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MOF&G Cover Winter 1998

 



  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 1998-1999Tips – Winter 1998   
 Tips – Winter 1998 Minimize

Plant-Rich Diet Boosts Immunity
Down Those Veggies With Tea
OMRI Publishes Organic Materials List
Cover Crops, Strip Tillage Build Soil
Time to Prune?
Potato Vine Silage Good for Cattle
Conserve the Historical Farm Turkey
Help with Pests
New Varieties of Small Fruit
Weeding Asparagus
Welsh Onions Extend the Harvest
Keep Cooking with Garlic
Companion Planting Ideas
Watch Out Washington: A New Use for Paper Shredders


Plant-Rich Diet Boosts Immunity

Twelve female volunteers, ages 34 to 84, consumed a typical Western diet in their own homes for four weeks. They could eat all of the white bread, pasta, pastry, snack foods, convenience foods, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products they wanted; but they could eat no more than two servings a day of fruits and vegetables, avoiding leafy green and yellow varieties altogether. They switch from that diet to a plant-rich diet for the next four weeks. At least six servings of green and yellow fruits and vegetables were eaten a day; refined products and “designer” foods, such as reduced-calorie and fat-free products, were off limits; white bread was replaced by whole-grain bread, and many other whole grains and legumes were consumed as volunteers desired. In addition, they ate 2 tablespoons each of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and sesame oil (tahini); a tablespoon of wheat germ oil for cooking or dressing foods; and three 1.5-ounce boxes of raisins from Sun Maid Growers (which funded the study). Eggs were allowed but meat, fish and poultry were limited to 3 ounces per week. No fried foods were eaten, and dairy products had to have 1% fat or less. A cup of ginger tea and two cups of green tea were consumed each day.

Cholesterol levels, which were high to begin with, dropped on the plant-rich diet, and “the diet appears to reduce cholesterol oxidation,” according to Gene A. Spiller, one of the researchers involved in the study. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to artery damage.

The volunteers’ antioxidant defenses dropped, too. A copper-containing enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which protects delicate cell parts against oxidation, decreased by two-thirds. The selenium-containing antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, dropped by one-third. “Apparently, the volunteers’ metabolism didn’t need as much enzyme activity because the plant-based diet was rich in phytochemicals,” says Leslie M. Klevay of the Agricultural Research Service Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota. Phytochemicals are the components in plant foods that appear to promote health throughout the life cycle. Many phytochemicals, including certain vitamins and minerals, are excellent antioxidants.

So far, research on phytochemicals has focused mostly on one compound or on a small group of compounds, but epidemiological evidence of health benefits comes from diets rich in fruits and vegetables—not from individual compounds. Nutrition researchers can’t say which phytochemicals are important; they probably work together.

“This study, using mixed diets, is a nice way to approach the question,” says Klevay.

Source: “Plant-Rich Diets Let You Relax Your Defenses,” by Judy McBride, Agricultural Research, Oct. 1998; Leslie M. Klevay is at the USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, PO Box 9034, University Station, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9034; phone 701-795-8454; fax 701-795-8395; e-mail lklevay@gfnrc.ars.usda.gov; Gene A. Spiller is at SPHERA Foundation, PO Box 338, Los Altos, CA 94023; phone 650-941-7251; fax 650-948-8540; e-mail hrscenter@aol.com.

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Down Those Veggies With Tea

The benefits of green and black tea are increasingly understood, according to a column by Clair Wood in the Bangor Daily News. Regularly consuming the drinks may lower the risk of heart disease and of some tobacco- and nutrition-related cancers, such as precancerous oral lesions and cancer of the digestive tract. For example, when rats were treated with heterocyclic amines – potent mutagens that form when meat is cooked and that cause colon tumors in experimental animals—and were then given extracts of green or black tea, they had fewer colon tumors than control rats. The decrease in risk from digestive tract cancer comes from a preliminary epidemiological study on humans.

