Category Archives: Feature

Feeding America – Your Next Mission workshops available

Learn about programs, tools and resources available to new and beginning Delaware producers.

Held in three convenient locations (click to register), Georgetown, on Tuesday August 30, Dover  and Townsend on Wednesday, August 31, the 2 hour event will review:

  • Farm Business Fundamentals
  • Capital Credit and Cash Flow
  • Break and Networking
  • Beginning and Veteran Producer Resources
  • Risk Management and Crop Insurance
  • Evaluations and Evaluations.

This event is free to the public, and RSVPs are encouraged for refreshments. Funding has been provided by AgRAEIS, the Farm Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the USDA-Risk Management Agency.  Said events will be held at the Georgetown Fire Hall (Georgetown); Tom Foolery Restaurant (Middletown/Townsend); and Dover Downs Casino (Dover). Follow the tiny URL listed on the flyer to register for the workshop.

Feeding America-Your Next Mission

For more information contact Kole Swanser (919) 443-0075

Delaware 4-Hers Compete at 51st Annual State 4-H Horse Show

43 Delaware 4-H Horse project members competed recently at the 51st Annual State 4-H Horse Show held on July 29, 2016, in the Quillen Arena during the Delaware State Fair. Put on by 4-H volunteers on the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the show offers 4-H members the opportunity to show and learn under the guidance of capable volunteers and judges while having fun at the same time.

Judged this year by Amy Whitmore of Westminster, Maryland members competed in the required showmanship classes as well as horsemanship, equitation, trail, pleasure, driving and fun classes like barrel racing, egg and spoon, dollar bareback and costume.
Champion and Reserve Champion Horse Show awards were sponsored by the Delaware Equine Council and the Delaware Quarter Horse Association respectively and were presented to the following 4-H members:

Champion Western Horse– Peyton Ridgely exhibiting Premier Invitation- Kent County
Reserve Champion Western Horse– Sierra Kane exhibiting Chipnotized – Kent County

Champion Western Pony– Samantha Greim exhibiting Arrow’s First April- Kent County
Reserve Champion Western Pony – Dawson Mitchell exhibiting Star – Kent County

Champion English Horse– Ashley Bullock exhibiting Willie’s Lovely Lady- Kent County
Reserve Champion English Horse – Courtney Sarlouis exhibiting Grace’s Whisper- Kent County

Champion English Pony– Alexandria Herber exhibiting Definitely Bold – Sussex County
Reserve Champion English Pony – Olivia Gaines exhibiting GVHA Dreams Come True– Kent County

Grand Champion Walk Trot – Stephanie Strachar exhibiting Confidential – Kent County
Reserve Champion Walk Trot – Rachel Adkins exhibiting Loafer’s Lodge Cinderella – Kent County

The Betty Niblett Perpetual Trophy is presented to the 4-H member who acquires the most points in Showmanship and Equitation/horsemanship classes. Betty was the President of the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee at the time of her death and helping kids with horse projects was a passion of hers. The winner of the 2016 Betty Niblett Perpetual Trophy was Ashley Bullock of the Hearts 4-Horses 4-H Club in Kent County.

The annual horse show is open to any 4-H member on the Delmarva Peninsula or Delaware 4-H members. Major sponsors and supporters of the 2016 show included the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the Annett Farms Family, the Delaware Equine Council, the Delaware Quarter Horse Association, Delwood Trailer Sales, Inc., David and Victoria Elwood of Agile Rendering, Ltd., Jennifer Warrington and Toby O’Bryan.
4-H is a community of young people across Delaware learning leadership, citizenship and lifeskills. Join the revolution of responsibility! For more information on becoming a 4-H member or volunteer in Delaware please contact your county extension office:

New Castle County: (302)831-8965
Kent County: (302)730-4000
Sussex County: (302)856-7303

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

If it’s Saturday, think 4-H Science Saturday!

Are you interested in learnDelaware 4-H Science Saturdaying about the importance of pollinators for the health of the environment, or about how chickens develop inside eggs? How about competing to become the best engineer, or learning about forensics while touring the Delaware Biotechnology Institute?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then register today for the 2016 4-H Science Saturday Workshops. Science Saturdays are for youth ages 8-12 and are the first Saturday of September-December from 9am-12noon (see registration form for more details). Workshop cost is only $10, and registration is limited! You do not have to be enrolled in 4-H to register.

If you are 13 and older and would like to get involved, please contact Autumn Starcher for more information on volunteer opportunities.

