UD’s Ernest receives USDA grant for research on lima beans

December 11, 2013 under CANR News

Emmalea Ernest Research Assistant for Vegetable crops. Plant and Soil Science, Cooperative ExtensionEmmalea Ernest, extension agent in the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), has received federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program for a project aimed at developing heat-tolerant lima bean varieties.

“Lima beans are Delaware’s largest acreage vegetable crop and anchor the state’s processing vegetable industry,” said Ernest. “The varieties that are currently available to growers suffer yield loss or delayed yield when they are exposed to high temperatures during flowering.”

In order to be eligible for funding from the program, grant money had to be used toward specialty crops as opposed to field crops, such as corn and soybeans, or animal agriculture. Specialty crops are a wide-ranging category that includes fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops.

With her funding, Ernest aims to develop procedures for heat tolerance screening in the existing lima bean breeding program, examine the physiological mechanisms for heat stress tolerance or susceptibility in lima beans, and investigate the underlying genetic basis for heat stress tolerance in lima beans. Her findings could greatly impact Delaware vegetable farmers’ yields.

Ernest said she has collaborated on multiple USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants in the past six years and acknowledged that the program has been a vital source of funding to the Extension Vegetable and Fruit Research Program. The money has allowed Ernest to help address production problems many Delaware fruit and vegetable growers have experienced, as well as explore new crop prospects.

The SCBG program seeks out projects like Ernest’s in order to promote and enhance the local agricultural economy.

“My past and current grant projects through this program have included work on lima beans but also on a variety of other crops, including processing sweet corn, blueberries, snap beans, cucumbers and cantaloupes,” said Ernest.

Her research with lima beans will be over the course of the next three years and take place on UD’s research farm in Georgetown.

Ernest said that in the genetics portion of the project, which will be built off of work funded by the Building a Better Bean SCRI Grant awarded to UD researchers last year, she will be working closely with colleague Randy Wisser, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, and Gordon Johnson, extension vegetable and fruit specialist.

Article by Angela Carcione

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Delaware 4-H hosts students from Colombia, Ecuador

November 7, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

4-H hosted the 2013 Youth Ambassadors ProgramThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H Program recently hosted 24 students and four adults from Colombia and Ecuador as part of the 2013 Youth Ambassadors Program.

The program is funded by Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants stayed with host families for three weeks, from Oct. 6-27, and participated in various activities that included visiting historic sites in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, meeting with officials including U.S. Rep. John Carney, visiting Delaware schools, taking in a live showing of the theatrical production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Darkand touring Times Square in New York City.

Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, said the participants learned a lot about American culture during their stay, perhaps most of all from the host families with whom they stayed. “It was interesting to hear, after they had stayed with host families for awhile, how their opinions changed,” said Manno, noting that a lot of the students came to the country with preconceived notions about the United States and American families.

One participant, Felipe Solano Paute from Ecuador, said, “One of the things that I have learned from this trip is a lot of history about the United States, many things that I didn’t know before, and I have changed the way I think about some aspects of the United States. American people have been very kind and very open to welcome us — and not only our host families but, in general, they have been very kind.”

Colombia’s Luna Sierra said she enjoyed talking with officials, as well as spending time with young people in America. “There is a lot of respect to other people and there is a lot of technology. In America, you have to work hard but you will find success at the end of the road.”

Sierra said that she and her classmates will be “taking with them the best of the American culture.”

Daniel Quinones, also from Colombia, agreed with that assessment, stating that his favorite part of the trip was “the way in which the host families have welcomed us into their homes. They have taught us a lot about how they as a family behave and the family culture.”

The visits to Delaware schools were equally interesting to the students, as Quinones said that he was surprised about how much technology is used in American classrooms.

Manno, who picked up one of the students from St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, said, “The kids went to really great schools and they were really impressed. The kids were a huge hit in the schools, especially in the Spanish classes. They loved to have a Spanish speaker there. At the end of the day, I went to St. Elizabeth to pick those kids up and when I got there, there were all these St. Elizabeth kids gathered around them, so they made a lot of friends in a hurry and it was a really good project.”

