UNH agricultural research boosts New England’s Thanksgiving bounty

As New Englanders prepare to sit down to give thanks, their Thanksgiving table may be filled with an abundant supply of delicious, locally and regionally grown foods due to extensive agricultural research conducted by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire.


Snowball, a small, round pumpkin, was developed in a collaborative effort with Hybrid Seeds of New Zealand and is available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds


No Thanksgiving would be complete without winter squash and pumpkins. For five decades, continuous support from the NH Agricultural Experiment Station has allowed J. Brent Loy, emeritus professor of plant genetics, to undertake the longest continuous cucurbit breeding program in North America. As a result, New Englanders now enjoy some of the tastiest squash and pumpkins on the market today. Loy’s work, which has largely taken place at the experiment station’s Kingman and Woodman Research Farms, has resulted in more than 70 new varieties of squash, pumpkins, gourds, and melons sold in seed catalogs throughout the world, including several released this year.


Experiment station supported researchers now know which spinach varieties grown in New Hampshire’s coldest months are the tastiest. Here are two varieties of spinach with noticeably different growth habits, Emperor being more upright and Renegade more squat, on Dec. 11, 2015. Credit: Kaitlyn Orde/UNH

Is creamed spinach or spinach salad on your Thanksgiving menu? If so, you’ll be happy to know experiment station-supported research has identified which spinach varieties grown in New Hampshire’s coldest months are the tastiest. Becky Sideman, extension professor of sustainable horticulture production and professor of sustainable agriculture and food systems, recently completed a two-year winter spinach trial at our Woodman Horticultural Research Farm to determine the most suitable spinach varieties and planting dates for winter production in New Hampshire in an unheated high-tunnel environment. In both years, the research found a direct relationship between temperature and sugar content, with colder temperatures in the days leading up to harvest heightening the sugar content in the leaves.


Plant breeder Iago Hale has established the nation’s first ever kiwiberry breeding research program at the Woodman Horticultural Research Farm. Credit: UNH

And someday, kiwiberry wine might become a staple for New Englanders with their turkey because of UNH’s efforts to promote kiwiberries as a new, high-value crop in Northern New Hampshire. Plant breeder Iago Hale has established the nation’s first ever kiwiberry breeding research program at the Woodman Horticultural Research Farm. He is characterizing and evaluating the North American collection of cold-hardy kiwis, nearly 200 accessions, to identify promising varieties for the region and parent plants for new variety development. This past fall, Hale and his research team visited farmer’s markets across the state where many Granite Staters got their first taste of kiwiberries.

For more information:
www.unh.edu

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