OSU Extension educates CCAs, maximizing the university’s impact on millions of acres of farmland statewide. (pictured: Tina Lust and Harold Watters)
As part of her job to advise producers statewide on farming issues, Tina Lust regularly reads the Crop Observation and Recommendation Network (CORN) newsletter, written weekly by Ohio State University Extension specialists.
The publication offers information on Ohio agronomic crops, and it is just one of the ways OSU Extension works year-round to continually educate Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) through agronomic workshops, presentations, schools and conferences — providing them the most up-to-date information needed to help producers increase yields, increase financial bottom lines, reduce environmental impact and boost the state’s overall economy.
CORN newsletter is part of Extension’s efforts to reach Ohio farmers one crop adviser at a time. Working to educate CCAs helps to extend and maximize The Ohio State University’s impact on Ohio crops to millions of acres of farmland statewide, said Harold Watters, an OSU Extension agronomy field specialist and coordinator of the university’s Agronomic Crops Team.
- OSU Extension provides training year-round, offering the continuing education credits needed by Ohio’s 540 Certified Crop Advisers to retain their certification.
- CCAs each consult on an average of 40,000 to 50,000 acres of Ohio farmland.
- The economic impact that CCAs have on farmers can be easily $100 per acre, according to industry efforts.
- CCAs need to earn 40 hours biannually in the following training categories, all of which OSU Extension offers either for free or at a nominal charge: nutrient management, pest management, soil and water management, and crop management.
- CCA training is offered by 40 members of OSU Extension’s Agronomic Crops Team, Extension’s county educators and, specifically, 65 agriculture educators throughout Ohio’s 88 counties.
- CORN newsletter has some 3,800 subscribers, including farmers, producers, CCAs and agriculture professionals in Ohio and surrounding states.
“Extension professionals offer unbiased, research-based information that CCAs can provide to farmers,” said Tina Lust, past chair, Ohio CCA Board, which works closely with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association. “Agriculture is our No. 1 industry, and farmers need that information to keep on top of new research, technology and innovations in order to farm economically and efficiently, and to stay in business.”
For more information: corn.osu.edu.
Reed Johnson studies bee colonies at OARDC to learn more about factors affecting bee health. Healthy bees are crucial
for both agricultural production and the environment.
Bees are crucial to agriculture and food security. They pollinate about one-third of the crops we eat, valued at more than $14 billion annually in the U.S.
However, this valuable resource is at risk. During the 2013–2014 winter alone, Ohio beekeepers lost 50–80 percent of their honeybees. Bees are dying in large numbers due to many reasons, including diseases, insect pests, loss of habitat and agricultural chemicals.
“Most corn seeds planted today are coated with insecticides, and when they are chipped off in the planter, the dust lands on nearby flowers,” said entomologist Reed Johnson. “Bees then carry the tainted pollen back to their hives, where young members of the colony become exposed to it.”
Johnson is studying the unintended consequences of these insecticides as well as strategies to protect bees. For example, he has tested a lubricant that is applied to the seed to reduce dust, which shows promise in field trials.
- The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Ohio State University Extension work together with the beekeeping industry and others to deliver the following programs, which promote healthy bees and environments that boost bee numbers.
- A monthly webinar series is attended by some 120 beekeepers from Ohio, other states and several countries. It focuses on ways to monitor for health issues and combat pests that attack bees. The sessions are archived online and reach many more beekeepers.
- Monthly face-to-face educational programs with beekeeper associations throughout Ohio deal with topics such as integrated pest management and creating forage habitats for bees.
- A statewide network of 28 research and demonstration gardens were planted in 2014 at schools, parks, arboreta and OSU Extension offices. The gardens evaluate which combinations of plants attract bees most, so that recommendations can be made to help enhance their habitats.
“Ohio State University research is required to provide information to the Ohio agriculture community, which will allow collaboration between beekeepers and farmers to help each other keep honeybees healthy and safe, and provide the pollination needed to keep crop production sustainable and profitable,” said Dwight Wells, regional director of the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.
Urban agriculture offers city-dwellers the ability to grow their own produce and increase the community’s
access to safe, local foods. (pictured: Carol Contrada, Lucas County commissioner)
More Ohio urban neighborhoods are seeing an increase in season-extending gardens. The gardens offer city-dwellers the ability to grow their own foods and to become food entrepreneurs right where they live.
Seasonal high tunnels are similar to but less expensive than greenhouses, require no artificial energy and help keep local produce reaching consumers even when weather turns nasty. These domed structures are now in inner-city neighborhoods in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, where they help urban farmers and gardeners grow food almost year-round. Ohio State University Extension provides technical support and marketing education to help the residents utilize the tunnels to increase profits.
Such programming occurs in all Ohio counties, with efforts to increase access to local foods by helping to create community gardens to promote urban agriculture and opportunities for vocational agricultural training. Efforts also strive to increase students’ access to healthy foods in schools, and to create local food councils similar to the Northwest Ohio Food Council.
