Current Research

Modern food system graphic

The modern food system is complex, interconnected, and both generates and relies on massive amounts of information. Understanding the challenges within the modern food system and the opportunities to overcome those challenges through science requires that researchers break down information silos and work together across traditional disciplines.

The New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station has a rich history of facilitating integrated, highly relevant research that is inspired by local issues and needs, and that has long-lasting impacts for moving forward global scientific communities.

Today, NHAES scientists continue to use novel scientific techniques and work across a multitude of topic areas that help us better understand the complexities of the modern food system and ensure its resilience through data-driven, objective knowledge.

Want to know how NHAES researchers are answering questions that have not yet been answered?  Explore the numerous ongoing research that can aid our state, regional, national, and international communities remain resilient and thrive. NHAES helps develop science for the public good.

 

Renewing An Agriculture of the Middle: Value Chain Design, Policy Approaches, Environmental and Social Impacts
  Analena BruceDr. Analena Bruce

For the past several decades in New England, there has been a decline in midsized farms that can support a household income. The bifurcation of agriculture into very small farms that rely on non-farm revenue and large farms that supply global markets has contributed to economic decline in rural communities, and negative environmental impacts. This project will utilize a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach to conduct a comprehensive examination of the livelihood strategies New England farmers are using to support the viability of their farms. This approach will result in a better understanding of how farm-level characteristics interact with county and state-level market and policy contexts to shape farm viability in New England. 

 

From Native Plants to New Crops: De Novo Plant Domestication in New England 
  Dr. Tom DavisTom Davis

The proposed project has two closely intertwined goals: 1) the development of new, environmentally resilient crop options for regional growers in New England (NE); and 2) the development of previously unrecognized natural resources: the wild and weedy plant species indigenous to the NE region. A multi-faceted breeding approach is proposed, which will employ a combination of technologies, including selection based on DNA sequence information, and the precision gene editing tool CRISPR to fast track the genetic manipulation and de novo domestication of specific small grain and small fruit species indigenous to New England. We expect to generate new agricultural commodities produced by plants that will be extremely well-adapted to local environmental conditions and will serve the diverse interests of local growers and consumers, thereby contributing to local agricultural economies and the realization of food security visions.

 

Bioavailable Nitrogen: New insights, Models, and Management
  Dr. Stuart GrandyStuart Grandy

The ability to transform abundant atmospheric nitrogen (N) into reactive forms that enhance crop production has been one of the most stunning and double-edged developments in human history. The vast amount of N added has substantially increased crop yields, but the majority of agricultural N inputs are not actually taken up by crops but instead lost from agricultural fields, with wide-ranging negative environmental and economic impacts. Current fertilizer-based technological solutions are not substantially improving N-use efficiency. We propose a series of experiments that will transform our understanding of the controls over soil N cycling, leading to entirely new avenues for 'bottom-up', soil-based approaches to solving the agricultural N dilemma that reduce environmental pollution and increase farm profitability.

 

Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources
  Dr. Iago HaleIago Hale

The kiwiberry a novel horticultural crop of potential economic importance to New England growers. This project systematically evaluates, for the first time under New England's growing conditions, the North American collection of cold-hardy kiwifruit germplasm. The anticipated long-term outcome of this germplasm development (plant breeding) project is the development and selection of economically viable cultivars of kiwiberry for New England. The anticipated long-term impact of this project is the establishment of a new horticultural industry in the region that provides an exciting new healthful product to consumers and a profitable option to growers.

 

Enhancing Rural Economic Opportunities, Community Resilience, and Entrepreneurship
  Dr. John HalsteadJohn Halstead

Rural communities face a wide range of economic growth and development issues ranging from changing economic structure to public service provision. This project will provide an economic and policy assessment of specific topics related to areas of local foods and sustainable small scale agriculture, water and environmental issues pertaining to rural communities, rural amenities and economic growth and development, agricultural tourism and recreation, and new measures to implement the community capitals framework.

 

Phytochemicals: Improving Plant Health and Nutrient Profile for Human Consumption
  Dr. Marta LimaMarta Lima

A high daily intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with prevention of costly and debilitating chronic diseases. Despite all the evidence and the public health campaigns promoting fruit and vegetable consumption, the intake of these foods is seriously below the recommended amounts. To address this problem, improvement of health beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables, and reduction of barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption, such as cost and pesticide residue, are important actions. This study will provide information on the association of grape training system (method used to hold fruiting canes in a support structure/trellis) with incidence or severity of common grapevine diseases.

 

Plant Improvement in Cucurbita Through interspecific Hybridization
  Dr. Brent Loy

Winter squash is an important crop throughout the northeastern U.S. Three varietal groups: acorn, buttercup/kabocha, and butternut currently dominate the commercial market. These three species groups have many similar morphological and culinary traits, but there are also valuable traits unique for each species group. Attaining a level of PMR in varieties of acorn squash and pumpkins approaching that which we have obtained breeding lines of C. moschata, would be a transformative development for growing these cucurbits and reducing dependence on chemical control of this disease.

 

Development of Strawberry Breeding Resources and Cultivated Varieties
  Dr. Lise MahoneyLise Mahoney

Food security and climate change are major priorities globally, nationally, and regionally for New Hampshire. These priorities drive the need for local food production and for regional breeding of locally-adapted crop varieties. Although strawberry is a regionally important fruit, there are no commercial strawberry varieties specifically developed for the Northern New England region. The goals of this project are to 1) advance the breeding and release of new strawberry varieties for crop production and for ornamental value for the Northern New England region, and 2) improve on the efficacy and efficiency in breeding in strawberry. The new, locally developed and adapted, strawberry varieties are expected to increase the production of strawberries in Northern New England, contributing to satisfying the demand for local strawberries and thus increasing access to local fresh fruit and improving food security.

 

Managing Plant Microbe interactions in Soil to Promote Sustainable Agriculture
  Dr. Anissa PoleatewichAnissa Poleatewich

The success of sustainable agriculture in the United States will increasingly rely on the integration of biologically-based tools with traditional agricultural practices. The challenge is to develop economically viable alternatives to chemical pesticides without compromising yields. One strategy is to harness the power of naturally occurring beneficial microbes as biopesticides. Inconsistent field performance of biopesticides, however, has been a barrier to grower uptake. This project will elucidate how different agricultural practices (cultivars grown, fertilizers, growing substrates) influence performance and activity of the different types of biopesticides in order to develop best practices tailored to specific greenhouse production systems. 

 

Varieties and Cultural Practices for Vegetable and Small Fruit Production in New Hampshire
  Dr. Becky Sideman 

Vegetable and berry growers in New Hampshire and the rest of Northern New England are challenged by a short growing season, variable weather patterns, high land values and labor costs. Despite these challenges, the opportunities for local vegetable and berry production are vast, with very strong direct marketing channels. The proposed project will provide reliable information about the adaptability of new varieties and production methods for vegetable and berry crops to the state and region. This information will help local growers maintain a high level of production of these crops while increasing profitability and reducing environmental impact.

