Ingenuity Winter 2024

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About the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences ACADEMICS

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences offers personalized student attention, authentic research opportunities, experiential learning and facilities to train tomorrow’s workforce as leaders in agriculture and science. Strong research and extension programs are integrated with the school’s academic programming.


The UMES Agricultural Experiment Station within the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences provides enhanced knowledge and technology to improve agriculture and food systems; enhance the quality of natural resources and the environment; and serve communities, families and consumers. Research is organized around: Agriculture and Food, Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability, Human Health and Development, and Product Development. UMES is one of two land-grant institutions in Maryland that provide leadership for research in agriculture, food, biomedical science and natural resource conservation and use.


UMES Extension uses research-based knowledge to provide practical educational opportunities to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build better futures. Our programs specialize in: the Agriculture Law and Education Initiative, Alternative Crops, Community and Economic Development, Family Nutrition and Health, Food Safety, Horticulture and Fruits, Small Farms, Small Ruminants, and 4-H STEM & Youth Development.

SANS ACADEMIC DEPARTMENTS Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences: • Agribusiness Management (BS) • Urban Forestry (BS) • General Agriculture (BS) • Agricultural Education • Plant and Soil Science • Animal and Poultry Science • Business and Technology Option I • Pre-Veterinary/Pre-Professional Option II • Food and Agricultural Sciences (MS and Ph.D.)

Natural Sciences: • Biochemistry (BS) • Biology (BS) • Chemistry (BS) • Environmental Sciences (BS) • Chemistry (MS) • Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Sciences (MS, PhD) • Toxicology (MS, PhD)

Human Ecology: • Human Ecology (BS) (Child Development/CHDE Online Option, Dietetics, Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences Education) • Fashion Merchandising and Design (BS) (Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Merchandising/FIT Option, Fashion Design) • Human Ecology (MS) online (Child Development; Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition and Wellness; Family and Consumer Sciences; Fashion Merchandising) • Dietetic Internship


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Ingenuity is the Research and Extension magazine of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It is published yearly for alumni, students, stakeholders, clients and friends of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences.

ADMINISTRATION HEIDI M. ANDERSON, PH.D. President MOSES T. KAIRO, PH.D., DIC Dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences



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PAULINUS CHIGBU, PH.D. Associate Dean For Research, Development & Graduate Education, professor and director, NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center E. NELSON ESCOBAR, PH.D. Associate Dean and Associate Administer for UMES Extension JONATHAN CUMMING, PH.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Natural Sciences GRACE NAMWAMBA, PH.D. Professor and Chair, Department of Human Ecology STEPHAN L. TUBENE, PH.D. Professor and Acting Chair, Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Sciences

INGENUITY MAGAZINE Editor-in-chief: Laura Benedict Sileo Assistant editor, senior writer: Gail Stephens Writer: Kara Nuzback Staff photographer: Todd Dudek Cover photographer: Jesu Raj Pandya Designer: Nicole Abresch, Piccolo Creative The opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by the University or School. UMES is an EEO/AA employer. For help accessing this publication, contact: This work was supported in part by the Evans-Allen Program and other state appropriated funds.

SANS is prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). For info on federal laws and nondiscrimination policies on university programs and activities, contact 410-651-7848 or

FROM THE PRESIDENT The spotlight on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will shine even brighter in 2024. With a wide range of programs spanning teaching, research and extension, the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences embodies UMES’ core mission as a top land-grant university. The school cultivates and nurtures agriculture and science students using experiential learning to prepare them as the industry leaders of tomorrow. Our faculty and student researchers solve real-world problems from climate change to identifying resilient crops to food insecurities. Their work takes place at the Paul S. Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center; the Research, Extension and Teaching Farm; and various laboratories on campus. SANS research impacts the Delmarva Peninsula, the state of Maryland, the nation and world. UMES, a Top 10 public HBCU, hosted a listening session on the Farm Bill in August 2023, bringing Congressman Andy Harris and Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture Glenn “GT” Thompson to campus to see the difference our school makes in agriculture and hear about needs directly from community and industry members. UMES Extension continues to bring research-based knowledge directly to people, families and communities. The Small Farm Conference celebrated 20 years. The nearly 200 attendees learned about strengthening profitability and farming sustainability, with a focus on limited-resource, new and beginning, and underserved farmers. The close of the year brings the inaugural Maryland Agritourism Conference hosted by UMES in Cambridge, where income-generating educational and recreational opportunities are center stage. All of this was made possible thanks to our many supporters including the Maryland Legislature and our federal partners such as the USDA, NOAA and NSF, as well as private entities. SANS and UMES Extension will continue to grow to serve the changing needs of the community. Heidi M. Anderson, Ph.D. President


