August 2012 archive

Delaware Extension takes a close-up look at new noxious weeds for 2012

Palmer amaranth and Texas Panicum added to Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed List

In 2012. two noxious weeds were added to Delaware’s Noxious Weed list – Texas panicum and Palmer amaranth. In an effort to increase awareness of these troublesome and costly weeds, the Delaware Department of Agriculture arranged for a media opportunity to record, interview and photograph resource material at the Thurman G. Adams Research Farm located at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

The following images were taken on August 31, 2012 by the University of Delaware and may be freely used in media articles or footage or for educational purposes. It is the expressed purpose of media attention to raise awareness and identification of these weeds to benefit Delaware agriculture. Please attribute photos when possible to University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

“Most growers aren’t aware they have these weeds” VanGessel said.

Because of their rapid growth and aggressive nature, these weeds can overtake fields and can result in a 25% reduction in yields by competing for sun, water and nutrients. If allowed to grow tall, their canopy can create sun blocks for crops.  In some cases, the weeds overtake a field to the level that they are abandoned by the farmer/grower.  Texas panicum and Palmer amaranth now join giant ragweed, Canada thistle, burcucumber, and johnson grass as members of Delaware’s noxious weed list. Weeds are added to the list after careful review of other regions,  evaluation observations by UD and DDA weed specialists and input from Delaware growers. Landscape weeds are not part of the criteria – the six noxious weeds are so named for their impact on production agriculture.

To download photos, double click on the images which will open up in Flickr online photo album. Click on the plus sign on top right of image. Image will open in slideshow or shadowbox mode. Top right click on “view all sizes.”  High resolution and other sizes will be available for download.  Please note, by opening up in full view, captions will be available.

For further information contact Michele Walfred at or (302) 856-7303 x 550.

Welcomed weather provides ideal outdoor Extension classroom for green industry professionals

2012 Summer Turf and Nursery Expo well attended at UD’s Carvel Center in Georgetown

For farmers and landscapers in the Delmarva region, 2012 has been a difficult and frustrating year. A dry winter, and sustained heat and drought during spring and summer – critical growth periods – have left challenging conditions for anyone working in the agriculture or horticulture industries.  Throughout Delaware, crops, ornamental trees, shrubs and lawns have shown signs of stress, leaving them vulnerable to pests, weather-induced damage, or stress-related death.

At the 344-acre Carvel Research and Education Center, the Sussex County agricultural research farm for University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, some of these conditions were purposely left in place to serve as specific teaching tools – an ideal educational backdrop for the 2012 Summer Nursery and Turf Expo organized by the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association (DNLA) and Delaware Cooperative Extension. The Expo is a day-long program that provided  a variety of informative workshop sessions for horticulture industry professionals.

A picture perfect day welcomed more than 140 exhibitors, presenters, DNLA and Extension experts and industry professionals who appreciated seeing real-time examples in actual field and landscape settings.

“This is a great refresher course on common insects and problems we all have,” says Aaron Jackson, nursery supervisor at Tunnell Companies. “We get to see it in person and have professionals tell us what we are looking at.”

Local landscapers agreed. “The University of Delaware provides a lot of resource materials, but it is good to see working or field information” said Sue Manlove, who with her husband Larry, own and operate Manlove Lawn and Landscape Company in Seaford. “It adds a whole different dimension seeing it in person,” offered Larry Manlove.

Chip Hudiburg, of Sussex Tree, Inc. safely hangs from a large tree scheduled for removal and timed for the Expo.

A variety of sessions were available to landscapers, horticulturists, and related industry professionals.  A crew from EP Henry provided a demonstration on using pavers in the landscape and for raised beds. A take down of an overgrown Chinese Paulownia tree provided an opportunity for Sussex Tree, Inc., to explain when tree removal should be handed over to an experienced pro. Techniques in chain saw operation and best safety practices were emphasized.

Outdoor classroom venues included the Sussex County Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden, a new Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educational ornamental section, and trees and shrubs planted around the Carvel Center – each providing diverse examples of common landscape situations that Extension educators other presenters used at the Expo as teaching tools.

At a stop along his insect tour, Brian Kunkel pointed to bagworm cases that appeared on Crape Myrtles, Junipers and inanimate objects such as a brick wall and steel and PVC piping. Kunkel said timing was critical for bagworm control, adding that by the time cases are brown or grey, it is often too late to for spraying.

