Category Archives: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Four industry leaders inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame

The 2018 Livestock Hall of Fame inductees were (from left) Eileen Beckman, Gary Hornbaker, Charles Moyer, and Lynda Schmidt Stuart.

The 2018 Livestock Hall of Fame inductees were (from left) Eileen Beckman, Gary Hornbaker, Charles Moyer, and Lynda Schmidt Stuart.

Four people were recently inducted into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame for their outstanding and uncommon contributions to the state’s livestock industry.

The ceremony was held at the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena on Virginia Tech’s campus during an unveiling of portraits of the 2018 honorees.

Established in 2009, the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame bestows honor and recognition on outstanding Virginians who have made significant contributions to the state’s livestock industry and its people. The Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, Virginia Pork Industry Association, Virginia Sheep Producers Association, Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, and Virginia Horse Council can nominate living or deceased individuals to the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees are listed below.

Eileen Beckmam founded and operated Otteridge Farm in Bedford County, where she bred and developed superior hunter ponies. Her ponies were exhibited and shown very successfully, but her greatest contribution was her teaching children and adults to ride with proper horsemanship and sportsmanlike conduct. She was also a well-respected judge. Recognitions include being inducted into the Virginia Horse Shows and the National Show Hunters halls of Fame. Beckman passed away in 2010.

Gary Hornbaker is a recognized agricultural innovator and leader in Loudoun County and the greater Northern Virginia area. His career in Virginia Cooperative Extension and county services is dedicated to the livestock industry and economic development. He is a cattle and sheep producer specializing in producing animals for research. Recognitions include citations from the Virginia Cattlemen’s and the Virginia Sheep Producers associations and national and state agricultural Extension groups.

Charles Moyer, of Amelia County, has been a lifelong dairyman and breeder of Oakmulgee registered Holsteins. He is a distinguished and respected agricultural and civic leader and promoter of agricultural cooperatives. He has served on numerous state and national industry boards and committees. Recognitions include FFA’s American Farmer Degree, Virginia Holstein Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and Virginia’s Outstanding Farm Family.

Lynda Schmidt Stuart is an accomplished farm manager and leader with a background in both the beef and dairy industries. She grew up on a registered Holstein farm in California and with her father developed Genetics Inc., an artificial insemination firm. She came to Virginia in 1975 and has served as president, CEO and manager of Stuart Land and Cattle Co. since 2008.

— Written by Zeke Barlow

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Hokie Bugfest spreads its wings on Oct. 20

Don’t miss the eighth annual Hokie BugFest on Oct. 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Virginia Tech’s Squires Student Center and at locations in downtown Blacksburg!

The free event has something for everyone, including a host of new exhibits and competitions for 2018. Hokie BugFest is a STEAM-inspired (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) community festival that celebrates the joy and excitement of entomology.

In cooperation with the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research, Hokie BugFest is a S.A.F.E., or Supporting Autism-Friendly Environments, event. Quiet hour and activities begin at 9 a.m. for children with autism or other disabilities.

Visitors can creep and crawl their way through three floors of bug-inspired activities in Squires Student Center as well as walk through a beautiful butterfly tent or the spooky Spiders’ Lair. In the Colonial Hall Auditorium, attendees can watch the Bug Whisperer, Tony Gustin, with shows throughout the day or cheer on the adventurous eaters of the Bug Eating Contest at 1:30 p.m. They can also check out bird-eating tarantulas, whip scorpions, death-feigning beetles, and more than 200 arthropods in Virginia Tech’s own bug zoo.

Other attractions include a pollination station that has a working beehive where live bees are making honey and visitors can observe the dance language of bees and see if they can spot the queen. Attendees can also play the nectar gathering bean-bag toss and learn about the many products of the hive, such as beeswax and royal jelly.

New to Hokie BugFest is the Buggy Art Contest where visitors can view bug-themed paintings, photography, and sculptures entered by local youth and adults. Throughout the day, visitors can also play festival favorites like Bug Jeopardy, Bug Bingo, or attempt the Bee Waggle Dance to win a prize.

In Old Dominion Ball Room on the first floor of Squires Student Center, visitors can learn about forensic entomology, pests of your pets, and the latest insect-related research at Virginia Tech. Hokie BugFest wouldn’t be complete without endless arts and crafts, a peek through a pair of insect goggles, and the chance to earn a Junior Entomologist certificate.

On College Avenue in Downtown Blacksburg, the first Humans Dressed as Dung Beetles Race will take place at 3 p.m., where individuals and teams will compete to see who can roll their dung ball the fastest.  Interested racers can preregister online or sign up at the festival.

Also new to Hokie BugFest is the Buggin’-Out Costume Contest and Parade – where the two buggiest costumes will be crowned the festival’s King and Queen. Costume entries should check in at the Lyric Theatre no later than 10:45 a.m.  Judging will begin at 11:00 a.m.

The Lyric Theatre is hosting Storytime with Joelle at 10 a.m., Alberti’s Flea Circus throughout the day, and a free showing of the movie “Microcosmos” at 4 p.m. Visitors can take home a bug-inspired balloon creation from Brandon the Balloon Guy.

No matter how you spend your day, Hokie BugFest is guaranteed to leave you bug-crazed!

For festival maps, a complete schedule of events, and contest information including online entry forms, please visit the Hokie Bugfest website or Facebook page.

This event highlights an ongoing youth education program hosted by the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program, and the department’s student-run professional organization, the W. B. Alwood Entomological Society.

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services, or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mike Weaver at 540-231-6543 during business hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations at least five days prior to the event.

— Written by Zeke Barlow

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Families reclaim their homes and health thanks to Virginia Tech’s Urban Pest Management Program

Tomeika Ferrell in her home in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tomeika Ferrell, a resident of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, is now able to enjoy cooking and entertaining in her home thanks to Dini Miller’s work. Ferrell has not seen a cockroach in months.

Insect infestations in our homes – think thousands of cockroaches or bedbugs – can trigger a host of emotional responses.

In addition to embarrassment, those pests contaminating our living spaces can leave people feeling ashamed, defeated, and tainted.

The age-old clash between bugs and humans drives Dini Miller. The entomologist is impassioned about making life better for anyone tormented by pest infestations. Through her practical research and educational efforts, she is working hard to ensure that insects don’t make us feel like guests in our own homes.

Miller, urban pest management specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and a professor of entomology in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is conducting a year-long experiment in two states that could all but eradicate German cockroach infestations in multi-unit housing communities and transform standard pest-management protocols.

“Much of my work through the Dodson Urban Pest Management Laboratory is focused on eliminating pest problems in underrepresented communities. I would like to change the way that pest control is handled in public housing. A lot of people are living with a lot of cockroaches, and they don’t need to be. This problem, we can solve,” said Miller.

Each month, she travels to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) communities in Richmond and Hopewell, Virginia, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where she is engaged in an assessment-based program to treat homes infested with large numbers of cockroaches.

In Rocky Mount, a sleepy southern town once known for its tobacco and textiles, just an hour east of Raleigh, Miller is working to make life better for residents in 31 test homes. Her success, less than 10 months into the experiment, has made her a champion to residents including Sharon Jones.

Jones resides in a one-story, ranch-style duplex in a Rocky Mount HUD community.

“Once the cockroaches showed up, they multiplied quickly,” said Jones, a retired grandmother who has lived in her home for 16 years. “One Thanksgiving, I was cooking and they were so bad I couldn’t leave the food on my stove for a moment. I had to put everything on a table in the middle of the living room to try to protect it.”

In the middle of the night, Jones would awaken to find hundreds of cockroaches swarming across her sink and washing machine. In the morning, she often discovered the pests in her breakfast cereal.

Jones’ neighbor and friend Tomeika Ferrell experienced such a severe infestation that she feared her lease would be terminated when the number of cockroaches prevented building managers from painting her apartment despite monthly insecticide treatments by a local HUD-contracted pest control company.