Manno also pointed out that one of the best experiences the students had was attending a 4-H leadership camp in Sussex County the first weekend they arrived in the United States along with Delaware 4-H members. Manno credited Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H Educator, for putting the camp together.

“We ended up with about 60 kids and it was terrific. Even though we had 7.5 inches of rain in Sussex County that weekend, the kids just bonded. The South American kids got to spend a whole weekend with the Delaware kids, and that was just terrific. They just really hit it off, so I have to give credit to Mallory Vogl for that –she really stepped up,” said Manno.

The experience was equally positive for the adult chaperones who accompanied the students on the trip.

One of the chaperones, Cynthia Orna Ladd from Ecuador, said that while the students visited schools, her host family took her to see Longwood Gardens in nearby Pennsylvania.

Orna Ladd said it was fun to see the reactions of the students as they saw America for the first time, and that she enjoyed spending time with an American family. “I’ve only been in an Ecuadorian family environment but to be with American people, to be part of the family and such is great,” she said. “I’m living with a couple of retired people so they have all the time to talk to me and the mom used to teach home economics, so she cooks very well. I went with them to Longwood Gardens and that was very nice — that’s the thing that I’ve appreciated the most.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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CANR pre-veterinary medicine major conducts equine research at UPenn

November 5, 2013 under CANR News

UD student Meredith Bonnell interns at UPENN's New Bolton CenterMeredith Bonnell, a junior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, spent her summer conducting a research-based internship at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center at the Havemeyer Barn.

Bonnell’s research project, which she designed with Sue McDonnell, focused on the genetic effects on the learning abilities of ponies. McDonnell received her doctorate in reproductive physiology and behavior from UD and now heads the Equine Behavior Program at UPenn.

The center, located in Kennett Square, Pa., includes 700 acres of pastureland and exposure to experts in equine-based medical and surgical techniques. “The ponies that occupy some of that land are a part of a semi-feral herd used for equine research,” Bonnell said. “They undergo annual vaccinations and de-worming, in addition to blood work and basic handling when they are foals.”

The New Bolton Center is a large facility that specializes in many different types of veterinary care practices for horses and other large animals. The facility serves to generate data for medical specialists including cardiologists and orthopedists as well as for trainers seeking performance evaluations.

Bonnell’s research at the Havemeyer Barn utilized target training on a 100-count semi-feral Shetland-type pony herd to test learning ability, using performance scores generated to examine correlations between them and genetics, or known family lineage.

“Target training is relatively new to the equine industry and is connected with clicker training,” Bonnell said. “We’re typically familiar with its use on marine animals, like those we might see at SeaWorld.”

Bonnell said in order to test how she would collect data and gather equipment lists, she did extensive research and conducted preliminary tests on ponies removed from the semi-feral herd to be used on rotation for studies by the veterinary students at UPenn.

All of her sessions, she said, were videotaped and used as a reference in order to collect sufficient and accurate data.

Bonnell said she was excited to find this internship with McDonnell through a friend working in the neonatal intensive care unit at the center. She is currently working toward publication of her work and will continue research as independent study.

Bonnell said she hopes to pursue a career in equine veterinary field and plans to apply to veterinary school after graduating from UD.

Article by Angela Carcione

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Master Gardener Native Plant Teaching Garden Open House Set for June 11

June 7, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

J.W Wistermayer in the Master Gardeners Native Teaching GardenGardens are teeming with sights, sounds and tactile experiences. They’re meant to be used and enjoyed, not merely gazed at from a distance, says University of Delaware Master Gardener J.W. Wistermayer.

So, even though Wistermayer spends 5 to 10 hours a week tending to the New Castle County Master Gardener Native Plant Teaching Garden, he just chuckles when he sees that the garden’s plant identification tags have been rearranged.

