Author: UConn Extension

Shuresh Ghimire Joins UConn Extension

Shuresh Ghimire
Shuresh Ghimire

UConn Extension and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources are pleased to announce that Dr. Shuresh Ghimire joined us on July 6thas our Extension Vegetable Educator.

Dr. Ghimire has a PhD in Horticulture and is based in the Extension office at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon. He was working at Washington State University (WSU), studying crop yields and quality with biodegradable plastic mulch for pumpkin and sweet corn production before he joined UConn. He has also done work on the effects of organic manures and urea on peppers. 

Prior to working in Washington, Shuresh was a Horticultural Development Officer for the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agricultural Development in his native Nepal. He worked extensively with farmers conducting trainings and plant clinics and created extension publications and reports. Dr. Ghimire also served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Horticulture at the Himalayan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.  

Shuresh sat down with us to share his past experiences and goals for the position.

I was raised in a farming family. From my childhood, I had opportunities to taste varieties of home grown fresh and colorful vegetables. Three main reasons that continued my interest in the vegetable sector are:

  1. good source of income for small- to large-scale growers;
  2. nutritional benefits – vegetables carry lots of nutrition but fewer calories; and
  3. health benefits from exercise growing vegetables.

My research was with biodegradable plastic mulch. I’ve learned that some biodegradable plastic mulches provide weed control, crop yield and quality benefits comparable
to polyethylene mulch. One interesting thing about biodegradable plastic mulch is that it can be manufactured using petroleum, bio-based ingredients, or a blend of both. And, greater bio-based content of the mulch doesn’t make it more biodegradable.

Another interesting thing I learned was some biodegradable mulches adhere to the surface of fruits where the fruit rest on the mulch, such as pumpkin and watermelon. Mulch adhesion can reduce the marketability of the produce.

During my time in Washington, I had the privilege of working in a great team where a few people have had the greatest influence on me. Dr. Carol Miles, the major advisor of my PhD program, and a technician and co-worker, Ed Scheenstra, at WSU Mount Vernon Research Center trained me to remain positive and calm even in hard times and keep a can-do attitude. Now I am excited to be a part of the UConn Extension team, and look forward to working with Connecticut vegetable growers, and other vegetable and IPM specialists from the state and regionally.

Shuresh in apple orchardShuresh working in Nepal
The most rewarding part about Extension for me is working with farmers in their fields, getting my hands dirty, and eventually helping them increase their farm profits, and making the farms more viable. I believe an agricultural research investment is worth nothing until and unless outcomes of the research are extended to and adopted by end users, farmers or stakeholders. Extension translates complex research-based results into a farmer friendly version, and also brings farmers’ problems forward for scientific investigation.

My top priorities in the first few years are:

  1. appraise farmers’ problems and needs for the Extension program;
  2. quickly respond to vegetable growers’ questions; and
  3. work with my UConn Extension team to establish a multi-disciplinary program.

Join us in welcoming Shuresh to UConn Extension. You can learn more about the Vegetable Crops IPM program at http://ipm.uconn.edu/root/and contact Shuresh at shuresh.ghimire@uconn.eduor 860-875-3331.

Be on the Lookout for Giant Hogweed, an Invasive Plant in CT

giant hogweed
Giant Hogweed in Connecticut. Photo: Donna Ellis

UConn and the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) are asking state residents to be on the lookout for Giant Hogweed, which typically blooms during July. Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is an invasive, non-native plant from Eurasia that was first identified in Connecticut in 2001. This Federal Noxious weed was confirmed in 25 towns in all 8 counties in surveys conducted several years ago, but many of the populations are now under control. The most recent confirmed locations of Giant Hogweed were found in 2011. Numerous reports of suspect giant hogweed plants blooming in Connecticut have recently been received, but to date all of the 2018 reports have been negative. Several plants are sometimes mistaken for giant hogweed, such as the native cow parsnip, which is related to Giant Hogweed but blooms earlier in June. 

Giant Hogweed is a biennial or perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 15 feet tall with leaves 5 feet long. The hollow stems of the plant are 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The sap of Giant Hogweed may cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight and produce painful blisters. Large numbers of small white flowers are borne on umbel-shaped inflorescences that can grow to 2.5 feet across. Giant Hogweed seeds are elliptical in shape, and cow parsnip seeds are heart-shaped on one end (this is the most definitive way to identify the two species). Mature Giant Hogweed seeds can survive in the soil for up to seven years and can float on water for several days, further spreading the plants to new areas. Giant Hogweed has invaded natural areas such as riverbanks and woodland edges, where it displaces native plants and upsets the ecological balance of these important habitats, and it has been accidentally introduced into managed landscapes. 

