Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
For this month’s issue of Extension Today, we celebrate Earth Day, which is Friday, April 22.
The 1890 land-grant system is committed to protecting our planet by offering activities and programs that focus on climate change, conservation and sustainability to create a better living environment for us all.
Our 1890 Extension professionals continue to provide educational and practical solutions while working with adults and youths in their communities to help educate them about ways they can make a difference and make our world a healthier place to live.
As you celebrate Earth Day this year, remember to “invest in our planet” by playing an active role in shaping our future. Thank you for reading!
Earth Day 2022
Each year, Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University staff looks forward to observing Earth Day, now in its 52nd year. Earth Day was first observed in 1970, with an estimated 20 million people engaging in environmental festivities across the nation. Today, more than 1 billion people celebrate Earth Day. The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.”
This year, Alabama Extension will partner with the EarlyWorks Museum and the city of Huntsville’s Operation Green Team to provide interactive activities fostering environmental stewardship and an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
On Saturday, April 16, Extension staff will be at the EarlyWorks Museum in Huntsville from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission costs vary from $5 to $12.
Other Earth Day activities will be held on Saturday, April 23, at Hays Nature Preserve in Huntsville from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a free, family-friendly event.
For the past two years, Earth Day has been limited to “drive-thru” activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, youth and their families can engage in person to not only celebrate Earth Day but to also learn how to sustain natural resources for generations to come.
Earth Day celebrated every day at CSU Seed to Bloom Botanical and Community Garden
Every day is celebrated as Earth Day at the Central State University Seed to Bloom Botanical and Community Garden located across from the university at the corner of Wilberforce-Switch Road and U.S. 42, Wilberforce.
Opening approximately two years ago, the garden has continued to offer community programming, is open daily free of charge and is a sanctuary for anyone who may need a few moments of solitude in the natural surroundings. The garden is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days per week.
Programming held at the garden throughout the year highlights growing vegetables, producing mushrooms in the backyard, native plants, pollinators, garden journaling and much more. Additional signage, including interpretative signs, highlight special areas as the garden continues to evolve.
As part of the Agricultural Production Area, the CSU Seed to Bloom Botanical Garden is part of the Botanical and Community Garden Project and provides an inviting space to interact with its natural beauty. Providing a unique stage for horticultural education in a collegiate atmosphere, the garden offers learning opportunities for CSU students, local schools and the greater community.
For more information, contact Central State University Extension Ag and Natural Resources Program Leader Dr. Alcinda (Cindy) Folck at (937) 376-6101 or afolck@CentralState.edu.
Observing Earth Day is an investment in our future
By Linda Sapp
The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.” As inhabitants of this planet, we each have a responsibility to make sure we are practicing conservation, compose when we can and help create a better living environment. By observing Earth Day, we are investing in the health and survival of the planet.
Prior to the official observance of Earth Day, many detrimental practices, such as excessive use of fossil fuels, destroying trees and forests, wasteful use of water and discharging huge sums of carbon dioxide from factories, were rampant and are contributing factors to constant damage of the Earth.
Modern agriculture is already contributing through enhanced practices to improve soil quality and productivity and reduce the level of inputs (power, labor, fertilizers, chemicals and water) needed for production. FAMU Cooperative Extension provides assistance and educational programming to directly support farmers in implementing management solutions that enhance productivity and profitability and mitigate the impacts of climate change while building resilience in strengthening farm operations.
To commemorate Earth Day 2022, FAMU Cooperative Extension will participate in USDA Day at Cascades Park on Saturday, April 23, in Tallahassee, Florida. This event will focus on nutrition, gardening, 4-H, family heirs’ property, emergency and disaster preparedness, landscape extension, community health and beginning farmers.
We only have one planet and if we all pitch in and focus on cutting back on using things that are harmful to the environment, we can save our beautiful and life-sustaining planet Earth. Happy Earth Day!
FVSU Extension partners with youngest certified farmer in Georgia
Fort Valley State University will present its first-ever 4-H Urban Positive Youth Development Program with the youngest certified farmer in Georgia, 6-year-old Kendall Rae Johnson.
The Fort Valley State University Kendall Rae’s Green Heart 4-H, an urban community-based positive youth development program, will be officially established and launched on Earth Day, April 22, in Atlanta, Georgia. This 4-H program will focus on providing meaningful opportunities for youths to create village to village, sustainable community change in agriculture.
Dr. Ralph Noble, dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology; Dr. Mark Latimore, Extension administrator; and Woodie Hughes Jr., assistant Extension administrator state 4-H program leader, of FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program have extended their support for this newly established 4-H program, which is history made in Georgia and worldwide.