FROM THE DEAN Dear Stakeholders, The year is drawing to a close as I write this. Preparations are underway for yet another commencement, which is always an uplifting event. The sight of another crop of graduates going out to change the world always signals a strong hope for the future. It has been an eventful year with a number of new initiatives focused on workforce development, and new research and extension drives in areas such as climate-smart agriculture, agritourism development and support for underserved farming communities. What we do would not be possible without the federal, state and private sector support — for which we are very grateful. This year, we are appreciative because for the very first time, the Maryland Legislature fully matched the federal appropriations we receive for research and extension. This allows us to expand our activities to better serve the citizens of Maryland and the nation. SANS remains laser focused on the achievement of excellence in teaching, research and extension in order to meet and exceed stakeholders’ expectations. Thank you for taking time to read about some of the activities in the school. Moses T. Kairo, Professor and Dean


Urban forests combat climate change Urban areas are typically warmer than their surroundings, meaning higher temperatures due to climate change are amplified there. Increasing the number of urban forests can work to control this effect — and even mitigate or reverse it. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is part of a coalition of 1890 land-grant universities embarking on a mission to maintain and plant trees across the country in response to climate change. Combating extreme heat is the main goal along with improving access to nature for health and recreation throughout communities. “Urban trees provide substantial ecosystem benefits and services for the environment, the economy and people. Since 80% of Maryland’s population lives within urban areas, the potential impact of this work is incredibly important,” said Stephanie Stotts, an associate professor of urban forestry in UMES’

departments of Natural Sciences and Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences. Students in the university’s urban forestry program will receive improved educational opportunities, participate in community urban forest projects and help develop the campus as a public arboretum as part of a historic $35 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Grant awarded to the 1890 Universities Foundation. UMES received $2 million to conduct its portion of the grant activities to be led by Stotts. “Our urban trees are often under enormous stress and climate change adds to that burden, making projects that produce climate resilient all the more urgent,” she said. “This funding propels the united front of 1890 historically Black land-grant universities to pioneer efforts addressing health disparities,


fostering environmental justice through enhanced urban forestry programs and leading at the cutting edge of essential climate crisis response efforts.”—according to the September 2023 announcement by the 1890 Universities Foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C. UMES is among five of the nation’s 19 HBCU’s that are 1890 land-grant universities included in the grant project, including Alabama A&M, Southern, Tennessee State, Tuskegee and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Funds are covered by the Justice40 Initiative made possible by the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act. At Top: Applying mulch as a finishing touch to a tree planting on the UMES campus, from left, are (standing) Daylah McCullough, Rolle Ngongang, Charles Smith III, (kneeling) Dr. Stephanie Stotts (faculty lead for UMES' Urban Forestry Program) and Logan Doggett.

AgREC building on way to becoming a dream realized Ceremonial shovels broke ground Nov. 30, paving the way for the start of construction for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s new Agricultural Research & Education Center. The total project is estimated at $31 million. The facility is expected to enhance delivery of research, extension and teaching programs in agriculture at the university, designed to build agribusiness and other economic development activities in the state, particularly on the Eastern Shore. “This new center will provide modern research and education space to allow faculty and students to conduct 21st-century science, and thereby serve our clientele in an efficient and more effective manner,” said Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences. The building, in the planning stages since February 2018, weathered uncertainty when post-pandemic market conditions in the construction industry rose. Funding will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Maryland State Legislature. Plans for the 25,231-square-foot agricultural facility include not only traditional classrooms, conference rooms and faculty offices but specialized research laboratories and a tiered auditorium. The design also includes offices and support space for agricultural extension services, including six greenhouses comprising 7,500 square feet. The project emphasizes UMES’ mission as a land-grant institution, Kairo said. Founded originally for the establishment and support of agriculture experiment stations to advance research in farming, ranching and food production, an additional focus is now on the triumvirate areas of agricultural research, teaching and extension. The building will be located at the corner of College Backbone Road and John Wilson Lane.

Dr. Arbab selected to Natl. Climate Change Roadmap Work Group Dr Nazia Arbab, an agribusiness and natural resource economics specialist with UMES Extension, was selected as a member of the National Climate Change Roadmap Work Group to determine key climate change challenges in agriculture and natural resources over the next decade. Funded by USDANIFA and led by Colorado State University and Meridian Institute, the roadmap is an effort to identify 20 of the most important scientific questions to guide national climate change research, extension and education.


