« October 2005 | Main | December 2005 »

November 29, 2005

Extension partnership results in new pesticide sprayer

photo of air blast sprayer calibration
A new method for calibrating air blast pesticide sprayers is tested on a peach farm in Montgomery County. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

Montgomery County Extension agent Roger Galloway prides himself on staying abreast of the latest technology. He recognizes its value in his work and the vast potential it has to benefit farmers in his community. Galloway is inventive, resourceful and eager to try new things that will benefit farmers. That’s why his latest innovation – a high-tech method to improve calibration of air blast pesticide sprayers – could be a boon to growers in Montgomery County, and if he gets his wish, across the state.

Air blast sprayers are used primarily for tree crops like peaches, plums and apples, but they’re also used to protect grapes, blueberries and some vegetable crops from harmful pests and diseases. Pulled behind a tractor, the sprayer is a large cylindrical tank with a fan on the end that has 16 to 24 nozzles. A pump is used to supply spray solution to the nozzles at high pressure. Then, the fan uses high velocity air to push the spray from the nozzles into the trees, coating them from top to bottom.

Calibrating the sprayers at least twice a year is critical, Galloway says, because it alerts farmers to faulty equipment that may be causing over- or under-use of pesticides. The typical method for calibrating an air blast sprayer can consume several hours for each sprayer, costing farmers valuable time and labor. To calibrate the sprayers, farmers collect liquid from each nozzle and measure it in buckets, a precision task that is difficult to pull off without getting soaked. Growers must then enter the measurements for each nozzle’s output into mathematical formulas and hand-calculate the results.

To make it easier for farmers to calibrate their sprayers, Galloway has developed an innovative new method that cuts the time in half. And, it incorporates computer technology that does the math for them.

Galloway teamed with horticultural science Extension specialist Dr. Wayne Buhler and Dr. Gary Roberson, Extension specialist and associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering, to make his idea a reality. Together, they developed a system for calibration that employs a digital scale, hand-held computer and wireless printer – portable technology that produces results more accurately and much more quickly than the manual method.

“The beauty of this system is that is speeds up something farmers don’t want to have to spend a lot of time on … even a half-day is a big loss,” Galloway said. “We want to make this process as easy as possible for farmers. And, I think it’s kind of nifty to stand here with the iPAQ (handheld computer) and print a document 30 feet away, without any wires connecting the two.”

Buhler, who provides extensive expertise in pesticide use, as well as critical funding for the project, points out the financial – and environmental – benefits of the new system.

“Using less pesticide is advantageous to the grower in more ways than one,” Buhler said. “Chemicals are often the most expensive part of their operation … and this also makes it possible for them to put fewer pesticides into the environment.”

Galloway, Buhler and Roberson demonstrated the system in November, just after the last peach harvest at Garrett Johnson’s family farm in Candor, N.C. Accurate sprayer calibration is especially critical to Johnson’s peach operation, which picks seven days a week, never refrigerating their product, to deliver the freshest produce possible to consumers.

First, they attached short hoses to each of the nozzles on the sprayer. The hoses funneled the liquid into plastic buckets in 30-second or one-minute timed intervals. Then, each bucket was weighed on a portable digital scale. The three worked together efficiently, in an assembly line that Galloway jokingly referred to as the “bucket brigade.” Galloway then plugged the data into a hand-held computer containing a scaled-down version of Microsoft Excel that is pre-loaded with the appropriate formulas. The program automatically calculated the results, and using “Bluetooth” (radio frequency) technology, transmitted the information to a nearby wireless printer.
The entire operation takes place out in the field, and in a matter of minutes, the grower has a detailed and easy-to-read report of the calibration.

photo of Roger Galloway
Galloway loads data into a hand-held computer that sends a report to a nearby wireless printer.

Galloway also had placed bright yellow water-sensitive cards in the upper canopy of the trees before spraying. Dappled in blue afterward, the cards indicate how much – or how little – solution had covered the tree.

“The object is to have the pesticide on target,” Galloway said. “The more off target the sprayer is, the greater the ramifications for the environment … and for the quality and safety of the fruit.”

Roberson, an expert in precision technologies, teaches a variety of calibration trainings and has a deep personal and professional interest in finding better and more productive ways to use farm equipment. He handled the hardware side of this project and described the advantage of the new system as a “long-term cost-benefit relationship” for growers.

“The payback (for using this new calibration system) is an operation that is more environmentally responsible, more efficient in chemical use and produces a better overall product,” Roberson said.

The system also has the potential to be a valuable teaching tool for farmers, Galloway said, because the report features all of the raw data and formulas, enabling them to go back and examine the specific factors more carefully – and to better understand how the results came about.

