agriculture

Dress your Table with Connecticut Grown this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving meal featuring Connecticut Grown foodsPreparations are underway in many homes for the Thanksgiving holiday. Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt would like to recognize the many hands that play a role in putting food on your table, including the more than 5,500 farm families in Connecticut.

“Connecticut farmers are an essential segment of our state’s economy—but also a critical component to the wonderful food that many of us gather around each Thanksgiving,” Governor Lamont said. “That is why, when preparing for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, consider using Connecticut Grown products–from delicious turkey to incredible deserts and other beverages, Connecticut farmers provide families with affordable and nutritious food options. Make this year a true Connecticut Thanksgiving with Connecticut Grown.”

According to the National Turkey Federation, 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving. Now is the time to place your order for a Connecticut Grown turkey. More than a dozen Connecticut turkey producers can be found at www.ctgrown.gov offering fresh or frozen, heritage or grass-fed, pastured raised birds. Nearly all of the ingredients for your appetizers, sides, beverages, and desserts can be found by stopping by a holiday farmers’ market, farm stand, farm winery, brewery, or your local grocery store that features products from neighboring farms.

“From a Connecticut Grown turkey to potatoes, winter squash, Brussel sprouts, root vegetables, cranberries, greens, cheese, milk, beer and wine, we can, and do, produce it here,” says Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “Farmers are the backbone of our nation and we are fortunate to have a diverse array of agriculture in Connecticut creating a bountiful harvest.”

If you are looking for ways to prepare your Connecticut Grown food, there are hundreds of recipes on our Pinterest board for you to try. We have you covered with traditional dishes, modern twists on a long-time favorites, and ideas for using up leftovers. Find those recipes, and more, by clicking here: https://www.pinterest.com/GrowCTAg/boards/

As you sit down with family and friends to celebrate all that you are thankful for, remember to thank a farmer.

Agriculture and Asbestos Safety

asbestos danger signWhile the April 2019 Final Rule established by the EPA was a large leap into the protection of U.S. citizens from asbestos, it has not completely annihilated the threat. The Final Rule, put simply, was created to protect the public from uses of asbestos that are “no longer on the market and are not covered under any other laws or regulations.” It added a few more asbestos banned products to the list as well as prohibited some other new uses of asbestos. 

In light of these relatively new changes that have occurred over the past few decades, farmers and agricultural workers may be wondering what these changes have to do with them; even more concerning could be the lack of knowledge throughout the public sphere of the nature of asbestos, what it does, and why there have been seven different regulations created or amended around the mineral since 1973.

Here are some questions and answers to consider:

What Does Asbestos Have to Do With Agriculture?

Individuals must first have a foundation of knowledge on what asbestos actually is. In essence, asbestos is a fibrous mineral that occurs in soil and rock. When mined and used properly, it acts as what is known to be the “miracle mineral” because of its resistance to heat and electricity, and its sound proofing abilities. It has been mined all over the world and was widely used in the late 20th century in many commercial and consumer products, including makeup and construction materials. 

Agricultural materials and machinery that may be impacted include:

  • Brakes, brake pads, brake linings
  • Insulation
  • Gaskets, valves, seals, clutches, engine parts
  • Other mechanical components that are submitted to high heat and friction
  • Barn/storage buildings (roof, shingles, walls, flooring)

This means that almost all agricultural workers could be exposed to asbestos, such as:

  • Dairy Farmers
  • Poultry Farmers
  • Ranchers
  • Farmhands
  • Sharecroppers
  • Sheep, goat and cattle, vegetable, and market farmers
  • Agricultural equipment mechanics and operators

How Asbestos Impacts the Lives of Workers

While asbestos may be a “miracle mineral,” it is not so miraculous to a person’s health. Asbestos fibers can become airborne easily. This occurs when submitted to high heat and friction, cracks in the foundational aspects of buildings, and with any type of wear to asbestos based products. Once released, the risk of inhalation from workers is high, exposing the lungs and other internal organs.