Cooperative Extension specialist and entomologist Brian Kunkel led a morning and afternoon tour, identifying both beneficial insects and pests commonly found in Delaware landscapes, and suggested control strategies and examples where no measures are necessary. IPM strategies emphasize the use of beneficial insects and parasitoids, which can effectively control damaging pests without the use of pesticides

Richard Pratt, state arborist with the Hagley Museum and Gardens partnered with UD Extension’s Dot Abbot and reviewed proper planting and pruning techniques for trees.  Delaware State Police Cpr/3 Keith Lamey conducted a session on the laws and regulations regarding commercial transport and the nuances between being classified as intra or inter – state business and provided guidance on commercial road safety.

In addition to landscapers, several state agencies were represented including the Delaware State Parks and Delaware Departments of Agriculture and Transportation. Rose Ogutu, an Extension specialist with Delaware State University, taught a session on soil health.

“To Delaware’s green industry, Cooperative Extension means top-notch researchers, educators and facilities,” said Valann Budischak, executive director of DNLA. “They keep us up to date on the latest practices and products and allow us to partner in some of their research projects.”

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of Cooperative Extension was impressed with the variety of practical sessions offered to the participants. “It is great to be in partnership with DNLA in order to share knowledge and expertise for Delawareans.”

To view more images from the 2012 Summer Turf and Nursery Expo, visit our photo album on Flickr, or view below.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

Delaware Nematode Assay Service – Important Notice

The University of Delaware Nematode Assay Service now processes nematode soil samples on Tuesdays of each week. However, we will not be processing samples from July 27 through August 17th. Samples that come in during that time will be refrigerated and may not be as accurate as fresh samples. Note fee changes, effective July 1, 2012. Please utilize the new form available in pdf for printing. Form must accompany soil samples. The Diagnostic Clinic will be contact point for soil and plant samples and the website will continue to be updated for information. Please e-mail or call 302-831-1390 with any questions.

  • Routine nematode assay, includes enumeration of plant parasitic nematode larvae- $20
  • Routine nematode assay for plant parasitic nematodes for tree fruits and grape – $25

Counting of individuals is necessary for Xiphinema nematodes often found in these samples which takes more time

  • Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) egg assay – $10
  • Routine nematode assay plus SCN egg assay – $30 Please remember to send enough soil for both tests!

Children of Delaware’s migrant workers learn valuable safety lessons from Cooperative Extension

On August 1, 2012, 44 youth, all children of temporary migrant workers who are employed  during the summer in the agricultural sector in Kent and Sussex County,  were treated to a Ag Safety  Day Camp, a full day of extracurricular activities organized by Delaware Cooperative Extension Safety Agent Mike Love, and his team of volunteers from Sussex Central High School FFA. The day was part of a  six week summer program developed to promote academic, safety and other learning experiences for children of temporary migrant workers who travel throughout the country.

Children of migrant workers may be exposed to various farm equipment – This program teaches them how to be careful around specialized machinery.

Wednesday’s day trip to the Carvel Research and Education Center included several educational demonstrations or “classes” so that children could have the opportunity to enhance their safety skills in different environments that they encounter. Because many of the program’s children live on Delaware farms, agricultural equipment was an emphasis for the day.

Children arrived with their teachers from Eagle’s Nest and Milford Boys and Girls Club and watched demonstrations on child safety restraints and their proper use, air bag deployment, chemical and ATV safety, safety around water, and safe practices around a variety of home and farm equipment. While the primary purpose of the  federal program concentrates on academics, the summer day trips, such as this safety exposition, reflect common and practical scenarios that the children encounter in their day – to-day lives on the farm and on the road.

Maria Mendoza, field agent and migrant advocate from the Delaware Department of Education explained the value of their visit with Cooperative Extension. “These children are on the road a lot, traveling from state to state.” says Mendoza.  “Typically these children are in Delaware with their families during the growing season from June to August.”

Through the collaborative efforts,  children receive extensive educational reinforcement, which today included safety training on many levels. View our photo gallery of the day on our Flickr set

Here’s Mike explaining the purpose of Ag Safety Day and see a highlight of one of the demonstrations:

Photos & video by Lisa Collins and Michele Walfred

Safe Farming Possible for Those with Vision Problems

Vision impairment can be a significant barrier to completing farm tasks safely and efficiently, but many vision problems such as cataracts are treatable.  Farmers are an at-risk population for cataracts and the Mid-Atlantic AgrAbility Project reminds farmers that there are ways to prevent cataracts and accommodate low vision or loss of vision in everyday farming tasks.