True to his resourceful nature and commitment to serving his growers, Galloway already has solutions in mind to tackle the project’s only downside: the technology may not be attainable by many growers. He proposes that farmers invest in the technology together and share the equipment through cooperatives, or Extension agents could maintain the equipment and make it available to their growers. Galloway also suggests the idea of giving pesticide-training credits to growers who adopt the new technology.

Always thinking ahead to the future, Galloway already has explored newer and more advanced technologies that will improve the calibration process. But, he added, the most important factor isn’t technology or equipment. It is the core of Galloway’s work and the heart of Cooperative Extension: relationships.

“This is the way Extension works best,” Galloway said. “Good communication between the specialist and the agent … sharing expertise and working together … helps growers solve problems.”

- S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 08:00 AM

Natural Resources hires new outreach associates

Congressman Charles Taylor and Senator Elizabeth Dole have joined forces to provide funding that will enhance N.C. State University’s natural resources outreach/extension capability.

“We are fortunate to hire three outstanding individuals who are charged to work with extension agents, industries and many other agencies and groups to foster economic development of North Carolina’s forest-based resources,” says Rick Hamilton, Forestry Department Extension leader.

These three new outreach associates in N.C. State University’s College of Natural Resources are on board and available to help with programming needs in three areas.

Mark Megalos, outreach associate in forestry, is based on N.C. State’s campus. Megalos’s priority will be on county programming. He has three workshops, “Working Forest Summits for North Carolina Landowners,” scheduled for early December. The workshop will be held Dec. 1 in Williamston, Dec. 6 in Fletcher and Dec. 7 in Elon.

Megalos is a former Extension forest stewardship specialist with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. He returns to Extension, having served since 1999 as state coordinator of the Forest Stewardship Program and Forest Legacy Program of the N.C. Forest Service. He can be reached at mark_megalos@ncsu.edu or 919-513-1202.

Harry Watt, who is based in Statesville, is a business improvement outreach associate working with the wood products industry. Watt will work with the state’s wood products manufacturing industry, which includes furniture, cabinets and millwork. He can be reached at harry_watt@ncsu.edu or 704.880.5034.

Bill Ryerson, outreach associate for tourism, is based in Dobson at the Surry County Cooperative Extension Center. He can be reached at bill_ryerson@ncsu.edu or 336.401.8025. Ryerson will work with landowners and communities to enhance regional tourism efforts.

Ryerson has a master’s degree in business administration, with a specialization in tourism and hospitality management from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He also has many years of experience as a business process engineer helping businesses better understand how they can better serve the customer while improving operations. Coupled with his business and tourism background, he has a special interest in the understanding and enhancing the economic contribution of tourism to individual businesses, as well as to communities, regions, and the state.

Posted by Natalie at 07:50 AM

Retired Extension specialist raises White House Christmas tree

Earl Deal, retired Extension wood products specialist, had the honor of having a Christmas tree from his Smoky Holler Christmas Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, chosen as the White House tree this year. Read more

Posted by Natalie at 07:49 AM

ESP presents awards

The Xi Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi honorary fraternity presented awards to individuals and county groups at its annual meeting in Sanford recently. The awards and recipients are listed below. To read more about the awards, visit the ESP Web site, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/assn/esp/

Distinguished Service Award:
N. Fred Miller, Catawba County Extension director

Friend of Extension Award
William Wayne Huddleston, Duke Power
Lee Andrew Willis III, assistant to the chancellor for external affairs, N.C. State University

Administrative Leadership Award
Dr. Joseph Zublena, assistant director and director of county operations, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Diversity Award
Margo Mosley, agent, Alexander County

International Award
Craven Hudson, agent, Gaston County

Visionary Leadership Award
Cheryl Lloyd, Durham County Extension director

Meritorious Support Award
Mary E. Cox, administrative assistant, Northwest District Director's office
Jennie H. Ferrell, secretary, N.C. State's Department of Horticultural Science

Retiree Award
Bill Rogister Jr., retired Northampton County Extension director

Team Award
Edgecombe County staff, for the East Carolina Agriculture and Education Center: Lesa Walton, agent; Michelle Owens, secretary; Addie Sugg, administrative secretary; Ralph Blalock, agent; James Pearce, county Extension director

Bernadette Watts Professional Improvement Scholarship:
Sharon English, associate, Scotland County

County Performance Awards, by district:
West District: Cherokee Reservation
Southwest District: Cabarrus County
Southeast District: Lenoir County
South Central: Hoke County
North Central: Edgecombe County
Northwest: Davie County

Posted by Natalie at 07:45 AM

Latest news from N.C. A&T State University

For the latest news from ag e-dispatch, visit:

Posted by Natalie at 07:24 AM

November 22, 2005

4-H lends helpful hands to heal hearts

Dr. Ort and daughter
State Extension Director Dr. Jon Ort sorts boxes with his daughter, Hunter, who is a 4-H'er. The two were on hand as boxes were loaded in Raleigh. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

When Hurricanes Fran (’96), Floyd (’99) and Isabel (’03) devastated North Carolina, assistance poured in from 4-H’ers and Cooperative Extension professionals from around the country. And they did not forget the kindness.

