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Wednesday, 23 May 2012 12:46

Does this grow here? The answer holds key to farming future

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• Black Perigord Truffles: Three years ago researchers brought in Filbert trees that had their roots inoculated with truffle spore. The trees were planted at the station to see if truffles will grow in Western North Carolina. The hope is to develop a new and lucrative cash crop for the region.

• Broccoli trials: This is a five-year effort to develop broccoli varieties suitable for the East Coast. Most of the broccoli now grown in the Eastern U.S. was developed for growing conditions in the western part of the country, which means when it turns warm the broccoli bolts.

• Hemlock and Fraser fir project: Researchers are trying to breed Hemlock or Fraser firs resistant to the lethal adeglid insect that has all but wiped out the species. A few trees in the wild have shown some tolerance for this destructive bug, and researchers hope to capture the genetic traits of those resistant trees. The project is modeled on the American Chestnut Foundation’s breeding program.

• Nitrogen rates on narrow row corn: Prompted by a farmer’s question about how much nitrogen he needed to worry about with his corn, the research station is testing the different levels of nitrogen uptake needed on narrow rows of corn versus wide rows of corn.

• Weed control for organic farmers: Researchers are growing mustard, rye, sorghum-sudan grass, vetch and sun hemp in different plots to test for weed suppression effectiveness. Eventually results of the tests, if proven successful, could be implemented by organic farmers and traditional farmers to cut down on or better control weeds without using herbicides.

• Pumpkin variety trial: A large-scale pumpkin research trial is under way, testing various varieties for yields and quality. The effectiveness of various fungicides on pumpkins is also being evaluated.

• Heirloom tomato evaluations: Researchers are testing varieties of heirloom tomatoes, prized by consumers, for yield and quality. Additionally scientific data on how well organic fungicides work is being collected.

• Canola testing for alternative fuels: Targeting the use of canola oil as a biofuel, canola varieties are being researched to determine yield of oil per acre. Different varieties are being planted, the seed is harvested, and oil is extracted.

n Performance bull testing: Fifty to 60 bulls are brought in each year for performance trials. This includes measuring weight gain and growth, breeding soundness and more. The bulls are then sold to local producers to improve local herds. This program is more than 30 years old.

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