Tag Archives: technology

Bio-technology, GPS, PrecisionAg

guest lecture: Industry and Academia in Agriculture

Dr. David Mayondo lectured us about the industry and academia in the agriculture. He told us how agriculture looks like in the past. It is a job that required massive labor and time input. If you are a farmer or live in a farmer family, you may live with farm or agriculture for the whole life. But with the development of technologies, the yield and production increased and the labor and time decreased. The tools of pest management changes over time. In the beginning, farmers use hand or animal. Then it changed to machinal tools and chemical tools. Nowadays, farmers use the biological tools to control pest, like CRISPR, GMO, GWS, and RNAi. Proteins have the potential to be powerful tools for enhancing agricultural production, as well as being highly biodegradable and produced in plants that need them. There are several commercial products of biotechnology. For example, Roundup Ready Crops can allow farmer manage weeds in a more effective and efficient way, or YieldGard Corn can allow farmer control targeted pest without harming the beneficial and non-threatening insects.

Mr. James ADKINS on, ‘The Importance of Irrigation & Water Management in Delaware’

On October 2, 2019 Mr. James ADKINS spoke to us on irrigation practices across the state of Delaware and how they’ve evolved over time.  Mr. ADKINS has a Bachelors degree from the University of Maryland and works at the UD Carvel Research Center and is an Extension Specialist with fruits and vegetables.  He also worked with Mr. KEE- the man who brought PictSweet to Delaware along with mechanized pickling.  Additionally, Mr. ADKINS works with equipment, technology, and irrigation nationally and internally, as well as handling irrigation on Warrington Farm.

The talk began with a brief history on irrigation in relation to the systems used today.  Only 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated but 40% of the world’s food supply is produced with irrigation.  Mr. ADKINS traces irrigations humble beginnings to the Towers of Babylon in Machu Picchu, originally pumped by slaves.  Irrigation systems requiring man-power could be found in other ancient civilization throughout the world, as well as animal, wind, and water power.

One of the first methods of irrigation Mr. ADKINS discussed was flood irrigation.  Also called gravity/furrow irrigation, it is used when a weir controls the water flow.  This type of irrigations works best on heavy (capable of holding a lot of water), mostly level soil where 3-4inches of water is applied per application- Delaware is not level enough to employ this method.  In California, however, each farm receives this type of water delivery method 4 times per year with a 4 inch application each time.  Siphon tubes are used to run water across a ditch with grated pipe, a system used by 30% of U.S. farms.  A canal manager/operator oversees the transfer of water between farms as farmers upstream receive the water, then that tailwater is re-used on the next farm down. Mr. ADKINS tells us that there are stockholders in canal water- reiterating the points made by Mr. KEE about the complicated water rights in California.  The Homestead Act and combined with the controversy around who owns what means farmers may not even own the water underneath their property.

After WW2 came the advent of the pressurized sprinkler system. With this system came the second method of irrigation, using hand-moved pipe.  This pipe was made from aluminum, originally sourced from scrapyards in Washington and Oregon where airplane manufacture had been done.  This system was often used in the western U.S.  A variation of this system, side-roll wheeled-pipe, could be hooked to 150-200ft risers underground and can be seen in use in Idaho.  This system doesn’t work well with corn.

Another pressurized system, the traveling gun, can be used for corn, soybeans, wheat, and other agronomic crops.  This device has the spraying power of 10-20 fire hose in pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure.  This force is not evenly applied, however, and the machine itself requires lots of power and fuel, meaning it has negative energy efficiency.  This device is often used on sports fields, running 6hours at a time to cover 10acres.  It is a poor choice to give water to newly plant, fragile, and shallow rooted crops.

Frank ZYBACH’s center pivot irrigation, uses an anemometer powered by water.  The crops it is used on are often planted in circles.  Mr. ADKINS showed us examples of it’s use in Nebraska, but it is broadly used, even in largely desert countries like Saudi Arabia.  The system is used in Delaware and works well with furrow planted crops.