“When tags are out of place, I know it means that kids are getting in here and discovering the garden,” says Wistermayer. “Our garden is next to the university’s Laboratory Preschool and Early Learning Center. At drop-off and pick-up times, kids and parents come look for new blooms, check to see if birds are in the bird boxes, and listen to the wind chimes. There is one particular path through three-foot-high plants that little kids love because they’re surrounded and hidden by all the foliage.”

The Native Plant Teaching Garden gets kids excited about plants and nature but its primary purpose is to promote the use of native plants in home landscapes, whether that landscape is several containers on a city apartment deck or an acre-plus in suburbia.

If you’re stumped about what to do with a spot where nothing grows, or how to jazz up a boring landscape bed, the Native Plant Teaching Garden is the place to go. Located on the grounds of the New Castle County Cooperative office in Newark, the garden features several distinct areas, including a butterfly garden, a rain garden, a meadow, a perennial border, and a foundation landscape planting.

The Master Gardeners also maintain a fruit and vegetable teaching garden, and a compost demonstration site, both of which are located behind the county office.

If you had to sum up the Native Plant Teaching Garden in one word, it would have to be “unexpected.” The garden features a fresh, exciting design that proves without a doubt that “native plant” isn’t synonymous with dull.

The foundation landscape bed, running the length of the county office, is a perfect example of this unexpected nature. While many of us select the same-old pink azaleas or red-blossomed dwarf cherries to line our homes, the Native Plant Teaching Garden’s foundation planting is full of unexpected textures, colors and plant choices. Such as the feathery foliage and steel blue flowers of threadleaf bluestar. Or the brushy blooms of fothergilla, which will sport fiery foliage in fall. There’s nothing formal or structured about either of these native species, yet they work well in this foundation planting.

Another unexpected touch is the green roof on top of the garden arbor. Covered with vegetation, this green roof absorbs water and creates habitat for wildlife. If it was used on a home or business, its insulating effects could lower cooling and heating costs, too.

One of Wistermayer’s favorite spots in the garden is a wooden bench positioned under a river birch. From there, he can hear wind chimes that hang in a nearby maple. Wistermayer often stops by the garden on Sunday to water the plants and ends his work session with a bit of quiet time relaxing on the bench.

The Master Gardeners will be hosting an Open House at the Native Plant Teaching Garden on June 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. They’ll be joined by Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with UD Cooperative Extension, and Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Extension. The Open House is free but pre-registration is necessary. Email Murphy at cjmurphy@udel.edu.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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UD Extension Specialist Shares Favorite Spots for Outdoor Fun

May 31, 2013 under CANR News

Crystal and Quinn Phillips pick strawberriesDot Abbott has fond memories of picking strawberries with her dad as a child. They would head out on early summer weekends, with buckets that her grandfather had made, and not return home until they had 12 quarts – enough for homemade jam, shortcakes, and eating out of hand. She recalls spotting lady beetles on the plants, hearing birdsong in nearby woods, and noticing that the berries hidden under leaves weren’t fat, red and juicy the way that berries exposed to the sun were.

Today, on summer weekends, Abbott has a hunch that many kids are inside, in front of TV or computer screens, rather than outside enjoying activities with their families.

“Staying inside is the default mode; it’s the new norm for most kids. A child is three times more likely to play video games regularly than to ride a bike,” says Abbott, a renewable resources agent with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “But studies show that regular, unstructured playtime in nature makes kids smarter, calmer, more self-disciplined and cooperative.”

Plus, getting outside is just plain fun – especially during the long, sunny days of summer. If you’re short on ideas of where to go and what to do, Abbott is happy to help. Here’s what she suggests for outdoor fun this summer:

Eerie Evenings at Trap Pond

It looks like a lake [but] a short paddle away, it begins to turn into a swamp and there are loads of lily pads and bald cypress trees and the water starts looking really murky and it feels like you might run into an alligator or something. You definitely don’t want the canoe to tip over in here.

–Review of Trap Pond State Park on TripAdvisor.com

“Boating amid the bald cypress trees at Trap Pond is kind of eerie, especially at night or on foggy mornings,” says Abbott. “As they get older, it can be harder to get kids excited about family outings but even middle schoolers and teens should love a night boat ride at Trap.”

