Agriculture

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.

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.

Produce Safety Training

Diane Hirsch working with produce prior to a UConn Extension food safety training. Photo: Cameron Faustian
Photo credit: Cameron Faustman

Some medium to larger Connecticut farms need to comply with the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). This includes taking an approved food safety course, implement- ing certain practices that can minimize risk, and keeping records related to those practices. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture conducts a variety of activi- ties related to implementation of the rule, including developing an inspection pro- gram that meets the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

UConn Extension conducts approved Produce Safety Alliance grower food safety courses and provides informa- tion and resources to help farms comply. Training details can be found at http:// foodsafety.uconn.edu.

Both the Department of Agriculture and Extension are encouraging all farmers to take the course, whether they need to comply with the PSR or if they are exempt or not covered by the rule. Awareness of how produce can contribute to foodborne illness and how to implement safe food handling practices on the farm benefits the industry and its customers.

Article by Diane Wright Hirsch

Food Safety on Farms

carrotsFruits and vegetables add important nutrients, color, variety to our diet. Most of us enjoy them raw in salads, as a snack, or dessert. However, in the last few years there has been an increase in the number of foodborne illness outbreaks asso- ciated with fresh fruits and vegetables. Spinach, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions, have been on the outbreak list. Many consumers are unaware that produce is the number one source of foodborne illness—it is more likely to be associated with foodborne illness than meat, poultry, fish or dairy products.

A series of programs and laws were developed to bring consistency nationwide and reduce the number of foodborne illness outbreaks. These include: Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)—a voluntary audit program, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

The Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule (PSR) was passed in 2011, implemented in 2016, and establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, pack- ing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The PSR is aimed at reducing

foodborne illness from fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmers that are not exempt from the rule must attend approved training. UConn Extension Educator Diane Hirsch offers the Produce Safety Alliance course, and GAP audit preparation courses.

Case Study: Gresczyk Farms LLC

First of all, I deeply appreciate everything Extension educators do for us as farms. I give credit to Extension forBruce Gresczyk Jr. talks about food safety on his farm everything I’m good at growing. I think the only way agriculture can be strong in this state is if we all do a good job at it. Part of this is food safety.

Admittedly, the part I knew the least about was food safety. The produce rule and FSMA kind of scared me, not knowing anything about it. It’s a very complex law. Plus, our farm also wanted to achieve voluntary GAP certification. Essentially certain buyers on the wholesale level require you to be part of GAP so they can meet the qualifications of their food safety program.

At Gresczyk Farms LLC in New Hartford we grow 130 acres of vegetables. We also have 3⁄4 acres of greenhouses, with vegetable crops grown inside, and 600 laying hens for egg production. I became a course instructor for the Produce Safety Alliance Course, working with Diane.

I like learning and talking about stuff. I figured the best way to handle food safety on our farm is to learn how to teach it. I’ve always been very open with other farmers, and happy to talk to anybody about grow- ing. It gets back to my theory of if we’re all good at farming, it helps agriculture in general. That was my motivation to become a trainer.

I recommend anyone take the class, even if you’re just doing a little bit of farming. It doesn’t matter if you’re growing an acre or 200-acres. The FSMA class can really help farmers improve their decision making.

It’s helped me address the food safety practices on our farm. A lot of what farm- ers are already doing is right, I found it was tweaking more so than anything else. It definitely raised my awareness. We were GAP certified in summer of 2017, and changed a lot of things, but in a good way.

and exclusions in FSMA should take the training we offer through Extension. I always say that if everyone can take a food safety class it will go further than all of these rules, and this even applies to consumers.

If you touch food, you should have some basic knowledge of food safety, and really most of us don’t. And that’s okay too, but the biggest thing you can do is just go through a class. It’s really handy to learn some of these basic practices. Then you’re aware as you’re doing things, it literally can save somebody’s life. It’s a way to think about it, and just to be aware.

Our farm, we’re always growing, we’re trying to get bigger and better every year. We love doing that, and we love growing. Most of all I want to circle back to thanking Extension. Without Extension’s resources’ we wouldn’t have access to science-based, unbiased information. It really helps us incredibly.

Even farms that have a lot of exemptions and exclusions in FSMA should take the training we offer through Extension. I always say that if everyone can take a food safety class it will go further than all of these rules, and this even applies to consumers.

If you touch food, you should have some basic knowledge of food safety, and really most of us don’t. And that’s okay too, but the biggest thing you can do is just go through a class. It’s really handy to learn some of these basic practices. Then you’re aware as you’re doing things, it literally can save somebody’s life. It’s a way to think about it, and just to be aware.

