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Researchers hope to boost asparagus yields


May 26, 2008
By Marg Land


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asparagusMay 22, 2008, East Lansing, Mich. – Researchers with Michigan State University (MSU) are working to boost yields in asparagus.

May 22, 2008, East Lansing, Mich. – Researchers with Michigan State University (MSU) are working to boost yields in asparagus.

asparagusThe problem facing asparagus farmers is that, after the first crop, yield goes down because of diseases such as fusarium and phytophthora, which build up over time in asparagus fields.

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To regain some lost asparagus yields, a team of MSU experts are exploring ways to reduce soil disease and increase plant vigor by finding the best possible soil fumigants, fungicides, herbicides and planting methods.

“Because of the complexity of asparagus replant suppression, we have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to fighting the problem,” said Dr. Mathieu Ngouajio, associate professor of horticulture. “If nothing is done in the short term, the decline in asparagus acreage will likely continue as more and more growers are forced to abandon unproductive fields.”

Others on his team are Dr. Mary Hausbeck, MSU professor of plant pathology; Dr. Darryl Warncke, professor of crop and soil sciences; Norm Myers, Oceana County Extension director; Dr. Bernard Zandstra, professor of horticulture; John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board; and several farmers.

Through extensive research, the team hopes to find a fumigant that cleanses the soil of toxic diseases, a nutrient management program that strengthens asparagus plants’ vigour, an appropriate herbicide to control weeds, disease-free planting methods to reduce the spread of disease and new cultivars with improved replant performance.