CANR announces 2013 Benton Award winners

July 29, 2013 under CANR News

benton-award-winnersThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that Jacquelyn Marchese and Michelle Windle are the winners of the 2013 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards.

The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Jacquelyn Marchese

Marchese received her master’s degree from the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in May. Of the award, she said she was “honored that I was even nominated, so it was pretty cool that I won. I was definitely very grateful.”

Marchese’s research has dealt with bumblebees and how they can be used to pollinate certain crops in Delaware, such as watermelon, cucumbers and strawberries.

After graduating, she decided to take some time off and go on a cross-country road trip before settling into the professional world.

Marchese acknowledged her adviser, Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, and the rest of her committee: Gordon Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Vincent D’Amico, supplemental faculty in entomology and wildlife ecology; and Joanne Whalen, Cooperative Extension specialist in entomology and wildlife ecology.

Michelle Windle

Windle, a doctoral student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences who previously received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CANR, said her doctoral research focuses on silage, specifically how to increase the digestibility of starch earlier in the ensiling process to make it more readily available for cows to digest, which will in turn help them have more energy and produce more milk.

In addition to her research, Windle has also been a teaching assistant for many classes in fields as diverse as animal nutrition, which she taught for five years, production and genetics. She has traveled extensively to conduct research and present papers, and has given talks at conferences.

Windle said that it was an honor to receive the award, especially in light of the fact that she has interacted with some past winners. “That was really neat. It was an honor. I’ve known some of the other people who have gotten it, Laura Nemec and Kirsten Hirneisen, and it was an honor to be included with them.”

Windle pointed out that she could not say enough about her adviser Limin Kung, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences who has been exceptionally helpful throughout her time at UD.

“I can’t talk about Dr. Kung enough. The guy is awesome,” she said. “He’s got drive, excitement, he thinks silage is cool, and he’s got the ability to inspire that in other students. He just genuinely wants to see you do well.”

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD Extension researchers look to blueberries as a small wonder for Delaware

June 27, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Blueberries,Vaccinium corymbosum, the tiny, sweet blue fruits touted for their health benefits are growing as a favorite among fruit lovers and health-conscious people everywhere. With consumer demand trending toward buying local, blueberries could be a no-brainer bonanza for the First State. For Delaware to do it right, knowing the best varieties to plant and documenting the ideal growing conditions for commercial production is essential.emmalea ernest works with blueberries

At the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and beyond, Emmalea Ernest is informally known as “the lima bean lady” in part for her research efforts to build a better lima bean, a vegetable crop that has enjoyed success and prominence in Delaware.

An Extension agent and fruit and vegetable researcher, based at UD’s Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, Ernest works closely with her colleague, Gordon Johnson,  Vegetable and Fruit Extension Specialist. Ernest’s efforts have focused on evaluating varieties of crops that can be grown in Delaware for commercial production. Though lima bean breeding remains her specialty and area of doctoral study, Ernest also conducts trials of sweet corn, lettuce, watermelon, pole beans and for the third year in a row, blueberries are part of her research repertoire.

“Not a lot of Delaware acreage is devoted to blueberries at present,” Ernest explains, “but there is a lot of interest from growers.” Ernest’s research will provide valuable information on what varieties produce the best yield and taste for success in Delaware.

Since 2011, rows of blueberries-in waiting occupy approximately a third of an acre at the Thurman G. Adams Agricultural Research Farm part of  Carvel’s 344 acre complex. In all,  each of 23 blueberry varieties, with names like Aurora, Sweetheart, Star, Reka, and Chandler, to name only a few, are part of the large, multi-year study. In addition to the Carvel site, Ernest is conducting variety trials and other studies in collaboration with Hail Bennett, of  Bennett Orchards in Frankford.

In the first two years, Ernest and her “veggie team” have been pinching off the flower blossoms, preventing fruit production.

Stopping blossoms from progressing into blueberries allows the plant to become fully and firmly established. This summer, the third year of research has been the charm, or at least a change for the senses. This summer they will see and taste the fruit of their labors.

