University of Delaware Newark Research Farm

Dairy Cattle – Newark DE

Farm Superintendent, Scott Hopkins gave a tour of the UD farm as our last field trip. The farm consists of a portion of land dedicated to organic farming, horses, sheep, 25 beef cattle, and 85 dairy cattle.

The UD organic farm where the Fresh 2 You gardens and high tunnels are.  This garden provides produce to restaurants and the University. We then moved to see the milking parlor. This was an interesting time because I know very little about dairy operations, I was amazed at how much technology goes into the process. The machines are capable of testing different qualities of the milk to ensure that the product is of good quality. In the dairy barn, we learned about how UD professors can conduct research on dairy nutrition and how diets can impact milk production. At the Webb farm, we learned of the equine production, sheep barn, and beef cattle.  He explained some research projects going on at the farm. To me, the most interesting was the rice plots – arsenic trials.

Delaware’s Green Industry


What is the Green Industry?

The green industry 2014 Horticulture Product sales were $21,774,000 alone in DE cash receipts of greenhouse/nurseries. Sales are very dependent on consumers wants and needs. Although that isn’t a major difference from other industries the difference lies in the time needed to grow and produce plants that can take years. This is important for the horticulture industry to stay on top of current and future trends. The people that make up the industry are producers, retailers, landscapers, land managers, golf courses, and other suppliers. Retailers help bridge the gap between people and horticulture plants with the displays of plants and shrubs placed together at stores. Consumers then have a visual of how to place the plants within their own homes and are more intrigued to purchase the plants. Landscapers have deep knowledge of plants and their needs and of land maintenance and design.
Nursery production is categorized into six main production types, which include containerized, B&B, bare root, field grow bag, balled and potted, and in-ground containers. The nurseries are producing two types of crop groups. One of the crop groups is Floriculture crops. These are your bedding and garden plants. The other is Nursery crops, such as broadleaf evergreens and deciduous shrubs.

To be able to contribute to the green industry our land has to be healthy. To ensure that, Delaware Livable Lawns, is a  voluntary certification program,  that certifies homeowners and lawn care companies that follow environmentally friendly fertilizer application practices and teach homeowners on the best practices to use.

Gene Editing : CRISPR-Cas9 System


Gene editing hand is inserting a sequence of DNA.


CRISPR-Cas9 is a genome-editing tool.  It is faster, cheaper and more accurate than previous techniques of editing DNA and has a wide range of potential applications. CRISPR-Cas9 is a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA  sequence. The CRISPR-Cas9 system consists of two key molecules that introduce a mutation into the DNA. These are an enzyme and a piece of RNA.  The enzyme is Cas9, which acts as a pair of ‘molecular scissors’ that can cut the two strands of DNA at a specific location in the genome so that bits of DNA can then be added or removed.  The piece of RNA is called guide RNA (gRNA). The pre-designed RNA sequence is located within a longer RNA scaffold. The scaffold part will then bind to DNA and the pre-designed sequence will then ‘guide’ Cas9 to the right part of the genome. This makes sure that the Cas9 enzyme cuts at the right point in the genome. The Cas9 follows the guide RNA to the same location in the DNA sequence of the other strand and makes a cut across both. The cell will then recognize that the DNA is damaged and try to repair it. For a long time, geneticists used chemicals or radiation to cause mutations. However, this method was ineffective because there was no control as to where in the genome the mutation would occur. Gene targeting was another method, introduce changes in specific places in the genome, by removing or adding either whole genes or single bases. Traditional gene targeting has been very valuable for studying genes and genetics, but it takes a long time to create a mutation and is fairly expensive.


CRISPR and Vertex were preparing to test the ability of a new gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9, in cutting out and replacing disease-causing snippets of DNA when the FDA placed it on hold but now has uplifted the hold. The trial is now scheduled to start by the end of 2018. This tool could be used in fighting cancer, extracting HIV, eliminating malaria, protecting plants, and creating biofuel.


Fifer Orchards


Employees at Fifer Orchards transplanting strawberries. Takes a crew of seven to transplant a field.

