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Frank Louws
NC State University

Stakeholder Driven Solutions to Create Opportunities

and Address Challenges: The Practice and Science of
Grafting Fruiting Vegetables.
Fruiting vegetables are an important source of farm income in the US and southeastern USA. Many
production systems have historically depended on the use of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant to manage
a wide spectrum of soilborne pathogens, nematodes, insects and weeds but this fumigant has been phased
out, requiring intensive efforts to evaluate and implement alternative options. In our work, three general
approaches were taken: 1) Tactic substitution that addressed short term needs of growers who sought nonozone depleting fumigant alternatives; 2) Tactic diversification that focused on non-fumigant and IPM
based tactics; and 3) Tactic development that advanced long-term goals to explore microbial ecology and
farming systems-based approaches to replace fumigant-dependent production systems. Moreover, several
pathogens are poorly controlled by fumigants or IPM tactics (e.g. bacterial wilt of tomato, Fusarium
pathogens of cucurbits and tomato). Growers also seek efficient use of water, nutrients, and land
resources for decreased environmental impact. Market trends are also radically changing. The emerging
markets of extended season production using high tunnels, growth in the production of organic produce,
use of specialty cultivars and lines such as heirloom vegetables, changing demographics and increased
consumer demand of fresh vegetables require new approaches for optimal yield and pathogen control. To
address these issues, we formed a national team of experts to amplify the productivity, profitability and
sustainability of U.S. fruiting vegetable enterprises by integrating grafting technologies as both sources of
income and production tools. The work was stakeholder driven and engaged each sector of the industry
including seed companies, robotic/automation experts, nursery transplant growers and vegetable growers.
The active project advances the science and practice of grafting and vegetable production. The work
advanced grafting technologies to reduce costs of producing and distributing grafted seedlings; integrated
discovery-based, applied and on-farm research to optimize field production and postharvest fruit quality
outcomes; evaluated economic and social metrics to guide the direction of emerging grafting technology
advancements; and translated outcomes to facilitate the application of grafted plants as a significant tool
in vegetable crop production. Along the way, multiple new businesses emerged and a cadre of undergrad,
graduate students and professionals were trained.

December 10, 3:30 pm HORT 117

Reception at 3:10 pm HORT 117
If you are interested in meeting with the speaker, please contact Jennifer Deiser at 41301 or

Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture