Environment

Nitrogen – The Fix

corn
Chlorotic corn. Image provided by T. Morris, 2018

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient required for the production and growth of all plants, vegetation, and living organisms. It makes up 78% of our atmosphere; however, that only accounts for 2% of the Nitrogen on our planet. The remaining 98% can be found within the Earth’s lithosphere; the crust and outer mantel. The Nitrogen found within the nonliving and living fractions of soil represents an unimaginably low fraction of a percentage of all the Nitrogen on our planet. That tiny percent of all total Nitrogen found in our soils is what we can interact with to help or hinder plant production.

To be considered an essential nutrient, an element must satisfy certain criteria:

  • Plants cannot complete their life cycles without it.
  • Its role must be specific and defined, with no other element being able to completely substitute for it.
  • It must be directly involved in the nutrition of the plant, meaning that it is a constituent of a metabolic pathway of an essential enzyme.

In plants, Nitrogen is necessary in the formation of amino acids, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), proteins, chlorophyll, and coenzymes. Nitrogen gives plants their lush, green color while promoting succulent growth and hastens maturity. When plants do not receive adequate Nitrogen, the leaves and tissues develop chlorosis. However, over-application of Nitrogen can cause even more problems, including delayed maturity, higher disease indigence, lower tolerance to environmental stresses, reduced carbohydrate reserves, and poor root development.

Read more….

Pesticide Safety Educator Receives Award

Candace and teammates receive their pesticide safety award at the impact collaborative
Candace Bartholomew (far left) and team members receive their award at the eXtension Impact Collaborative.

Indianapolis, IN. A NPSEC team comprised of staff and PSEP coordinators that are members of the Respirator Collaboration Team participated in eXtension’s Impact Collaborative Summit in Indianapolis from October 16th – 18th. The purpose of the Summit was for institutional and national Extension teams to bring projects and programs from various topic areas to find new and innovative ways to move their projects and programs forward with the help of the Impact Collaborative Innovation process, Key Informants, and partner/supporting organizations. 32 teams representing 40 institutions attended.

Working from where they left off at the 2018 National Pesticide Applicator Certification and Safety Education Workshop in San Antonio this past August, the NPSEC Team focused on finding innovative ways to get Collaboration Teams off the ground. The three-day event culminated in a PitchFest, where the team presented their project idea to eXtension and Cooperative Extension leaders, along with external partner and supporting organizations.

As a result of the PitchFest, the NPSEC team won an award in the Most Fundable Project or Program category that has earned the team recognition and a strategic partnership with the eXtension Partner Development Team. The goal is to raise $20,000 for each of NPSEC’s five identified collaboration teams to develop educational materials which have been identified as urgently needed for Pesticide Safety Education Programs in all the states and territories.

The NPSEC team was comprised of the following individuals:

Candace Bartholomew, University of Connecticut
Mike Wierda, Utah State University
Kerry Richards, University of Delaware
Courtney Weatherbee, Michigan State University
Dean Herzfeld, University of Minnesota
Wayne Buhler, North Carolina State University

Coastal Storm Preparedness Story Map for Connecticut

coastal house damaged from a storm in ConnecticutAs part of the Coastal Storm Awareness Program (CSAP) 10 social science research and related new technology projects were funded to improve public response to coastal storm hazard information. In one of these studies, Jennifer Marlon, of Yale University, and other collaborators in 2015 found that 70 percent of coastal Connecticut residents are either unsure or unaware if their home is in an evacuation zone as determined by flood maps developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Another 74 percent of coastal Connecticut residents have never seen an evacuation map for their community.

In order to provide information on evacuation zones, local evacuation routes and customized municipal preparedness, Extension faculty at Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research and a UConn student developed a Coastal Storm Story Map. A story map is a tool developed by the software company, Esri, that allows authoritative maps to be combined with text, images and videos to tell a story. This story map provides information on evacuation zones and local evacuation routes, as well as links to sign up for town emergency alerts. Piloted with four coastal towns, the project’s goal is to have information for all coastal and riverine communities throughout the state. Any town interested in providing evacuation route and shelter information for the story map, please contact Juliana Barrett at juliana.barrett@uconn.edu.

