Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Dr. Carolyn Williams Executive Associate Director, Prairie View A&M University
Welcome to the April edition of our monthly newsletter featuring culminations relative to Earth Day and environmental practices demonstrated throughout the 1890 Extension communities.
For more than 50 years, Earth Day has been celebrated across the country and the globe through mobilization for environmental causes. Being good stewards of the environment is everyone’s responsibility to preserve the amazing natural resources we enjoy daily. These valuable resources for years have significantly benefitted humans, animals, plants and our environment. History states that the Native Americans were the first farmers and mastered many farming techniques and agricultural skills with respect to the land.
Everything we do affects the environment in some shape or form. As the global population grows and we begin to see the long-term consequences of excessive energy use, industrial growth and climate change, we must be intentional to prevent further damage. It is our obligation to ensure our future generations have healthy places to live, laugh and learn.
Advancing climate literacy
Floods, severe droughts, hurricanes, heat waves and wildfires are just a few of our everyday climatic obstacles that affect people, communities and the environment.
Unfortunately, these climatic conditions will continue to present global challenges, especially in vulnerable communities. Hence, the need to become more climate literate is at an all-time high.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), climate literacy entails understanding your impact on climate and its effects on you, society or humankind. NOAA defines a climate-literate individual as one who:
- Comprehends the vital principles of Earth’s climate system.
- Knows how to evaluate scientifically credible climate data.
- Speaks about climate-related issues in an expressive way.
- Makes informed and reliable determinations regarding actions that may influence climate.
Cooperative Extension is ready to make significant contributions in improving both climate literacy and resiliency through the National Extension Climate Initiative (NECI). NECI was established in 2019 to serve as a network and a depository of resources for Extension educators and researchers. The primary goal is helping people, including youths, to become more climate literate.
Celebrating Earth Day at Delaware State University
For the month of April, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension centers Earth Day initiatives to remind us all how our actions can help preserve the planet for future generations. This story and the accompanying video shed light on DSU’s celebration.
For three hours during the sunny April 13, 2023, afternoon, Delaware State University (DSU) faculty and students enjoyed fresh air and sunshine during their excursion to Delaware saltmarshes and wetlands. The DSU group learned more about the importance of saltmarsh plants and the habitat for carbon sequestration — which reduces harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — excess nutrient uptakes and coastal erosion. This activity was the first of many planned by DSU to celebrate Earth Day 2023.
Imagine. Immerse. Ignite.
Woodie Hughes Jr., Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) assistant Extension administrator 4-H program leader, took six Worth County High School Career Academy students and a teacher to Washington, D.C. on March 9-12. The group attended the 2023 National 4-H Ignite Teen Youth Summit.
This opportunity was made possible by Hughes receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Funds covered lodging, registration and all travel expenses. The students engage in biweekly 4-H activities at the FVSU 4-H Village Community Garden in Sylvester, Georgia, with their teacher (4-H volunteer), Melanie Renney, Eda Garcia and Sam X. White.
The 4-H Ignite Teen Youth Summit had almost 1,000 high-school-aged teens explore the best 4-H has to offer in STEM, agriscience, healthy living, career readiness and emotional well-being.
“This led to the FVSU 4-H’ers creating a new 4-H Waste Management - Cleaning Up Project in Sylvester not just for Earth Day but for every day,” Hughes said.
This 4-H project aligns with the FVSU CEP EPA-Tuskegee University Environment Justice Academy Team of Garcia and Hughes’ Earth Day final project. A free celebration is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 4 at the FVSU 4-H Village Community Garden.
Kentucky State University’s Environmental Education and Research Center provides hands-on conservation learning
Kentucky State University’s Environmental Education and Research Center (EERC) is a collaborative experiential learning facility that connects students, teachers and community groups to the environment through meaningful, hands-on learning activities. The center is managed with environmentally sound practices that aim to protect, enhance and educate about local ecology.
Throughout the year, the EERC is home to Extension events such as Wildflower Walks, Owl Prowls, Under the Stars and more. During Earth Week each year, Kentucky State EERC staff welcome stakeholders to the center for events such as iNaturalist workshops and hikes, as well as lead clean-up efforts throughout the Frankfort community.
Located in Henry County, Kentucky, the EERC is home to a 1.6-acre man-made upland pond frequently used for fishing and other aquatic resource education, extensive trails across the 307-acre property, and Six Mile Creek, which runs through the center and has Outstanding State Resource Waters designation by the Division of Water.
Progress continues to focus on the EERC’s mission to make the center accessible to visitors of all abilities with the implementation of trails and resources for those with sensory and mobility disabilities, such as a trail with guide ropes and Braille signs.
Improved land use, economic opportunities for Oklahoma’s small, veteran farmers
The Langston University Cooperative Extension and Outreach (LU-CEOP) team and its partners have conducted several training sessions and workshops to improve land use and economic opportunities for Oklahoma’s small and veteran farmers.
Their broad spectrum of rural and urban stakeholders is mindful of social and environmental stewardship. Some of these activities include the following:
Small farmers' workshops and conferences have been held to teach and share resources about starting and operating environmentally efficient and sustainable agricultural businesses. Various U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies and organizations have provided comprehensive spectra of knowledge during the LU-CEOP-sponsored workshops.
The beginner farmer and rancher workshops have been conducted to train new farmers on how and what to grow as they consider factors such as local market demand and unique soil conditions in Duncan, Oklahoma. James Arati and Micah Anderson from Langston University conducted the workshops. Support was also provided by Spencer Mcguire from Oklahoma State University, who serves in Stephens County, Oklahoma.
Market gardening basics is a series of small group training workshops that train gardeners about growing crops economically and sustainably for the local markets using limited resources. The workshops have been conducted by Anderson, Keisha Scott, Joshua Davis, Steve Upson and Arati of Langston University Extension.
Mother Earth: The gift that keeps on giving
As part of Mother Nature’s plan, native plants have been part of Earth’s ecosystem for about seven hundred million years, some studies suggest.
Humans and other creatures from all parts of the world consider plants to be part of their daily diet. Unfortunately, over time, humans became more selective in plants deemed suitable for human consumption, leaving behind those that grow wild in nature. Plant researchers and nutrition experts are now rediscovering edible healthy plants that can be grown in people's backyards to not only beautify the landscape but also to consume as edibles.
With the ongoing increases in food prices, more people are looking for viable ways to maintain a healthy diet without spending beyond their budgets. The Lincoln University Cooperative Extension’s Specialty Crops Program, headed by Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall (state Extension specialist), demonstrates how some native plants can be a new source of food and additional income.
N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension partner in USDA’s $2.8B Climate-Smart Commodities projects
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will participate in two major projects to reduce greenhouse gases and improve climate-resilient agriculture production as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s major new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.
Biswinath Dari, Ph.D., an agriculture and natural resources specialist with Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T, will work with organic and conventional vegetable growers in North Carolina and four other southern states to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon sequestration in the soil.
Arnab Bhowmik, Ph.D., an assistant professor of soil science in A&T’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, will work on a project that will provide technical and financial assistance to more than 1,000 U.S. cotton farmers across the United States.
Dari, a soil scientist by training, will work with small-scale and underserved vegetable growers in five states in Southern Piedmont to improve sustainable crop production by adopting climate-responsive agricultural practices. He will help identify social and economic barriers that prevent these farmers from adopting climate-smart practices and provide growers with information and technical assistance.
“Climate change is happening, and we cannot deny it,” said Dari. “It’ll be worse and worse if we do not take some steps now to modify its effects.”
SC State bolsters sustainable agriculture program with new controlled environment agriculture research scientist
SC State University’s 1890 Research & Extension program adds Dr. Brandon Huber as the controlled environment agricultural research scientist to optimize indoor farm production in the state.
As issues of food security and food costs continue to rise in the Palmetto State, Huber will use his expertise to assist small and minority farmers with implementing indoor farming programs to address these challenges. Programs such as the use of high tunnels, vertical farming (crops are stacked and grown on levels above each other) and hydroponic farming (crops are grown without the use of soil but with nutrient solutions mixed with water) will be implemented across the programs’ seven regions to bring value-added options to farmers looking to grow year-round.
“One of the main advantages of indoor farming is that harsh environmental factors like fluctuating temperatures, droughts, storms, animals or insect infestations are eliminated since production is indoors,” Huber stated. “Indoor farming offers the capability to replicate and control outside environmental elements like sunlight and water, which are needed for crops to grow [indoors] and allows for higher yields of return by maximizing these environmental conditions.”
Visit 1890.info/3YQhaSF to watch Huber discuss the benefits of hydroponics at Brookdale Elementary School (Orangeburg, South Carolina) with WLTX News 19. For more information about controlled environmental agriculture, contact Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tennessee State engages farmers in sustainability
By Dr. Jason deKoff
The Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Program engages farmers in applying sustainable practices to their operations in a number of ways.
Faculty specialists engage in research topics such as bioenergy crop production, plant nutrition, organic agriculture, integrated pest management and drone technology. Identifying bioenergy crops and how they can fit into existing production systems provide farmers with new knowledge about how to produce fuel on their farms. Plant nutrition research that determines the right amount of nutrients to provide for plant needs prevents overapplication, which helps farmers to reduce inputs and save money while also reducing pollution from runoff of excess nutrients.
Organic and sustainable agriculture options that implement best management practices can help reduce water use and help farmers resist the adverse effects caused by drought conditions. Integrated pest management helps farmers monitor, prevent and control pests, and can impact the amount and types of pesticides used. Demonstrations of drone technology put new options in the hands of farmers that allow them to save time and identify issues in the field before they become widespread.
Tennessee State University provides these opportunities to farmers through direct interactions with farmers and Extension agents throughout Tennessee so they can make the best decisions for the sustainability of their farming systems.
Every day is Earth Day for UAPB’s sustainable forestry project
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Keeping it in the Family (KIITF) Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program has a mission to provide educational resources and technical assistance to African American forest landowners to protect and retain their family land for future generations.
