Category Archives: Natural Resources

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 2019 Pest Management and Production Guides are Now Available

The 2019 Virginia Cooperative Extension pest management and production guides, which provide current information on spraying, pest management, and field crop and vegetable production are now available for purchase and free download. The guides can be accessed at www.pubs.ext.vt.edu by selecting the “Publications for Sale” link.

2019 Spray Bulletin for Commercial Tree Fruit Growers
Spray Bulletin for Commercial Tree Fruit Growers has been completely updated and provides resources for safe spraying practices, such as application, storage, appropriate clothing choices, laws and regulations, and other specific guidelines.

 

Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations
The latest version of the Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations replaces all of the previous editions from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. This guide is designed for the commercial vegetable grower and provides recommended selections for variety, pesticides, irrigation, fertilizer, and cultural practices.

 

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Pest Management Guides are divided into three different volumes: Home Grounds and Animals, Field Crops, and Horticultural Forest Crops.

Home Grounds and Animals Pest Management Guide
The Home Grounds and Animals Pest Management Guide provides gardeners with the latest recommendations for controlling diseases, insects, and weeds with non-chemical control alternatives, while also integrating in the appropriate integrated pest management guidelines (IPM).

 

Field Crops Pest Management Guide
The Field Crops Pest Management Guide provides farmers and crop-protection professionals with new information on management tactics for major pest problems, while also referencing chemicals registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 

Horticultural and Forest Crops Pest Management Guide
The Horticultural and Forest Crops Pest Management Guide gives growers current information on the controlling of diseases, insects, nematodes, and weeds; this is not an all-inclusive control plan for the pests in Virginia, yet it does provide a wide range of recommendations for growers.

 

These handbooks are intended only to be used as guides. Pesticide labels should be consulted for application methods, instructions, and precautions. Most of these guidelines will be updated yearly with new, relevant regulatory information.

For more information about these guides or other Virginia Cooperative Extension publications, contact Lori Greiner, VCE publications manager, at lgreiner@vt.edu or 540-231-5863.

— Written by Gabrielle Sanderson

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Cooperative Extension associate ignites high school students’ interest in science, protecting water supplies

Carroll County students in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering water quality lab

Carroll County students in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering water quality lab. As the United States continues to be surpassed by other industrialized nations in STEM education – Canada and Singapore among them – innovative STEM educational initiatives have become ever more critical. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in the math and science fields will grow exponentially faster than average.

In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell coined the term “connector,” referring to “a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [… for] making friends and acquaintances.” Connectors are, according to Gladwell, able to galvanize others and possess “… a special gift for bringing the world together.”

Erin Ling is just such a person.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension associate and coordinator of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program in the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems has a unique ability to draw connections between ideas, concepts, and people who, by coming together in partnership, spark new possibilities. This is just what she did when she met Rachelle Rasco ’92, the STEM agriculture lab manager for Carroll County High School, during a teachers program nearly four years ago.

“We met and hit it off, and pretty quickly we started working together to figure out how to adapt the Virginia Household Water Quality Program well-testing program to make it possible for high school students to participate,” said Ling ’00, with her characteristic enthusiasm. “We knew that we could tie the material to what they were already learning in their science classes, but show them why it matters in a very real, tangible way – through their families’ drinking water.”

Isabelle “Izzy” Largen ’22 (center) with Erin Ling '00 (left) and Rachelle Rasco '92 (right)

Isabelle “Izzy” Largen ’22 (center) with Erin Ling ’00 (left) and Rachelle Rasco ’92 (right). Largen entered Ling’s program as a 10th grade student at Carroll County High School. The experience informed her desire to attend Virginia Tech and her choice of majors.

The Virginia Household Water Quality Program (VAHWQP) is an Extension project that provides affordable water testing and education to residents of the commonwealth. Since Ling and Rasco, with the assistance of Hannah Scherer, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and a specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Randy Webb ’07, ’18, an agricultural instructor and FFA advisor for Carroll County High School, teamed up in 2015, the program has increased student awareness of water quality issues and stimulated interest in science, technology, engineering, and math educational programs.

“The students come to Virginia Tech to see how testing is done and how it is applied,” said Rasco. “They learn about pH, bacteria, and water chemistry. When they go into other classes, they are more competent. This learning about water permeates everything, but it starts at a personal level because it’s their drinking water.”

After collecting water from their wells or springs, students bring their water samples to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Biological Systems Engineering water quality lab in the state-of-the-art Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1. There, they spend the day conducting hands-on lab activities and listening to presentations from water quality and food safety researchers and well drilling contractors.

While the students are on campus, lab staff begin analyzing their household water samples for total coliform bacteria, E. coli, pH, nitrate, total dissolved solids, and fluoride. Portions of samples are prepared and delivered to the environmental and water resources engineering lab for additional analysis for lead, arsenic, copper, iron, manganese, hardness, sulfate, and sodium.

Working with experts like Marc Edwards, University Distinguished Professor with the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and other researchers who helped to uncover metals contamination in household water in places like Flint, Michigan, has been invaluable to VAHWQP. The testing for high schoolers and their families is provided free of charge thanks to donations from the Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association and the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project.

“One in five Virginians rely on wells or springs,” said Ling. “About 80 percent of these folks have never tested or have tested only once. We know that testing and understanding their results leads many people to take action to improve their water system or install treatment devices, so this is another way to reach more families with our program. Working with the high school students allows them build on what they are learning and also helps their families test their water.”

Since 1989, VAHWQP researchers have analyzed approximately 29,000 samples. The results have been sobering, with total coliform bacteria present in 40 percent of samples; E. coli bacteria in 9 percent, indicating the presence of human or animal waste; and perhaps most alarmingly, lead in 16 percent of the water samples.

Since 2015, approximately 280 students from Carroll, Washington, and Grayson County high schools have participated in the program.

Since 2015, approximately 280 students from Carroll, Washington, and Grayson County high schools have participated in the program.

“Flint, Michigan, inspired us to care,” said Webb, who earned his Ph.D. this year from Virginia Tech in agricultural leadership and community education. “Now, the kids see what’s important about this because this is their water and their lives. We make it personal for them. And when you make it personal, they remember it better.”

Ling, Rasco, and Webb see water testing as both a personal and a pertinent conduit to the world of science – one with direct health implications for the students and their families. But the trio is also guided by a shared, long-term mission to foster students’ understanding of and passion for STEM subjects while encouraging them to pursue a college education.

“We are dedicated to experiential learning. This is why our kids do well in post-secondary education,” said Webb. “They get to see, touch, feel, and experience what we are teaching them in the classroom through experiences like this. And, when you collaborate with a university like Virginia Tech, you bring the most innovative research and minds into your school.”

Since 2015, more than 225 students have participated in the educational tours and testing. In 2018, Ling expanded the program to include high schools in Washington and Grayson counties, reaching an additional 55 students and families. The VAHWQP coordinator is also working with the Virginia Tech’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences chapter to encourage members to work with the high school students during their visits to campus.

“We have had kids go on to Virginia Tech, UVA, and into science majors. By the time they reach college, these kids have had a breadth of experiences,” said Rasco.

Isabelle “Izzy” Largen ’22, who is pursuing a degree in water: resources, policy, and management, is one of those students. She entered Ling’s program as a 10th grade student at Carroll County High School.

“When we visited Virginia Tech, we saw a model of groundwater and learned how pollution works. We also learned about drills, how wells are made, and regulations,” said Largen, whose family home is more than 100 years old and is fed by a spring. “I learned that water can be contaminated with bacteria from sources such as deer, dogs, and other animals. And, if your pH is really high or really low, it can affect your pipes, causing them to degrade and leach metals into water.”

The experience informed Largen’s desire to attend Virginia Tech and her choice of majors. She is minoring in Arabic and aspires to work with water policy and infrastructure in the Middle East.

“This program helped bring it all together for me, all of my interest in science. We also learned how to present, which helped with public speaking,” said Largen. “If I hadn’t met Ms. Rasco and Erin Ling, I wouldn’t be here now. They helped me dip my toes into different aspects of science, and they are willing to help you in any way they can. They connect you with anyone and anything.”

Webb is particularly proud that many of his graduates are not only well-prepared for college, they are pursuing impressive careers because of the program.