2016 4-H Science Saturday Workshop Series – Registration Form

Parking at Lums Pond State Park is covered by 4-H for the September 3rd Science Saturday. Enjoy other park activities following the workshop, including hiking, canoeing, and zip-lining (additional fees apply).

Be a Citizen Scientist!” Entomology and Habitat Conservation Workshop
September 3, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
Lums Pond State Park

Build It, Don’t Break It!” Engineering Workshop
October 1, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
NCC Cooperative Extension Office

Chick It Out” Animal Science Workshop
November 5, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
UD Fischer Greenhouse

The Science of Investigation” Biotechnology and Forensics Workshop
December 3, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
Delaware Biotechnology Institute

UD researchers examine best irrigation practices at Warrington Farm

James Adkins at the Warrington Farm, where UD scientists are conducting irrigation research using the latest technology, including sensors that monitor soil moisture content.
James Adkins at the Warrington Farm, where UD scientists are conducting irrigation research using the latest technology, including sensors that monitor soil moisture content.

When James Adkins started working at the Warrington Farm just south of Milton, Delaware, in 1999, the farm was plagued with poor drainage, noxious weeds and poor soil fertility.

Now, 17 years later, steady improvements to the soil and the drainage system allow University of Delaware researchers the ability to study irrigation and fertigation treatments for plots of soybean, wheat and corn and to make recommendations to regional growers on how to best irrigate and fertilize their crops.

Those issues are exceptionally important to farmers — in both Delaware, which boasts around 128,000 acres of irrigated cropland, and around the world — who must balance use of the correct amount of water and fertilizer to produce the best crop yields from the soils they are working.

Given to the University by Everett Warrington in 1992, the Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable rate center pivot irrigation system, which was upgraded in 2012 from a previous version that Adkins, associate scientist for irrigation engineering at UD’s Carvel Research and Education Center, built with Ian McCann, an irrigation and water management specialist, in 2001.

“At the time, it was like VHS and Betamax, and I built a Betamax,” said Adkins, who explained that before getting the new system in place, researchers would have to stand on the pivot point and wait for the water to hit a flag and then turn a combination of toggle switches to make the machine do what it needed to do.

In 2016, the irrigation system was upgraded to reflect the latest advancements in irrigation management and technology.

Now, researchers are able to use geographic information system (GIS) software to map where and how they want certain research plots irrigated. The primary goal is to evaluate and identify the most effective and efficient water management strategies to enhance crop production and nutrient management.

To plant the crops, Adkins uses a tractor equipped with real-time kinematic steering that can be set up to drive plus or minus an inch one way or the other for each pass so that all the rows on the farm are planted perfectly straight. He then takes that map out of the tractor and uses it with the pivot to determine how the farm plots get irrigated.

“We’ve got the farm randomized into about 300 individual 60- by 60-foot squares and we categorize the soils based on a range of factors such as electrical connectivity, which is a proxy for soil moisture holding capacity, and clay content. We’re categorizing them in such a way that we’ve got five tiers and we plant each of our treatments in each tier. We want to make sure that ‘Treatment One’ doesn’t always end up in the best soil and make sure it gets into all five tiers,” said Adkins.

Each square is irrigated differently, and every morning the researchers collect data from sensors that monitor soil moisture content at 6, 12 and 18 inches.

The data comes from watermark sensors that are hardwired to a wireless transmitter that sends data to a tower where 11 machines record all the information.

The researchers look at soil moisture values daily and can see how soil moisture values change throughout the day.

“We’ve got about 200 stations with three sensors each that log each hour so we’re looking at a large volume of data each day. We can tell where the roots of a crop are by looking at the soil moisture values because when the sun comes up, the plant starts using water so we’ll see that soil moisture profile start to drop. When the sun goes down, the plant is no longer using water so it will level off. By watching each depth, we can get a good idea where our root zone is and thus change how we irrigate,” said Adkins.

By analyzing the data for each plot, the researchers can prepare a prescription for how the machine will run for the day.

“If we have a treatment triggered by a sensor that reads 20 centibars or above – for instance, if we get in one morning and we have one plot at 21 centibars – that square gets irrigated,” said Adkins. “It’s a mechanism to be able to evaluate whether sensor-driven irrigation has an effect on yield and water use efficiency.”

Trevor Aldred, who is working on the farm for the summer before heading to medical school after graduating from UD with an honors degree in biological sciences, enters the data every morning into a spreadsheet that is color coded to tell the researchers which plots need to be irrigated and how they need to be irrigated.

With the soybean research, Adkins said the study is mostly devoted to the timing of application.

“We find that soybeans respond to water at a very particular time and if you just water based on conventional methods, you’ll actually hurt yield because it will result in a plant that is too big and that falls down,” said Adkins.

