All posts by criggin


On November 12th, 2018 we had a guest lecture from Dave Mayonado. He gave a guest lecture on Industry and Academia in Agriculture. He started out the lecture by talking about technology in Agriculture. This started out with him talking about in the past when we used animals to pull plows and did things by hand. He also mentioned how the entire family was involved in farming. The first thing to cause a change was Land Grant Universities which established land-grant colleges to focus on the teaching of agriculture, science, military science, and engineering. From this we had more acts created that focuses on research in the agriculture field. This has led to an increase in US crop production via improved agronomic practices and the adoption of new tools. Dave also mentioned some examples of biological tools. This included CRISPR and GMOs. CRISPR is a gene editing tool that allows us to change the genes of a crop plant to be more drought or pest resistant. This allows for the crop to have a higher yield when faced with a drought since it can tolerate less rainfall. After talking some more about biotechnology he talked about Monsanto.

He started out by giving information on Monsanto’s history. He talked about the founding of it back in 1901. Then cell biology research began in 1972. From this he mentioned all the seed brands that they have. He also gave stats about the business. He also mentioned that Monsanto is a company that gets work done fast. He mentioned that they have been adjusting to the way things are now that Bayer has purchased Monsanto. He also mentioned new opportunities that will be available since Monsanto and Bayer cover different parts of the industry. Overall it was a very informative lecture. Thank you Dave Mayonado for being our guest lecturer and talking about the biotechnology industry in Agriculture.


On November 10th, 2018 we went on a trip to UD’s farm. Even though it was cold and windy I had a lot of fun getting to see new parts of the farm I had never been into yet. Scott Hopkins gave us a tour and talked about everything that goes on there. He is the farm superintendent and told us that the farm consists of an organic farm, horses, sheep, 25 beef cattle, and 85 dairy cattle. The farm provides its food products to restaurants and to UD students through a produce stand, Star Campus, and UDairy. He also wasn’t sure what to say as the most exciting research project when asked due to them all being interesting for different things. On the farm they have research being done with everything from bees to rice.

For me I enjoyed seeing the new parts of the farm I hadn’t been to yet since I’m a plant science and landscape horticulture and design double major. I have seen the dairy cows, the rice plots, the bees, and the organic farm. The new part for me was seeing the Webb farm since I haven’t taken any classes that are over there. Over on Webb farm are where the beef cattle, sheep, and horses are. It was nice getting to see this side of the farm since I had never seen it before. I had a lot of fun getting to see more of the farm. Thank you Scott Hopkins for giving us a tour of the farm and answering our questions.


On October 24th, 2018 we had guest speaker Mark Davis give us a lecture on the horse racing industry in Delaware. Before his lecture I already knew some information about the horse racing industry since my neighbors had horses that they raced in harness racing. I also have a friend from high school who does barrel racing. Even with this information that I had been exposed to it was only a little bit of the industry. Mark Davis went on to explain the industry in more detail on things I hadn’t heard about before. He started out by mentioning how the origins of modern horse racing began in the 12th century when English knights returned from the Crusades with swift Arabian horses. He also mentioned that the earliest records of racing were in England during the year 1530. He then went on to information about the current stats in the US for the industry. In the US there are 9.2 million horses which are used for racing, show, recreation, and other. He also mentioned a common misconception about raising horses. Most people think only the wealthy raise horses. It turns out that there are approximately 34% of horse owners who have a household income of less than $50,000 and 28% have an annual income of over $100,000. After this he mentioned information on Delaware and then different jobs in the industry. Some of the jobs in the industry are judges, investigators, veterinarians, and horseman. One thing I didn’t know was that you needed a license for harness racing.


On October 22nd, 2018 we had a guest lecture by Dan Severson. He gave us a guest lecture on the livestock industry in Delaware. I found this lecture to be interesting since I’m from Delaware and have a lot of friends that raise livestock. I did find it interesting that Delaware ranks first in the U.S. in value of agriculture production per acre and number two in value per farm. Severson talked about data on beef, hogs, sheep, goats, poultry and dairy. He also mentioned that more than half of the farms are less than fifty acres. While talking about each livestock animal he talked about different kinds of production. He also went over different products for each livestock. For example, goats are used for meat and milk. The milk is used to make things like soap, ice cream, and Butterfinger Goat cheese Cheesecake. Another thing I found interesting is to be considered a farm it requires one to sell $1,000 of farm products a year. A lot of the other information I had heard about in other classes or from other guest lectures. He ended the lecture by talking about the future for the industry and mentioned a new technology which is robotic milking. In the end it was an interesting lecture filled with information on the livestock industry. Thank you, Dan Severson for giving us a guest lecture on the livestock industry in Delaware.


