What’s up in the North Willamette Valley Small Farms Program this Season?

Author: Heidi Noordijk, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University

Publish Date: Spring 2014

Vegetable degree-day modeling, variety trials, composting workshops, and small-scale farming are going to keep the Small Farms Program in the North Willamette Valley busy this season.

CROPTIME is a vegetable degree-day modeling project. Development rates of vegetables along with many other plants, insects and fungi are strongly temperature dependent. we are developing temperature based (degree-day) growth models to help growers with crop planning. Nearly all seed catalogs use days to maturity as a harvest predictor but this estimate varies widely depending on region (Florida vs. Alaska) and time of year (spring planting vs. mid-summer planting). When it is cold their development rates slow down, when it is warmer their development rates speed up (within limits).  Degree-day data is being collected for over 60 varieties of vegetables and 6 weed species in the Willamette Valley.  Eleven crops and 43 vegetable varieties will be grown at the North Willamette Research & Extension Center (NWREC) and growth stages will be recorded weekly. Growth stage differences on tomatoes and peppers grown with and without black plastic will also be compared. This information will be used, along with data from trials at the OSU vegetable farm and on-farm observations, to develop degree-day models for these varieties. Look for workshops and conference sessions on CROPTIME in late 2015 or 2016.

This will be the first year in a long time that OSU has hosted public vegetable variety trials at NWREC. Cutting celery, habanero peppers, Brussels Sprouts, golden beets, cilantro and Thai basil variety trials will be grown and evaluated for horticultural traits, appearance and flavor. Local famers and chefs will get together to evaluate crop performance and culinary attributes. Evaluation information will be provided to local breeders to select for traits that local farmers and chefs want to see. This is a pilot project that we hope to expand in the future. A field day to showcase the varieties will take place in late summer/early fall and will be announced in the summer issue of Oregon Small Farm News.

Looking to the future we are developing a Learning Farm at NWREC. We plan to offer hands-on workshops to develop the farming skills of first generation beginning farmers. Workshop topics may include:

  • Cover cropping and soil fertility
  • Irrigation set up and management
  • Pest management
  • Crop planning and scheduling, farm layout, rotations
  • Propagation, transplanting and seeding
  • Harvest and post harvest handling and storage
  • Tractor operation, toolbars and equipment for the small farm

Please contact Nick Andrews or Heidi Noordijk from the North Willamette Small Farms Program for more information on these projects (503-678-1264).

 Heidi Noordijk