Vickie Wallace is an Extension Educator and Program Director of UConn’s Sustainable Turf and Landscape Program. Ms. Wallace is part of a team of Extension specialists that provides Integrated Pest Management (IPM) education for CT landscape professionals and homeowners. One focus of Ms. Wallace’s program is the training of municipal and school grounds managers who maintain safe athletic fields and grounds without the use of pesticides, which are banned on school grounds in CT. In June, 75 turf managers and landscaping professionals took part in a 2-day Municipal Turf and School Grounds Managers Academy.
Ms. Wallace has also co-organized several other Extension programs, including both a School IPM and a Native Plants & Pollinators workshop. She has written and disseminated numerous educational articles on many topics, including Water Conservation in CT Landscapes, Deer Resistant Plants, Sustainable Landscaping, Designing and Maintaining Meadows, and Using Weather Stations for Athletic Field Maintenance. She has spoken at multiple regional and national conferences, including at this month’s New England Grows conference in Boston, MA. Additionally, she is developing a new UConn Extension website focused on Sustainable Landscaping.
Ms. Wallace is also co-leader on a research project, funded by the Northeast Regional Turfgrass Foundation and Northeast Sports Turf Managers Association, evaluating turfgrass species and overseeding rates as part of an athletic turf care program.
UConn Extension offers Bedding Plant Program for Greenhouse Growers
Get the latest information on nutrient, disease management and scouting from University experts and network with professionals and fellow growers. This educational program will feature the following topics of interest to those who produce spring crops in the greenhouse:
· Review of Plant Nutrition Problems in 2017
Rosa Raudales, Greenhouse Extension Specialist, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
· Disease Management for Spring Crops
Dr. Yonghao Li, CT Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, CT
UConn Extension empowers communities by building a network of awareness and knowledge. One example of this is Brass City Harvest, Inc. in Waterbury. Extension educators in our greenhouse and Master Gardener programs worked with Susan Pronovost to build the capacity of 501(c)3 organization. Susan shared her organization’s work with us
Brass City Harvest in Waterbury develops a local and regional food system that increases access to fresh food, creates urban farmland, speaks to the nutritional and dietary needs of the community, and provides new sales channels for farmers to sell their products.
Chronic disease and obesity rates continue to spiral upwards in Waterbury because there are so many food desert neighborhoods. Waterbury also has a very substantial amount of brownfield or at least lightly contaminated land that stand as testament to our once-proud industrial past. Repurposing this land for agricultural use is critical for public health, fresh food access, and to promoting green space in urban neighborhoods that lack it.
Connecticut’s farmers face many economic challenges; increasing sales channels through robust farmers’ market networks, wholesale opportunities, and other economic development projects that utilize agriculture as an industry and a career path are key components to addressing long term sustainability issues in the farming community and inner city communities such as Waterbury.
What has been done:
The UConn Extension Master Gardener Program gave me the skills to conduct efficient and reliable urban farming in a manner that brings great impact to the community and is reasonable in terms of business model implications. In addition to various urban agriculture programs, this organization regularly conducts trainings (seed starting and container gardening). Brass City Harvest provides consultation for new gardeners, has conducted workshops on greening the municipality and addressing food security, and regularly speaks to leadership groups from various foundations and civic organizations.
The greatest outcome for Brass City Harvest and the City of Waterbury is that prior to our existence, there was never talk about green space, urban farmland, or sustainable means to address food security. In less than ten years we have developed core programs to address food security by growing and harvesting more than 12,000 lbs. of fresh food, hydroponic crops, and fresh fish that is entirely donated to emergency food providers and senior centers in Waterbury. We have engaged more than 500 individuals and households in our healthy cooking and nutrition classes. We have increased sales of fresh farm food through the utilization of public entitlements by 500%.
The broader social, economic civic and environmental benefits of our program to the community speak to addressing food and environmental justice issues. Much of our population lacks the economic mobility to either become more self-reliant or to leave their current housing – which is often cheaper in poorer neighborhoods – for better living conditions in more middle class neighborhoods that typically provide more services such as access to supermarkets, and also have fewer environmental issues.
As an example, one of our programs teaches emancipated minors in the school system who are either pregnant or who already have children, how to recognize and cook fresh food. Inner city youth who are on their own have no role models. There is no one to teach them the difference between an apple and a beet – they both look red. Brass City Harvest does what it can to assist young parents in making wiser nutritional decisions for themselves and their children and we show them how easy it is to have a small kitchen garden by a window or on a small patio. Understanding the audience is critical to such basic, grassroots outreach.
Intermediate and long term effects will largely be dependent upon the continued expansion of Brass City Harvest’s infrastructure and role within the community that will address some of the needs of the state’s farmers, provide fresh food in some strategic corner stores, expand urban farmland to reclaim and repurpose even more contaminated and blighted land, and establish a true food and nutrition center that combines the concepts of farm-to-table into one package that can be tailored to each specific audience.
Turfgrass is often overlooked by residents – but is one of the most abundant crops in the state, and an important part of Connecticut’s economic engine. Direct sales from the turfgrass industry are around $2.5 billion, with a total economic impact of $2.9 billion. Lawn care services are the largest turfgrass sector in the state, followed by golf courses, and lawn care retailing.
