Projects at Penn State

Education and Social Services:

2nd Annual Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture Education Conference. The 3-day conference is being co-organized by Cornell, University, Delaware Valley College, Mercyhurst College, The Pennsylvania State University, The Rodale Institute, and the University of California-Davis. Project contact: Heather Karsten,

Agroecology Undergraduate Major. Multidisciplinary training from faculty in Crop and Soil Science, Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Horticulture. Agroecology Program Coordinator: Paul A. Backman,

Center for Sustainability. The Center for Sustainability serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for demonstrating ecological technologies and sustainable living concepts includes an organic, biointensive minifarm. An Instructional Garden is under development. Center contacts: Director: David Riley,; Site coordinator: Laura Silver,

Enterprise benchmarks for direct-to-consumer farm marketers. Farmers doing direct sales need more information on products, promotions, processing technology, personnel, and other business aspects of direct farm marketing. The project manager will survey retail farm marketers on a range of business-related topics such as sales, seasonality, product mix, staffing, space, and equipment needs, and will analyze and summarize the results. Outreach will be through a web-based report and through conferences, field days, and workshops. NE SARE Partnership Grant. Contact: John Berry, Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Allentown,

eOrganic: Resource for Organic Agriculture Information. Multi-institutional project to create a national extension website for organic agriculture. Pilot areas in development include certification, organic diversified vegetable production and organic dairy production. Funded by USDA Integrated Organic Program and eXtension. Lead PI: Alexandra Stone, Dept. of Horticulture, Oregon State University. Local contact: Mary Barbercheck,

Food choice: Factors influencing organic dairy purchases. Examines factors influencing purchase of organic dairy products in mainstream supermarkets in Philadelphia. Project contact: J. Lynne Brown,

Growing the Links between Farm and School: Best Practices for Farm-to-School Programs. This project will survey Pennsylvania public school district food service directors about their operations and current and potential purchasing of local and Pennsylvania foods; conduct 8-10 mini case studies of diverse Pennsylvania schools having some form of farm-to-school programming; and produce a farm-to-school how-to guidebook with information about best practices, current opportunities, constraints and policy needs in Pennsylvania. Clare Hinrichs, Agricultural Ecoomics and Rural Sociology, and Kai Schafft, College of Education. Funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2007. Contact: Clare Hinrichs,

Opportunities and Barriers for Farm-to-School Programming as an Element in Childhood Obesity Prevention. This applied research and outreach project examines stakeholder perceptions and practices with farm-to-school programs at a rural and an urban Pennsylvania school. Clare Hinrichs, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, and Kai Schafft, College of Education. Funded by Penn State Outreach, Health Thematic Initiative, 2006-2007. Contact: Clare Hinrichs,

Organic Vegetable and Berry Production. Hort 232. Course in development for Spring 2007. Instructors: Elsa Sánchez (Horticulture), Heather Karsten (Crop and Soil Sciences), Mary Barbercheck (Entomology). Contact: Elsa Sánchez,

Pennsylvania Keystone Kitchens Incubator Project. There are limits on what value-added products can be prepared in an ordinary kitchen, and the concept of a shared commercial kitchen has been tested in other states. The project manager will identify the best management practices of these kitchens and work with interested farmers in determining whether a similar facility is a good fit for their operations and what steps need to be taken to get a shared kitchen funded and running. Funded by NE SARE, Sustainable Community Grant (Appalachian Initiative). Contact: Winifred McGee, Penn State Extension, Lebanon County,

Principles and Practices of Organic Agriculture. AGECO 497. Course in development for Spring 2008. Principles and practices of organic agriculture, especially crop production. Prerequisite: AGRO 28 or HORT 101, or advanced crop production coursework. Instructors: Heather Karsten (Crop and Soil Sciences), Mary Barbercheck (Entomology), Elsa Sánchez (Horticulture). Contact: Heather Karsten,

Sustaining Small Farms and Rural Communities: The Role of Women Farmers. Research to examine the sustainability of women-operated farms based on environmental, economic, and social criteria. Funded by USDA NRI. Project leaders: C. Sachs, M. Barbercheck , J. Findeis, N.E. Kiernan, A Trauger. Project Extension Associate: L. Moist. Project contact: Carolyn Sachs,

WAgN: Sustainable ag network by and for women producers. A new organization of women farmers in Thursday, November 29, 2007 15:51s project supports the development of a peer-to-peer network for this group and creates educational programs in sustainable agriculture. Funded by NE SARE. Project team: C. Sachs, M. Barbercheck, K. Brazier, N.E. Kiernan. Project contact: Carolyn Sachs,