Families can learn about “the eerie sounds and spooky creatures” of Trap’s cypress swamp during special evening pontoon tours June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14.  The state park, near Laurel, is home to the northernmost natural stand of bald cypress trees in the U.S.

The park also offers daytime pontoon tours on weekends, as well as guided kayak and canoe eco-tours. Plus, you can rent rowboats, pedal boats, canoes and kayaks and go out on your own. Boat rides and rentals are available through Labor Day weekend.

For more info, call the park at 875-5153.

Who Knew? Fishing at State Forests

Delaware’s state forests are one of the best-kept secrets for family fun. They’re managed primarily for forest management, so don’t expect to see a concert stage or water park, like at some of the state parks. But you will find trails for walking, running, biking or horseback riding at Blackbird and Redden state forests, plus ponds for catch-and-release fishing. Taber, the smallest of the three state forests, is used most often for hunting. Abbott likes the fact that Blackbird, located on the border of New Castle and Kent counties, has a paved nature trail designed for wheelchair accessibility. To learn more about the state forests, go to http://dda.delaware.gov/forestry/forest.shtml/.

Forget Route 66 – Route 9 is Where It’s At 

If you’re bored some Sunday afternoon, hop in the car and head to Route 9. This 52-mile stretch of meandering country road parallels the western shore of the Delaware River and Bay and offers views of the largest area of preserved coastal marshland on the East Coast.

There are several great spots to stop and view wildlife on the route, says Abbott, including the Port Penn Interpretative Center, where she enjoys taking a short hike into the marsh. At the other end of Route 9, close to the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover, is the new Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) Education Center at St. Jones Reserve. Like Port Penn, it features a boardwalk into the marsh. And don’t miss Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge, near Smyrna, says Abbott. There are several trails through this 16,000 acre refuge, including the Black Swamp Trail, which is handicapped accessible. Plus, kids will love the fact that three of the trails have observation towers.

Overnight Camping at State Parks

Tell ghost stories around a campfire on the beach. Gaze at the stars with a telescope (plus, with a naturalist who can tell exactly what you’re looking at). Snuggle into sleeping bags as your kids enjoy their first campout of the summer – or perhaps their first campout ever.

You can do all this with “Delaware Outdoor Family,” a new overnight camping program offered at Bellevue, Brandywine Creek and Delaware Seashore state parks this summer. It’s offered in conjunction with the Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside initiative, a state effort to get kids outside more.

Family camping on your own is available throughout the summer at Lums Pond, Killens Pond, Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Trap Pond state parks. But “Delaware Outdoor Family” is a guided experience, led by park staff, giving campers access to astronomy programs and other special experiences. For more info, go to www.destateparks.com.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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‘Earth Perfect?’ symposium to take place at UD, area gardens June 6-9

May 28, 2013 under CANR News

ApplecrossAnnette Giesecke is a professor of classics and chair of the ancient Greek and Roman studies department at the University of Delaware She also is the mastermind behind “Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden,” a June 6-9 symposium taking place at UD and several local horticulture venues.

It may seem unusual for a professor of classics to organize a horticulture symposium. But this isn’t a garden-variety garden conference. If you’re only looking for tips on pruning or growing the perfect tomato, you’ve come to the wrong place.

“’Earth Perfect?’ will showcase the garden as an emblem of the ideal human relation with nature,” says Giesecke. “Anybody who is interested in the importance and meaning of gardens, and the politics of gardens, will want to attend. It’s not just an event for academics and garden professionals.”

Frankly, even those of us who never stopped to think about the meaning of gardens – we just know we like them — may find the symposium worthwhile. The eclectic program includes a lecture by UD professor McKay Jenkins on the environmental and health risks of lawn chemicals. There’s a workshop on creating “night spaces” and another on designing with edible plants. You can learn about slave gardens in the antebellum South or contemporary urban vertical farms.

Keynote speakers include Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, and UD’s Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Mixed in with the lectures and workshops are special tours of Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Chanticleer and the Mt. Cuba Center.