UConn and the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) are conducting educational outreach to alert the public about Giant Hogweed and its serious health hazards. The CIPWG website (https://cipwg.uconn.edu/giant-hogweed-in-connecticut/) has information on Giant Hogweed with plant descriptions, photos, control options, and an online reporting form. 

To report a Giant Hogweed sighting, we recommend that you first visit the CIPWG website and compare your suspect plant with the photos and descriptions provided. You can then report the plant online via the CIPWG website (click on the link “Report Hogweed Sighting”) or contact Donna Ellis at UConn (email donna.ellis@uconn.edu; phone 860-486-6448). To control Giant Hogweed, follow control recommendations on the CIPWG website. Always wear protective clothing while handling the plants. 

 

Bug Out with UConn Extension

Bee on flower from UConn Extension Bug Week photo contest
2017 Photo Contest Winner. Photo credit: Jeff Gonci

UConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, and we have programs for the whole family.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

  • Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 23rdat 5:30 PM. Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/4ac or call 860-486-9228.
  • Pollinators at Auerfarm in Bloomfield on Monday, July 23rdwill have a station at the beehive, pollinator plants, and a hands-on make and take activity. The farm is home to a Foodshare garden, 4-H programs and more, offering fun for the entire family. Time is to be determined, with a rain date of Tuesday. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/4ac or 860-486-9228.
  • Insect Wonders at the Farm: Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 24th from 9-11 AM. The rain date is July 27th.
  • Join the Museum of Natural History, AntU and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology for an exciting afternoon on campus on Thursday, July 26th from 12:30-4 PM. We have tours of the insect collections, an AntU presentation, plus exhibit activities, microscope stations, giveaways, and a live ant colony. There will also be special greenhouse displays. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/4ac
  • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM-1 PM. The program will have live insects on display, right out in the open, plus part of the insect collection from the UConn Natural History Museum, as well as three bug hunts that include going to the butterfly/pollinator garden and the vegetable garden on the property.
  • Connecticut Science Center is celebrating Bug Week from Monday, July 23rdthrough Saturday, July 28th. Lots of things are buzzing around at the Connecticut Science Center during Bug Week. Spend some time in the tropical Butterfly Encounter, participate in bug-themed Live Science programming, come hear a bug themed story during Story Time, and be sure to explore what is flying around the Rooftop Garden. Programs are open to all ages. Please visit the Connecticut Science Centerfor ticket prices.
  • A photo contest is being offered, with three categories: junior, senior and professional. More details can be found at: http://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest/

UConn Extension offices are located across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu, email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

Disaster Assistance for Farmers

screenshot of farmers.gov

As it grows, the farmers.gov website will deliver information, tools, and first-hand advice built around the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters.  It’s a site being built for farmers, by farmers. Visit the new farmers.gov Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool.

For more information on disaster preparedness and readiness for your family, community, workplace, or agricultural operation please visit UConn EDEN.

Buying from Local Farms? What do FSMA Rules Mean to Produce Buyers?

bushel of applesBuying From Local Farms? What Do FSMA Rules Mean to Produce Buyers?
On July 17, 2018 a team of regulators and produce safety educators from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are hosting an educational meeting for operations (distributors, schools, institutions, restaurants, grocery stores, foodservice operations, etc.) that buy fresh produce from farms in southern New England.  This meeting will be regional in scope because fresh produce is often sold across state borders, with many customers having operations in two or all of these states.
Attendees will learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Produce Safety Rule (PSR), Preventive Controls for Human Food, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits and state produce inspection programs.
 
Do you buy local?  If so, we would like to invite your produce buyer, supply chain manager and/or food safety or quality assurance personnel to attend.
The purpose of this meeting is to help you to understand what the new Produce Safety Rule means to both region’s farmers and to those who buy their product. How might it change (or not change) the way you do business?
 
The meeting is intended for buyers of local produce but farmers are encouraged to attend.  This meeting will offer an opportunity for farmers to network with a wide variety of potential customers.  Local farmers are encouraged to share this announcement with their wholesale customers.  This meeting will an excellent opportunity for both parties to learn about issues each sector faces.
The meeting will be held at the Rome Ballroom on the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs, Connecticut, from 9am to noon on Tuesday, July 17.
Agenda
  • Welcoming remarks
  • FSMA Explained (focus on the Produce Safety Rule related aspects of the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule)
  • State focused inspection and compliance programs
  • Panel discussion:  Buyers from a variety of operations will discuss how they address produce safety with their locally sourced fruits and vegetables
See attachment for registration information.  There is no fee for participants, but you must preregister.  Deadline for registration is July 10.
Feel free to share with others who may be interested.
 
If you have any questions, please contact: Diane Hirsch from the University of Connecticut Extension at diane.hirsch@uconn.edu or call 203-407-3163.

Become a 4-H Volunteer!

4-H volunteer at Hartford County 4-H Camp in Marlborough works with youth membersIf you enjoy working with children, have a willingness to share your time and talents with young people in the community, like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference, then being a 4-H volunteer is for you.

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you can share with young people such as photography, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry or something else, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Volunteer Training and Recognition Training is conducted at local, state and regional levels. New 4-H volunteers receive a general orientation. Meetings are held throughout the state several times each year to help new leaders. The statewide Connecticut 4-H Volunteer Conference is held every other year, and leaders can also participate in the regional 4-H volunteer forum.

Just as we recognize the efforts of youth, the UConn 4-H Program recognizes and acknowledges its volunteers for their efforts at the local, state and national level. Additional information can be found online at http://s.uconn.edu/46w.

CT MS4 Guide

maps and other tools are available online for municipalities working with the MS4 guidelines
The CT MS4 Guide is all available online through UConn Extension’s NEMO program.

The CT MS4 Guide website (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) was established to provide a repository for NEMO trainings, materials, tools, and templates that towns can use and modify to meet local needs. Every year, NEMO will also be providing webinars and workshops to help towns and institutions address the more complex portions of the permit.

In the first year of this program, NEMO educated towns on the new requirements through a series of webinar presentations reaching nearly 500 viewers, travelled to 20 town halls to help staff understand and plan for the new requirements, and held a statewide workshop on detecting and eliminating pollution from the stormwater system. NEMO’s Connecticut MS4 Guide (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) is an online repository for guidance, templates, data, and other tools to help communities comply with new statewide stormwater regulations. NEMO also developed templates that towns could use to create a Stormwater Management Plan, an annual report with town progress for DEEP and citizens, and model local ordinance language to respond to requirements in the permit.

Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson and Chet Arnold

Supporting Communities Responding to New Stormwater Regulations

a group works with Amanda Ryan from UConn Extension on municipal stormwater regulations or MS4UConn Extension’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program is a national leader in developing innovative approaches to help communities address water quality issues. NEMO has been working directly with Connecticut municipalities for 26 years, won multiple national awards, and inspired a national network of sister programs in 33 states. Over the past year, the program has undertaken an innovative new role, as NEMO has become an advisor, helper and cheerleader for the 121 municipalities in the state charged with meeting stringent new stormwater regulations.

In 2017 a new statewide regulation under the Clean Water Act went into effect that significantly changed the way municipalities and state and federal institutions must manage stormwater runoff. The long-awaited update to the State’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit is more targeted, specific and extensive than the previous permit, placing a great deal more responsibility on municipalities to reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways via local storm drain systems. Many municipalities were overwhelmed by the challenge of learning, planning, and budgeting for the new stormwater control measures, particularly in the midst of increasingly strained local funds.

In an effort to lessen that burden on towns, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) entered into a unique partnership with the NEMO program, part of the Center for Land Use Education and Research, or CLEAR – a university center based out of Extension and the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. DEEP is providing support to NEMO through a grant to create and implement a multifaceted assistance program for MS4 towns and institutions throughout the five-year term of the new regulation. The NEMO program hired a new Municipal Stormwater Educator, Amanda Ryan, as a “circuit rider” available to work with any towns or institutions to explain the new requirements and how they can go about complying with them.

This nationally unique approach of providing outreach in partnership with Extension to lessen the burden of complex new regulations appears to be paying off. Last year all of the 121 regulated municipalities submitted their permit registration within the first 6 months of the effective date of the regulation, that was much quicker than under the previous permit without NEMO support for communities. As DEEP staff put it, “When we originally issued the MS4 permit in 2004 it took over 2 years to get all the towns registered. We also issued over two dozen Notices of Violation in 2006 and three Consent Orders in 2008 for towns that either hadn’t completed the registration process (it was a two-step process back then) or hadn’t submitted any annual reports or both. Needless to say, this time around has shown much better success. Frankly, our success in getting such good compliance this time around has to do with you folks (NEMO).” This program has also saved DEEP staff time answering individual questions from towns and enabled the development and dissemination of guidance on some of the murkier permit requirements, two roles that NEMO has taken on in this first year.

From the towns’ perspective, the templates and tools NEMO developed saved them the time and expense of developing those on their own and/or hiring consultants to develop them. NEMO also developed a new MS4 map viewer (http://s.uconn.edu/ctms4map) that will help the towns prioritize where to focus their efforts to most effectively impact water quality. The map viewer identifies water bodies considered impaired by stormwater runoff and areas of high impervious cover. In addition, the towns now have an alternate source to consult for advice on complying with the permit, rather than ask those who are also responsible for judging their compliance with the MS4 permit.

As one town put it, “I would like to thank the Center for Land Use Education And Research (CLEAR) for the assistance it has provided to the Town of East Hartford and other communities in the State with the MS4 program. The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our Town to save precious resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit.” – Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford, CT

The effort is also showing ancillary benefits to the state. One of the data layers in the MS4 map viewer is a new statewide high resolution impervious cover data layer acquired by NEMO to help communities identify high impervious cover areas. A geospatial expert at Esri, the primary GIS software company, found the new layer and combined it with parcel and address data to create a new statewide building address layer. The state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) reports that the new layer saved the state more than $500,000 to acquire on their own.

While just over a year in to this 5-year partnership, the initial results suggest a potentially efficient and cost effective new model for states to launch and manage new environmental regulations. For a small investment, this approach makes it easier for MS4 communities to meet more stormwater requirements and results in a higher level of compliance – not to mention the additional environmental benefits of improving stormwater management practices across the state.

Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson, and Chet Arnold

4-H Volunteer Attends White House STEM Summit

Rachael Manzer

RACHAEL MANZER JOINED LANDMARK GATHERING OF STATE & FEDERAL STEM EDUCATION LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE

WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT WILL HELP INFORM NEXT 5-YEAR STEM EDUCATION STRATEGY

Rachael Manzer, STEM Coach at Winchester Public Schools and a UConn 4-H Leader was recently invited to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on June 25-26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator says “We are fortunate to have a UConn 4-H Volunteer in attendance to share the STEM experiences UConn 4-H Youth are engaging in.”

According to the OSTP, the State-Federal STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of State STEM leaders, including officials from governors’ offices, K-20 educators, workforce and industry representatives, State policy experts, and non-government organization executives. These attendees participated in the development of a new Federal 5-Year STEM Education Strategic Plan in compliance with America COMPETES Act of 2010.

“This event is the first time an administration has asked for this level of State input when developing a Federal STEM education strategy,” said Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education at OSTP. “Top-down approaches to STEM education can often yield wonderful ideas, but it’s at the State and community level where the momentum happens. State leaders know best what kinds of programs will work in their communities, and where they need the power of the Federal government to help drive success in this field. STEM education is critical to preparing our students for the jobs of the future. We must do everything we can to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, educators, and private industry partners are united for the long-term success of our Nation.”

Alongside OSTP in planning and carrying out this Summit are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Smithsonian Institution. STEM leaders from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and tribes, will attend the Summit to illuminate and advance State-Federal STEM alignment.

In 1976, Congress established OSTP to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics. OSTP also leads interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts, assists the Office of Management and Budget with an annual review and analysis of Federal research and development in budgets, and serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.

Rachael Manzer is a 4-H Leader in Connecticut. She leads three different projects groups: VEX Middle School Robotic Competition Team, who won the Connecticut State Robotic Championship and competed in the World Championship; a VEX Robotic Project Group, who designs and builds robots to compete at the Hartford County 4-H Fair; and a 4-H Cubes in Space Group who had three experiments fly in space on a NASA Sounding Rocket on June 21, 2018.  Rachael Manzer is passionate about 4-H and STEM Education.