 

Quantifying the Mechanistic Drivers of Weed Community Assembly Across Diverse Forage Production Systems
  Dr. Rich SmithRich Smith

Herbicides and tillage are the primary tools used in weed control; however, their use can also lead to herbicide resistance, pollution of soil and water, and non-target impacts on beneficial organisms in or near agricultural fields. The crop itself, along with the organisms that naturally occur in agricultural fields, provide some level of biological weed control; however, the way we manage our agricultural systems may strongly influence their ability to suppress weeds. This project will measure the type and abundance of weeds and determine how much biological weed control is provided in different types of forage and feed grain cropping systems. By understanding how weeds are suppressed biologically by the crops and other organisms that naturally occur in these systems, we can develop cropping systems that are more effective at suppressing weeds. Improving the ability of the cropping system itself to suppress weeds should reduce the need for other more economically and environmentally costly weed control practices.

 

Functional Genomic Approaches Toward Understanding the Frankia-Actinorhizal Plant Association and their Responses to Harsh Environments
  Dr. Lou TisaLou Tisa

Nitrogen fixation by actinorhizal plants is an important part of the nitrogen budget of the planet. The plants involved are also of economic significance with respect to land reclamation, reforestation, soil stabilization, landscaping, fuel, and as a food source for ruminant animals. The purpose of this study is the development of tools that will allow the genetic analysis of Frankia physiology and the interactions of these bacteria with their host plants. The use and development of this beneficial symbiosis has a broad impact on the agricultural system and could be exploited for other crops.

 

Developing Strategies to Minimize Sea Lice infestation in Cage Cultured Steelhead Trout and Advancing Lumpfish Aquaculture
  Dr. Elizabeth FairchildElizabeth Fairchild

Effective sea lice control is one of the biggest issues affecting the salmonid industry. Cage-cultured, marine fish, including steelhead trout, are subjected to naturally-occurring parasitic sea lice infestations which cause harm to and reduce the quality of the fish. Using lumpfish as cleaner fish to control the sea lice populations in Atlantic salmon sea cages has proven effective but lumpfish have not been used in steelhead trout systems. This project proposes to document sea lice infestation systematically at the University of New Hampshire steelhead trout farm; evaluate the use of cultured lumpfish in trout cages to control sea lice during peak infestation periods; and advise stakeholders on best management plans to control sea lice and publish standard operation procedures for culturing lumpfish. Knowledge of when sea lice infestation is greatest on steelhead trout and providing ways to minimize the impact will increase farm productivity and profit. Further developing lumpfish aquaculture methods will facilitate development of lumpfish hatcheries in New England.

 

Ecosystem Variation and Pathogenic Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Population Dynamics in Estuarine Shellfish
  Dr. Steve JonesSteve Jones

The numbers of producers and overall production associated with oyster aquaculture in northern New England continue to increase, yet the associated economic benefits remain threatened by the progressive northward emergence and persistence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus-borne illnesses in oyster consumers. All oyster producing New England states have initiated monitoring programs to track some aspects of Vibrio populations, and are instituting increasingly more stringent management practices on farmers to reduce public health risks. In collaboration with state and regional management agencies and industry, we have recently developed new tools for detection of pathogenic Vibrios and models based on environmental and biological conditions for predicting risks of Vibrio-borne illnesses. 

 

Assessing and Managing Risk of Pathogen Contamination of Oyster Seed During Production and Importation
  Dr. Cheryl WhistlerCheryl Whistler

An unprecedented rise in gastroenteritis from shellfish contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus has occurred on the Northeastern Atlantic (NEA) coast starting in the summer 2012 which is attributed to an invasive strain, sequence type (ST) 36 that is endemic to the Pacific Northwest (PNW). This hypervirulent strain has established resilient populations in several shellfish harvest areas in the Gulf of Maine and Long Island Sound and now causes recurrent infections every year from the region. We will provide essential evidence-based knowledge to help growers and managers understand the risk of V. parahaemolyticus contamination of seed that could, when imported, introduce dangerous pathogens into NH grower areas. Combined these will allow better protection of shellfish consumers, and also allow growers to provide a safe product and minimize the negative impact of harvesting closures.

Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases as Potential Nematicides
  Dr. Rick Cote 

Plant parasitic nematodes are economically destructive to agricultural output and it is estimated that they cause $80-100 billion in agricultural losses annually. Chemical compounds employed to control these pests typically act in an indiscriminate manner, and as a result are not only less than completely effective but also have adverse environmental consequences. This proposal is intended to demonstrate that suppression of specific phosphodiesterase (PDE) activities in nematodes can lead to disruption of the lifecycle of nematodes. Demonstrating that PDEs are a potential target in plant-parasitic nematodes will lead to the development of novel nematicides that are highly selective and potent while also having minimal or no adverse effects on non-target organisms.

 

Developing Strategies to Minimize Sea Lice infestation in Cage Cultured Steelhead Trout and Advancing Lumpfish Aquaculture
  Dr. Elizabeth FairchildElizabeth Fairchild

Effective sea lice control is one of the biggest issues affecting the salmonid industry. Cage-cultured, marine fish, including steelhead trout, are subjected to naturally-occurring parasitic sea lice infestations which cause harm to and reduce the quality of the fish. Using lumpfish as cleaner fish to control the sea lice populations in Atlantic salmon sea cages has proven effective but lumpfish have not been used in steelhead trout systems. This project proposes to document sea lice infestation systematically at the University of New Hampshire steelhead trout farm; evaluate the use of cultured lumpfish in trout cages to control sea lice during peak infestation periods; and advise stakeholders on best management plans to control sea lice and publish standard operation procedures for culturing lumpfish. Knowledge of when sea lice infestation is greatest on steelhead trout and providing ways to minimize the impact will increase farm productivity and profit. Further developing lumpfish aquaculture methods will facilitate development of lumpfish hatcheries in New England.

 

Disease-Associated Bark Communities and Host Resistance as Drivers of Beech Bark Disease in Eastern North America
  Dr. Jeff Garnas 

Beech bark disease (BBD) is common and widespread cankering disease of American beech that significantly reduces the ecological, aesthetic, and economic value of the forests in New Hampshire and beyond. BBD is referred to as a disease ""complex"" because symptoms are not specific to a single pathogen that causes disease symptoms. This project proposes to use powerful genetic technologies to quantify fungal pathogen identity and abundance within infected and uninfected beech across a gradient of duration of infection with BBD. It also represents an important first step toward realizing a broader vision of developing a deeper understanding of beech resistance to BBD pathogens across the tree's range, with the potential to promote more effective management of the beech resource and to enhance current and ongoing breeding programs.

 

Phenology, Vibrational Communication and Response to thermal Stress in the New England Vineyard Pest Empoasca Fabae
  Dr. Dan Howard 

Potato leafhoppers (PLH) are a common insect pest species whose feeding on grapes leads to leaf damage called ""hopper burn"" that reduces grape production. We will conduct field and laboratory experiments that allow us to understand how and when infestations occur over the growing season in Northern New England, how PLH vibrational mating signals can be disrupted to lower feeding damage after initial infestation, and how PLH feeding and communication behavior is altered in changing temperature conditions. Our goal is to leverage these discoveries to develop biological methods of control using environmentally-friendly and low-cost vibrational noise interference, and to anticipate how climatic changes might influence infestation patterns in the future, to better prepare growers for addressing this 21st century agricultural problem.