Giesecke, who has written widely about the gardens of ancient Greek and Rome, was inspired to create the symposium after co-editing a publication also called Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia and the Garden.

Sue Barton, an ornamental horticulture specialist with UD Cooperative Extension, is excited to be speaking at the symposium because she wants to get more people thinking and talking about her lecture topic — livable ecosystems as a model for suburbia.

What’s a livable ecosystem?

The easiest way to explain it is to say what it’s not – a livable ecosystem isn’t a chemically treated monoculture of turfgrass with a few non-native, invasive trees plunked down in the front yard, too far from the house to shade it in summer or serve as a windbreak in winter.

In other words, a livable ecosystem is a far cry from what many suburban yards look like today.

“The traditional home landscape contains a limited palette of plants, has large areas of regularly mowed lawn, and provides relatively few ecosystem services,” says Barton. “Forests and meadows, on the other hand, provide many ecosystem services.”

Rest assured, you don’t need to remove every blade of grass and turn your yard into a jungle to create a livable ecosystem.

Take, for example, the attractive new landscape at a home in the Applecross neighborhood off Route 100 in Greenville. It does look a bit different than the neighbors’ yards – for one thing, there’s a 6,000-square-foot meadow of native grasses. It also features a newly reforested area, adjoining an existing wooded tract.  Invasive plants have been removed and replaced by white oaks, blueberry bushes, ornamental grasses and other native species.

Grass plays a role, too, but it’s been bumped from star of the show to a member of the supporting cast.

“Turf on the property is used purposefully, for recreation areas, circulation, or as the green carpet that sets off other plantings,” says Barton.

The yard is part of a UD research project on livable ecosystems. “We want to see if replacing the typical suburban yard of mostly grass with one containing diverse vegetation can help protect the environment and make landscapes more sustainable,” she says.

The Applecross property is one aspect of a multidisciplinary project involving five UD faculty members and dozens of undergraduate and grad students. Another research site is located at Winterthur, where the UD team is collecting water quality data in three streams that drain from three different landscapes – mowed lawn, meadow, and forest. They’re also collecting data on the diversity of plants, insects and birds in each of these settings.

If you won’t have a chance to hear Barton at the Earth Perfect symposium, you’ll have a second chance on June 14, at a Sustainable Landscape Tour. Sponsored by UD Cooperative Extension, the program includes a visit to the Applecross property, as well as a tour of a bio-swale and wetlands on the UD farm. Barton also will be hosting a shorter tour of the Applecross property later this season. To find out more about these Extension events, email Barton at sbarton@udel.edu.

To register for Earth Perfect or learn more at this symposium, call 831-2793 or go to this website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Amidst spring color, unfurling ferns offer different kind of beauty

May 17, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The May landscape at Winterthur is reminiscent of a child’s finger painting. Here, a bright splash of red and coral from azaleas. There, luminescent lavender on lilacs and phlox. Throw in a cheerful dab of gold from Rhododendron luteumand a dash of pastel pinks from dogwoods, too.

Amidst this riot of color, Linda Eirhart was a woman on a mission one recent morning. Oblivious to the rainbow hues around her, Eirhart drove a golf cart down Winterthur’s pathways, searching for new ferns unfurling their fronds.

fernsAt first glance, one might wonder why Eirhart, Winterthur’s assistant director of horticulture, would bother chasing down ferns. Unlike spring blooms, there’s no immediate wow factor. All the ferns are pretty small now, even the ones that will ultimately reach two to three feet high. It’s easy to overlook a tiny fern growing just a few inches from the ground. However, if you crouch down for a closer look, you’ll enjoy a sight as spectacular in its own right as the brash blooms of spring.

Take, for example, emerging hay-scented ferns. These clusters of chartreuse apostrophes twirling in the breeze resemble some bizarre plant from a Dr. Seuss book. Another fern that looks other-worldly now is cinnamon fern. Its fronds are tightly wound in a circular clump, encased in white hairs.