With the corn, they are looking at fertigation, mostly in regards to nitrogen use efficiency, with 11 different treatments replicated five times for a total of 55 treatment blocks.

Subsurface drip irrigation

In addition to the above-ground center pivot irrigation plots, there is a section of the farm devoted to subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

For SDI research on a randomized population study on soybeans, Adkins uses a variable rate planter to put seeds in the field and color codes each section of the soybean crop, with each color representing a different population.

“There are four different populations and as the planter draws across the field, it’s planting an orange section with 180,000 seeds, the yellow area goes up to 220,000, then back to 180,000, then to 140,000, and then it turns around. The planter responds to a map that I drew and uploaded to the tractor,” said Adkins.

All four populations will be irrigated with SDI and end up in each irrigation treatment so the researchers have the ability to compare population with irrigation rate.

SDI is exactly as it sounds, with water running underground in order to irrigate a crop. The Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable frequency drive, a pump in the ground that changes speed to match the flow demand that can reach up to 475 gallons a minute. A control box handles 42 zones that are roughly a quarter of an acre each.

“Each zone can be timed to come on whenever we want so we’re taking the information on soil moisture values and we’ve got schedules in there for all kinds of different ways that we’re irrigating,” said Adkins.

Adkins said that SDI is a good option for irregularly shaped fields that don’t have room to fit a pivot and that it works well in heavier soil types, like loam soils and clays, because there’s enough hydraulic connectivity in those denser soils to wick moisture away from the drip tape and get it to the soil surface. For sandier soils, however, it’s hard to get the water to move vertically in the soil profile.

“When we bury the tape at 16 inches – and we have to do that in order to prevent it from being damaged by farm equipment – we don’t get a lot of it to come up to the surface. Early in the season when there are no roots down to that depth, we end up pumping considerably more water to try to get that water to move vertically in the profile so the efficiency we gain on the tail end doesn’t overcome the inefficiencies we get on the front end,” said Adkins.

Still for those who have the right soil types to utilize SDI, Adkins said that it is a good system.

“There are parts of the world, because of water use efficiency and lack of water, they’ve taken down pivots and put in subsurface drip, but I don’t see that happening here. We get enough recharge that it’s not really an issue. It has its place, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Adkins.

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

If You’re Packing, Make Sure It’s Safe!

lunchbagIt’s that time of year – time to plan for back-to-school, which includes healthy and safe lunches.  If you are planning on packing your child’s school lunch, here are some food safety tips to follow:

-Use good sanitation and good personal hygiene when preparing food.

-Use special care with high protein, moist, and low-acid foods.

  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and fresh milk products.

-Keep foods either hot or cold. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour on very hot days).

  • Boil foods such as soups, stews and chili, then immediately pour into a hot, sterile vacuum bottle. Sterilize vacuum bottle with boiling water.
  • Use a freezer gel-pack or make one from a plastic container (such as a margarine tub) filled with water then frozen. Place these containers in the lunch bag or box. Insulted lunch bags keep foods colder than paper bags. Some insulated lunch bags even have built-in freezer gel packs.
  • To keep beverages cold and safe, place an empty sterilized vacuum bottle in the freezer compartment every evening.
  • Freeze individual cartons of yogurt or plastic bottles of water or other non-carbonated drinks (these will serve the same purpose as freezer-gel devices or homemade ice containers).
  • Take sandwich fillings such as egg or tuna salad and slices of luncheon meats in a cold-keeping container to be spread on bread at lunch time.
  • Don’t let lunch sit in a warm place such as the car or in the sun.

lunch2-Foods safe for lunch without keeping hot or cold:

  • Dried meats such as beef jerky.
  • Crisp-cooked bacon.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Clean, well-scrubbed, whole (not cut) fruits and vegetables.
  • Breads, crackers, cereals.
  • Baked products such as cookies and cake.

-Use your imagination to create safe, nutritious and tasty lunches.

Mix peanut butter and:

  • Applesauce with a dash of cinnamon; wheat germ and raisins can also be added.
  • Nonfat dry milk powder and honey or mashed banana.
  • Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, dates, or prunes.
  • Sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds.
  • Honey and crumbled bacon.

-Mix a grated or chopped mild cheese with a favorite salad dressing such as French or Italian, then stir in:

  • Sweet or dill pickles.
  • Chopped nuts.
  • Chopped onion, green pepper, cucumbers, celery, or bean sprouts.lunch
  • Crushed, drained pineapple.
  • Chopped fruit such as apples or bananas.

-Use different types of breads.

