Updates on large plot crop work, kitchen design grant, Beginning Farmer program
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Spring is in sight for those who look forward to the start of our annual growing season, usually measured in length by the number of frost-free days. In our area, we can count about 180 days as the frost-free period, about the third week of April until the third week of October. Row crop farmers are busy preparing for planting season with corn and soybeans on their mind.
They replace worn planter parts, apply grease, calibrate seeding rates, control weeds and apply fertilizer as needed. Seed is on hand; crop protection chemicals and fertilizer accounted for in production budgets and ready for application at the onset of the planting season.
Virginia Cooperative Extension conducts annual corn variety trials across the Commonwealth with Extension Agents recruiting cooperating farmers to host variety trials. Data from these trials helps corn growers gain knowledge on corn grown under localized conditions, on our soils and in our weather. Regional adaptability is important in making variety choices. The 2018 plot work planned by the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center is in conjunction with our cooperating producer, Battle Park Farms. Together we plan to plant 36 corn varieties across three maturity groups – involving all available corn companies.
These plots will be our second research trial delivering on our programing promise to conduct large plot research beneficial to the regions commercial farms. The first trial was to test disease control in soybean. Virginia Tech pathologist Dr. Hillary Mehl, tested her theory over four years, in Battle Park Farms soybean fields. http://gwcarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/VA-Soybean-Board-2014-Project-Report.pdf Follow this link for full detail on this first large plot study.
In the upcoming corn variety trial, large-scale planting (12-row planter) and harvesting equipment (six row combine) will allow our cooperators to cover the big plots in a timely fashion. This is in contrast to the small plot work conventionally done in state trials. We will use tester varieties spread out among the dozen varieties in each of the three maturity group plantings, to help account for variations other than corn genetics. Look for field day announcements and reports sharing results from this Northern Piedmont corn variety trial.
The “Carver Center” has several other program priorities moving ahead. The Commercial Kitchen, lead by Extension Agent Becky Gartner, awaits a design grant pending with the Ohrstrom Foundation. We should know in May if this has been successful. Becky will then kick off design work for the kitchen spaces she has identified in the main building.
Our Beginning Farmer program lead by volunteer Roger Williams, is working with county government and Virginia State University to design a suitable agreement for all our needs. We are optimistic VSU will begin classes at Carver this spring. Final additions are in the works for our hi-tunnel greenhouses, slatted for inclusion in VSU plans and the Rapidan River Master Gardeners demonstration gardens. With spring around the corner, farmers and gardeners are making plans for the new growing season.