“Ferns are a real favorite of mine,” says Eirhart. “They’re fascinating as they emerge. Then, once they unfurl and mature, they provide interesting foliage and texture throughout the growing season.”

Not to mention the way they seem to lower the thermometer once the steamy hot days of summer arrive.

“Ferns create a cooling, peaceful effect in a landscape,” says Sue Barton, UD Cooperative Extension specialist for ornamental horticulture. “The March Bank at Winterthur is a great example of this cooling effect.”

The March Bank’s main claim to fame is its spring color. In the early 1900s, H.F. du Pont began planting thousands of bulbs on a hillside near his home that he dubbed the March Bank. He mixed ostrich, cinnamon and New York ferns amidst the bulbs for season-long interest. Du Pont would go on to inherit Winterthur from his father and, a short time after that, establish the property as a museum.

Come summer, the ferns that du Pont planted will create a thick, lush carpet of green in a range of colors, shapes and sizes. There’s the almost chartreuse green of the New York fern, which contrasts with the multi-colored hues of the cinnamon fern. The cinnamon fern has two types of fronds – large green sterile ones and smaller fertile ones that start out bright green and soon turn a cinnamon color. Some of the taller varieties include the ostrich fern, which can reach 5 feet and the New York fern, which tops out at 2 feet in ideal conditions.

“I love ferns,” says Chris Strand, director of garden and estate at Winterthur. “Growing up in Colorado, ferns weren’t common. We didn’t get 39 inches of rain annually like Delaware gets, nor did we have the right soil conditions for ferns. When I moved East, I was amazed by all the ferns here. It’s beautiful now, when the bluebells are fading on the March Bank and the emerging ferns are coming in. All the fronds waving in the breeze look like waves on the ocean.”

Delaware has 67 native ferns, according to Bill McAvoy, a botanist with the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Winterthur doesn’t have all those ferns but it’s certainly got a lot. In addition to the March Bank, there are good collections of ferns in the children’s garden, Enchanted Woods; as well as in the Pinetum. And what was once a small fern collection at the Visitor’s Center has been given a big boost recently. Over the past five years, Eirhart, her staff, and volunteers have added thousands of new ferns to this area.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is another great place to search for unfurling ferns now and enjoy their cooling presence later this summer. There are painted and Christmas ferns in the Dunham Garden, at the main entrance; autumn and Christmas ferns by the Creamery ice cream shop; and still more Christmas ferns in the native garden.

In shady or partial shady conditions, ferns can be the workhorse of the garden. They can be used as groundcover in places where few other plants will thrive and also spotlighted as specimen plantings, notes Barton. Most varieties are low maintenance, drought tolerant and deer resistant. A few ferns will even tolerate full sun, as long as they have adequate moisture.

Learn more

On June 19, Linda Eirhart will lead a fern workshop that covers the basics of fern botany and cultivation as well as an introduction to the best ferns for this area. 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Winterthur Museum and Gardens. To register, call 888-4600.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Kleczewski joins UD Cooperative Extension as plant pathology specialist

May 15, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Nathan Kleczewski has joined the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service as the plant pathology specialist. He replaces Bob Mulrooney, who retired after 38 years with UD Cooperative Extension.

Kleczewski received his bachelor of science degree in biology from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his doctorate in plant pathology from Ohio State University. He did postdoctoral research at Indiana and Purdue universities. Most recently, he worked as a plant pathologist with FMC Agricultural Products.

At UD, Kleczewski’s work will concentrate on plant pathology in field crops. Although he has only been in his new job since May 1, Kleczewski has hit the ground running. He already has set up meetings with local growers to better understand their needs.

“My work is grower-driven,” notes Kleczewski. “All of my applied research projects will focus on the concerns of Delaware’s farmers.”

KleczewskiNathanRecognizing the ever-increasing role that technology plays in daily life, Kleczewski will create a Facebook page where he will post up-to-the-minute information on plant diseases in Delaware and surrounding states. A farmer in the field need only glance at his or her smartphone to find out the latest issues and learn how to prevent or mitigate crop loss.

“We are very pleased to have Nathan join our Extension team. Each growing season brings its own disease challenges and having plant pathology expertise on our team in Delaware is a critical aspect of successful crop production and sustaining Delaware agriculture,” says Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension and Outreach.

Kleczewski grew up in rural Wisconsin. Both his maternal and paternal grandparents owned dairy farms and his uncles currently work as dairy farmers. He always enjoyed studying the sciences but when the time came to enter graduate school he told a college professor, “I want to work in the sciences but I want to do work that my uncles will understand and appreciate. I want to make a difference in the lives of people I know.”

His professor suggested plant pathology and Kleczewski quickly discovered that it was the perfect discipline for his interests. Kleczewski’s wife, Victoria, also works in the agricultural field; she is employed in field development for DuPont.

Kleczewski is enjoying a busy spring. He and his wife settled on a new house in Middletown in late April, and are looking forward to the birth of their first child later this month.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Bloom season kicks into high gear for garden enthusiasts

April 11, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

In April, bloom season kicks into high gear in Delaware. In fact, it might be the single best month to get outside and enjoy the views at the area’s world-class gardens.

At Winterthur, the Winterhazel Walk will soon be the star of the show, reports Linda Eirhart, assistant director of horticulture for the museum, which features a 60-acre naturalistic garden in the midst of nearly 1,000 acres of land.

Delaware bloom season kicks off“The cold weather has held things back but before long the Winterhazel Walk will dazzle with its combination of soft yellow winter hazel and the warm lavender of Korean rhododendron. This is under planted with hellebores, which are still going strong,” she says.

These species are non-native but many of Winterthur’s native plants will soon be in bloom, too. Bloodroot is a sweet little perennial with pure white, cup-shaped flowers. You can find it in Azalea Woods and other wooded areas and thickets throughout the property.

Spring beauty is another little charmer, sporting white petals with stripes that vary from pale pink to bright pink. Like bloodroot, it grows in woodlands. Pay attention to weather conditions during your visit to Winterthur. If it’s warm and sunny, spring beauty will open its petals but on a cloudy day or at night the petals close up and nod downward.

Winterthur’s bluebells aren’t in bloom quite yet but the buds have appeared and will soon burst into bloom. Eirhart says that bluebell is her favorite native wildflower.

“I love the bluebell’s shades of blues and the touch of pink and purple you can get in the blossoms,” she says. “Between the color of the flower buds and the last fading flowers, there is a good length of time of color interest.”

Sue Barton also is a fan of Virginia bluebells, which grow in clusters near the creek on her property. “It’s fun to come upon a mass of bluebells while walking in the woods,” says Barton, who is ornamental horticulture specialist for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

But it’s flowering redbuds, not bluebells, that signal that spring has sprung to Barton.

“The redbud has an extremely colorful, dark purple or pink flower and an unusual habit of flowers borne directly on the stem,” she says. “I like the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar because of its attractive bronze foliage.”

This small native tree grows wild in many of Delaware woodlands. As you buzz down I-95, check out the large stand of redbuds by the roadside, just south of Wilmington. For a more leisurely setting to enjoy redbud blooms, head to the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens. You can find flowering redbuds there, and a whole lot more.

“In bloom, or soon to bloom, are a number of natives, including silverbells, fothergilla, serviceberry, redbud, dogwood and pawpaw,” says Claudia Bradley, nursery coordinator for the UD Botanic Gardens.

She is particularly fond of fothergilla and tends to it not only in UD’s gardens but also in her own home garden. “I always look forward to seeing the fothergilla in flower,” says Bradley. “I like its bottlebrush white flowers now and, then, in fall, its awesome red color.”

Mt. Cuba Center is another great place to check out spring blooms, especially since it’s expanding its public hours. Starting April 19, you won’t need a reservation to visit on Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (From May 3 to July 26, the gardens will stay open until 7 p.m. on Fridays.)  Guided tours will still be available by reservation on other days and times.