“The exterminators made me feel like I was a bad housekeeper, like I wasn’t cleaning,” said Ferrell, a mother of three, whose home is welcoming and lovingly decorated with artwork and textiles. “My daughter has bad asthma and was experiencing an allergic reaction. I cleaned so often that I almost took the paint off of the counters. Nothing helped. Then, when the exterminators sprayed, the problem seemed to get worse, and I worried about how the chemicals would impact my daughter.”

Prior to exterminations, residents are asked to clean their homes, wash dishes, remove trash, and vacuum. They are also expected to remove all of their belongings from closets, cupboards, and other areas targeted for insecticide, such as the top of refrigerators, stoves, and other large appliances.

“Residents have to go through this process routinely, often weeks before the pest control company visits since they don’t know the exact date,” said Miller. “They have nowhere to put their belongings. But, the worst part is that when conditions aren’t perfect, the residents are blamed for the pests. The excuse is always that they didn’t prepare properly for treatment. It’s unfair, and it’s putting the blame in the wrong place.”

Miller’s protocol requires no prior cleaning, no spray insecticides, and is ingenious in its practical simplicity. Best of all, residents are not required to change their living habits in any way.

The entomologist places sticky traps in each unit the day before treatment. The next day, she counts the number of cockroaches in order to quantify how much bait to place in each apartment. She and her team then place bait containing an insecticide throughout the units, focusing on areas where the insects congregate.

“We used this process to save time,” said Miller. “Wax paper squares worked best for massive bait distribution. You can put them into cracks and crevices without contaminating anything. We found that even when attractive foods, such as pizza, are left out in the apartments, the cockroaches still eat the bait.”

Miller’s assessment-based, decision-making methodology – quantifying the number of cockroaches prior to treatment and utilizing a food bait rather than pesticide spray to kill the cockroaches – is innovative. Best of all, it’s working. In Rocky Mount, cockroaches have been completely eliminated in the test units. Hopewell has had a 99.7 percent reduction in cockroaches, while Richmond populations have decreased by more than 98.9 percent.

Although her method requires more time and money at the outset, it offers a greater reward: fewer roaches and fewer treatments over time, not to mention happier residents. This is the message she wishes to impart to HUD officials, apartment managers, and pest control operators. Buoyed by her success, and by the relief of her residents, Miller is now working to develop a new set of standards and a check list for pest control contracts in HUD communities across the country.

“There are two issues: the practical side (baiting), and the political side (how contracts are written for pest management companies),” said Tim Kring, head of the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology. “Unless HUD requires its managers to adopt the new guidelines, this will be a slow process.

“As people are forced to change, they will change. It’s easy to see that Dr. Miller’s protocol is better. But, it costs more. And, under the current HUD guidelines, spraying is the most economical treatment – but, it has not controlled the problem,” said Kring.

In the meantime, Miller has made life better for residents, whose relief is palpable. Ferrell has not seen a roach in months. She also reported that her daughter’s asthma has improved.

“This process has eased my mind so much,” said Ferrell. “Now, I can have company over and cook without worrying that roaches will jump on them. It’s much happier around here. I finally feel comfortable in my own home.”

Ferrell is joined by a chorus of satisfied residents, including Sharon Jones; Lakeyshia Mayo, a mother of one; and Marcia Simms, a Jamaican-American mother of four – in addition to residents in Hopewell and Richmond, Virginia.

“The change has been dramatic, and I didn’t have to remove anything from my home,” said Simms. “I was skeptical at first when I didn’t see any spray or chemicals, but whatever Dr. Miller is doing is revolutionary. I’m so appreciative to have been on her list. If there’s a Grammy Award, she deserves it.”

Miller may not qualify for a Grammy, but something even better is in the works. This summer, the Urban Pest Management Program received an endowment that will help ensure that work of this caliber will continue for many years to come.