General Production and Animal Science

Determination of Fat-Soluble Vitamin Levels in Ground Beef from Cows Fed on Pasture and Stored Feeds. This study describes the management practices of Pennsylvania producers who pasture beef cattle, and will compare the vitamin A, E, and beta-carotene concentration and fat quality of pastured, pastured and grain and forage finished, and grain-finished, ground beef available to Pennsylvania consumers. Beef from 23 PA farms that finish cattle on pasture or stored forage and grain is being compared to beef was finished on grain in PA and the Midwest, and is sold in PA. Project team: A. Lassen, H. Karsten, and D. Archibald. Project contact: Heather Karsten,

Improving air quality and dairy profitability through reduced protein feeding. Twelve dairy farmers will take part in this study to see if feeding less protein to lactating dairy cows will result in better herd health, lower costs, and reduced ammonia emissions. The project manager will monitor feed content, milk urea nitrogen levels, butterfat content, overall yield, and reproductive performance, and will work with producers to lower emissions before these reductions will be required of them through regulation. Outreach will be through extension meetings and extension newsletters. NE SARE Partnership Grant. Contact: Eugene Schurman, Pennsylvania State University, Indiana County Cooperative Extension,

Organic Dairy Production Systems In Pennsylvania: A Case Study Evaluation. Case studies of 4 Pennsylvania Organic Dairy Farms and Farm simulation were used to evaluate and compare the performance, environmental impact, and economics of organic and conventional production systems on Pennsylvania dairy farms. Project Team: C. A. Rotz, G. H. Kamphuis, H. D. Karsten, and R. D. Weaver. Project contact: C. A. Rotz, USDA/ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research,

Risk assessment of small ruminant farms. Conducted with more than thirty small ruminant producers and four extension agents. Focus on increasing producer awareness of the risk levels associated various productions, marketing, and environmental stewardship practices. Special emphasis on management of internal parasite resistance to wormers. Funded by PA Dept. of Agriculture and USDA special grant. Project participants: D. Wolfgang, R. Hoover, M. Gauger (PASA), M. Barkley, C. Williams, D. Hartman, and L. Spahr. Project contact: Ron Hoover,

Tower-hive configuration for the maximization of honey yields and increased efficacy of easy drone brood removal. Varroa mites are a serious pest of honeybees, and tend to reproduce in drone cells within the hive. Removing infested drone cells is a good control measure, and a tower hive makes it easier for beekeepers to do this without having to lift honey supers. The project manager will see if the effectiveness of drone brood removal is increased by altering the size of the brood nest and will also test a tower-hive two-queen system to improve vitality and honey production while decreasing labor. Outreach will be through a beekeeper’s meeting and panel discussion and through industry newsletters. NE SARE Partnership Grant. Contact: Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Entomology,


Enhancing cut flower production and marketing for produce growers: Methods of diversification into proven niches. For small and medium-sized farms, cut flowers are a source of income and diversification. In this continuation of a previous SARE project, the project manager will evaluate cultivars, compare biorational pest management to conventional pest management, offer technical support for new growers, and host field days and educational events. Of the 180 growers who engage with the project, half will adopt improved pest management strategies and increase their marketable yield; of the 20 new growers who use the project to develop cut flower business models, eight will begin to grow cut flowers on their farm. NE SARE Research and Education Grant, Contact: Steven Bogash, Franklin County Cooperative Extension,

Evaluation of apple scab resistant and multiple disease resistant apple cultivars. Cultivars from Europe, United States and Canada are being evaluated at the Russell E Larson research center and the Fruit Research and Extension Center for their horticultural and fruit quality characteristics. The apple cultivars may be suitable for farmers who want to grow apples organically. Contacts: Jim Travis (Biglerville), and Rob Crassweller (University Park),

Integrated Management of Organic Concord Grape Production in the Lake Erie Region. Conducted at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center, this project is designed to evaluate, improve, and integrate chemical and cultural disease and insect control practices. Our goal is to develop an evolving set of guidelines for sustainable organic viticulture in the Lake Erie region of Pennsylvania and New York where over 30,000 acres of grapes are grown. In addition, we are transitioning a research vineyard to certified organic as a platform for experimentation and demonstration. This project has been funded by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation and the Viticulture Consortium. Project leader: Jim Travis. Contacts: Bryan Hed, or John Griggs,

PA and Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition (PROFIT). Pennsylvania tree fruit growers recognize that they must be pro-active in providing a vision for the long-term sustainability of tree fruit production in the state. Growers have committed to reduce synthetic chemical inputs by adopting sustainable practices with the ultimate goal of organic production and marketing. Project contact: Jim Travis,