Chilly weather delayed some of the blooms at Mt. Cuba, just as it as at Winterthur and other area gardens. But now that it has warmed up, native spring ephemerals will soon emerge in Mt. Cuba’s woodlands, reports Jeanne Frett, a research horticulturist at the center. Look for flowering liverleaf, trout lily, bloodroot, rue-anemone, cut-leaf toothwort and Dutchman’s breeches.

Trees and shrubs also are starting to bloom at Mt. Cuba. If you’d like some April flowering shrubs in your own yard, Frett suggests American bladdernut and spicebush.

“Both of these are found locally in the woodlands and at Mt. Cuba Center,” says Frett. “They’re very appropriate choices for creating your own naturalistic gardens using locally native species.”

Spicebush is one of Delaware’s most common native shrubs. On the female plants, small clusters of yellow flowers appear now, and later develop into red fruit. American bladdernut isn’t the most beautiful April bloomer but it could be the most interesting.

“More of a curiosity than a specimen shrub, the American bladdernut has bell-shaped flowers that develop into three-lobed, inflated, brown papery capsules later in the season,” says Frett.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Magnolias featured plant at 2013 UD Botanic Gardens sale

April 2, 2013 under CANR News

UDBG fall plant sale features magnoliasJohn Frett is a like a kid in a candy store when it comes to choosing magnolias for the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens plant sale – he wants them all.

“How can one resist those magnificent flowers, some appearing in early spring, some in late spring or summer,” notes Frett, who is director of the gardens. “Then there is the fragrance, the evergreen foliage and, to round out the package, colored fruits in the fall. I would love to include every magnolia variety in the sale, but I have to pare down my selection to a few exquisite gems.”

Magnolias are one of the featured plants at this year’s plant sale, to be held April 26-27. Many gardeners like to plant early blooming (and non-native) magnolias, such as Magnolia ‘genie,’ which will be available at the sale. But there is distinct advantage to the native varieties, says Frett.

“You need to be patient because our native magnolias don’t flower until mid- to late season, from about mid-April until summer. But on the upside, you won’t need to worry about frost damage like you do with saucer magnolia and the other early bloomers,” he says.

A few early magnolias could be close to bloom when Frett leads garden walks on April 3-4 that focus on magnolias and other plant sale highlights. The gardens feature an extensive magnolia collection centered around Townsend Hall and also in a large planting near the UD swimming pool.  If time allows, Frett will duck into the greenhouses to show off container plants started from seed by UD students.

“The sale is a real learning opportunity,” says Frett. “A number of our undergraduate classes take part in starting seeds and grad students help with propagation.”

One of the rare magnolias offered at the sale is Magnolia ashei Ash Magnolia, a native with coarse leaves that can get as large as 18 inches long. “It gives the plant a real tropical feel,” says Frett.

At maturity, Magnolia ashei Ash Magnolia will reach 15 to 20 feet. If you don’t have a lot of space, instead consider a dwarf magnolia such as Sweet Thing, a dwarf cultivar of native sweetbay. This little guy tops out at 5 to 8 feet in high after 15 to 20 years.

Rhododendron is another plant that is well represented at the sale. Six different selections are offered, all of them native. The Catawba rhododendron, which features dark-red flowers in late May, is probably the most common native rhodo in local gardens. And for good reason. It’s known to be an excellent performer and is a good food source for butterflies and hummingbirds.

If you enjoy surprises, pick up a flame azalea for your yard. Another butterfly friendly selection, this plant features vivid orange blooms. Or yellow, pink, salmon or scarlet ones. The plant flowers in May so it’s anyone’s guess which color you’ll be getting at the UD sale.

Guided walks

April 3-4:  Learn about plants offered at the sale during a stroll through the UD Botanic Gardens. 4 p.m. $10. To register call 831-2531 or email botanicgardens@udel.edu.

Plant sale

April 26, 3-7 p.m., and April 27, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sale is located across from Fischer Greenhouse on UD’s South Campus in Newark. For more information, call 831-2531 or email botanicgardens@udel.edu.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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