UMES hosts Farm Bill listening session House Ag Committee Chairman Thompson and Congressman Harris tour campus

A listening session was at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to provide feedback directly from agricultural stakeholders in Maryland to key members of the House Committee on Agriculture as it drafts the 2023 Farm Bill. Congressman Andy Harris M.D., who serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, visited and toured UMES agricultural facilities, part of District 1 that he represents. Lower Eastern Shore farmers, watermen, representatives of the poultry industry, and local and state officials provided feedback Aug. 11 on the legislation to Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture Glenn “GT” Thompson.

Rachel Jones, director of government relations for Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, speaks at a listening session on the Farm Bill held at UMES.

“Listening to the concerns of America’s producers and consumers is essential as we draft a highly effective Farm Bill. Thank you to Dr. Harris for bringing together this group of agricultural stakeholders to discuss what’s working and what needs to be tweaked in this year’s Farm Bill,” Thompson said. U.S. agricultural and food policy is set through the legislative process that occurs approximately every five years, known as the Farm Bill. The current farm law, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act), was signed Dec. 20, 2018, and expired at the end of September 2023, with some provisions beyond. “The federal Farm Bill is a vital piece of legislation for America’s farmers and it’s a milestone for land-grant colleges, especially 1890 land grants like UMES. We conduct research vital to crop management. We help local farmers address global challenges like climate change. And we help communities understand the 6 | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn Thompson, left, and Congressman Andy Harris, second from left, Dr. Papaiah Sardaru, a postdoctoral research associate of plant breeding; UMES Director of Government Relations Jim Mathias; Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of the UMES School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences; and Dr. Janak Dhakal listens to Dr. Sadanand Dhekney about plant breeding disease resistant in grapevine at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne.

importance of agriculture to our nation’s food supply and local economic development,” said UMES President, Dr. Heidi M. Anderson. “But this year’s legislation is also crucial because it provides an opportunity to address a funding inequity that has plagued HBCUs for decades.” Prior to the listening session, dignitaries toured agricultural areas on the UMES campus, including research laboratories and field experiments, where they heard about plant breeding for disease resistance in grapevines; food safety and microbiology; integrated pest management; and hemp cultivation. “It is always a privilege to showcase the important research and extension activities undertaken by our faculty and students. This work addresses critical issues that impinge on our communities such as securing our food supply, and safeguarding our natural resources,” said Moses T. Kairo, professor and dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at UMES. “Without the resources provided through the Farm Bill, UMES

would not be able to carry out this important work for the betterment of the state and beyond.” “Agriculture is both the economic and cultural backbone of the First District, and it is vital we hear firsthand from our local farmers and agricultural stakeholders who will be most affected by the Farm Bill,” Harris said. Parts of this report were contributed by the offices of Congressmen Thompson and Harris.

At Top: Dr. Moses T. Kairo, left, dean of the UMES School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, hosts Congressman Andy Harris, center, and House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn Thompson, right, on a tour of research fields on campus.


Ribbon-cutting held for USDA-funded research farm The University of Maryland Eastern Shore hosted U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives at its annual Ag Showcase to celebrate the university’s USDA-funded Research, Extension and Teaching Farm south of campus. USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Dr. Sanah Baig and USDA Senior Advisor for Racial Equity Dr. Dewayne Goldmon joined UMES President Dr. Heidi Anderson for an August 2023 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the free event for agricultural stakeholders. “I know that the impacts of this new USDA-funded research, teaching and extension farm at UMES will stretch far beyond the field. Having this dedicated site will enhance agricultural knowledge and unlock opportunities for long-term research while driving more young people into food and agriculture through handson learning,” Baig said. “It will also allow the university to increase research and extension collaboration across our entire 1890 land-grant system.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Aug. 16 for the university’s USDA-funded Research, Extension and Teaching Farm. Pictured from left, are: Owen Johnson, UMES Board of Visitors; Rachel Jones, director of government relations for Maryland Secretary of Agriculture; Almazi Matthews, USDA/1890 National Scholar, junior agriculture major at UMES; Dr. Moses T. Kairo, professor and dean, UMES School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences; Sanah Baig, deputy under secretary for research, education and economics, USDA; UMES President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson; Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, senior advisor for racial equity, USDA; Lisa Purnell, USDA liaison; and Paulerie Knox, REE Senior Advisor.

