Grant to help grow the great pumpkins

Published 10:10 pm Monday, October 7, 2019

The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center off of Holland Road will receive a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study how to improve pumpkin production.

The grant is one of 10, totaling $541,467, that was recently announced by Gov. Ralph Northam resulting from a competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant money.

“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,” Northam said in a news release. “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.”


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The grant going to the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center will be for the optimization of Virginia pumpkin production through improved disease management and identification.

Pumpkins are now among Virginia’s top 20 agricultural products, with more than $10 million in sales in 2018 from 3,500 harvest acres of commercial pumpkins, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is the first year that pumpkins have made the top-20 list.

Researchers at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater and Eastern Shore agricultural research extension centers will determine what fungicide programs are most effective at reducing losses to diseases while improving net returns and producing a helpful disease identification guide to help producers pinpoint problems in pumpkin fields.

Other grants will go to the Eastern Shore Agricultural and Research Extension Center to study sulfur fertility rates for Virginia vegetables to enhance yields and increase fertilizer use efficiency, and to establish time-intervals to apply raw biological soil amendments of animal origin during produce production.

In addition, agricultural research extension centers around Virginia will receive grants that will help fund research to improve strawberry, apple and cider production, as well as protect existing boxwood plants from boxwood blight.

“Governor Northam’s administration is committed to rural economic development, specifically protecting, enhancing and diversifying our range of agriculture products,” Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring said in a statement. “These projects propose to give our farmers new options for crops, crop protection, varieties, farming methods and more, continuing to support Virginia’s number one private sector industry.”