For the sixth year in a row, the UConn Animal Science Creamery has taken home awards from the annual American Cheese Society Judging and Competition. Our Chipotle Queso Blanco and our Green Chile Queso Blanco were recognized for excellence amongst 1742 products from over 250 entering companies. The Chipotle and Green Chile cheeses were awarded second and third place in their category, respectively. Congratulations!
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a disease caused by a virus that mosquitos transmit. The name of the disease is misleading in that this virus can infect and cause disease in humans and a wide variety of animal species, including birds as well as horses and other equids. Horses that have not been vaccinated for EEE die within days of being infected as there is no treatment. There is an effective equine vaccine for EEE, however not for other species. Researchers and veterinarians at UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) encourage equine owners to consider vaccinating their animals, and other animal owners to implement measures to reduce mosquito habitats and thereby potential contact with mosquitos.
Mosquitos that feed on infected wild birds transmit EEE to horses and humans. Once infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system of the host. For horses, disease signs usually appear within five days and the clinical signs include fever, a dull or sleepy appearance, muscle twitches, and a weak staggering gait. Fatality in horses is 90% or higher as horses often go down and are unable to stand again, and those that do survive may have permanent brain damage.
EEE is transmitted by two main types of mosquito vectors; the primary vector and the bridging vector.Culiseta melanura, the primary vector which feeds almost exclusively on birds, serves to amplify and maintain the virus within wild bird populations. Other mosquito species, which indiscriminatingly feed on birds, horses, and humans, serve as the bridging vector capable of transmitting EEE from wildlife to horses and humans.
With the location of horse barns and pastures in rural areas the animals have increased exposure to mosquitos. Horses cannot pass EEE to humans, or to other horses, and are therefore referred to as a dead-end host. If an infected mosquito bites a human, that person can be infected and may develop disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, illness in humans due to EEE is rare, but when disease develops, it is serious.
Proactive steps can be taken to prevent EEE virus infection in humans and horses. A vaccine is available for horses, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating annually for EEE. Mosquito control techniques include eliminating standing water, cleaning water troughs weekly, avoiding mosquito-infested areas, and using insect repellent.
CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.
LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf
Dr. Jason Henderson, Associate Professor of Turfgrass and Soil Sciences at University of Connecticut, is the lead investigator of an ongoing, multiple year research project that has been evaluating conventional, organic, and pesticide-free management systems for athletic fields and home lawns. Other investigators involved with the project include Vickie Wallace, John Inguagiato, Karl Guillard, Steve Rackliffe, and Tom Morris. To date, two graduate students have completed research studies while collecting data on this project.
Dr. Henderson has been a champion of research that supports environmentally sound turf care practices. Besides collecting data on the various management regimes, Dr. Henderson and his team of collaborators set out to develop a smartphone app, FertAdvisor, that assists users in calculating the amount of lawn fertilizer required to properly fertilize turfgrass areas.
FertAdvisor is designed to provide users with a comprehensive tool that will help ensure accurate applications of fertilizer and reduce misapplications that can potentially damage turfgrass, waste fertilizer and/or pose environmental risk. The app has recommendations about application techniques, accurate calibration, fertilizer timing, and nitrogen source selection. Built-in calculators within the app help determine how much fertilizer will be needed to properly fertilize turfgrass areas, streamlining calibration calculations and calculating the amount of nitrogen, phosphate and potash that will be applied to the area based on the fertilizer selected.
Animations and videos guide turfgrass enthusiasts on how to take a soil sample, properly apply fertilizer using both drop and rotary spreaders, calibrate a fertilizer spreader, and calculate lawn surface area. Ten tips and tricks for managing cool-season lawns are also provided, in order to help homeowners make the right decisions for a healthy lawn.
Submitted by Vickie Wallace and Jason Henderson
Originally published by UConn Today on July 29, 2019
Cari and Ken Donaldson had always wanted to farm. After finding a property in Willington, they established Ghost Fawn Homestead five years ago. Today, gardens and vegetable beds dot the hillside, while chickens quietly go about their day in the yard.