Spent mushroom substrate for nutrient management of pumpkins. This trial evaluates spent mushroom compost at various rates and timings of application for supplying nutrients for a pumpkin crop. Additionally, pumpkin is evaluated as a rotational crop following bell peppers a year after the application of compost. Funded by the Spent Mushroom Substrate Insititue. Project team: E. Sánchez and M. Orzolek. Project contact: E. Sánchez,

The Integration of Chemical and Cultural Methods for Grape Disease Control. For the past several years this ongoing project has been examining ‘soft chemical’ and cultural methods to develop more holistic, season long, sustainable approaches to wine grape disease management, with emphasis on control of Botrytis bunch rot and sour rot. Project leader: Jim Travis. Project contact: Bryan Hed,

Various composts for nutrient management of organic bell peppers. This trial evaluates dairy/food-scrap-based, leaf-based and mushroom composts at various rates for supplying nutrients to bell pepper crop produced using organic methods. Funded by The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Marketing and Research Board. Project team: E. Sánchez, E. Cook, and H. Karsten. Project contact: E. Sánchez,

Pest and Soil Management

An Areawide Pheromone Mating Disruption Approach to Control Two Major Fruit Pests in Pennsylvania Orchards. Funded by: The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania. This three year project (2006-2008) focuses on the use of areawide placement of sex pheromone mating disruption to control populations of codling moth and oriental fruit moth across various tree fruit crops. The objective of the project is to reduce fruit injury from these two pests while reducing the use of insecticides for their control The economics of this form of management will also be examined. Project leaders: Larry Hull, G. Krawczyk , and J. Harper. Project contact: Larry Hull,

Ecologically Based Weed Management. Funded by USDA-NRI. A collaborative effort funded through the USDA Small Farms Initiative. Involves Penn State, Rodale, and the USDA Small Farms Group in Beltsville, Md. Project contact: Dave Mortensen,

Effect of Landscape Complexity on Beneficial Soil Organisms in Agroecosystems. Examines effects of landscape heterogeneity and disturbance on the persistence and dispersal of entomopathogenic nematodes in an organic system, and the impact of transition method on naturally-occurring biological control agents in the soil. Project contact: Randa Jabbour,

Effectiveness Of Natural Product Herbicides For Control Of Annual Weeds In Pennsylvania. Examines factors that impact effectiveness of vinegar (acetic acid) and clove oil for control of annual weeds in the field and greenhouse Project leaders: Bill Curran and Dwight Lingenfelter. Project contact: Bill Curran,

Weed Management, Environmental Quality and Profitability in Organic Feed and Forage Production Systems. Funded by USDA RAMP. Examines rotation of soil management practices and crop sequence on perennial weed populations, N cycles, and profitability. Project leaders: M. Barbercheck, D. Mortensen, J. Kaye, J. Harper, N. E. Kiernan. Project contact: Mary Barbercheck,

Impact Of Cereal Rye Planting And Termination Date On Weed Suppression And Mechanical Cover Crop Control By Rolling. Examines the effectiveness of a "Rodale style " cover crop roller for mechanical control of cereal rye and rye plus hairy vetch. The impact of the cover crop residue on weed control in soybean is also being examined. Steven Mirsky and Bill Curran. Project contact: Bill Curran,

Improving weed control and soil fertility with more intensive use of cover crops. Conducted with five farmers across PA. Focus on improving cover crop density and biomass production and increasing the inclusion of legumes in cover crop mixtures for improving competition with weeds and increasing soil fertility. Funded by USDA special grant. Project participants: Ron Hoover and Michele Gauger (PASA). Project contact: Ron Hoover,

In Search of Sustainable Botrytis Management: Evaluates eight organic and biorational cultural and chemical options for Botrytis management in raspberries, with transferred to other small fruit crops. Funded by the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, NE SARE, the North American Bramble Growers Association and IR-4. PSU Project Team: Elsa Sánchez, Kathy Demchak, James Travis. Project contact: Elsa Sánchez,

Interpreting the long-term impact of crop rotations on soil physical properties and crop yield stability. This study is comparing the water stable aggregation, soil carbon, soil microbial carbon, gravimetric water content (GWC), and soil water potential. K. Grover and Heather Karsten, Project contact: Heather Karsten,