These teas are known to be rich in antioxidants, which counter the damage done when free radicals oxidize cell components. One cup of strong, black tea can provide the same amount of antioxidants as a “generous serving of green vegetables,” according to one study cited by Wood. While phenols were the antioxidants thought to be responsible for the health effects of black tea, flavonoids in green tea seem to help prevent heart disease, since these flavonoids have lowered LDL cholesterol in lab animals.

Source: “More benefits of tea coming to light each day,” by Clair Wood, Bangor Daily News, Oct. 19, 1998.

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OMRI Publishes Organic Materials List

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) announced the release of its Generic Materials List and Brand Name Products List, representing the organic industry’s most comprehensive catalog to date of allowable and prohibited substances in organic agriculture. Compiled by the OMRI staff and other industry experts in advisory capacities, the lists offer recommendations and opinions regarding the acceptability or unacceptability of materials used in organic production, processing and handling.

The OMRI Generic Materials List contains information on over 500 substances, including a listing of status (Allowed, Regulated, Prohibited, or Under Consideration), class, restrictions or qualifications, and any rulings of the National Organic Standards Board on the material. The Brand Name Products List includes information and analysis of over 200 brand-name materials using OMRI’s own standards, cross-referenced to generic materials.

“Publication of these lists is an important landmark for OMRI on the organization’s first anniversary,” says Kathleen Downey, executive director of OMRI, “and a critical benchmark for the organic community. OMRI’s work represents a national standard of agreement among major U.S. certifiers regarding materials allowed for organic food and fiber production.”

“This is another major step forward in the harmonization of industry standards,” agrees Bill Wolf, president of OMRI’s board of directors, “and a powerful and useful tool for those who want to know what organic really is.” Robert Anderson, president and CEO of Walnut Acres Organic Farms and current chairman of the National Organic Standards Board, called the OMRI lists an indispensable resource for growers, processors, handlers and retailers. “This is the most comprehensive resource available today,” added Anderson, “with complete references to the status of both generic and branded materials relative to certifiers’ positions and the NOSB recommendations.”

OMRI’s work is overseen by a 10-person Board of Directors representing all sectors of the organic community, an expert Advisory Council and a professional Review Panel. OMRI submitted a 130-page response to the USDA’s proposed national organic program rule covering materials-related topics.

Advocacy groups, retailers, and manufacturers, acknowledging the need for the services OMRI provides, acted as founding supporters for OMRI. These include Smucker Quality Beverages, California Certified Organic Farmers, Organic Agsystems Consulting, Diane Goodman, Pine Island Organics, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Horizon Organic Dairy, Organic Trade Association, Earthbound Farm, Natural Selection Foods, Whole Foods Market, Inc., Humane Society of the U.S., NNFA-NW Region, and Organic Valley/CROPP.

The OMRI Lists are available to individuals, organizations, and companies as part of an annual subscription that includes updates and industry news. To subscribe or to apply for a product review, contact OMRI at Box 11558, Eugene OR 97440 USA, 541-343-7600, fax 541-343-8971. OMRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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Cover Crops, Strip Tillage Build Soil

A SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) project testing cover crops and new tillage regimes in Oregon has helped vegetable farmers improve crop yields, beat weeds, lower input costs and reduce agricultural runoff. Researchers worked with several growers in the Willamette Valley to fine-tune their use of cover crops. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil; grains capture excess nitrogen. The long-term project measures those environmental benefits plus profit potential against cover crop costs. Wet springs and a strict planting schedule dictated by vegetable processing companies pose challenges to growers trying to incorporate cover crops. Researchers sought a combination of covers that can fix nitrogen and add organic matter but be killed in early spring. A winter cover of oats, vetch and Austrian winter peas, followed by strip-tilling sweet corn, brought better yields. Strip-till – working a narrow band in between wider strips of residue-covered soil – helps address moisture concerns and enables farmers to prepare a seedbed in just one pass of the tractor. In three fields enrolled in those trials, the strip-tillage system returned $100 per acre more than the standard tillage system in increased yield and cost savings from reduced tillage. On one farm, tillage savings equaled about $30 per acre. Not tilling the ground also keeps habitat in place for beneficial insects, reducing the need for pesticides for growers trying to combat cutworms in corn.