UConn’s turfgrass team includes Vickie Wallace from the Department of Extension and Karl Guillard, Jason Henderson, John Inguagiato, Ana Legrand, Tom Morris, and Steve Rackliffe from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. A multi-faceted approach to current turfgrass issues is part of their overall goal of improving sustainability, reducing inputs, and addressing restrictions.
There is no one size fits all model for turfgrass management. The unique challenges associated with managing athletic fields are very different than managing golf courses or lawns at private homes. Various uses, along with the intense wear turfgrass receives dictate best management practices. Further complicating the situation is the variety of information regarding pesticide-free and/or organic management available to turf managers, much of it anecdotal, and not science-based.
In 2010, the state banned all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered lawn care pesticides on athletic fields at public and private schools with pre-kindergarten through 8th grade students. Connecticut and New York are the only states in the country with the pesticide ban. Research and outreach education done by UConn’s team is critically important, and on a national stage.
“The concern regarding this restrictive legislation goes well beyond aesthetics and can negatively impact playing surface safety,” Associate Professor Jason Henderson mentions. “We need to keep fields safe for use – and to reach that goal, controlling insects and weeds is important. Misinformation also increases risks of nitrogen and phosphorus overuse becoming an environmental issue.”
Educational programming designed by Extension faculty is multifaceted, utilizing research and demonstration to address misinformation, and providing turfgrass managers with science-based solutions and best management practices. The EPA and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are funding field research evaluating several different management regimes over time.
The eight management strategies being tested include organic low, organic high, pesticide-free low, pesticide-free high, integrated pest management (IPM), integrated systems management (ISM), calendar-based, and a mow-only control. These management regimes are being evaluated on a plot area managed as a home lawn as well as an area managed as an athletic field.
“These research plots will help identify strengths and weaknesses for each of the management regimes as well as provide a demonstration area for education, and to correct misinformation turf managers receive,” Jason says. “These results will help improve our current recommendations to keep fields as safe as possible for the end user when managed without the use of pesticides.”
“Looking at management strategies over time will show us differences, and allow a potential cost analysis to be prepared for each management strategy,” says Associate Extension Educator Vickie Wallace. “Heading into the fourth year of the trials, you can see differences in how the plots are managed, and it can translate to landscapes and athletic fields.” A full report will be published after research concludes in April 2018.
A complicating factor to pesticide-free management is the fact that many of the athletic fields that fall under the pesticide ban do not have irrigation. Another project is currently underway to improve overseeding recommendations for non-irrigated sports fields. A new multi-state overseeding project evaluating three species, two cultivars, and multiple overseeding rates began in 2016. The New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation and the New England Sports Turf Managers Association sponsor the project.
Research on these plots is unique in that it’s occurring on actual fields in use and not at a research facility. Three fields were selected at three separate locations based on the high intensity of traffic they receive. Treatments were initiated in September 2016 and overseeding will be repeated in the spring and fall of 2017.
“While certainly different from athletic fields, backyards are also subject to wear and tear, and there may be parallels with care recommendations,” Vickie says.
Another complementary research study led by Henderson and Assistant Professor John Inguagiato is quantifying the amount of dislodgeable foliar pesticide residue remaining following a pesticide application. The study is evaluating four different commonly used active ingredients for weed control on sports fields. The results of this research can help improve recommendations for minimizing potential exposure risks, and help lawmakers make science-based decisions concerning future legislation.
In addition to the field research and demonstrations, a smart phone app is being released later this year for Apple and Android that will help turf managers and homeowners select the correct fertilizer, and purchase the proper amount. Videos in the app demonstrate fertilizer spreader calibration and application techniques.
Extension outreach is an important component of research at a land-grant institution. The biannual Turf Field Day is held in even years at the Research Farm, and draws a crowd of over 300, including 40 commercial exhibitors from all over New England.
In March 2017 the team hosted a sports turf workshop at UConn. Future workshops are being developed as research continues and needs of turfgrass managers evolve. One thing is certain; the UConn Extension team will continue to meet the demands and challenges of the diverse industry.
While Connecticut residents live in a state with ample water resources, we are beginning to notice some changes in precipitation trends.
“Connecticut is very fortunate as we’re actually quite water rich,” says Angie Harris, research assistant in UConn Extension. “We are getting rainfall, but there’s a shift in what we are beginning to experience, and what scientists expect to continue, which is more intense rain events less frequently. This type of rainfall can lead to drought conditions for agricultural producers.”
In 2015, Connecticut requested over $8 million dollars in federal emergency loans to be made available for crop losses due to moderate drought conditions across the state.
Mike O’Neill, associate dean and associate director of UConn Extension, and Harris are working on a two-year water conservation project funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Funding is provided through a $400,000 NRCS grant matched one to one by the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.
The UConn team is partnering with NRCS to promote conservation assistance to agricultural producers. The project goal focuses on agricultural water security by helping farmers prepare for drought, improve their irrigation efficiency and establish water conservation practices.
