address landscape-scale issues that impact long-run sustainability of North Carolina's agriculture. To this end, data collection and analyses include soil parameters (biological, chemical, physical), pests and predators (weeds, insects and disease), crop factors (growth, yield, and quality), economic factors, and energy issues. Five systems are being compared: a successional ecosystem, a plantation forestry-woodlot, an integrated crop-animal production system, an organic production system, and a cash-grain [best management practice (BMP)] cropping system. An interdisciplinary team of scientistsfrom the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU and NCATSU, along with individuals from the NCDACS, NGO representatives, and farmers are collaborating in this endeavor. Experimental design and protocol are discussed, in addition to challenges and opportunities in designing and implementing long-term farming systems trials.