 

Managing Plant Microbe interactions in Soil to Promote Sustainable Agriculture
  Dr. Anissa PoleatewichAnissa Poleatewich

The success of sustainable agriculture in the United States will increasingly rely on the integration of biologically-based tools with traditional agricultural practices. The challenge is to develop economically viable alternatives to chemical pesticides without compromising yields. One strategy is to harness the power of naturally occurring beneficial microbes as biopesticides. Inconsistent field performance of biopesticides, however, has been a barrier to grower uptake. This project will elucidate how different agricultural practices (cultivars grown, fertilizers, growing substrates) influence performance and activity of the different types of biopesticides in order to develop best practices tailored to specific greenhouse production systems.

 

Quantifying the Mechanistic Drivers of Weed Community Assembly Across Diverse Forage Production Systems
  Dr. Rich SmithRich Smith

Herbicides and tillage are the primary tools used in weed control; however, their use can also lead to herbicide resistance, pollution of soil and water, and non-target impacts on beneficial organisms in or near agricultural fields. The crop itself, along with the organisms that naturally occur in agricultural fields, provide some level of biological weed control; however, the way we manage our agricultural systems may strongly influence their ability to suppress weeds. This project will measure the type and abundance of weeds and determine how much biological weed control is provided in different types of forage and feed grain cropping systems. By understanding how weeds are suppressed biologically by the crops and other organisms that naturally occur in these systems, we can develop cropping systems that are more effective at suppressing weeds. Improving the ability of the cropping system itself to suppress weeds should reduce the need for other more economically and environmentally costly weed control practices.

 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for insect Pests of Fruits and Vegetables Grown in New England
  Dr. Anna Wallingford 

This project will improve upon best practices for managing pests in New England fruit and vegetable crops, using the most environmentally- and economically-sustainable methods possible.We will have a better understanding of the characteristics of the best natural enemies to employ when attempting biological control of aphids in springtime high tunnel vegetable production. Current best practices are for warm, summer growing conditions, rather than the suboptimal temperature and humidity of springtime high tunnels. Growing crops, and protecting them from insect pests, in high tunnels during this time of year expands production and improves the farm business.We will identify useful, bee-safe products for chemical control of a key insect pest of zucchini, squash vine borer. Our approach of using crop sanitizers to reduce fruit susceptibility may eliminate several sprays in the season, and may also contribute to the post-harvest quality of the product.

The Functional Significance of the Soil Microbiome in New Hampshire's Agriculture: Harnessing the Power of Genomics and Ecological Theory
  Dr. Jessica Ernakovich 

Microorganisms are responsible for many aspects of soil health and agricultural productivity, including decomposition and plant nutrient availability. Despite this, we lack a generalized understanding of how changes to the microbial community in soils--the microbiome--affect soil health. In this study, I will investigate the soil microbiome across an agricultural intensification gradient in New Hampshire, and develop a framework for how changes to the community affect agriculturally-relevant functions. The outcome of this work will be an understanding of how shifts to the microbial community affect shifts in the functioning of ecosystems--foundational knowledge that is required to predict the effect of land-use and management on soil health, and to continue the sustainability and profitability of New Hampshire agriculture.

 

Rehabilitating the Northern Forest for Economic and Climate Change Resilience
  Dr. John Gunn 

A significant area of the northern New England forest lacks sufficient stocking of current or potential future merchantable timber to maintain sustainable production in working forests throughout the region. This degraded condition likely has reduced resilience to climate-related risks to forest health and is less able to support climate mitigation objectives through carbon sequestration. My major line of inquiry will be to use existing long-term inventory data and new field-based experimental treatments to identify the forest management pathways needed to restore forest productivity and diversity to increase the economic and climate resilience of New Hampshire forests. Secondarily, I will attempt to identify and map these degraded stands using remote-sensing data and further explore what other forest health issues may be related to the management-driven degradation. Finally, I will identify how best to use markets and policies to support restoration activities.

 

Mapping Productivity and Climate interactions in Forest and Agricultural Ecosystems With UAV-Based Sensors
  Dr. Scott Ollinger 

The ability to map agricultural and forest productivity is important to forest and farm managers and helps scientists better understand how ecosystems are affected by climate. Although Earth-observing satellites can provide useful information over large areas, the images they produce are often too coarse to be useful locally. Here, we plan to evaluate the usefulness of several drone-based sensors being marketed to land management practitioners by comparing the data they collect with careful measurements of plant health, leaf chemistry and growth rates. The work we propose will benefit agricultural and forest practitioners by (1) evaluating the utility of inexpensive drone-based sensors that are increasingly being marketed for land management applications and (2) developing methods through which image data can be used to estimate agricultural and forest productivity, surface temperature, and plant stress.

 

The Response of Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Function to Changing Land Use and Variable Climate in New England
  Dr. Wil Wollheim 

Water quality is degraded in agriculture and suburban areas occur due to changes in nutrient inputs and water flow. We have a poor understanding of how ecological processes in streams respond to these changes in water quality. Disturbances caused by variation in flow, which also vary with different land use, further modify these processes. In this study, we will determine the relationship between stream ecological function and water quality in streams draining watersheds with agriculture, suburbs, and forests. We will also compare the rates from channelized streams to rates in ponded waters including small coastal reservoirs and beaver ponds whose abundances are changing. We will combine these results in models of surface waters to help provide insight into water quality controls throughout watersheds. Findings will help to prioritize management activities that are cost effective.

 

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP)
  Dr. Adam Wymore 

Atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen has led to environmental problems associated with acid rain, and reduced air and water quality. However, understanding how stream ecosystems and water quality responds to changing patterns of nitrogen deposition remains a challenge. Here I will examine new models of watershed recovery by quantifying how stream chemistry across the northeastern United States has responded to changing depositional loads. I will also investigate how climatic variability interacts with landscape characteristics including land use and agriculture to influence the direction and magnitude of changes in stream chemistry. Understanding these complex interactions has implications for water quality management.

Assessing Impacts of Extreme Drought on Northern Hardwood Forest Ecosystems: Resilience, Thresholds, and Adaptive Management Strategies
  Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen 

The long-term goal of this project is to enhance understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change impacts on the ecology and resilience of natural and managed northern forest ecosystems and identify sustainable and adaptive management options. Two interrelated specific objectives that contribute to achieving this goal: (1) Assess the response of northern forest ecosystems and trees species to climate change, especially extreme droughts, and the implications for providing diverse benefits to society, and (2) Evaluate the potential for diverse agroforestry systems to enhance the resilience, sustainability, and adaptive capacity of natural resource management under a drier, warmer future climate.

 

Mapping Forest Type and Structure From Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Imagery
  Dr. Russ Congalton 

A new tool has recently been developed to collect remotely sensed imagery called unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that has the advantage of providing imagery in a very timely manner and at lower cost than previous remote sensing systems. The goal of this project is to investigate and evaluate the use of UAS for collecting forest type and structure information. The successful use of this imagery for these applications will lead to more cost effective and timely analysis resulting in better management and policy decisions that will benefit everyone.

 

Forest Structure, Volume, and Biomass in the Northeastern United States
  Dr. Mark Ducey 

Changes in the forest products industry, land use change, and disturbances are evident in forests of the northeastern United States, while changing public expectations have broadened expectations of the goods, services, and benefits forests will provide. This project focuses on improved tools for assessing those benefits and their dynamics at the individual tree, stand, and landscape to regional scales. The new tools will support landowners, foresters, and other resource managers in making informed, cost-effective decisions about silviculture and forest management.

