Research Awards

1st Place Winner

Durham County EMGV Tomato Grafting Project

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Durham County


Eventually, a typical home-gardener growing heirloom tomatoes in the same location will be plagued by soil-borne diseases. The impact of these diseases can be reduced by grafting heirloom scions onto disease-resistant rootstock.
Our research project was two-fold: to research and design a protocol that would increase the grafting success rate of the average home gardener, and to see for ourselves if grafted tomatoes did perform better in a typical garden.
We developed our protocol by researching existing University-based information. We also researched rootstocks that targeted the verticillium and fusarium wilt common to the Piedmont region of North Carolina and chose two which were commonly available in small quantities.
Our tomato team, six master gardeners, most of whom had no prior grafting experience, grafted the tomatoes in their homes. Following the protocol, the team achieved an 80% grafting success rate. 
For phase two, we planted 24 grafted Pink Berkely Tie-Dyes, and 16 ungrafted PBTD controls at Briggs Avenue Community Garden. They were planted densely and in beds previously and repeatedly planted with tomatoes.
Ultimately, we picked 570 “good” tomatoes weighing 274 pounds. The average grafted plant produced 15 tomatoes totaling 8 pounds; the average ungrafted plant produced 12 tomatoes totaling 5 pounds.  
The grafted tomatoes out-lived the ungrafted tomatoes long enough to produce 30-40% more weight (2.4 – 2.9 lbs) than their ungrafted counterparts, thus supporting the second phase of our research.

2nd Place Winner

Citizen Science Spotted Lanternfly Detection Program

Northern Shenandoah Valley Extension Master Gardener Program


The Spotted Lantern Fly (SLF) presents a serious threat to the local agriculture economy and is an extreme nuisance to citizens.  In an effort to mitigate this threat, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Extension Master Gardener Program and Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association (NSVMGA) have partnered with Virginia Tech, Extension Master Naturalists, and local government employees to determine the boundaries of SLF’s expansion into Virginia and provide that data to researchers at Virginia Tech.
Within months of the first sighting of SLF in Virginia, Extension Master Gardener volunteers in the Northern Shenandoah Valley received training from Virginia Tech researchers on how to identify and trap for SLF. Training sessions and trapping expanded in 2019 and 2020, with more volunteers across the state providing more data points each year.  Additionally, the NSVMGA printed displays and handouts to make them available at areas with high public traffic including such places as farmers markets, county fairs, or other events as they open back up as the pandemic eases. An SLF update is posted each Friday on NSVMGA’s Facebook page. 
Results of the citizen science program provide valuable data for where a breeding population of SLF is present. Equally valuable, counties where no SLF sightings occur can be listed on U.S. Department of Agriculture maps as apparently free of the pest. Extension Master Gardeners serve as important members of the volunteer force both looking for and providing information about SLF.