“Several of our students have come to Virginia Tech,” he said. “One is now with USDA, and another is an Extension agent. Several are working for well-known private companies.”

No one is more proud than Ling, whose passion for science and gift for connections are at the nexus of the program.

“Many kids can’t even imagine all the possibilities that are out there,” she said. “I feel it should be part of our mission as a land-grant university to give them the opportunity to see what we have to offer and what they can become.”

— Written by Amy Painter

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2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference to be held Dec. 5 and 6

cornucopia

If you’re interested in local and regional food and agriculture, dealing with farming stressors in healthy ways, practical applications of soil health, value-added products, farm profitability, and other food and agricultural system topics, plan to attend the 2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference on Dec. 5 and 6 at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Development Center, Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is partnering with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agua Fund, Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and many other community partners to bring in engaging and inspirational speakers with broad experience and knowledge of food, farming, and the environment.

This year, speakers will offer their perspectives on the theme “Nourishing Farming, Community, and Hope” and will include Mike Rosmann, a clinical psychologist/farmer from Iowa, who helps farmers deal with stress and anxiety related to the unpredictability of farming; Rev. Heber Brown III of the Black Church Food Security Network, who will provide lively discussion on nourishing local communities; Penn State specialists who will take High Tunnels to the next level and discuss managing soil and pests; Rachel Armistead of Sweet Farm, who will discuss how fermentation may add value to your agricultural products and demonstrate how it’s done; and Dave Montgomery and Anne Biklé, renowned authors who will share the importance of microbial soil health and its relationship to human health.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a free community event open to the public on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the BRCC Plecker Workforce Center. Enjoy an evening talk and conversation with authors David Montgomery and Anne Biklé on the important role that soil ecology plays in restoring land and health. Books will be available for sale and signing.

“We invite everyone interested in food and agriculture to the Virginia Farm to Table Conference,” said Kathy Holm, USDA-NRCS assistant state conservationist for field operations. “People leave this conference feeling inspired by thought-provoking speakers, stimulating panel discussions, networking opportunities, and wonderful locally sourced food from A Bowl of Good.”

Visit the conference website at conference.virginiafarmtotable.org to review the detailed agenda of conference offerings

Participants can select from concurrent session tracks in which producers and practitioners share their local and regional expertise: agroforestry and livestock management, justice and equity in the farming and food system, growing your niche, voices from the field, value-added food production, and practical applications of soil and water health.

Early bird registration pricing is available until Nov. 30, and rates will increase significantly after this date. More details regarding the conference registration are available at: https://tinyurl.com/VAFT2018. For questions, or if you need assistive devices to attend, call (540) 232-6006 or 6010 at least five days prior to the event.

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Dedication and passion elevate Virginia to second on Champion Trees national register

paperbark maple on Virginia Tech Campus

This paperbark maple outside Hutcheson Hall is one of 13 state champion trees located on the Virginia Tech campus.

Just outside Hutcheson Hall on the Virginia Tech campus, a champion tree hides in plain sight. Its green leaves turn bright scarlet in the fall, and its orange-red bark peels in thin, papery layers. The Acer griseum, more commonly known as paperbark maple, is the largest of its species known to exist in Virginia.

The identification and registration of big trees in Virginia, including 13 on the Virginia Tech campus, is a passion project for Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Wiseman coordinates the Virginia Big Tree Program, which has been identifying the state’s big trees since 1970.

“Our mission with the Virginia database is twofold: to document the big trees in the state and to advocate for their conservation and care,” said Wiseman, of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “We have a section on our site called ‘Protecting Trees’ that details the three main threats to big trees, which include storms and lightning, construction and soil disturbance, and land development.”

Wiseman’s efforts have recently elevated Virginia into second place on the Champion Tree National Register maintained by American Forests. Virginia’s tally of 88 champion and co-champion trees trails Florida’s 132 trees and ranks just ahead of third-place Texas, with 81 trees.

Virginia is a surprise contender considering its size and level of urbanization. Wiseman notes that the state’s high ranking reflects the hard work of dedicated individuals.

“I like to tout the rankings as an indication and an acclamation for the people in the state who are so passionate about big trees,” Wiseman said. “It’s not so much that Virginia is a bastion of big trees; it’s that we have people who are passionate about big trees and keen to go out and find them.”

