Healthy Habits and Routines Can Take the “Crunch” Out of the Morning Rush

July 29, 2014 in Family and Consumer Sciences, Feature

Finnegan Stephan, age 5, making banana bread.

Finnegan Stephan, age 5, making banana bread.

Want to cut hassles and make it easier for everyone to get off to a great start every day?   Here are some tips for great starts and happy endings.

Find a routine that works for you and your family.  Children thrive on routines. They like knowing what comes next.  A lot of hassles are eliminated when you avoid arguments about what time to go to bed and when to be dressed for school.  Routines take a lot of the stress and “chaos” away. Things can be calmer and more relaxed.

    • Set regular times for family meals, snacks,  reading (and story time) and bedtimes.
    • Plan evening routines that assure that everyone will get the amount of sleep that is just right for them.  The right amount of sleep makes our brains work better —  and makes it easier for us to learn and remember.  Aim for a calming evening routine that can get everyone in the perfect mood for good sleep
  • Infants and toddlers need about 10 hours of sleep at night, plus 3 or more hours of naps
  • School-age children need 9-11 hours    (Teens need as much sleep as toddlers!)
  • Adults need 7-8 hours
    • Checklists can be cool!  Have each child make a list of the things he or she needs to do every morning and evening. The morning list might include: Get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, make bed, pack lunch, feed dog.  Ask your child to check things off their list.
    • Build on your natural energy cycles.   People are not machines.  We’re not built to go “full tilt” from dawn to dusk.   We work best when we have periods of activity and then periods of rest and relaxation.  When you reach those times in the day when you are too tired, don’t feel guilty about not being the “perfect parent.”  None of us are. Tell your child about your lack of energy and your need to have some time to relax before you can get back to moving again.

Here are some things to consider as you “tune up” your routines:

  •  Plan time for a daily dose of quality time – a relaxed time when you can talk and really listen to each other.    Story time before bed is a natural time for getting close and snuggling.  Happy family meals make kids feel loved and connected.
    • Use this “quality time” to talk with your child. Share experiences. Accent the positive. Your child will learn key social skills — like talking and listening.
    • Enjoy each other’s company. Avoid complaining and criticizing.
Braeden Mannering, age 10, helping cook dinner.

Braeden Mannering, age 10, helping cook dinner.

  • Help everyone find daily physical activities they enjoy.  Being active makes us feel good- – and our brains work better!
    • Build activity into your routines with family chores and family walks.
    • Think up ways to have active family fun.  Family fun times are like “family glue.”
    • Limit screen time for everyone in the family to less than 2 hours a day.  Avoid screen time for children under two.  No TVs or computers in bedrooms.  Limit children’s exposure to advertising.  Children will want what is advertised – whether it is healthy or not.
    • Make it “hard” to turn on the TV and easy and fun to move.
  • What will it take for everyone to look and feel good in their clothes?
    • Looking good and feeling good in the clothes you are wearing can help you act your best.
    • Sturdy, easy-care, mix and match clothes can allow kids to pick their own outfits – and they will nearly always look great.  Save money by choosing mix and match clothes that will allow lots of possible combinations.
  • Make a “launching pad” near the door where family members can place their books and other items to be taken to work or school. Get everyone in the habit of checking the launching pad before leaving the house.
    • When it’s time for the first person in the family to leave each morning, call a quick family group hug at the “launching pad.” It’s a great way to get launched each day!
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Small fruits for Delaware focus of Georgetown meeting

July 11, 2014 in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Feature


people watching a presentation

Approximately 40 local Delaware growers attend small fruit meeting in Georgetown

On a rainy Thursday, July 10, approximately 40 local Delaware growers attended a Small Fruit Educational Tour at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown to learn best practices on growing blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and grapes in the First State. Among the group, interest in growing certain fruits was evenly divided among each of the small fruit.

Rainy weather changed a planned outside tour into a virtual one – but real live blueberries and blackberries, harvested at their peak, were plentiful for evaluations on taste and appearance. Feedback from growers is an important component to the ongoing research and recommendations UD Extension researchers will make to farmers about which small fruits might be suitable as a commercial crop in Delaware. Additionally, Extension research hopes to offer an expanded growing season with these specialty fruit crop varieties.

Blueberries on dishes on table

15 varieties were available to taste and rated on “sweet.” “sour,” “fruity,” “mild/bland,” and “earthy” characteristics

Twenty five varieties of blueberries are now being evaluated as part of two ongoing trials, at Carvel REC and Bennett Orchards in Frankford, Del. through a Specialty Crop Block Grant administered through the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

“Blueberries are a challenging crop to grow,” said Gordon Johnson, Extension fruit and vegetable specialist. Johnson said the fruit is native to southern New Jersey and prefers soils in the Pine Barrens region.  Growing blueberries in Delaware requires a 2-3 year initial commitment from Delaware growers to recreate the sandy, organic conditions that are native to New Jersey’s soil – soil in which blueberries thrive.  To grow blueberries successfully in the First State the following conditions must be met:

  • Acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5 pH. “This doesn’t happen overnight,” Johnson said. “It takes a half year to a full year to get it right and it is a grower’s biggest hurdle.”
  • High organic soil is needed.  Commercial compost is alkaline and should not be used. Planting a cover crop and tilling is helpful, Johnson said.
  • Adding soil amendments like pine bark fines helps.
  • Peat moss in the planting hole makes a big difference. “This is a must have,” Johnson said. “Otherwise the plant will not take off.”
  • Blueberry plant roots do not tolerate heat and must be mulched.   Mulch should not raise the pH.
  • Drip irrigation. Blueberries require consistently moist soil
Growers at UD's Small Fruit Meeting evaluate the taste and appearance of blueberries and blackberries

Growers at UD’s Small Fruit Meeting evaluate the taste and appearance of blueberries and blackberries

Emmalea Ernest, associate scientist for fruit and vegetable crops reviewed second-year results of various blueberry varieties, calling out the names of blueberries in the trial that did well in the Georgetown research farm, and which showed little or no freeze damage, and produced plump, tasty fruit. Legacy was her favorite, Ernest told the audience, with Lenoir and Chandler also showing great potential. But taste preferences are subjective, so Ernest wanted other feedback – important in making final recommendations when the trial is complete.

Lenoir blueberry bush

One of 25 blueberry bushes grown on Carvel’s research farm, Lenoir rated well in overall tests Photo:E.Ernest

With clipboards in hand, guests sampled more than 15 varieties of blueberries, identified only by a number. At another table, named varieties were in clear cups so that they could be rated on their size and attractiveness.

The group seemed to concur with Ernest, giving Legacy, Lenoir and Chandler high marks. Two others, Star and Hannah’s Choice also scored praise. A small minority preferred the tart Reka variety. A winning blueberry, however, may not be perfect for all purposes.

“Chandler is really an enormous fruit,” Ernest remarked. “They would be ideal for U-Pick customers. Baskets would fill up quickly,” she said. “But it might be too big for muffins or pancakes.” Chandler is also not a high yielding variety overall.

presentation screen of insect

University of Delaware IPM Specialist Joanne Whalen explains the potential threat of Spotted Wing Drosophila

The meeting also highlighted the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in small fruit crops. IPM Specialist Joanne Whalen addressed the threat of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a troublesome fruitfly that Whalen is carefully monitoring throughout Delaware. The small insect lays its eggs inside the fruit which will swell noticeably once infested.  “It has the potential to be a really scary bug,” said Whalen.  A serious threat in New Jersey, Whalen is curious to know what other growers are seeing and is interested in setting up monitoring projects.

Whalen and her team set up various traps with pheromones, or a cocktail comprised of 40 percent Merlot wine and 60 percent apple cider vinegar to attract any Spotted Wings that might be in the growing area. Whalen said only the males have spots on their wings. Whalen advised the growers to consider removing any wild berries or wild cherry growth from the perimeter of their plots. “Wild pokeberries, wild cherries and even honeysuckle are indicators that Spotted Wing Drosophila could be a problem, Whalen said.