 

Disease-Associated Bark Communities and Host Resistance as Drivers of Beech Bark Disease in Eastern North America
  Dr. Jeff Garnas

Beech bark disease (BBD) is common and widespread cankering disease of American beech that significantly reduces the ecological, aesthetic, and economic value of the forests in New Hampshire and beyond. BBD is referred to as a disease "complex" because symptoms are not specific to a single pathogen that causes disease symptoms. This project proposes to use powerful genetic technologies to quantify fungal pathogen identity and abundance within infected and uninfected beech across a gradient of duration of infection with BBD. It also represents an important first step toward realizing a broader vision of developing a deeper understanding of beech resistance to BBD pathogens across the tree's range, with the potential to promote more effective management of the beech resource and to enhance current and ongoing breeding programs.

 

Rehabilitating the Northern Forest for Economic and Climate Change Resilience
  Dr. John Gunn

A significant area of the northern New England forest lacks sufficient stocking of current or potential future merchantable timber to maintain sustainable production in working forests throughout the region. This degraded condition likely has reduced resilience to climate-related risks to forest health and is less able to support climate mitigation objectives through carbon sequestration. My major line of inquiry will be to use existing long-term inventory data and new field-based experimental treatments to identify the forest management pathways needed to restore forest productivity and diversity to increase the economic and climate resilience of New Hampshire forests. Secondarily, I will attempt to identify and map these degraded stands using remote-sensing data and further explore what other forest health issues may be related to the management-driven degradation. Finally, I will identify how best to use markets and policies to support restoration activities.

 

Using Genomic Tools to Monitor Wildlife Response to Young Forest Restoration
  Dr. Adrienne Kovach 

Throughout the northeastern US, habitat restoration efforts are ongoing on behalf of declining young forest-dependent wildlife species. This project develops and applies genomic tools to monitor population and individual-level responses to these management efforts. The findings of this research will inform managers about the effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts and contribute to the conservation of declining wildlife species of concern.

 

 

Quantifying Decadal Trends in Forest Biogeochemistry: Linking Water Quality to Landscape Dynamics in Important Water Supply Watersheds
  Dr. Bill McDowell 

One of the major benefits of forested watersheds in humid climates is provision of clean drinking water and reduction in the delivery of undesirable nutrients and sediments to sensitive coastal ecosystems. This proposal is intended to leverage the results of ongoing research on water quality in forested watersheds of New Hampshire and Puerto Rico to address the drivers of nitrate, organic nitrogen, and sediment delivery to water supplies and estuaries. Understanding the drivers of water quality would significantly enhance efforts to maintain drinking water supplies and protect the health of coastal eel grass beds and coral reefs.

 

Metabolic Engineering of Polyamines to Improve Nitrogen and Carbon Assimilation and Improved Biomass Yield in Poplar
  Dr. Subhash Minocha 

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is one of the costliest inputs into cultivated forestry at the nursery stage; it also is a major source of environmental nitrogen pollution (due to runoff into the aquatic bodies). Low rates of N uptake from the soil often limit carbon assimilation, thus slowing overall plant growth and productivity. A better understanding of genetic and physiological regulation of N assimilation should help us deal with both challenges, particularly in relation to forest biomass production using fast-growing cultivated tree species like poplars, and help reforestation and land management for cultivated forestry.We will produce plants which are genetically modified for increased accumulation of metabolites that have the highest N: C ratio. This research will work toward developing new varieties of elite poplar (clone NM6) that are faster growing and useful in phytoremediation.

 

Mapping Productivity and Climate interactions in Forest and Agricultural Ecosystems With UAV-Based Sensors
  Dr. Scott Ollinger

The ability to map agricultural and forest productivity is important to forest and farm managers and helps scientists better understand how ecosystems are affected by climate. Although Earth-observing satellites can provide useful information over large areas, the images they produce are often too coarse to be useful locally. Here, we plan to evaluate the usefulness of several drone-based sensors being marketed to land management practitioners by comparing the data they collect with careful measurements of plant health, leaf chemistry and growth rates. The work we propose will benefit agricultural and forest practitioners by (1) evaluating the utility of inexpensive drone-based sensors that are increasingly being marketed for land management applications and (2) developing methods through which image data can be used to estimate agricultural and forest productivity, surface temperature, and plant stress.

 

The Functional Role of Small Mammals in Northern Forests
  Dr. Rebecca Rowe 

Small mammals are an integral part of the northern forest landscape. They represent nearly half of the mammals in the region, and can provide many ecosystem services, including predation of seeds and the dispersal of both seeds and symbiotic fungi that help trees grow. Because different small mammals eat different seeds and fungi, maintaining a diverse mammal assemblage is an important component of forest management and sustainability. Our research will inform on the habitat affinities and functional roles of small mammals in forest ecosystems.

Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises
  Dr. Andre Brito 

Agriculture is under increasing scrutiny regarding its role in global greenhouse gas emissions. Forage-based dairy systems have been particularly targeted due to greater methane emissions than confinement dairies. We are propose to link ruminant nutrition and grazing energetics to fill knowledge gaps concerning animal and dietary factors underlining the methane mitigation potential of canola as a grazing forage for lactating dairy cows through the following objectives: (1) Measure milk production, methane emissions, and nutrient utilization changes, and (2) Quantify changes in heat production, energy use efficiency, and animal activity.

 

Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises
  Dr. Pete Erickson 

Five studies are designed to investigate ways to improve the health and growth of calves and heifers and decrease the costs of raising the next generation of dairy cows that are an integral part of sustainable dairy farming. Improving calf health requires antibody uptake by calves from colostrum immediately after birth. Colostrum provides the antibodies to the newborn. However, recently it has been observed that Jersey cows produce low colostrum yields in the Fall and Winter. This work will consider a number of management techniques to increase colustrum yields and efficiencies.

 

Quantifying the Mechanistic Drivers of Weed Community Assembly Across Diverse Forage Production Systems
  Dr. Rich SmithRich Smith

Herbicides and tillage are the primary tools used in weed control; however, their use can also lead to herbicide resistance, pollution of soil and water, and non-target impacts on beneficial organisms in or near agricultural fields. The crop itself, along with the organisms that naturally occur in agricultural fields, provide some level of biological weed control; however, the way we manage our agricultural systems may strongly influence their ability to suppress weeds. This project will measure the type and abundance of weeds and determine how much biological weed control is provided in different types of forage and feed grain cropping systems. By understanding how weeds are suppressed biologically by the crops and other organisms that naturally occur in these systems, we can develop cropping systems that are more effective at suppressing weeds. Improving the ability of the cropping system itself to suppress weeds should reduce the need for other more economically and environmentally costly weed control practices.

Improving Finfish Production in Recirculating Systems
  Dr. David Berlinsky 

The US is a major consumer of aquaculture products, yet we grow only a small fraction of what we consume. Due to this disparity, the US trade deficit associated with seafood has exceeded $14 billion annually. Identifying appropriate finfish species is critical for the US aquaculture industry to continue to expand. One impediment that has hindered the expansion of finfish aquaculture has been the limited number of appropriate species choices. Candidate aquaculture species must command a premium price, have high consumer demand and adapt to localized environments for profitable production. Two species that meet all these criteria are the striped bass (foodfish) and rainbow smelt (baitfish). This research builds on our previous research with these species and addresses important research needs for answering questions related to optimizing their growth, reproduction and feeding.