“When it comes to protecting the environment, our team of conservationists and foresters is a constant source of information on the importance of trees to the environment and needs of humanity on a global scale,” Kandi Williams, Extension program aide and coordinator for the program, said.
Williams said the KIITF team works directly with landowners in 18 counties in south Arkansas. Project members inform their clientele about what federal, state and local programs they can use to install “climate-smart” conservation practices on their land. This helps ensure their operations will be more sustainable and profitable.
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service obligated more than $300,000 in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for UAPB’s program participants to install conservation practices on their land. Eighteen conservation contracts were funded for more than 1,300 acres in the state. Additionally, 19 landowners received $71,000 in funding from the UAPB Small Farm Program for surveys. The surveys identify property boundaries, which is necessary when applying for conservation management practices.
“Our program is innovative in that we provide a vital link between historically underserved producers and agency resource providers,” Williams said. “This helps more producers become eligible and enter the application process to receive assistance and make land improvements.”
Salt-tolerant varieties of crops may help farmers deal with effects of climate change
In response to climate change and other issues affecting soil salinity in farm fields near coastal bays and rivers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a UMES researcher is exploring varieties of industrial hemp germplasm for salt tolerance.
Naveen Kumar Dixit, a UMES Extension specialist and associate professor of horticulture, hopes his efforts will provide needed research-based knowledge to prepare agricultural producers for today’s challenges and those they will face in an ever-changing world.
Soil salinity is a global ecological issue causing soil degradation by modifying its properties, structure and function. Contributing factors could be sea level rise, seawater intrusion, flash floods, alternating wet and dry periods, persistent drought, poor water quality and irrigation practices.
Dixit said data shows that in the Chesapeake Bay region alone, more than 100,000 acres of terrestrial ecosystem become wetlands with the loss of fertile agricultural land at an “alarming rate” of 0.49 m/yr and as high as 2.1 m/yr.
“Hemp is adapted to a wide range of abiotic stresses including soil salinity, but a large genetic variability exists among the varieties for salt tolerance,” Dixit said. “Not only can the right variety of industrial hemp grow in fields susceptible to salt intrusion, but it has also been shown to improve soil structure. IH for fiber, an important crop for the growing demand in the textile industry, can help reclaim soils affected by the monoculture of cereals and legumes.”
“In addition to hemp, we are also screening salt-tolerant varieties of soybeans, strawberries, corn and rootstocks for fruit trees,” Dixit said.
Salinity-Induced Antioxidant Defense in Roots of Industrial Hemp (IH: Cannabis sativa L.) for Fiber during Seed Germination. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/2/244
Environmental practices garner awards, improve the health of nature, students, the community
Uniquely situated above the Appomattox River, a National Wild and Scenic River, Virginia State University-Virginia Cooperative Extension (VSU-VCE) is a transformational leader that provides impactful service and innovative approaches to environmental issues. Its programs restore and revitalize natural resources and improve the quality of air, water, soil, crops, human lives and the bottom line. Furthermore, VSU-VCE establishes strategic partnerships that exponentially increase the positive effects of its programs.
In the spirit of Earth Day, four programs are highlighted that demonstrate ways in which VSU-VCE is restoring the environment:
- Tree Campus USA Higher Education: Preserving the campus environment for students, staff and the greater Petersburg community.
- Conservation: Leveraging partnerships to save water, soil and family farms.
- Nutrient Management Planning: The key to healthier soils, yields and bottom lines.
- Agricultural Drones: Improving the environment and producer’s outcomes.
VSU-VCE is actively and effectively preserving nature’s beauty and health on campus, in the community and throughout Virginia.
“VSU is proud to be a transformational leader in the environmental space that stewards well this beautiful campus,” said Corley. “By implementing effective, sustainable practices, we are restoring and preserving our natural resources, ensuring the well-being of our community and saving money — further evidence that GREATER Happens Here.”
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.
WVSU ANR team celebrates Earth Day through community events
In celebration of Earth Day, WVSU Extension educator Liz Moss and her team participated in the annual “Walk on the Wild Side” event in Saint Albans on April 15. They planted elderberry cuttings in the pollinator garden and 20 bare-root trees and cuttings around the pool area and dog park to help with erosion and stormwater management.
Trees help manage stormwater and its associated soil erosion in several ways, such as lowing rainfall with their canopies and funneling water down their trunks. As a result, they have more time to infiltrate the soil, hold soil with their roots, absorb pollutants in water and release water back into the air via transpiration (the tree version of “sweating”).
In addition, WVSU Extension educator Eden Clymire-Stern hosted an Earth Day Tinker Tots workshop at the Clay Center on April 21. She read “Bees Like Flowers” by Rebecca Blelawski to participants about the importance of honeybees and other pollinators. Clymire-Stern also showed the children how to make “seed balls” - tiny balls of clay, soil and seeds that can be tossed almost anywhere and grow.
Delaware State University: Mobile Meat Processing Lab