2017 ISU Fruit and Vegetable Field Day

The Department of Horticulture in partnership with Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (IFVGA), Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture organized the 2017 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day at the Horticulture Research Station, Ames IA on August 7, 2017.  Drs. Ajay Nair and Diana Cochran in the Department of Horticulture coordinated the event.  The field day attracted 175 participants that included growers, extension staff, county horticulturists, undergraduate and graduate students and representatives from Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA NRCS.  The field day provided research-based information on a variety of topics including high tunnel pepper production, tomato grafting, peach production, grape cultivar trial, integrated vegetable and poultry production, and insect management in  cucurbit crops.  In addition, the field day demonstrated the working of equipment including potato digger, between row weed cultivator, and a fruit washing station.

The field day provided graduate students an oppportunity to acrively participate and engage growers in their reseatch projects.  The afternoon session of the field day was followed by supper at the farm,  Most vegetables and fruits served during supper were produced at the Horticulture Reseach Station. After the supper, growers

The event started at 2 p.m. with a welcome note from Drs. Nair and Cochran, Mr. Nick Howell (Farm Superintendent).  Dr Angela Shaw from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition provided information about the new Food Safety Modernization Act and things that growers need to do be compliant.  Mr. Joe Hannan, Horticulture Field Specialist, shared information on proper sampling and testing procedures for water sampling.  Darrell Geilser (IFVGA) and Ms. Liz Kolbe (Horticulture Coordinator, PFI) also attended the field day and interacted with growers.  The Field day gave growers an opportunity for a real time assessment of new, innovative, and sustainable research initiatives in the area of fruit and vegetable production.  The first stop was the demonstration of operation of a produce washer.  The unit washes and sanitizes produce and increases efficiency and safety during the postharvest phase.  The next stop was the high tunnel pepper production where Dr. Nair and Kristine Lang, PhD student, provided information on appropriate cultivar selection and selection of shading material to maximize yield and quality in high tunnel colored pepper production.  At the second-high tunnel experiment participants learned about benefits of grafting in tomato production.  Ms. Kristine Lang, spoke about the ongoing grafting root stock experiment and discussed the potential of grafting to provide disease tolerance and enhance crop productivity, in high tunnel crop production.  Several aspects such as cost, construction, maintenance, and production methodologies in high tunnel crop production were discussed.

Dr. Diana Cochran highlighted the new and unique peach production system inside high tunnels.  This production technology has the potential to mitigate frost damage thereby improving overall tree growth and fruit quality.  She also discussed the ongoing hops project that is investigating the effect of irrigation and fertility management in hops production.  She also demonstrated the working of hops harvester that efficiently removes hop cones from the vine.  Max Murphy, undergraduate student in Dr. Mark Gleason’s laboratory, demonstrated the use of a new insect netting called Protek net used to manage cucumber beetle and bacterial wilt in squash and melons.  Alex Harter demonstrated the new disease forecasting system to manage fungal diseases in strawberry production.  Moriah Bilenky, graduate student in Dr. Nair’s laboratory, spoke on developing integrated production systems that could utilize vegetable crops and poultry production.  Field Day participants got a glimpse of mobile chicken coops that were set up in the field following the harvest of a spring broccoli crop.  Brandon Carpenter demonstrated the working of a potato digger and between row weed cultivator.  This provided participants an opportunity to see the quipment in operation.  Often such equipment are expensive and growers are hesitant to make a purchase without seeing the equipment in action.

The field day provided graduate students an opportunity to actively participate and engage growers in their research projects.  The afternoon session of the field day was followed by supper at the farm.  Most vegetables and fruits served during supper were produced at the Horticulture Research Station  After the supper, growers mingled with farm staff, researchers and graduate students and had discussions on needs and challenges for the fruit and vegetable industry in Iowa.  Dr. Iles, Chair Department of Horticulture delivered the vote of thanks and gave away door prizes.  The field day was recorded by Channel 13 News and later shown on Channel 13 Agribusiness Report.