 

Uncertain Times for Oyster Aquaculture in Great Bay Estuary: Quantifying Connections Between Farmed and Wild Oysters and Refining Our Understanding of Disease Effects
  Dr. Bonnie Brown 

New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary (GBE) once had extensive oyster reefs. Over the last two decades, local conservation efforts have been directed toward reef restoration and concurrently, oyster farming has grown within GBE. A promising ecosystem service of the Eastern oyster that has not yet been investigated is the potential for farmed oysters situated in optimum growing areas to produce larvae that can supplement declining recruitment to wild oyster populations. The resulting science will enhance the processes and economics associated with commercially cultivating oysters, allow us to further quantify ecosystem services provided by farmed oysters, and enhance the success of both oyster aquaculture and reef restoration in NH.

 

Mapping Forest Type and Structure From Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Imagery
  Dr. Russ Congalton

A new tool has recently been developed to collect remotely sensed imagery called unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that has the advantage of providing imagery in a very timely manner and at lower cost than previous remote sensing systems. The goal of this project is to investigate and evaluate the use of UAS for collecting forest type and structure information. The successful use of this imagery for these applications will lead to more cost effective and timely analysis resulting in better management and policy decisions that will benefit everyone.

 

Forest Structure, Volume, and Biomass in the Northeastern United States
  Dr. Mark Ducey

Changes in the forest products industry, land use change, and disturbances are evident in forests of the northeastern United States, while changing public expectations have broadened expectations of the goods, services, and benefits forests will provide. This project focuses on improved tools for assessing those benefits and their dynamics at the individual tree, stand, and landscape to regional scales. The new tools will support landowners, foresters, and other resource managers in making informed, cost-effective decisions about silviculture and forest management.

 

Quantifying Ecosystem Services Provided by Oyster Farms in New Hampshire
  Dr. Ray Grizzle 

Oyster farms provide important positive ecological impacts, i.e. 'ecosystem services', that have not been well-studied, particularly from the perspective of how such knowledge can inform management and regulatory policy. The proposed project will characterize three major ecosystem services potentially provided by farmed oysters: water filtration, reproductive output, and habitat provision. New data provided by the proposed field studies in combination with existing information will be assessed and interpreted in the context of the current licensing process in New Hampshire. The overall aim is to take the first steps in making management of oyster farms more comprehensive by incorporating positive impacts in a process that now mainly consists of consideration of potential negative impacts.

 

Ecosystem Variation and Pathogenic Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Population Dynamics in Estuarine Shellfish
  Dr. Steve JonesSteve Jones

The numbers of producers and overall production associated with oyster aquaculture in northern New England continue to increase, yet the associated economic benefits remain threatened by the progressive northward emergence and persistence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus-borne illnesses in oyster consumers. All oyster producing New England states have initiated monitoring programs to track some aspects of Vibrio populations, and are instituting increasingly more stringent management practices on farmers to reduce public health risks. In collaboration with state and regional management agencies and industry, we have recently developed new tools for detection of pathogenic Vibrios and models based on environmental and biological conditions for predicting risks of Vibrio-borne illnesses. 

 

Using Genomic Tools to Monitor Wildlife Response to Young Forest Restoration
  Dr. Adrienne Kovach

Throughout the northeastern US, habitat restoration efforts are ongoing on behalf of declining young forest-dependent wildlife species. This project develops and applies genomic tools to monitor population and individual-level responses to these management efforts. The findings of this research will inform managers about the effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts and contribute to the conservation of declining wildlife species of concern.

 

 

Quantifying Decadal Trends in Forest Biogeochemistry: Linking Water Quality to Landscape Dynamics in Important Water Supply Watersheds
  Dr. Bill McDowell

One of the major benefits of forested watersheds in humid climates is provision of clean drinking water and reduction in the delivery of undesirable nutrients and sediments to sensitive coastal ecosystems. This proposal is intended to leverage the results of ongoing research on water quality in forested watersheds of New Hampshire and Puerto Rico to address the drivers of nitrate, organic nitrogen, and sediment delivery to water supplies and estuaries. Understanding the drivers of water quality would significantly enhance efforts to maintain drinking water supplies and protect the health of coastal eel grass beds and coral reefs.

 

The Functional Role of Small Mammals in Northern Forests
  Dr. Rebecca Rowe

Small mammals are an integral part of the northern forest landscape. They represent nearly half of the mammals in the region, and can provide many ecosystem services, including predation of seeds and the dispersal of both seeds and symbiotic fungi that help trees grow. Because different small mammals eat different seeds and fungi, maintaining a diverse mammal assemblage is an important component of forest management and sustainability. Our research will inform on the habitat affinities and functional roles of small mammals in forest ecosystems.

 

Assessing and Managing Risk of Pathogen Contamination of Oyster Seed During Production and Importation
  Dr. Cheryl WhistlerCheryl Whistler

An unprecedented rise in gastroenteritis from shellfish contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus has occurred on the Northeastern Atlantic (NEA) coast starting in the summer 2012 which is attributed to an invasive strain, sequence type (ST) 36 that is endemic to the Pacific Northwest (PNW). This hypervirulent strain has established resilient populations in several shellfish harvest areas in the Gulf of Maine and Long Island Sound and now causes recurrent infections every year from the region. We will provide essential evidence-based knowledge to help growers and managers understand the risk of V. parahaemolyticus contamination of seed that could, when imported, introduce dangerous pathogens into NH grower areas. Combined these will allow better protection of shellfish consumers, and also allow growers to provide a safe product and minimize the negative impact of harvesting closures.

Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises
  Dr. Andre Brito

Agriculture is under increasing scrutiny regarding its role in global greenhouse gas emissions. Forage-based dairy systems have been particularly targeted due to greater methane emissions than confinement dairies. We are propose to link ruminant nutrition and grazing energetics to fill knowledge gaps concerning animal and dietary factors underlining the methane mitigation potential of canola as a grazing forage for lactating dairy cows through the following objectives: (1) Measure milk production, methane emissions, and nutrient utilization changes, and (2) Quantify changes in heat production, energy use efficiency, and animal activity.

 

Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises
  Dr. Pete Erickson

Five studies are designed to investigate ways to improve the health and growth of calves and heifers and decrease the costs of raising the next generation of dairy cows that are an integral part of sustainable dairy farming. Improving calf health requires antibody uptake by calves from colostrum immediately after birth. Colostrum provides the antibodies to the newborn. However, recently it has been observed that Jersey cows produce low colostrum yields in the Fall and Winter. This work will consider a number of management techniques to increase colustrum yields and efficiencies. 

 

Refining Approaches for integrating Sea Urchins into Aquaculture Operations as a Value Added Product in the Gulf of Maine
  Dr. Larry Harris

The goal of this project is to develop and promote an integrated aquaculture system that incorporates bottom culture of the green sea urchin for the coastal zone of the Gulf of Maine. Sea urchins are omnivorous grazers and would benefit from the rain of materials from the suspended culture systems above, which would include seaweeds, sessile animals and pseudofeces and feces from the cultured shellfish. The focus would be to test and evaluate techniques that promote natural recruitment and survival of sea urchins into the bottom communities within established lease sites for aquaculture operations as a value-added species.