UMES, an 1890 land-grant historically Black college or university, received approximately $2 million to purchase over 380 acres of land for the facility. Additional 1890 Facilities Grant funds were used to renovate and upgrade existing farm buildings and purchase equipment to enable the university to fulfill its land-grant mission, bringing the total to $4.2 million. “I am excited for this collaboration between UMES and USDA. The work being done on the UMES Research, Extension and Teaching Farm covers such important topics as: crop development, poultry and small ruminants, food safety, pest management, nutrient management, and many others,” Anderson said. “I am also delighted in that the partnership grows students who will take up the agricultural banner in the not-so-distant future.” The farm facility is used for research and teaching activities through the university’s School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences and outreach and extension programs under UMES Extension and its Small Farm Program. 8 | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

UMES associate professor of horticulture Naveen Kumar Dixit (left) discusses his research on salt tolerant crops (hemp) with (from left) USDA-NIFA Deputy Director for Institute of Youth, Family and Communities Dr. Venu Kalavacharia, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Sanah Baig, Senior Advisor for Racial Equity to the Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Dewayne Goldmon, USDA Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist for REE Dr. Deidra Chester, and UMES School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences Dean Moses T. Kairo.

UMES student on path to veterinary medicine career with scholarship Hard work and accountability have paid off for rising junior Donovan Grady of Mardela Springs. The general agriculture major with a pre-vet concentration is UMES’ first recipient of the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition Scholarship. The aspiring veterinarian will receive $5,000 per semester over the next two years ($20,000) toward his education at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. “Donovan is like my third arm. I can always count on him to have the animal knowledge needed to help treat anything on the UMES Farm,” said Kimberly Braxton, UMES’ veterinarian and an assistant professor and prevet faculty advisor. “He excels at everything he does and he’s only halfway through his undergraduate studies!” The scholarship is awarded through the 1890 Universities Foundation to provide financial assistance to “highly qualified, deserving and diverse” students attending the 19 land-grant universities who are committed to pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

Grady, has been a student worker on the UMES farm for the past two years, caring for the sheep and goats in UMES Extension’s Small Ruminant Program. He one day hopes to focus on large animal veterinary medicine. “The unique experiences at the UMES farm have helped cultivate this passion I have for veterinary sciences,” Grady said.

“There is a tremendous need for veterinarians and it is encouraging to see an ambitious young man such as Donovan going down this pathway,” said Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of UMES’ School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences.

Top Photo: Kimberly Braxton, left, UMES’ veterinarian and an assistant professor and pre-vet faculty advisor, wraps a sheep's foot with assistance from student Donovan Grady. Bottom Photo: Kimberly Braxton (left), assistant professor and UMES veterinarian, and UMES President Heidi M. Anderson (right), congratulate UMES pre-vet student Donovan Grady (center) on receiving a Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition Scholarship; the first for the university.


Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay UMES researches saltwater intrusion in forests, plants

A team of researchers at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are involved in a two-year project aimed at managing and protecting coastal areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for resilience to climate change. Lowlying and shallow areas in coastal forests are vulnerable to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion, resulting in soil salinization. “This change in environmental conditions affects the soil microbial population that performs fundamental functions, such as nutrient cycling, breaking down residues and stimulating plant growth,” said project lead Behnam Khatabi, an associate professor and plant molecular pathologist at UMES. Forests are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, Khatabi said, but sea level rise is altering the region’s forests, killing trees and damaging the crucial ecosystem processes forests perform. This leaves behind ghost forests leading to coastal erosion and further saltwater intrusion. “Soil microbial communities and their biological processes play a critical role in maintaining soil health and productivity, which in turn, influence sustainability of ecosystems and mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said. The multidisciplinary group is collecting and studying soil in the Monie Bay in western Somerset County (between Deal Island and Mount Vernon) to add to the knowledge of the role of microbial communities in maintaining and improving soil health, and their response to salinizing conditions in coastal forests. The site is a component of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve


managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Funding for the project is through the National Science Foundation’s Critical Zone program. The UMES project is complementary to the NSF Coastal Critical Zone study at the University of Delaware with Stephanie Stotts, an associate professor in UMES’ departments of Natural Sciences and Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences, serving as a co-project director and liaison between the two studies. UMES students working with her can be found in the ghost forest’s marshy low lands and in higher forested areas nearby taking tree measurements and core samples to compare. “Dr. Khatabi’s project fills gaps in our understanding of system function,” Stotts said. “The critical zone research group, studying the processes and feedback associated with inland marsh migration driven by sea level rise and the creation of ghost forests, found itself asking questions about the microbial system, but lacked the expertise to answer these questions.”

UMES biology seniors, from left, Shivani Patel and Rhune Liverpool study the bacterial community in the Chesapeake Bay as part of a NSF-funded research project in the molecular plant pathology lab with Drs. Behnam Khatabi and Mozhgan Sepehri (far right). Undergraduates learn standard lab procedures related to isolation and culturing bacteria and fungi, genomic DNA isolation, sequencing library construction and DNA sequencing.