So when the Gulf Coast was overwhelmed this fall, first by Hurricane Katrina and later by Rita, North Carolina Cooperative Extension and 4-H’ers joined forces to return the favor and help other 4-H’ers and Cooperative Extension employees through Operation “Helpful Hands, Healing Hearts.”

Shortly after Katrina hit, a North Carolina 4-H’er watching television news coverage saw a heart-breaking story, “Toys Among the Rubble.” As the news reporter pulled children’s toys from the rubble of a devastated home, he came across a dirt-covered 4-H bear. The story really hit home, reminding 4-H’ers of their connection to youth whose lives were turned upside down by the disaster.

State 4-H and advancement staff members formed a committee to consider relief efforts, and “Helpful Hands, Healing Hearts” was born. The 4-H bear photo became a symbol of the project and is posted on the Web site: http://www.nc4h.org/relief/ .

After phone calls to determine what was needed in Mississippi and Louisiana, the 4-H office sent out a plea for all counties to participate in the program in some way. The response from 4-H was overwhelming. On Oct. 8, trucks from N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service crossed the state, collecting 4-H donations from 20 sites.

4-H’ers filled more than 8,000 shoeboxes, Clover Packs with crayons, small toys and school supplies for 4-H’ers and Essentials Kits with personal hygiene items. Five tractor trailers from North Carolina delivered the goods to three sites in Mississippi and one in Louisiana. One truckload of supplies was delivered to Kiln, Miss., where schools were closed for nearly two months after Katrina.

In addition, the N.C. 4-H program sold green and white wristbands and collected donations for hurricane recovery, bringing in more than $21,000 to help 4-H and Extension families in the Gulf states.

It has been called the largest 4-H community service project in North Carolina since WWII when school children, including 4-H’ers, saved their pennies to purchase the USS Battleship North Carolina, now a tourist attraction in Wilmington.

“The Helpful Hands, Healing Hearts project demonstrates the power of the Extension and 4-H system in making things happen. One 4-H bear pulled out of the rubble in Mississippi resulted in more that 8,000 Clover Packs and Essential Kits being packed by 4-H'ers from every corner of North Carolina to send to our 4-H friends in need in Mississippi and Louisiana,” said State 4-H Program Leader Marshall Stewart. “This project demonstrates what the 4-H program is all about -- empowering our youth to take action and to lead in unique ways that make a real difference.”

A 4-H Club in Spearfish, South Dakota, joined the effort, sending a pallet of kits that 4-H’ers created. When the North Carolina trucks pulled into Louisiana, they arrived at the same time as relief supplies from Florida 4-H’ers.

The effort even attracted presidential attention. Former President Clinton, who is co-chairing the recovery effort with Former President George Bush, visited North Carolina in September and accepted Clover Packs and Essentials Kits from 4-H’ers. Clinton promised to deliver the items to the Gulf region on his next visit.

4-H Clubs across the state were asked to choose a project: creating Clover Packs or Essential Kits. The Clover Packs included: a letter of encouragement from a North Carolina 4-H'er, 4-H curriculum and activity sheets, crayons and coloring books, pens and pencils, paper, small books, flashlights with batteries and small games and toys.

The Essentials Kits included non-perishables such as diapers, infant formula, wipes, hand sanitizer, bottled water; hygiene items, including soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloths, laundry detergent; first aid items and craft and game supplies. All the items were stored in small boxes or bags and labeled for appropriate age and gender.

Oct. 8 was the big day, when 4-H’ers delivered their donations to 20 sites where tractor trailers picked them up. At 4-H headquarters in Raleigh, there was a celebratory atmosphere. 4-H’ers and state officers led a press conference. They were joined by Dr. Jon Ort, state director of the Cooperative Extension Service, and Congressman Bob Etheridge.

“Extension is proud of our staff, volunteers and youth,” Ort said. “You have loaned helpful hands to help heal hearts.”

“This is a great, great project, especially for young folks. You’re reaching out and helping folks you don’t know,” said Etheridge, who described himself as “one old 4-H’er.”

“That’s what America’s all about, and you’re showing that North Carolina really cares,” he said.

4-H'ers load truck
4-H'ers load trucks bound for Mississippi.

4-H’ers from nearby communities brought their contributions to be loaded onto the trucks. The Great Strides 4-H Club from Franklin County brought 191 boxes that club members created. They spent two weekends outside a local WalMart, handing out wish lists of items they needed for their boxes. Many customers purchased items and dropped them off as they left the store.

“There were a lot of kids our age (affected by Katrina),” said club member Jackie Dean, 14. “If I were in their situation, I would want help.”

Members of the Raleigh Rangers 4-H Club adopted hurricane relief as their major community service project for the year. In addition to packing over 100 boxes at their club meetings, 4-H’er Ben Rowland convinced his Principal Muriel Summers, a 4-H alumna from Anson County, and the students at Combs Elementary School to participate. During a press conference at the school, more than 650 shoe boxes were delivered by students and loaded into vehicles for transport to the tractor-trailer trucks.

At the Raleigh press conference, Raleigh Rangers Sam Robinson, 11; Ben Rowland, 11; and Meg Malone, 7; described their project to write letters and create 650 boxes for the effort. “I think the kids will feel really good and happy and glad there’s someone out there to give them something,” Meg said.

Sunday, October 9, three tractor trailers from North Carolina arrived at Mississippi State University’s Bost Conference Center, bringing with them more than 6,700 care boxes packed by North Carolina 4-H’ers. They also presented more than $10,000 raised for Mississippi Operation 4-H Relief.

A week later, trucks arrived at the Louisiana State University Ag Center. There 4-H administrators and agents were grateful for the effort. The boxes went to both 4-H’ers and other youth still struggling with hurricane recovery. One agent said 300 boxes would be taken to Ascension Parish where 300 young people evacuated after Katrina were still living in a shelter.

Trey Williams, executive director of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, said the North Carolina project gave hope to youth in his state. “It really shows that even though we are miles apart and in different states that we do have a bond and that 4-H and the 4-H clover is that bond,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 03:17 PM

November 16, 2005

Narrow-row cotton harvester shows promise for higher yields

cotton harvester photo
The harvester is put to the test at Central Crops Research Station in Clayton, N.C. (Photos by Daniel Kim)

A new cotton harvester being tested by researchers in the Department of Crop Science may help the state's farmers produce high-quality, higher-yielding cotton – and save money. Dr. Keith Edmisten, professor of crop science and Cooperative Extension cotton specialist, along with Dr. Alan York, William Neal Reynolds professor of crop science and Cooperative Extension weed specialist, are leading a team of graduate students on a three-year project to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using a 15-inch row cotton picker. So far, the results are promising.

Cotton has traditionally been grown on wide rows, typically 36 to 40 inches, Edmisten said, originally to allow the passage of mules for tillage. Wide-row planting stuck around long after tractors replaced mules because tillage was still required for adequate weed control in cotton, he explained. In the mid-1990s, advances in herbicide technology enabled broadcast over-the-top spraying that eliminated the need for wide rows. Edmisten recognized the potential of narrow-row planting and started to experiment.

He began by using a finger stripper on narrow rows, a type of harvester that literally strips every bit of the plant, except for the stem and fruiting branches. Yields increased, but the quality of the cotton was low because the stripper picked up all sorts of “trash,” like bark and leaves, which were difficult for the cotton ginners to separate from the fiber. Edmisten knew he was on to something good, so he approached the John Deere Company and showed them his yield data. The company’s engineers had been developing a picking unit that was able to spindle-pick cotton on 15-inch rows and eliminate the trash that was associated with “stripping” it. They sent Edmisten the equipment for research.

“Agronomically, going to narrow-row spacing makes a lot of sense,” said crop science doctoral student Davie Wilson, one of the project’s lead researchers. “Narrow-row spaces allow the capture of more sunlight by the plant canopy on a per-acre basis, which is very beneficial for maximizing the yield potential of cotton.”

Edmisten added, “The new equipment that John Deere introduced last year offered us a practical way to produce high-quality cotton and maximize light interception by the canopy.”

Assembling the equipment was no easy task. The commercial picker produced by John Deere is a huge machine, far too large and bulky for operation in small plot research. So, the company sent a scaled-down version of the harvester’s heads, requiring that Edmisten’s team find a way to put them to use. The group, which includes crop science technician James Lanier, as well as Wilson and fellow graduate students Guy Collins and Gary Hamm, sourced an old two-row cotton picker and worked steadfastly for about six weeks to mount the new heads.

“Basically, we hand-built everything,” Lanier said. “John Deere thought we were crazy [to mount the new heads on the old-model picker] … said it was impossible and couldn’t be done. Now, they’re calling us with questions. It’s a great back-and-forth partnership.”

cotton harvester photo

The new picking unit employs the same technology used in a wide-row system, but enables harvesting on a narrower row. Like the comb on barbers’ shears, the harvester slices through several rows at a time, lopping off every other row, and pressing each cut row against its neighboring row of still-standing cotton plants. Small rotating spindles with tiny barbs grab the lint from the stalks, a much more precise technology than the stripper.

The advantages of narrow-row cotton are becoming apparent after the first two years of trials, which showed an average 9.1 percent yield increase, or a difference of 127 pounds of lint per acre, in favor of the narrow-row system. Edmisten, York and their team are exploring a number of factors that will be important to farmers, including weed control tactics, nitrogen fertilization, planting dates and variety selection – and they’re building a solid case for the benefits of switching to narrow-row cotton production.

“We found that we can plant later in the growing season and still get just as good a yield,” Wilson said. Cotton is typically grown from early May to early November, Edmisten explained, and his team’s research is showing that it may be possible to shave a few weeks off the growth period and double-crop cotton with small grains like wheat or barley, providing growers a net income from two crops in a growing season instead of one. Their findings also show that narrow rows extend the window for planting cotton, so that farmers who experience bad weather conditions during the typical planting season could wait a few weeks to plant without suffering a blow.

The team’s weed management research shows that 15-inch row cotton may require one less herbicide application, resulting in time and fuel savings. And, because the narrow rows produce thick canopies, weeds aren’t able to grow as well, which also represents cost savings – and environmental benefits – for farmers.

“The savings on herbicides and fuel are the biggest attractions of narrow-row cotton,” Edmisten said. “There is less pesticide load going into the environment, and farmers generally will spend less money on a per-acre basis.”

While these benefits are significant, York said, the study’s yield data will be the real “clincher” for farmers who are considering investing in narrow-row equipment. A brand new 15-inch picker runs in the neighborhood of $400,000, he says, and increased yields offer the greatest potential to offset the cost of switching equipment.

“A spindle picker that handles 15-inch rows costs about $36,000 more than a picker that handles 30- to 36-inch rows. A 10 percent yield increase will pay for that in a year,” York explained. “And, if a grower needed to replace a picker anyway, then going to a 15-inch row system is feasible.” But, he added, for farmers who have regular pickers in good mechanical condition, investing in a new 15-inch picker would require proof of substantial benefits.

Encouraged by data from their first two years of trials that shows significant increases in yield, as well as myriad other benefits of narrow-row cotton, the research team is forging ahead in its work.

“We still have a lot of questions left to consider,” Edmisten said. “Fuel cost is an especially big concern for farmers right now.”

“With shrinking profit margins in the cotton business, growers really have to streamline what they’re doing just to keep their heads above water,” Wilson added. “This [technology] has opened up a whole new world.”

-S. Stanard

Posted by Suzanne at 03:27 PM

November 15, 2005

Carteret Catch: New marketing project promotes local seafood

It is a bone-chilling morning in the historic fishing port of Gloucester, Mass. As North Carolina seafood dealer Bradley Styron gets out of a truck, he steps through fresh piles of snow. (Article features work by John O'Sullivan, N.C. A&T State University farm management and marketing specialist.) Read more from N.C. Sea Grant's Coastwatch

Posted by Natalie at 01:40 PM

November 14, 2005

Columbus County second graders are nuts about pecans

Kids watch pecan demonstration
Pecan grower Rossie Ward demonstrates a neat way to pick up pecans without bending over. (Daniel Kim photos)

Horticulture Specialist Mike Parker held the attention of Columbus County second graders as he explained how pecans are grown and harvested. But for some of the students, it wasn’t so much what he said as how he said it.

“PEE-cans!” they shouted, correcting Parker’s pronunciation of “pi-KAHNS.” Parker, who’s not from around here, also threw them a curve by pronouncing “roots” as “rutts.”

In spite of those few slips of the tongue, the third annual pecan education event for second graders in Columbus County was a big hit. The county is the state’s leading pecan producer (that’s PEE-can), and many students reported having a tree in their yards.

Many counties host education events that focus on agriculture. What makes this one unusual is its focus on one commodity that is important to the local economy. Partners in the effort include North Carolina Cooperative Extension campus and county faculty, the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Museum of Forestry in Whiteville, a satellite of Raleigh’s N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Parker says the event gives the children an appreciation for agriculture in general and what it takes to grow pecans. “It’s part of their history, part of their heritage,” he says.

The two-day event, held at the Museum of Forestry, involves 1,100 second graders. Over two days, more than 50 classes attended the event. Classes rotate through five educational stations related to pecans. This year, the Museum of Natural Sciences provided a sixth education station from its popular fall “Bugfest” event.

Mike Parker talks pecans
N.C. State Horticulture Specialist Mike Parker tells a class about the pests that can invade pecans. Kids teased Parker about his pronunciation of 'pi-KAHNS.'

Parker and Extension Associate Allan Thornton, based in Sampson County, conducted a 30-minute overview of pecan production. Betty Thompson and Carolyn McCain, Columbus County family and consumer sciences agents, used pecans to talk with students about healthy snacks versus unhealthy, or “sometimes” snacks. Nuts, like pecans, can be a part of a healthy snack, Thompson said.

Thompson showed students how to make their own healthy snack at home with nuts, cereal, crackers and dried fruit. The Pecan Growers’ even provided funds so each student could taste a sample of a snack prepared with those ingredients.

Betty Ezzell of the Pecan Growers Association provided additional information on uses for pecan shells in filtration and crafts. She also described how wood from pecan trees is used for making furniture and crafts. She showed them a variety of small nutcrackers used to crack pecans at home.

Students also learned how pecans are cracked and shelled by commercial processors. At one of two outside stations, Columbus County pecan grower and processor Rossie Ward, demonstrated a high-speed machine that cracks and shells pecans one at a time. Ward processes 15,000 pounds of pecans for local growers. His business also sells a honey-roasted pecan, popular in retail outlets.

Don Ezzell, executive director of the Pecan Growers Association, demonstrated several tools for harvesting pecans without bending over, including a wire box on a pole that collects pecans as you press down on them. At Ezzell’s station, students also saw how a mechanical tree shaker clamps onto a tree and vibrates mature nuts right off the branches. Those that are not ready to fall will hang on a little longer, he said.

Bill Bunn of Bailey, president of the N.C. Pecan Growers Association, says that Columbus County growers produce about 100,000 pounds of pecans each year, more than any other county in the state. The popular education event falls two days before Whiteville’s Pecan Festival, held downtown.

Museum Director Harry Warren commented on how nice the weather has been for the event each year. “It’s clear that God’s favorite nut is a pecan,” he said.

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:32 PM

November 10, 2005

Latest news from N.C. A&T State University

For the latest news from N.C. A&T State University's School of Agriclture and Environmental Sciences, visit http://www.ag.ncat.edu/agedispatch/

Posted by Natalie at 09:53 AM

November 08, 2005

College hosts State Fair exhibit

Photo of State Fair exhibit
A visitor looks over items in the college's display at the State Fair. (Becky Kirkland photo)

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was part of the "Our Land, Our Legacy" exhibit at the N.C. State Fair in October. The exhibit focused on how the college helps maintain profitable family farms through research, teaching and extension programs. The display included a number of value-added agricultural products from around the state that had connections to the college.

Posted by Natalie at 02:04 PM

Youth take honors at NJHA

photo of NJHA winners
NJHA youth from North Carolina took honors in national competition last month.

Eight teenagers from North Carolina participated in the 71st National Junior Horticultural Association Convention in Aurora, Ohio, Oct. 7 - 10. The theme of the convention "Horticulture Rocks" resonated throughout the four-day event.

All competitions were conducted on Saturday, leaving the remainder of the time for educational workshops and tours. Participants were able to choose from a broad list of workshops. The tours included a stop at Klyn Nursery, a wholesale nursery on the shores of Lake Erie with over 1,700 species and cultivars and Holden Arboretum. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Science Center were of great interest to the youth.

As the convention came to a close on the final evening and the awards were announced, the North Carolina delegation fared extremely well. Winners were as follows:

Beth Tevepaugh, Cabarrus County, Grand National Award, Illustrated Talk "The Food Pyramid Guide Fit For a Pharoah."
Lory McCraw, Henderson County, Grand National Award, Fruit and Vegetable Use, "Cooking With Color."
Kayla Mason, Cabarrus County, National Winner, Peanut Food Use, "Peanut Hotline."
Katie McCraw, Henderson County, National Winner, Artistic Arrangement, "Flowers: The Fruity Way."

Matt Gromlich, Anna Sauls, Sara Turner and Vanessa Weidrick of Pasquotank County, members of the N.C. Horticulture Team, competed in the 4-H Horticulture Contest. Only five teams place, and this team was only .6 from placing.

Young America Projects (youth 5 to 14 years of age may compete in two projects in a calendar year from Gardening, Plant Propagation, Experimental Horticulture, and Environmental Awareness. Their projects are sent in and they only attend if the convention is in their area.) Wake County youth received a total of 18 Young America Awards (four Grand National and 14 National Awards).