Fifer’s is located in Camden Wyoming, Delaware. Fifer Orchards mission is to grow and sell high-quality products while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values. Fifer Orchards is a 4th generation family farm, continuing the vision and legacy of Charles Federick Fifer. The family farm looks for innovative ways to remain viable and successful as a family business in very challenging and constantly changing agricultural industry. The 4th generation Fifer’s continue to grow a very diverse mix of high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables including asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, heirloom varieties, apples, pumpkins and more.

At Fifer Orchards they farm 3,000 acres of land, with most of the land they are able to double crop. Of the 3,000 acres, 1,100 acres are used solely for sweet corn production. They also grow crops in small trials in efforts to diversify their operation by testing them in fields of 10-20 acres. Trials are important because if they succeed it could lead to a form of income all year round if they can find ways to successfully grow. Their best money making crops are sweetcorn, pumpkins, peaches, and asparagus. Fifer Orchards operates its own stores and ships crops all over the east coast. You can even find their products at Giant Foods.

Their production is possible because of irrigation such as sprinkle lines, drip irrigation, hard hoses, and pivots. They also use technology such as GPS and trackers to be more efficient. The use of high tunnels also allows for higher quality products all year round. Four acres of high tunnels is able to produce what 20 acres of open land could produce, that is because of the dryness in the tunnels which results in less susceptibility to disease.

Delaware agriculture is more than just grain and polutry production.

Irrigation Systems

James Adkins was a guest speaker informing UD students on the irrigation systems and why and how they’re used in agriculture.

So what is an irrigation system?

Irrigation is the application of controlled amounts of water to plants at needed intervals. Irrigation helps to grow agricultural crops, maintain landscapes, and revegetate disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of less than average rainfall.

Types of irrigation systems

-The oldest and most inefficient way of irrigation is flood irrigation. This process channels water into the field that is being irrigated.
-Pivot irrigation was invented after WWII using aluminum pipes. The pivot system allows for a customizable accurate application of water. This type of irrigation is expensive, with each span costing about $11,000.
-Drip irrigation is the most efficient way of irrigation. Drip irrigation puts water right into the soils, minimizing water contact with the plants thus reducing disease risks.

The importance

Irrigation is important and without it, we would be unable to sustain and grow the population we currently have. Only 20% of farmland is irrigated which produces over 40% of the worlds food supply comes from irrigated land. Delaware has 30% of its farmland irrigated, about 150,000 acres. Particularly Sussex County has 50% of its farmland irrigated because of the sandy soils. Advancements in technology have allowed irrigation systems to become efficient and better for the environment.

Iowa and California – Agriculture Giants


85% of Iowa’s land mass is used for agriculture! There are 87,500 farmers in Iowa that till 30.5 million acres a year. Compared to Delaware farmers where they till only 490,000 acres. 92% of Iowa’s cash farm income comes from corn, soybean, pork and beef production. Iowa is ranked first in corn, soybean, pork and egg production. For example, Iowa farmers harvest 13.1 million acres of corn, with a state average of 203 bushels per acre.

What makes Iowa so optimal for agriculture?

Iowa has very fertile soil with a high cation exchange capacity of 10-15. Iowa gets 24 to 36 inches of rain a year which is good because Iowa’s soil moisture capacity is also key to its fertility. The soil’s ability to retain the rain eliminates the need for an irrigation system, thus making production costs lower.


California is number one in agriculture sales, with an annual $47 billion dollars. California ranks first in nine different commodities that include- milk/cream, almonds, grapes, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, flowers/foliage, walnuts, and hay. California has 77,500 farms with over 25 million acres. An average farm size is 329 acres but some range to 50,000 acres. California is ranked the 10th largest general economy in the world. This means California generates a larger gross domestic product than countries such as Mexico and Canada.

How does California succeed?

Water and labor. Water is what California agriculture is all about. Water in California is very limited, their water source is from the snow caps of the mountains that flow through aqueducts and run through a filter which then is distributed throughout California. Water and the ideal low humidity in California makes it perfect to grow more fruit and vegetables that everyone eats on a daily basis. Also, 95% of our tomato products come from California. This volume of production is ideal because 26% of its production is exported.