Our farm, we’re always growing, we’re trying to get bigger and better every year. We love doing that, and we love grow- ing. Most of all I want to circle back to thanking Extension. Without Extension’s resources’ we wouldn’t have access to science-based, unbiased information. It really helps us incredibly.

Article by Bruce Gresczyk Jr. and Diane Wright Hirsch

2017 Highlights of Extension

Highlights report thumbnail image
UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Connecticut is a small, diverse state with urban and rural spaces. We understand that because we live and work here. Extension educators are ready to connect you with our knowledge and help you to improve your community.
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. The report highlights program achievements from the past year.
Originating from eight Connecticut Extension Centers, the Sea Grant program at Avery Point and the UConn Storrs campus, programs use various educational methods to reach individuals and groups. UConn Extension partners with nonprofit organizations and state agencies, training volunteers and staff. This magnifies the scope and impact of Extension’s outreach. We have no fewer than seven programs in every town in Connecticut, with some towns having over twenty-two Extension programs. Thank you for your support in helping to make these programs possible. To see UConn Extension’s latest updates, read the Highlights of Extension or visit the web site at www.extension.uconn.edu.

Testing Ticks is Vital to Safety

ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab
Photo: Heather Haycock

The warmer weather has people and our animals headed outdoors. Unfortunately, this same weather has also brought ticks out in abundance. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have cited increased numbers of ticks, and tick-borne diseases. UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

In the Northeast, we see the Deer tick, the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum). Each of these can be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

CVMDL has been busy testing ticks this spring. We received 33 ticks for testing in April. Of these specimens, 25 of them were received in the last two weeks of the month. Two of the ticks were found on dogs. Overaal, the results showed that the Lyme disease agent was detected in 8 specimens, B. burgdorferi and Babesia microti (Babesiosis) were detected in one specimen whereas 4 ticks were positive for both B. burgdorferiand Anaplasma phagocytophilum(Anaplasmosis).

UConn researchers are not just testing for diseases transmitted by ticks. Researchers at PVS are also working to develop vaccines and preventative control measures to combat tick-borne illnesses.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.

Patriotic Smoothies

serving smoothies in Meriden schools

In Meriden schools, they served Red, White, & Blue Smoothies in honor of the winter Olympics and local dairy in February. What a cool idea! And one that you can replicate at home in honor of Memorial Day. It’s a fun and delicious smoothie. The layers were strawberry, banana, and blueberry served at breakfast with graham crackers. 

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food.

Basic Management of Small Poultry Flocks

By Michael J. Darre, Ph.D., P.A.S.

rooster at UConn facility
White leghorn roosters with chickens at the Poultry Uniton Jan. 27, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

There are several basic needs that need to be provided for poultry. These are feed, water, fresh air, light, darkness, proper thermal environment, protection (from the elements, predators, injury and theft) and proper space. Proper housing and equipment will take care of many of these items. Poultry and other animals function normally when they exist in harmonious balance with the other living forms and the physical and chemical factors in their environment. Therefore, it is the role of the poultry owner to properly manage the animals in their care.

HOUSING

Poultry require a dry, draft free environment. Depending upon the number of birds to be housed, almost any type of building that provides controlled ventilation, such as windows and doors, can be used. Birds should be reared in high, well drained areas. The windows of the coop and, outside run should face south to allow maximum exposure to the sun throughout the year. This helps with warmth in the winter and dryness during the rest of the year.

If you are building new, consider a concrete floor and starting your walls with two concrete blocks. This will prevent rodents, snakes and other predators from digging under the walls and floors for entrance into the coop. If you use plywood for floor construction, consider using two layers of 3/4″ CDX plywood, with a layer of 1/4″ or 1/8″ galvanized wire mesh between the layers, then raise the floor off the ground with posts or 6″ x 6″ runners. Using runners allows you to move the coop as needed. Being off the ground also helps prevent rot and moisture in the coop. All this helps prevent predators from chewing through the floor. Some have found that using the double layer of plywood with wire mesh and insulation between the layers helps keep the coop warmer in the winter. Windows should also be covered with wire mesh to keep wild birds and other predators out. For summer, a wire mesh screen door helps keep the coop cooler at night.

Ventilation provides comfort for the birds by removing moisture, ammonia and other gases; provides an exchange of air and helps control the temperature of the pen. You can use natural or gravity fed ventilation with windows, flues and slats. Or you can use forced air ventilation if you have a larger number of birds. In a small coop (less than 150 sq ft of floor space) you can use a bathroom fan in the ceiling and slats in the walls or windows to remove excess moisture in the winter, much as it does in your home. It is important to remove excess moisture and ammonia from the coop, especially in cold weather when ventilation is at a minimum.

For predator protection, keep your birds confined with fence and covered runs. Outside run fencing should be buried at least 12″ to 18″with an 6″ to 8″ “L” or “J” to the outside, backfilled with rocks and soil to prevent digging predators. To prevent problems with flying predators, cover your outside runs with mesh wire or netting. A 3-4 ft. grid over the pen made from bailing twine has also proven effective against flying predators. A good outside run can be made by digging 12-18” with a slight slopeaway from the coop, and laying plastic sheetingdown (if you don’t have good drainage) with a drain pipe at the end to catch runoff. Add 4-6” of sand, cover with 1⁄4” wire mesh, add 4-6” of coarse gavel, cover with 1/4” wire mesh and topwith 4-6” of pea-gravel. Put a barrier around therun of 2×6” to keep the gravel in place. Or youcan use a good ground cover of millet, broomcorn, sorghum or other tall leafy vegetation which provides hiding space for the birds.

Space:

Birds need adequate space for feeding, exercise, breeding, nesting and roosting.

Minimum Space Requirements

poultry space requirements by type of bird

Roosts: Provide chickens with 6-10 inches of roost space per bird. Round roosts are the best, and a tree branch of about 1″ to 1.5″ in diameter works well. Meat birds and waterfowl do not require roosts.

Nests: It is best to provide one nest box for each 4-5 females in the flock. 12-14” cubeswith front open with perching space for the birds to stand on while entering the nest.

Floor material: Litter floors of wood shavings is the best. Wood has an excellent capacity to absorb moisture and then re- release it into the air. Whatever you use, keep it clean and dry.

FEED AND WATER

Birds need free access to fresh feed. Feeders can be made of wood, metal, or plastic, but it is important to provide about 2-3 linear inches of feeder space per bird and up to 6″ for meat type birds and turkeys. They should be adjustable in height so the lip of the feeder will be at the level of the back of the bird when standing. Keep troughs only half full to prevent feed wastage.

Fresh water should always be available to your birds, inside or outside. If using an open waterer keeping the lip of the waterer level with the back of the bird is essential. For winter watering, metal waterers can be placed on low temp heaters, keeping the

water at about 50oF. However, nipple waters are the best, since the birds cannot produce suction in their mouth. I recommend them over any open watering system. Use of a fish tank heater in buckets used for nipple waterers helps prevent freezing in the winter.

Commercial poultry feeds have been specially formulated for the type and age of your birds and are the best source of nutrition for your birds. For egg layers, a 14 or 16% CP laying mash or crumbles can be fed from the first egg until out of production. Chicks should be fed a 18-23% CP medicated starter, unless they received cocci-vac, then use a non-medicated starter feed, for six weeks. Then put on a 16-18% CP layer grower feed till 15 weeks or first egg, then on to the layer feed. Broilers should be feed a broiler starter (21-23% CP) feed for 3 weeks, and a 18-20% CP grower/ finisher till market.

LIGHT

Poultry require artificial lighting to maintain egg production during the short days of winter. Poultry are long-day breeders and we normally provide laying hens about 16 hrs of light per day throughout the year. Light timers set to come on at 5 am and off at 9 pm will supply the hours required. Low wattage CFL, LED or Incandescent lamps that supply about 1 foot candle of light at bird level is adequate. Use a 2700K lamp.

Never decrease the hours of light on laying hens or increase the hours of light on a growing bird.

BROODING

Raising and brooding baby chicks requires special care. Chicks need to be reared in isolation for disease prevention. They should be reared in a clean, disinfected environment. Baby chicks cannot properly regulate their body temperature for a few days after hatching and require a heat source. Heat lamps, brooder stoves, hovers and infrared heaters work well. A brooder guard, a ring of cardboard or plastic at least 18″ high on the floor circling the heat source keeps the chicks from getting too far from the heat and reduces drafts. Watch the birds, if they huddle under the heat source, they are too cool, if off to one side, a draft, if spread evenly, just right. For newly hatched birds is it best to provide them with water for the first couple of hours before giving them solid feed. This helps clean out their excretory system. If you get chicks from a distant hatchery through the mail, then give them a 5% sugar water solution for the first few hours to boost their energy level.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT

Refer to UConn Poultry Pages for more detailed information on health and diseases of poultry.

Download a copy of this article as a PDF.