 

Varieties and Cultural Practices for Vegetable and Small Fruit Production in New Hampshire
Dr. Becky Sideman 

Vegetable and berry growers in New Hampshire and the rest of Northern New England are challenged by a short growing season, variable weather patterns, high land values and labor costs. Despite these challenges, the opportunities for local vegetable and berry production are vast, with very strong direct marketing channels. The proposed project will provide reliable information about the adaptability of new varieties and production methods for vegetable and berry crops to the state and region. This information will help local growers maintain a high level of production of these crops while increasing profitability and reducing environmental impact.

The Impact of SNAP-Ed on Dietary Quality, Food Safety Handling Behaviors, and insulin Resistance Among Bhutanese Adults Residing in New Hampshire
  Dr. Sherman Bigornia 

The Bhutanese community is the largest refugee group residing in New Hampshire and building evidence suggests they are at an elevated risk of poor dietary quality, foodborne illness, and insulin resistance (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes). The overall aim of this project is to conduct a pilot study using a randomized controlled study design to evaluate the impact of a 6-week in-home delivered NH SNAP-Ed program on the dietary quality and food safety handling behaviors of adult Bhutanese refugees resettled in NH. It is anticipated that this work will provide evidence of the effectiveness of this intervention on the health status of Bhutanese refugee adults and will provide a model for future prevention efforts conducted among this and other refugee communities in NH and elsewhere.

 

Renewing An Agriculture of the Middle: Value Chain Design, Policy Approaches, Environmental and Social Impacts
  Dr. Analena Bruce Analena Bruce

For the past several decades in New England, there has been a decline in midsized farms that can support a household income. The bifurcation of agriculture into very small farms that rely on non-farm revenue and large farms that supply global markets has contributed to economic decline in rural communities, and negative environmental impacts. This project will utilize a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach to conduct a comprehensive examination of the livelihood strategies New England farmers are using to support the viability of their farms. This approach will result in a better understanding of how farm-level characteristics interact with county and state-level market and policy contexts to shape farm viability in New England.

 

Enhancing Rural Economic Opportunities, Community Resilience, and Entrepreneurship
Dr. John HalsteadJohn Halstead

Rural communities face a wide range of economic growth and development issues ranging from changing economic structure to public service provision. This project will provide an economic and policy assessment of specific topics related to areas of local foods and sustainable small scale agriculture, water and environmental issues pertaining to rural communities, rural amenities and economic growth and development, agricultural tourism and recreation, and new measures to implement the community capitals framework.

The Impact of SNAP-Ed on Dietary Quality, Food Safety Handling Behaviors, and insulin Resistance Among Bhutanese Adults Residing in New Hampshire
  Dr. Sherman Bigornia

The Bhutanese community is the largest refugee group residing in New Hampshire and building evidence suggests they are at an elevated risk of poor dietary quality, foodborne illness, and insulin resistance (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes). The overall aim of this project is to conduct a pilot study using a randomized controlled study design to evaluate the impact of a 6-week in-home delivered NH SNAP-Ed program on the dietary quality and food safety handling behaviors of adult Bhutanese refugees resettled in NH. It is anticipated that this work will provide evidence of the effectiveness of this intervention on the health status of Bhutanese refugee adults and will provide a model for future prevention efforts conducted among this and other refugee communities in NH and elsewhere.

 

Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises
  Dr. Pete Erickson

Five studies are designed to investigate ways to improve the health and growth of calves and heifers and decrease the costs of raising the next generation of dairy cows that are an integral part of sustainable dairy farming. Improving calf health requires antibody uptake by calves from colostrum immediately after birth. Colostrum provides the antibodies to the newborn. However, recently it has been observed that Jersey cows produce low colostrum yields in the Fall and Winter. This work will consider a number of management techniques to increase colustrum yields and efficiencies.

 

Phytochemicals: Improving Plant Health and Nutrient Profile for Human Consumption
  Dr. Marta LimaMarta Lima

A high daily intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with prevention of costly and debilitating chronic diseases. Despite all the evidence and the public health campaigns promoting fruit and vegetable consumption, the intake of these foods is seriously below the recommended amounts. To address this problem, improvement of health beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables, and reduction of barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption, such as cost and pesticide residue, are important actions.  This study will provide information on the association of grape training system (method used to hold fruiting canes in a support structure/trellis) with incidence or severity of common grapevine diseases.

Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources
  Dr. Iago HaleIago Hale

The kiwiberry a novel horticultural crop of potential economic importance to New England growers. This project systematically evaluates, for the first time under New England's growing conditions, the North American collection of cold-hardy kiwifruit germplasm. The anticipated long-term outcome of this germplasm development (plant breeding) project is the development and selection of economically viable cultivars of kiwiberry for New England. The anticipated long-term impact of this project is the establishment of a new horticultural industry in the region that provides an exciting new healthful product to consumers and a profitable option to growers.

 

 

Using Genomic Tools to Monitor Wildlife Response to Young Forest Restoration
  Dr. Adrienne Kovach

Throughout the northeastern US, habitat restoration efforts are ongoing on behalf of declining young forest-dependent wildlife species. This project develops and applies genomic tools to monitor population and individual-level responses to these management efforts. The findings of this research will inform managers about the effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts and contribute to the conservation of declining wildlife species of concern.

 

 

 

Phytochemicals: Improving Plant Health and Nutrient Profile for Human Consumption
  Dr. Marta LimaMarta Lima

A high daily intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with prevention of costly and debilitating chronic diseases. Despite all the evidence and the public health campaigns promoting fruit and vegetable consumption, the intake of these foods is seriously below the recommended amounts. To address this problem, improvement of health beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables, and reduction of barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption, such as cost and pesticide residue, are important actions.  This study will provide information on the association of grape training system (method used to hold fruiting canes in a support structure/trellis) with incidence or severity of common grapevine diseases.

 

Metabolic Engineering of Polyamines to Improve Nitrogen and Carbon Assimilation and Improved Biomass Yield in Poplar
  Dr. Subhash Minocha

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is one of the costliest inputs into cultivated forestry at the nursery stage; it also is a major source of environmental nitrogen pollution (due to runoff into the aquatic bodies). Low rates of N uptake from the soil often limit carbon assimilation, thus slowing overall plant growth and productivity. A better understanding of genetic and physiological regulation of N assimilation should help us deal with both challenges, particularly in relation to forest biomass production using fast-growing cultivated tree species like poplars, and help reforestation and land management for cultivated forestry.We will produce plants which are genetically modified for increased accumulation of metabolites that have the highest N: C ratio. This research will work toward developing new varieties of elite poplar (clone NM6) that are faster growing and useful in phytoremediation.