Gordon Johnson also produced yield results data on primocane (fall-season) fruiting blackberries and produced seven varieties for taste and appearance evaluation.  Primocane fruiting blackberries offer the potential for extended production for growers, Johnson said, suitable at farmers markets, schools and institution, local restaurants and wholesale outlets. One variety, Ark 45, produced 16,000 pounds per acre (floricane or summer producing) in 2013 with an additional 6,000 pounds per acre on primocanes in the fall, according to handouts shared at the meeting. “The dual production system on both floricanes and primocanes is promising for extended production over an 18-20 week season from June through October,” Johnson  writes.  Johnson acknowledged that there is “heavy pressure from Spotted Wing Drosophila in 2013 with this extended production.”

For more information visit the University of Delaware’s Small Fruit and Vegetable program website.

Photos and article by Michele Walfred


What’s the buzz on seedless watermelons? It’s all about pollen say UD researchers

June 16, 2014 in Feature

If you are looking for a watermelon seed spitting contest this summer, you might be out of luck!

siefrit and johnson kneeling by watermelon row

UD grad student Donald Seifrit, Jr. and Gordon Johnson, fruit and vegetable Extension specialist conduct seedless watermelon pollination trials

Most Delawareans, like the rest of Americans, prefer their watermelons seedless-a trend that began to take hold in this country about 10 years ago.

round watermelon

Fascination, a popular seedless watermelon variety in Delaware

Super Seedless-7187, a popular seedless watermelon grown in Delaware

Super Seedless-7187, a popular seedless watermelon grown in Delaware

Gordon Johnson, Extension vegetable and fruit specialist and UD graduate student Donald Seifrit, Jr. are helping growers meet that demand.

They are beginning the first year of a two year trial to examine 24 pollination companions for two popular seedless watermelon varieties, Fascination and SS-7187 (SS = super seedless), grown in Delaware. MarDel Watermelon Association provides funding support for the study. Seifrit’s stipend is made possible by a specialty crop block grant from the Delaware Department of Agriculture and USDA.

In order to grow the seedless watermelons preferred by the public, a seeded ‘pollenizer’ watermelon with male flowers must be a companion to the seedless plants, whose pollen is not viable. For this study, one male watermelon plant is paired alongside three seedless plants. “The pollen to produce a seedless watermelon has to come from a seeded plant” Johnson said.

Johnson and Seifert will seek to determine what affects pollination, and observe which pollenizer varieties attract more bees, all of which in turn might increase or influence fruit set.

Eight rows of the summer fruit, with their tendrils spanning across neat rows covered in black plastic, are spread out over a four-acre research plot. Space between the watermelon rows is an important barrier so that pollen-seeking bees won’t jump to another row and another varietal source of pollen. Bees tend to fly along the rows however. With the watermelons rows effectively isolated, bee preferences can be observed with a “high probability of accuracy.” Non-pollen sources are also planted in between the watermelon rows to further isolate the pollen movement and preserve the integrity of the observations.

Johnson and Seifert brought in six hives to pollinate the crop.  Wild bees also help pollinate. As the bees travel up the rows, Johnson and Seifert will record the bee’s patterns. “A plant with more pollen and better nutrition will attract more bees.” Johnson said. After the trial studies are complete, Johnson will make the results available to area growers, who can adapt the research to obtain better pollination, fruit set and yields.

rows of watermelon plants

Two seedless watermelon plants are matched with one of 24 seeded varieties, needed for pollination

Watermelons grown on the eastern shore come to local market in time for the Fourth of July holiday. Watermelon availability begins in the southern states and moves up the East Coast as spring turns to summer, Johnson said. Watermelons consumed over the Memorial Day weekend, likely came from Florida, Johnson said.

For Delaware farmers, watermelons are an important crop and livelihood. Together as part of the Eastern Shore region, approximately 5,000 acres are devoted to growing watermelons. Together with Indiana, Delmarva farmers produce the majority of watermelons that are consumed on the East Coast from mid-July to Labor Day.

Johnson is looking to improve early fruit set for local growers. That means more local watermelons for consumers and better profits for growers. “The earlier the fruit set, the better,” Johnson explained.

“Typically, you get two watermelons per plant at any time,” Johnson said. “If it is really good, we will get three.”

“The other things we are looking at are the environmental effects on pollen viability. As the plants mature, Seifrit will also test their sweetness and firmness levels.

“We are trying to find out ways to improve fruit set in general and early fruit set in particular,” Johnson said. “We’re looking for the best combinations of pollinators for early set.

Watermelons are an expensive crop to grow, Johnson remarked. An earlier fruit set improves a farmer’s return on their investment.

Watermelons are a native desert plant, Johnson said. “They like heat and tolerate dry conditions, but to obtain good yields, farmers must irrigate well.” Watermelon crops require rotation and careful monitoring. As members of the Cucurbitaceae family that grow at ground level, they are more prone to pests and diseases than other crops. To grow successfully, farmers must invest in apiaries. Some growers use bumble bees, but honey bees are more common, Johnson said.

Siefrit is exploring the possibilities of obtaining special bee video gear in order to better track bee preferences and behavior.

Unsuccessful pollination can result in other problems.

In earlier studies, Johnson and his team made a discovery – the mechanism for Hollow Heart, a condition that leaves the core of the watermelon fruit hollow. “We haven’t had much of a problem here in Delaware, because of all the varieties, but other states have had bad problems,”Johnson added. “We are pretty convinced it is a lack of pollen, or incomplete pollination. Don is taking that research to the next level – cutting open baby watermelons and counting cells.” Johnson said.

“We are looking what affects pollen – if it is cold, if bee flight is down or if there is a loss of bees,” Johnson said. Logistics is important too, Johnson added. Growers must coordinate planting pollenizers with their seedless plants. If the seedless varieties are more long in shape, the seedless watermelons will need to be round in shape, and vice versa. This helps to tell them apart as they go to harvest.

Johnson said most requests for seeded watermelons in Delmarva come from new ethnic populations and “seeded watermelons are what they are used to.”

“The rest of the world, with the exception of Japan and some production in southern Europe, really prefers seeded varieties,” Johnson remarked. ” Eighty percent of the world’s watermelon crop is seeded.” But in Delaware, 90 percent of the watermelons grown are seedless.”

>>>Information on UD Extension’s Small Fruit and Educational Tour – July 10, 2014

Article by Michele Walfred
Photos by Jackie Arpie

Delaware Cooperative Extension at the State Fair

June 12, 2014 in Feature

Our Extension Scholar Jackie Arpie put together a video invitation on behalf of Delaware Cooperative Extension to show how we will be celebrating our 100 Year Centennial Anniversary at the Delaware State Fair this July.

Get out and Learn About Pests and Diseases in the Landscape

June 2, 2014 in Feature, Lawn and Garden

2013 Pest Walk Georgetown smallerMany interested gardeners and plant hobbyists have taken advantage of Delaware Master Gardener training or short courses offering information on pests and diseases of landscape ornamental plants. Fact sheets and Powerpoint presentations can only go so far as teaching tools. We all enjoy and learn from “hands on” types of learning. The “hands on” experience really helps to pull everything else together and help us remember key points!

Pest walks will be offered at two locations in Delaware during June, and can serve to pull together the classroom, reading, and internet offerings from the University of Delaware. For those interested in attending, a pest walk will be in Sussex County at the Carvel Center on County Seat Highway in Georgetown, on June 18th beginning at 4:00 PM. Wear comfortable shoes, mosquito repellant, and bring a hand lens if you have one. A second pest walk will be led in New Castle County at the UD Botanic Gardens around Townsend Hall at 531 South College Avenue in Newark, on June 25th at 4:00 PM. Each pest walk will be led by Brian Kunkel, the UD Cooperative Extension Ornamentals IPM Specialist, and Nancy Gregory, the UD Cooperative Extension Plant Diagnostician. Walks will last about two hours as we stroll around the gardens and examine plants for arthropod pests and beneficial insects, as well as plant diseases.

For those who may want further information or instruction, there will be a Disease and Insect ID Workshop on July 9, 2014 in Townsend Hall on the campus of the University of Delaware. Learn what signs and symptoms the Extension specialists use to identify pests and diseases. Learn tips and techniques using fresh and preserved specimens, hand lenses and microscopes. Cost is $15 for 2 pest, 1 CNP credits. Sign up is through the New Castle County Extension Office (302-831-2506).