As the mineral enters the respiratory system, it clings to the lining of the victim’s lungs, and embeds itself. Once embedded, it cannot be removed because the particles are invisible to the naked eye and the immune system cannot break them down. Over time (sometimes decades), the lungs will become inflamed and begin to scar. Once that occurs, the individual could contract a rare form of lung cancer that is only known among those exposed to asbestos, called mesothelioma. Like many types of cancers, there are various forms but all have a poor prognosis, making treatment extremely difficult.

Because of these health hazards, agricultural workers should be extremely cautious with their products, machinery and buildings. Be weary of cracks in the walls and linings of barns, when replacing brakes and when handling insulation of any kind.

Handling Asbestos Based Products

Workers should not handle the removal of asbestos on their own. In fact, not only does the U.S. government have various rules and regulations on how to handle asbestos, but many states have even stricter guidelines to prevent unneeded exposure. Be aware of the procedures set in place to handle asbestos, because otherwise, workers and loved ones could become easily exposed, putting their health at risk.

General guidelines to follow when handling asbestos:

Receive an asbestos inspection. Before any renovation projects take place, hire an inspector to determine if asbestos is present. Without the inspection, workers may not know whether they are exposed to the fibers.

Locate an asbestos abatement contractor. Because of the strict laws both nationally and state-wide, it may be wise to hire a contractor that has been educated on them. They will know how to handle the asbestos, where to store it, how to extract it and dispose of it.

Though asbestos is common among many products, it has dwindled in usage. Many companies today are either cutting back on its inclusion in their products, or they have completely eliminated it. No matter the concern, if an agricultural worker has been exposed to asbestos, they should see a physician immediately to address proper treatment and future actions.  

Article submitted by the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center

Job Opening: Extension Educator, Diversified Livestock

The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at the University of Connecticut contributes to a sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. CAHNR’s accomplishments result in safe, sustainable and secure plant and animal production systems, healthier individuals and communities, greater protection and conservation of our environment and natural resources, balanced growth of the economy, and resilient local and global communities. We epitomize the role of a land-grant university, which is to develop knowledge and disseminate it through the three academic functions of teaching, research, and outreach. In so doing, we improve the lives of citizens of our state, region and country.

 

The Department of Extension is seeking applicants for a full-time,  non-tenure track Assistant/Associate Extension Educator, primarily based at the Windham County Extension Office in Brooklyn, CT (75% Extension), with teaching responsibilities (25%) at the UConn Storrs Campus.  Position level/rank will be commensurate with experience working with Extension and/or teaching livestock production.  Anticipated start date is July 2020.

 

This is a joint appointment between the Department of Extension and Department of Animal Science with administrative responsibility in the Department of Extension. The successful candidate is expected to establish an externally funded Extension program that meets critical needs and builds the knowledge base with multidisciplinary, collaborative opportunities in livestock production.  Livestock species shall include but are not limited to beef, sheep, swine, goats and poultry. Faculty member will assess clientele problems and needs for Extension programs, and is expected to partner with other disciplines, programs, agencies, organizations and groups. Integrated programs may address basic and/or applied issues relative to livestock production including but not limited to animal health and nutrition, food safety and nutrient management.  This position will extend the reach of UConn Extension by integrating distance learning technology into program delivery through computer applications, web pages, electronic mailings, multimedia, and emerging technologies. This will be accomplished by utilizing innovative approaches to deliver timely, evidence-based solutions for livestock-related issues to diverse clientele. 

 

The candidate will also teach one course per semester in the Department of Animal Science (e.g. Livestock Management and Livestock and Carcass Evaluation). The incumbent is expected to effectively support and work across Extension and Animal Science teams, especially in applied research in the candidate’s area of expertise.  The successful candidate is expected to work with other faculty members in a multidisciplinary team environment, develop a diverse portfolio of educational materials for Extension clients and scholarly materials for professional peers.   To fulfill the extension mission, the successful candidate will perform other appropriate duties as needed or assigned. 