“We are the second owner of this farm. It’s just under 10 acres, and we currently have three acres in cultivation, with plans to expand,” says Cari Donaldson. “New farmers don’t know what they don’t know, or what resources are available. UConn Extension has been really good at bridging that gap for us.”
Farming can be a challenging profession filled with joys, discomfort, and economic risk. The Donaldsons have tapped into a suite of UConn Extension programs to help them get established as farmers, including the Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, Vegetable Crops Integrated Pest Management, Put Local on Your Tray, as well as Taste of Mansfield.
“Cari has been a smart user of Extension resources and training,” says Jiff Martin, associate extension educator in sustainable food systems. “As much as we want to help her family’s farm business grow, her feedback also helps us grow and evolve our own programming so we can offer new farmers the types of help they really need. We’ve been especially interested in supporting Cari’s enthusiasm for selling to schools and have leveraged resources through our Put Local on Your Tray program to assist.”
Put Local on Your Tray helps school districts source, serve, and celebrate local food by incorporating Connecticut-grown ingredients into school lunch menus. In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 80 school districts will participate in Put Local On Your Tray.
“Stephanie Richard, the Mansfield schools’ food service director, gave us an entrance into the wholesale market,” Cari says. “It’s a weight off our minds being able to grow for the schools. I can’t say enough about UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray Program, and Stephanie. People are always the most excited about the fact that we grow food for the schools.”
“As a food service director, I find that Put Local on Your Tray is a great asset for promotional and marketing materials,” says Richard. “Making arrangements with farmers, meetings, figuring out how much product we can take in and work with pulls time away from the marketing part. With Put Local on Your Tray, I am able to focus more time on building relationships with farmers and coaching my staff who work with the produce.”
Working with Richard also helped Cari Donaldson develop the language she needed to attract other wholesale buyers, including other schools that will begin purchasing from the farm in the fall.
“Put Local on Your Tray has information that schools need to alleviate their concerns about purchasing from local farms,” Donaldson says.
And Put Local on Your Tray isn’t the only program offered by Extension to help new farmers in Connecticut. Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, for example, are for farmers with less than ten years of farming experience. Small group workshops are offered in-person with experts in soils, production, farm finances, pesticide safety, irrigation, agriculture mechanics, and more. Fact sheets, guides, videos, and online tutorials on the program’s website are frequently used resources by farmers throughout the state.
Charlotte Ross, project coordinator for Solid Ground Farmer Trainings, owns and operates Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon. Before serving as project coordinator, she participated in Extension’s beginning farmer trainings. Ross says, “We’ve learned a lot about new farmers through the Solid Ground Training Program. New farmers are as time-limited as anyone and are hungry for practical knowledge. Given the amount of information you can find online already, our training provides more than how-to instructions. They offer opportunities to have your questions answered by an expert, hands-on practice, and a chance to network with other new farmers.”
“You just want to farm. You don’t want to be a salesman, but that’s half of the job,” Ken Donaldson says. “UConn Extension helps with that. The networking and assistance in finding buyers is huge, and has been the most beneficial part of our involvement with Extension. We’re getting better at farming each year, and that’s a really cool thing.”
The Solid Ground Farmer Trainings are sponsored by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Award #2016-70017-25416.
Article by Stacey Stearns
The public review and comment period for the draft of the new Guide to Marine Aquaculture Permitting in Connecticut is now open.
Please send comments to the State Aquaculture Coordinator at: David.firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline: August 8, 2019
The guide is the work of the Connecticut Aquaculture Permitting Work Group, comprised of: David Carey and Shannon Kelly of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture; Krista Romero and Mike Payton of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Cory Rose of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Tessa Getchis of Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension.
Originally published by Connecticut Sea Grant
It is Christmas in July for the greenhouse producers who grow poinsettias. In order to have plants that are blooming for December sales, greenhouses start the process early. Poinsettias require months in the greenhouse before they are ready to be purchased and taken home.
