New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced last week that more than $1.38 million in funding will support 10 advanced research, education and marketing projects to help specialty crop farms across New York state grow and remain competitive. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets secured the grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

New York’s specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, maple syrup and honey, and are among the State’s most valuable agricultural products. Since the USDA began the program in 2006, New York state has been awarded $13.88 million for 139 specialty crop projects across the state.

“These projects will improve disease-resistance and nutrient management for our specialty crops and advance on-farm food safety practices, helping our growers to better compete in the marketplace,” Ball said. “We thank our partners at New York Farm Viability Institute for supporting projects that directly benefit our producers and support New York agriculture.”

The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in coordination with the New York Farm Viability Institute. NYFVI recommended $633,373 be provided to Cornell University for seven grower research and education projects that will focus on:

• Detection and differentiation of fungi that causes fruit bitter rot on New York apple farms and in storages;

• Development of high-quality New York-adapted tomato hybrids that have enhanced early blight and fungal resistance to reduce both disease and chemical use;

• Study and enhancement of harvest timing and storage conditions for SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples in New York State to ensure maximum quality;

• Protection of New York state onions with insect-destroying nematodes;

• Development of microbial seed treatments for New York State sod growers to foster environmentally sound past management practices and to enhance the value of sod on schoolgrounds;

• Mitigation of bitter pit in the Honeycrisp apple variety; and

• Improvement of soil nitrogen management in winter high-tunnels.

Cornell University was also awarded $99,900 for research in the area of cleaning, sanitizing and sanitary designs of packinghouses for small- and medium-scale specialty crop growers, which will assist with food safety practices.

In addition, $545,000 from the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will also support the marketing and promotion of New York’s specialty crops and help New York’s specialty crop farmers meet the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Rob Noble, chairman of New York Farm Viability Institute and Owner of Noblehurst Farms said, “I’m proud of the important work that NYFVI does to help connect agricultural research dollars to the priorities of New York farmers. A competitive process that includes input from the agricultural community is critical to ensure that projects being funded will work to the benefit of New York agriculture. I am always impressed with the thoughtfulness of my fellow farmers as these proposals are discussed.”

Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “Specialty crops are vital contributors to New York’s agricultural economy.”

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