Keeping Disease Off Poultry Farms Workshop

May 18, 2015 in Feature

delmarva-poultry-farmPoultry Grower’s Disease Control Workshop:
Keeping Disease Off of the Poultry Farm
June 11, 2015

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon: University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 2122 Richard A. Henson Ctr., Princess Anne, Md. 21853
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: University of Delaware, 16686 County Seat Hwy., Georgetown, Del. (behind DPI)
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.: Delaware State Fairgrounds, 644 Fairgrounds Rd., Harrington, Del. 19952 (follow blue Pesticide Testing signs to the Commodities Bldg.)

Topics Include:
Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Commercial Poultry in the US
Dr. David Shapiro, Veterinarian for Perdue Farms

Practical Biosecurity Best Management Practices for Broiler Growers
Dr. Jon Moyle, Extension Specialist, University of Maryland Extension
Ms. Jenny Rhodes, Ag Extension Educator, University of Maryland Extension
Mr. Bill Brown, Poultry Extension Agent, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Avian Flu Response and Control Plan on Delmarva
Dr. Don Ritter, Veterinarian for Mountaire Farms

Please choose your preferred location and register ONLINE BY LOCATION below:
UMES Princess Anne, Md:

University of Delaware, Georgetown, Del:

Delaware State Fairgrounds, Harrington, Del:

For more information, please contact Lisa Collins at, or call (302) 856-2585 ext.702

This event is hosted by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. and Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Nutrient Management Credits Available : 2.0 for Delaware and Maryland


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UD students create app to help area’s Christmas tree farmers

May 13, 2015 in Feature, Lawn and Garden

An interdisciplinary team of students at the University of Delaware has developed a new app called PocketFarmer designed to help Christmas tree farmers in the region diagnose, identify and mark potentially diseased plants.

The PocketFarmer was developed through the Spin In program in UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP).

Through Spin In, OEIP matches entrepreneurs who are developing innovative early stage technology with a team of UD undergraduate students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.

The student team is mentored by UD faculty members and works side-by-side with entrepreneurs to provide solutions to the challenges that need to be overcome on the path to commercialization.

The idea for the app came about when Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, asked agents to come up with app ideas that could benefit Extension clientele as part of an “App Challenge” contest that involved all 13 northeast states in the Extension system. As part of that challenge, the participants would also have to create a YouTube video to go along with their app.

Nancy Gregory, an Extension agent, had been working closely with Christmas tree farmers in Delaware in conjunction with Brian Kunkel, an Extension specialist. They had conducted workshops for the growers and collaborated with them through a three-year grant from the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) to evaluate disease resistant cultivars of Christmas trees.

Christmas tree diseases

The main type of Christmas tree that is grown in the area is the Douglas fir, and Gregory said it can be afflicted by two main diseases – Rhabdocline needlecast and Swiss needlecast.

Both diseases cause premature needle loss, leading to thin foliage, which is especially problematic for Christmas tree growers who need fuller trees to appeal to customers.

Gregory said that to combat the Rhabdocline needlecast, growers have been interested in cultivars from the western United States that have sources of resistance to the fungal pathogen. Unfortunately, local growers have not found trees with growth habits and characteristics that they like.

“In the meantime, Swiss needlecast has come in and become even more problematic and it turns out that all those lines they were looking at that might be resistant to the Rhabdocline needlecast are susceptible to the Swiss needlecast. So that’s become an even bigger problem,” said Gregory.

The two needlecast diseases are especially prevalent on Douglas fir trees in the area because of the coastal climate and humid summers.

Gregory said that both diseases are easily controlled with the use of fungicide sprays but that timing is crucial, and that is where the PocketFarmer could be of a benefit to the growers.

“The control of these diseases usually requires three fungicide sprays, sometimes four in a season, and it’s very dependent on timing. You have to know when the spores are being produced, which is usually in May,” she said. “When those spores are released, they infect the new expanding needles so it’s very crucial when you get that first spray and then traditionally the growers will spray every two weeks after that.”

PocketFarmer features

The PocketFarmer app would help growers know when to spray and also help them keep track of the number of applications.

Michelle Lifavi, a junior majoring in communication and the communications specialist for the team, explained that the app is equipped with a seasonal calendar that will tell the growers how their trees should be progressing and what diseases to look for during particular times of the year.

“We have a GPS pinpointing feature so the trees can be pinpointed on the farm. If one tree has a certain feature on it, the farmer can write notes, can have a picture and can input coordinates so he can come back to it and know the exact location,” she said.

Another way in which the app could help the growers is in identifying and verifying the needlecast diseases early on.

“The growers need to recognize whether or not they have the fungal needlecast disease or whether they might have something else causing spots on the needles,” said Gregory. “There are look-alikes that it might be confused with, whether it’s a scale insect or small specks. There is a small speck called flyspeck, which is not a pathogen, it’s just kind of an opportunist that might grow there. There are a number of things that the growers could confuse.”

With the app, the growers would be able to take a picture of what is afflicting their trees and compare it against images of known pathogens.

“We have the ‘take a photo and diagnose page,’ which is quick and easy,” said Lifavi. “The growers implement all the symptoms that they have – such as where it is on the tree, what’s going on with it – and then the app filters through and picks the disease that they most likely have.”

Gregory explained that these features “could save them time and money because they’d know when that crucial first spray needs to go on and they would know for sure what pathogen they have, or if they have an insect instead of a pathogen – they would know what’s causing the problem.”

The PocketFarmer would also work hand in hand with Extension agents because while it would allow the growers to be more self-reliant, the group still stresses the need for Extension agents to confirm diseases.

“The idea is to give them picture clues and information, but always back it up with the recommendation to either contact your local county Extension office or send a sample in for an accurate diagnosis,” said Gregory.

Lifavi said the app would provide farmers the ability to take photographs of their potentially diseased trees and to share them directly with an Extension agent.

While the app is currently focused on just conifer trees in the area, the group named it the PocketFarmer with the hopes that they could expand it to other crops.

Nathan Smith, a plant science major who worked on the project, said, “The idea behind this app is to create a useful tool for farmers to be able to carry around with them in the field and help them diagnose problems that are occurring with their crop. In this case, it’s Christmas trees. PocketFarmer will give them recommendations on what to do. It’s like carrying a thesaurus with you but it’s faster and caters to the specific needs of the farmer.”

Learning experience

Andrew Seski, a sophomore finance major and the business analyst for the PocketFarmer team, said of the experience, “Throughout my time working in the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), I have not only gained a new appreciation for diversity in the workplace, but I have personally grown through experiencing other disciplines focused on accomplishing a common goal. OEIP has offered me both the autonomy to be innovative in my work, as well as offering me lifelong connections.”

Akuma Akuma-Ukpo, a computer engineering student, said he enjoyed the project management aspect of the app development. “The privilege to get exposure to real world project creation while collaborating with an interdisciplinary team with limited resources was a great way to usher us into our respective real world careers,” said Akuma-Ukpo.

Team members include Akuma-Ukpo; Lifavi; Smith; Seski; Jack Sherry, design/graphics; and Rebecca LaPlaca, arts and sciences.

The team is mentored by Reetaja Majumdar, a master’s student in business and economics, and works with Sarah Minnich and Cyndi McLaughlin, both from OEIP.

Anyone interested in learning more about the app can contact Lifavi or Seski for more information.

Click here to check out the video put together by the students and Lindsay Yeager, photographer for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which will be entered into the App challenge contest.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

Do you know some young people who would benefit from nutrition and food preparation lessons?

May 12, 2015 in Family and Consumer Sciences, Feature

logoUD Cooperative Extension once again has received funding to bring 4-H Food Smart Families-Kid in the Kitchen out to the community. This program is a 10 hour hands-on nutrition and physical activity program for 8-12 year olds. We are looking for groups that would be interested in having this series of five lessons. We will provide:

  • Staff to conduct the lessons
  • All materials to carry out the lessons. Each lesson will consist of hands-on nutrition education, fun physical activity, opportunity to learn and practice food preparation skills and preparation and tasting of a healthy recipe.
  • Lessons will include
    • The Incredible, Edible Five Food Groups
    • Power Up with Protein – Eat a Variety
    • Live It Up with Fantastic Fruits, Vivid Vegetables
    • Glorious Whole Grains
    • Got Milk?

Groups that are interested need to provide:

  • A facility to carry out the lessons
  • Groups of children 8-12 years old that can attend 10 hours of 4-H Food Smart Families-Kids in the Kitchen programming – no more than 20 per group. The ideal scenario would be 5, 2 hour sessions.

Families of children who attend the lessons will be invited to participate in a family event and will receive groceries to make some of the recipes in the lessons. If you would like more information you can contact Kathleen Splane or 4-H Food Smart Families Project Director Kimi Moore or call 730-4000.

Selecting the best plants for your garden

May 7, 2015 in Feature, Lawn and Garden

Hooray! Spring is really here with its rainy days, windy days and beautifully sunny days. So, it is time to visit the garden center and buy new plants for your home and garden. Many people want help in selecting just the right plant for their particular location. Plant selection is tricky and should be based on a number of factors. First and foremost, evaluate your planting site. Does it get full sun, partial shade or is it shady all the time? Is it dry, moist, well-drained? Is the soil sandy or clayey? Are there competitive plants nearby? Are there walkways or buildings close to the planting space? All these factors should be considered when selecting the best plant for any landscape. Remember to learn how large a plant is expected to grow; don’t expect the plant to stay the size and shape it is when purchased. Think about when and how long it blooms or what fall color and winter interest can be expected. It is easy to walk around a garden center and be wowed by the plants that are in bloom, but they are not likely to bloom all season, so you should also enjoy the habit, bark, leaves and branch structure of the plant.

Most people select plants based on ornamental characteristics like flowers, fruit, fall color, bark and interesting branch structure. Those are important and should be considered when choosing a plant to occupy space in your landscape. Think also about how it will be viewed. Is the plant going to be viewed from a distance, where fall color and habit can play a big factor or is it going to be located right next to your patio where fragrance might be most important? Maybe a tree should be selected that will provide shade or screen an unsightly view. Really think about what you want the plant to “do” in your landscape. That will help narrow your choices. Of course, start with plants you like, but then focus on the functions the plant will perform.

Unbalanced plant selection criteria based only on landscape design principles vs. balanced selection including ecosystem services factors.  Graphic courtesy of Doug Tallamy

Unbalanced plant selection criteria based only on landscape design principles vs. balanced selection including ecosystem services factors. Graphic courtesy of Doug Tallamy

So far, we’ve been talking about traditional landscape design principles. But, I propose there is another set of factors you should consider when selecting a plant for your landscape—the ecosystem services that plant will provide. All plants provide some ecosystem services such as taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen; absorbing pollutants from the air; and taking up water, breaking the fall of raindrops and having root systems that allow water to filter into the surrounding soil. But, not all plants are created equally when it comes to some ecosystem services. Especially when it comes to wildlife habitat, native plants are superior to exotic plants. Most plants have evolved defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predation (getting eaten by insects), but plants and insects that have evolved together over many thousands of years have special relationships that allow insects to find food in their native environment. A good example is the Monarch butterfly whose larvae are able to consume milkweed, even though the milkweed contains a chemical toxic to most insects. This relationship is so important to these specialist insects that they won’t survive without the native milkweed they have evolved to eat. So, if you want to support a diverse population of wildlife with your home landscape (and you should), consider including a variety of native plants in your selections this year.

Susan Barton, Extension Specialist

Poultry Growers’ Field Day

April 30, 2015 in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature, Special Events

Click to learn more

Click to learn more about avian influenza

The Poultry Grower’s Field Day sponsored by the Universities of Delaware and Maryland has been cancelled due to the ongoing issues and concerns associated with infection, eradication and control of High Path Avian Influenza in the Upper Midwest.