 

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS

  • An earned PhD in animal science or closely related field required.
  • Three years’ experience working with and teaching livestock production in Extension and/or informal classroom settings.
  • Candidates must have a significant and demonstrated experience in the field of livestock production.
  • Experience in scholarship and grantsmanship.
  • Candidates must possess strong skills in leadership, written and verbal communication, and interpersonal relations.
  • Personal transportation and a driver’s license are required; mileage allowance is provided for Extension related travel.Evening and weekend work may be required.

 

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS

  • Experience with Extension and the land-grant university system.
  • Demonstrated applied research interests associated with livestock production.
  • Demonstrated experience with enhancing diversity in educational program delivery and participation.

 

APPOINTMENT TERMS

This is a full-time position with generous benefits package. For more information on benefits, go to:  http://www.hr.uconn.edu/benefits/index.html. Starting salary for this position will be commensurate with training and experience.  This is an 11-month per year non-tenure track faculty position. 

 

TO APPLY

Select “Apply Now” to be redirected to Academic Jobs Online to complete your application.  Applicants should submit a letter of application that addresses qualifications identified in the advertisement, a resumewriting sample, and a list of three references with contact information. Please demonstrate through your application materials how you meet the minimum qualifications and any preferred qualifications for this position.

Please reference Search #2020237 in your application submittal.   Screening will begin immediately and will continue until a suitable candidate is found.  Preference will be given to candidates that apply within the first three weeks. 

Employment of the successful candidate will be contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check. (Search # 2020237)

This position will be filled subject to budgetary approval.

All employees are subject to adherence to the State Code of Ethics, which may be found at http://www.ct.gov/ethics/site/default.asp.


The University of Connecticut is committed to building and supporting a multicultural and diverse community of students, faculty and staff. The diversity of students, faculty and staff continues to increase, as does the number of honors students, valedictorians and salutatorians who consistently make UConn their top choice. More than 100 research centers and institutes serve the University’s teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions, leading to UConn’s ranking as one of the nation’s top research universities. UConn’s faculty and staff are the critical link to fostering and expanding our vibrant, multicultural and diverse University community. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, UConn encourages applications from women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of traditionally underrepresented populations.

Full details and information on how to apply is available at: http://web2.uconn.edu/uconnjobs/faculty/schools_colleges/cahnr.php

Attend the CT Ag Wellness Summit

Ag Wellness Save the Date postcardStress has many causes and is a serious problem for those involved in agriculture. Unfortunately many folks try to deal with this quietly, showing a stiff upper lip, and by themselves – not the healthiest route to take. Join us in learning more about how to identify stressors,  understanding ways to help yourself, and equally important, how to identify signs so you may be able to help your friends and colleagues.

This FREE one day “CT Ag Wellness Summit: Helping You to Help Others” is for farmers, producers, and ag service providers. Download the flyer and registration information. This important summit is a collaboration between the UConn Dept. of Extension and Dept. of Plant Science & LA, CT Department of Agriculture, CT Farm Bureau, Farm Credit East, CT Veterinary Medical Association, Tufts Veterinary Medical Center, CT NOFA, USDA-Risk Management Agency and CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services.

Date:     Thursday, December 5, 2019

Time:    8:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: Maneeley’s Conference Center, South Windsor

Cost:     FREE

Cost of Hay in Connecticut

hay bales on green grass
Photo: UConn CAHNR

Colder weather is setting in, and that means that livestock owners will be feeding increased amounts of hay. How is the price consumers pay for hay set? The Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy has a report, the Financial Analysis of Hay Production in Connecticut that is available for review at http://bit.ly/CostOfHay. It explains the cost of producing hay.

“Hay and grasses have lost their importance in commercial livestock operations because of substitution by various grains and oil crops like corn, sorghum, and soy. However, hay remains a primary feedstock for horses. The hay considered in this analysis is defined as dry hay in the form of small square bales. Furthermore, although hay can be made from a variety of grasses and legumes, this paper focuses on hay made from an orchard or timothy grass mix. This specific mix is a common choice among Connecticut hay producers and consumers because it is palatable for horses and is suitable for the growing conditions prevailing in much of the State.