- According to Ken Meter’s “Finding Food in Northwest Ohio,” if each resident of Northwest Ohio bought $5 worth of food weekly from a local farm, $345 million of new farm income would be generated.
- OSU Extension supports 239 community gardens in Cuyahoga County that yield nearly $3.1 million in fruits and vegetables each growing season. Annually, Extension donates more than 10,000 pounds of produce to nonprofit agencies and shelters.
- Market gardens are for-profit agricultural enterprises — including urban farms — that provide jobs and fresh, local food. Through the Market Gardener Training Program in Cuyahoga County, OSU Extension has trained 215 residents, 51 of whom have created microbusinesses such as farm stands and restaurants.
- Kinsman Farms is OSU Extension’s 6-acre incubator farm in Cleveland. It supports 13 beginning urban farmers and saw aggregated sales of $98,870 in 2013.
“Eliminating food deserts and including fresh fruits and vegetables at convenience stores are some strategies being developed by the Northwest Ohio Food Council in partnership with Ohio State University Extension and other organizations designed to increase access to local, healthier foods in urban areas,” said Carol Contrada, Lucas County commissioner.
For more information: localfoods.osu.edu.
Graduate students in Mary Gardiner’s lab survey vacant lots in Cleveland to determine the environmental
benefits of different landscape treatments being studied.
Decades of population losses have left the city of Cleveland with 3,600 acres of vacant land, while some 1,000 homes are demolished every year.
Currently, Cleveland plants turfgrass on empty lots, but it’s expensive to maintain and offers few benefits. “Alternative plant communities could offer greater environmental benefits such as support of biodiversity and improved storm-water infiltration to reduce flooding,” said Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center entomologist Mary Gardiner.
Last year, Gardiner started a large-scale, never-before-attempted project that examines the impact of eight different landscape treatments on the biodiversity and ecosystem function of 64 empty lots in eight Cleveland neighborhoods. The five-year project’s main goal is to gather data that will inform future green space design in Cleveland and other cities engaged or interested in vacant-land management.
“With the right combination of plants and increased ecosystem services, urban vacant land can be seen as an asset for community development rather than as an eyesore,” Gardiner said.
- This project is funded by a highly competitive $909,200 Faculty Early Career Development Program grant from the National Science Foundation, which promotes the integration of research and education.
- Part of the project includes the development of a high school science curriculum for use by teachers in Cleveland and throughout the state. The lessons focus on insect-predator-prey relationships and teaching students how to collect data and communicate their findings using scientific arguments.
- A related program involves the training of Master Gardener volunteers on issues related to urban farming. These volunteers will then teach Cleveland residents best practices for growing fruits and vegetables on converted vacant land, fostering new economic opportunities and healthier eating.
- Students in Gardiner’s lab are also studying the benefits of rain gardens in the city of Cleveland, including their contributions to pollinators, soil health and storm-water cleanup.
“Working on ecological research in city neighborhoods requires advanced scientific knowledge and excellent people skills,” said Terry Schwarz, director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. “Mary embodies both of these things. Her work has the potential to impact people’s lives in tangible and lasting ways, and to contribute to new ways of thinking about Cleveland.”
Adam Sharp’s boots are firmly on the ground when it comes to farming and protecting water: He is also a farmer in Fairfield County.
In summer 2014, Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys, among others, again suffered harmful algal blooms. An ongoing problem in recent years, the blooms are mainly caused by excess phosphorus runoff, including fertilizer and manure from farms. And Ohio State University Extension — teaming with state agencies and Ohio farmers — is delivering crucial science-based educational programs to put new solutions to work.
As a latest example, OSU Extension specialists, tapping into ongoing research by their college, are developing and will provide the fertilizer certification training required by Ohio’s new nutrient management law, Senate Bill 150. Other efforts include teaching nutrient management sessions at Ohio’s yearly Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, and updating nutrient recommendations — also based on college research — for growers of the state’s major crops.
In these and other programs, “Extension takes the scientific view,” said Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension agronomy field specialist. “We take the emotion out and develop solutions that meet both environmental and economic needs.”
- Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that can sicken people and animals. Beach closings, expensive-to-treat or unsafe drinking water (as happened in summer 2014 in Toledo) and lost tour-ism revenue all can result.
- The drinking water for more than half the people in Ohio comes from lakes and other surface water at risk from harmful algal blooms.
- OSU Extension teams up on its water quality efforts with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
- OSU Extension specialists, for example, taught water-protecting practices to 900 participants — including 400 Certified Crop Advisers responsible for more than 3 million acres — at last year’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference. That acreage is equal to nearly a quarter of all the cropland in Ohio.
“Farmers are committed to protecting and improving our waters,” said Adam Sharp, vice president of public policy, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “But they need help through information-sharing, learning opportunities and education on the latest research and best nutrient management practices.
“OSU Extension is a key partner in providing these valuable services.”