On Saturday October 20th, 2018 we went on a trip to Hoober’s company in which we got to learn more about the company and precision agriculture. While there they talked about precision agriculture and its uses in agriculture. They also mentioned how it helps get things done faster for farmers. After they talked to us about the company they gave us a tour of the place. While walking around we got to see new tractors, combines and a drone. During the walk they pointed out different things about the equipment and mentioned how it is designed better than the way it used to be designed. In the combine for example there are less chains going through it to move everything so it runs better. Now it uses hydraulics to move everything. This has made repairs easier and improved the efficiency of farmer’s completing their task. The drone is useful since it is able to scout a large area of field without the farmer having to go out and walk his field. This helps the farmer see how much damage was done to a field due to flooding from rain and how much of his field is still good. It was also fun getting to drive a tractor for the first time. It was different but easy due to the explanation the workers gave of operating it. It was a good learning experience about precision agriculture and a way to see changes to the machines.


On October 17th, 2018 we had guest speakers Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak talk about Delaware’s Green Industry and Horticulture. They started off the lecture by talking about the Green Industry and how in 2014 it came in at $21,774,000. The people that make up the Green Industry are producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and suppliers. Within nursery production there are two types of horticultural crops that they grow. Floriculture crops are your bedding and garden plants and the other one is nursery crops such as broadleaf evergreens and deciduous shrubs. Within the industry is many ways that they are grown and sold. This varies from container planting to balled and burlapped. From here the plants are sold to either a retailer or directly to the consumer. Retailers help bridge the gap between people and horticulture plants by having displays with the plants in different designs. This allows people to see what they can do with them without being a plant expert. This is where Landscapers play a part in this industry. Landscapers have a vast knowledge of plants and perform task from designing a landscape to maintaining a landscape. This involves knowledge on mowing, invasive control, fertilization and plant identification. I found this to be an interesting lecture since I am a Landscape Horticulture and Design major. Thank you Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak for being amazing guest speakers in are class.


Mark Lynas help found the anti-GMO campaign back in 1995. He felt that GMO’s would act as pollution. He also felt that people were getting to much technological power since we were “mixing species.” During the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference he also mentions that it was very anti-science since they pictured scientist doing gene splitting as mad scientists. It wasn’t until he did more research and found information that he realized his thoughts were wrong. This change was started by a comment on his final anti-gm piece on the Garden. A critic told him “so you’re opposed to GM on the basis it’s marketed by big corporations are you also against the wheel since it’s marketed by big auto companies.” This led to him researching since the analogy caught his attention. In the end he found that GMO’s benefited people, farmers, and the ecosystem. It was interesting to hear how he was working on a Global warming project and informing people with science but wasn’t using any science in his campaign against GMO’s in 1995 and his pieces on the Garden.
My view on genetically modified organisms is pro GMO’s since they provide many benefits to people and the ecosystem. With GMOs we can grow crops that need less water, fertilizer application and can be more resistant to pest. This in turn means less pollution of waterways from fertilizer which can lead to eutrophication and less pesticide, fungicide and herbicide needing to be used. This helps protect the land and water we do have while protecting animals. The benefit other than saving money by using less fertilizer and control methods on pest is we get increased yield from the same farm. This in turn allows people to protect more forest from getting destroyed for the use of more fields. The decrease in cost is also helpful in developing countries since it reduces the cost for them making it easier to become self-sustaining.


On Saturday October 6th, 2018 we went to Fifer’s Orchard and got to learn all about the ins and outs of their operation. Once there we got to meet Bobby Fifer who introduced himself, gave some information on their operation and then gave us a tour of the place. While there we also got to learn how they use different types of irrigation depending on the crop they are growing. The tomatoes are grown in high tunnels and they use drip irrigation to water. Then they have center pivot irrigation for their large acreage crops. Some of the major pests that their farm battles are rain, disease pressure and nematodes which result in crop losses. During our tour with Bobby Fifer he showed us some fields that were suffering from the rain we had. In his kale field he pointed out the diseased leaves and pointed out the weeds that they had. Due to the amount of rain the weeds that they had taken out of the ground had re-rooted themselves. During the tour we also got to see the strawberries being planted. It was also interesting to see their storage facility and the machine they use to pack apples. Thank you Fifer for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us about the operation and for giving us a tour of it!