Source: SARE 1998 Project Highlights, available from Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405-0082; Tel. 802-656-0471; email nesare@zoo.uvm.edu

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Time to Prune?

Toward the end of February we sometimes get a few days when the temperature seems high enough for pruning to take place. How do you decide when to start? The following comments from Jim Schupp, Extension Fruit Specialist at the Univ. of Maine, were published in the Weekly Market Bulletin of the N.H. Dept. of Agriculture (2/11/98):

Dormant pruning is best completed before new growth resumes in the spring. There is, however, a certain amount of risk of winter injury associated with dormant pruning in the dead of winter.

Pruning wounds stimulate a healing response in the trees, which lowers their tolerance to subzero temperatures. This loss of hardiness lasts for 10 to 14 days after the cuts are made. If severe subzero temperatures occur during this time, they can result in the death of the tissue surrounding the pruning wound, which in turn results in poor healing and increases the possibility of infection by cankers.

Follow these tips to avoid this type of injury and minimize the damage:

1. If the orchard is small, postpone pruning until the threat of subzero temperatures has passed.

2. Keep an eye on the long-range weather forecast, and suspend pruning activities when there is a threat of an arctic air mass moving into the region.

3. Prune the hardiest varieties first. McIntosh, Cortland and most summer ripening varieties should be pruned first; Delicious (both kinds), Spy and Marshall Macs last.

4. Prune trees on seedling and MM111 rootstocks first, followed by trees on M.26 and mark. Prune trees on MM.106 and M.7 later.

A footnote to timing: How late can you prune? Pruning shortly after growth has resumed in spring is okay, but some of the tender buds will be damaged by falling branches. All pruning should stop by full bloom.

By bloom, trees have exhausted all of their winter reserves and are very dependent upon the new leaves to supply the carbohydrates needed to support the growth of both tree and fruit. Pruning after full bloom will weaken the tree and result in reduced fruit set and fruit size.

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Potato Vine Silage Good for Cattle

Harvesting potato vines for silage to feed to cattle can benefit the cattle, potato growers and the environment, says agricultural engineer Richard E. Muck at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Potato vines are normally killed with herbicides about two weeks before potatoes are harvested. This practice prevents the leftover vines from providing a home for insects and plant diseases that could damage the crop the following year. Another benefit of killing the vines is that potato skins “set” faster. The skin of the potato tuber is easily scuffed, peeled or scraped unless it has time to thicken and harden after harvest. This process accelerates if the vines are removed all at once.

Muck, who is with the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, says that “potato vines can be turned into silage in combination with other crops to produce a high-protein, low-fiber cattle feed. The savings for U.S. potato growers could be as much as $42 million annually.” At least 80% of the 1.3 million acres of potatoes grown in the United States is treated with a single vine-killing herbicide at a cost of $35 per acre. The other 20% may receive a double dose costing $50 an acre. Feeding the vines to animals will mean less herbicide in the environment and less out-of-pocket expenditures for growers. Vines contain 85 to 90% water, so Muck says that the best method for making silage from the watery vines is to mix them with drier crops, such as chopped alfalfa hay, barley, and chopped whole-plant corn.

Source: Agricultural Research, Oct. 1998; Richard E. Muck is with the USDA-ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, Wisconsin; phone 608-264-5245; e-mail remuck@facstaff.wisc.edu.