CT Trail Census Update

CT Trail Census logo

Greetings, trail folks! As seasons change and everyone debates which one is the best, we here at the CT Trail Census (CTTC) realized that thanks to last year’s CTTC volunteer participants, we actually do have data with which to rank the seasons with!

Trail use data, of course!

So here it goes: According to last year’s data, the average total daily uses across all trails during the summer was 336 versus 221 in the fall. This may surprise people since fall is such a beautiful time to use the trails for walking, running, horseback riding, and almost any activity besides skiing! We should probably compare these numbers to next year’s data before we make any hefty conclusions about which season is the best.

Show us know how you enjoy the trails in the fall! Tag Connecticut Trail Census on Facebook with your fall trail photos!

Fall Data Update
While volunteer teams continue to hit their local trails and greenways counting and intercepting the autumn trail users, CTTC staff are busy travelling the state, enjoying the views of the foliage while checking on the IR counters and downloading the IR counter trail use data from the summer.  To date, we have received over 700 surveys! Considering it is only October not all sites have sent surveys yet, we are well on our way to exceeding last year’s total of 1,003 surveys!
As a reminder, please send us any completed surveys once you have around 100 and don’t forget to include a Data Summary & Refusal Form with each group of surveys. 
Any & all surveys should be completed and sent in the mail by the end of the month.
Behind the Scenes
If you catch us not on the road, you will most likely find us hard at work behind computers crunching numbers and compiling resources for our application to continue the program using funds from the Connecticut Recreational Trails Plan Program. This process has lead us to think a lot about the future and we are excited about what we have come up with. Our goals involve program expansions and alterations that we hope will only improve the Trail Census. We will keep you posted!

Well Water: Protecting Your Well

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

There are a number of steps that a homeowner can take to help protect their private well.

  • Water should be diverted away from the wellhead to prevent the pooling and potential introduction of contaminated water  into the well.
  • Keep the well in good repair.  A faulty well can allow surface water to reach groundwater without filtering through the soil.
  • Use care when applying pesticides and fertilizers to lawns and gardens near the well (better yet, avoid use entirely if possible).  These products contain chemicals and/or nutrients that can contaminate well water.
  • Abandoned wells should be sealed.  They are a prime entryway for contaminants.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

Equine Owners Should Vaccinate for EEE, Warns CVMDL at UConn

Eastern equine encephalitis slide
Colourised transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicting a salivary gland that had been extracted from a mosquito, which was infected by the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, which has been colorized red; magnified 83,900x. {{PD-USGov-HHS-CDC}}

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. In recent weeks. two unrelated sick birds, one of which was a bald eagle, tested positive for EEE at UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL). Researchers and veterinarians at 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.eduor call 860-486-3738.

References:

LSU Ag Center Research and Extension: http://www.lmca.us/PDF/pub2834eee.pdf

CAES Finds Spotted Lanternfly in Farmington

CAES Announces the Finding of Spotted Lanternfly in Farmington, Connecticut

spotted lantern flyNew Haven, CT – The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in cooperation with USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) announce that a single dead adult spotted lanternfly,Lycoma delicatula, has been detected and confirmed from a private residence in Farmington, CT. The insect appears to have been a hitch hiker that was likely transported on a vehicle from Pennsylvania. No other spotted lanternflies were found upon visiting the property. However, some additional survey in the area is planned to confirm that no other spotted lanternflies are present.

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive sap-feeding planthopper that was discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014. It is native to China, India, and Vietnam. It attacks many hosts and has the potential to severely impact Connecticut’s farm crops, particularly apples, grapes, and hops, as well as a number of tree species. In the fall, adults can often be found congregating on tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus), willows and other trees. They will lay egg masses on trees and almost any nearby surface. Early detection is important for the protection of Connecticut businesses and agriculture. The public is urged to report potential sightings of this invasive pest to CAES.StateEntomologist@ct.gov. Submission of a photograph with any report is encouraged.

Home Water Systems: Wells

water well Distric La Serra
Photo: Wikimedia

In Connecticut, approximately 15% of residents receive their drinking water from private wells. In rural areas of the state, that percentage increases to greater than 90%.

