97th annual Virginia 4-H State Congress inspires true leaders

4-H members on drillfield standing in the shape of a 4-H clover

Virginia 4-H State Congress is the leading, statewide annual 4-H event for 4-H members and volunteer leaders.

More than 500 4-H’ers and adult volunteers will converge on Virginia Tech’s campus for the 97th annual Virginia 4-H State Congress to take place June 19-22.

Virginia 4-H State Congress is the leading, statewide annual 4-H event for 4-H members and volunteer leaders. Its mission is to provide competitive and non-competitive educational experiences to Virginia teens and the adults who work with them, helping them to develop life skills and leadership abilities to become contributing citizens in their communities.

Participants customize their 4-H State Congress experience by selecting activities from the dozens of workshops, showcases, and competitions offered. The activities provided cover topics such as communication and expressive arts, citizenship, healthy living, leadership, service learning, career/economic education, animal science, STEM, and environmental/outdoor education.

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Virginia Tech to host Beef and Forage Field Day at Kentland Farm on July 27

a bllack and white beef cow eating grassVirginia Tech will host a Beef & Forage Field Day July 27 at Kentland Farm in Blacksburg from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to learn more about a variety of cattle- and forage-related topics and to experience Virginia Tech’s scenic Kentland Farm.

Topics will include

  • Economics of low-stress beef cattle handling.
  • Characteristics of quality feeder cattle.
  • The Virginia beef industry and market outlook.
  • Increasing pasture production with summer annuals and alternative forages.
  • Baling and bale-handling demonstrations.
  • Spray applications using boomless and aerial technology.
  • Practical and low-cost application of precision agriculture in livestock.
  • Precision technology demonstrations in forage systems.

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Scientists determine key factors of honeybee decline

Though a contributing factor, farmer-applied pesticides are not the primary cause of honeybee colony loss in Virginia, according to Virginia Tech scientists Richard Fell and Carlyle Brewster.bees

The scientists recently took wax, pollen, and bee samples from more than 110 hives across the state and have analyzed about half of them for pesticide residues.

“We did not find excessive amounts of agricultural pesticides in the hives, but we did find a significant amount of beekeeper-applied miticide,” said Fell, professor emeritus of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Intended to kill the invasive, parasitic varroa mite, miticides can also be damaging to bees. Fell urged beekeepers to sample their colonies to determine mite infestation levels before treating. If treatment is necessary, beekeepers should use a miticide that does not cause residue problems, such as formic acid.

As more information emerges on the spread of the Zika virus, Fell also encouraged the public to be mindful that mosquito pesticides are toxic to honeybees and should only be applied when absolutely necessary.

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Exploring genetics to combat malaria and Zika

The Zika virus has quickly become a major health threat, and researchers at Virginia Tech are looking for ways to curtail its spread.

Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology

Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology

The virus, which is primarily spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, has been passed on to a growing number of Americans since early 2016, and the World Health Organization has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Biochemist Zhijian “Jake”  Tu is one of several Virginia Tech researchers zeroing in on the Zika virus. Tu is studying genes that turn biting female mosquitoes into males, and he is exploring genetic strategies to stop the transmission of the Zika virus by reducing the number of female mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite and are harmless to humans, while female mosquitoes bite humans to get the blood they need for egg production.

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Wade E. Thomason receives Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension

Wade E. Thomason

Wade E. Thomason, professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences and Extension grains specialist, has received the 2017 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university. One award goes to an Extension specialist and the other is given to an Extension agent. Each award winner receives $2,000.

Thomason’s Extension education and research in Virginia’s corn and small grains industries focuses on the integration of corn, wheat, and barley into practical, economical, and sustainable cropping systems for the eastern U.S. He serves as a member on the board of directors of the Virginia Grain Producers Association, where he actively engages in education and leadership with such programs as Annual Small Grain Field Day, Virginia Ag Expo, and the annual Corn and Soybean Conference.

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