Emmalea Ernest holds lima bean plants to showcase varieties with more triangular leaves or a more upright structure.

The Carvel Research and Education Center of the University of Delaware farm managers hosted an Aug. 10 crop tour so local farmers could see the latest research on sweet corn, lima beans, watermelons and other crops in action. Participants could take a field crop tour or a fruit and vegetable tour.

Emmalea Ernest, Extension associate for vegetable crops, is known for her work breeding lines of lima beans. She showed the tour audience plants with a more triangular leaf shape and a more upright plant structure. Triangular leaves may help reduce humidity. Lower humidity and heat could help blossom set and reduce blossom losses in hot weather.

She said there are also indications that some lines may be showing stinkbug resistance. She drew smiles when she said, “I’m going to be subjecting my children to lima bean tasting trials.”

The first green baby lima lines developed in her breeding program were tested in replicated yield trials in 2008, according to Delaware Cooperative Extension. Fordhook breeding lines from the Delaware program were first trialed in 2010.

Johnson said they have been researching whether planting white clover with watermelons might reduce some watermelon diseases. He said those trials are showing mixed results. The clover can add dampness, and if it gets too tall, it can be somewhat aggressive as a competitor to watermelons, he said.

The clover seems to have some success in limiting fruit rot because it helps keep melons off the ground. Clover, however, was of no help in controlling another disease, a fusarium wilt, he said.

Johnson spoke briefly about food safety and new mats that can be placed on the floor of buses which traditionally carry harvested watermelons. Those cushioned mats are easier to clean and sanitize and the cushioning also means more marketable melons, he said.

Ernest spoke about her work with shade cloth of different colors to see if it can reduce heat stress and damage to peppers.

Johnson also showed new small farm equipment like walk-behind greens harvesters, commercial salad spinners to wash greens, and walk-behind seeders designed for small seeds like radish, kale and mustard.

Farmers on the tour were asked for their opinions on the biggest obstacles to farmland access. Of the 27 people surveyed, 52% felt the No. 1 problem is land purchased by nonfarmers for nonfarm uses.

The No. 2 response, at 26%, was other farmers bidding for limited land resources.

The third highest response was conversion of farmland into other uses, such as solar farms, at 15%.

Producers felt the least restrictive obstacle, at 7%, was acreage loss due to conservation, like USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program.


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