The greatest percentage of irrigated land exists in Asia, where 68% of the farmland receives water via surface water irrigation like dams and hydroelectric.  Half of the 60 million acres of U.S. farmland that are irrigated use flood (surface water) irrigation. Mr. ADKINS informed the class that the first source of irrigation is often surface water before acquirers are sourced for water instead- aquifers require more pressure to pump water and therefore more money.  Most of the irrigated farms in Asia are small, encompassing less than 5acres.  90% of India’s freshwater is used for agricultural irrigation compared to 65% of China’s freshwater.

After Asia, America comes in at a mere 17% with it’s irrigated farmland, followed by Europe at 9%, Africa at 5%m and Oceana at 1%.  The U.S.’s irrigated farm area expanded rapidly from 1950 to 2000, going from 250 acres to 700 acres, or 280% in 50years.  This is staggering, compared to the 10% increase from 2000 to 2010.  Despite the more modern methods of irrigation utilized in the U.S., many aquifers are struggling.  An example would be the large Oklahoma state high plains aquifer that is being depleted faster than it can naturally recharge- the rivers going through aren’t given the chance to percolate. Globally 15-35% of irrigation withdrawals are projected to be unsustainable. In California, irrigation withdrawals were a mere 19% in 2005, with almond trees allowed to die as irrigation water is diverted to the city for people to drink instead.

In Delaware, 30% of the farmland, or 15, 000 acres is irrigated.  In Sussex County Delaware, 50% of the farmland is irrigated.  In the older properties of the county, many wells are hand-dug and only go as deep as 40ft, when modern wells are often much deeper.  Controversy often arises from citizens believing the neighboring farms center-pivot system is pumping out their drinking water, however this is often incorrect as domestic-use wells are deeper than irrigation wells and often tap into different aquifers because the aquifers are ‘stacked’ underground.  Companies like Tidewater and Artesian can capitalize on these water disputes by promising new residents in their brand new developments, ‘fresh, uncontaminated drinking water’.  When consumers buy a property they purchase water allocation rights, meaning the cone of influence to off-set their neighbor can’t exceed a foot of their well water.

Irrigation can also give locales on brink of disaster a second chance.  In Ken BURNS’ documentary, ‘The Dust Bowl’ an Oklahoma city is irrigated after a lack of rainfall due to climactic change and the farmland is able to be recovered.  In Saudi Arabia, 16, 000ft. well are dug to pump acquirers in the desert and increase the countries food security in times of conflict.  Water desalinating technology is another expensive method used to bring water to the desert.

Lastly, Mr. ADKINS discussed ways in which aquifers are made more effective and efficient.  1 million gallons of water usage equals 10 households per year, 1.5 Olympic swimming pools, and 100 acres of corn in 1 day during the pollination stage. Much of the water applied to crops can be lost to the soil and air in a process referred to as evapotranspiration,or ET. Mr. ADKINS showed us an image of an old dike system where the aquifer was lined with concrete to prevent water loss from water seeping through the salt rock.  He shared an interesting anecdote in which, through his travels, he learned that Idaho kids can ride a raft down the river for 20miles to an overpass for recreation.  Certain cultivars, like corn, can use copious amounts of water- anywhere from 20-25inches, or an average of 22 in per year.  Crop coefficients can be measured and estimated based on crop and growth stage charts and taking variables like humidity, rainfall, and wind into consideration.  Increasingly high temperatures can make irrigation even less effective, as water is lost when plants are under heat stress.  In Delaware, the sprinkler, drip, and sub-surface irrigation may require more water usage in sandy soil, but still used less water overall that alternative methods.  In New Castle County, specific methods like drip irrigation can be better for the general soil type.

New irrigation technology was shown briefly at the end of the lecture. The Warrington Pivot works via SmartPhone and can be turned on remotely, creating added convenience and reducing the need for travel for farmers.  When using the corner system and center pivot, zone control can be employed to adjust the water distribution rates for varying soil types on different plots of land- also known as Variable rate irrigation, or VRI, a small system for an area f low variability can cost $25, 000 as opposed to upwards of $30-$40, 000 for a larger, more complex system.  To justify the expense, farmers use a free AGIS soil survey with records dating back to the 1940s to determine the needs of their property.  For additional support, farmers can seek the help of a Natural Resource Conservation Specialist.  Major soil variability will often occur near rivers and swamps, but any equipment for slight variability is usually used as a research tool, instead of a practical farming expense.

As the lecture lasted right up to the end of class, there was little in the way of closing statements or remarks.

Document Reflection: CFI- Gene Editing Communication Resource in 2018

Gene editing or genome editing is one of the most promising innovations today which can be used to modify gene to resist disease for organism, increase the production of livestock and plants and so on. This advanced technology help improving the farmers’ s and food industries’ business significantly. But it also rises up a huge amount of concern from public. Because less than half people understand what gene editing is, it is easy to fear something that people isn’t familiar with. Therefore, scientists or experts have responsibility to explain. Also, how to demonstrate it is important. There are several effective communication approaches introduced in this document. Frist of all, people are more willing to trust experts or scientist rather than the companies or farmers who sell these GMO products. It is more acceptable, if explaining gene edition by telling that this technology is just similar to the potential of improving human health by using gene editing. And spokespersons should embrace skepticism and respect what people beliefs. Sharing an idea that people can take benefits from this technology most, not the companies, and the plants, animals and environment can be benefitable.

If public can understand more about the advanced technologies popping out in this world, listen to others’ ideas, not only opposing the new technologies, it will help to solve many issues in this planet.

James Adkins Irrigational importance

Irragation is of the utmost importance and is something that seems like will always need improvements on how we can use water effectivly  and efficiently. When James talked about the pivot irrigation I was surprised to learn about how inconsistent even the most consistent one was. But, as I thought about it makes sense. I wonder if there are any better Ideas for irrigation in the works or being tested out somewhere? The technology he talked about was pretty amazing to. I know Professor Issacs touched on this before about being able to control a whole farms irrigation system from your smart phone. It’s just crazy to think about controlling such an big and important machine from your hand held device. The zone control with the different soil types so the irrigation system knows how much water each zone needs is a very fascinating as well and it seems very practical to help plants get all the water they need for a nice full harvest.

Mr. Walter Edwin ‘Ed’ KEE on DE Ag and its importance as a food shed

On September 16, 2019 Mr. Ed KEE spoke to us on Delaware Agriculture and it’s importance as a feed shed.  The talk began with a bit of bio provided by both Prof. ISAACS and Mr. KEE, who shared a brief synopsis of his education and his ties to the University of Delaware’s continued work in the advancement of modern agriculture.  He stated that although UD became a land grant college in 1869, it wasn’t until the 1990s, when Dean Harry HAYWARD initiates the university’s purchase of $20, 000 worth of campus-adjacent farmland, that the Agricultural department started to make great strides- with the help of Dr. Bill MITCHELL, a WW2 veteran and extension agronomist.

Mr. KEE’s eight year tenure as Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture, and two published works on the history of UD’s Agricultural Extension and Carvel Research Center, meant he had the background to give the class an in-depth picture of Delaware farming from the Colonial Days to today- including an interesting a related anecdote into Prof. ISAACS’ ancestry to illustrate the tenacity and determination  required of farmers.

From the Revolutionary War to the early 1800s Delaware primarily exported wheat.  After the completion of the DE Railroad in 1859 and the DuPont Highway in 1924 Delaware is able to improve the ways in which food is transported, shipping produce as canned goods in water or brine.  Many canneries are built around Delaware to process vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, peaches, and strawberries, but also ‘fruits of the sea’ like oysters, employing many individuals to move shipments from one point to another.  One cannery, the Stokely-Van Camp Cannery, was an early example of early agribusiness and the thought process behind environmental accountably.  The cannery, and other processors like it, would discard bean husks and effluent directly into the canals and waterways they were built near, clogging and polluting the watershed with excess nutrients and detritus.  This myriad number of canneries, mills, and factories would decrease from hundreds, to a mere two that remain today- PicSweet and Hanover- large companies that bought up smaller ones for better brand recognition.

The processors of the early 1900s did well, but the farms that provided them with product were rarely operating at peak efficiency.  Mr. KEE, citing Prof. ISAACS family line as an example, stated that most small farmers before WW2 would barely eke out 30 bushels of corn year after year, only just making a profit, but continuing to grow anyway.  It wasn’t until after WW2, when farmers embraced new technologies such as Henry WALLACE’s Pioneer Seed Co. seed stock and hybrid varieties, that they were able to increase their yield to 80 bushels.  Similar scientific advancements occurred with poultry, dairy, and other forms of produce.

