Land Grant Universities Make Thanksgiving Dinner More Delicious


The United States is the world’s largest turkey producer and exporter of turkey products, with Minnesota being the largest turkey producing state. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), 216.5 million turkeys were raised on US farms in 2021 for an economic impact of $103.4 billion.

However, climate change has led to warmer days and an increase in the number of days with extreme temperatures. A group of researchers University of Minnesota recently investigated how extreme temperatures affect the welfare and economic value of turkeys. The researchers found that larger and faster-growing birds in particular — more similar to commercial turkeys — can respond to extreme temperatures with gene changes that cause reduced muscle size. –

Cranberry beds at the University of Wisconsin. Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin.

Cranberry sauce

The United States is the world leader in cranberry production. According to the ERS, Wisconsin was the top producer of cranberries in the U.S. with about 4.17 million barrels in 2021, followed by Massachusetts with 1.8 million barrels.

Unfortunately, 75% of growers participated in the survey University of Wisconsin reported that cranberry fruit rot (CFR) has significantly reduced commercial yields over the past five years, with losses for many being annual.

Scientists at the Wisconsin Cranberry Research Station are taking a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and managing CFR. They evaluate the effects of environmental stressors and fertilizers on fruit chemistry and symptom development and identify genetic resources for CFR resistance and stress tolerance to guide breeding. They also develop predictive models for CFR management and distribute tailored solutions to US manufacturers through extension networks and training.

Mashed potatoes

Potatoes are the fourth most important food crop in the world and the leading vegetable crop in the United States, with Idaho and Washington together producing more than half of the annual supply, which was 424 million cwt in 2019 and valued at $3.94 billion, according to the USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

The Tri-State Potato Variety Development program is a collaborative effort Washington State University, University of Idaho, Oregon State UniversityCommissions from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the potato industry, and three states.

The team’s combined efforts brought change to Washington’s potato industry. This is demonstrated by the decline in acres planted with Russet Burbank. In recent years, the growth of new varieties and numbered clones.

At least 89% of the new cultivars and clones were developed by the Tri-State breeding program. The U.S. economic value of recently released Tri-State cultivars is approximately $135 million annually. A recent economic analysis of the program showed that every dollar invested in the Tri-State program generates $39 in revenue for the industry.

Green Bean Casserole

Idaho is the number one producer of green beans in the U.S. During Idaho’s long growing season, rich volcanic soils, mountain water supplies, and a comprehensive quality control program allow Idaho to produce the highest quality, disease-free bean seed known in the world.

As soil and water conservation practices such as direct seeding and strip tillage and high-efficiency drip irrigation become more popular among crop producers, there is a great need to evaluate how planting and water application methods and rates can affect green bean production.

Plant and soil scientists and water engineering engineers University of Idaho is conducting two field experiments to develop sustainable water and soil conservation strategies for green bean production. The three-year study focused on the effects of water management using furrow irrigation versus drip irrigation in two tillage systems: conventional and strip tillage. Crop growth, bean yield and quality will be measured in response to these water and soil management practices.

The researchers estimate that within 5 to 10 years, 25% of bean growers adopting drip irrigation would result in at least 15% water savings compared to current water used for bean irrigation. Similarly, growers using drip irrigation will see an increase in production value with additional savings of over $585 per acre; and farmers will reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizers by 50% over five years.

Sweet potatoes, courtesy of North Carolina State University.

Sweet potato casserole

Louisiana has the only research station in the country dedicated solely to sweet potatoes. In 1949, the first foundation seed was planted Louisiana State University Sweet Potato Research Station. Seedlings from these roots formed the nucleus of a foundation seed program that continues to provide producers with healthy seed.

The Beauregard sweet potato, released in 1987, had a beautiful shape and color, and a sweet taste unlike previous varieties. Developed by entomologist Larry Rolston for its insect resistance, Beauregard went on to revitalize Louisiana’s sweet potato industry. It is widely accepted in the US industry.

North Carolina has been ranked as the #1 sweet potato producing state in the US since 1971. According to NASS, North Carolina produced 1.8 billion pounds of sweet potatoes in 2021, about 64% of all production in the country.

Diseases caused by plant pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes and viruses can significantly limit vegetable yield and quality and in some cases threaten the survival of the vegetable industry. In 2014 North Carolina State University researchers began to see samples of sweet potatoes infected with black rot. By the end of 2015, black rot-infected sweet potatoes dropped from 5% to 85% statewide and 100% in packing houses.