Sign up for pest walks through the University of Delaware Horticulture Short Course offerings. Pesticide and CNP credits are available for those that need course credits for certification. A fee of $15 covers the class and may be paid in advance. Contact your local County Extension Agent: Carrie Murphy, , (302-831-2506), New Castle County or Tracy Wootten,, (302-856-7303), Sussex County to sign up.

Check out Cooperative Extension’s other offerings and fact sheets for Commercial Horticulture and Lawn and Garden:

June 2, 2014

Feature, Lawn and Garden

Nancy F Gregory

Cooperative Extension agents, Master Gardeners offer gardening advice

May 28, 2014 in Feature, Lawn and Garden, New Castle County, New Castle County Slideshow

AG-Morning_With_An_Expert-Gateway_GardensUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension agents, specialists and Master Gardeners headed to Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin, Delaware, on Saturday, May 10, to give a brief presentation on successful gardening methods.

The team was on hand to discuss good plant health and identification of both insect pests and beneficial insects in local landscapes, and to answer any questions that the customers had when it came to their home gardens. 

They were also there to inform the public about the many free and beneficial services Cooperative Extension offers to the community.

Brian Kunkel, an extension specialist, and Carrie Murphy, extension agent, attended the event along with Jane Adams, Betsy Rosenberger and Bob Deming, all Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.

Murphy said the program was successful as it provided “another great opportunity to take Cooperative Extension and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) information directly to home gardeners, in their community garden center.”

Kunkel said he answered mostly insect- and pest-related questions, as he brought with him a variety of insects and examples of diseased plants.

“We had a table where I brought pinned insect specimens, various wasps and bees, because that’s often a common question I get from home owners — what can I do with my bees? So I was able to say, ‘Look, all these bees that you’re seeing here are not pests. However, they can be a nuisance and in some instances you may need to do something, it just depends on your own physiology and what your own tolerance levels are,’” said Kunkel.

Kunkel said that while it was important to educate those who were at the garden center about insects and plant disease, there also was a larger goal of informing them about the many Cooperative Extension services that are available.

“We provide a service at no cost to home owners and I think a lot of the industry is fully aware that we are there, and they use us when they have the need, but homeowners aren’t always aware that there is actually help out there that is reliable and that they don’t have to pay for,” said Kunkel. “Our goal has been to try and increase Cooperative Extension awareness, and that it’s not going to cost anything and that we’re willing to help you out.”

As far as the services Cooperative Extension offers homeowners, Kunkel mentioned insect and plant disease diagnoses, plant identification, soil sampling — to let homeowners know what type of soil they have and what plants will perform the best in their gardens — and household insect identification.

Murphy added that the team provided information about the Master Gardener program, including the garden line (302-831-8862), home gardener workshops, the home horticulture advice program, and demonstration gardens, and information on “sustainable landscapes and implementing an IPM plan in your landscape to help sustain its health.”

An open house, integrated pest management (IPM) walk and talk will be held on Thursday, June 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension teaching and demonstration garden. Kunkel, Murphy and the Master Gardeners will take participants on a plant, pest and beneficial insect walk. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Cooperative Extension Lawn and Garden website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Nutrient Management Credits Offered at Upcoming Pasture Walks

May 19, 2014 in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Feature, Kent County, Kent County Slideshow, New Castle County, New Castle County Slideshow

pasture-walkThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension is offering pasture walks in two locations this spring.  Participants will have the opportunity to earn nutrient management and pesticide certification credits.  The first walk is being held on May 28th from 6:30-8:30 pm and is being hosted at the farm of Rick and Kim Vincent of Harrington and the second walk will be on June 4th from 6:30-9:00 pm at the University of Delaware’s Webb Farm in Newark.  Program agendas are listed below.  Participants are welcome to bring a plant or weed sample with them for identification.  Please pre-register if you plan on attending either program.

For more information click through to the new Animal Science with Extension blog.