 

The Behavioral Genomics of Larval Settlement in the Economically Destructive Fouling invertebrate Ectopleura Larynx
  Dr. David Plachetzki 

The proposed research is motivated by the idea that if we can understand the interplay between genetics and behavior that underlies larval settlement, we will better be able to design cheap and effective strategies to mitigate fouling by marine organisms. This work aims to provide an essential and novel dataset on the behavioral and genetic basis for fouling of aquacultural equipment by Ectopleura larynx, one of the most economically important fouling species in several nascent Gulf of Maine aquacultrual industries. The proposed study will offer immediate guidelines, to be tested in applied field settings, on the effects light, chemical and surface features of aquacultrual equipment with the goal of limiting larval settlement by E. larynx. 

 

Biomarkers for Metagenomics Analysis of Plant Parasitic Nematode Communities
  Dr. Kelley Thomas 

Nematode parasites of plants are a major cause of crop loss and a global threat to agriculture. Evaluating the existence of plant parasites in agricultural soils is critical to the proper application of mitigation strategies like crop rotation, and pesticide application. We propose to apply the dramatic improvements in genome sequencing technology to transform our ability to detect and quantify the presents of the important plant parasites. Those improved methods have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of analysis and to improve the outcomes of mitigation strategies reducing pesticide use and costs of agricultural practices.

 

Functional Genomic Approaches Toward Understanding the Frankia-Actinorhizal Plant Association and their Responses to Harsh Environments
  Dr. Lou TisaLou Tisa

Nitrogen fixation by actinorhizal plants is an important part of the nitrogen budget of the planet. The plants involved are also of economic significance with respect to land reclamation, reforestation, soil stabilization, landscaping, fuel, and as a food source for ruminant animals. The purpose of this study is the development of tools that will allow the genetic analysis of Frankia physiology and the interactions of these bacteria with their host plants. The use and development of this beneficial symbiosis has a broad impact on the agricultural system and could be exploited for other crops.

The Functional Significance of the Soil Microbiome in New Hampshire's Agriculture: Harnessing the Power of Genomics and Ecological Theory
  Dr. Jessica Ernakovich

Microorganisms are responsible for many aspects of soil health and agricultural productivity, including decomposition and plant nutrient availability. Despite this, we lack a generalized understanding of how changes to the microbial community in soils--the microbiome--affect soil health. In this study, I will investigate the soil microbiome across an agricultural intensification gradient in New Hampshire, and develop a framework for how changes to the community affect agriculturally-relevant functions. The outcome of this work will be an understanding of how shifts to the microbial community affect shifts in the functioning of ecosystems--foundational knowledge that is required to predict the effect of land-use and management on soil health, and to continue the sustainability and profitability of New Hampshire agriculture.

 

The Genomic Basis of Soil Microbial Growth and Efficiency
  Dr. Serita Frey 

Agricultural productivity is dependent on nutrient cycling processes which are mediated by soil microorganisms. Microbial activity in turn is controlled to a large degree by temperature, moisture, substrate quality, and nutrient availability. Human-induced environmental change (e.g., climate warming, land-use change) may alter the microbial community and the nutrient cycling processes it mediates, thus impacting crop productivity. This research will provide more accurate and realistic microbial parameters used in Earth system models for making climate change predictions. Model output will inform land management and policy decisions on climate change adaptation and mitigation for agricultural systems.

 

Bioavailable Nitrogen: New insights, Models, and Management
  Dr. Stuart GrandyStuart Grandy

The ability to transform abundant atmospheric nitrogen (N) into reactive forms that enhance crop production has been one of the most stunning and double-edged developments in human history. The vast amount of N added has substantially increased crop yields, but the majority of agricultural N inputs are not actually taken up by crops but instead lost from agricultural fields, with wide-ranging negative environmental and economic impacts. Current fertilizer-based technological solutions are not substantially improving N-use efficiency. We propose a series of experiments that will transform our understanding of the controls over soil N cycling, leading to entirely new avenues for 'bottom-up', soil-based approaches to solving the agricultural N dilemma that reduce environmental pollution and increase farm profitability.

 

Biomarkers for Metagenomics Analysis of Plant Parasitic Nematode Communities
  Dr. Kelley Thomas

Nematode parasites of plants are a major cause of crop loss and a global threat to agriculture. Evaluating the existence of plant parasites in agricultural soils is critical to the proper application of mitigation strategies like crop rotation, and pesticide application. We propose to apply the dramatic improvements in genome sequencing technology to transform our ability to detect and quantify the presents of the important plant parasites. Those improved methods have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of analysis and to improve the outcomes of mitigation strategies reducing pesticide use and costs of agricultural practices.

From Native Plants to New Crops: De Novo Plant Domestication in New England
  Dr. Tom DavisTom Davis

The proposed project has two closely intertwined goals: 1) the development of new, environmentally resilient crop options for regional growers in New England (NE); and 2) the development of previously unrecognized natural resources: the wild and weedy plant species indigenous to the NE region. A multi-faceted breeding approach is proposed, which will employ a combination of technologies, including selection based on DNA sequence information, and the precision gene editing tool CRISPR to fast track the genetic manipulation and de novo domestication of specific small grain and small fruit species indigenous to New England. We expect to generate new agricultural commodities produced by plants that will be extremely well-adapted to local environmental conditions and will serve the diverse interests of local growers and consumers, thereby contributing to local agricultural economies and the realization of food security visions.

 

Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources
  Dr. Iago HaleIago Hale

The kiwiberry a novel horticultural crop of potential economic importance to New England growers. This project systematically evaluates, for the first time under New England's growing conditions, the North American collection of cold-hardy kiwifruit germplasm. The anticipated long-term outcome of this germplasm development (plant breeding) project is the development and selection of economically viable cultivars of kiwiberry for New England. The anticipated long-term impact of this project is the establishment of a new horticultural industry in the region that provides an exciting new healthful product to consumers and a profitable option to growers.

 

Phenology, Vibrational Communication and Response to thermal Stress in the New England Vineyard Pest Empoasca Fabae
  Dr. Dan Howard

Potato leafhoppers (PLH) are a common insect pest species whose feeding on grapes leads to leaf damage called ""hopper burn"" that reduces grape production. We will conduct field and laboratory experiments that allow us to understand how and when infestations occur over the growing season in Northern New England, how PLH vibrational mating signals can be disrupted to lower feeding damage after initial infestation, and how PLH feeding and communication behavior is altered in changing temperature conditions. Our goal is to leverage these discoveries to develop biological methods of control using environmentally-friendly and low-cost vibrational noise interference, and to anticipate how climatic changes might influence infestation patterns in the future, to better prepare growers for addressing this 21st century agricultural problem.

 

Plant Improvement in Cucurbita Through interspecific Hybridization
  Dr. Brent Loy

Winter squash is an important crop throughout the northeastern U.S. Three varietal groups: acorn, buttercup/kabocha, and butternut currently dominate the commercial market. These three species groups have many similar morphological and culinary traits, but there are also valuable traits unique for each species group. Attaining a level of PMR in varieties of acorn squash and pumpkins approaching that which we have obtained breeding lines of butternut, would be a transformative development for growing these cucurbits and reducing dependence on chemical control of this disease.

