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  • Author or Editor: H. Friedrich x
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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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A multidisciplinary effort has been initiated between the University of Arkansas and the National Center for Appropriate Technology to identify production barriers, research and outreach needs, and market opportunities for sustainable and organic fruit in the Southern region. The goals of the project are to identify barriers of the organic system through focus group meetings with producers, processors and marketers, and to develop regional research and outreach projects to overcome these obstacles. Market development, organic fertilizer knowledge and organic pest management have been identified as areas that need research and outreach activities. Long-term outcomes are expected to increase sustainable and organic fruit production, provide opportunities for growers and consumers, and encourage local economic development in the Southern region.

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Fruit production in the Southern region has declined in the last several decades. Further, although certified organic fruit production has increased significantly in other regions of the US in the past decade, there has been very little growth of that industry in this region. It is presumed that the lack of production is based upon the lack of research, out-reach, and science-based information available to growers which make organic production possible. Based on planning grant funding from the Southern IPM Center program and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program a Southern Organic Fruit Working Group is being formed. The projects are collaborative efforts of horticulturists, entomologists, plant pathologists, soil scientists, and agricultural economists in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In each state, a coordinator is hosting stake-holder focus groups of producers, marketers, processors, extension workers, consultants, organic certifiers, etc. The purpose of focus group meetings is to identify challenges and opportunities in production and marketing organic fruit, especially apples, blackberries, blueberries, and peaches, in the Southern Region. Coordinators are combining findings from state focus group meetings to establish priorities for research and outreach to support organic production, and will work collaborative to addresses those priorities. Because of the similarity in climate, geography and demographics of growers and markets among the states of the region, this is a project best addressed as a regionally collaborative effort.

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Systemic acquired resistance is a broad spectrum inducible defense response that is associated with the expression of a set of genes (SAR genes). Expression of one of these genes (PR-1a from tobacco) in transgenic tobacco confers increased tolerance to two oomycete pathogens.

A direct role for salicylic acid (SA) in signaling SAR has been established in tobacco by analysis of transgenic tobacco expressing salicylate hydroxylase (SAH, an enzyme that inactivates SA by conversion to catechol). Tobacco plants that express SAH are blocked in the accumulation of SA and the development of SAR when responding lo TMV. Furthermore, both Arabidopsis and tobacco expressing SAH have altered pathogen induced lesion morphology, exemplified by larger spreading lesions.

Putative mutants in SAR gene expression were isolated by screening M2 Arabidopsis plants for altered expression of PR-1 and PR-2 or for sensitivity to pathogen infection following INA treatment. The putative mutants all into two major classes,constitutive (cim, constitutive immunity) and non-inducible (nim, non-inducible immunity). Several cim mutants exhibits a disease lesion phenotype in the absence of pathogen.

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