Organic food sales topped $50 billion in the United States in 2018. Statistics from the Organic Trade Association tell part of the story of this growing market: Fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops combined to make up 36.3% of total organic sales up 5.6% from the previous year.
Naturally, farmers want to meet consumer demand. But they may need to use essential oils to battle pests and diseases that often accompany organic crop growth. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a nearly $2 million grant to a team of scientists for a project to “Plant Safety, Horticultural Benefits, and Disease Efficacy of Essential Oils for Use in Organically Grown Fruit Crops: From the Farm to the Consumer”.
A team of 15 scientists from five universities and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) will study the degree to which essential oils can help suppress certain pathogens and pests. Researchers from the University of Florida, Clemson University, the University of Georgia, the University of California-Riverside, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the USDA-ARS will collaborate on the project.
Dr. Patricia Manosalva, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, Microbiology and Plant Pathology Department at University of California-Riverside is included among the 15 scientists who will work on the project nationwide.
Funding for the four-year research program will support scientists with expertise in fruit crop management and physiology, plant pathology, entomology, postharvest biology and organic production.
In the project, scientists will:
After they gather their new data, scientists will communicate results of their research to those who grow organic fruit as well as those who grow conventional crops so those producers can rapidly adopt the practices. Scientists will also evaluate the effectiveness of the project through continuous feedback from stakeholders.