Call of the Blue Hen

September 15, 2011 under CANR News

Channel 6 Action News anchor and UD alum, Matt O’Donnell, visited the CANR farm this week to visit our blue hens for a segment about the new “Call of the Blue Hen” that will be played at home football games after the Fightin’ Blue Hens score a touchdown.

Watch the segment online by clicking here.

Many thanks to animal and food sciences instructor, Bob Alphin, for his work on the segment.

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Fresh milk

July 20, 2011 under CANR News

For the first time, milk produced by the dairy herd on the University of Delaware campus is being distributed on campus.

The distribution comes thanks to a partnership between the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Hy-Point Dairy of Wilmington, Del., which is the sole distributor of UD-produced milk.

Since June, all of the milk produced by the University’s 100-head dairy herd has been sent to Hy-Point and, for the first time, the milk produced on campus has been distributed back to the University community.

Hy-Point Dairy is owned by Jay Meany, a 1981 graduate of CANR, and has long been an established partner in UD’s dairy initiatives.  The Meany family includes several UD alumni, including not only Jay Meany but also Jessica Meany, a 2007 CANR graduate, and Dan Meany, a 2009 CANR graduate.

“We all take pride in our connection with UD, both as alumni and business partners,” said Dan Meany, who was also a member of the original business plan team for the UDairy Creamery in 2008. “Hy-Point continues to be dedicated to the development, establishment and overall progress of dairy initiatives at the University.”

From assisting with the initial business plan to providing countless hours of support and advice on planning and implementation efforts, the Meany family and others at Hy-Point have been instrumental in the overall success of the UDairy Creamery.

The milk distributed by Hy-Point will be sold in all of the on-campus markets and provided in the dining halls. And it will continue to be used for UDairy ice cream.

“We are fully-committed to local purchasing when possible and this new agreement with UD and Hy-Point will bring important sustainable efforts full-circle,” said Robin Moore, director of operations for dining services.

The UD dairy, located on the 350-acre CANR complex in Newark, not only provides milk for the University but also serves as a living laboratory for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Our college is very happy to enter into this partnership with Hy-Point, a local business that has been extremely supportive to us, especially in our efforts to start the UDairy Creamery,” said Tom Sims, deputy dean of CANR and the T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry. “Our new cooperation with Hy-Point will allow students, faculty and staff at UD to enjoy locally-produced milk from our dairy every day. This is consistent with our college’s efforts to not only teach but demonstrate the principles of agricultural sustainability to our students.”

Read the full article on UDaily by clicking here.

To learn more about CANR’s dairy research program, visit the website.

Learn more about the UDairy Creamery at this website.

Article by Rachael Dubinsky

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Sweet watermelons

July 15, 2011 under CANR News

Delaware watermelon connoisseurs are enjoying the moment – local watermelons are now ripe and ready to enjoy. Local watermelons are sweeter and tastier than the out-of-state melons available earlier in the summer, claim their aficionados.

“Local watermelons do taste pretty sweet. And buying local produce when it’s in season helps to support our local growers,” notes Phillip Sylvester, agriculture agent for Kent County Cooperative Extension.

The state’s watermelon crop typically ripens by July 10 and continues through Sept. 25, with the most active harvest period in mid-August.  Delaware’s watermelon industry has declined slightly in recent years but is still strong.  There are more than 2,700 acres of watermelon in Delaware, down from 3,000 acres five years ago. Crop production is currently valued at $11 million annually.

Sylvester always plants watermelons in his home garden in Felton but the bulk of commercial growing takes place further south, in and around Laurel. The well-drained, sandy soils in western Sussex County are excellent for watermelon growing.

This area has been the seat of Delaware’s commercial melon industry since the 1850s, when schooners loaded with watermelon traveled the Nanticoke River to Baltimore and points beyond. More recently, the Laurel Farmers’ Auction Market opened in 1940 to bring wholesale watermelon buyers and sellers together. At one time the price of virtually every Delaware watermelon was negotiated at the Laurel Market. Today, supermarket chains send brokers directly to growers but the market is still used by small- and medium-sized buyers.

Sylvester grows “Crimson Sweet” watermelons because he says they have an exceptionally sweet taste. But this striped heirloom melon will never win any popularity contests, tasty as it might be, because of what some view as an unforgivable downfall – its seeds.

“I don’t care if a watermelon has seeds,” says Sylvester, “but most people do.”

In the 1990s, less than 1 percent of watermelons were seedless. Today, about 75 percent of the watermelons sold in the U.S. are seedless varieties. A seedless watermelon plant contains three sets of chromosomes and is sterile so it must be pollinated by a second plant to set fruit. As a result, growers must pay strict attention to the pollination needs of their seedless watermelon crops. Most growers rent or own honeybee hives but some have started to use bumblebees. UD bee researcher Debbie Delaney and Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetable specialist Gordon Johnson are working with watermelon growers this summer to see if bumblebees improve crop productivity.