It is expected that through the 4-H program, the metro Atlanta youths it serves will have opportunities to become Georgia’s most highly sought-after youths who can create positive community change, grow the next generation of farmers, acquire leadership skills, entrepreneurship, healthy living, STEM and agriculture education within the largest industry of Georgia – agriculture.
The purpose of this partnership with the FVSU Cooperative Extension 4-H Program is to build on the founding mission of Extension through agriculture, representing the 4-H’s Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The new 4-H positive youth development program will create positive youth and adult community partnerships, healthy habits and outdoor hands-on experiential learning opportunities for Agri-STEM education transfer, all within the context of 21st-century challenges and opportunities.
“We are going to meet new friends, make new things and inspire other kids,” says Kendall.
Kentucky State University educates, promotes conservation with Earth Week programming
Kentucky State University is continuing its Earth Week programming this year, including in-person events for the first time. Kentucky State’s Earth Week events started in 2021 to reach out to students who were learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our main goal is to educate: to get people out into nature, get them to think about the environment in ways they may not have before and then take that knowledge home,” said Kaitlynn Gootee, Extension environmental education assistant.
Kentucky State’s Earth Week events will emphasize what people can do to help the environment from their own homes, what kind of work is being done by experts in the field and real-life applications of conservation work.
In 2021, 128 people registered for Kentucky State’s virtual Earth Week events. This year, there will again be virtual programming on April 20. There will also be an in-person Field Day at the Rosenwald Center for 4-H Youth Development on April 18 and the Environmental Education and Research Center’s Spring Open Session on April 22. More information can be found at https://bit.ly/3DV0Czv.
LU-CEOP goat production: Helping farmers reduce climate change
Consumption of protein from small ruminants is common practice all around the world. Langston University has invested in research and Cooperative Extension activities involving goats and hair sheep. One crucial area of the research and Extension programs at the American Institute for Goat Research (AIGR) at Langston University supports sustainable small ruminants' production while protecting Earth’s resources and decreasing climate change.
Feed efficiency expressed as the amount of feed used to produce a unit of animal product directly affects the profitability, efficiency and sustainability of production. In ruminants, methane produced by methanogenic bacteria has considerable effects on feed efficiency and climate change.
As a result of the potential consequences of methane emissions from ruminants, mitigation strategies are necessary to reduce the negative impact on the environment. LU-AIGR researchers are evaluating and testing procedures to minimize these harmful consequences. The techniques include using selective approaches ranging from adjusting the management practices to modifying nutritional treatments.
Researchers and Extension specialists at AIGR successfully investigated and demonstrated methane mitigation strategies in ruminants. The process involved condensed tannins (CT), which are described as a host of flavan polymers found in a large array of plants. CT may bind with proteins from various origins, such as individual plants, saliva, tissues and/or enzymes of the host, gut microbes and their products, including enzymes and cell coat polymers.
Dr. Ryszard Puchala, a research scientist at AIGR, and Extension collaborators reported that sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata, S) in goats' diets decreased methane emissions in goats by 25 percent without affecting feed efficiency.
LU program studies how climate, land use affect water resources
Earth Day is swiftly approaching and there’s sure to be a focus on climate change. Increasing temperatures, flooding events and prolonged periods of drought are on the rise in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
Climate experts expect climate extremes will affect our agricultural and urban communities of the Midwestern U.S. How could forests, farms and gardens be our allies in the fight against climate change?
Dr. Sean Zeiger is assistant professor of water resources and director of Water Resources Observatory (WRO) at Lincoln University of Missouri. WRO at Lincoln University was created to provide research-based solutions to water-related problems affecting diverse, limited-resource people in Missouri and the nation.
Members of WRO are monitoring climate at Lincoln University farms and in urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri.
Climate change means challenges for North Carolina farmers
Over the next 80 years, North Carolina farmers will face new challenges because of a warmer, wetter and more humid climate.
“When you warm the atmosphere, you really kind of supercharge it,” said Rebecca Ward, Ph.D., a scientist with the North Carolina State Climate Office. “Our water cycle becomes a lot more extreme and our temperatures become hotter and more humid.”
Ward talked about how climate change will impact agriculture as part of Small Farms Week 2022, the annual tribute to small-scale agriculture presented by Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University. Ward said temperatures in the state will warm 2 to 10 degrees, depending on whether greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current pace or slower. Nights with temperatures of more than 75 degrees and days above 95 degrees will become more common and storms, including hurricanes, will be more intense and bring more rain and flooding.
Farmers will face new plant diseases, insect pests and invasive weeds. Plants dealing with heat stress could struggle to pollinate, livestock will need more shade and ventilated shelter, and agricultural workers will face heat-related health risks.
The State Climate Office, and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a partnership of N.C. A&T, North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, offer a variety of tools to help farmers understand climate change, determine freeze and thaw dates, and assess how well crops can handle floods and droughts.