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Conserve the Historical Farm Turkey

The Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities and the Columbus Zoo of Ohio would like to inform all people who raise poultry that a turkey survey has been sent to all known turkey breeders. The goal of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities is to perpetuate and improve rare breeds of poultry. One great concern is the varieties of the historical farm turkey that can reproduce naturally. Few people raise these birds today; therefore this survey is very important in locating all of the sources for the old farm turkeys. The historical farm type turkey can reproduce without having to be artificially inseminated and can fly into trees to roost for protection. The modern Broadbreasted turkey is unable to do this. The historical turkey suitable for sustainable farming is drastically dwindling in numbers and needs immediate conservation measures. The turkey is the only domesticated fowl that originated in the Americas and has become a major meat source to the world. The old farm turkey is the foundation upon which the present day Broadbreasted turkey originated. This Broadbreasted White turkey feeds the world today. We cannot assume that the narrowed genetic makeup of the Broadbreasted White turkey is totally competent to face future problems. Therefore, its genetic foundation needs to be preserved.

If you have not received a turkey survey or need another survey, you can find it at http://www.cyborganic.com/people/feathersite/Poultry/SPPA/SPPAT2.html or you can write or call: Paula Johnson, Turkey Census Coordinator, 2442 Mayfield Ln., Las Cruces, NM 88005 (505) 526-3105.

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Help with Pests

Need help with an insect or disease that is troubling your crop or garden? Try accessing the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Web Page at http://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/. You can download a form from this site that you can complete and send to the Pest Management Office with a pest sample to be identified. You can also link to about 20 other pest management sites from here, as well as to the Garden Web (www.gardenweb.com), where gardeners share a wealth of information. For specific questions, you can email Bruce Watt at the Pest Management Office (bwatt@umce.umext.maine.edu). The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service also has a web page: http://extension.umaine.edu/.

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New Varieties of Small Fruit

Raspberries

‘Prelude’ (NY 1009) has a very early ripening summer crop, and a fall primocane crop. Fruits are medium size, dark red and mild in flavor. Promising for winter hardiness.

‘Encore’ (NY 7) is a very late ripening, summer-bearing raspberry. Fruits are large and firm with good flavor. Yields are good, and plants are vigorous and look promising for winter hardiness.

‘Caroline’ (JCR-f1) is an everbearing raspberry, about seven days earlier than ‘Heritage’. Its fruits are large and slightly soft with good color and flavor. The vigorous plants look promising regarding winter hardiness.

‘Autumn Britten’ is a sister seedling of ‘Autumn Bliss’ and is an everbearing raspberry, about 12 days earlier than ‘Heritage.” Fruits are medium to large in size and fairly firm. Winter hardiness is unknown, but ‘Autumn Bliss’ has been successful in Southern Maine.

Strawberries

‘Mira’ is a midseason ripening strawberry with large fruit and high yield potential. Plants are vigorous and have some resistance to red stele root rot and leaf diseases. Its performance and fruit quality at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Maine, have been very good.

‘Cabot’ (K92-17) ripens mid- to late season and has very large, bright red, firm fruits with tender skins. The plants need high fertility to maintain vigor. They have some resistance to red stele, but the fruits are susceptible to gray mold unless an effective management plan is followed.

‘Sable’ (K90-1) ripens early and has medium to large fruits with very good flavor—but they are soft. Plants are vigorous with some resistance to red stele.

Source: “New Varieties of Small Fruit,” by David Handley, Vegetable & Small Fruit Specialist, Vegetable & Berry News, Oct. 7, 1998, Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension, Highmoor Farm, PO Box 179, Monmouth ME 04259; Tel. 207-933-2100.

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Weeding Asparagus

A discussion on the Sustainable Ag. Network (sanet-mg@ces.ncsu.e) had some interesting ideas for controlling weeds in asparagus plantings. One suggested throwing chicken feed over the patch after the asparagus dies back in the fall, then letting chickens feed there and scratch the area clean of weeds. Another suggested planting asparagus into a living mulch of Dutch White clover. Establish the clover in the fall, dig furrows for the asparagus in the spring and plant the crowns, then seed more clover over the rows. Reseed thin areas of clover each fall. A third method is to till asparagus beds shallowly before the asparagus spears begin to emerge in the spring. And a fourth is to hill plants with wood mulch and compost. The last suggestion was said to be labor intensive, but with mechanized mulchers now available, maybe it would be feasible even for larger scale plantings, especially if the mulcher were cooperatively owned by several growers. (See, for example, an ad for a Millcreek Row Mulcher, which automates application of mulch and compost to field-grown and nursery container stock, in American Nurseryman, 10/15/98, p. 38.)