Leanne Pundt, one of our Extension educators was scouting the plants for whitefly immatures at one the Connecticut growers last week and took these photos.
The Auerfarm 4-H Education Center in Bloomfield, Connecticut announces the appointment of Erica Prior Fearn, CAE, as its new Executive Director, beginning July 24.
Fearn succeeds Interim Executive Director Barbara G. DeMaio, who held the position since March.
“Auerfarm is thrilled to have an executive of Erica’s caliber lead our organization. Her experience at the CT Farm Bureau at both the state and nationals brings a wealth of talent to our organization. In addition, Erica’s 25-year involvement with Connecticut
4-H, both as a youth participant and now as leader, speaks volumes about her commitment and passion for agriculture and the environment, which are at the heart of everything we do at Auerfarm,” said Mark Weisman, chair of Auerfarm’s board of directors.
“I have always admired the mission and work of Auerfarm. It is an invaluable community resource for children, families and guests from across the region who want to learn about agriculture and the environment. I look forward to working with its very dedicated staff and volunteer force to further enrich the visitor experience and chart Auerfarm’s future,” said Fearn.
In addition to her work with the CT Farm Bureau, Fearn served as a consultant to several agricultural and environmental related non-profits. Fearn has a BS in Animal Science from UConn and earned a certificate in Financial Success for Non- Profits from Cornell University.
Fearn is a resident of West Suffield, CT.
“We are very thankful to Barb DeMaio for serving as our Interim Director for the past several months. Her work was integral in maintaining Auerfarm’s level of excellence as a community resource,” said Mary Eberle, Auerfarm board member and chair of the recruitment committee. “We also thank Harvest Development Group for their assistance is recruiting both Erica and Barb to our organization,” said Eberle. “Harvest identified the type of leaders that we needed to continue Auerfarm’s heritage as a one-of-a-kind destination and experience.”
GMO 2.0 Overview
By Quamyia Foye
Quamyia Foye is an undergraduate at UConn and attended GMO 2.0: Science, Society and the Future and wrote the following summary of the event, along with her perceptions.
Overview of Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Crops
Dr. Paul Vincelli, extension professor and provost distinguished service professor from the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Kentucky, presented a presentation touching on the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops. In the first part of Dr. Vincelli’s presentation, he discussed non-GMO breeding/ conventional breeding which is a less precise, controlled and more disruptive form of growing agronomic and horticultural crops. Since conventional breeding leans more to the traditional side some people prefer this method over genetic engineering. However, Dr. Vincelli made a very strong point, that when it comes to genetic change what matters is not how it is made but what it does. Genetically engineered crops, crops whose DNA has been modified using genetic engineering methods, are typically seen in a negative light due to it being ‘man-made’ even though there is no current scientific evidence that shows any negative effects. The greatest concern when it comes to genetically engineered crops is transgene flow. A transgene is a gene or genetic material that was genetically engineered from one organism to another. ‘The introduction of a transgene (called “transgenesis”) has the potential to change the phenotype of an organism (A. J. Clark 2011)”. Based off of this information it can be seen that when it comes to transgene flow an individual’s main fear and concern is that a different gene from completely different organisms can be passed along to an unrelated crop which is viewed as unnatural and unsafe by some people. However, that is not the case. Two examples of crops being genetically engineered and having positive benefits are aflatoxins and tomatoes. Aflatoxins in its natural state are one of the most potent carcinogens but due to gene splicing its carcinogenesis traits was reduced making it a safe substance and a disease resistant tomato was created with a single gene from a pepper. Just by simply modifying/inserting a gene these two crops were improved which in turn can be beneficial for farming and human consumption. At the end of this presentation, Dr. Vincelli stated that there is no umbrella GMO and that there are different applications for each type of plant. When it comes to genetically engineering crops it should be taken on a case by case basis therefore, nothing should be excluded since everything is unique in its own way.
