Delaware is second only to California in the production of lima beans (also known as butter beans), and according to state researchers, it has the potential to become number one in the future.
Due to the importance of the crop in the region, a study is taking place to look at diseases that are affecting cultivation.
Such work requires a collaborative effort, and a team has been assembled thanks to a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant.
There are six components to the grant, each with various researchers studying different parts of the problem. They are conducting research on downy mildew, pod blight, white mold, root-knot nematodes and germplasm resources and developing an economic analysis.
William Donald Clifton II, a Milford-area grower who plants about 800 acres of lima beans, said he was pleased that researchers at UD obtained the grant. A cooperative extension associate used 6 acres of Clifton's farm this summer for field trials on eight baby lima varieties.
Clifton said he is glad that UD is aggressive in seeking such grants, saying, "Other extension services go after the grants on the big crops, like corn and soybeans, but limas are a small crop and very important to us locally. Yields need to go to another plateau. The variety trials are important for that. This research is very important."
In addition to these researchers, eight graduate students will be hired to work on various aspects of the project, and a postdoctoral student will be added, along with an extension agent. In addition, field personnel and undergraduate students will assist with the research.