May 28th Pasture Walk Hosted by Rick and Kim Vincent

3427 Burnite Mill Rd. Harrington, DE 19952

6:30-8:30 pm

4-H citizenship, leadership and Extension centennial highlighted in Dover

May 16, 2014 in Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature

On Wednesday, May 14, Delaware 4-H youth members and adult leaders from all three counties reinforced their commitment to citizenship and leadership by attending their 10th annual Delaware 4-H Legislative Day in Dover.

girl at podium speaking

Delaware 4-H Teen Officer McKenzie Ivory addresses the Delaware House Chamber about 4-H

4-H Legislative Day provides an opportunity for Delaware 4-H youth to observe how their local government operates, visit with local legislators and tour historic buildings and official state agencies. The 10-year tradition and interaction between 4-H youth and Delaware public servants showcases thedifferent ways Delaware is served by elected public servants and 4-H volunteer commitment to community service, citizenship and leadership.

More than 75 youth and adults attended. As they sat in the very seats and chambers where laws are made, attendees received a welcome from a familiar face, 4-H Extension Specialist Ernie Lopez. Lopez also serves as a Delaware State Senator from the 6th District and explained the challenges that come with creating, debating and enacting laws in the First State.  The 4-H youth and leaders also heard remarks from Delaware Rep. Tim Dukes, of Laurel. Dukes answered many questions from curious 4-H members. He told his audience, “The best way to lead, is to serve.”

After the welcome, the 4-H attendees were divided into tours and workshops which included historic Legislative Hall,  Department of Elections, the State Court House, State Auditor’s Office, Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware State Education Association.

Before 4-H’ers were invited to witness a session in the House chambers in the afternoon, a 4-H rally was held on the front lawn of Legislative Hall.  This year’s speakers included Michelle Rodgers, director of Cooperative Extension, Ernie Lopez and Sen. Gary Simpson.  Also during the rally, Delaware 4-H project leader Mark Manno announced the second Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award winner, Ashley Conroe, from Sussex County. Read more about Ashley Conroe’s Diamond Clover project.

View images from the 2014 4-H Legislative Day here.

Recognition of Delaware Cooperative Extension Centennial

Posed with resolution outside

Delaware legislature recognizes Cooperative Extension Centennial and contribution to Delaware. L to R: Rep. Ronald Gray, Michelle Rodgers, Sen. Gary Simpson and  Sen. Ernie Lopez

Wednesday marked the first 4-H Legislative Day for Michelle Rodgers.  A Pennsylvania 4-H alumna,  Rodgers enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Delaware history and traveled with first time 4-H tour visitors to the Delaware Public Archives. The month of May has had an historical focus for Rodgers. On May 8, Rodgers along with Extension colleagues, attended Washington D.C. to observe the official centennial celebration of Cooperative Extension. Many observations and celebrations for Delaware Cooperative Extension will occur throughout 2014. Rodgers reinforced the special connection between 4-H and Cooperative Extension at Wednesday’s rally.

“What a great history we have, and what a great future we have with 4-H’ers like yourselves who are becoming the leaders of tomorrow,” Rodgers said. “4-H is the youth component of Cooperative Extension.  Those of you in 4-H are really being introduced to a land grant university with a mission to deliver education long before you are a college student,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers explained that 4-H had been in existence a few years before the federal law, known as the Smith-Lever Act, was signed on May 8, 1914 and which formalized Cooperative Extension.  Before Extension, 4-H served the needs of rural youth through agricultural outreach trainings via canning clubs and corn clubs Rodgers said.

“Over those 100 years we’ve changed greatly,” Rodgers reflected. “We have many different ways that we have 4-H clubs now, and we have so many projects…everything from science, technology,  math, engineering, robotics and great animal projects that we still have. We have a great history.” Rodgers reminded the crowd that the 4-H motto, “To Make the Best Better” remains relative as the focus for the next 100 years.

“Think about the important part you play in establishing laws and policies that will impact families in the years to come. We are very proud of our 4-H’ers,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers introduced Sen. Gary Simpson, a 4-H alumni from the Kent County Houston Cardinals 4-H Club.

“You are at a historical moment in your lives,” Simpson told the gathering. “My uncle was the first 4-H’er in Delaware, a long, long time ago.”

Simpson reflected on the value that 4-H and Cooperative Extension had on his life. “My 4-H experience set me up for life.”

