UD’s Sparks to chair national soil science committee

April 19, 2013 under CANR News

Donald SparksDonald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry at the University of Delaware, has been appointed to a three-year term as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science (USNC/SS).

From 1999 to 2008, he was an ex-officio member of the USNC/SS and has served as a full member of the committee since 2010.

The USNC/SS advises the National Academies on issues related to soil science and is also the formal representative of the U.S. soil science community to the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS). It provides input to the union on behalf of U.S. soil scientists, arranges for scientific meetings in the United States in consonance with the union’s objectives, and directs attention to soil science research needs.

“I am honored to serve as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science,” Sparks said. “Soil science is at the center of all the major global challenges we face today including water, land degradation, climate change, contamination and food security. As chair of the committee, I will work with my colleagues to promote the importance of soil and the discipline of soil science to the global community.”

“I cannot imagine a better lead representative of the U.S. soil science community than Don Sparks,” said Paul Bertsch, the outgoing chair of the USNC/SS and professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at the University of Kentucky. “He is among the most respected soil scientists worldwide. He brings critical leadership skills along with a deep recognition of the primary international soil science societies as well as the most important issues surrounding this global resource.”

The USNC/SS is one of several U.S. national committees focused on specific scientific disciplines within the National Research Council’s (NRC) Board on International Scientific Organizations. The national committees as a whole perform the dual function of fostering U.S. participation in international science and fortifying communication linkages between the U.S. and international scientific communities.

In addition to addressing research needs in their respective fields, the national committees are encouraged to work together to identify areas where cross-disciplinary teamwork may be more effective.

In addition to Sparks, the USNC/SS is composed of 10 at-large members, six members representing various allied scientific societies, and several ex officio and staff members representing the National Academies, of which the NRC is one branch. All committee members must be approved by the chair of the NRC.

Sparks has been active in the international soil science community for many years. He served as the president of the IUSS from 2002–06 and past president from 2006–10. In 2010 he received that organization’s von Liebig Medal for his outstanding contributions to soil science research and, most recently, was elected an honorary member of IUSS.

Sparks is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Soil Science Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the European Society of Geochemists. He has also served as president of the Soil Science Society of America.

Sparks has been a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources since 1979 and served as chair of the department for 20 years. He was the first recipient of UD’s Outstanding Graduate Advising and Mentoring Award. In 1996, he received the Francis Alison Award, the highest academic honor bestowed at UD.

Article by Beth Chajes

This article can also be found on UDaily.


Corn Hybrid Trial Tour, Meeting

August 16, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

All farmers and crop advisers are invited to attend the University of Delaware corn hybrid variety trial and twilight meeting on September 1, 2011. The corn hybrid plots will be open for viewing at this irrigated location starting at 4:00 p.m. Extension specialists will be on hand to discuss insect pest management in corn, management of diseases commonly found in our area, and weed control issues. Optimizing nutrient applications in corn will also be discussed. Dinner will be provided. CCA, DE Nutrient Management, and DE Pesticide credits will be available. Contact Phillip Sylvester, Extension Ag Agent, Kent County, with questions at 302-730-4000 or email at phillip@udel.edu.

When: Thursday, September 1, 2011
Time: 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Location: Dickerson Farms, 1730 Bayside Drive, Dover, DE (From Rt.1, take the Rt. 9 exit towards Little Creek. Farm entrance is on the right after Bergold Lane.)
Registration: Please RSVP by calling (302)-730-4000 by August 29 or email Phillip Sylvester phillip@udel.edu.

4:00 to 5:30 Sign-in and Tour Corn Hybrid Plots, Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist and Tecle Weldekidan, Scientist, UD
5:30 to 6:00 Dinner
6:00 to 6:20 Late season insect pest update, Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist, UD
6:20 to 6:40 Common corn diseases in Delaware, Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist, UD
6:40 to 7:00 Weed control issues in corn, Dr. Mark VanGessel, Extension Weed Specialist, UD
7:00 to 7:30 Optimizing nutrient applications in corn, Dr. Greg Binford, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist of Soil Fertility, UD

Submitted by Phillip Sylvester


CANR awards help University graduate students with research

May 26, 2011 under CANR News

The William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards and the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Fellowship Award have been helping University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) graduate students with their research since 2007, and this year’s winners are no exception.

