UD Extension Scholars involved in range of projects this summer

August 15, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Ask Donald Seifrit, Jr., what he does as a University of Delaware Extension Scholar and he hesitates before answering. It isn’t easy to sum up all the tasks he has taken on during this summer-long internship program.

Under the direction of Carrie Murphy, a horticulture agent in the New Castle County Extension office, he might start his morning by identifying fungus on a cherry branch or insect holes on a tomato leaf. He’ll then contact the gardener who dropped off the plant or insect sample and suggest solutions to the problem.

In the afternoon, he may head to a UD greenhouse where he’s working on three different research projects with Richard Taylor, an Extension agronomy specialist. Seifrit has been busy evenings and weekends, too, at events ranging from a farmers’ field meeting in Middletown to preparing for a community garden workshop in the Southbridge section of Wilmington.

The Extension Scholar program gives students and recent grads the opportunity to gain real-world experience as interns with UD Cooperative Extension.

Jan Seitz, former associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, created the program, which is supported by an endowment fund established by Dover growers Chet and Sally Dickerson.

“I’d like to work in industry, initially, but I also think it could be rewarding to get my teaching certification and be a high school agriculture or biology teacher,” says Seifrit, who graduated in June with a plant science degree. “The Extension Scholar program is giving me a taste of careers in which I could use my plant science degree.”

Andy Kness is another Extension Scholar with a new plant science degree from UD. Kness knows he wants to be a researcher and will be back in the classroom in September, pursuing a master’s degree in plant science. In the meantime, he’s working with Cooperative Extension entomologist Brian Kunkel.

One valuable lesson Kness has already learned is that research doesn’t always go smoothly. Take, for example, a stink bug project that he and Kunkel had planned to tackle this summer.

“It’s a dud; there’s nothing to talk about right now,” says Kunkel. That’s because the brown marmorated stink bug – that nonnative stink bug that has caused crop loss and landscape damage in Delaware – is in remarkably short supply this summer.

That’s good news for homeowners and farmers, not so good if you’re trying to evaluate the effectiveness of insecticides against the stink bug as well as the natural enemies that attack this pest. Kunkel and other UD researchers want to be able to present solutions when the stink bug does make its inevitable return.

One recent morning, a few forlorn stink bugs munched leaves in a rearing container while Kunkel and Kness focused their attention on the insect that has kept them busy this summer – red-headed flea beetles.

“These critters chew holes in plants and can cause significant destruction to nursery plants,” says Kness. “It’s not really a problem for homeowners as much as it for nurserymen. They can’t sell plants with flea beetle damage even though these plants aren’t really damaged and will look fine in their second season.”

Kness is assisting Kunkel with a project that could provide an environmentally sustainable way to control this beetle. The answer may lie in a tiny white worm, more formally known as entomopathogenic nematode. This parasitic worm attacks the larvae of the red-headed flea beetle by releasing bacteria that eventually kills it.

Two weeks ago, Kness introduced these worms into petri dishes filled with red-headed flea beetles to evaluate their usefulness. Next up, he and Kunkel will replicate the experiment in greenhouse plants and then out in the field.

Six students were named Extension Scholars this summer. The other interns have been working with military youth at Dover Air Force Base, developing State Fair programs, teaching 4-H equine camps and assisting with honey production at the UD apiary.

“I wish there had been something like this program when I was in school,” says Murphy. “I think it’s a fantastic way for students to learn job skills while gaining an understanding of the role that Extension plays in the community and the wide range of things that we do.”

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Cooperative Extension Equine Program launches educational blog

July 25, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Carissa Wickens, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension equine specialist and assistant professor of animal science, has developed an online educational resource for the equine community in Delaware and surrounding areas.

The UD Cooperative Extension Equine Blog was created to provide equine owners and the equine industry with up-to-date science-based information, and it offers valuable resources pertaining to horse care, management, health and the enjoyment of equine.

The blog aims to enhance opportunities to learn by connecting equine owners and enthusiasts with experts in the fields of equine and agricultural science, Wickens said.

The blog will include information on topics such as forage and pasture management, equine nutrition, equine behavior, equine health, upcoming events and educational programs. To provide the reader with a breadth of equine knowledge, links to additional equine-focused sites and resources are provided.

For questions not addressed in the posts, fact sheets or links included within the site, a recently added “Ask the Expert” section is available for further inquiries.

Wickens will continue to develop and improve the blog site in collaboration with colleagues Richard Taylor, Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist, and Susan Garey, extension agent, animal science, along with support from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications.


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.


Taylor helps farmers by testing products, leading crop management school

May 9, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Richard Taylor, a University of Delaware Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist, has been helping farmers near and far, both as a consultant focused on finding the truths behind product claims and by participating in classes geared toward professionals in the business of crop production.

Taylor said his main focus in checking product claims is testing items “that are designed to supposedly help a particular problem.”

One such product was a fertilizer that was supposed to boost yields in soybean and corn. “Not only did we find that the product didn’t work in this region,” Taylor said, “but the nice thing was that the people producing it took it off the market here so it actually saved growers a lot of money.”

With that particular product, Taylor worked with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Agronomist Committee, and the product was tested in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania and then in Delaware. All the results were consistent.

Taylor said the testing of products is a complicated process and just because a product doesn’t work here doesn’t mean that it won’t have success in other parts of the world. For instance, while the fertilizer did not work as advertised around the Mid-Atlantic, it did work in Mexico, where it boosted yields in some corn varieties with older genetics.

Taylor stressed that it is especially important now for growers to spend their money wisely on products that work as advertised because of the high crop prices. “When corn was two dollars a bushel, wheat was four dollars a bushel, you couldn’t sell anything to a farmer that would boost yield,” he said. “They weren’t interested in boosting yields, they were interested in reducing costs. With the current high commodity prices, farmers are more willing to listen to product claims, but if a claim is valueless, it still reduces profitability. So our testing program is another way to help farmers reduce costs without affecting production, essentially, trying to boost profitability.”

Read more at UDaily > >

Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Danielle Quigley