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The Tiller Plants & Soil: Tools for a Cleaner Environment

Summer Institute, 4 Years and Growing! Volume 6, Issue 1 In its 4th round, the UVM OnFarm Summer Institute is proving successful with both traditional and non-traditional students.

Fall 2012 Keep in touch:

We began in 2009 with five courses and ten students; summer 2012 offered 11 courses to 49 students. Checking in with some of this years instructors, we found they were all enjoying the adThe Cold Climate Viticulture class at the HRC. vantages summer affords. Jon Tur- Instructor Terry Bradshaw discusses grapevine mel has been teaching Entomolo- canopy management. gy & Pest Management for 17 years. The class surveys major insect orders and requires students submit a 150 specimen collection. The best collections he has ever seen?

 Reading a hard copy? Go to the web instead! uvm.edu/~pss click on the Alumni link  Stay in touch! Send a current e-mail address to : pss@uvm.edu  Find us on Facebook, visit our photo galleries.

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Soil Ecology Research Deb Neher’s research group has been investigating the use of compost to improve quality of pasture soil, soils naturally suppressive to soybean cyst nematode, and applications of compost as mulch to manage early blight in organic mixed vegetable production.

Joshua Bakelaar collecting aggregate stability soil samples.

Josh Bakelaar completed his M.S. thesis that found that extended season treatments, including compost bedded packs, helped maintain a healthy soil food web structure. This project was part of a larger collaboration with UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture and conducted on farms in Franklin, Addison, and Orange counties. (Continued on page 3)

Inside this issue: New Pest in VT

2

Soil Ecology Research

3

International Research

4

Remembering S. Costa

5

Common Ground Farm

6

Campus Kitchens

7

Degrees & Awards

8


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From the Chair

New Pest in VT

This year I am filling in as PSS Acting Chair, while Deb Neher enjoys a well-deserved sabbatical. Our undergraduate student enrollment had a slight increase from last year, totaling 64 undergraduates in the ecological agriculture (37) and sustainable landscape V. Ernesto Méndez horticulture (27) majors. Our graduate student community continues to thrive, and now includes 13 doctoral and 13 master's students, working in a wide diversity of research projects. This year also saw some exciting advancement in UVM's food systems programs, including organizing the first UVM Food Systems Summit this summer as well as welcoming the first cohort of MS students in the new Food Systems graduate program. PSS faculty and students are actively participating in all of these foodoriented endeavors, and our department will continue to play key roles in this and other future UVM food initiatives.

News from the UVM Plant Diagnostics Clinic by Plant Pathologist, Ann Hazelrigg.

The spotted wing drosophila is an invasive fruit fly Female fly with ovipositor (E. Beers) (Drosophila suzukii) from northern Asia that showed up in California in 2008. Since then, this pest has moved across the county, arriving in Vermont last fall after Hurricane Irene. There was some damage from the fly last fall, but this year, many small fruit and grape growers have been battling the pest since late summer. The fly, unlike other fruit flies, has a saw toothed ovipositor that can cut into healthy ripe intact fruit and lay an egg. Within a short time, the egg hatches and maggots develop in the fruit. The fruit either shrivels on the plant, or if picked quickly “liquefies” due to the feeding damage. The crops most likely to be affected are thin skinned fruits like fall raspberries, blueberries and grapes.

I would also like to take the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to two new Research Assistant Professors that joined PSS this year: Dr. Scott Merrill and Dr. Jason Parker. Thanks to everyone for your participation and support of our programs, and please keep an eye out for PSS community-building events this year !

Ernesto Mendez

Saw toothed ovipositor (Wine Industry Oregon)

The Tiller is an annual newsletter from the Department of Plant and Soil Science, Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UVM. Editors Whitney Northrop, Anne Marie Resnik Writers Brittany Dooling, Ann Hazelrigg, Ernesto Méndez, Deb Neher, Anne Marie Resnik Photographers Joshua Brown, Lisa J. Chouinard, Katherine Goodall, Susan Monahan, Deb Neher, Annie White

The pest does not appear to be a problem in apples. This pest builds up rapidly in crops and is proving very difficult to manage.

Conventional and organic growers have some spray options, but sprays need to be repeated often and rotated so pest resistance does not build up. A recent meeting of the members of the NE Small Fruit IPM Working Group discussed this pest and its distressing implications for NE fruit growers. It is clear we need more research on the pest and its’ management through use of pesticides, row covers, management of natural enemies and management of wild hosts.


