<img class="aligncenter wp-image-54008 size-full" src="https:\/\/theenterprise.net\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/23\/2021\/06\/Ramping1.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="682" \/> On a cool April morning in the fold of the Catawba Valley, leaves crunched underfoot and the air smelled of spring. Through the brown detritus on the forest floor, spikes of green foliage sprung from the earth \u2014 telltale signs of the changing of the seasons.\r\n\r\nA quartet of researchers stepped over streams and fallen trees as they reached their destination: a slope of a hill. Tool in hand, Jim Chamberlain, a research forest product technologist with the U.S. Forest Service, reached into the dirt and carefully pulled up what looked like a wild onion.\r\n\r\nThe group wasn\u2019t there to harvest ramps, as these wild leeks are colloquially known in Appalachia. They were there to make sure that ramps are here for future generations to enjoy, just as they have in the South for centuries.\r\n\r\nIt is here, at the\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=4tNED-2FM8iDZJQyQ53jATUS77fG7diKqz3ircOtVRTA3kF09vFeVE4OuGotlrSg7xfPdy_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyFAhZuevT-2Fn386BZNfPW4ZS9Sfz0IN0LTroyxw-2BkaqmbgpgAVSBCkEEhrgRA8v6tTXLMkukFSiM53-2F1XVKPxtdYKQLi1sv5EJ7M8SDk3i-2FzlAJ4zbWXFYhsjIP-2B2kq5PnlBSbDUeTEDazL-2FcrnxSAmc-3D">Catawba Sustainability Center<\/a>, that Virginia Tech researchers work with the U.S. Forest Service to find the best growing methods for ramps to allow the delicacy to last far into the future.\r\n\r\nRamps are steeped in regional history. Back in the 1750s, people from Europe \u2013 especially Ireland and Scotland \u2013 brought knowledge to their newfound homeland of a plant they harvested in their homeland called ramsons. They found a similar plant in Appalachia, harvested it, and called it ramps.\r\n\r\nAround 100 years ago, community and civic groups started to have festivals to celebrate the arrival of spring that coincided with the harvesting of ramps \u2013 one of the first plants to arrive that season.\r\n\r\n<img class="aligncenter wp-image-54009 size-full" src="https:\/\/theenterprise.net\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/23\/2021\/06\/Ramping2.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="682" \/>That cultural tie has only strengthened in the years since the festivals began and are deeply engraved in Appalachia, where festivals celebrating the springtime plant each year.\r\n\r\nRamps have blossomed elsewhere, too. The '90s saw the plant featured prominently in The New York Times. Now, you can find hikers throughout Appalachia looking for the plant on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.\r\n\r\nBut an increase in popularity has led to a concern for overharvesting of this delicacy.\r\n\r\nTo fight this over-loving of ramps, the team of researchers is developing methods to grow ramps in contained environments. These studies could allow farmers to grow on land that isn\u2019t used for current crops, boosting profits while lessening the burden on wild ramp populations.\r\n\r\nPabitra Aryal, a Ph.D. candidate in the\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=TeZUXWpUv-2B6TCY38pVLo9r8ei89vhOQcojRZlUP7sPM-3Dfz2v_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyAl2ULy1ASKej5NqQpno-2Fb-2BKCRDcFtXEvQ7pcBU2uyjX39SLkHHzzH-2FUC63nW-2F1pLVi0EVsD0zhWpH3lS1MppSoa-2FMxFuEmblNdbQjRnQQ8AotdheWc2BnXTxiXvItFcs9EG4XFv9VWcED-2Bn5q32-2BQ4-3D">College of Agriculture and Life Sciences<\/a>\u2019\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=TeZUXWpUv-2B6TCY38pVLo9luvdhW41SNPOJ7mVSG4Axk-3D0Hma_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyJtWidXVu9FjvTlwfVDiCC4ce-2BqcqeAVnVj3-2BNhJq2MqEJYI6eBMS7qTOh7Xd8yveH1CLKui1jLbnnlsf-2BS0GJFSYDmpkFt1GgCg7qwaFk9OAFuO6Y0XrCLqbEivoaI3jo-2FXJy2C6QANvSp6zsyEJiI-3D">School of Plant and Environmental Sciences<\/a>, is researching the onion\u2019s cousin by growing ramps from seed and bulb to study the germination time of the plant.\r\n\r\nAryal, along with her Ph.D. mentor John Fike, a professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Adam Taylor, manager of the Catawba Sustainability Center, and Chamberlain, Aryal puts forgotten land to use \u2013 slopes of hills covered in dense foliage that farmers wouldn\u2019t otherwise use.\r\n\r\nAt the center, she tests the impact of Endomycorrhizal fungi, which has a beneficial relationship with plants and could positively influence the growth rate of ramps on both bulbs and seeds. Little is known about the germination time, though Appalachian lore says it could take as long as seven years.