An owner of a private well is also a manager of the well.  As manager of the well, the homeowner is responsible for making sure that the water is safe to drink and the well is  not damaged or compromised.   Public water systems are required to regularly test water and meet federally set water quality standards.  Private wells are not required to test and meet standards except following installation and at time of sale of the property.

It is important to have a basic understanding of factors affecting well water, what to test for andwhere to have well water tested.  Practices to reduce the risk of contamination of well water are also important to the safety of drinking water.

Many homeowners are unaware of the recommendation to routinely test their private well.  A basic series of tests is recommended annually. Other tests should be conducted based on potential sources of contaminants that may affect the well. This would be based on the potential presence of naturally occurring contaminants or those introduced by human activities/land uses.

It is recommended that homeowners use a testing laboratory that is EPA certified to test. The EPA has certified laboratories to assure that the labs have the proper equipment to test for the contaminants that they advertise.  Not all environmental laboratories test for everything.  It is a good consumer practice to compare two or three labs to determine which best suits the consumer’s needs.

If the water tests indicate that there is a problem, information is available to help the homeowner understand what the problem is and what options are available to address the problem if needed.

There are a number of steps that homeowners can take that can help to protect the quality of water in the private well.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

UConn CVMDL Monitoring for Longhorned Tick

A female longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis). Credit/ James Gathany/CDC/Anna E. Perea2018
A female longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis). Credit: James Gathany/CDC/Anna E. Perea 2018

Recent reports of the longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis or Asian Longhorned tick)being found in Westchester County, New York have alarmed livestock owners and outdoor enthusiasts statewide. The longhorned tick is native to Asia and was reported in the continental USA in November 2017, when it was first discovered on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  This tick has already been identified in western Connecticut.  While the Asian longhorned ticks discovered in the United States has not been found to carry any pathogen causing human diseases, In Asia the longhorned tick has been associated with tick-borne encephalitis, and they are apparently capable of carrying Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Babesiaspecies, and Powassan virus all of which can affect humans. This tick may also represent a problem for farm animals since they can transmit a pathogen that causes theileriosis, a disease of cattle and sheep, as well as the agents that cause babesisosis in animals. An interesting feature of this tick is that it can reproduce by parthogenesis (no male needed), so the number of ticks on one animal can be very high.

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 frontline of tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.

“Our staff are watching out for this tick among our tick submissions,” says Dr. Joan Smyth, Director of CVMDL. “To date we have not had any longhorned ticks. Our lab offers tick identification services, in addition to the many other services provided.”

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 humans, symptoms from a longhorned tick bite include rash, fever, nausea, body aches, tiredness, headache and vomiting. Symptoms for animals vary by species and can include blood loss, anemia, skin irritations and infections. Always consult your veterinarian if you notice changes in your 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.

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.

Crime Prevention

Jonathan looking at leafSeptember is over yet hurricane season remains throughout October. Quiet periods in between weather events are perfect times to check your existing emergency preparedness plans, to complete planning yet accomplished, and to acquire emergency supplies not yet in place. October is considered a quieter time than other months. Although storms can happen at any time – recall the October 8, 2011 ice storm in New England. It is the perfect time to prepare as a consequence.

October is National Crime Prevention Month. The National Crime Prevention Council sponsors this. (https://www.ncpc.org/programs/crime-prevention-month/) The organization produces a 28-page crime prevention kit as a PDF titled “Keeping Our Communities Safe.”

(https://www.ncpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/CrimePreventionMonthKit_2017-2018.pdf)

October is also Fire Safety Month. Fire safety week is October 7 ending October 13, 2018, and many local fire departments sponsor educational awareness event this week. Be sure to change the batteries in you fire and smoke detectors.

 

Here are three excellent sources of researched-based information on fire safety:

National Fire Prevention Association

https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Campaigns/Fire-Prevention-Week

Consumer Safety

https://www.consumersafety.org/news/safety/national-fire-prevention-week/

American Red Cross

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire.html

Feel free to email me with any questions and you are encouraged to visit the UConn EDEN (Extension Disaster Education Network) website. (https://eden.uconn.edu/)

Robert M. Ricard, Ph.D.

Coordinator, UConn EDEN