Khatabi with the involvement of undergraduate students and research scientist and soil molecular biologist, Dr. Mozhgan Sepehri, are taking soil samples at the research site and analyzing them in the lab for an in-depth look at how host plants adapt to environmental stresses. Sepehri, he said, is generating extensive microbial genomic data that will serve as key resources to “identify habitatspecific microbial interaction strategies that impact plant fitness.” “Our ultimate goal is to apply beneficial microorganisms as a natural way to help plants defend themselves and cope with hostile environmental stresses like saltwater intrusion,” Sepehri said. “Findings from both projects can be used to better predict and subsequently plan for the future in order to better manage our forest and coastal ecosystems,” Stotts said. Left unchecked, the implications of saltwater intrusion are far-reaching, she said, impacting loss of fields for farming, reduction in commercially important loblolly pine, and helping to mitigate climate change as forests play a central role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide — a main driver of climate change. “One of the keys to restoring the Chesapeake Bay is building coastal forest resiliency in a salinizing environment through cooperative grant-funded research,” said Jonathan Cumming, professor and chair of

Daylah McCullough, left, and Nina Clovis collect soil samples to analyze for salinity and microbial properties.

UMES’ Department of Natural Sciences and a co-director on Khatabi’s research project. “No program is completely successful without the active participation of students. The NSF grant provides assistantships for undergraduates along with the research scientist. Engaging minority students in intensive experiential learning with interdisciplinary research is life-changing and creates pathways to science professions.” This project is supported by the Critical Zone program in the Division of Earth Sciences and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program in the Human Resources Division. NSF ORE-CZ grant #2229056.


Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center strengthens marine science research The UMES Paul S. Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center sits quietly on 8 acres, neighboring the Assateague Island National Seashore. The teaching, research and extension facility was established in 2005 to allow further study of its surrounding ecosystem and preservation of Maryland’s Atlantic Coast. The center accommodates students from area schools and summer camps who pour into the facility to explore marine life with microscopes and other equipment, or collect silvery minnow samples from the shores of the Sinepuxent Bay. The center hosts UMES field researchers including faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. The facility is open to stakeholder sponsored activities and events including Maryland Department of Natural 12 | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

Resources, Maryland Coastal Bays and others. A new professor at UMES aims to make a distinguishing mark on the center, strengthening it as an area hub for marine science research. Stephen Tomasetti joins the UMES NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center as an assistant professor of Coastal Environmental Science. His research centers on the resilience and recovery of coastal shellfish to the benefit of the ecosystems they support. He also examines the effects of climate change, eutrophication and overfishing to coastal ocean health. For five years, Tomasetti was a high school biology teacher in Brooklyn, New York. He was recruited to NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program, which allows educators to join NOAA scientists aboard ocean research vessels

and return to their classrooms with firsthand accounts of what it’s like to work at sea as a marine scientist. For Tomasetti, the experience was life-changing. He described sailing through miles of floating fish in the Gulf of Mexico, killed by a massive algal bloom. He became particularly interested in the role of shellfish.

UMES professor named to Maryland cannabis advisory council

“They often play important functional roles; they filter the water, provide habitat and benefit humans,” he said. After earning his doctoral degree in marine and atmospheric sciences from Stony Brook University, Tomasetti started a lab at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Longing for the coast, he was excited to discover UMES’ Sarbanes Coastal Ecology lab — a perfect fit for his research. Assateague Island’s undeveloped nature and its proximity to the resort character of Ocean City lends the center a unique opportunity to examine the ecological effects of human activities on barrier island systems. With water quality monitoring stations in place for decades, Tomasetti said the data and resources available at the lab could make it a premier field research station. Tomasetti plans to ramp up his activity at Sarbanes in the spring after completing grant proposals and evaluating lab equipment for his research needs.

A University of Maryland Eastern Shore professor is among Gov. Wes Moore’s appointments to the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council. The appointment of Madhumi Mitra, Ph.D., a tenured professor of biology and environmental sciences, to the Advisory Council was announced in July 2023 by the governor’s office. The council is under the Maryland Department of Health. “The use of adult-use cannabis is largely uncharted territory,” Mitra said. “I feel that responsible cannabis use and safeguarding youth must remain at the forefront of any cannabis legalization effort. By addressing the potential risks of cannabis use and implementing evidence-based prevention, education and support measures, I hope to work with the council members to foster a safe and responsible cannabis landscape that benefits Maryland's communities and protects its youth from potential harm.” Established by the General Assembly in 2022, the Advisory Council will study and identify recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly on the public health impacts of cannabis legalization and strategies to mitigate youth access, misuse and addiction to cannabis. “I am grateful to these leaders, experts and public servants for agreeing to serve on this critically important council,” Moore said of the nine appointees in a news release. “As Maryland joins a growing number of states in establishing an adult-use cannabis market, we must ensure we have the right laws, policies and strategies in place to safeguard public health, promote safe and responsible use, and prevent underage consumption, drugged driving and misuse of cannabis products.” Advisory Council members are not subject to Senate confirmation and serve four-year terms.


Dr. Simon Zebelo, left, professor of plant biology and entomology, and Dr. Stephan Tubene, professor and acting chair of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences, work with UMES agricultural students as part of a five-year project to train the next generation of diverse food and agriculture professionals for the industry and the future USDA workforce.

Future hunger fighters, ag problem solvers

UMES increases diversity in agricultural professionals The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is the lead institution on a $10 million collaborative NextGen grant project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced. Its goal is to build a diverse future federal workforce in Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences. Dr. Stephan Tubene, associate director of the 1890 Universities Center for Global Food Security

and Defense housed at UMES, is director for the five-year project in partnership with Florida A&M University, Kentucky State University and Southern University and A&M College. Activities will center around “generating and sustaining the next generation of FANH professionals through international experiential learning, outreach and engagement.” “Partnerships will be fostered for paid impactful domestic and


international internships, outreach project and career development for students to better understand how their academic plans can lead to a career, particularly with the federal government,” said Tubene, who also serves as professor and acting chair of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences at UMES. The “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” is supported by funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (as amended by Section. 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act) to enable eligible institutions to “engage, recruit and train” students from underserved communities with

the goal of increasing graduation rates to add to the diversity of FANH fields and USDA employees. The $262.5 million investment announced in June 2023 will “provide training and support to more than 20,000 future food and agricultural leaders through 33 project partners,” of which UMES is among.

UMES 4-H festival introduces youth to STEM

Dr. Deborah Sauder, right, explains different chemical reactions to Sabine, Finn and Monty Sayler at the 4-H STEM Festival in October.

NextGen students will participate in lab research and other experiential learning opportunities both domestically and abroad.

“One goal of the NextGen program is to identify, inspire and prepare our youth, particularly in underrepresented communities, to be the next generation of hunger fighters and agricultural problem solvers. This is the right thing to do and the right time,” said Dr. Manjit Misra, director of NIFA. “We are thankful for the USDA-NIFA’s confidence in UMES spearheading this relevant and monumental task of helping it achieve equitable participation and representation not only in its programs and services, but in the broad range of agriculture-related career opportunities that exist today and in the years to come,” said Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, UMES’ 16th president.

Hannah Van Auken, Maryland Park Service Maryland Conservation Corps employee, talks about horseshoe crabs with, from left, Caleb Guerrero-DeLaCruz, Carmel Guerrero-DeLaCruz and dad Carmel Guerrero at the 4-H STEM Festival.

Portions of this report can be attributed to USDA press release No. 0133.23.

Clinton Wiggins, left, and Ralphael Agodo, both Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program research students at UMES, show off properties of liquid nitrogen.


A UMES project uses the abundance of chicken litter to boost sustainable biogas production. Seen here, the Planet Found Energy Development LLC in Pocomoke City facility uses a series of anaerobic digestion, solids separation and filtration technologies.

What to do with chicken litter

Litter could boost biogas, mitigate climate change The chicken industry on the Delmarva Peninsula generates about 850,000 tons of poultry litter each year, frequently applied as fertilizer to area fields. The environmental concern is potentially high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the litter can leach into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, leading to a nutrientinduced increase in phytoplankton (eutrophication) that can damage the bay’s fisheries. A five-year, $5 million grant-funded project being undertaken by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore looks to utilize the abundance of litter to boost sustainable biogas production at local facilities, mitigate climate change factors and create new streams of revenue for farmers. Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the project centers around the anaerobic digestion of chicken litter, where organic matter is broken down by bacteria. The byproducts are then used as biofuel and fertilizer on cover cropped fields, particularly switchgrass, as a source of sustainable biomass feedstock. “The digestion process utilizes much of the chicken litter to produce methane (a biogas) that can be used (as 16 | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

biofuel) to power local farm operations. It also captures nutrients and creates digestate, the leftovers from the digestion process that contains carbon and stable forms of nitrogen and phosphorus (key components of fertilizer) that are not easily leached,” said Jonathan Cumming, professor and chair of UMES’ Department of Natural Sciences, and principal investigator for the project. The process, he said, helps improve carbon pools and prevents nutrient leaching to the bay. “We get great soil at the end of the day,” Cumming said.

COVER CROP A NEW REVENUE STREAM FOR FARMERS “One challenge to the anaerobic digestion process when it comes to chicken litter is the high nutrient levels,” Cumming said. To optimize digestion, more carbon needs to be added. “That’s where the cover crops and switchgrass come in.” Plant residues are high in carbon and represent a natural option to boost digestion efficiency, Cumming explained. Harvesting winter cover crops instead of them being “burned down” as is the current practice, not only provides a source of carbon for the AD process, it also adds a new revenue stream for farmers. “Farmers also gain advantages with switchgrass because it is a perennial and can be harvested multiple times,” Cumming said. Switchgrass also plays a critical role in mitigating climate change.

Jonathan Cumming, professor and chair of UMES’ Department of Natural Sciences, measures switchgrass, which plays a critical role in mitigating climate change.

“We can identify cultivars that can be grown on marginal soils, including those affected by saltwater intrusion, bringing more land into production for farmers,” Cumming said. As a perennial, it also captures atmospheric carbon dioxide and transfers this carbon to the soil due to its extensive root systems, unlike regular cover crops. “This carbon enters the soil ecosystem where it is stabilized and stored for the long term,” Cumming added, “which gets it out of the atmosphere where it contributes to the greenhouse effect.” Ultimately, this and other climate-smart practices will help mitigate climate change and reduce the associated impacts on temperatures and extreme weather events.

digestion and carbon markets, small farmers and the world have a lot to gain.” The project is in partnership with researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park and Planet Found Energy Development LLC in Pocomoke City, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corp. The associated grant is part of USDA-NRCS’ Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities program, aimed at building markets and investing in America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers and forest owners. Its task is strengthening the country’s rural and agricultural communities while substantially reducing environmental externalities of production and mitigating climate change.

“The study will evaluate whether switchgrass can become as valuable as corn as a commodity, by weighing a farmer’s time commitment, fertilizer and seed costs, and market demand with the environmental benefits of committing to cover crop or switchgrass production,” Cumming said. “The ecological benefits are monumental and, if these can be validated through the anaerobic INGENUITY WINTER 2024 | 17

The Small Farm Conference featured tours of agribusinesses. Attendees visited Tallawah Farm in Somerset County, pictured here. While there, they learned about callaloo. Tallawah was started by Nadine Burton, who is also alternative crop specialist with UMES Extension.

Small Farm Conference celebrates 20 years of helping farmers Nearly 200 agricultural producers and stakeholders across the Mid-Atlantic descended on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore from Nov. 2-4 for the 20th anniversary of its Small Farm Conference. “Positioning Farmers for Success,” this year’s theme, has been at the forefront of the annual event for two decades.

for controlled environmental agriculture such as aquaponics, aeroponics and raised beds.

“Agriculture and aquaculture are our (Delmarva’s) largest economic drivers,” said Roxanne Wolf of the Shore Gourmet Market, which focuses on farm-to-table and resources as a business incubator on the Upper Shore. “Everything is about the environment, sustainability and economics — keeping everything local and diversifying in a changing world. That’s what this conference allows farmers to see.”

The 2023 edition featured a pre-conference with half-day workshops on raising sheep and goats and preventive health care, propagating fruit trees and a session aimed at helping Maryland’s farmers apply to be able to accept payment from federal nutrition assistance programs for their farm products. Some of the hot topics addressed during the following days included the high-value niche crop baby ginger, agritourism for small farms, quinoa cultivation for the U.S., tax considerations for small farms, growing grapes, marketing for farms and new initiatives by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to support agricultural producers.

Wolf led a popular session on repurposing poultry houses

Hanna Collins of Laurel, Delaware, and her son, Liam, returned to


Speaker Tope Balogun of Dodo Farms

the conference for the second year to network with other farmers to see what they are doing toward “diversifying their farming practices.” The pair also learned about research studies from professors and extension professionals and “how to incorporate it on your farm.” Victoria Cooper of Prince George’s County made the trek to the

conference, having enjoyed her experience this past summer on UMES’ Small Farm Bus Tour. “I own some property and am looking for ideas, guidance and the next steps for developing it,” she said. Likewise, Shayne Meyer, who lives near the Maryland-Delaware line between Federalsburg and Bridgeville, found interest in the summer bus tour stops imparting information on growing mushrooms and garlic. She looked to the Small Farm Conference as a follow-up. “I’m a beginning farmer with wildflowers, expanding to Christmas trees. I’m here to obtain all the information UMES Extension provides—it’s inspirational,” Meyer said. Worcester County resident John Skawski took advantage of the close proximity of the university and its agricultural research and extension offerings.