In response to an outbreak of sweet potato black rot, researchers quickly began collecting isolates to see if fungicides could kill the pathogen. A tested fungicide was effective. An emergency label was provided for post-harvest fungicide application, and the black rot threat was cleared in an effort to reduce sweet potato losses to disease from 80% to 5% within three months. Following the outbreak, NC State Extension faculty developed integrated pest management strategies to prevent disease transmission and steps to limit and control future black rot outbreaks.

Fried oysters

Oysters are harvested all over the country and some of the tastiest are said to be found at the mouth of the Damariscotta River. Me. The largest place for oyster growing in the state, 80% of all Maine oysters are harvested from this river.

Since 1978, the Maine Aquaculture Association has worked to help Maine aquatic farmers develop economically and environmentally sustainable business practices, promote the benefits of aquaculture in the local food system, and preserve Maine’s vibrant coastal heritage.

In 2021, funding from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provided more than 70 beginning Maine aquaculture farmers with in-depth training in business planning, risk management, marketing, diversification and benchmarking.

The new round of AFRI funding will expand on the initial success of these start-up aquaculture farmers producing oysters, mussels, scallops and seaweed. Advanced training will help growers learn more about their farms, business plans, analyzing initial performance in the pre-revenue and early stages, and developing strategies and plans to ensure future success.

A sugar cane field at the Louisiana Sugar Experiment Station. Courtesy of Louisiana State University.


Florida and Louisiana account for about 97% of US sugar cane production. Agricultural research in Louisiana officially began in 1885 with the establishment of the Louisiana Sugar Experiment Station. Louisiana State University (LSU).

The Audubon Sugar School began in 1891 as part of the Louisiana Sugar Experiment Station. The school became what is now the Audubon Sugar Institute and offered what is believed to be the first chemical engineering class.

One of the obstacles to growing sugarcane in Louisiana was the lack of flowering due to low fall temperatures. An LSU plant pathologist and sugarcane breeder has set up artificial photoperiod schedules that allow sugarcane to flourish in Louisiana. This groundbreaking research of the late 1940s and 1950s was conducted at LSU’s campus facilities. This means that sugarcane switching can be done locally instead of relying on Florida facilities.

The main objective of the Sugar Research Station is to develop new sugarcane varieties and integrated pest management systems for sugarcane. It takes about 12 years to develop a new variety, and most of the major work is done there. Through the efforts of this station, the Louisiana sugarcane industry remains profitable and is poised to continue a tradition that is more than 200 years old.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin production is widespread throughout the country, and crop conditions vary greatly by region. According to NASS, approximately 66,200 acres of pumpkins were harvested in the United States in 2020, producing a total of more than 2 billion pumpkins with more than 1.5 billion pounds of usable pumpkins.

Yes, yes University of New Hampshire (UNH), researchers have crushed the competition when it comes to releasing new squash varieties, including pumpkins, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and pumpkins. UNH is home to the longest running pumpkin and squash breeding program in North America. This work resulted in more than 80 new cucurbit varieties sold in seed catalogs worldwide.

Farmers sort pecans on a conveyor belt. Courtesy of University of Georgia.

Pecan pie

Pecans are one of the nation’s most important nut crops. NASS reports that pecan production in 2020 increased 18% from 2019 to 302 million pounds, with a total value of $399 million. Georgia ranks as the top pecan-producing state, harvesting 142 million pounds on more than 215,000 acres.

according to University of Georgia By extension, one of the most important decisions a pecan grower makes involves establishing a new orchard. A well-planned, organized orchard will be more efficient, require less input and offer greater potential returns.

Fortunately, UGA Extension offers resources to help would-be pecan farms establish new orchards. This includes assessment of soil and site characteristics; preparation of the garden area for planting; and designing the orchard for proper pollination, ease of operation, and future tree thinning.

Additionally, UGA Extension provides resources on tree planting options, such as starting by planting seeds in the ground; planting and grafting saplings for two years; or planting grafted trees. They provide guidance on watering young trees through sprinkler, drip or micro-irrigation; fertilizing young trees; and weed control.

Happy Thanksgiving from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Top image: Different types of pumpkins. Courtesy of University of New Hampshire.

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