Sudarshan Dutta in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences has been awarded the 2011 W.J. Benton Graduate Student Award for doctoral students and Jacob Fooks in the Department of Food and Resource Economics has been awarded the Benton Award for master’s students.

Matt Siebecker, a doctoral level student in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has received the 2011 Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Fellowship Award.

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.

Dutta is researching the transport of hormones in agricultural runoff from soils receiving poultry manure. Dutta explained that in many U.S. states, land application of poultry manure is a common practice and that it is important to make sure that this agricultural management practice is safe for the environment in all aspects.

Of the award, Dutta said, “I consider this award very motivating and helpful for a young researcher like me who wants to continue his career in research in an academic setting.”

Fooks’ primary research focuses on behavioral and experimental economics, revolving around the behavior of landowners in voluntary conservation programs. Fooks has also done work to reduce stigma towards individuals with HIV in Kenya and India, and he said that he is currently working on a project that measures the visual impact of offshore wind farms.

Fooks said that he was “very honored to be chosen for this award,” and credited his adviser, Kent Messer, assistant professor of food and resource economics, and the rest of the food and resource economics faculty for giving him support.

Read more at UDaily > >

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley


Master Gardeners offer vegetable garden workshops

February 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Vegetable gardening continues to surge in popularity. An estimated one in every three American households grows some type of veggies, whether it’s a solitary tomato plant on a deck or a showcase of raised beds with wrought-iron garden stakes, irrigation systems and obelisks for climbing vines.

With all this interest in growing edibles, it was a no-brainer for New Castle County Master Gardeners to choose a program focus this spring. Two thirds of the workshops are dedicated to edibles.

“Our vegetable workshops fill up right away so we decided to offer even more vegetable classes this year,” says Carrie Murphy, horticultural agent for New Castle County Cooperative Extension. “For the second year in a row we’ll have separate classes for novice and experienced gardeners. We’ll also present specialized sessions, such as a workshop devoted exclusively to growing berries and another on starting vegetables from seed.”

Classes get underway in less than two weeks and continue through May. The majority of the sessions are in March, when gardeners are finalizing their plans, and in the case of some crops, starting to plant.

In Delaware, commercial and home growers typically put seed potatoes in the ground on or around St. Patrick’s Day. The Master Gardeners’ potato planting demo, on March 19, details the best methods for success, including mounding techniques and container growing.

The demo appears to fill a need, says Gail Hermenau, a Master Gardener and head of the committee that develops the workshop schedule. “Last year, we offered a tour of our demonstration vegetable garden,” says Hermenau. “When we arrived at the mounded potato beds, a number of people said they didn’t know potatoes grew like that and wanted more information.”

A new tomato class also was created because of popular demand. “A lot of feedback came my way about holding a workshop specifically on tomatoes,” says Hermenau.

Tomatoes top the list of the most commonly homegrown vegetables (even though technically they’re a fruit). Now that more backyard gardeners are growing heirloom varieties, they’re combating new challenges. Heirlooms aren’t disease-resistant, like most hybrids, and they’re more susceptible to cracking and bruising. The March 31 workshop will focus on the pros and cons of heirlooms and other varieties, as well as site selection, seed sources, transplanting, fertilizing and more.

Programming for advanced gardeners includes a workshop on maximizing yields through succession planting, companion planting, crop spacing and other techniques.

Another way to learn about veggie growing is at a Garden Day, held in the Master Gardeners’ Native Teaching Garden on the second and fourth Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to noon, April through September.

On these days, Master Gardeners work in the garden, all the while explaining what they’re doing – from scouting for pests to the right way to weed. They’re happy to answer specific gardening questions, too.

Sussex Master Gardeners also will offer vegetable-oriented programs this spring, including a March 10 session that covers the basics of site location, soil, fertilizing and watering.

“New Gardener in Delaware?,” on May 12, will be useful for vegetable gardeners, as well as those primarily interested in ornamental gardens. This workshop focuses on how to overcome the challenges of growing plants in Sussex’s sand, salt, humidity and heat.

“People move here from Connecticut or the D.C. metro area and think that they can garden the same way they did in their old hometown,” notes Tracy Wootten, Extension horticultural agent for Sussex County. “But Sussex is unique. We teach you how to succeed as a gardener here.”

Check out the spring Master Gardener workshops online. New Castle County classes are at this website and Sussex County classes are at this website.

Register by calling 302-831-COOP in New Castle County. In Sussex, call 302-856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough
Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.