Ernest refers to her crop as “my blueberries” but she is willing to share their various shapes, sizes and flavors, as well as give  credit to her team of interns and UD colleagues for the hard work. This summer, the study will benefit from volunteer Master Gardeners who will help harvest the 275-plus bushes as they ripen. Size, weight, color, taste and overall health will be logged in and evaluated. While she is curious to receive feedback from others about their taste and texture, Ernest’s trials currently concentrate on the results of soil amendments, mulching techniques and specific variety’s response to Delaware’s seasons and weather conditions.  The varieties reach their peak at different times in the summer, important knowledge that will help growers to expand their production over several months.

Blueberries are relatively disease free Ernest explains, and while her research plot has yet to be picked off by birds, she anticipates they will be a major issue for the crop. Currently, uncovered, Ernest says there are plans to enclose the entire trial area with a trellis covered by one large net.

Also working closely with Ernest is Extension IPM Specialist Joanne Whalen, who monitors the plots for the presence of  spotted-wing drosophila, a potential, pesky fruit fly for the crop. The best bird netting won’t stop visits from fruit flies, however. If the presence of the spotted-wing becomes more of an issue, Extension experts will seek to find a solution to the pests the berries turn from green to blue and violet, they are picked and weighed from each bush. Taste tests at this stage are informal, with Carvel’s staff serving as willing taste critics.

Three different experiments are being conducted at the trial site. In addition to the variety trial, the team is evaluating blueberries’ response to various soil and mulches that she and her team apply.

Blueberries are traditionally planted with peat moss under the root, Ernest explains. They are evaluating less-costly alternatives. Materials being tested include pine bark fines, waste silage, composted saw dust horse bedding, chipped-up construction waste wood, and for control, no amendments at all. Mulching materials include the same list of ingredients, and also chopped corn stalks. The ongoing results are published in a vegetable and small fruit blog she and Gordon Johnson maintain,  and articles also appear in the Weekly Crop Update.

“Blueberries like wet conditions,” Ernest said, acknowledging that a very wet June has been good for the blueberry’s first year of production.”They’ve been very happy this summer,” Ernest said. “They do well in bog-like conditions, but they aren’t an aquatic plant.”

Ernest plans to collect data for several more years before being comfortable making recommendations to area growers.  Conducting successful variety trials, soil amendment studies and mulching recommendations can only be executed across an array of conditions and time. It is exacting work where patience is a virtue.

Ernest, ever the scientist, is nonetheless excited about the prospects of bigger and better blueberry crops in Delaware. “I think people will get more excited about them than lima beans,” Ernest admits. “I have no shortage of people offering to eat them.”

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

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Central Delaware residents find biting flies peskier than usual this season

June 13, 2012 under Cooperative Extension

Have you had more unwanted guests at your backyard barbecues this year?

Other Delawareans are sharing your pain.

We’re not talking about that pesky, loquacious neighbor or the cousin who stays long after everyone has left, we’re referring to biting flies ruining your good times.

“This is shaping up to be a bad season for flies,” says Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “Most of the calls I’ve received from the public this spring have been about biting flies.”

At Greg Mannering’s home in Bear, the flies have been bothersome. “I noticed deer flies early; they’re worst in shady areas,” says Mannering.

Unfortunately, Mannering resides in one of the buggiest parts of the state – this season, anyway. “Middletown seems to be the worst area for flies but the entire central portion of the state – Bear to Smyrna — has been impacted,” notes Kunkel. “It’s the same way with stink bugs and other pests — outbreaks often are localized.”

Beyond that, Bear and Middletown feature a good amount of the habitat that deer fly need to survive — marshes and wetlands. While adult deer flies can live in a variety of places, as long as water is nearby, deer fly larvae appear to be limited to aquatic habitats, including marshes, ponds and streams.

But even if you don’t live near a marsh, chances are you’ve got plenty of flies keeping you company. In the U.S., there are about 16,000 species of flies. However, compared to other countries, Americans get off easy — worldwide, an estimated 145,000 species exist. Only the polar ice caps are devoid of flies.