The increasingly high yields and technological advancements in agriculture have made the farming field one that requires a  consistent, regulatory environment to turn a profit.  Through increased education, business procedures and regulations, farming has improved not only for the farmer, but also the consumer.

As stated by former Guest Speaker Ms. Georgie CARTANZA and Professor ISAACS, Delaware’s unique geographic position places most of it’s farms within eight hours driving distance to 1.1 million people, or 1/3 of the U.S. population.  76% of the state is open space, with ≈2/3 of that amount dedicated to farmland- ≈800 farms.  Of the 41% of the land area dedicated to farms- a total of 115, 000 acres- a total of ≈30% is permanently reserved through the AgLand Preservation Program, which was established in 1995.  The AgLand Preservation Program is a core feature of Delaware’s Agricultural economy, providing a steady and reliable market for farmers.  Through the AgLand program, land can be given to the state for preservation in perpetuity, or sold by the farmer to another farmer so the property remains apart of the Agricultural System.

Another program Mr. KEE shared with the class was the Young Farmers Program.   Mr. KEE haunted earlier that many farms are small farms of about 30-50acres.  Unable to compete with the ‘Big Ag’ industry for a larger share of the profits, about 40% of those farmers have off-farm income generated from other jobs such as teaching, factory work, or school bus driving.  The Young Farmers Program provides $500, 000 for a  qualified young farmer at 0% interest for 30years.

In order to help farmers young and old, make larger profits, many states have increased efforts to educate the public on farming as well.  Unlike the post-WW2 farmers, many modern-day consumers tend to be resistant to the innovations made in farming.  State Universities like UD try to educate to public on current farming practices.  Such practices discussed in class included Integrated Pest Management, used to identify and target specific pest to employ a targeted and controlled response that generates as little perceived amount of environmental harm possible; the use of Center-Pivot Irrigation Systems, irrigation that can be moved and monitored remotely via a cell phone for the optimum application of water.  Many more practices went unmentioned due to time constraints, but the need for greater public education regarding agriculture was greatly emphasized.

The lecture  closed with a discussion on the cultivation of hemp and the controversies surrounding a potential future cash crop.  Hemp might be harvested for CBD oil or fibers, though its legality is still not consistent across the U.S.- particularly by the FDA as food additive.  With and uncertain future and an unidentified market, many farmers might embrace the crop from and ethical standpoint, but can’t financially absorb the costs to grow it without a guaranteed profit.  Mr. KEE spoke of a group of Hollywood investors that approach a family farm of several generations to grow 1000 acres of hemp for them to process and ship.  The farmers agree to take the risk, but only if they were paid upfront.  The anecdote served to illustrate the balance between farmers and consumers, and how consumer demand and existing markets play a critical role is what is produced and how much.

 

 

Ecodrum at Cartanza’s organic chicken farm

Our trip to the organic Coleman chicken farm introduced me to a lot of technology new to me but what interested me the most was the new in-vessel composting system implemented at the farm named the ecodrum. The Ecodrum was a large black corrosion-free polyethylene cylinder that sat upon long rollers that would periodically rotate the composting vessel. At Georgie’s farm the Ecodrum was used to compost chicken mortality which was added along with pine shavings into the machine, after that the entire process is managed by an automated control system. This new innovation has not only cut back on the manpower required to compost dead chickens but it has done it in a way that reduces odor to a minimum. This technology is being widely implemented on poultry farms in Arizona but the unit at the Cartanza farm that we saw was the only one in Delaware.

Students learning about the Ecodrum installed at Georgie Cartanza’s Chicken farm the only one of its kind in the state of Delaware

Hoober shop tour

When we went to the  Hoobers it was really eye opening to see how much work goes into precision agriculture. And how much everything cost through equipment and how much things have changed for the good of farming. Between farmers and techs at hoobers where the tech can actually enter the computer from his office instead of riding out to the field. To see what’s wrong with it most of the time also they can fix certain things through the computer.    What I enjoyed besides the driving the sprayer which I never drove before. Was walking through the mechanics shop and how much time and efforts they take in making sure everything is up to par before people by them from Hoobers. Also with the gps in the tractor and sprayer that we got to drive was cool you could press one button and hook on to the preset track and the auto steer would kick in and you didn’t have to touch the steering wheel.