This is the perfect resource for us. Where better to start (getting farming resources) than an agricultural school? - JOHN SKAWSKI

In August, Skawski and his wife attended UMES’ Ag Showcase in August, where they connected with a specialist with the Small Farm Program about soil amendment. The couple purchased 4 open acres, 8

Naveen Kumar Dixit, a UMES Extension specialist and associate professor of horticulture, led a session on fruit tree propagation techniques at the UMES Small Farm Conference.

wooded acres and have 14 acres in conservation. They are interested in building sustainable pasture, small farming and gardening for local consumption. Notable speakers (Tope Balogun of Dodo Farms and Michelle Hughes of the National Young Farmers Coalition), bus tours (BayBees Honey LLC, Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery and two Somerset County small farms) and agricultural vendor exhibits rounded out the event. “Our goal with the conference is developing program content to meet the interest and needs of our farmers,” said Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of UMES’ School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences and director of UMES Extension. “We ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing our job?’ This year’s 20th installment of the conference says something. It would not have lasted this long if we were not bringing topics that are of interest to you, the audience.”

Prize meeting in Iowa, Kairo was keen to the “challenges of producing the right kind of food for the people” of the nation and world. “What we eat is valuable to our health and issues affecting a declining life expectancy in the U.S. We want to support you (agricultural producers) by providing solutions for you to be able to do what you do—provide safe, nutritious food.” The Small Farm Conference is hosted by UMES Extension's Small Farm Outreach Program along with funding support from USDA's Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement and sponsorships from agricultural businesses, state agencies, non-profit organizations and partners.

Having come from the World Food INGENUITY WINTER 2024 | 19

Opportunity & affordability

UMES Land-Grant Scholarship Program helps attract, keep students The School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences welcomed 32 freshmen into the UMES Land-Grant Scholarship program for the 2023-24 academic year. It was the largest influx to date, bringing the total number to 85 of UMES students currently in the program. Since the program’s inception in fall 2020, roughly $2 million has been disbursed to cover the academic expenses of 110 UMES students. The need-based scholarships are open to undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. “With the land-grant scholarship, I’ve been able to continue my agricultural studies in plant and soil science without stressing about affordability,” said Fatimah Belgrave, a first-year transfer student (Class of ’26) from Philadelphia. “I chose UMES because they believe in my potential and are providing me the resources I need to succeed.” Without the financial assistance provided by the scholarship, many would not have been able to enroll at the university or have continued their studies, said Sharon Mills, liaison for the UMES Land-Grant 20 | UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

Scholarship and assistant to the SANS dean for recruitment, retention and experiential training. “(Being a land-grant scholar) has helped me receive internship opportunities and scholarships to help pay for my education,” said Jordan Frazier, an agribusiness management major from Springdale, Maryland. “Now, when I graduate from UMES I’ll have a full-time job working with the USDA.”

I chose UMES because they believe in my potential and are providing me the resources I need to succeed. - FATIMAH BELGRAVE

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture

to support educational opportunities for students interested in these targeted career fields. May 2023 graduate Juliaana Fitts landed a job as a soil conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Binghamton, New York. Her bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a concentration in plant and soil science, along with an internship with the agency, made her an ideal candidate for the position.

UMES Extension's mini-orchards address food insecurity

“I was blessed to be in the land-grant scholarship program, affording me innumerable opportunities,” Fitts said. “The scholarship allowed me to complete my studies at UMES, where I was able to learn from and work with amazing faculty who sparked my love for agriculture. Not only was the agricultural community on campus supportive, it also allowed me to network with likeminded students in its Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences chapter” Her advice to fellow undergraduates: “Agriculture is the way to go!” Awards are renewable for up to four years for incoming freshmen, and transfer or current undergraduate students given the recipient maintains a 2.8 GPA and fulfills the program requirements. Scholarships provide up to $15,000 per year in-state or $25,000 for out-ofstate, based on the student’s financial need.

The scholarship allowed me to complete my studies at UMES, where I was able to learn from and work with amazing faculty who sparked my love for agriculture. - JULIAANA FITTS


UMES Extension’s Nutrition and Health Program has been recognized for its impact in the high food insecurity community that it serves. The program’s leader Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, and her team of extension specialists, along with university and community partners, established mini-orchards on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. The program was honored with the Nutrition Education Program Impact Award from the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior and the Excellence in Creative Solutions for Food and Nutrition Security Award for the United States regional network by the NEEdPro Global Institute, both awarded in July 2023. The award-winning work is based on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Well Connected Communities-Healthy Street Healthy Me initiative, a 10-year community engagement project launched in 2017. “The idea is to provide outreach activities and support for community members to learn about backyard fruit cultivation and sustainability while addressing food insecurity,” Zoumenou said. “The project has proven that in a small area, a substantial amount of fresh, local fruit can be produced.”


UMES Ingenuity Magazine University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences Richard F. Hazel Hall, Room 3055 Princess Anne, Maryland 21853

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