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe want to see if Endomycorrhizal fungi can speed up this process to make it more economically and logistically viable for farmers,\u201d Aryal said.\r\n\r\nAryal was interested in geographic information system mapping with medicinal plants \u2013 another use of ramps \u2013 and wanted to connect these modeling efforts to agroforestry.\r\n\r\nTo get the entire picture of the region\u2019s ramps, Aryal and Fike tested plants from around Appalachia for growth rate and how Endomycorrhizal fungi may impact plants based on their region. The researchers also planted ramp bulbs and seeds in plots located across the Catawba Sustainability Center.\r\n\r\n\u201cWithout support from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, this project wouldn\u2019t be possible,\u201d Fike said.\r\n\r\nWith additional support from\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=4tNED-2FM8iDZJQyQ53jATUYrI55pdoi3U98qbYUBbF1k9d6jmy6oud2zH249Bay810yvd_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyKVKApkjebSbSdMzO3DoPuzguKV55TWiT0i1gK6MZHCiS3mAkSj90b3moLyYqxagsH-2B0-2FRPSp1D6JfZP3XnVyjmI8pujQiPcqjdzsB8HisAAhZnEYYpS11tVkmZ56SvNA5nwU2TKRAJv1-2Bkxh8mPxJE-3D">Outreach and International Affairs<\/a>, Aryal\u2019s research on ramps was underway.\r\n\r\n<strong>A regional partnership<\/strong>\r\n\r\n<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=4tNED-2FM8iDZJQyQ53jATUS77fG7diKqz3ircOtVRTA3kF09vFeVE4OuGotlrSg7xeluX_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyNzHu-2FRlhAVUGuaWyOhWoFMwwyT97QnbMo6ekhZ-2F3QZs2w33ZwJiMWX3P-2Bc5qDvyoLpHCw4dTZCennY7EQ3ai7EdGMSDpYcQ-2F0kTr0NTZb6-2FI5YSDhR-2FJlrr42a00k4TqiG7wwrfnIzfasA0FUmUSkk-3D">Catawba Sustainability Center<\/a>, located in the Catawba Valley near Hokie favorite McAfee Knob, is a 377-acre farm that serves as a laboratory to advance environmental stewardship and community engagement and is part of Outreach and International Affairs. The center provides a learning environment for the research, teaching, and demonstration of sustainable practices in agriculture, forestry, and land management.\r\n\r\nResearching ramps at the center was a logical choice, Taylor said.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe ramps project fits in our model of using marginal land that can't be cultivated or grazed to order to produce a product that can diversify a farm and create multiple systems of income generation,\u201d Taylor said. \u201cWe also work with a number of edible and medicinal non-timber forest products at the center.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo help local farmers, the center is starting a nontimber forest product herb network, where forest farmers in the region can come to the Catawba Sustainability Center and learn firsthand from\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/u7061146.ct.sendgrid.net\/ls\/click?upn=TeZUXWpUv-2B6TCY38pVLo9p-2FpAXqXBhdYQyx5cAx-2BsbA-3DI8oo_ij7BAvLAaQUSLb-2FPLJuyu7QtDH2U33d6TaFzgKSKQFCi4BZU-2FT4VZVBvA-2F65mqwSc17tNcf1-2BE895CV8GX-2BhlUKVP-2F3zomCYEB9tRP2QubAHmtr308aj3-2F3nSiyPFYdh8pj2wg7w1d4cgGUfb0kEJ7y6noVaKZ3SIHBeR9gPSkrCzkB-2FRbqChTh8EQfjqNe9-2B5XcfIuAZnYuv5pba7RbyHOJzJhnH8Icbsu2cKGnqVHgSm2bcMO5cm5NEqasPirbLTpeWXRDG7ZCBkgdcXOQGBi1PU0Vz0B9Qqe7v3IhFvJtBKrxQrPksTWJ8mSCTdOnWplnb63qJo-2BpHcNVGMLvq03BafQ6JFM7vdSPJf0-2BP-2BM-3D">Virginia Cooperative Extension<\/a>\u00a0experts.\r\n\r\nUltimately, Aryal and Fike want local and regional farmers to benefit from this research, as it could help them determine if their land is suitable for growing the Appalachian delicacy.\r\n\r\nTesting the viability of forest farming of ramps could open the door to a whole host of other crops for farmers \u2013 mushrooms, ginseng, and other products \u2013 further boosting the financial success of farms with forests.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe work that Virginia Tech is doing to figure out how to grow this plant will ensure that the entities that harvest them, the community, and the people that benefit from them will be able to do so in perpetuity,\u201d said Chamberlain, who earned his Ph.D. from the College of Natural Resources and Environment in 2000. \u201cWithout this kind of research, there's no way to ensure that there's a sustainable sourcing of this plant.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn the interim, Chamberlain said, ramps can be harvested in a manner that allows the plant to reproduce. Instead of pulling the bulb and roots from the ground, the leafy greens can be cut to allow the plant to repopulate.