In June, Joe and Mary Wilson, of Fredericksburg, Virginia established the Joseph R. and Mary W. Wilson Endowed Urban Entomology Professorship. Wilson is the former owner of PermaTreat Pest Control, a leading pest control company located in Central and Northern Virginia. The endowment will support urban entomology research – research that promises to lead to the types of discoveries that underpin Miller’s work.

“This gift is truly transformational to our program at Virginia Tech,” said Kring. “There is a void in basic foundational research for urban pest management. We want to expand our program by adding a research component to our toolbox in order to pioneer next-step treatment options for indoor pests. No insecticide lasts forever. So, coming up with a new tool requires research.”

— Written by Amy Painter

VIDEO: Virginia Tech entomologist finds practical solution for cockroach infestations

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Paul Rogers Jr., former Virginia Tech Board of Visitors member, named Virginia Farmer of the Year

Paul Rogers Jr.

Paul Rogers Jr., of Wakefield, Virginia — a former member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and strong supporter of the university’s agricultural technology program — has been selected as state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

Rogers has had a long and successful farming career and an equally extensive and rewarding avocation as a youth league and high school baseball coach.

Rogers joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be announced on Oct. 16 at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

A modest individual, Rogers runs a farm encompassing 1,680 acres of open land. He rents 1,122 acres, owns 558 acres of open land, and also owns 499 acres of timber.

“I’m just a humble man who tills the soil,” he said.

Rogers has chaired an advisory board for the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center. He’s on an advisory board for Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) and served on an advisory board for groundwater management in eastern Virginia. He served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors while president of the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

He has been a director of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, the Virginia Cotton Board, the Virginia Corn Board, the Virginia Corn Growers Association, the Colonial Agricultural Education Foundation, and the Virginia Agribusiness Council. He also took part in leadership programs offered by the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute.

“It is a pleasure to recognize Paul Rogers this year,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He is a hard-working famer, serves the community, university, and the state, and is a leader whose actions are committed to agriculture.”

Among the crops Rogers raises is Virginia-type “ballpark” peanuts, and he receives premiums for jumbo and fancy peanut kernels. Having coached baseball for more than 50 years, it’s appropriate that Rogers grows ballpark peanuts.

A baseball coach at Tidewater Academy since 2005, his team won a state championship in 2013. He has long been active as a coach and director of youth baseball in Wakefield. Recently, the town named its youth league baseball fields after Rogers, and in 2004, his former players placed a plaque in his honor at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

“My professional goals are more than the bottom line,” he said. He keeps his farm profitable, but said, “I am guided by my passion to be a role model as a father, coach, and mentor and to give back to the field of agriculture. My wife Pam and I have incorporated this passion into our lifestyles.”

Rogers said he has matured as a farmer and business owner by serving on many boards and organizations. He appreciates his family for keeping the farm running during his absences.

As the Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Rogers will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida; a $500 gift certificate from Southern States cooperative; and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.

He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash prize awarded to the overall winner.

Previous state winners from Virginia include Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater, 1990; Russell Inskeep, of Culpepper, 1991; Harry Bennett, of Covington, 1992; Hilton Hudson, of Alton, 1993; Buck McCann, of Carson, 1994; George M. Ashman Jr., of Amelia, 1995; Bill Blalock, of Baskerville, 1996; G.H. Peery III, of Ceres, 1997; James Bennett, of Red House, 1998; Ernest Copenhaver, of Meadowview, 1999; John Davis, of Port Royal, 2000; James Huffard III, of Crockett, 2001; J. Hudson Reese, of Scottsburg, 2002; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; Lance Everett, of Stony Creek, 2004; Monk Sanford, of Orange, 2005; Paul House, of Nokesville, 2006; Steve Berryman, of Surry, 2007; Tim Sutphin, of Dublin, 2008; Billy Bain, of Dinwiddie, 2009; Wallick Harding, of Jetersville, 2010; Donald Horsley, of Virginia Beach, 2011; Maxwell Watkins, of Sutherland, 2012; Lin Jones, of New Canton, 2013; Robert T. “Tom” Nixon II, of Rapidan, 2014; Donald Turner, of North Dinwiddie, 2015; Tyler Wegmeyer, of Hamilton, 2016; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.

