Farmers urged to be colorful

July 31, 1997


Staff Writer

Silver plastic confuses aphids, blue plastic increases squash yields and red plastic boosts tomatoes.

Agriculture experts are not recommending that farmers turn their fields into a rainbow of colors, but they have observed that placing certain colored plastic on the ground around vegetable and fruit plants results in better production.

The concept was discussed Wednesday at the Western Maryland Ag Field Day, an annual conference that bring farmers, growers and the public up to date on the latest developments in agriculture.

About 600 people from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia attended the field day.

Dave Martin, the University of Maryland extension agent in Baltimore County, said it is not clear what causes different colors to spur plants on to better growth. The different colored plastics could cause temperature fluctuations that are good for certain plants, said Martin.


Also, plants seem to respond better to the "red ends" spectrum of sunlight, said Martin.

At the Western Maryland Research and Education Center south of Hagerstown along Md. 65, where the field day was held, rows of tomatoes and squash were covered with different colored plastic.

Blue plastic has increased squash yields by up to 50 percent, and pepper plants grown under silver and blue plastic produced a week earlier than plants that weren't covered, said Martin.

Silver plastic also appeared to act as a weapon against bugs, like aphids, according to Martin.

Farmers were briefed on a variety of issues, such as rotational grazing, weed control and advanced farming systems.

Washington County Extension Agent Don Schwartz said one of the more important issues is helping dairy farmers control rising costs. It is becoming an important issue because milk prices for farmers have changed little in the last decade, he said.

Schwartz talked to farmers about more efficient grazing methods, and signing contracts for feed to keep grain prices under control in the winter.

"Like any business, the status quo just isn't good enough," said Schwartz.

Bradley J. Hilty of PLS Agri-Management Associates, one of many agriculture-related businesses represented at the field day, helps advise farmers on issues such as grain prices and accounting.

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