Field Day Showcases Specialty Crop Research

This week, the Iowa State University Horticulture farm hosted dozens of farmers to talk about the plots they are studying.

Researchers like Dr. Ajay Nair, work on specialty crops like peppers or potatoes to see how farmers can effectively grow them.

Iowa farmers have challenges when it comes to fruits and vegetables because of freeze potential.

At the event, farmers could ask questions like: What cultivars are good for Iowa, how high tunnels work, how researchers dealt with control and experimental plots?

Nair says growing more fruits and vegetables could help out the state by reducing its dependance on others for produce, "We grow a lot of corn and we grow a lot of soybean, but when it comes to grapes or potatoes or onions or peppers, they're not much of an acreage. Although we all recognize and understand that they are a primary portion of our diet and how can we increase the production of these crops within the state so we don't have to rely on buying produce from other states."

A showcase at the farm was showing farmers a way to deal with weeds without herbicides.

ISU took an old, beat-up tractor and attached a field cultivator to it. They put plastic mulch around peppers and asparagus and put them in wide rows. Then they cultivated the dirt in-between so weeds have trouble growing. On their test plot, they say they've weeded only twice this year, normally they weed at least weekly.

Nair says, "That's because weeds are number one problem any time you talk to growers so how can we effectively manage weeds without too much of labor put into it."