Listen to Ward’s presentation and other Small Farms Week presentations on the Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T Facebook page (click the videos tab).
Prairie View A&M University's Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) unit recognizes the importance of carbon sequestration and is doing its part in engaging producers through workshops and educational demonstrations so that they can manage their property more efficiently.
The unit held a Carbon Sequestration & Climatology Virtual Workshop on March 30 to educate landowners about the importance of reducing carbon and programs to assist them in creating practices to sequester carbon.
Several speakers presented during this workshop, including Eric Taylor, Ph.D., from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, who focused on forest carbon. The Nation Carbon Exchange's (NCX) Kathryn Morse spoke about enrolling in the Carbon Credit Program. Ali Fares, Ph.D., from Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension department, talked about the Climate Smart Commodities grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Jason Villwock from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) presented Conservation Programs and Forestry.
Countries worldwide have gained an interest in carbon sequestration as efforts have increased to create opportunities to mitigate climate change. Carbon sequestration occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken up by trees, grasses and plants through photosynthesis and is stored as carbon in biomass. One way to decrease atmospheric carbon is by creating sustainable forestry practices that will increase the ability of forests to sequester carbon and enhance other ecosystem services, such as improving soil and water quality.
4-H Louisiana Coastal Restoration project
By Chelsea Hammond and Tiffany Franklin, Ph.D.
The Southern University Ag Center’s Youth Development Program traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the 2022 National Youth Summit on Agri-Science. According to the National 4-H Council, the summit is a pioneer in the National Youth Summit Series, bringing together teen agriculture and science leaders from across the country to focus on learning about and solving agri-science issues impacting their communities and economy.
While there, high school students develop the skills and knowledge needed for the challenges facing agriculture, food security and sustainability. As part of the amazing venture, as a group, youths are tasked with deciding on an issue and developing an action plan.
The Louisiana delegation included youths from Southern University Laboratory School, Baker and Zachary High Schools. The consensus of the group was to focus on Louisiana Coastal Erosion, titling the project, “Louisiana Coastal Restoration.” For residents of south Louisiana, coastal erosion is a growing concern. It is a complex problem that fluctuates from year to year, depending on several natural and human factors. Key contributors are climate change, rising sea levels, subsidence, storms, flooding, oil and gas exploration, and levees, which cut wetlands off from land-restoring river sediments.
To help combat this issue, these bright young ladies are determined to be part of the solution to save Louisiana’s coastline by planting sustainable grasses and trees to aid in reducing land loss, either by holding sand in place or promoting the growth of sand dunes.
Extension agents’ perceptions of climate change, professional development needs
By Janiece M. Pigg
Tennessee State University Extension has recognized the vast capacity for Extension agents to supply and disseminate relevant, accurate and applicable climate change resources to producers across Tennessee. TSU statewide Extension specialists, Drs. Jason de Koff and Thomas Broyles, are addressing this emergent necessity to investigate Extension agents’ needs, perceptions and available resources associated with climate change efforts.
Through the analysis of 100 Tennessee agricultural Extension agents, de Koff and Broyles found that most agents perceive the world climate to be changing due to both natural and human factors. The majority of agents believed climate change was a priority for Cooperative Extension, which indicates an essential need to further understand the potential management strategies for farmers and localized examples of the impacts of climate change. Specific professional development areas that were identified by agents and stakeholders in this investigation included additional informational resources on weather variability, agronomic decisions, diseases and pests.
“Engaging in these methods may help enhance the effectiveness of climate change-related training programs, thereby leading to greater overall impacts in fighting the effects of climate change throughout the southeastern United States,” explained de Koff.
To learn more about this captivating research, published in the Natural Sciences Education academic journal, visit https://bit.ly/3M3sXXt.
Earth-friendly education for national audiences
Interest in sustainable systems for food, fiber and the environment is increasing, and encouraging growth in the numbers of local and regional producers of such can help revitalize rural and urban economies. Indeed, many consumers now seek products that are produced in a sustainable manner, and they believe such products are safer and of better quality.
These consumers have also shown more care for the complete food system and how their food is tied to social, health, environmental and economic factors. The #Earth2TU program discusses production practices, policies and consumer perceptions, as well as educates key stakeholders including producers, students, consumers and others in order to bring awareness and change to food and environmental systems.
The #Earth2TU launched its first virtual conference/symposium with Earth Week 2020, which was a series of five sessions dealing with the complete value chain of hemp/cannabis. More than 109 participants joined the discussions from all over the country. The virtual platform continued for another six sessions throughout the rest of the year, adding another 134 participants.
