April 8, 2011
Michael H. Davis, Cornell EV Baker Agricultural Research Farm Manager, 518-963-7492; Michael Carr, Vermont Soy, 802-472-8500; Elizabeth Dyck, Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network, 607-895-6913

Northern NY Small Grains Trials Support Opportunities for NNY Agricultural Economy and Local & Heritage Foods Production

Willsboro, NY -- North Country farmers, bakers, and business owners interested in local, heritage and organic foods are reaping the benefits of research conducted at the 352-acre Cornell University E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm located along the Lake Champlain shoreline in Willsboro, NY. Northern New York Agricultural Development Program 2009-2010 Small Grains and Food-Grade Soybeans Variety Trial report data recently posted online and available from Cornell Cooperative Extension offices identifies crops well-adapted to regional growing conditions and processors’ specifications.

“The buy-local, heritage, organically-grown food movement has created increased interest by millers, bakers and consumers in regionally-grown and regionally-processed heritage wheat and food-grade soybeans,” says Baker Farm Manager Michael H. Davis. “Finding varieties with solid agronomic characteristics that are well-adapted to the Northern New York regional growing conditions is an essential step toward a profitable cropping season.”

The report in the Field Crops section of the www.nnyagdev.org website includes results for 21 spring wheat varieties, 15 winter wheat varieties, 11 heritage wheat and nine modern wheat varieties, seven emmer wheat varieties, and 22 commercially-available food-grade soybean varieties.

Elizabeth Dyck, Coordinator of the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (www.ogrin.org) notes that Northern New York was once known for high-quality wheat production and says the research managed by Davis is “making a real contribution to reviving this tradition in the region.”

Davis partnered with Dyck to evaluate several heritage varieties of winter wheat and the ancient grain emmer at the Baker Farm. The heritage varieties, grown in the Northeast 80 to 130 years ago, were obtained from Dr. Mark Sorrells’ breeding program at Cornell University. Steven Zwinger of North Dakota State University supplied spring emmer wheat varieties for trial.

“Several heritage wheat varieties have shown distinctive taste and excellent baking qualities. Emmer, also known as faro, is in increasing demand by consumers for its delicious taste as a cooked grain and in flat breads and pasta. The Northern New York trials at the Baker Farm provide invaluable information to farmers on which of these potentially high-value varieties to grow and how to manage them,” Dyck says.

Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY, produces “all-New York” whole wheat and white flours. It uses wheat, including one ancient variety, grown in Northern New York.

Champlain Valley Milling owner Sam Sherman, says, “The on-farm research carried out in Northern New York is a critical component in developing a high quality and steady supply of wheat for processing into flour for commercial and consumer bakers. The challenge is to get everyone growing the same variety for consistency.”

Vermont Soy in Hardwick, Vermont, is one food-grade processor that is creating demand for organically-grown soybeans.

“We are interested in the Northern New York-grown beans and are looking at the research trial data to identify beans that can be organically-grown with good color and taste. We currently buy beans on the open market, but see future opportunities to contract with growers to produce a desired variety of bean that has done well in the regional trials,” says Vermont Soy Business Manager Michael Carr.

Davis says, “Northern New York farmers have considerable experience growing animal grain-type soybeans and could enhance their profit potential by incorporating food-grade soybeans into their crop rotations.”

Davis adds that the multiple-year trials at the Baker Farm allow for evaluation of the best growing practices, such as tilling and soil fertility, as well as testing for high-quality yield potential for the various crops under a variety of weather conditions.

“Finding varieties with solid potential for yield, disease resistance, quality, and adaptation to the Northern New York growing conditions is an annual challenge for all field crop producers,” Davis says. “Field testing here helps us develop advantages, such as cost-effective seeding rate guidelines, that can help farmers begin their own plantings with a greater opportunity for success. Their success, in turn, can help supply and grow our local food processing industry.”

The NNYADP-funded research also tested heritage winter wheat seeding rates View Results Here.