Estimates indicate that one in seven people in the United States has a cataract.  That statistic applies to farmers as well as the general public.  A cataract is a clouding of the normal clear lens of the eye, preventing light from passing through to focus properly on the retina.  If you believe you have a cataract, see your family eye doctor for a complete examination.  Symptoms of a cataract may include increased nearsightedness; sensitivity to light and glare, especially while driving at night; blurred vision; distorted images in either eye; changes in the way you see colors, or colors seem faded; cloudy, filmy or fuzzy vision; double vision; frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription; changes in the color of the pupil; poor night vision.  Medical advances make it possible to successfully treat cataracts with surgery.  According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the United States and has more than a 90% success rate.

Farming with any vision impairment, including a cataract, can be challenging and dangerous.  If you find yourself trying to farm with impaired sight, the following tips from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired can make farm chores a bit safer:

  • Hang wind chimes outside the house as an audible landmark.  “Tune” farm buildings by using different chimes to identify different buildings.
  • Suspend a tennis or playground ball from a piece of twine to mark when to stop a vehicle as you drive into a building.  The idea is that when the vehicle’s windshield bumps into the ball it’s time to stop.
  • Make sure work areas and walkways are well lighted and that light bulbs are checked and replaced regularly.
  • Color code tools like rakes, hoes and shovels by wrapping a wide band of colored duct or electrical tape around the handles.
  • Wrap rubber bands around handles to distinguish between regular and Phillips head screw drivers.  Do the same with metric wrenches in the tool box to distinguish them from standard wrenches.
  • Hang an old burlap feed bag about two feet away from a low-hanging beam or light fixture as a reminder to duck your head.  Burlap works best because it is more likely to catch on a cap than smoother materials.
  • Prevent eye damage by wearing sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors to reduce exposing eyes to ultraviolet light.

For more information about farming with a disability, visit the Mid-Atlantic Agrability Web site at  or call 1-877-204-3276  to make an appointment with an AgrAbility Case Manager.


Palmer amaranth – the weed that takes an Extension village

In 2012, Delaware Department of Agriculture added Palmer amaranth, Amaranthus palmeri to its list of noxious weeds. Not only is the troublesome weed resistant to herbicides, it is a prolific seed producer, with each plant responsible for an average of half a million seeds. Unattended, the weed can quickly overtake a crop.

Extension Agent Emmalea Ernest, when not breeding lima beans, is defending them against the noxious weed Palmer amaranth

Palmer amaranth – one of six noxious weeds named by the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Program

Palmer amaranth isn’t shy about taking root in the vegetable trial plots located at the Thurman G. Adams Research Farm, part of the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education agriculture experimental station.

For two days in August, and with man hours anticipated, it takes a village – a community of Extension hands – specialists, agents, students and summer employees to do what must be done, bend over and hand remove each plant. It’s old fashioned work, but the labor is an effective preventative measure.

“I estimate we’ve prevented billions, billions by hand removal,” says Emmalea Ernest, an Extension agent who spent about an hour this particular morning  in a lima bean field with three summer employees, Heather Baker, Abby Atkins and Danielle Vanderhei, yanking up the culprit weed. Palmer amaranth’s seeds are not airborne, and most commonly spread through agricultural and mowing equipment.

This particular plot, which Ernest estimates is nearly an acre, will take an a few more hours to get under control. “Fortunately, they are not deep rooted and are easy to pull up.”

Ernest said that Palmer amaranth, like most weeds, “reduces yields as it competes with the crop for water, sunlight and nutrients. If uncontrolled it would also make harvesting in that field very difficult.”


Summer employee Danielle Vanderhei starts at one row and starts pulling, one of four staff members weeding in the lima bean field on an August morning


Extension Weed Specialist Dr. Mark VanGessel examines a pulled specimen of Palmer amaranth

Carvel’s summer employees, Heather Baker and Abby Atkins make their way through a third of an acre lima bean plot, pulling up Palmer amaranth stalks before they go to seed. Fortunately they are taller and easy to spot.

For more free-use stock  photos of Palmer amaranth visit our Flickr set.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred