The Virginia Tech Painter Agricultural Research and Extension Center has received two of the ten 2019 Specialty Crop Block Grants from Governor Ralph Northam.

mark reiter

Dr. Mark Reiter

The Governor announced $541,467 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for ten agriculture-related projects. The project awards resulted from a competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.

The first local project is being conducted by Dr. Mark Reiter and will examine sulfur fertility rates to enhance vegetable yields and fertilizer use efficiency. The Eastern Shore AREC will increase fresh market tomato, broccoli, potato, and sweet corn production by 14 percent by updating sulfur fertilizer recommendations using field research, updates of vegetable production guides, field days, and grower meetings.

Dr. Laura Strawn

Dr. Laura Strawn

The second project will be conducted by Dr. Laura Strawn and will study establishing time-intervals for application of raw biological soil amendments of animal origin during produce production. This study will reduce foodborne pathogen contamination in specialty crops by determining the risk of applying raw biological soil amendments of animal origin (BSAAO) to soils during produce production. These findings will support Virginia tomatoes, cucumbers, and apple growers in establishing best practices for the application of raw BSAAO to fields to comply with the Produce Safety Rule of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. No prior studies exist establishing safe time-interval(s) between application of raw BSAAO and harvest of produce from Virginia. This project aims to determine the survival of pathogens, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7, in BSAAO amended soils common to Virginia.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, and to ensure this sector stays at the forefront of our economy, we must continue to support research and technological advancements that enhance the competitiveness of our specialty crops,” said Governor Northam. “These grants fund important projects that will help improve food safety for growers, boost agricultural development, and create new market opportunities, especially in our rural areas.”

For more information on Virginia’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, contact VDACS’ Division of Marketing and Development at (804) 786-5448.




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