While these infections don’t have a direct threat to the Delmarva Broiler Industry the association with wildlife can threaten our region. The source of infection is primarily linked to migratory waterfowl and HPAI breaks have occurred along three of the four primary flyways in the U.S.

For more information about HPAI see the following Websites. There will also be an educational series of off- farm meetings planned to help you keep your farm disease free. These are planned for late May early June. You will be encouraged to attend one of these seminars.

***JUST ANNOUNCED***:Keeping Disease off the Farm June 11, 2015

Commercial Poultry Newsletter



Overnight Harness Racing Camp offered in June

April 27, 2015 in Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature

The Harness Horse Youth Foundation has released its 2015 summer event schedule and for the second consecutive year, Harrington Raceway is on the itinerary. Harrington will host a five-day overnight horsemanship camp June 20-24, 2014. The camp registration fee, which includes all materials, meals, lodging and field trips is $150.

2014 Harness Horse Youth Foundation campers in their colors prior to racing the final evening of camp

2014 Harness Horse Youth Foundation campers in their colors prior to racing the final evening of camp

The camp is offered through a 3-way partnership formed between the Harness Horse Youth Foundation (HHYF), Harrington Raceway and the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. HHYF’s popular five-day overnight camps for youth ages 12-14 are an intense, hands on introduction to horsemanship. Participants learn to care for horses including grooming, proper equipment and safety techniques, and how to drive a horse, assisted by local licensed trainers and drivers. HHYF travels with its own stable of Trottingbreds, a slightly smaller breed of horse than the Standardbreds that normally race at the track. The Harrington camp culminates with a driving exhibition behind the starting gate, where one participant will be chosen to represent the track on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands on Saturday, August 8.

2014 HHYF Camper Lauren Permenter jogging with driver/trainer Jason Skinner

2014 Harness Horse Youth Foundation Camper                  Lauren Permenter jogging with driver/trainer Jason Skinner


“We are pleased to again be presenting our horsemanship camp this summer at Harrington Raceway. We are very fortunate to have supportive local sponsors and volunteers who recognize our mission’s importance. We look forward to sharing with even more people the enthusiasm of the participants as they discover the fun of driving and caring for a racehorse,” explained HHYF Executive Director Ellen Taylor. “We are so privileged to have organizations like HHYF and Harrington Raceway that are willing to partner with us each year and offer this outstanding hands on learning experience for young people in the region,” said Susan Garey, Extension Agent for Animal Science at the University of Delaware.

Campers should wear long pants, solid toed work shoes or heavy sneakers, and t-shirts. No tank tops or shorts will be permitted while working in the barn. No previous horse experience is required.

Registration forms are available on the State 4-H Animal Science webpage at and will be accepted through May 15th. For questions, please contact Susan Garey at or (302)730-4000 or Ellen Taylor at the Harness Horse Youth Foundation at (317)908-0029 or at

The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with harness horses, in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation has been making a difference in young people’s lives since 1976, and its programs include interactive learning experiences with these versatile animals, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials. For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to

Earth Day – every day, focus is on healthy soil

April 21, 2015 in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature

We walk, drive, work and play on it. Our food, fuel and fiber production rely upon it.  The various combinations of loam, sand and clay which form our Earth’s outermost layer, our soil, is the cradle of life for humans, animals and plants.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations named year 2015 as the International Year of Soils. Beginning with Delaware Agriculture Week in January and continuing throughout the year, Delaware Cooperative Extension is reinforcing its efforts to promote soil health throughout the state.

Steve Woodruff, USDA-NRCS agronomist presents at last month's soil health field day at UD in Georgetown

Steve Woodruff, USDA-NRCS agronomist presents at last month’s soil health field day at UD in Georgetown

“Soil health is a topic being discussed nationally and internationally, but how it is implemented is going to be very specific to individual farms and fields,” says Mark VanGessel, UD Extension specialist in weed science.

“Working with farmers, the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the conservation districts, UD Extension is working on locally adapted practices that fit with Delaware soils, climate, and cropping systems. Getting farmers to think more about soil health an implement specific practices requires a collaborate effort on the part of USDA, conservation districts, Delaware Department of Agriculture, UD and DSU Delaware Cooperative Extension and most importantly, farmers,” VanGessel says.

Healthy soils are rich in organic matter with a high diversity of microbial activity and are more healthy if they are not over tilled, says Steve Woodruff.

Woodruff, an agronomist with the USDA -NRCS was the featured speaker at the Soil Health Field Day held on March 25, 2015 at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. During the day-long seminar, Woodruff reflected on the change of mindset and cultural practices he has observed in agriculture. Growing up on a tobacco farm, Woodruff says the excessive tilling needed to grow tobacco has over time, ruined the soil’s function.

“Tobacco fields are starving for water today,” Woodruff says. “Humans have ruined what was a well-functioning system.”

Woodruff explains that farmers need to understand how soil functions so they can better use rainwater. Water that runs off, or just sits, is not a functioning system.

“Agriculture soils don’t have an erosion problem,” Woodruff adds. “But we have an infiltration problem.” Farmers need to stop focusing on the amount of rain, but instead, on how much rain gets to the crop.”

To illustrate his message, Woodruff often travels with his rain simulator, a messy, but effective device that distinguishes the way healthy and unhealthy soils accept or receive water during a rain event. In the video, Woodruff arranges soil profile samples to demonstrate a variety of soil quality and conditions. The soil profiles, from left to right are: 1. Low diversity and heavy tilled soil – less than 1% organic matter (unhealthy). 2. No-till – a section of soil with 25 years of diverse cover crops and organic matter equaling 4 to 4.5% (healthy). 3. Poor soil with a heavy residue cover (control). 4. Well-managed pasture with a diversity of cover crop (healthy) and, 5. Poorly-managed pasture – over grazed with biological disturbance – impaction (unhealthy). The results are clear.

The solution to the problem, Woodruff stresses, is creating healthy balance of organic matter in the soil. “Organic matter is the glue for soil strength,” Woodruff says.  Building that organic matter takes time. “We have to keep feeding the soil,” Woodruff explains. He concedes building organic matter in sandier soils can be tricky. Warmer soils, Woodruff emphasizes, need more microbial activity and less tillage.

Growing more cover crops is one solution. Understanding how these crops grow, use carbon and take up nitrogen, and eventually break down to form organic matter is vital knowledge for a farmer to put into practical use. Performance results of various cover crop species were made available at the field day.

Making the effort to understand how organic matter works and adding it to the soil also makes good economic and productive sense.

In farms where he is conducting research, adding one percent of organic matter in the top 12 inches of soil saved one farmer 16,500 gallons of water per acre, Woodruff says.

In one Michigan study, adding 1 percent of organic matter equaled a 12 percent increase in crop yield.

Most biological activity occurs in the top three inches of soil, Woodruff explains.

Healthy soils require microbial diversity. Woodruff compared a healthy soil in terms of human health. When humans are sick and take antibiotics, smart advice is given to replenish the diet with yogurt or pro-biotic additives to restore the “good stuff,” the microbes and bacteria the human body needs to thrive, Woodruff related. So too with plants. Plants and crops interact with particular microorganisms in the soil and help the plants to absorb nutrients better. A diversity of microbes need to exist in order to convert plant material into organic matter. In addition to cover crops, adding compost and strategic applications of poultry litter are natural and effective amendments.

For agricultural soils, Woodruff advocates planned and lengthened crop rotations along with the implementation of a variety of cover crops.

“Diverse soils are more resilient,” Woodruff explains, “and the crops that grow from that soil have a better chance to resist diseases, pest insects, climate change and other stresses.” As a result, Woodruff explains, there is less reliance and need for the “cides”  – pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematicides, etc. Prevention, avoidance, and monitoring should be undertaken before suppression and spraying for pest populations, Woodruff said.

“The impact of not building soil health is a $400 billion consideration,” Woodruff said. “Farmers need to know their main crops and understand the conditions that allow and provide the habitat for organisms to thrive in the soil.”

“Soil health is the continued capacity of oil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains  plats, animals and humans,” Woodruff featured in a slide presentation.

The Soil Health Field Day also covered presentations on the early establishment of cover crops with an air seeder, by Mike Willeke, Buckeye Soil Systems and included two field stations; the rain simulator and weed management in cover crops conducted by Mark VanGessel. The seminars were sponsored by the Sussex Conservation District, MRCS, DNREC and the University of Delaware


Article & media: Michele Walfred


Compost Is A Soil Amendment

April 13, 2015 in Feature, Lawn and Garden

compost-soilSpring has finally arrived and many of us are eager to get outside and feel warm soil in the palm of our hands. As you are ‘cleaning-up’ garden areas from winter debris – in preparation for spring plantings, remember to compost the organic material. Yes, this can become next year’s soil amendment, if you start composting now and continue to feed your compost pile throughout the year. Healthy roots systems stimulate healthier plants – incorporating ‘well-rotted’ compost to your soil prior to planting will give your new plants (and established plants) a happier home to grow. For more information on backyard composting, contact your local Delaware Cooperative Extension office.

Your Money Your Goals

March 24, 2015 in Family and Consumer Sciences, Feature, New Castle County

finance-photoAre you in a helping profession? Do you mentor others? Staff from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension will be presenting training on the Your Money Your Goals a Financial Empowerment Toolkit for Social Services programs. This resource was specifically designed for those who may need to increase their comfort level in sharing good accurate financial management information with those they work with. The toolkit provides resources that can be copied and distributed to customers/clientele.

Financial topics that will be covered include:

  • Setting Financial Goals
  • Saving for Unexpected Emergencies and Goals
  • Managing Income and Benefits
  • Paying Bills and Other Expenses
  • Managing Cash Flow
  • Dealing with Debt and Understanding Credit Reports and Scores
  • Protecting Consumer Rights
  • Evaluating Financial Service Providers

The full day training reviews the content of the material and provides some guidelines on how to best use the materials with others. Dates are scheduled in April with a registration deadline date of April 17th.  Go to this link for the training schedule and a registration form

The cost of $25/per person covers a light lunch and snacks for the day.

From home visitors to lay people in church groups who mentor or council others, this tool kit will be a valuable addition to their resources. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Maria Pippidis at or call 831-1239.


Extension offers teens a unique opportunity this summer

March 24, 2015 in Cooperative Extension Scholars, Feature

Youth teaching other youthDo you have a teenager who is interested in a positive and life-changing experience during the summer months? Would they be interested in earning a stipend, practicing their cooking skills and learning how to purchase healthy food?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you will want to encourage your teen and perhaps even yourself to join us for an exciting opportunity. 4-H is currently recruiting teen and adult trainers for our 4-H Food Smart Families program.

Thanks to renewed funding by ConAgra Corporation, 4-H Food Smart Families programming will be coming back Delaware for 2015 and 2016. This youth-adult partnership will offer teens (13 to 18 years old) an opportunity to work with Extension professionals throughout the state to bring nutrition education, physical activity, food preparation and savvy shopping skills to kids 8 to 12 years old.

Teen and adult trainers will be paid a stipend for teaching a series of 10 hours of lessons. Those interested need to have day time availability in the summer and their own transportation.

4-H requires that teens and adults who teach the children receive training in Youth Adult Partnership, Youth Development and the Nutrition Curriculum. Lunch will be provided at these all-day trainings.

Youth and Adult Partnership and Youth Development training is set for April 8, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Castle County Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Rd. Directions.

Nutrition Curriculum training is set for May 16, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the same location.

Participants will need to attend both trainings.

Please register by March 31 by calling Jan Unflat at 302-730-4000 or emailing If you have questions feel free to email Kathleen Splane or call 302-730-4000.