Dan’s GMO Assignment

The controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms has become a common discussion among just about everyone in the world today. With this wide discussion there has been many false accusations toward this technology, especially around human consumption. One reason these accusations have become widespread is because people believe that every crop farmers produce are genetically modified, which is again false.  According to bestfoodfacts.org (approved by Dr. Kevin Folta) there is currently only 10 crops that are approved for production in the United States. These 10 crops include: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, arctic apples, and innate potatoes. The three most used in the United States are corn, soybeans, and cotton because of the great demand for these commodities.

The demand for these commodities is one of the biggest reasons that GMOs were invented and with the demand ever growing they will continue to emerge. However people must understand the science behind these products and all the research that is done before a crop is approved because farmers really are trying to produce what’s best for the consumer because in fact farmers are consuming these products as well. This is what brings up the topic of agvocacy because in order for the misconceptions of GMOs to clear up there has to be a push to clarify them with scientific facts, which is something I believe is going to become bigger in bigger in everyday life.

Source: https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/what-foods-are-gmo/

CRISP/Cas 9 Gene Editing

CRISPR/Cas9 is a system that has just recently been discovered around the early 2000s and is taking the science world by surprise. This system is much more accurate compared to early gene editing systems, which makes it the new technique scientist are using. The way this system works is by targeting a specific genome and altering it. While you may think it sounds simple you might be surprised because quite frankly working with DNA sequences is very complex and hard. When looking further into the process there are two molecules used one being the Cas9 and the other being RNA. Now when a scientist picks out what DNA sequence they want to cut out in order to alter the genes they first need Cas9. This molecule is an enzyme that is inserted into the DNA sequence and cuts at a specific location in order to alter the DNA sequence where the scientist pick without harming the whole gene. Though in order for the enzyme to cut out the specific location it needs guide RNA to show it the right path. That means that the RNA is responsible for leading Cas9 to an exact spot in the DNA sequence and then performs the cut. Once the cut is made the cell recognizes the change in the DNA and tries to repair itself. However before the cell can repair itself the scientist uses a DNA repairing machine to introduce changes which will then become part of the gene. Once this process is complete the gene has the desirable trait the scientist picked out and now the process is done.

 

Sources:

https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9

https://www.broadinstitute.org/what-broad/areas-focus/project-spotlight/crispr-timeline

 

Irrigation lecture: James Adkins

On October 3rd In our AGRI130 had guest speaker James Adkins came in and gave our class a lecture about irrigation and the benefits and disadvantages that can come with having irrigation. In his lecture he covered a wide range of different types of irrigation systems there are from center pivots  to traveling guns to flood irrigation. The thing that interested me the most was that only a small portion of the world is irrigated and those farms with that irrigation produce the majority of the crops and food the world needs. An from just riding around here down in Sussex county all you see is irrigation in the field for crops like your corn to you sod company’s that just need it to irrigate there grass for there customers. An then most of the place the use irrigation are going to may be likely to run out of water because the aquifers wont last forever.

Irrigation with James Adkins

Last Wednesday James Adkins guest lectured in class on agriculture irrigation. From the start I was very surprised by the quote he included that said, “While 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, it produces 40% of our foods supply.” This is actually pretty crazy to think that 20% of the farmland produces almost half  of the food supply, and that 20% has to pay for the costs of irrigation.  Through the lecture, James talked a lot about different types of irrigation systems, and different methods of irrigation around the US and world. It was really cool to see how things differed from location to location, especially when irrigation is not used on my farm at all. Irrigation is something in agriculture I am not exposed to much, so it was interesting to learn about the use/impacts of irrigation. He also talked about irrigation in California, which we briefly discussed during one of Ed Kee’s lecture.

James was really intriguing to listen to lecture because of his vast knowledge/experience with these systems. He talked about the process as well as what can go wrong with the systems. James also discussed the precision part of irrigation, and how technology has greatly impacted the accuracy and efficiency of irrigation. Ultimately, I learned a lot about agricultural irrigation from this lecture!