Entomologists call this order of insects Diptera but most people know them as flies, gnats, maggots, midges, mosquitoes, keds, bots and various other names. Whatever you call them, they’re frequently annoying, often costly, and sometimes downright dangerous.

Flies are expensive and not just because of all those citronella candles you buy before barbecues. Flies contaminate or destroy $10 billion worth of agricultural products annually in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Delaware, the two flies that farmers worry about most are seed corn maggot and Hessian fly, according to Joanne Whalen, the integrated pest management specialist for UD Cooperative Extension. Seed corn maggot is a slender, light gray fly that feeds not only on corn but on soybean and many vegetable crops.

“Seed corn maggot was a major pest of peas this spring,” reports Whalen.

The larval stage of Hessian fly can be an issue in wheat and was a problem a number of years ago. In recent seasons, this fly hasn’t caused much damage to Delaware crops, says Whalen.

As for the danger flies hold, consider that more than 100 pathogens are associated with the common house fly, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, E. coli and Shigella. Flies are efficient at spreading disease because they move quickly from things like rotting garbage to landing on your picnic lunch (without washing their feet off in-between).

But many species of flies don’t transmit disease and, in fact, actually serve a beneficial function. The hoverfly, which looks like a small bee, eats aphids and other pests.  And a species known as the long-legged fly gobbles up mosquitoes.

“Not all flies are bad,” notes Kunkel. “Some are pests, some are beneficial and some are categorized as incidental — they neither injure nor aid us.”

To keep the bad guy flies away from your outdoor events, Kunkel suggests several control measures.

Research has shown that citronella and other essential oils are effective natural fly repellants. So stock up on citronella candles; they really do work, says Kunkel.

Mannering also uses natural methods to combat deer flies at his Bear home. “What I do is grab an herb like rosemary or thyme in my garden or some marigolds and rub my hands to help repel the flies and mosquitoes,” he says.

Kunkel has heard good things from Extension colleagues about some of the new personal bug zappers. These appliances are meant to be clipped to a belt loop or worn in a holster.

What doesn’t work well, says the UD entomologist, is DEET and other chemical measures.

“It’s cost-prohibitive to spray your yard with DEET and not very effective, either,” notes Kunkel. “It also can present environmental concerns. Plus, I think many people are uncomfortable with the idea of spraying themselves and their kids with DEET every time they go outside.”

Learn more

Got a fly question that’s bugging you? Meet Brian Kunkel and other UD Extension experts at the June 20 open house at the Native Teaching Garden at the New Castle County Extension office in Newark. Master Gardeners are sponsoring this event, which is free and runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Call 831-COOP for more info.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD Professors, Extensions Specialists present at Ag Week

January 18, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Professors from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Cooperative Extension Specialists were well represented at the 7th annual Delaware Agriculture Week, giving presentations and moderating discussion panels throughout the week for members of the agricultural community.

This year’s Delaware Ag Week runs from Jan. 16-21, with the majority of events taking place at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware. Delaware Ag Week is an on-going collaboration between The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Delaware Ag Week aims to provide useful and timely information to the agricultural community and industry through educational meetings and events, as well as allowing for networking and fellowship with old and new acquaintances. There are also many opportunities to receive nutrient management, pesticide and certified crop advisor continuing education credits.

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, University of Delaware professors and extension specialists gave numerous presentations during the “Processing Vegetables” sessions that took place during the morning and afternoon. Emmalea Ernest, extension vegetable crops associate, gave two lectures during the morning highlighting her trials with sweet corn and lima beans, as well as moderating the afternoon session.

Other presenters included Mark VanGessel, a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences as well as an extension weed science specialist, Gordon Johnson, assistant professor of plant and soil science and an extension fruit and vegetable specialist, Kate Everts, an adjunct associate professor of plant and soil sciences, Joanne Whalen, an extension integrated pest management specialist in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Bob Mulrooney, an extension plant pathologist.

Presentations will continue on Thursday, Jan. 19, with sessions on agronomy and soybeans scheduled for the morning and the afternoon at the Delaware State Fairgrounds Dover Building.

Delaware Ag Week will wrap up with the “Friends of Agriculture Breakfast” at 7:15 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 20 at the Harrington Fire Hall and then with a fruit and vegetable growers roundtable discussion on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Paradee Center in Dover, followed by a potluck lunch at noon. Registration for the “Friends of Ag Breakfast” is $20 and advance registration is preferred.

For more information on Delaware Ag Week, visit the website.

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Stink Bug Season

October 3, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Pull up the welcome mat; they’re back. It’s early fall in Delaware, which means pumpkins on the vine, apples on the trees and stink bugs in the house.

“Last year, I got a flood of calls about stink bugs during the last week of September,” said Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension. “Sure enough, this past week, Extension has been hearing from homeowners trying to get rid of stink bugs.”

“As the days grow shorter and the evening temperatures cooler, Delawareans are discovering these uninvited houseguests in their garages, porches and decks, as well as inside the house,” Kunkel said. “The brown marmorated stink bug becomes a nuisance pest when it heads inside to find overwintering sites.”

While merely an annoyance to most homeowners, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) poses an economic threat to Delaware agriculture. Fruit crops seem to be at greatest risk, especially peaches and apples. About 18 percent of the mid-Atlantic apple crop had stink bug damage last year, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

“West Virginia apple orchards experienced significant crop loss last season because of the BMSB,” Kunkel said. “Here at UD, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we don’t see the kind of crop loss that West Virginia had.”

Several of Kunkel’s colleagues in Extension and UD’s College of Agriculture and Nature Resources are researching BSMBs in soybean, lima bean, sweet corn, field corn and sweet pepper fields.

Two of the most active researchers are Joanne Whalen, the Extension’s integrated pest management specialist, and Bill Cissel, an Extension associate who is investigating stink bugs as part of his graduate studies.

Cissel and Whalen, assisted by two interns, are examining stink bugs in conditions similar to home yards and gardens, too. In UD’s Garden for the Community, a one-third-acre plot on the Newark campus, the duo surveyed stink bug nymphs, adults and egg masses on plants commonly grown in home gardens — tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, eggplant, sunflowers and bell peppers. Plus, they’re studying a plot of ornamental plants to see which plants stink bugs use as hosts.

Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland and the Delaware Soybean Board are some of the partners on one or more of these projects.

Although Delaware has several native stink bugs, BMSBs originates in Asia and were accidentally introduced to the United States. First collected in Allentown, Pa., in 1998, BMSBs have been spreading across the eastern half of the U.S. ever since.

Kunkel said spiders and birds have been known to eat BMSBs (he’s heard reports of house cats eating them, too) but the pest has no recognized natural predator here.

The USDA Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Lab, housed on UD’s campus, is investigating biocontrol measures. Biocontrol introduces natural predators into an environment to control, if not eradicate, the pest problem. But the rigorous research process and government approvals needed for biocontrol measures can take years, even decades.

Delaware’s farmers are asking for help now. So the focus of Whalen and Cissel’s research is on monitoring to determine when to control stink bugs, as well as which insecticides provide the best control.

Field observations in 2010 indicated that stink bug infestations usually start on the perimeters of fields, Cissel noted. “We’re studying whether perimeter applications of insecticides will prevent stink bugs from penetrating the interior parts of soybean fields,” he said.

“In our corn research, we are trying to determine how much damage stink bugs are causing and when the plant is most sensitive to damage — is it when it’s silking, during grain fill or closer to harvest?”

Insect research projects typically run for two to three seasons, and most of the UD studies are in their first year. So it’s too early to discuss preliminary results, Cissel said, especially since the BMSBs weren’t as active this summer as previously.

“We had a really large outbreak last year,” Kunkel said, “but we’re not seeing those kinds of numbers this year.”

Tell that to Kathy Fichter, a resident of Chadds Ford, Pa.

“It’s just as bad as last year and it’s only the beginning of stink bug season here,” said Fichter, who always has a tissue at hand, ready to scoop up stink bugs. “My two sons won’t go near them, and these are boys who like bugs,” she said.

