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Willsboro Research Farm

Willsboro Research Farm with Juneberry trials and high tunnel

Willsboro, NY
This 352-acre farm is located along Lake Champlain at the base of Willsboro Point. The farm has both clay and sandy soils, permitting a range of field experiments for optimizing management of agricultural resources. Fifty-two specially constructed field-scale drainage plots provide researchers with a unique opportunity to develop and test crop fertilizer application practices that are agriculturally, environmentally and economically sound. In support of the region's important dairy sector, several studies are designed to improve forage production systems.

The farm was donated in 1982 by E. Vreeland Baker to Cornell University for agricultural research, and was formerly known as Cornell E. V. Baker Research Farm.

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Specialty Fruit Trials

Large-scale specialty fruit trials at Willsboro Research Farm include wild and cultivated varieties of juneberries, aronia berries, honeyberries, and elderberries. Researchers are evaluating which varieties perform best in Northern New York, and are most suitable for commercial growers who would like to diversity their crops. The team is also assessing different production methods, such as soil preferences, nutrient management, pruning practices and pest control.

All four ‘super fruits’ in the trials are valued for their high phytonutrient and antioxidant content, and together, they provide continuous fruit crops from early June to late September.

Juneberry trials at Willsboro Research Farm

  • Honeyberries are extremely cold-hardy, and shrubs can withstand temperatures of -55F. They flower early and berries are ripe in June. The trials include numerous cultivars with large, exceptionally flavorful fruit. In Japan the tasty berries are known as haskaps - elixir of longevity.
  • Juneberries will ripen in July. The juneberry trials, established at Willsboro Research Farm in 2013, include 13 wild variety lines grown from seed, along with commercial cultivars. This blueberry look-alike is praised for its flavor, nutritional value and commercial potential.
  • Aronia berries produce an abundance of fruit in August and September. They are more pest resistant than other berries and are exceptionally nutritious. The astringent berries are best used as an addition to smoothies, jams and juices. Consumer demand for aronia has grown rapidly in recent years.
  • Researchers are adding elderberry trials this spring, which will include American and European varieties. Fruit ripens in late summer/fall. The great majority of elderberries consumed in the U.S. are currently imported from Europe, presenting an opportunity for growers in the Northeast to build a substantial domestic market.

Researchers: Michael Davis (Cornell) and Michael Burgess (SUNY Plattsburgh)

This research is supported by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program

More Research Highlights

  • Willsboro Plants
  • Malting barley variety trials assess ten spring and ten winter varieties for best quality and yield. The agronomic data collected provides crucial, tangible guidance to New York growers who aim to meet the growing demand from local breweries. Researcher: Mark Sorrells
  • Best management practices are continually updated to optimize crop productivity while minimizing erosion and nutrient losses to neighboring waterways and groundwater. The farm's proximity to Lake Champlain underscores the importance of this research. Researcher: Harold van Es
  • Field trials identify crop varieties and management systems that perform well in the soils and climate that are unique to Northern New York.
    • Corn silage variety trials - researcher: Margaret SmithJoe Lawrence
    • Alfalfa variety trials - researcher: Julie Hansen
    • Hemp variety trials - researcher: Larry Smart
  • Non-chemical biological control options are tested for regionally important crop pests, such as the alfalfa snout beetle. Researcher: Don Viands
  • High tunnels can substantially extend New York's short growing season. This project assesses, which fruit and vegetables do particularly well in high tunnels, and under which conditions, for example, identifying the fertility requirements for overwintering spinach, and best growing practices for ground cherries. Researcher: Elisabeth Hodgdon
  • Strawberry variety trials test different production methods and overwintering systems, such as the use of row covers instead of mulch. Researcher: Elisabeth Hodgdon

Organic Agriculture at Willsboro

Since 1993, six acres have been dedicated to organic research, certified by 'Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC' in 1996.

Willsboro Research Farm utilizes these acres primarily for organic grain trails, incorporating spring and winter wheat rotations, with soybeans, flax, spelt, alfalfa and timothy hay. The farm team established a five year rotation plan, which provides ideal ways to build and enrich the soil and improve soil tilth naturally.