Insight from Mr. ED KEE

Organic Poultry Family Farm

Healthy Organic Chicken Kent County, DE

Georgie Cartanza, an organic poultry farmer in Kent County, DE. Georgie has four 65’x500 chicken houses, each can hold up to 37,000 chickens, totaling up to 148,000 chickens on her farm during a single flock. Georgie produces over 5 million pounds of organic broilers each year by growing 5 and a half flocks per year. Chicken houses have advanced technology built within allowing farmers to control the optimal environment for the chickens during all stages of growth. Chickens themselves produce a lot of heat so the cooling system within the houses is important in keeping the chickens happy and healthy. For example, Gorgie’s houses cooling system can cycle the air in under a minute. Aside from the organic feed requirements, some of the organic requirements are to have enrichments within and outside of the house and to have outdoor access. Enrichments can be as simple as ramps and boxes.

So you may be thinking how does Georgie produce 5 Million pounds of broiler meat each year?

Well, that’s due to the advancements and improvements in technology, genetics, housing, and nutrition. No hormones and no steroids. Applicable to both organic and commercial poultry farming.

Also, what is done with all the manure generated?

Each year, 5 and a half flocks generate 4 million pounds of manure per year. That is about 1 ton per 1,000 chickens per flock. Then a nutrient-packed compost is made with the manure and mortality. That is then sold to a local dairy farmer as a fertilizer. The manure is improving the soil health and structure by providing vital macro and micronutrients to the soil.

Fifer Orchards farm

At September twenty-third, 2017, we went to the Fifer Orchards farm, which is located in Camden Wyoming, DE, one hour drive from the University of Delaware. It is a family farm and the fourth generation. What is more, It is the season of apples and pumpkins. We went to the apple picking area where tourist also can go to pick up apples by themselves.  The field, next to it, is a huge area of the strawberry field. In the past, I thought the way to water them is rotating sprinklers on pipes. What I saw in the field is drip irrigation. Pipes are put inside of the soil and the soil is covered by black plastic materials. Drip irrigation is a slow process to provide water and fertilizer to plant roots. Because it is on the inside of the soil, it does well on keeping the perfect moisture and keeping the plant surface dry which saves water resource and reduces disease and pest problems.

Since they plant the variety of vegetable and fruit in different time of the seasons, there must be a most profitable one, which is the sweet corn. When we think about farm markets, we may think there may be a competition between the weekly farmer markets located across the state and the Fifer Orchards farm, but the fact is the Fifer Orchards farm sell products to them. In the end, we arrived their market shopping area. All kinds of delicious apples and pretty pumpkins. I am really glad I got the chance to visit here with my professors and classmates.

Field Trip: Poultry Farm

This past Saturday, September 9th, I had the opportunity to go to a Poultry Farm.  Georgie Cartanza has been in this business for quite some time now.  She’s been growing organic chickens for the past 11 years and previously worked for Perdue.  When it comes to growing organic chickens, they’re certain requirements and guidelines one must follow.  This poultry farm consisted of four houses that were 65×600 feet long, each house had roughly 37,000 chickens in each house for a total of roughly 148,000 chickens.  Each house had ventilation, air-conditioning, automatic water and food machines that filled up by itself, and lastly an outdoors area for the chickens to go out if pleased.  Georgie produces enough chicken to feed nearly 60,000 families for roughly 5 million pounds of chicken a year.  Going into this trip, I had knowledge about chickens but no knowledge of how poultry farms functioned rather just my own opinions.  I figured the housing and conditions were nearly as bad as people thought, and once visiting these houses, I realized I was correct that the environment was nice.  The housing was much cooler than I expected and as well answered many of my questions.  One question being how they harvested these chickens? I thought possibly there was some kind of machinery that made it easy but Georgie informed us that all the chicken are caught by hand.  My second question was how much room would the chicken have to move and such? And once entering the house you realize the size of the house is more spacious than you would think.  Overall, the field trip was quite interesting, I never thought I’d ever visit a poultry farm but I’m glad I did for I learned greatly.