From a broader policy perspective, hay could present an attractive option for land that is currently, or might potentially be, a part of the Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program (Connecticut Farmland Trust, 2015) but not used for farming. Therefore, understanding the financial returns associated with hay farming can provide valuable information to farmers, extension personnel, and policy makers.

The general objective of this report is to present a financial analysis for horse hay production in Connecticut using a representative farm model. The remainder of this report is organized into 5 sections. Section II provides a background concerning hay production. Section III explains the methodology used followed by the results in Section IV. The report ends with a summary and conclusion in Section V.”

Read more.

UConn Extension is Growing Food and Health with the Mashantucket Tribe

“The mission statement of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) states they will ‘…establish a social, cultural and economic foundation that can never be undermined or destroyed…,’” says Tribal Councilor Daniel Menihan, Jr. MPTN was facing challenges growing their fruits and vegetables at a scale to meet the tribe’s needs on their land in Ledyard, and some members were struggling with diabetes.

UConn has enjoyed a long history of engagement with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal community. Many members have graduated from UConn and served on the UConn Foundation Board, among others. Despite the fact that there is an Extension office only 10 miles from the reservation, MPTN has rarely participated in any educational outreach or training offered by UConn Extension.

UConn Extension received the four-year Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) grant from USDA-NIFA with the goal of having the tribe share their ideas for growing food and health, and help them learn about the Extension resources that are available. As a result of the grant, the relationship between MPTN and UConn is strengthening, and there is growth in agricultural production, food security, and health for the tribal people.

heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes grown by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Photo: Noah Cudd

“MPTN is still learning, but they are now able to grow their own food, in what looks like a commercial setting,” states Shuresh Ghimire, PhD, Vegetable Crops Extension educator and principal investigator on the grant. “They have high tunnels, a rototiller, a plastic mulch layer, and cold storage, which are common tools for a commercial farm.”

Extension provides expertise through one-on-one consultation, and classroom and hands-on training on-site in a collaborative setting. Educational outreach addresses the following critical areas identified by the MPTN Council:

  1. Improve food security
  2. Improve economic viability
  3. Improve youth engagement and communications
  4. Improve nutrition and diabetes awareness through collaborative education

An Extension program involving several specialists in fruit and vegetable production, farm business management, marketing, 4-H youth development, health and nutrition, communications, evaluation and assessment is working with the MPTN on their goals. Tribal members are participating in other Extension programs, beyond the scope of the grant. A 4-H club is being established at MPTN to increase opportunities for youth.

“Once this grant came, we started working with UConn Extension Educators. There has been a substantial gain in the knowledge and skills regarding growing food, writing a business plan, nutrition, and health,” says Jeremy Whipple, a MPTN member.

Growing with MPTN

Extension provides education for MPTN in state-of-the-art sustainable vegetable and fruit production techniques, and through

people in the greenhouse at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
UConn Extension educators work with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in a high tunnel. Photo: Shuresh Ghimire

collaboration with MPTN, is melded with traditional and historical tribal farming methods. This provides MPTN with a means to continue the richness of their history while moving into modern sustainable farming economically.

Tribal youth are included in all aspects of the agricultural venture with the tribe’s expectation that several youth will develop major roles in the business venture. Two tribal youth are being paid by the grant to work in vegetable production at MPTN.

“Learning how to grow tomatoes, including pest management, is one of the many things I enjoy working with on this grant” Ernest Pompey, one of the tribal youths working on this grant says. “I am excited to share what I learned about growing and eating healthy food to other youth in my community.”

“The tribe also established a community garden where they bring other youth from the community to teach them about growing. The knowledge is expanding within their own community, and they are teaching each other now,” Shuresh says.

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

UConn Extension’s nutrition team is working with the tribal community health providers to deliver educational programming in healthy eating and diabetes prevention using classroom education, and hands-on learning in the selection and preparing of healthy food, and exercise through gardening. The goal is to reduce the risk and incidence of diabetes in the tribal community.