 

Development of Strawberry Breeding Resources and Cultivated Varieties
  Dr. Lise MahoneyLise Mahoney

Food security and climate change are major priorities globally, nationally, and regionally for New Hampshire. These priorities drive the need for local food production and for regional breeding of locally-adapted crop varieties. Although strawberry is a regionally important fruit, there are no commercial strawberry varieties specifically developed for the Northern New England region. The goals of this project are to 1) advance the breeding and release of new strawberry varieties for crop production and for ornamental value for the Northern New England region, and 2) improve on the efficacy and efficiency in breeding in strawberry. The new, locally developed and adapted, strawberry varieties are expected to increase the production of strawberries in Northern New England, contributing to satisfying the demand for local strawberries and thus increasing access to local fresh fruit and improving food security.

 

Varieties and Cultural Practices for Vegetable and Small Fruit Production in New Hampshire
  Dr. Becky Sideman 

Vegetable and berry growers in New Hampshire and the rest of Northern New England are challenged by a short growing season, variable weather patterns, high land values and labor costs. Despite these challenges, the opportunities for local vegetable and berry production are vast, with very strong direct marketing channels. The proposed project will provide reliable information about the adaptability of new varieties and production methods for vegetable and berry crops to the state and region. This information will help local growers maintain a high level of production of these crops while increasing profitability and reducing environmental impact.

 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for insect Pests of Fruits and Vegetables Grown in New England
  Dr. Anna Wallingford

This project will improve upon best practices for managing pests in New England fruit and vegetable crops, using the most environmentally- and economically-sustainable methods possible.We will have a better understanding of the characteristics of the best natural enemies to employ when attempting biological control of aphids in springtime high tunnel vegetable production. Current best practices are for warm, summer growing conditions, rather than the suboptimal temperature and humidity of springtime high tunnels. Growing crops, and protecting them from insect pests, in high tunnels during this time of year expands production and improves the farm business.We will identify useful, bee-safe products for chemical control of a key insect pest of zucchini, squash vine borer. Our approach of using crop sanitizers to reduce fruit susceptibility may eliminate several sprays in the season, and may also contribute to the post-harvest quality of the product.

Improving Finfish Production in Recirculating Systems
  Dr. David Berlinsky

The US is a major consumer of aquaculture products, yet we grow only a small fraction of what we consume. Due to this disparity, the US trade deficit associated with seafood has exceeded $14 billion annually. Identifying appropriate finfish species is critical for the US aquaculture industry to continue to expand. One impediment that has hindered the expansion of finfish aquaculture has been the limited number of appropriate species choices. Candidate aquaculture species must command a premium price, have high consumer demand and adapt to localized environments for profitable production. Two species that meet all these criteria are the striped bass (foodfish) and rainbow smelt (baitfish). This research builds on our previous research with these species and addresses important research needs for answering questions related to optimizing their growth, reproduction and feeding.

 

Uncertain Times for Oyster Aquaculture in Great Bay Estuary: Quantifying Connections Between Farmed and Wild Oysters and Refining Our Understanding of Disease Effects
  Dr. Bonnie Brown

New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary (GBE) once had extensive oyster reefs. Over the last two decades, local conservation efforts have been directed toward reef restoration and concurrently, oyster farming has grown within GBE. A promising ecosystem service of the Eastern oyster that has not yet been investigated is the potential for farmed oysters situated in optimum growing areas to produce larvae that can supplement declining recruitment to wild oyster populations. The resulting science will enhance the processes and economics associated with commercially cultivating oysters, allow us to further quantify ecosystem services provided by farmed oysters, and enhance the success of both oyster aquaculture and reef restoration in NH.

 

Quantifying Ecosystem Services Provided by Oyster Farms in New Hampshire
  Dr. Ray Grizzle

Oyster farms provide important positive ecological impacts, i.e. 'ecosystem services', that have not been well-studied, particularly from the perspective of how such knowledge can inform management and regulatory policy. The proposed project will characterize three major ecosystem services potentially provided by farmed oysters: water filtration, reproductive output, and habitat provision. New data provided by the proposed field studies in combination with existing information will be assessed and interpreted in the context of the current licensing process in New Hampshire. The overall aim is to take the first steps in making management of oyster farms more comprehensive by incorporating positive impacts in a process that now mainly consists of consideration of potential negative impacts.

 

Refining Approaches for integrating Sea Urchins into Aquaculture Operations as a Value Added Product in the Gulf of Maine
  Dr. Larry Harris 

The goal of this project is to develop and promote an integrated aquaculture system that incorporates bottom culture of the green sea urchin for the coastal zone of the Gulf of Maine. Sea urchins are omnivorous grazers and would benefit from the rain of materials from the suspended culture systems above, which would include seaweeds, sessile animals and pseudofeces and feces from the cultured shellfish. The focus would be to test and evaluate techniques that promote natural recruitment and survival of sea urchins into the bottom communities within established lease sites for aquaculture operations as a value-added species.

 

The Behavioral Genomics of Larval Settlement in the Economically Destructive Fouling invertebrate Ectopleura Larynx
  Dr. David Plachetzki 

The proposed research is motivated by the idea that if we can understand the interplay between genetics and behavior that underlies larval settlement, we will better be able to design cheap and effective strategies to mitigate fouling by marine organisms. This work aims to provide an essential and novel dataset on the behavioral and genetic basis for fouling of aquacultural equipment by Ectopleura larynx, one of the most economically important fouling species in several nascent Gulf of Maine aquacultrual industries. The proposed study will offer immediate guidelines, to be tested in applied field settings, on the effects light, chemical and surface features of aquacultrual equipment with the goal of limiting larval settlement by E. larynx.

Assessing Impacts of Extreme Drought on Northern Hardwood Forest Ecosystems: Resilience, Thresholds, and Adaptive Management Strategies
  Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen

The long-term goal of this project is to enhance understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change impacts on the ecology and resilience of natural and managed northern forest ecosystems and identify sustainable and adaptive management options. Two interrelated specific objectives that contribute to achieving this goal: (1) Assess the response of northern forest ecosystems and trees species to climate change, especially extreme droughts, and the implications for providing diverse benefits to society, and (2) Evaluate the potential for diverse agroforestry systems to enhance the resilience, sustainability, and adaptive capacity of natural resource management under a drier, warmer future climate.

 

The Response of Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Function to Changing Land Use and Variable Climate in New England
  Dr. Wil Wollheim

Water quality is degraded in agriculture and suburban areas occur due to changes in nutrient inputs and water flow. We have a poor understanding of how ecological processes in streams respond to these changes in water quality. Disturbances caused by variation in flow, which also vary with different land use, further modify these processes. In this study, we will determine the relationship between stream ecological function and water quality in streams draining watersheds with agriculture, suburbs, and forests. We will also compare the rates from channelized streams to rates in ponded waters including small coastal reservoirs and beaver ponds whose abundances are changing. We will combine these results in models of surface waters to help provide insight into water quality controls throughout watersheds. Findings will help to prioritize management activities that are cost effective.

 

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP)
  Dr. Adam Wymore

Atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen has led to environmental problems associated with acid rain, and reduced air and water quality. However, understanding how stream ecosystems and water quality responds to changing patterns of nitrogen deposition remains a challenge. Here I will examine new models of watershed recovery by quantifying how stream chemistry across the northeastern United States has responded to changing depositional loads. I will also investigate how climatic variability interacts with landscape characteristics including land use and agriculture to influence the direction and magnitude of changes in stream chemistry. Understanding these complex interactions has implications for water quality management.

 

For highlights of previous years' research efforts, please visit our research video archive