“Our neighborhood seems to be a ‘vacation destination’ for stink bugs. They come here by the hundreds, maybe even thousands,” she added. “My neighbors are in the same predicament. Yet, a few miles away, they aren’t such a nuisance.”

Kunkel isn’t surprised by Fichter’s stink bug woes, even though regional conditions are generally better. “Stink bug outbreaks — and insect outbreaks in general — tend to be localized,” he said. “We often hear of one neighborhood getting slammed while another neighborhood a half-mile away will have very few bugs.”

If the BMSB already has arrived at your house — or you want to make sure it doesn’t — take control measures now. The best thing you can do, Kunkel said, is to seal all cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes and chimneys. Often overlooked, he said, are the cracks that can appear around dryer vents and gaps around window air-conditioning units.

“Try to look on the bright side,” Kunkel said. “Stink bugs that get inside are helping you to winterize your house. Wherever they got in today is where the cold winter winds will, later this year.”

Article by Margo McDonough

This post also appears on UDaily.

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June 13: NCC small grains meeting

June 7, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

A New Castle County small grains meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 13 from 5:30 to 8:30 with refreshments thereafter.  The meeting will feature information on the small grain trials with a yield guessing contest for the brave at heart with a prize of 50 bushels of the top yielding variety at Middletown for you to plant this fall.

New Castle County Small Grains Meeting
June 13, 2011
Middletown UD Coop. Ext. Demonstration Site
Marl Pit Road, approx. 1 mile East of Rt. 301/71
Middletown, DE

 

5:30 pm                      Sign-in
6:00 to 6:45 pm          Tour Small Grain Variety Trial plots with Bob Uniatowski
6:45 to 7:00 pm          Small Grain Disease Update with Bob Mulrooney
7:00 to 7:30 pm          Insect Management Update for 2011, Joanne Whalen
7:30 to 8:00 pm          Weed Control Issues to Consider, Dr. Mark VanGessel
8:00 to 8:15 pm          Market Update, Carl German
8:15 to 8:30 pm          Fertility Issues and Reminders, Dr. Richard Taylor
8:30                             Refreshments and General Discussion

Special Note:  Bob Uniatowski will again be conducting the “Guess the Top Yielding Wheat” contest this year for NCC.  The winner will receive 50  bushels of the wheat variety that comes out tops in the Middletown Wheat Variety Trials in 2011.

 

For more information contact Richard Taylor at rtaylor@udel.edu.

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Twilight Tour with Bees

August 23, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

The Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) and UD Cooperative Extension are presenting a Twilight Tour with Bees from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM on Monday, August 30, 2010, at Lister Acres, 5417 Milford-Harrington Highway, Harrington, Delaware.

DDA and UD staff will have tour stops demonstrating the importance of healthy, abundant bee populations to Delaware’s fruit and vegetable crops, the diversity of native bees found in the state, and farm management to enhance pollinator conservation.

The speakers from DDA include Entomologist Heather Harmon Disque, State Apiarist Bob Mitchell from DDA. Assistant Professor Dr. Debbie Delaney, Extension Entomologist Joanne Whalen, and Vegetable Specialist Gordon Johnson are among the speakers from UD. Funding for the event is provided by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant.

The nearly 4,000 species of bees found in the United States are the premier pollinators of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as a wide variety of native plants. Protecting and conserving bees is vital to our food supply and our quality of life.

The Twilight Tour with Bees is the culminating event in the four-year long SARE grant funded pollinator initiative (Farming for Native Bees) undertaken by DDA and UD. From 2006-2010, several thousand native bees were collected from vegetable farms as well as state parks and lands. These bees represent more than 100 species. Of these, 18 were state records, namely bees that had not been collected in the state before. Assessments of bee population diversity, and pollinator conservation farming practices were conducted on 15 farms. The project also produced two publications, “Delaware Native Plants for Native Bees” and “Farm Management for Native Bees”, funded by NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). The host of the Twilight Tour, Chuck Hurd, was chosen as the 2008 National Pollinator Conservationist of the Year by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. For information on attending the event, contact DDA at 302-698-4577.

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