UD’s Cooperative Extension unveils a new way to connect with experts

July 16, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

havequestion-ask-expertDelaware residents with questions related to family and health, community development, food and agriculture, programs for young people and gardening will now have a new way to connect with experts on those topics thanks to the University of Delaware and Delaware State Cooperative Extension’s Ask an Expert website, which will be unveiled this week at the State Fair.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD’s Cooperative Extension, said that Delaware Cooperative Extension is “excited to bring our areas of expertise to Delawareans through a simple request on your web browser.”

Rodgers added, “The unique aspect of Extension’s Ask an Expert is that all of our responses are based in university research, and if we don’t have the research experts here, the system has the capacity to connect with Extension experts across the country. It is information you can trust through a simple question entry on your browser.”

Ask an Expert is as simple as clicking on the Cooperative Extension website and asking a question about a problem related to the topics above. The people with questions will then be connected with a Cooperative Extension, university staff member or volunteer expert who will be able to provide them with a timely and regionally specific response electronically. The goal is to have a response within 48 hours.

Images can be attached to the question to help further explain questions, such as attaching a photo of an insect or a spot on a plant.

Questions and answers can be made publicly or privately, depending on preference.

To check out the Ask an Expert page, visit the following link.

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Sussex County Master Gardener Open House set

July 2, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Master Gardeners volunteer time to spruce up the demonstration garden at the Carvel Center in Georgetown before the annual Open House July 13.The Master Gardeners of Sussex County will host their annual Open House in the demonstration gardens behind the Carvel Center at 16483 County Seat Highway (Route 9) in Georgetown on Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

There will be activities for children, including a Peter Rabbit puppet show, as well as demonstrations on gardening and related topics. Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions and to provide information about the various sections of the garden that exhibit trees, shrub, perennials, annuals, and vegetables that do well in Delaware. Visit the popular plant sale located in the picnic grove.

The public is invited to stroll through the paths that link special areas — a children’s garden, a sensory garden, an annual/perennial border, a native plant garden, a shade garden and more — or to sit on one of the benches and watch the insects and wildlife interact with the setting.

For children, this year’s highlights include:

  • Insect Safari (come hunting with us for the creatures that live in the back yard). Bring your camera!
  • Meet Mr. and Mrs. Turtle, courtesy of the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators.
  • Participate in a scavenger hunt
  • Scheduled performances of Peter Rabbit and Farmer McGregor

Educational workshop topics include:

  • 10 a.m.  Accessible Gardening. Learn how to Garden Smart, Garden Easy
  • 11 a.m.  What are Invasive Plants and how do you control them?
  • Noon  Insect Safari – children and adults – bring your camera!
  • 1 p.m.  Hostas!

Master Gardeners will also raffle some exciting items! Currently on the list are:

  • Garden gift basket with miscellaneous items
  • Coffee table book donated by Kent County
  • Hypertufa planted with succulents
  • Garden kneeler

Master Gardeners are members of the community who have received extensive training in order to extend the home garden outreach of Delaware Cooperative Extension. Information also is available online. Visit: http://extension.udel.edu/lawngarden/.

It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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UD entomologist discusses stoneflies, official state macroinvertebrate

June 25, 2013 under CANR News
stoneflies

Frank Peairs, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

On a recent morning, Ingrid Feustel and Ed Trommelen donned rubber boots, grabbed nets and collection buckets, and splashed their way into a tributary of the Red Clay Creek in search of stoneflies.

The duo are spending the summer conducting a macroinvertebrate survey as Stream Watch interns for the Delaware Nature Society.

As Feustel set out sampling jars, Trommelen kicked up pebbles with the toe of his boot, then dragged the net over the churned-up water. “I’ve got some stoneflies,” said Trommelen, after a glance inside the net.

Most people would probably only notice leaves, twigs and pebbles but Trommelen quickly identified the stoneflies, even though they’re itty-bitty (one-half to 1 1/2 inches long as adults and even smaller as juveniles.)

The interns collected stoneflies throughout the morning, making note of how many were in each sample, as well as any other macroinvertebrates — such as mayflies, caddisflies and worms — that they found. While it’s certainly fun to splash around a sun-dappled creek on a June day, why would the Delaware Nature Society care how many stoneflies are in local creeks?

“Stoneflies serve as the canary in the coal mine in terms of assessing the water quality of streams and creeks,” said Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “It makes sense to focus on stoneflies. Stoneflies need running water that contains lots of oxygen. Scientists can tell if a stream is polluted or not based on whether stoneflies are present.”

In fact, the stonefly is such an excellent indicator of water quality that it was chosen to be the official state macroinvertebrate. The May 4, 2005, proclamation that made it official says that the designation of the stonefly was a means “whereby Delaware state government could recognize the importance of excellent water quality and the vital role played by healthy aquatic ecosystems in Delaware.”

Delaware actually has three official insects – the lady bug, the tiger swallowtail (which is the state butterfly) and the stonefly. The distinguishing feature of a macroinvertebrate is that it doesn’t have a backbone.

Stoneflies aren’t just an indicator of pure water; they also help to keep it that way. Most species are herbivores; they eat decaying vegetation and algae, said Kunkel.