Kate Everts also is conducting watermelon research but her projects focus on combating Fusarium wilt. This pestilent pathogen causes one of the most economically significant watermelon diseases worldwide. It causes wilt and plant death early in the season and again when the plant is in fruit. Once a field exhibits severe Fusarium wilt, it’s off limits for watermelon growing for 15 or more years.

Everts, who holds a joint appointment at the University of Delaware and the University of Delaware, collaborates closely with Extension specialists Emmalea Earnest and Gordon Johnson. Her research team focuses on several areas: they’re developing plants resistant to Fusarium wilt, exploring chemical disease measures, and looking at how cover crops can suppress this nasty fungus.

Sylvester is diligent about helping commercial growers obtain maximum yields but when it comes to his own watermelon plot, he adopts a laidback attitude. Though the ag agent know his way around a garden, sometimes pests or weather get the best of his watermelons. Every spring he tells himself “maybe we’ll have watermelons, maybe we won’t.”

However, this summer he hopes for a bumper crop because his 1 1/2-year-old son, Henry, shows a liking for watermelon. What could be better than a “Crimson Sweet,” grown in the backyard by Dad?

Article by Margo McDonough

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MSNBC news program features CANR chickens, ACRES hydrogen storage research

April 1, 2011 under CANR News

MSNBC came to campus asking questions about the future of energy. Thursday, March 31 the cable network aired what it learned.

UPDATE: See the aired segment online here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31510813/#42364876

Dylan Ratigan, host of The Dylan Ratigan Show, and a television crew taped a segment on the University of Delaware’s Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources (ACRES) program. Chemical engineering doctoral student Erman Senoz detailed in an interview how the research group uses chicken feathers to store hydrogen for use in cars, buses and other forms of transport.

The segment aired as part of the show’s “Steel on Wheelsfeature, which Ratigan labels as a road trip tackling the nation’s most important issues. He includes energy in that list.

The ACRES program, headed by Richard Wool, professor of chemical engineering, designs and develops bio-based materials for use in various renewable energy projects, from fuel cells to energy efficient housing.

While in Newark, the MSNBC crew taped at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources‘ chicken houses, where Allen Laboratory manager Bob Alphin gave them a tour. They also viewed one of UD’s hydrogen buses, the product of work conducted by UD’s Center for Fuel Cell Research.

The original UDaily posting can be viewed online here.

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College converts cow pasture into thriving wetland

May 19, 2010 under CANR News

Several times a week, Chad Nelson begins his workday with a trek through a wetland near his Townsend Hall office on the University of Delaware’s Newark campus. With spring in full swing, he enjoys the sight of the butterflies, migratory songbirds, mallard ducks and their ducklings, frogs and tadpoles that make the wetland their warm-weather home.

Later this summer Nelson, an assistant professor of landscape design in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will be on the look out for dragonflies. And even in winter, he says the wetland teems with life, with such species as glossy ibis and over-wintering songbirds.

Two years ago, about the only animal life this two-acre site supported were dairy cows and migrating Canada geese.

Jenny McDermott, facilities manager for the college, spearheaded the effort to convert a poorly draining cow pasture into a wetland.

Her go-to man on the project was Tom Barthelmeh, who is a wetlands restoration expert with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

“This project had a lot of challenges and Tom’s help was integral,” says McDermott. “Our goal in creating this wetland was not only to provide wildlife habitat but to improve water quality in the White Clay watershed.”

Once it is fully operational, the wetland will reduce runoff to Cool Run, which is a tributary of White Clay Creek. And that’s just one of the ways it will help the watershed.

The University’s farm and main campus are where Cool Run starts, the headwaters of the stream, and thus are a critical area for influencing environmental quality.

“Wetlands, especially in this area, do a lot of good things for a watershed,” explains McDermott. “By taking the pressure off the rate and volume of water that flows into a stream, wetlands reduce problems caused by stormwater runoff downstream.”

From a wildlife habitat perspective, the wetland gets high marks from Doug Tallamy, chairperson of UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

“The new wetlands will raise the carrying capacity of the UD Farm for decades,” says Tallamy. “The wet areas churn out insects that develop on detritus. These support swifts, martins, swallows and bats. Wading birds eat the aquatic insects and frogs in the wet areas. The wetland also provides habitats for breeding birds. It’s very productive. And none of this was happening when it was a cow pasture.”

Barthelmeh says he enjoyed the project, especially because it gave him the opportunity to mentor students. UD undergraduate and graduate students were involved in every aspect of the project, from site design and installation to the two rounds of planting that occurred, most recently last October.

