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Christopher Gunter

Extension Vegetable Production Specialist and Assoc Professor

Kilgore Hall 230


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Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/23
Amount: $1,000,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

This project will leverage existing food safety networks to rapidly address SARS-CoV-2 concerns within the food industry by evaluating practices and confirming efficacy through laboratory research on spread, inactivation and transfer to aid in future risk management decisions. The goal is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 impacts within the food supply chain through laboratory-informed risk-based decision making.

Date: 01/01/20 - 8/31/23
Amount: $149,999.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

As implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) moves forward, there continues to be a great need for outreach and assistance to small- and medium-sized produce operations. The goal of this project will be to deliver food safety workshops to assist this segment of growers with a better understanding of the new Federal regulations and technical assistance to help them meet the requirements of the FSMA PSR. This will include delivery of workshop materials recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as review of new materials to better delineate the water provisions and sanitation outlined by the PSR.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/31/23
Amount: $486,842.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

Tomato growers in the southeastern USA (SEUS) continue to face many challenges and opportunities to optimize and advance integrated management of soilborne diseases and weeds without methyl bromide as a pre-plant soil fumigant. Through a long-term inter-disciplinary, multi-state and stakeholder-driven program, all our growers have transitioned to alternative fumigants or farming systems. Through this participatory model, our long-term goal is to foster a vegetable industry that is competitive, sustainable, and conducive to SEUS farm viability. In practical terms, our goal is to develop an arsenal of integrated approaches to manage soilborne pests for a diverse range of vegetable farmers who farm a few to hundreds of acres. To that extent, we seek to optimize current farming methods for short to mid-term benefits and we also seek to advance novel approaches that have mid- to long-term outcomes. We propose to 1: Optimize weed and soilborne disease management systems with current and emerging tools. 2: Develop and advance alternative and novel chemistry to manage weeds and diseases; 3: Perform economic analysis of alternative farming practices and systems; and 4: Translate research outcomes and grower experiences through extension and outreach efforts into information and products useful to growers and other stakeholders. Outcomes of this proposal will advance the science and practice of weed science, plant pathology, horticultural science, farming systems research and agricultural economics and enable more growers to successfully manage soilborne pests and improve crop productivity using fumigant- and biologically-based systems.

Date: 09/01/18 - 8/31/22
Amount: $24,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The overall goal of this Regional Center proposal is to continue to build a collaborative infrastructure in the Southern US to support Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliant training, education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance as it relates to the produce industry. The proposed Southern Center includes participation from land-grant institutions in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. It will lead, manage and coordinate regional assistance programs targeted at owners and operators of small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetables merchant wholesalers affected by FSMA requirements. In addition to land-grant institutions, established partnerships with stakeholder groups including state and local regulators, community-based and non-governmental organizations will be leveraged to maximize training effectiveness and delivery opportunities. The goal will be accomplished through the following specific objectives: 1. Develop a cadre of PSA and FSPCA certified trainers within the Southern US who are focused on supporting the produce industry. 2. Develop and deliver region and stakeholder specific education, training curricula, and technical assistance programs. 3. Evaluate the impact of Southern Center education, training and technical assistance programs. Programs will focus on helping audiences understand and interpret FSMA regulations and implement systems to meet requirements across the respective environments, agricultural production and processing systems in the Southern US to ensure co-management of food safety, conservation systems and ecological health. In addition, the University will serve as the lead institution for all four Regional Centers (Southern, North East, North Central and Western. It will manage the national priorities as well as facilitate communication and information sharing between the centers.

Date: 01/01/20 - 6/30/22
Amount: $62,800.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

The use of grafted vegetables, including tomatoes, is becoming a common practice in protected agriculture production (high-tunnels and greenhouses) to manage soilborne diseases, increase yields, and overcome environmental stressors; however, the use of grafted tomatoes in the field is relatively new to the southeastern US, but can be economically productive. Recent research has revealed that growing practices (fertilization, irrigation, etc.) for successful production of grafted tomatoes may not be the same as with non-grafted tomato production. Pruning is standard practice on non-grafted tomato plants, but a recent study conducted by NCSU suggests that pruning reduced yield on grafted tomatoes, but this study was limited to one rootstock. We know varieties respond differently to pruning, but is this also true when they are grafted? Our objectives are to (1) evaluate the effects of pruning and non-pruning on four scion varieties commonly grown in NC on two rootstocks and (2) evaluate the cost effectiveness of these practices. Evaluations of practice adoption and cost savings will be conducted at stakeholder meetings. Results will be shared with stakeholders at field days and regional grower meetings. An extension publication also will be produced to reach a wider audience.