The second Earth Week (2021) virtual conference/symposium focused on regenerative systems. Indigenous and African American leaders in the agricultural space talked about traditions and history and how they spoke more substantially to the concept of “regenerative” systems.
This year, we are looking to begin a new conversation around urban systems. This year’s Earth Week lineup includes dialogues about Urban Gardening, the Tuskegee University Urban Agricultural Innovation Center, Regional Issues for 1890 Extension Program Development, Technologies for Urban Agriculture and Women Leading in the Urban Ag space.
UAPB Extension horticulture specialist helps keep Pine Bluff a tree-friendly city
Shaun Francis, Extension horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is working to maintain and further the city of Pine Bluff’s status as a “Tree City USA” community. As a member of the Pine Bluff Board of Tree City USA, he helps ensure the organization meets its standards and fulfills its yearly goals.
Tree City USA began as a 1976 bicentennial program through the National Arbor Day Foundation. Pine Bluff is one of 46 Tree City USA communities in Arkansas.
Work on Pine Bluff’s Tree City USA board includes planning and executing educational programs about the importance of trees and conducting workshops that inform community members about tree care practices such as pruning. Some activities are geared specifically toward youth audiences to teach them the importance of having and maintaining trees in the city. The board is also responsible for planning Arbor Day observances.
In addition to improving the mental and physical health of residents, trees add to the aesthetics of green spaces within communities, Francis said. They also play a great role in mitigating the effects of climate change, improving air quality, and reducing erosion and water runoff.
“I think the residents of Pine Bluff should care about trees as they make the community an appealing place to live,” he said. “In addition, homes accompanied by trees on the land that has been taken care of attract higher property values.”
UMES helps Delmarva farms deal with salt intrusion
Delmarva farmlands are among the most critical areas of susceptibility to rising sea levels due to global climate change. Saltwater intrusion and well irrigation can impair the growth of salt sensitive row crops such as soybeans and corn—traditional staples for agricultural producers in the Mid-Atlantic.
Dr. Naveen Kumar Dixit, a University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension specialist and assistant professor of horticulture, is looking at ways to help area farmers mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on farm productivity and sustainability through research and Extension activities on salt tolerant soybeans.
Dixit conducted research from May to October 2021, funded by a nearly $20,000 grant from the Maryland Soybean Board, and presented his findings at events such as the annual Maryland Commodity Classic at Queen Anne’s 4-H Park last summer. He worked with three varieties of soybeans, comparing how commercially available varieties compare to a salt tolerant one.
Healthy urban, suburban trees support Cooperative Extension’s mission
At Virginia Cooperative Extension, we take concrete actions that advance the well-being of Virginia’s families, youths, community, health, economy and food systems. Virginia State University’s Urban Forestry Extension Associate Joel Koci supports all these areas to shape a brighter future for Virginia through his work to improve the health of our state’s urban and suburban trees. As he explains, that’s because plentiful and healthy trees contribute to the overall well-being of just about everything around them.
For starters, they can help homeowners save money. Koci says they provide “ecoservices,” including solar radiation reduction (also called shading), stormwater mitigation, clean air and carbon storage. “During the growing season, deciduous trees reduce the shaded area temperature by about 20 degrees under the canopy,” says Koci. Planting trees that form a canopy over your home is an important way to save families money on energy bills and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Urban and suburban trees can also help localities manage air and water pollution. Koci noted that stormwater is a growing concern for households and communities, as climate change is bringing harder downpours in short periods of time to many parts of the country, including Virginia.
Part of Koci’s job is helping people unlearn what they’ve been incorrectly taught about trees and teaching them the science of trees.
Virginia Cooperative Extension extends the resources of Virginia's two land-grant universities, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, to solve problems facing Virginians every day.
Microclimate study helps farmers better understand weather trends
By Alisha Jarrett
West Virginia State University Extension Service is conducting a microclimate study to expand programming to landowners and farmers, as well as open up a dialogue about interests and concerns regarding climate change affecting their property and livelihood.
Starting in March 2020, the West Virginia Weather Data Collection Project provided 90 farmers, producers, landowners, schools and other organizations in 41 counties with personal professional-grade weather stations that transmit temperature, humidity, precipitation and wind speed data via Wi-Fi directly to a database. There are currently 71 stations actively reporting data in 39 counties, with a success rate of 80 percent. Additionally, schools are utilizing the weather stations to supplement lessons on weather and climate change.
The data is used to create seasonal reports for the entire state and provide participants with personalized weather readings, which help influence the decisions of farmers and other landowners operating in these microclimates by helping them to gain an understanding of how their growing seasons or precipitation patterns differ.
Agriculturalists can utilize the information to track potentially harmful incoming weather, such as frosts or storms, and make preparations to protect their crops or strategize when to plant certain goods.