Byron Carmean’s passion for finding and documenting big trees truly stands out. Carmean, who earned a horticulture degree at Virginia Tech in 1970, started searching for and documenting big trees in 1983 after seeing the state’s big tree list published in the Virginia Forestry Association’s magazine.

“I started looking down the list with some interest. I’d see one and think, ‘I think I’ve seen one bigger than that.’ I got in touch with Gary Williamson, who was working as a ranger at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake, and he mentioned that he had seen a couple of trees that he thought were very big. We got together and found a winged sumac that became a national champ,” Carmean said.

Carmean’s and Williamson’s contributions to the database are significant: they share credit for 53 of Virginia’s 88 national champion and co-champion trees, and have discovered an additional 269 state champion and co-champion trees. Not content to stay local, their passion for hunting big trees has brought them to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky, where they have tracked down additional state and national champions. American Forests credits Carmean and Williamson with identifying more national champion and co-champion trees than anyone else in the country.

Carmean’s background in horticulture and tree science has been a boon to his efforts. “It really helps to be familiar with the big tree list and what is big for each species of tree,” he said. “What’s big for a dogwood wouldn’t be comparable to what’s big for a maple or an oak, so you need to have a deep knowledge of trees.”

Three factors go into measuring a tree: trunk circumference, tree height, and the average spread of the tree’s crown. While some trees require specialized tools to accurately assess a tree’s score, most can be measured using a yardstick and a 100-foot measuring tape.

Big tree hunting can be done anywhere. While enthusiasts like Carmean and Williamson enjoy hiking through unexplored forests, many Virginia state and national champion trees grow in city centers, on college campuses, and at historically significant sites like Arlington National Cemetery, Monticello, and Montpelier.

Wisemen notes that big tree enthusiasts find a variety of avenues to their passion. “For Byron Carmean and Gary Williamson, they like the thrill of the hunt. For others, it is the cultural and historical ties with the trees that fascinate them, that sense of connecting a tree to moments in history.”

When asked what continues to inspire his passion, Wiseman said, “As a certified arborist for over 20 years, I think I’m drawn to the trees on an individual level. Because I understand tree anatomy and physiology, I have an appreciation for the fact that these gigantic organisms can live for so long. And I get excited about the mathematics of it. Sometimes trees are straightforward to measure, but other times you have to incorporate some heavy-duty geometry and trigonometry to figure out how to score them.”

The Virginia Big Trees website has information about how to measure and report big trees, as well as a comprehensive database detailing Virginia’s current state and national champions. To ensure that the Virginia Big Tree database is up-to-date and accurate, all trees need to be recertified every 10 years. This process includes verifying that the tree is still alive, identifying any threats to its well-being, and assessing whether a tree’s score should be adjusted. The program is always looking for volunteers for recertification efforts; interested individuals should visit the website for more information.

— Written by Krista Timney

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Chainsaw Safety – before and after the storm

Someone once said the only difference between a Colt 45 pistol and a chainsaw is that anyone can buy and operate a chainsaw. No license is required; there is no test to take, class to complete, or competency to demonstrate. The similarity is that both can kill or injury in a split second. This is particularly evident after a storm.

When looking at chainsaw accident reports, a definite spike follows storms. This isn’t so much because of the difficult timber salvage or yard-tree cleanup situations loggers or tree-workers have to work in after a storm, but because of ill-equipped and untrained occasional users doing their own clean-up.

If you own a chain saw, chances are you’ve never received training on safe chainsaw use. Maybe you’ve read the safety manual that is supposed to come with a new saw purchase, maybe you haven’t. Additionally, you probably didn’t purchase the appropriate personal protective equipment, which, frankly, should be part and parcel with a saw purchase.

Using a saw is like anything else: get dressed for the job. I cringe watching the news after a storm has toppled trees. I have yet to see a do-it-yourselfer appropriately dressed. Often it seems they’ve made a special effort to dress dangerously, like in shorts and flip-flops.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Head, eye, and ear protection is essential. You might be surprised to know that a significant portion of chainsaw-related accidents don’t actually involve direct saw injury. It doesn’t take much of a branch from overhead to kill someone. Hard hats have prevented many deaths and would have prevented many more if everyone put one on before they pick up a saw.