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Volume 6, Issue 1

Soil Ecology Research Beneficial Soil Microbes comes with Organic Matter

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Doctoral student, Tharshani Nishanthan, has identified 61,200 soil nematodes to genus and processed 14,784 runs of extracellular enzymes produced by soil bacteria and fungi to solve the mystery of why some soils naturally suppress soybean cyst nematode. After three years, she is concluding that no-till fields, with > 6% organic matter highly colonized by fungi are suppressive to the disease. When management involves cultivation and chemicals that reduce fungi, the soils become conducive to the disease. She presented her findings at the 2012 Society of Nematologists meeting in Savannah, Georgia where she received the Nathan A.Cobb Foundation Travel Award. Mixing compost by recipe at Highfields Center for Composting, Hardwick VT.

We are finding that soil fungi are also important in managing early blight disease in Vermont. In summer 2010, we demonstrated that compost made with the proper C:N ratio, heating the pile to 5577oC (131-171oF) for 15 days, during which time the pile is turned at least five times, will kill Alternaria, the pathogens that causes early blight, and giant crab grass seed.

Collecting early blight inoculum at Intervale Community Farm. Left to right: Doctoral student Tharshani Nishanthan, Research Technician Tom Weicht, Ecological Agriculture major Mike Street.

In summer 2011, we observed less early blight disease on crucifer crops treated with a mulch of compost containing hardwood compost than those with hay, softwood, or manure-silage. Why hardwood? Hardwood consists of a more complex and recalcitrant carbon structure than the other carbon sources. This complex matrix takes longer to decompose and provides natural biological control agents, such as Trichoderma and Gliocladium fungi, to colonize as the compost matures, and reach a competitive advantage over the fungal pathogens.


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The Tiller

Agroecology Research in Mesoamerica Ongoing research by Professor Ernesto Méndez’s Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ALRG), is yielding solutions for farmers in Mesoamerica. Current research conducted in communities of smallholder farms is analyzing the web of social, ecological impacts, and benefits where agriculture, people’s livelihoods, and nature co-exist. Through a Participatory Action Research Approach (PAR) they are addressing the socioeconomic and environmental challenges faced by farmers and rural communities. “Conventional coffee agriculture relies on high nutrient inputs” says Sebastian Castro, Ph.D. candidate in the lab. “These nutrients are supplied through intensive use of inorganic fertilizers which may lead to water pollution and soil acidification.” Identifying better farm management practices has led to an average reduction in fertilizer inputs, saving dollars without negatively impacting coffee yields. Seasonal hunger is a regular event for smallholder farms in coffee communities around the globe. Mainly, farmers are unable to grow or keep enough basics to cover yearly household consumption needs. Sixty one percent of Nicaraguan farmers go into debt between coffee harvests. M.S. student Marcela Pino is working with growers cooperatives, identifying ways to alleviate this yearly fiscal drain. In El Salvador, ninety seven percent of coffee producing households are also seasonally food insecure. Multiple PSS graduate student Marcela Pino causations have trekking to a farmer household to been identified, inconduct an interview, Nicaragua. cluding low income from coffee sales, expenditures on chemical inputs and lack of rural employment. Ph.D. candidate Katlyn S. Morris has

helped determine ways farmers can use more economically sustainable and environmentally sound food crop management, thereby lowering yearly costs. Coffee systems have been referred to as refuges of biodiversity for their potential to mimic natural habitats. In the past little attention was paid, but growing awareness of eco-tourism is beginning to change the prevailing attitude. Katie Goodall, M.S. student works with farmer cooperatives in Matagalpa, Nicaragua to identify patterns of bio-diversity, creating bird lists and illustrated guides.

A Green-breasted Mountain-Gem (Lampornis viridipallens) captured on a coffee farm.

Agroforestry systems have been noted for their potential to conserve native tree diversity and sequester carbon for climate change mitigation, but little research has investigated the temporal stability of species diversity and carbon stocks in these systems, which strongly depend on farmer management. Meryl B. Olson, Ph.D. candidate in the lab is examining nine years of data collected from a 35 hectare coffee cooperative. Above ground carbon in woody shade species nearly doubled (from 12.0 to 24.4 Mg ha-1) in the nine years between sampling, a total storage of 11.4 Mg C ha-1or, 1.3 Mg C ha-1 per year.

Farmer Dońa Emilia sorting ripe coffee berries

The Student Scholars Poster Competition awarded first place to the students in ALRG for their research poster on October 4, 2012. For more information on current research in Vermont and abroad visit their website: ALRG


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Volume 6, Issue 1

Remembering Scott Costa In 2012, we said goodbye to our colleague Scott Costa who fought a valiant battle against pancreatic cancer, which he ultimately lost on June 6th. Scott developed a technology which is patent-pending with the University of Vermont. His plan for sampling Hemlock Wooly Adelgid has become an industry standard. His research had been recently featured as a campus highlight, “Forest Fungus Factory.” Vermont Public Radio took a long look at the many devastating threats to our forests, and the solution Scott was testing, in “How our Trees are Faring.” Plant & Soil Science staff, students and faculty paid tribute to Scott’s love for nature and gardening by going to his farm and planting the family garden with herbs, corn, and a variety of vegetables.

Scott in his research lab evaluating a wheybased biological control of hemlock wooly adelgid. (Photo, Joshua Brown)

The team at “Across the Fence” went to visit the Costa Farm, interviewing the family as part of a farm health and safety segment which aired on September 20th, 2012. Visit the link to view the video, their interview begins at the seven minute mark.

Colleen Armstrong, UVM Greenhouse loading donated plants. (Photo, Lisa Chouinard)

Scott earned a campus-wide reputation for his promotion and instruction of an undergraduate course, A Bug’s Life. He ended each semester with a much anticipated Bug Banquet. The class started out with 50 students and by the time he last taught it in 2011, had grown to 160 students. Not many undergraduates can go home and tell their families or friends they had stirfried mealworms, spider crackers and crickets in chocolate for dinner. A wonderful slide show of students at the banquet can be found here, “Bug Banquet.” Pictured left, is Scott advertising for his Bug’s Life class, walking around campus with a giant home-made caterpillar held aloft by some of his children. The spirit and joy he brought to teaching entomology was contagious to students, who took him up on his challenge to try something different, and found themselves enjoying it. Scott’s family keeps his passion for science, nature and learning alive. We will miss his presence here in the department. Obituary: Scott D. Costa

(Photo, Susan Monahan)


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Common Ground Student Run Farm Common Ground ran a 60 member, 16 week vegetable CSA this summer, offering both an on-farm and oncampus pickup, at Jeffords Hall. There were 5 full time student farmers, with 1 part time and 10 work shares. The work shares paid half their share and worked four hours a week for the other half. They were a huge hit, and most of the work shares really enjoyed coming out to the farm each week. The crew focused on growing the "basic" veggies, along with a few new ones for fun. There were abundant tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, kale, peppers and eggplant. The heat-loving crops were very happy this season! They also tried small patches of celeriac, parsnips, kohlrabi and radicchio. Everyone was excited about kohlrabi in the shares! It was a particularly dry season--good for disease but meant lots of watering. Root maggots attacked all of the beautiful onion transplants and the garlic in the field, which was very disappointing. The tiny patch of corn was harvested by animals, primarily by the resident woodchuck, Charles. His favorite veggie was yellow summer squash. He also enjoyed some of the delicious cantaloupes that were overlooked during harvest! Lots of time was spent by the crew harvesting peas and green beans, which were plentiful and tedious to pick--but worth the effort. The crew donated leftover veggies to the Boys and Girls Club each week, where campers took veggies home to their families. Later they were donated to the UVM custodians, who were excited to get local produce. Since school has started, there have been workdays each Saturday so students have an opportunity to see the farm and help harvest. They are also currently hiring for next year's crew positions. Common Ground hopes to continue a few crops in the hoop-house into the fall, and will be holding club meetings in the weeks coming up.

Pictured from left, Brittany Dooling, Caitlyn Foley, Sam Hubert, and Alex Prolman , CG Crew.

Thanks to all of our wonderful, supportive shareholders for a great season! Brittany Dooling, CG President ‘12.


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Volume 6, Issue 1

Summer Institute

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The ones from this summer’s class. Jon noted, “Summer offers such a diversity of specimens in different stages and in multiple generations.”