"This was a super group of young people," said leader Carol Norden of Wake County Cooperative Extension. "They excelled in their competitions, had a wonderful time, and they represented North Carolina extremely well! It was a great opportunity for me to coordinate the trip and to work with all of you to make this a very successful trip for our youth."

Questions about the program can be directed to Carol Norden, 919.847.5462 or cnorden@bellsouth.net .

Posted by Natalie at 01:26 PM

November 07, 2005

Wayne County agricultural districts protect land

Don't be surprised to see a new type of sign popping up along Wayne County roads. Farmers may now apply for membership in voluntary agricultural districts, which would be marked by signs. (Goldsboro News-Argus) Read more

Posted by Natalie at 09:18 AM

November 04, 2005

Inquiring minds: Extension project helps teachers build students’ understanding of science

Teachers at workshop
In Haywood County, teachers learn to improve science education through inquiry-based learning methods. (Daniel Kim photo)

“Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” It’s an ancient Chinese proverb that gets at the heart of 4-H’s learn-by-doing approach to helping young people gain knowledge and develop life skills. And it is the essence of the inquiry-based learning movement in education.

In Transylvania and Haywood counties, North Carolina Cooperative Extension educators are teaming with local school systems and an N.C. State University teaching outreach program to increase the use of inquiry in the county’s classrooms.

The ultimate goal: greater scientific literacy – and greater chances for economic development in remote counties that have lost major industries in recent years.

This spring, with seed grants from N.C. State University’s Office of Extension and Engagement, the Cooperative Extension centers in each county hosted workshops to help elementary and middle school teachers better understand the power of inquiry-based learning. Because of the interest and momentum gained during the workshops, the partners have made plans to bring the teachers back together for additional meetings so they can share the lesson plans they’ve developed and learn from each others’ insights and experiences.

The grant funding helped pay for supplies and for substitute teachers so the participants could attend the workshops. The workshops were led by Lindsay Moody, outreach coordinator for the Asheville satellite office of N.C. State University’s Science House.

The Science House helps K-12 teachers improve their students’ understanding of science and math through hands-on learning. Through the workshops, Moody’s goal was to help participating teachers get a handle on how they could “incorporate inquiry into their classrooms.”

“We didn’t want the teachers to think inquiry was something new we were asking them to do – they already have too many things to do –- but we wanted to show them how inquiry could be incorporated into things they were already doing,” she says. “We wanted to make it easy on them.”

Through the workshops, teachers learned classroom management tips and age-appropriate activities using common household items. They also discussed what makes inquiry-based learning truly different from traditional teaching and even hands-on activities. And they took away lessons, activities and materials they can use in their classrooms and share with other teachers in their schools.

Mary Arnaudin, a 4-H agent in Transylvania County and a former science teacher, explains that in inquiry-based learning, students gain knowledge and understanding through a process of questioning, testing and drawing conclusions from the answers to those questions.

Pointing to a definition from the book Doing Good Science in Middle School, she says it’s “a shift away from textbook-centered, direct instruction that emphasizes discrete factual knowledge claims and passive observation of science phenomena toward active, learner-centered, hands-on, minds-on investigations ... by students themselves.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s standard course of study recommends inquiry-based learning, as the National Science Teachers Association does in its science standards.

And research has shown that the approach increases test scores not only in science but also in reading, math and writing, Arnaudin says. That’s important because the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires science testing in elementary and middle schools by 2007.

“The school system is seeking ways to improve science teaching, but as a small rural county, Transylvania has long lacked the resources to offer adequate inquiry training for teachers,” she says.

The same is true in Haywood County, where County Extension Director Bill Skelton organized a Science House workshop for 23 teachers representing every elementary and middle school in the county.

“The Haywood School’s central office support staff is not large enough to provide a full-time science coordinator,” he says. “They rely on the generosity of outside agencies to partner with them to provide opportunities for students and teachers.”

Sandy Caldwell, elementary supervisor for Haywood County Schools, expressed appreciation for Extension kick-starting the process by securing a grant.

“Haywood County Schools is grateful to Bill Skelton for writing a grant proposal that allowed our teachers the ... opportunity to participate in an inquiry-based science workshop,” she says. “Lindsay Moody from the Science House did a wonderful job giving our teachers strategies and activities to teach science. Our teachers learned what differentiates true inquiry-based ‘experiential learning’ from hands-on activities. It is our wish that our students will become as excited learning about science as their teachers were learning these new strategies.”

One of the workshops’ major objectives was to help connect elementary and middle school science teachers to resources available through The Science House, Cooperative Extension and other N.C. State University programs, as well as through area public forests and parks and other agencies.

The workshops also served to help build a network among teachers so that they can help each other through an important transition in science education.