Virginia has had three overall winners, Nelson Gardner, of Bridgewater,  1990; Charles Parkerson, of Suffolk, 2003; and Robert Mills Jr., of Callands, 2017.

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Inga Haugen embraces her roots in her role as library liaison

Library liaison Inga Haugen discusses tobacco research with Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center director Carol Wilkinson and faculty member Ford Ramsey.

Library liaison Inga Haugen discusses tobacco research with Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center director Carol Wilkinson and faculty member Ford Ramsey.

Farming analogies roll off Inga Haugen’s tongue like hay bales off a baler.

“I love baling and stacking hay bales. Do you have any that I can stack? Sometimes I just miss it!,” said Haugen, the University Libraries’ liaison librarian for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Baling hay, milking cows, and enjoying wide-open spaces are part of Haugen’s history.

She grew up with her two brothers, Olaf and Thor, on Springside Farm near Canton in southern Minnesota. Her father, Vance Haugen, was an Extension agent for the University of Wisconsin, and her mother, Bonnie, ran their 100-head dairy farm. Her family also owns a 160-acre farm near Oklee in northern Minnesota, a century farm that has been in the Haugen family for more than 100 years. “It’s called Apocalypse Acres, because my dad always said we’d get crops off of it three years out of 10,” joked Inga.

As a library liaison for the college, she provides workshops and services for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, including those in the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (AREC) across Virginia. Throughout the year, she visits the ARECs to provide updates from Newman Library and offer information about research data management, new library resources, and potential collaborations with Haugen’s library colleagues in digital libraries, research impact, data services, and the library studios.

“I love them best, these are my people,” said Haugen. “I understand their needs and can help them with their important work. Growing up on the farm, I saw first-hand the importance of ARECs. The information that they provide farmers could mean the difference between a red bottom line and a black bottom line in a farm’s checkbook,” said Haugen.

Haugen’s recent travels took her to Hampton and the waterfront Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center (VSAREC) where the Hampton River opens to the James. There, she taught a workshop about the new search tool Discovery Search, digital object identifiers to track impact of published research, citation management tools, and opportunities to collaborate with the University Libraries’ studios, such as the data visualization studio.

In turn, she learned about the latest research being conducted in their labs. Graduate student Sam Ratcliff described his research in shrimp reproduction that could potentially cut hatchery costs in half for the ornamental shrimp industry. The VSAREC is known for its conservation projects, seafood quality and safety expertise, and applied marine hatchery research and extension that all directly support the Virginia seafood industry — a growing industry that employs close to 7,000 Virginians.

Her second stop of the two-day trip was the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SPAREC) in Blackstone.  There, center director Carol Wilkinson, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics faculty member Ford Ramsey, and Haugen discussed a collaborative research project that utilizes the center’s 30 years of data about flue-cured tobacco, also known internationally as Virginia tobacco.

Haugen’s goal is to take that data, currently in paper form, and transform it to digital files stored in VTechData in order to make it more accessible for future researchers.

When Haugen learned about Ramsey’s research interest, she suggested that he visit the SPAREC and meet Wilkinson. Haugen knew about the unique and precious data he was searching for because she was making plans to digitize it.

Wilkinson and Ramsey discussed the best way to gather information from the tobacco production data and explored possible research collaborations. “I met Inga and mentioned my interest in studying historical tobacco variety trials. Someone in my position would never think to come out here. This is invaluable,” said Ramsey.

Wilkinson and Haugen have worked together on a variety of projects, including new areas of research in industrial hemp.

“The University Libraries is central to anything I want to do,” said Wilkinson. “All of a sudden I have to learn about hemp. ‘Inga, where do I find information about industrial hemp?’ Her answer is always ‘I can help you with that.’ Inga has broadened my horizons about all of the things my librarians can do.”

– Written by Ann Brown

 

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