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specialty crops

Automation Helps Solve Specialty Crop Challenges

With support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Multistate Research Fund, researchers at 17 land-grant universities are working together to develop automated systems that work well for labor-intensive specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery plants. A multi-state collaborative approach lifts the burden of research and development from a single specialty crop sector and spurs major advances.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Automation Explored

U.S. specialty crop producers face a variety of challenges that require a diverse set of solutions. From labor shortages and rising production costs that threatened the health of Florida’s strawberry industry to water supply challenges that stymied North Dakota’s vegetable yields, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) has helped producers bring to life innovative ideas in automation.

Enjoy Those Strawberries Longer: PhylloLux Innovation Leads the Way

We’ve all enjoyed some delicious strawberries this summer, but a short-shelf life can limit that enjoyment. One of the biggest challenges in U.S. strawberry production is managing diseases and pests. The fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea results in gray mold, or the unappetizing gray fuzz that can quickly appear on strawberries all too soon after we get them home. Growers typically apply fungicides on a weekly basis to control gray mold as well as other fungal diseases.

Bringing Technology to Specialty Crops

Each day we use technologies to solve problems and accomplish tasks that once would have taken much longer. Whether facial recognition software, a smart thermostat, or a robotic vacuum, technology has changed the way we live and work. Farmers are also using technology to make production of specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts, more efficient. These crops make up one third of U.S. crop production sales and one sixth of U.S. agricultural sales.

AMS Service Solutions Help Farmers and Handlers Make All the Right Moves

It takes a village to get those red ripe watermelon or sweet ears of corn to the neighborhood grocery store at the right time for consumers. Producers must decide when to plant and pick crops, package produce, find buyers and select the right shipper to transport products to market. Hundreds of people and thousands of decisions are needed to get the fruits and vegetables people love to stores at peak freshness. And to make sure everything gets done right, many producers and handlers rely on trusted resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).