Nelson spearheaded plant design with plenty of assistance from his students. Almost 2,000 trees, shrubs and perennial seed plugs have been planted at the site, ranging from blue flag iris, which provides purple-blue spring blooms; buttonbush, which blooms in summer; bald cypress, with its brilliant rusty orange fall foliage; and winterberry holly, known for its red berries in winter.

A whopping 90 percent of the first year’s planting survived despite dry planting conditions and some damage by waterfowl.

“I was concerned last year because a lot of Canada geese were browsing the wetland but most of the damage wasn’t significant since it was confined to the stalks and not the roots,” says Nelson.

The wetland is one component of a comprehensive plan to make the UD Farm a model of sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture.

McDermott is now busy overseeing other conservation projects. Additional channel and wetland restoration will take place along the entire length of the Cool Run tributary running through the farm. A stormwater retrofit will address building and parking lot runoff that flows into Cool Run.

“These restoration efforts wouldn’t be possible without a lot of partners within the university, from DNREC and from the New Castle Conservation District,” says McDermott. “Grant funding from several DNREC departments and from the University’s alumni-supported Sustainability Fund have been matched by funding from our college to not only implement environmental protection but to provide a teaching opportunity for students and a demonstration of watershed protection.”

The UD wetland has been utilized as an outdoor classroom by landscape design, landscape construction, ornithology, wildlife management and wildlife ecology students. And it serves a public education function, as well, especially now that it has become a part of the UD Botanic Gardens.

“We offered wetland tours on Earth Day and Ag Day and the public is welcome to take self-guided tours any day from dawn to dusk,” says McDermott. “Wetlands are sometimes seen as a ‘no man’s land.’ We want people to appreciate the positive impact they can have on water quality and the diversity of wildlife they support. Wetlands are incredibly important.”

To learn more, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the UD Botanic Gardens wetland from dawn to dusk daily. The wetland is located on UD’s Farm off Route 896 in Newark, near the Girl Scouts building.

Click here to see the article with photos online on UDaily.

Article by Margo McDonough
Photos by Danielle Quigley

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Food safety training offered to potential on-farm food entrepreneurs on April 3

March 11, 2010 under CANR News

Dr. Sue Snider, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, will provide food safety training for potential on-farm food entrepreneurs who wish to produce non-potentially hazardous foods in their licensed on-farm kitchen. The eight hour training will be held at the Delaware Department of Agriculture on Saturday, April 3, 2010 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Beverages will be provided. Participants are asked to bring their own lunch.

Participants must complete eight hours of training and pass a written test on the materials presented in order to receive a certificate and be eligible to have their on-farm kitchen inspected and licensed.

As a result of training in food safety, participants will be able to:
• Identify potentially hazardous and non-potentially hazardous foods,
• Appreciate foodborne pathogens and understand ways to control them,
• Apply basic principles to reduce the risk of foodborne illness
• Evaluate their plan for controlling potential microbial problems in their operation, and
• Understand requirements of the regulations for farm produced non-potentially hazardous food items.

In January 2006, Delaware’s regulations governing “On-Farm Home Processing of Non-Potentially Hazardous Foods” were adopted. Farmers who wish to process non-potentially hazardous foods in their on-farm home kitchens for sale to the public at farmers’ markets, on-farm markets, or roadside stands must abide by these regulations. These regulations established standards of practice for on-farm home food processing operations that safeguard public health and provide consumers with food that is safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented.

The regulations provide definitions, define operator qualifications, and establish operation food safety and physical facility requirements. Non-potentially hazardous foods include:
• Baked breads, cakes, muffins, or cookies with a water activity of .85 or less;
• Candy (non-chocolate);
• Containerized fruit preparations consisting of jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades, and fruit butters with an equilibrated pH of 4.6 or less or a water activity of 0.85 or less;
• Fruit pies with an equilibrated pH of 4.6 or less;
• Herbs in vinegar with an equilibrated pH of 4.6 or less;
• Honey and herb mixtures;
• Dried fruit and vegetables;
• Spices or herbs
• Maple syrup and sorghum
• Snack items such as popcorn, caramel corn, and peanut brittle
• Roasted nuts

Under the regulations, potential on-farm food entrepreneurs will be required to have eight hours of food safety training and have their farm kitchens inspected.

Copies of these regulations and applications are available on the Delaware Department of Agriculture website: www.dda.delaware.gov

On-farm kitchens will be inspected by appointment.

For more information, to register for the training, or to receive a copy of the regulations, please call or e-mail Sheree Nichols at the Delaware Department of Agriculture:
Phone: (800) 282-8685 (DE only) or (302) 698-4521
E-Mail: sheree.nichols@state.de.us

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