March 1, 1998
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967

By Hank Bissell, President, Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association

The Agriview is now the newsletter of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association. All the members of the association will get the Agriview with their membership and we'll have a vegetable and berry column in each issue. This is an exciting rite of passage for our quiet little  industry. But who's saying "little" , anyway? The 1996 New England Ag Statistics put the Vermont vegetable and berry industry at $16.5 million. For the same year the Vermont maple industry was
put at $14.6 Million and Christmas trees at $12.5 million. We aren' the dairy industry, but we're on the map.

The Vermont vegetable and berry industry is very diverse. Size ranges from one to over 100 acres. Marketing styles ranges form direct retail through all the different levels of wholesale. Growing techniques range from conventional to organic and all the shades of gray in-between. One very distinctive attribute of the Vermont industry is the geographic isolation of individual farms. Unlike the dairy industry you rarely see vegetable farms shoulder to shoulder and you never drive by a vegetable machinery dealer. Almost everyone does their own marketing, whether it's retail, or wholesale. There is very little infrastructure on either end.

In Vermont we're still inventing the vegetable industry. We're adapting and adjusting techniques and ideas from all over the world to suit our climate, topography and market position. The Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association is the glue that holds the industry together. The greatest resource of the association is it's members, a visionary and innovative lot. Through the Association new and creative ideas are incubated, shared, nurtured, and refined. Like many other farmers in Vermont we're always looking to improve both our stewardship and our profitability.

One of the most exiting new ideas is the Vermont Vegetable and Berry IPM Network. Growers throughout the state will report crop scouting observations via e-mail to Vern Grubinger at UVM Extension ( The compilation of pest sightings and  control advise will appear here in the Agriview. So, keep an eye on the Agriview for the IPM Network, and other advise, suggestions and ideas.

Thursday, March 5, 1998, Century House Conference Center, Latham NY (near Albany)
9:30 Registration & Sign-in
9:50 Welcome Kevin Iungerman, and Steve McCay, Cornell Extension
10:00 Greenhouse Raspberries - a Northern Opportunity, Dr. Marvin Pritts, Cornell University
10:30 Review of New European Cultivation Tools, Frank Wiles, Grower

11:00 Break
11:15 Best Berry Picks for the Northern Grower, Kevin Maloney, Geneva Expt. Station
11:45 Ribes: New Potential As A Commercial Fruit Crop, Steve McKay
12:15 Small Fruit Pest Control Trials - IPM and Organic, Dr. Joe Kovach, Geneva
12:45 Luncheon Buffet
1:45 Optimizing Results - Handling Small Fruit After Harvest, Dr. Chris Watkins, Cornell
2:15 The NY Food Venture Center, Olga Padilla-Zakour, Director
2:15 Brain, Brake,  Pedal, Wallet - The Marketing Connection, Dr. Marvin Pritts.

Access the Northway (I-87) from whichever connecting route you are utilizing. Proceed to Exit 7
(for Rt 7). Take Rt 7 east to the junction of Rt 9. Take Rt 9 north. Century House is approximately
½ mi on the right. For more info call Cornell Extension at 518-885-8995

Vegetable seeds must be kept cool and dry for long-term storage. Seed moisture content and storage temperature are the key factors that determine how long vegetable seeds will remain viable. The life of a seed can be cut in half by just a 1% increase in seed moisture content, or by an increase in storage temperature of just a few degrees. A simple rule of thumb is that the sum of the storage temperature (in degrees F) and the percentage of relative humidity in storage should not be greater than 100. Generally, storage just above freezing is best, although 40 to 50 degrees is satisfactory under most conditions. If the moisture content of seeds is low, they will not be harmed by freezing. Seed moisture can be kept low by storage in an airtight container, above but not touching some calcium chloride or dried silica gel.

The life expectancy of seeds varies among species and conditions. A 1954 extension leaflet from California (by Harrington and Minges) indicates the following lifespans under favorable storage conditions:
1-2 YEARS 3-4 YEARS     5-6 YEARS
leek             asparagus     pumpkin     beet
okra             bean             spinach     cress
onion            carrot         squash         cucumber
parsley         celery         tomato         eggplant
parsnip         cole crops     turnip         lettuce
pepper         pea             watermelon     muskmelon
sweet corn     radish

Another study (by Priestly, et al 1985) looked at seeds held in open storage at locations around the world and came up with the following half-life periods (time until half the seeds died):
3-5 YEARS     5-8 YEARS        9-14 YEARS     15+YEARS
asparagus         cabbage             lima bean             beet
celery               carrot                 radish                 pea
cucumber         leek                 spinach                 snap bean
parsley             lettuce             sweet corn             tomato
parsnip             onion

Keep in mind that seed vigor is more than just the ability to germinate. Seed vigor means that seeds germinate rapidly and uniformly, which is key to good crop performance. If you plan on using old seed, it's a good idea to do a germination test of several dozen seeds by placing them in moistened paper towels in a warm room to see how many sprout in 7 to 10 days. Wait twice as long for slow-to-germinate crops such as asparagus, celery, parsley, parsnip and pepper.