Date: 09/01/16 - 3/31/22
Amount: $6,323,998.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

Sustainable production of fruiting vegetable crops limited by biotic (e.g. soilborne pathogens) and abiotic (e.g. draught, salinity, cold soils) constraints. We have developed a multi-state, transdisciplinary and stakeholder-driven team to address production constraints through the use of grafting. Grafting is joining marketable cultivars onto a rootstock so growers can meet market demands but address site-specific issues and opportunities. The work is structured into 5 objectives: Objective 1: Maximize the positive impacts of grafting technology and grafted plants on U.S. vegetable industries. We hypothesize that the efficient use of grafted plants can enhance farm resilience and industry sustainability in multiple ways, including overcoming sub-optimal environments and adding synergism for improving the success of management tools used to address farming challenges. Objective 2: Optimize root function and discover/implement innovative outcomes by utilizing the genetic diversity of solanaceous and cucurbit selections. We hypothesize that decoupling root from shoot and fruit selection enables the discovery and deployment of novel root traits and makes it possible to employ these genetic traits more strategically and adaptively. Objective 3: Enhance capacity and efficiency of grafting nurseries. We hypothesize that by expanding the affordable supply of grafted seedlings the use of grafted plants will increase throughout the U.S. Objective 4: Evaluate economic and environmental metrics to guide the direction of emerging grafting technology advancements. We hypothesize that decisions to use grafted plants will be made based on key economic and environmental metrics. Objective 5: Facilitate greater and more effective application of grafting as a business and grafted plants as vegetable production tools. We hypothesize that effective dissemination of project outcomes is critical for stakeholder development and adoption of grafting technologies and farming systems.

Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/21
Amount: $0.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

Our goal is to equip growers with knowledge to successfully implement water treatment systems on their farms. Produce growers are continually evaluating new practices to mitigate food safety risks. Our team has long-standing relationships with the produce growing community as extension specialists. Several stakeholders have been considering agricultural water treatment to achieve market and regulatory requirements. This has primarily been driven by finalization of FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule combined with continued multi-state outbreaks where irrigation water was the likely source of contamination. Growers understand that surface water can become contaminated with foodborne pathogens and do not want to rely upon water tests and or die-off calculations to ensure the safety of their product. Currently, there is a void of a national training curriculum to educate growers about water treatment including applicable technologies for different farm operations, and subsequent monitoring, verification and validation activities to assure the effectiveness of the water treatment system. This project will capitalize on our team’s prior work through a previously funded FSOP which developed a curriculum for achieving these learning objectives. Specifically, this project seeks to: Provide expert review of the four-part agricultural water treatment curriculum Share the curriculum with growers and trainers across the U.S.; expanding the team to Arizona, Georgia and Washington Evaluate educational outcomes of agricultural water treatment programs delivered to produce growers These efforts will allow growers, regardless of location, size or commodities grown, to understand, develop, implement, and document an effective agricultural water treatment system within their operation.

Date: 02/01/20 - 7/31/20
Amount: $15,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

This curriculum, Bridging the GAPS – Approaches for treating water on-farm, is a four-module curriculum designed for a producer audience. This curriculum has been piloted on a limited basis to make initial improvements to improve its effectiveness. This curriculum is ready for a broader implementation. Being part of the current New Technologies for Agricultural Extension federal grant will bring the additional resources of the NTAE team to work alongside the Bridging the GAPS team to expand its scope and refine its effectiveness to impact the safety of the national food supply, particularly irrigated produce. The associated eXtension Fellow and action team will develop documentation to create an eFieldbook to support the curriculum and and possibly seek expansion opportunities through assisted market research.

Date: 01/01/18 - 6/30/20
Amount: $382,360.00
Funding Agencies: California, State of

To provide fresh, healthy and safe produce to consumers, we need to find effective and efficient practices that will allow us to continue farming with limited resources and land availability. Sustainable farming practices have, at their core, an integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients and the wellbeing of humans and the environment. These farming practices increase crop productivity and environmental stewardship, though knowledge-gaps exist specific to the presence and/or removal of riparian buffer zones (RBZ) between animal production areas (APA) and produce fields and the potential relationship for pathogen transfer. This proposal will evaluate the effectiveness in reducing or eliminating movement of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella from APAs to adjacent produce fields by establishing a fast growing and cost effective RBZ between these areas within a 1-2 year growing season. Our proposal is unique and based on data collected from previous CPS and USDA funded projects. Our proposed study will: 1- determine the risks associated with the presence of RBZ as barriers and/or sources of pathogen transmission between APA and produce fields, 2- determine whether pathogen movement into produce fields increases with removal of RBZ and 3- determine if the proposed strategy is a tangible solution for growers facing these co-management practices.

Date: 06/01/19 - 5/31/20
Amount: $15,000.00
Funding Agencies: Pairwise

We will be conducting vegetable variety trials.

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