NDSU students Jacob Kluza and Austin Espe are responsible for growing more than 4,000 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to the Emergency Food Pantry in Fargo during the 2016 growing season.
The vegetables donated were grown in two research projects for the Department of Plant Sciences High Value Crops Project, led by Harlene Hatterman-Valenti, assistant department head and professor of high value crop production. The donations were organized through the North Dakota Department of Agriculture Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project.
Kluza is working on his master’s degree in plant sciences and is advised by Hatterman-Valenti and Esther McGinnis, Extension horticulturist and assistant professor of plant sciences. Espe is a senior majoring in microbiology and is advised by Janice Haggart. Instructor of microbiological sciences.
Kluza’s project, which is part of his graduate research, involved comparing how well cut flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers grow inside and outside high tunnels. High tunnels resemble greenhouses but are more economical and easier to build. They are constructed of simple framing materials covered by a single layer of plastic. High tunnels shelter vegetables and flowers from disease agents and extreme environments, extending the growing season.
High tunnels were constructed in three locations with funding provided by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. They were located at Absaraka, North Dakota; at the NDSU Research Extension Center at Williston, North Dakota; and at the Dakota College Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture in Bottineau, North Dakota. The Absaraka high tunnel was managed by Kluza and the Williston facility by Kyla Splichal, another master’s student in the Department of Plant Sciences.
Espe was awarded the 2016 Department of Plant Sciences Fellowship Research Grant to work for Hatterman-Valenti during the summer. His research studied the effects of biostimulants on cucurbit production. Cucurbit crops included in his study were cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin and winter squash.
Espe presented this research as a poster during the 2016 NDSU EXPLORE Undergraduate Excellence in Research and Scholarly Activity event Nov. 1. The NDSU EXPLORE event is administered by the Office of Research Development. He will graduate in May and plans to pursue a graduate degree in plant pathology.
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