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2022 Warner Grant Recipients

lettuce seedlins

Congratulations to the 2022 Warner Grant recipients.

  • Matt Kleinhenz, OSU Horticulture and Crop Science and eight growers associated with RGO and NECIC - "Seeding for Success:  Collaboration to Enhance Sustainability through Using Seed Mats"

    Leafy vegetables harvested as micro-/baby greens are key sources of income, particularly for socially disadvantaged (SD), limited resource (LR), and/or beginning (B) farmers. These farmers often manage small- to midscale businesses (sometimes in urban/urbanizing settings) and may be new to the U.S. Raising quick cycling leafy greens appeals to them; however, it also involves serious challenges from seeding to sale. For example: (1) seeds are small, costly, and sown with expensive seeders or time consuming handwork; (2) weed control options are limited; (3) seedling diseases are problematic; (4) soil particles and other contaminants must be removed after harvest; and (5) growing areas must be reseeded promptly to generate additional revenue. Clear sustainability-related challenges develop as a result. Excessive soil disturbance during repeated seedbed preparation initiates an unwanted cycle: declining soil structure calls farmers to work the soil further (e.g., with a rototiller or similar implement) and apply costly amendments. Seed and labor costs and effort rise and yield potential falls as percent germination and emergence plummet due to abiotic and biotic stresses during the stand establishment phase of crop production. Collectively, these trends lead to declines in profit potential and soil health. An improved approach to stand establishment can address these many abiotic, biotic, and procedural challenges. Here, we will specifically ask if the use of seed mat technology can facilitate gains in ecological, economic, and social aspects of sustainability, particularly among SD, LR, and/or B vegetable growers serving local markets from low-tech, small- to midscale, non-chemically reliant operations including high tunnels.
  • Melanie Ivey and Mitchell Roth, OSU Plant Pathology and Greg Miller (Route 9 Cooperative) - "Improving Chestnut Graft Success Using Biological Controls"

    Chestnut production is a burgeoning sector of U.S. sustainable agriculture, supporting both fresh market and value-added industries (Hunt et al. 2012). Commercial nurseries in the U.S. estimate that 200-400 new acres of chestnuts are planted every year, with most growers in Ohio planting Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) or Chinese chestnut hybrids (Revord et al. 2022). Chestnuts are a perennial food crop that promote soil stability, carbon sequestration, and wildlife biodiversity.

    If orchard establishment and management rely on propagation of chestnut cultivars that are high yielding and naturally resistant to disease, then the issue of graft failure is the biggest barrier to large-scale, low-input sustainable chestnut production. The propagator (G. Miller) at Route 9 Cooperative has partnered with OSU fruit pathologist Melanie Lewis Ivey to explore the microbial communities associated with grafting phenotypes and the use of biological control to improve graft success. The objective is to test commercially available biological control and plant health booster products for their impact on graft success including plant growth promotion and alteration of endophytic communities.
  • Tim McDermott, OSU Extension - Franklin County and Franklinton Farms (Michelle Nowak and Teddy Brown).  "Cost-effectiveness of caterpillar tunnels for mitigating impacts of heat on production of leafy greens in central Ohio"

    Salad greens like lettuce and spinach are among the most in-demand and least widely available mid-summer farmers market crops in central Ohio and producing them well and consistently year round can provide the foundation of profitability for small farms. Unfortunately, climate change is leading to higher average temperatures and more frequent days of extreme heat and drought, or on the other hand, extreme rainfall events. Mitigating the impacts of this increasingly harsh weather on leafy greens is necessary to keep small farms productive and profitable. There is an urgent need to evaluate low-cost approaches to optimize summer spinach and lettuce yields.

    Our long-term goal is to evaluate cost-effective ways of mitigating the impact of heat stress on small-scale production of salad greens in central Ohio.