New York awards $1.1M in speciality crop grants

Last week, New York Ag Commissioner Richard Ball announced nearly $1.1 million has been awarded for nine projects to strengthen New York agriculture through research, grower education and promotional marketing of the state’s speciality crops. 

Funding came via a pass-through from USDA’s Speciality Crop Block Grant Program. 

The largest amount, more than $477,000, was designated to support three statewide marketing and promotion initiatives:
  • Increase marketing and promotion of New York’s speciality crops at one of North America’s largest produce trade shows
  • Support greater use of locally-grown speciality crops on school lunch menus through the State’s Farm-to-School program
  • Help farms implement new food safety standards under FDA’s Food Safety Modernisation Act
Speciality crop R&D work
Six other grants were awarded to support Cornell University on-farm research and grower education. Ball says “these grants will boost the health and resiliency of key crops, help farmers overcome common challenges in speciality crop production and allow them to remain competitive.”

The projects aim to benefit farms growing vegetables, apples, hops and wine grapes, as well as tree nurseries across the state. The grants will also help organic and conventional growers utilise new tactics to manage diseases and reduce plant loss. 

The projects were evaluated and recommended for funding by New York Farm Viability Institute’s board and farmer review panels.
  • $99,987 for fruit tree disease: The project will assess risk of fire blight on apple and pear tree wood cankers. It’ll also be used to improve accuracy of fire blight prediction models, prevent unnecessary fungicide applications, enable and implement new pruning practices for best management, and distribute research results to growers.
  • $99,902 for tomato disease: This will fund work to produce new tomato hybrids with optimal natural fungal disease control to fight common tomato diseases such as early blight, late blight and septoria leaf spot — for conventional and organic growers.
  • $98,988 on oak wilt: This project is to improve and expedite oak wilt detection methods, and increase outreach and education about oak wilt and the need for early detection. Oak wilt is a highly contagious fungal disease that devastates oak trees.
  • $97,903 for hop orchard IPM: Develop and test sustainable, environmentally friendly, organically approved management strategies to address the threat of spider mites and powdery mildew.
  • $99,834 on table beet seed treatment: The goal is to identify superior seed treatments for early season disease control and to improve crop stands in conventional and organic table beet fields.=
  • $88,479 for vineyard soil stimulants: Project will test potential of soil stimulators to encourage formation of a beneficial fungus on vine roots to help plants increase their root surface area. If soil stimulators prove effective, they may reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.

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