There are 38 known species of stoneflies that call Delaware home. Nineteen live exclusively in the Piedmont, in the northern one-fourth of New Castle County; eight live in the Coastal Plain, which makes up the other three-fourths of the state; and 11 can be found in both the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain.

Adult stoneflies are weak fliers and like to hang out on stones (hence their name) and also on logs. If they lose their grip and fall into the water they may get eaten by trout, which prefer mayflies but will eat stoneflies if that’s the only food around.

Even if it doesn’t become dinner for a trout, an adult stonefly only lives about three to four weeks. Nymphs, on the other hand, which make their home in the water, can exist for one to three years in their immature state, says Kunkel.

Good places to search for stoneflies, says Kunkel, are the White Clay and Red Clay creeks in New Castle County, the Murderkill River in Kent County, and Woodenhawk, a tributary of the Marshyhope Creek, in Sussex County.

Delaware Nature Society has been conducting a Stream Watch program for 20-plus years, says Ginger North, the society’s associate director for natural resources conservation. During that time the Red Clay Creek has shown improvement in its water quality.

“Twenty years ago, the Red Clay was classified as a waterway that was severely impaired,” says North. “It only supported black fly larvae and other macroinvertebrates that can tolerate polluted water. But today, stoneflies can be found in the Red Clay’s tributaries.”

Article by Margo McDonough

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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

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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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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Extension to host Retail Farm Market School

April 23, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

On Wednesday, May 29, Delaware Cooperative Extension will conduct a day-long Retail Farm Market School for anyone who handles, processes or merchandises fresh market produce, such as local farm market vendors. The school is sponsored by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Penn State University, Delaware Department of Agriculture and Delaware Agritourism Association. The course runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and will be held at the Elbert N. & Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Instructors will be Gordon Johnson from UD and John Berry from Penn State. The tuition is $45.

Topics will include produce handling and merchandising, customer service, sanitation and fresh cut produce. The course will be comprised of several delivery modes including professionally produced video segments, take-home text, post-harvest handling references, hands-on activities and a “certification quiz.”

Each school participant will receive a full-day of retail farm marketing education and networking, a 40-page text that follows the school curriculum, a professional produce knife, a digital produce thermometer, sign blanks and the opportunity to receive a Retail Produce Professional certificate.

The school material is appropriate for new employee training and as a refresher for existing employees who work with fresh produce.

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension welcomes and encourages public participation of their programs, events, and workshops scheduled for the public. All reasonable efforts will be used to meet the accessibility requests. Please contact the office two weeks prior to event to request assistance with any special needs you may have.

Registration deadline is Friday, May 17. Please contact Karen Adams at adams@udel.edu or call (302) 856-2585 ext. 540 to register, obtain additional information and directions. Class is limited to the 35 seats.

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Rose Rosette Disease Summit

April 18, 2013 under CANR News
Pictured from left to right: Steve Hutton, Michael Dobres  Kathleen Case, and Thomas Bewick

Summit participants pictured from left to right: Steve Hutton, Michael Dobres
Kathleen Case, and Thomas Bewick

A two-day national Rose Rosette Disease Summit was held April 15-16 in Newark with researchers from across the country meeting to discuss the disease and plans for future research.

Rose rosette disease (RRD) is caused by the rose rosette virus, carried by a tiny eriophyid mite.

The summit was organized by Tom Evans, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, and Michael Dobres of the Conard-Pyle Company, and sponsored by the All-America Rose Selections and the Garden Rose Council, Inc.

The conference included a talk given by Nancy Gregory, of UD’s Cooperative Extension, on occurrence and mapping of the disease. RRD has been seen in Mid-Atlantic States since approximately 2001, originally observed on multiflora rose in the landscape. In recent years, RRD has been identified on cultivated roses, including Knockout rose, and has also been identified in public gardens.

University scientists, plant breeders, Cooperative Extension personnel, USDA representatives, private consultants, and rose growers discussed the need for good diagnostic tools, accurate mapping, cultural controls, as well as breeding for resistance. Current control strategies include keeping roses in good vigor, pruning, mite control, and cultural controls such as reducing water on leaves.

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University of Delaware New Castle County Cooperative Extension Announces 2013 Master Gardener Volunteer Training

January 2, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Master Gardeners volunteer trainingThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension in New Castle County is now accepting applications for Master Gardener volunteer educator training. Training will run Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting March 7, 2013 and continue through May 21, 2013.

Carrie Murphy, Extension Educator, said of the program, “This training program is designed to make good educators out of good gardeners. Master Gardeners pledge to devote volunteer time to help Cooperative Extension provide research-based information to the gardening public. Without this volunteer program, we could not reach nearly as many people as we do now.”

Training will consist of horticultural and educational topics, with emphasis on hands-on experience and active learning techniques. There is a training fee of $150. Scholarships are available based on financial need. The application deadline is January 7, 2013.

Details on the Master Gardener program, training, and application materials are available on the Cooperative Extension website at http://extension.udel.edu/lawngarden/master-gardener-volunteer-educators/become-a-master-gardener/, or by email and phone request to Carrie Murphy, cjmurphy@udel.edu, (302) 831-2506.

It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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