Current Faculty John Aleong - Applied Statistics Sidney Bosworth - Field & Forage Crops Yolanda Chen - Insect Agroecology Aleksandra Drizo - Constructed Wetlands

Studying with Katlyn Morris, Intro to Eco-Ag, students had the opportunity to work with local farmers, experiencing the challenges they face. Topics included integrated crop-livestock systems, soil organic matter, IPM and economics.

Josef Görres - Ecological Soil Mgmt. Vladimir Gouli - Insect Pathology Ann Hazelrigg - Plant Pathology Stephanie Hurley– Landscape Design Ernesto Mendéz - Agricultural Systems Scott C. Merrill - Entomology PSS grad student, Lily Calderwood, using lighting tricks for night-time collection. (Photo, Annie

Online gardening course? Yes, with PSS Extension Professor Leonard White) Perry, students learn how to go about the design process simply and easily. They then create their own perennial garden, with instructor feedback at each stage, while having the advantage of expert directions during actual planting.

Plant Path instructor Terry Delaney found the smaller group allowed travel to field sites where students observed pathogens and fungi in suburban, agricultural and wild habitats. “As a summer course spanning two months, my students witnessed the progression of disease, something not possible in fall semester when winter is encroaching.”

Deborah Neher - Soil Ecology Bruce Parker - Entomology Jason Parker– Agricultural Anthropology Leonard Perry - Ornamental Horticulture Donald Ross - Soil Chemistry Margaret Skinner - Entomology Mark Starrett - Horticulture/Landscape Jon Turmel - Entomology

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As we hoped, smaller student numbers in tandem with good weather are working to our advantage, looking forward to next year already!

Common Ground and Campus Kitchens Partner Two student organizations have been collaborating this year to make the most from the Urban Agriculture gardens around Jeffords Hall. Common Ground provided leadership in planning and production aspects of the gardens and Campus Kitchens is involved in the maintenance and harvesting. Campus Kitchens began a new chapter at UVM in 2008 and are now 200 students strong. Their club motto is “Teach. Reach. Feed. Lead.” They salvage unused food and prepare and nutritious meals weekly for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. One of our alumni, Kate Turcotte, was a founding member of the CKP. PSS Chair Deborah Neher serves on the CKP advisory board.


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Degrees Awarded at the 2012 Graduate College Commencement Joshua Bakelaar - M.S. - Effects of Season Pasture Management in Vermont- Advisor: Deborah Neher Daniel L. Erickson - M.S. – Investigating Embedding Agriculture within Residential Areas - Advisor: V. Ernesto Méndez Cheryl E. Frank - M.S. - A Plant-Mediated IPM System for the Silverleaf Whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, in Poinsettia, Euphorbia Pulcherrima Advisor: Margaret Skinner Eulaila Ishee - M.S. - Characterizing Phosphorus in Eroding Streambank Soil in Chittenden County, Vermont - Advisor: Donald S. Ross Eamon Twohig - M.S. - Evaluating Methane Emissions from Dairy Treatment Constructed Wetlands in a Cold Climate - Advisor: Aleksandra Drizo Jon Zirkle - M.S. - Interseeding Wheat and Clover: Implications for Fusarium Head Blight, Deoxynivalenol Concentration, Grain Yield, Crude Protein, and Weeds Management in Organic Vermont Production Systems - Advisor: Sidney C. Bosworth

2012 Graduate and Undergraduate Student Awards Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Bourgault, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Teaching Assistant Award Ph.D. candidate Katlyn Stillings-Morris, North American Colleges & Teachers of Agriculture Award, NACTA John Bruce, American Society for Horticultural Science Collegiate Scholars Award Marielle Fisher, James E. Ludlow Endowed Scholarship Fund Graham Glauber, PSS Teaching Assistant Award, W.H. Darrow Horticulture Prize, American Society for Horticulture Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award Samuel Hoadley, PSS Teaching Assistant Award, American Society for Horticultural Science Collegiate Scholars Award, American Society for Horticulture Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award Sarah Kresock, James E. Ludlow Endowed Scholarship Fund Michele Langone, UVM Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award, W.H. Darrow Horticulture Prize, American Society for Horticulture Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, James E. Ludlow Scholarship award, and the American Society for Horticultural Science Collegiate Scholars Award. Sara Zeigler, UVM Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award, American Society for Horticultural Science Collegiate Scholars Award, Ralph Lewis Jones Award, Seymour Horticultural Prize, and the Agronomy, Soils, & Sustainable Agriculture Senior Recognition Award


Tiller 2012