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Today social media is involved in everyone’s life from the business world to recreational use, everyone is using it in some form another. Though with all trends there are always negative impacts that need to be considered and understood with social media. Michele Walfred a well known Communication Specialist and Agriculture agvocate gave our class a presentation on social media and how we need to be aware of all its impacts because just one post can make you go from company CEO to unemployed. During her presentation a concept that really stood out to me was having two accounts with one not being linked to your name and having one that is professional. This way when applying for jobs an employer will only be able to see your professional account and will not find anything that influences them to not hire you. Another point that Michele made was post things or share things on your account that relate to your job interest and explain what is going on in the post especially if you are a part of the agriculture community because there is a lot of misunderstood information that can easily be cleared up with some explanation.

University of Delaware’s Research Farm

On November 4th, my class had the privilege of meeting the University of Delaware’s Newark farms superintendent, Scott Hopkins, who led the tour for us. We started the tour with an introduction to the dairy herd that supplies us our beloved UDairy ice cream. Scott Hopkins explained that the dairy herd was the most difficult and time consuming livestock on the farm due to the amount labor, time and research that goes into the herd. I found it really interesting to see how feed studies were conducted on a herd within by the use of ID collars that would sync with a specific feed bin that granted that specific cow access to its feed. This practice helps to conclude that technology plays a major role in livestock production. We then moved onto the poultry section of the farm where he explained to us why there were so many small shed-like houses. These are used for testing immunology and virolity amongst small flocks of birds. I think that this field of research is so fascinating and important, especially since the poultry industry is huge to the Delmarva area.  Next, we ventured to Webb Farm where we learned about the beef management practices, equine practices, as well as the sheep practices. Currently, the farm is tracking estrous in the ewes and are monitoring breedings and whether or not the ewes take. They track this by recording which ewes have the color coded chalk on their backs – marking a mounting by the ram – and crossing the presence of chalk with their estrous cycles. Scott was very informational and provided a lot of insight into how much work really goes into running a successful farming operation. He was well versed and had a tremendously wide amount of knowledge. I learned a lot on this trip and I hope to continue learning more about management practices throughout my time here at the University of Delaware

UD Newark Farm

Being a senior Pre-Veterinary Medicine major on the University of Delaware’s main campus in Newark, I have had the opportunity to learn, volunteer, and work on the UD Newark Farm on multiple occasions. However, I had never received a tour as thorough as the one given by Scott Hopkins, the farm superintendent.

I learned the most about UD’s Webb Farm, where we have horses, sheep, and beef cattle. I had always known we had horses on campus, but I never fully understood why or who interacted with them. Thanks to Scott, I now know of all the high tech and well thought out aspects that our horse stables and attached building have to offer. From a scale built into the floor, to the grated stalls instead of panels, or even to the potential for video cameras to watch foaling since horses can stop parturition if they get nervous or surprised, the possibilities are endless. It was also very interesting to learn that things we learn in classes, such as titrations in chemistry, can be utilized in the real world, specifically in horses to formulate a timeline of foaling.

Overall, it was great to explore my own campus more in-depth than I have had in the past. I found this experience to be a great example of the old motto, “You learn something new every day!”

Newark Farm Tour

Not only was this past Saturdays weather very cool, so was our field trip around the Newark farm. Scott Hopkins, the University of Delaware farm superintendent  gave us a fascinating tour of the Webb Farm.

We were fortunate enough to see the milking parlor and learn that dairy cows are the most challenging animal to care for on the farm. Growing up on my families dairy operation I was able to see and experience first hand how labor extensive taking care of dairy cows can be and understood greatly what Scott Hopkins was explaining.

Not only did we see the dairy operation but we saw the beef, sheep and equine facilities. The equine facility was rather new with a large classroom that was very versatile and could also be used a spot for more hands on learning such as artificial insemination, collecting semen or even having the option to do some horse therapy and therapeutic riding. We also learned about the extensive research projects being conducted, Mr. Hopkins favorite being forage research.

We ended our trip with a stop at UDairy creamery. This was for sure one of my favorite field trips because of all the research being done in such close proximity.