  • Try whole wheat, rye, raisin, French, or Italian bread.
  • Fill pocket or pita bread with any of the above spreads.
  • Use hot dog, hamburger, or Kaiser rolls.
  • Bagels, croissants, and English muffins make a nice change.
  • Spread quick breads such as banana or zucchini bread with peanut butter.

For more information about packing food safely, please visit


Prepared by: Sue Snider, PhD, Professor/Food Safety and Nutrition Specialist

Edited on 08/04/2016:  Nancy Mears, MS, CHES, SNS, Extension Agent – Family & Consumer Sciences

Time to register for Master Gardener Workshop

Register for a Delaware Master Gardener Workshop! Topics include vegetable gardening, native plants, landscape design and more.

Learn how to care for your garden in the Fall or how to work with trees and plants in varied degrees of shade. There are classes to teach about those mysterious green invasive vines in your backyard and even classes on how to restore a healthy habitat for pollinators!

To learn more and register for a class in your county:

Yes We Can! Maintain Don’t Gain

Cooperative Extension Yes We Can Challenge Chili Cook Off event
Cooperative Extension Yes We Can Challenge Chili Cook Off event

Dancing divas renee's teamParticipants in the Yes We Can! in Kent County and Si Podemos! Challenges in New Castle County completed 8 months of competition aimed at healthier eating and becoming more active. Thanks to funding by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and working with UD’s Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition Lucy Williams and Carlos Dipres worked with the teams to engage them in Cooperative Extension programming to encourage them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  To end the 8-month challenge recently Carlos’ teams competed in a Chili Cook Off while Lucy’s teams competed in a Chopped Challenge.  After months of participation in the program participants shared the following anecdotes.

From participants in New Castle County

“I became more interested in finding healthy recipes that I could try home.  And I was trying them with my kids, which was good for them too, so they could learn how to eat healthy.”

“I didn’t used to walk; I walked, but when we were put to the test, I realized I wasn’t walking enough.  And then, every day I set goals for myself to walk more and more, and I’ve been achieving them.”

From participants in Kent County

“The overall quality of my life has improved for me because I’ve actually become more conscious and aware of what I’m consuming and what I’m doing and just doing it and for these past five, six months it’s actually helped me to discipline myself to stay steady with it…”

“The nutrition side made me more mindful to eat fruits and vegetables. So I changed the way that I grocery shopped and had more fruits and vegetables available in my fridge to just run home, grab a snack and it was always a fruit or raw veggie.”


The program will continue with new participants competing in a Yes We Can! Maintain Don’t Gain program through the end of 2016.  If you are interested in participating in the program contact Lucy Williams in Kent County or Carlos Dipres in New Castle County


UD researchers look at programs to incentivize cover crop adoption among growers

Studying programs to provide economic incentives for cover crop adoption are (from left) Joshua Duke, Amy Shober and Emerson Paradee.
Studying programs to provide economic incentives for cover crop adoption are (from left) Joshua Duke, Amy Shober and Emerson Paradee.

Federal and state agencies have been offering farmers economic incentives to adopt best management practices (BMPs) to help deliver environmental services from agriculture, and yet adoption — though increasing — lags behind government targets.

A new interdisciplinary study led by the University of Delaware is going to investigate what aspects of BMP programs — specifically those related to cover crops — that farmers in Maryland and Ohio prefer.

The study is designed to find out what farmers take into consideration when entering BMP incentive programs with the hopes of one day being able to offer a larger number of contract options tailored to meet the particular needs of a given farming operation.

“The hope is that by making the contracts more amenable to farmers, we can end up getting far more adoption at a lower cost,” said Joshua Duke, professor of applied economics.

The $498,434 study is being led by Duke with Amy Shober, an associate professor and nutrient management and environmental quality extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Robert Johnston, director of the George Perkins Marsh Institute and professor of economics at Clark University; and Emerson Paradee, a master’s degree student in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational program, and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Cover crops

For this particular study the research team will conduct a large-scale survey of farmers in Maryland and Ohio about their adoption of cover crops as a BMP using a “choice experiment” — a specially engineered survey that allows farmers to tradeoff many different options in cover crop contracts.

The statistical analysis will reveal what contracts would best fit the preferences of individual farmers. The researchers will also compare the survey results to observational data of what farmers actually planted.

Shober said that cover crops are important for a number of different reasons, such as improving the organic matter in soil and scavenging nitrogen — planting deep rooted crops to pump the nitrogen back to the surface — and also in weed suppression, disease suppression and fighting erosion.