– J E

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Welsh Onions Extend the Harvest

‘Get Set’ Red Welsh onions are bunching onions, Allium fistulosum, that start from seed as small, scallion-like onions, then grow larger as the season progresses. Left unharvested they die back in early winter and are among the first plants to grow again in spring. In their second year, they continue to grow and begin to produce more onions from their root base, forming the “bunch.” Each year after that, the bunch multiplies. Onions can be harvested by pulling a few plants from the bunch. Populations can be enlarged by separating the bunches and allowing them to multiply. They also go to seed, sending up a 2- to 3-inch seed head that blooms and forms true seed in mid to late summer. The seed heads dry on their stalks and can be harvested in late summer. In Maine, bunching onions have a valued role as providing fresh green onions in early spring and through fall. I tend to stop harvesting them in late summer, while they are going to seed, or just use the onions in the bunch that are too young to go to seed. They get used heavily all spring and then again in fall. ‘Get Set Red’ has a reddish blush on the bottom 2 inches of its stalks. The onions get to be 18 inches tall. They have only a slight bulbous swelling at their base, which can grow to be as thick as your thumb. Undivided, my clusters have gotten to be about a foot across. They have won a place in my heart by being so welcome in my kitchen.

Source: “‘Get Set Red’ Welsh Onion,” by Roberta Bunker, The SeedBed, Spring 1998; Published by the Maine Seed Saving Network, P.O. Box 126, Penobscot ME 04476.

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Keep Cooking with Garlic

Headlines last summer announced “Garlic’s Charm Debunked” when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study showing that a garlic oil supplement had no effects on blood lipid levels or cholesterol metabolism. Rob McCaleb of the Herb Research Foundation has debunked the debunk by pointing out that the sample size of the study – 25 – was too small to be definitive; that an inferior garlic oil supplement was used; that well done, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies have shown that standardized dried garlic powders, dietary garlic and aged garlic extract are helpful, especially in reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol; and that over 45 clinical studies have shown other cardiovascular benefits of garlic supplements.

Source: Herb Research News, Spring 1998, from the Herb Research Foundation, 1007 Pearl St., Suite 200, Boulder CO 80302.

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Companion Planting Ideas

When planning your garden for next year, consider these possibilities from George Hamilton of the Univ. of N.H. Cooperative Extension:

• Plant strips of alfalfa or clover between corn rows to help control weeds, conserve moisture and fix nitrogen. Plant the legumes when the corn is about a foot high.

• Interplant beans, cucumbers, melons or squash within rows of hilled sweet corn plants. This traditional practice makes good use of sunlight and garden space, and the beans may promote corn growth. Plant the vine crops in the border rows, and alternate planting beans and corn hills. *Plant marigolds throughout the garden to discourage Mexican bean beetles, nematodes and other insect pests.

• At the base of trellised peas, plant spinach or lettuce, where the peas will provide shade and wind protection for the seedlings.

• Plant nasturtiums in the vegetable garden as a trap crop for aphids.

• Set onions in rows with carrots to help control some nematodes.

• Fast-growing crops, such as radishes and beets, can be planted around tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower or peppers. The fast crops will be harvested before they can compete with the main crops.

Source: “Some Oldtime Garden Practices Worth a Try,” by George Hamilton, in Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, May 27, 1998.

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Watch Out Washington: A New Use for Paper Shredders

Want to chop plant material for the compost heap? Consider this tip from Echo Development Notes (17430 Durrance Road, N. Fort Myers, FL 33917): a heavy-duty paper shredder is mounted at one end of a narrow table and is topped with a three-sided wooden “chute.” One person feeds wastes into the chute, the other works the cutting blades. A wheelbarrow can catch the chopped waste. Such a setup can cost as little as $40 and can handle most green material, small prunings and cornstalks.

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