Simpson was also pleased to make a special announcement.”Almost to the day that Cooperative Extension Service began in this country, today I am happy to sponsor a current resolution, not just a tribute, but a resolution in the Delaware Senate recognizing the 100th anniversary.” Simpson said.  The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Lopez.

“For a bill to pass, both sides must vote” Simpson said. The bill, which extolls the many impacts of Cooperative Extension on agriculture, families, and recognizes Extension as a “critical component of the three-part land grant university mission,”  concluded with a statement encouraging people to “observe and celebrate the centennial with a focus on launching an innovative future for Cooperative Extension.” The resolution easily passed the Senate Wednesday afternoon and in the House on Thursday, May 15.

Click here to read>> Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 54.

Simpson credited Cooperative Extension for the innovations in modern agriculture and the research and education behind the best programs developed in order to grow food. “Talk to any farmer, Cooperative Extension Service is what lead to their success.”

“It was a great day of 4-H education and celebration of Cooperative Extension’s 100 years” Rodgers said.

Article by Michele Walfred
Photos by Mark Manno and Michele Walfred


Managing Your Landscape Sustainably

May 2, 2014 in Feature, Lawn and Garden, New Castle County, New Castle County Slideshow

Sustainable is certainly the buzzword of the decade, but what does it mean when it comes to managing your garden? Sustainable involves letting natural systems occur and providing as few inputs as possible. Two great examples are leaf cycling for mulch and planting groundcover to control weeds.

This meadow in the back corner of a demonstration sustainable home landscape was mowed in early spring.  Last year’s debris serves as a mulch to reduce weeds as he warm season grasses come up in late spring.

This meadow in the back corner of a demonstration sustainable home landscape was mowed in early spring. Last year’s debris serves as a mulch to reduce weeds as he warm season grasses come up in late spring.

First, there is no need to go out and buy tons of new mulch every year. What can you use from your own site that will function as a mulch to keep moisture in and reduce weeds in the garden? Leaves and any other yard waste you’ve composted make great mulch. Chip up leaves that are remaining from last year with a lawn mower and spread them on your landscape beds. The first time you cut the lawn in the spring; there will probably be enough leaves in the mix so you get a nice mulching material to spread on your beds. If you’ve composted your own yard waste over the winter, it will be ready to spread this spring. You can also get composted yard waste from a variety of sources, including the City of Newark site on 896. It

Leaf clippings are used as mulch temporarily as these perennials come up and fill in this landscape bed.

Leaf clippings are used as mulch temporarily as these perennials come up and fill in this landscape bed.

is free to anyone with a pick-up truck or vehicle capable of hauling mulch. You also may have enough mulch on your beds and all you need to do is use a hard rake to loosen the crust and spread it evenly over your landscape bed. Ultimately, the goal of any garden should be to have plants cover the ground so you don’t need new mulch every year. Think about the natural system of a forest—leaf litter, ground cover, shrub layer, understory trees and canopy trees make up all the layers you need in a landscape.

How is water managed on your property? Can you add trees, shrubs and groundcovers that will help take up water before it runs off your property or puddles in a low spot?

Next, think about areas of your landscape that should be lawn because you play on them, walk on them, entertain on them or need them to set off the rest of your plantings. Then look at the rest of the space on your property that might not need to be lawn. What could it be? A mini-forest or a meadow? Why not let your grass grow in some areas and cut it infrequently (once a month or once a year)? You can play around with those spaces and change them whenever you want by mowing again, if desired. Think what you could do in your garden (or elsewhere) if you didn’t need to mow an acre of lawn every week this year.

Cooperative Extension has two great publications that can help you make changes in your landscape.

“Livable Ecosystems: A model for suburbia” is available online ( or by calling your county extension office.

The newest publication “Livable Lawns: Managing a healthy lawn can be viewed online (


Delmarva poultry farm provides locale for UD switch grass study

May 2, 2014 in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature

two trucks with straw

Two tractor trailers deliver 75 tons of baled switch grass to a local Delmarva farm

On the morning of April 18, two tractor trailers delivered 75 tons of baled switch grass to a local Delmarva poultry farm. Processed on site and distributed inside four poultry houses, the switch grass will be evaluated for its suitability as an alternative poultry bedding material for the poultry industry. The farm, which grows for Perdue, granted access for researchers to conduct a year-long study at their full-sized poultry farm.