Farmers have different reasons for planting different cover crops. An organic farmer, for instance, might plant them as a way to manage weeds. In Ohio, Shober said, a farmer would likely utilize cover crops for the soil health benefits, while in the Mid-Atlantic the main focus of cover crops is for nitrogen scavenging during the non-growing season.

“In this region, the focus has been primarily on nitrogen scavenging and so you’re going to see a lot of people that are planting small grains, mainly wheat,” Shober said. “State agencies prefer early planted cereal rye because research has shown that it is a particularly good nitrogen scavenger.”

Duke said the researchers selected Maryland and Ohio because both have water quality issues and while Maryland probably has the nation’s leading cover crop program, Ohio has a contrasting pattern of less cover crop programming and fewer adoptees.

Cover crop adoption

Duke said one reason farmers might hesitate to adopt cover crops is that the times they are planted could conflict with the planting of the cash crop.

“What we’re wondering is, how many more farmers would adopt if we could allow them to plant in November instead of October? Maybe the cover crop wouldn’t be the best cover crop you could have, but it might get a lot more farmers interested and they might be willing to accept a lower payment if you give them a little more flexibility on the planting date,” said Duke. “We’re going to figure out what farmers think about cover crops and what kinds of things they value, and then we’re going to estimate models that show the best contracts to offer — a whole suite of them, and the farmers can pick the ones they want.”

Duke said that policy makers will be able to take the results of the study and look at how they can get better adoption rates by being a little bit more flexible in their guidelines.

Shober said flexibility is key, as farming is tough work and subject to many uncontrollable factors.

“Farming is difficult. There are so many decisions you have to make, especially if you’re participating in cost share type programs,” she said. “They give you planting windows and if you fall outside of those planting windows, they don’t give you a payment if you plant cover crops late in the season — we’re a little worried about that this year because of how late everybody planted corn — and once you get past November, you’re probably not going to establish a very good cover crop. When cash crops come off the field late, farmers may choose not to plant cover crops since it costs money to buy and plant the seed. There are lots of factors that drive decisions to plant cover crops, just like any other decision farmers make during the season.”

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Program, Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities, grant number: 2015-07637.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Christy Mannering

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Topping a tree is NOT proper protocol

Dot Abbot is our Extension Agent for Renewable Resources which is a statewide position providing educational and outreach programs to diverse audiences on forestry-related topics in urban & rural communities.

Dot Abbott
Extension Agent – Renewable Resources

Contact Information:
Phone Number:(302) 730-4000
Email Me:

Area(s) of Expertise:
Renewable Natural Resources, Forestry, Environmental Education

Website for the Delaware State Forest Service is:

Family & Consumer Science Brings Fun to the Fair

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension staff will put on fun and useful food and nutrition demonstrations during the Delaware State Fair.  The demonstrations will be held in the air-conditioned Ag Commodities building (directly across from the Kent Bldg)on the fairgrounds.


Veggie Bingo                                                                                      July 22nd & 30th 12-1 pm

Stumped by what to do with fresh vegetables?  Learn tips on vegetable selection and storage, buying in season, food safety practices, and pairing with herbs and spices.  As the name suggests, participants will also have the opportunity to partake in an interactive Vegetable Bingo Game.  A tasty recipe, Crunchy Vegetable Burrito Banditos, will be prepared and sampled.

Blubber Burger: Healthier Fast Food                                                                       July 24th 2-4 pm

Fast food doesn’t have to mean unhealthy food!  Discover the amount of fat in some fast food favorites and learn how to make healthier choices at fast food restaurants.  This demonstration will also include the preparation and sampling of the recipe, Broccoli & Bean Quesadilla, which is great when your low on time, but still want a healthy meal.

Canning 101                                                                                                   July 26th 2-3 pm

Do you have more fruits and vegetables than you know what to do with?  Learn the basics of the tools and the process necessary to preserve foods using the water bath and canning method.  Some resources that can be used to get safer recipes and appropriate techniques will be shared as well.

Is it Spaghetti or is it Squash?                                                                      July 27th 2-3 pm

Learn how to prepare delicious spaghetti squash!  Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta containing only 10 grams of carbohydrate per cup. This is helpful for people with diabetes who need to be conscious of their carbohydrate intake. It also a good source of vitamins C and B6.

And from our colleagues at Agriculture & Natural Resources…

Innovative Lima Bean Recipies
July 22, 2-3 pm

Did you know that Lima Beans are a major crop in Delaware? And no one knows more about them then our “Lima Bean Lady” and expert Emmalea Ernest! Learn how to prepare delicious recipies featuring our little green powerhouse bean!