Mulches for suppressing weeds in a high tunnel cucumber crop under organic management. This trial evaluated sheets of newspaper, shredded newspaper and straw for weed suppression of a cucumber crop grown in high tunnels under organic management. Project team: Elsa Sánchez, William Lamont and Mike Orzolek. Project contact: Elsa Sánchez,

Nitrate cycling in organic agroecosystems. We are synthesizing a 25 year record of nitrate leaching from conventional and organic cropping systems in collaboration with the Rodale Institute. In addition, we monitored internal N cycling dynamics in this cropping systems trial during the growing season of 2006. Project team: Jason Kaye and Barbara Fricks in collaboration with Rita Seidel and Paul Hepperly at the Rodale Institute. Project contanct: Jason Kaye,

Organic Weed Management: Balancing Pest Management and Soil Quality in a Transitional System. Funded by USDA-IPM ORG. Examines the effects of soil management and cover cropping strategies on weed and soil ecology and economics during transition to organic in a feed grain rotation. Project leaders: Mary Barbercheck, Dave Mortensen, Heather Karsten, Elsa Sanchez, Sjoerd Duiker, Jeff Hyde, Nancy Ellen Kiernan. Project contact: Mary Barbercheck,

Potato Leafhopper Resistant Alfalfa: The Potential for Improving Organic and Traditional Farming Systems. On-farm research quantifies benefits of adopting PLH-resistant alfalfa varieties with outreach programs that demonstrate the potential for these new varieties to enhance the sustainability of farming systems and reduce or eliminate the amount of insecticides applied annually in alfalfa production. Funded by NE SARE. PSU Project team: Marvin Hall, Craig Altemose, Ron Hoover, Gary Micsky, Janis Pruss. Project contact: Marvin Hall,

Soil Quality Workshop: Concepts, Practice, Methods and Program Development. Training workshop on soil quality for extension educators and other agricultural professionals. Funded by USDA NESARE. Project leaders: Mary Barbercheck, Sjoerd Duiker, Nancy Ellen Kiernan. Project contact: Mary Barbercheck,

Threshold-based Cover Cropping Strategies for Weed Management. Funded by USDA NE-IPM. Examines impact of cover cropping and disturbance (tillage and mowing) on weed recruitment and fecundity. The impact on invertebrate seed predation is also being examined. PSU project leaders: Bill Curran, Dave Mortensen, Mary Barbercheck, Ron Hoover. Project contact: Bill Curran,

Use of Composts in Grapes for Improving Vine Health and Soils. Document the effectiveness of different types of compost to suppress fruit and root pathogens, and improve vine and soil health in growers’ vineyards. Funded by NE SARE. PSU Project team: Rob Crassweller, Noemi Halbrendt, Andrew Muza, Elwin Stewart, Nancy Wenner. Project contact: James Travis,

Use of soil aeration and improved soil fertility to increase competitive advantage of perennial forages with weeds in permanent organic pasture. The weed (primarily buttercup) and forage composition of pasture in northern PA is being monitored over time. Fertility improvement and pH adjustment with lime has significantly increased the percent legume in the sward. Aeration appears to have some value, but the improvements are extremely slow. Funded by USDA special grant. Project team: Ron Hoover, Thomas Murphy, D. Johnson. Project contact: Ron Hoover,

Using Cover Crops And Cover Crop Diversity To Optimize Ecologically-Based Weed Management. Examines effects of cover crop diversity on weed seed predation by beetles and how cover crops promote ecologically based weed management. The project manager will offer demonstrations and field days on cover crop management, cropping sequence, tillage, and management impacts on weeds. Funded by USDA NESARE. PSU project leaders: Bill Curran, Dave Mortensen, Mary Barbercheck, Andrew Hulting, T. Hoover, Ron Hoover. Project contact: Bill Curran,

Verification Of Web-Based Real-Time High Resolution Weed And Insect Predictive Models For The Northeast. This project is collecting weed and insect phenology over time in several areas of Pennsylvania to help validate and improve weed emergence and insect development models that are currently available on-line. Funded by USDA Northeast Region IPM). Project leaders: Dennis Calvin, Bill Curran, D. Johnson. Project contact: Bill Curran,

Whole farm nutrient planning for organic farms. We will convene a year long intensive training program for ten agricultural professionals to develop soil, compost and tissue analysis recommendations for organic farmers and evaluate three whole farm nutrient planning tools using situations common to organic farms. Participants of the intensive training program will also conduct four workshops in Pennsylvania and New York to extend knowledge gained in the intensive program. Funded by NE SARE. Project team: Elsa Sánchez, T. Richard, Heather Karsten, and Richard Stehouwer. Project contact: Elsa Sánchez,