Eye protection should be obvious. An interruption to your work is the best-case scenario, worst case, you lose your sight. It’s not just sawdust, either. Branches of fallen trees are often under tremendous stress that, when released, can hit you in your face or other areas with tremendous force.

Ear protection is often neglected, but not until regretted years later. Ear loss is cumulative in nature and permanent. If you’ve ever experienced a ringing in your ears after a day of working around something loud, that’s a symptom of permanent hearing loss. With a chainsaw, it’s not only what you hear in the engine, but what you don’t hear. The metal on metal as chain moves around bar produces a high-pitch that human ears cannot hear, but still does damage.

Next is to protect the mostly likely place to be in direct contact with the chainsaw, your legs. Chaps or chainsaw-resistant pants are made with ballistic nylon or Kevlar, and they are as effective at stopping a moving chain as they are at stopping bullets. People complain about chaps being too hot … I guess the choice is yours, sweat or blood. If you get off with just needing stitches, consider yourself lucky. If you cut the femoral artery running on the inside of your leg straight to your heart, chose your steps carefully because you only have about 15 of them left.

The next item is proper footwear. At a minimum, good, sturdy boots should be worn. Even better is to wear steel-toed or chainsaw-resistant boots. Absolutely no tennis shoes, flip-flops, sandals, or running shoes!

The most important piece of safety equipment is your brain. Accidents are much more likely to happen when you are hurried, fatigued, or otherwise not thinking clearly. Make sure you are well rested, clear-minded, and not rushed when using a power saw. A good mind and the personal protective equipment outlined above will give you every advantage should an accident happen.

THE SAW

Today’s saws are more powerful, lighter, faster, safer, and more ergonomic than saws of yesteryear. Anti-vibration, brakes, and guards are some of the newer features vastly improved upon in the past decade. Less vibration results in less fatigue, and less fatigue means fewer accidents.

Halfway decent saws have a chain-brake built into them that is activated by a sudden change in motion or by the wrist coming into contact with the brake lever, such as might happen with kickback. This brake is meant to be used. Anytime you take more than two steps, engage the brake to avoid accidental chain acceleration.

The guards on a saw are to stop the chain from whipping you in the event it breaks. That’s a good thing considering there is no getting out of the way of something just a few feet from you that’s moving at 200 mph and lined with razor-sharp teeth.

Speaking of razor-sharp teeth, a sharp and well-running saw is safer than something you have to fight with to get the same amount of work done. Keep your saw in good running order and know how to sharpen your chain or keep an extra one on hand in the event you run the saw into the dirt or otherwise dull the teeth. A dull chain is exhausting.

OPERATION

Once you’ve got on the right garb, and the saw is in tip-top shape, it’s time to get to work. Most people start their saws in an unsafe and tiresome way that can also be hard on the saw. The “drop-start” is an old favorite, but a good way to break the rope, wear out your upper body, and get hurt by a live machine you only have one hand on. Proper starting sets the saw on the ground, with one foot on the hand guard and one hand on the upper grip, and pulls on the rope.

Secondly, don’t work from a ladder and don’t saw overhead. If you have stuff to cut that is higher than your shoulders, consider getting a professional involved. Ladders and saws just don’t work together, and trying to use a saw over your head is asking for trouble.

The first power saws required two men to operate because of their weight, and you would never have lifted them over your shoulder. Even though today’s saws don’t require two operators and they are easily lifted overhead, it’s a good idea to have a buddy around. If something happens, you might not be able to get the help you need by yourself. If nothing happens, you’ll get the job done more quickly anyway.

Chainsaw are extremely useful and powerful tools. They need to be respected every time they are used. Proper attire and intelligent operation goes a long way toward safe and enjoyable use. Again, use your brain. A big part of this is to know and respect your limits. There is something macho about using a saw which can be an impediment to good judgment. It’s more macho to be in one piece at the end of the day rather than a hospital bed or worse. Be careful; be smart.

Written by Adam K. Downing
Extension Agent, Forestry & Natural Resources
Virginia Cooperative Extension

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