“The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) utilizes a hands-on approach to nutrition education, combining nutrition knowledge with enhancement of skills to apply this knowledge to prepare healthy foods that are convenient, affordable and culturally appropriate,” says Mike Puglisi PhD, RD, state EFNEP director. “Erica Benvenuti, New London County nutrition educator, taught children in the MPTN High 5 Program the importance of food safety and increasing vegetable intake, and enhanced learning through getting the children involved in preparation of a traditional recipe prepared by the MPTN, the Three Sisters Rice recipe.”

The grant is starting its third year, and another Extension educator is working with tribal youth and adults in developing a business plan for the agricultural venture to increase their success rate. Youth and adults are also learning about their agricultural history and how it can successfully be integrated into today’s modern sustainable agriculture by combining classes with in-field learning experience.

“Ultimately, after the grant ends, MPTN’s farm will operate as a commercial vegetable farm would in terms of production and reaching out to Extension when they do need help. They will be independent, and continue growing their operation to support the goals of the tribal nation,” Shuresh states.

Article by Stacey Stearns and Shuresh Ghimire

Christmas in July at CT Greenhouses

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.

poinsettias as seedlings
Poinsettias are purchased as seedlings by the greenhouses. Photo: Leanne Pundt
poinsettia plants in a water tunnel
The planting line in the watering tunnel. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poinsettias on cart to be transported into the greenhouse
Potted plants are placed on carts to be transported into the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt
poinsettias growing in the greenhouse
Poinsettias growing in the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poinsettia plants in the greenhouse
Poinsettia plants in the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

Auerfarm Appoints Erica Fearn as Executive Director

Erica FearnThe 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

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/

Conservation Planning

aerial view of Connecticut River and agricultural fieldsExcess fertilizer use and inefficient nutrient management strategies often are causes of water quality impairment in the United States. When excess nitrogen enters large water bodies it enhances algae growth and when that algae decomposes, hypoxic conditions—often called a “dead zone” occur.

Nutrients carried to the Long Island Sound have been linked to the seasonal hypoxic conditions in the Sound. There are many different sources of nutrients within the Long Island Sound Watershed, an area encompassing parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These sources include municipalities, industry, agriculture, forests, residential lawns and septic systems.

The Long Island Sound Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program (LISW-RCPP) is a technical and financial assistance program that enables agricultural producers and forest landowners to install and maintain conservation practices. The goal of this program is to enhance natural resources and improve water quality. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the LISW-RCPP supports efforts that find common ground among agricultural producers and conservation organizations in working towards the sustainable use of soil, water, and other natural resources.

Conservation practices can achieve multiple positive environmental outcomes, including water quality improvement. A widemap imagery for conservation planning for farms variety of practices exist including in-field (cover crops, reduced tillage, diversified rotation and nutrient management), and edge-of-field strategies (grassed water ways, buffer strips, riparian area, bioreactors and wetlands). These changes, in turn improves nitrogen retention during vulnerable leaching periods in the spring and fall. Conservation strategies also function to safeguard other ecosystem roles, such as carbon sequestration, animal refuge habitat, fisheries and recreation.

Prioritizing areas for nutrient management strategies requires an understanding of the spatial relationships between land use and impaired surface waterbodies. Our project utilizes a geographic information systems (GIS) based approach to under- stand and act upon these important spatial relationships. In part, we are identifying contemporary and historical hotspots of agricultural land use by using satellite- derived land use land cover (LULC) classifications initially developed by
the University of Connecticut’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). Spatial analyses depicting the proximity of agriculture to highly valued water resources (both surface and ground- water) serves as the foundational work that informs where efforts to protect and restore water quality will be most impactful to the greater Long Island Sound Watershed.

Our future work will pair spatial maps with modeled contemporary and historical nutrient loading patterns to expand regions of interest. Our goal is to provide education and tools that help farmers realize the benefits of sustainable agriculture with individual conservation plans tailored to their specific needs and objectives. Connecticut’s environment of diverse crops and farms offers unique opportunities and challenges. UConn Extension is offering soil tests and interpretations to assess each farm’s nutrient needs. We look forward to co-creating knowledge with farmers and developing soil health solutions for long-term production goals and resilient farms.

Article by Katherine Van Der Woude and Kevin Jackson