CRISPR/Cas9 System

CRISPR-Cas 9 is a system that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of a genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence. Cas9 is a protein that is programmed by small RNAs to cleave DNA at the DNA strand where a scientist wants it to cut. The Cas9 is complexed with both a crRNA and a separate trans-activating crRNA in order to achieve the site-specific DNA recognition and cleavage. From this scientist can change the genes in the genome of a cell by introducing new genes into the sequence. CRISPR-Cas9 was discovered in adaptive immunity in select bacteria and archaea that enabled the organisms to respond to and eliminate invading genetic material.

This system or technology is better than other biotechnology since it is more accurate and is less likely to result in an error. The reason this is more accurate is it targets the specific spot in the sequence where the new genes need to be added. This is different than the other method of using chemicals or radiation to cause mutations. By using chemicals or radiation you were affecting the entire genome and could get a mutation you didn’t want since it was up to chance. Currently the CRISPR-Cas9 system is the fastest, cheapest and most reliable system for editing genes.

For more information on this you can go to which simplifies the process. For a more in-depth look into it you can go to which goes into the biology of it and explains all the types of RNA that are used in the system.


On Wednesday October 3rd, 2018 we had a guest lecture from James Adkins. James gave a guest lecture on agricultural irrigation. Throughout the lecture there was a lot of facts that most people wouldn’t know unless they were informed in this field through research or as a career. Like one interesting fact is that 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated but it only produces 40% of our food supply. I was aware of the changes of irrigation over the years since I have noticed these changes in different classes and I had shadowed an employee at UD’s Cooperative Extension office in Georgetown before my freshman year and got to see different types of irrigation there. Another thing I learned is that globally, 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals are estimated to be unsustainable. This is going to become a huge problem in the future with our growing population. In the end I found this to be a very informative guest lecture and learned a lot about issues we are going to face in the future with irrigation.


On Wednesday September 26th, 2018 we had another guest lecture from Ed Kee this time on Iowa and California agriculture. It was really interesting to learn about what other states are good at growing and the different variables that they have to deal with. I already knew that California had a water problem since it was talked about a lot in the news about their drought they were in. I was surprised to learn that the way they water their crops are by using aqueducts. I have never seen or heard of this practice since I have only been on the east coast of the US. I also found it interesting that California produces 95% of tomatoes that are used for tomato products. This makes these aqueducts very important since California is ranked first in the production of tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and a few more crops. It was also interesting to learn more about Iowa. I knew they had a good soil structure from some of my previous classes in soil science where we had talked about the difference in soil types of the US. I was surprised that they only receive 24-36 inches of rainfall but due to the water holding capacity of the soil this isn’t an issue for farmers. I also found it interesting that they produce 25% of the nation’s ethanol. It was a very interesting speech from Ed Kee and it allowed me to learn more about California and Iowa’s agriculture. It made me more aware of the differences in challenges that each area faces and what each area is good at due to soil structure and weather.


Class field trip to Georgie’s poultry farm.

On Saturday September 22nd, 2018 we went on a trip to Georgie Cartanza’s organic broiler farm in Dover, Delaware. We started the visit by sitting outside of the houses and listening to Georgie talk about her broiler farm and told us about the work she does to keep it going smoothly. After she told us about her farm we had to put on disposable coveralls, plastic booties, and hairnets to prevent us from bringing in any unwanted diseases. Once we all had them on we went into one of the chicken houses that still had chickens in it. It was interesting seeing the differences in this house compared to the one I had been in when I was in elementary school since it didn’t have all the advances in caring for chickens as this one had. Inside of the chicken house was 37,000 chickens and it didn’t have a bad scent in it since there is a ventilation system installed that keeps the air moving and helps keep the chicken house cool. Some of the technology she has in her chicken house to care for the chickens are nipple waterers, gravity powered feeders, and a control room where she can monitor and manage the environmental conditions in the chicken house. She also mentioned that she can access the information on her phone so she knows what’s going on in the chicken house even when she isn’t on the farm. After seeing the chicken house with all the chickens in it we got to see an empty one that they were getting ready to clean. In it were some chickens that didn’t get picked for processing and they will be humanely euthanized and placed into an ecodrum for compost. The ecodrum is a more efficient way of composting since it aerates the material by rotating it. It was an amazing trip since this was my first time seeing an organic broiler farm and getting to see the new technology they use to care for the chickens. I also had the opportunity to hold a chicken and had my picture taken. Thank you, Gerogie Cartanza for giving us a tour of your farm.