GMO Plant Technologies
Dr. Yi Li, a professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn CAHNR, discussed GMO plant technologies and its positive benefits. At the beginning of the presentation, he explained the process of transferring specific genes to crop plants. An example Dr. Li gave was how drought tolerant low yield corn plant was ‘combined’ with a drought sensitive high yield plant which created a drought tolerant high yield corn plant. This process first begins when plant p1, drought tolerant but low yield, drought gene is isolated and then precisely inserted into plant p2, which is drought sensitive but high yield which then produced the drought tolerant and high seed yield corn variety. Dr. Li then goes on to discuss how GMO plants are not monsters and that transgenic plants can occur naturally. For example, in the genome of a cultivated sweet potato, there is Agrobacterium T-DNAs with expressed genes. Since 1997 we have been consuming GMOs, and since then, there has been an increase in the production of genetically modified soybeans, cotton, and corn. Nearly 100 percent of these crops planted in the US are GMOs and up to 80 percent of packaged foods contain GMO ingredients. When some individuals see such high percentages, they often question what is being modified in the food that they are consuming. Typically, the mass majority of food that is modified has beneficial properties. For example, genetically modified apples have a longer time span of freshness. Golden rice is modified to prevent blindness, cotton is modified to resist certain insects, and there are genetically modified papayas that are virus resistant. There are also studies that show and prove that planting Bt corn, a type of transgenic corn that “produce the insecticidal proteins that occur naturally in Bt” (Bacillus thuringiensis), reduces the use of insecticide. Even with there being scientific proof that there are beneficial properties in genetically modified organisms some individuals will still try to discredit it and state that since it is man made there is bound to negative side effects. However, what many people do not understand is that GMO and traditional methods of crop production are fundamentally the same. Both traditional and GMO breeding methods are involved in gene transfer. The only difference is that with traditional breeding the first plant, which has the desired gene, and second plant create a new plant type that has a combination of both of the plant genes which includes the specific desired gene. When it comes to GMO breeding methods only the desired gene from the selected plant is inserted into the second plant. This results in a new plant species that has an almost identical genetic makeup of the second plant except it has the specific desired gene now apart of its DNA. Overall, there are three major plant breeding technologies which are, gene editing, traditional breeding, and genetically modified organisms. When it comes to public acceptance and effectiveness GMO is the most effective yet least accepted, gene editing is in the middle with both effectiveness and acceptance and traditional breeding is the least effective yet the most accepted. Based off of these results it can be seen that when it comes down to what is actually beneficial the public tend to lean towards their belief than the actual veracity. We need to use all possible tools to improve crop yield in order to feed the current population because based on the data presented it shows that as the world population increases the area which crops are grown decreases which can cause significant problems pertaining to the demand of food and the population.
GMOs and Big Agriculture in the US
Gerry Berkowitz, a professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, at the University of Connecticut CAHNR program presented both his work and that of Robert C Bird, professor of Business Law and Eversource Energy Chair Business Ethics, at the UConn school of business. Dr. Berkowitz touched upon the effect of GMO’s on agriculture and how we need to question what is being presented to us. He stated that we need to be aware that what we consider the ‘truth’ is based on the best evidence available, but that is not always, or often not, the final story. When it comes to certain issues, the public’s perception will usually conflate, which is to combine several issues into one. For example, there was a case where a groundkeeper sued Monsanto after he developed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after using Roundup various times throughout the day at extended periods. Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is a known carcinogen which Monsanto, its manufacturer, failed to provide warning and appropriate information regarding the potential danger of the product. The judge, in this case, allowed evidence from internal emails and experts warnings, as well as a 2015 WHO-IARC classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The groundkeeper went on to win the lawsuit. When it came down to it, there was not even solid scientific evidence that Roundup is actually carcinogenic. As mentioned previously, in 2015 the WHO-IARC stated that Roundup was ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. The US EPA concluded that Roundup was ‘not likely to be carcinogenic’. Since there is no solid conclusive evidence the judge based his decision on Monsanto’s failure to provide information on the possible carcinogen. Due to the public perception of companies such as Monsanto and the misconstruing of what the case was about, after and during the case there was a lot of backlash concerning Monsanto GMOs, and its agrichemicals when in actuality this case did not pertain to GMOs or the toxicity of agrichemicals. Mr. Berkowitz also brought up the controversial topic of GMO labeling. He asked do consumers have a right to know where they are spending their money towards food and to link this to their value system? In simpler terms, do individuals have the right to know exactly what is in their food and should they be able to associate this with their beliefs and or the worth of the food? In the US, nearly 80 percent of consumers prefer to have GMO labeling laws, yet many companies oppose it. One viewpoint was that if GMO labeling did happen there would be an increase in non-GMO food prices. Mr. Berkowitz disagrees. Since we already have certified organic labeling, he believes that the real reason is that if products with GMO were labeled, there would be a reduction in purchases. Currently, when it comes to GMO labeling, Congress has passed national labeling law preempting state standards which were directed by the USDA to establish a labeling standard which can vary from an actual label to a QR scan.
My perception of the event
In conclusion, this event exhibited various perceptions and methods of GMO and overall did a splendid job. All the panelists were passionate about what they were discussing and were able to explain their topic in a clear and concise manner. I also enjoyed the crowd’s participation and engagement with the panelists and how they did not stray from asking tough questions. For example, one participant asked in terms of labeling would they prefer if a product simply stated it was genetically engineered or it stated which type of genetic engineering was done. Dr. Vincelli said he was in favor of labeling genetically engineered foods for social reasons and not scientific. He stated that he really did not have a good answer to completely explain his reasoning and also commented that he would not be in favor of the product stating what type of genetic engineering was used because it would be too complicated for individuals. Dr. Berkowitz explained that he supports labeling simply because the public supports labeling however he does not believe that it should be for genetic engineering types because people have problems with the technology and not the type of engineering. Dr. Li then stated that he prefers to eat GMOs than conventional produce, so he supports both types of labeling. This type of engagement provided extra insight into GMOs and the panelist viewpoints as well as gave the audience time to process new information and be able to process and put everything together. Ultimately, this event was a great experience and provided much insight into GMOs and how people perceive them.
For more information visit https://gmo.uconn.edu/
Lambing season rolls around every spring, and with it comes night lamb checks, fuzzy little faces bleating for mama, and hopefully, healthy ewes and lambs. But ensuring that those lambs and ewes are healthy at birth starts long before lambing occurs.
Our research group focuses on how the ewe’s diet while she is pregnant affects the growth and development of her lambs. When a ewe is provided excess or restricted nutrition during pregnancy, it affects her ability to support the proper development of her lambs. This is compounded when ewes carry larger litter sizes (2 or more lambs). Development of the lambs during gestation prepares those animals for growth after lambing. Ewes that are over- or under-fed during pregnancy produce lambs that ultimately end up with more fat and less muscle. This is undesirable because there is less meat produced and the animals are less healthy due to increased body fat. Further, lambs from poorly nourished ewes tend to have more connective tissue, resulting in tougher cuts of meat. But there are strategies that producers can easily employ to improve the health and productivity of their flocks.
Transabdominal ultrasound during early pregnancy (around day 30) can be performed with the ewe in the standing position, with little stress to the animal, and in less than 5 minutes per animal by a skilled technician. Ultrasound can provide critical information, such as how many lambs a ewe is carrying and, when appropriate fetal measurements (such as the length from the crown to the rump) are taken, an estimated due date can be calculated. Ewes with larger litter sizes require additional feed, but are also at greater risk for ketosis in late gestation. Identifying the number of offspring early will allow farmers to prevent complications during and after pregnancy.
Once litter size and estimated lambing date are known, flock managers can appropriately feed their ewes according to litter size and stage of gestation. Best practice suggests that ewes should be separated by litter size so that those carrying larger litters can be fed greater quantities of food. This prevents over-feeding ewes that are pregnant with singletons and under-feeding ewes that are pregnant with multiples. Ewes should be fed based on their stage of gestation (early-, mid-, late-), and the number of lambs they are carrying. Importantly, body condition should be monitored throughout gestation to ensure that ewes are carrying sufficient condition into lactation, so that they will be able to support their lambs after parturition. To ensure that the feed provided is appropriate, hay and grain analyses can provide flock managers with the nutrient content of their feedstuffs. Nutritional value can vary widely so it is recommended that each load of feed is analyzed. Feed analysis can be easily completed at several labs at relatively low cost. Determining how much feed to provide is based on nutrient requirements published by the National Research Council (https://www.nap.edu/read/11654/). There are also many online feed calculators available for sheep (https://www.sheepandgoat.com/rationsoftware).
Separating ewes by litter size also allows for closer monitoring of ewes with larger litter sizes that are predisposed to ketosis in late gestation. Ketosis is a common metabolic disorder that occurs during periods of extreme energy demands coupled with an inability to meet those demands. In ewes, this occurs most frequently during late gestation when lamb growth is the greatest. At-risk ewes can be monitored during the last four weeks of gestation for ketosis using a hand-held beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) meter. Concentrations between 0.8 to 1.5 mmol/L are considered subclinical and indicate the need for close monitoring until parturition. Blood concentrations of BHBA greater than 1.6 mmol/L are considered indicative of clinical ketosis and would require veterinary attention.
Beyond understanding the effects of poor maternal nutrition during gestation on lambs, our research helps us understand how human babies who are born to over- or under-nourished mothers may be affected. Sheep are excellent models for human health research, as they have similar numbers of offspring and lambs are approximately the same weight at birth as babies. While there are certainly differences in human and sheep physiology, understanding how a mother’s diet influences her offspring’s growth and metabolism benefits both species. By improving ewe health and nutrition during pregnancy, producers will have better growing lambs with improved carcass characteristics. Improving mom’s health and nutrition during pregnancy will decrease the risk of her baby developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes later in life.
For more information on our research, please visit the Fetal Programming Research Group’s website: https://fprg.research.uconn.edu/.
Article by Sarah Reed, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science
This article was originally published on Naturally.UConn.edu
Where did you get your degrees? I received a bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry (equivalent to DVM) and a master’s degree in veterinary biochemistry from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research in Pondicherry. I completed my PhD from UConn in animal science with a focus on food safety and microbiology. (Editor’s note: Her graduate student profile is on this blog.)
What did you do before you came to UConn? Before I joined UConn, I worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture at Tennessee Tech University for one year. I was involved with developing a research program on poultry and fresh produce safety, including writing grants and collaborating with other faculty from various disciplines. I also taught two upper level undergraduate courses and worked on several food safety outreach and recruitment activities in Tennessee.
What will your work here at UConn focus on? I plan to work with Connecticut poultry processors and fresh produce growers to promote food safety through dissemination of relevant research findings and associated trainings. I have visited various extension offices in Connecticut and the UConn campuses to begin to learn about food safety education requirements in the state.
For the first six months, I will concentrate on training Connecticut’s growers and producers to comply with the new Produce Safety Rule (PSR), which is part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
I will conduct other trainings, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training for meat and poultry producers. Connecticut does most of its training sessions in early spring and late fall, but other New England states do their trainings at different times. This provides plenty of options for growers and producers who can attend training anywhere in the region.
In addition, I understand and appreciate that this is a New England effort, therefore, I will be meeting and working alongside extension educators in the region from other states to introduce myself.
Moreover, I enjoy writing grants and would focus on applying to agencies that promote food safety outreach. I believe this would add to a strong food safety research program here at UConn.
Name one aspect of your work that you really like. I love meeting new people, talking to them and making connections. I believe its important to learn about the challenges that poultry processors, fresh produce growers, stakeholders, farmers and workers face to comply with food safety regulations. I want to know their concerns and help find solutions to their food safety issues. I think this aspect of my role blends well with my personality.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I love spending time with her. Also, I am a die-hard tennis fan, and I am glad that Flushing Meadows, NY (venue for the US Open Grand Slam) is nearby.