As the number of acres used for agricultural production continues to grow annually, so too does demand, especially for out of season fruits and vegetables that often have to be flown in from around the world so that consumers in places like the Pacific Northwest can have a delicious banana or orange for breakfast in the middle of the winter. But with each passing season, the future of agricultural production in containerized form grows increasingly possible, a development that could allow local production of a variety of fruits and vegetables year round.
Here at Oregon State University Patrick Kingston, a student in Horticulture, is studying blueberries, which turn out to be very picky fruit. Like Goldilocks with her porridge, blueberries need their soil to be just right in order to grow, and in the Pacific Northwest conditions are often too rainy, and ideal soil is largely restricted to the Willamette Valley, limiting potential growing space. Working underneath a group of three closely allied advisors– Bernadine Strik, David Bryla, and Carolyn Scagel— Patrick has a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips about fruit fertility, irrigation, and container research (in other words, studying how to best pot your plants).
By growing fruits like blueberries under controlled conditions, potted in the ideal substrate and treated with vitamins and nutrients to aid growth, containerized plants have shown the potential for production in areas where growing them in the soil simply would not be possible, and some have even grown at up to three times the expected growth rate. Patrick hopes to accomplish the same with his blueberries, working with everything from peat moss and pine chips to coconut husk as potential substrates for his plants.
Coming from his own life of experience in the garden, the lab, and on the farm; Patrick has found that communication between researchers and growers is key. The importance of specific technologies and techniques for the farms of the future is at stake, and Patrick is here to tell us all about it this Sunday night, at 7PM on 88.7 KBVR FM, Corvallis!