Switch grass (panicum virgatum) is a cereal grain or reed native to the Mid-Atlantic.  Switch grass also provides a natural barrier against coastal erosion. The deep, 14-inch root system absorbs nitrogen and phosphorus, making switch grass an ideal environmental buffer. Switch grass is not particular where it grows – it succeeds in poor soils and does not require fertilization. The switch grass delivered for this trial was grown in Maryland.

Bill, Don & Paul pose

Bill Brown (University of Delaware Cooperative Extension) Don Groff (E.E. Shenk & Sons), and Paul Spies (Chester River Association) on site to observe the process as 75 tons of baled switch grass, a native cereal grain, are delivered to a Delmarva poultry farm.

Bill Brown, University of Delaware Extension poultry agent is working closely with Perdue, The Nature Conservancy and the Chester River Association in evaluating the absorption and anti-caking characteristics of switch grass in a typical a poultry house application.

Before new chickens are introduced to a house, new bedding material is applied at a thickness of three to four inches.  Brown said ideal bedding material is absorbent and resists caking or crusting at the top layer. Good absorption quality is vital to the health of the bird and deters foot pad dermatitis.  Caking at the top layer prevents the release of accumulated moisture from being exchanged and transferred out through the house’s ventilation system. While bedding made of pine shavings has been the standard material for poultry growers, its scarcity and price are forcing growers to look for alternative materials.

Brown had been testing different bedding material on a smaller scale at the University of Delaware agriculture experimental station located at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

Baled switch grass moves through a RotoChopper

Baled switch grass moves through a RotoChopper

In Delmarva, a typical poultry house averages 400 to 600 feet in length and 40 to 65 feet in width.

On the study farm, four houses will contain switch grass bedding cut into one inch lengths. The remaining four houses will use the standard pine shavings. As a control, all birds will be brothers and sisters from the same family. Other than the bedding material, the birds will be raised in an identical environment.

“One of the things I look for is how uniform the grind is,” Brown said.  As chickens move across the bedding floor their feet and beaks work the bedding material. With all litter materials, longer pieces tend to gravitate to the top and cause an undesirable crusting of the bedding’s top layer, Brown said.

Even sized cuts are preferred, Brown continued. “With tub grinders and other type of grinder instruments, we get a lot more of the rogue or longer pieces.”

Man holding cut straw

Brown examines freshly cut one inch pieces of switch grass

Brown dug his hands into the new pile of processed switch grass and seemed pleased as he looked closer at a handful of the one inch pieces. Uniformity was achieved by utilizing a RotoChopper, an impressive piece of agriculture equipment transported by fifth-wheel tractor and operated by Don Groff, of E.E. Shenk & Sons, Elizabeth, Pa.  The machine contains different sized screens to make precision cuts. The RotoChoper also splits the reed lengthwise, improving the absorption qualities of the grass.

Farm machinery transports switch grass inside a Delmarva poultry house

Farm machinery transports switch grass inside a Delmarva poultry house

Working in concert with a Bobcat operator, each bale weighing 550 pounds, is hoisted upon the RotoChopper’s conveyor and is pulled through the cutting screens. As the switch grass falls from the belt, machine operators waiting at the entry of the poultry house quickly scoop and transport the material throughout the house floor. The entire process takes about an hour and a half per house to complete.

Brown and his partners will take one year to monitor to the quality of the bedding system. “We are obviously evaluating the economics also. We are in need of a sustainable, renewable and reliable bedding source.” Brown said. “Many traditional sources of bedding are no longer available.”

If switch grass shows promise, the next step will be to encourage farmers to grow it.  Organizations like the Nature Conservancy and Chester River Association will offer incentives for farmers, Brown explained.  “Because switch grass thrives in marginal soils, it may be an attractive crop for farmers to consider.”

The process was also filmed by Maryland Public Television for a second segment on their series about Maryland agriculture. A fall air date is planned.

Click here for additional pictures of the process.

Article & photos by Michele Walfred