Thursday, September 2, 2010

Organic Vegetable Production Workshop

There is a brand new, in its first year, organic research unit at the Mountain Research Station in Haywood County. I went to a field day there last Tuesday. Dubbed a vegetable production workshop, it was really more of an introduction of the new organic research unit to the community.

They wanted to show us what they were doing and just as importantly to hear what organic growers wanted them to be researching.

This plot of peppers is looking at various organic mulches for weed control. Part of this research is actually timing the labor costs of weeding.

Our hosts for the event from left to right: Kaleb Rathbone, Superintendent of the Mountain Research Station and I am pretty certain part of the Rathbone Farm directly below me on the mountain I call home. Next is Dr. Jeannine M. Davis, Project Director for the new organic research unit. She is also a blogger now at NC Alternative Crops and Organics. Bill Skelton, County Extension Director of the Haywood Cooperative Extension Unit joined in the welcome.

We got an overview of this year's organic trial of various heirloom tomatoes. Last year they got nailed by the late blight. This year we have been hit with Septoria Leaf Spot. My tomatoes got the Septoria too.

This particular area of NC has been chosen as a potential growing area to supply east coast grocery stores with broccoli. Organic trials with a few select cultivars are just getting started. The row covers were used to keep the flea beetles at bay while the plants were small.

The row covers worked great. I really want some and have wanted them for some time. For me it is to keep the grasshoppers off my seedlings. Once the seedlings reach a certain size there is no problem. Those fresh sprouts are bug candy though. One of the business sponsors of the event, Fifth Generation in Asheville had a table set up and said that they did sell row covers. I will have to get some before next spring.

There was a very interesting talk on grafted tomatoes. The whole point is that the root stock is chosen for its resistance to soil born tomato diseases in a particular field. The grafted top can then be any tomato you want that would otherwise do poorly in the infected soil. Not only can you now grow a tomato you couldn't before, the grafting procedure often induces extra vigor and fewer plants can produce the same yield. The grafted tomatoes obviously did not get the Septoria like the heirlooms did.

It was an interesting day and I will look forward to their website becoming a useful resource for the roadside vegetable garden as well as information that can spill over into landscapes.

Before you go, if you haven't already, take a moment to look at the setting and background of the Mountain Research Station. It is one of the prettiest farms in the whole area.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

This all sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a great project! The Master Gardeners at our public garden in Md. did some tomato grafting; it was very successful! I had not heard of that before. I guess it makes sense since many of the heirlooms are not VFNT resistant or something?


thistleandthorn said...

I love attending field trials.

Les said...

Interesting about the grafting. I am not sure I have heard of any commercial crop that is grafted that isn't a fruit or nut tree.

Pomaika`i said...

I have been told that the Japanese have created a splint of sorts to get the grafts to take; would you know if they are available for home gardeners to try?

chuck b. said...

I don't see any flowers to attract beneficial insects.

Christopher C. NC said...

Lisa organic methods are making more headway in college research situations as big Ag keeps running into serious problems.

Bev, he mentioned 2 or 3 soil borne tomato diseases the root stock avoids, but I didn't write them down.

TandT it was an interesting half day.

Les tomato grafting is fairly new. It is close to 100% successful in the right light/humidity conditions and you have ready to plant, even by machine, tomatoes in 7 to 10 days.

Pomaika'i he did mention the clips for the grafts. It may take a google search to find a source. Maybe Johnny's Selected Seeds?

Chuck this is the organic units first year in a regular type farm situation. Many people in the "listening" session said they needed to create the right surrounding habitat for a real organic situation. I did not ask, but it seems the soil would take some time to reach organic status after years of regular field trials on the land.

Pomaika`i said...

Thanks, Chris, I'm learning a lot on that way of grafting, and your tip about Johnny's is spot on!
Mahalo nui loa

Jeanine Davis said...

Chris, it was a real pleasure to see you at our "workshop" the other day. It really was a field day, but the university has a bunch of rules for "field days" that we couldn't accomodate this year. So, we called it a workshop. Next year it will be a much bigger event and a true field day. I have been conducting organic research at that station for six or seven years and found that station has done a good job taking care of their soil, so it makes the transition to organic fairly easy. It's exciting to have enough university and community support now to actually start a permanent organic program!

Christopher C. NC said...

Hi Jeanine. The workshop was several hours well spent and I was very happy to find I could get row covers at Fifth Generation. Damn grasshoppers! The turnout was most impressive. I wasn't expecting such a large group.