Ron Rudd, the director of curriculum and instruction for the Transylvania County Public Schools, said that network-building was among the greatest benefits of the workshops.

“Teachers are out there on an island, and they don’t have a lot of opportunity to interact,” he said. “They really appreciated being able to get out of the building and getting to be together.”

In their evaluations, teachers praised the workshops, saying they’d given them new ideas for presenting “science in a more meaningful way to encourage student involvement,” for “increasing knowledge and interest in science,” and for promoting “high student success” and improving students’ analytical skills.

Based on how warmly the project has been received, Arnaudin sees the potential for it to be a springboard for similar partnerships across the state.

“Inquiry-based learning incorporates a learning cycle that is very much like 4-H’s learn-by-doing experiential learning model. 4-H agents who bring science school-enrichment programs to classrooms have the potential to be model presenters of inquiry-based teaching,” she says. “And students who learn through inquiry-based methods gain many of the same life skills 4-H programs promote – team work, decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, planning and organizing, keeping records, communication and cooperation.”

Especially in remote rural counties with limited professional development resources available for teachers, such collaboration could have a big impact, she says.

Rudd agrees.

“The timing was perfect, with the changing in instructional focus of the science curriculum and the science testing that is to come.

“The delivery of the workshop was excellent,” he adds. “And the followup and the partnerships built -– that’s perhaps the most important thing that has come out of this project.”

Thanks to Cooperative Extension’s initiative, teachers who participated “now know they have resources among themselves and through The Science House to make this transition. ...

“It’s been awesome.”

-- Dee Shore

Posted by deeshore at 04:29 PM

Online newsletter highlights latest with USDA, CSREES

The latest edition of the CSREES update contains information on the calls for proposals for the 2006 National 4-H Conference and the 2006 CYFAR conference, the US Department of Agriculture's response to avian influenza, and more.

Posted by deeshore at 09:05 AM

November 02, 2005

Secretaries association presents awards

The following individuals were honored for their achievements at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Secretaries Association annual meeting at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Research Triangle Park, October 31.

Secretary Award for Excellence, Technology Utilization and Implementation Category
Campus - Susan Brame, District Directors
North Central District - Cheryl Tripp, Halifax County
Northeast District - Jean Sigmon, Northampton County
Northwest District - Dorothy Stobbs, Forsyth County
South Central District - Kay Morton, Lee County
Southeast District - Dean Benson, Lenoir County
Southwest District - Chris Austin, Union County
State winner is Kay Morton.

Secretary Award for Excellence, Special Leadership Category
Campus - Jane Dove Long, Plant Pathology
North Central District - Gloria Morning, Edgecombe County
Northeast District - Robbie Bridgers, Northampton County
Northwest District - Marie Bruff, Davidson County
South Central District - Devona Beard, Bladen County
Southeast District - Cathy Harvey, Onslow County
Southwest District - Carol Horne, Rutherford County
West District - Amy Holder, Graham County
State winner is Gloria Morning.

Professional Improvement Scholarship

Juliette Shipley, Durham County
Devona Beard, Bladen County

Sue Mills Lighthouse Award
Jenny Wilson, Alamance County

Executive Board Award
Vicki Pettit, Extension Administration

Posted by Natalie at 01:55 PM

November 01, 2005

Prawn harvest nets excitement

A freshwater Malaysian prawn from DW&J Shrimp Co. in Johnston County (Becky Kirkland photos)

Mike Frinsko, area aquaculture agent from Jones County, was on hand in September and October as the DW&J Shrimp Co. of Johnston harvested its fresh-water Malaysian prawns. The farm was featured in an article in August.

The farm held three harvest days this fall. Before dawn, they began draining ponds. As water got low, prawns began shooting out into a concrete catch basin, where they were netted, weighed and placed in tanks to be transported to a sales and processing area. As the shrimp were purchased, they were passed along to a processing line where heads were removed. Heads on, the prawns sold for $8 a pound.

The prawns are different from marine shrimp. In addition to being larger, the meat is more the consistency of lobster.

shrimp1.jpg Prawns are dumped into tank. Shrimp processing line
From top, Johnny Barbee nets the prawns as they flow into a catch basin from the pond where they were raised.

Once they are weighed, the prawns are put into tanks to be transported to the processing area.

Locals stop by to buy the fresh prawns on harvest day. Heads are removed on this processing line.

Posted by Natalie at 08:00 AM

Water quality pros examine Rocky Branch

While North Carolina State University’s Stream Restoration Institute trains hundreds of hydrologists, engineers and other water-quality professionals each year, a recent session of about 35 people was unique.

Continue reading "Water quality pros..."

Posted by Natalie at 07:58 AM