“In the past, NRCS did everything themselves,” O’Neill explains. “But now they are outsourcing some of that work because they realize we have partnerships in the community that can be effective in helping people implement agricultural conservation practices. I think this is a very innovative act on the part of the NRCS.”
Twelve pilot sites across the state have been identified to include a variety of agricultural operations including greenhouses, nurseries, vegetable growers and dairy and livestock farms.
“We’re really trying to target new and beginning agricultural operations because we feel they run the greatest risk of failure as a result of drought,” O’Neill says. “We look at what these operations can do in advance to make them more secure when a drought hits. If you can prepare farmers in advance, then when drought occurs, they’re not dealing with mitigation or lost crops, they will be able to weather the drought and be successful.”
The first step in the project involved review of the operations, followed by a site visit. Then the team installed a water meter at each site. The meter information is easily managed by farmers through an innovative text messaging data collection method developed by Nicholas Hanna, computer programmer with the College’s Office of Communications. The program allows operators to check their meter reading once weekly, quickly send the results via text messaging and receive a confirmation of their submission.
The readings are entered into a database associated with their number and farm name. By season’s end, the team will chart water usage tied to climate variables such as precipitation and wind, and will then review current watering practices and help owners develop strategies that manage water usage and prepare for drought conditions.
The NRCS will also use this data to help farmers access water saving strategies and equipment.
“In the end, we will be directing them to NRCS for financial assistance to implement conservation practices,” says Harris. The NRCS financial assistance programs are designed to help agricultural producers maintain and improve their water program in areas such as soil management and irrigation efficiency.
Some seventy-five agricultural producers have expressed interest in the program thus far, with the number growing weekly. To join the program, farmers complete a water use survey available online. A member of the team will conduct a field site visit. “If farmers are interested in getting a meter, we want to hear from them,” says O’Neill.
“We have a really great team working on this project,” he says. The group includes Rosa Raudales, assistant professor and horticulture extension specialist in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture; Mike Dietz, extension educator in water resources, low impact development and storm water management; and Ben Campbell, former assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, currently an assistant professor and extension economist at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
In another aspect of the project, the team is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Office of Policy and Management to explore water needs for agriculture in Connecticut. This understanding could inform policy decisions for future agricultural development within the state.
“This is a teachable moment for us,” O’Neill says. “We feel like these agricultural producers are scientists. We have an opportunity to help farmers conserve water, increase profitability and preserve the environment. They treat their business as a science, and we are trying to work with them to help them enhance their science capabilities and make better choices.”
This is a re-post from October 9, 2013. As the weather gets warmer, the problem is resurfacing.
UConn Extension has noticed a growing problem in Connecticut landscapes – tree volcanoes. A tree volcano occurs when mulch is piled around the base of the tree and climbs up the trunk. The shape of the mulch resembles a cone or a volcano. Mulch volcanoes waste money and damage trees.
Mulch is useful at the base of a tree for many reasons. When done correctly, the mulch protects the tree from a lawnmower or string trimmer, aids in keeping the soil moist and keeps the ground cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Mulch also improves soil structure, aeration, and prevents soil erosion and runoff.
Bark is the outermost protective layer or skin of a tree. To properly function, bark needs to be exposed to air. When mulch is piled around the trunk of the tree, the mulch softens the bark and allows outside organisms like varmints, insects, bacteria, virus and fungi to penetrate into the tree. Over time a tree volcano will kill the tree.
Ideally, a mulch ring is placed at the base of the tree immediately after the tree is planted. Follow these steps to correctly apply mulch to the base of your trees:
Before you apply mulch, remove any weeds from around the tree.
The mulch ring should be 2-3 feet wide around the tree trunk radius.
Maximum depth of the mulch is 2-3 inches – the roots need to breathe. Taper the mulch layer to the grass at the edge of the ring.
Aged wood chips or shredded bark are the best choices for mulch.
Mulch shouldn’t touch the bark of the tree.
Trees 10 inches in diameter and larger don’t need mulch.
For more information on tree volcanoes or other home and garden questions, visit a UConn Extension Master Gardener program office. Locations can be found at: http://mastergardener.uconn.edu
There are more than one hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their experience and knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities now will be easily accessible with the creation of an online extension course catalog.
Extension classes address a wide range of topics, including issues related to agriculture and food systems, the green industry, families and community development, land use and water, nutrition and wellness as well as numerous 4-H and youth activities. The website uses these groupings and an A to Z index so finding offerings is simple and straightforward. Each program links to a page with information on the objectives, goals, components, intended audience, the time of year and how often programs run and a link to the program’s website, that provides additional information.
As part of a nationwide network through the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment.
March 14 & 15, 2017, 8 am-4 pm
W.B. Young Building, 1376 Storrs Road, Room 100
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
The registration fee is $180.00.
$20 discount ($160 per person) for groups of 3 or more. Student registration is $25.
Walk-in registrations are welcome, but must be paid by cash or check.
Registration fee includes refreshments, lunch, and an information packet.
Pesticide Recertification Credits – 7 Credits/Categories 3A, 3B, & PA