OSU Fulbright scholar will study climate change, forests in Canada

CFAES agricultural economist Brent Sohngen has been chosen as a Fulbright scholar. He’ll travel next year to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he’ll study how climate change affects forests and what it may mean to the U.S. He’ll be affiliated with the University of Alberta.

A professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, Sohngen has studied climate change impacts in forested ecosystems for 15-plus years.

“Climate change may alter the distribution and productivity of the world’s forests and have enormous impacts on human welfare,” he said. “It is important to consider these potential impacts in order to begin developing strategies to adapt.”

Read more here.

‘My tree haz rain drop leevs’

Harold Schnell Elementary School’s Denise Moore called it a “tree-mendous success.”

Ohio State University Extension’s Jim Chatfield described it both as a great partnership and permanent connection.

A young student named Aurora simply drew a picture of a tree, the sun, and flowers in crayon and captioned it, “My tree haz rain drop leevs.”

All three were among the 550 people, including 450 first- through fifth-graders, who came together this summer for Harold Schnell Elementary’s first-ever Tree-mendous Day in Dayton’s Cox Arboretum MetroPark. The program celebrated trees and the good they do. Art, math, science, language, and history were part of the curriculum.

Teachers and parents from the school in West Carrollton, educators from the arboretum next door, Master Gardeners, Certified Volunteer Naturalists, and OSU Extension specialists teamed up to present it. An OSU Extension Innovative Grant to Extension’s Sustainable Development Initiative was a catalyst. Aim: to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) science curriculum on trees.

“We wanted to show that while, yes, trees are pretty, they’re also an integral part of environmental health and more than pay for what they cost in terms of what they do environmentally,” said Chatfield, a horticulture specialist and member of Extension’s Why Trees Matter Signature Program.

Each of the school’s 40 “Bravo groups,” groups with students from all five grades, adopted an arboretum tree as their own. They identified, measured, photographed, and wrote about it. Then they calculated the value of its environmental services, such as cleaning the air and reducing home energy use, with a computer program called i-Tree. They’ll follow their tree through the year and beyond.

(To calculate the benefits of your own tree, go here.)

“The activities engaged our students’ minds, muscles, and imaginations,” said Moore, the school’s computer lab coordinator. “One teacher told me every student in her first-grade class remembered what type of tree their adopted tree is.”

“Seeing the students make that connection, seeing their excitement, seeing them involved in so many ways was very gratifying,” said Chatfield, who added that the plan is to develop the program as a model for other schools.

Garden Club of Ohio to Secrest: ‘We want to help’

Our thanks to the Garden Club of Ohio, which last week presented a $500 seed gift to tornado-damaged Secrest Arboretum. Club member Bonnie Popa (second from left) said it’s the first step in the club’s new, long-term project to generate donations for the facility. She’s serving as chairman of the effort.

“I was here from the beginning after the tornado,” Popa, of nearby Canton, said Nov. 16 during a short ceremony in the arboretum. “I couldn’t believe what I saw. I took the idea (for the project) to the club and said, ‘We need to help them.’ ”

“The goals of the Garden Club of Ohio are to support floriculture, horticulture and stewardship of our land,” said Club Treasurer Deanna Stearns (second from right), also of Canton. “So we want to help here. We’re excited about it.”

In the coming year, Stearns said, the state club will be asking its local member clubs to consider donating to the project. The money collected will go directly to the arboretum’s tornado renewal fund.

“Secrest Arboretum is a public-private partnership,” said Ken Cochran (left), the facility’s program director. “We rely on partnerships like the one we have with the Garden Club of Ohio. They have programs here, they bring expertise to the type of work we do, we lend advice in turn.

“It’s a good partnership, an important partnership, and we appreciate their generosity.”

“We’re just humbled by the support pouring in,” added Joe Cochran (no relation to Ken) (right), the arboretum’s operations manager. Yellow caution tape still fluttered behind him. A snapped-in-half magnolia tree stood to his left.

The twister caused extensive damage to the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), of which the arboretum is a part, and surrounding neighborhoods. But officials reported only one minor injury.

The National Weather Service rated the tornado as an EF-2 on a scale of 0-5 with winds of up to 130 mph. About 30 of the arboretum’s 120 acres were virtually clearcut.

At the time of this writing, the arboretum and main OARDC campus remain closed to the public for cleanup and repairs.

Making agriculture sustainable in West Africa

Ohio State has received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Higher Education for Development (HED) to help make agriculture in Senegal more sustainable.

The partnership between Ohio State and Senegal’s Université Gaston Berger calls for the creation of an agro-ecology program for sustainable food production, addressing the severe environmental degradation in the fragile African Sahel region and developing the emerging irrigated fruit and vegetable export industry in northern Senegal. This program will involve the development of comprehensive associate and bachelor degrees and use of e-education technologies.

“We expect to have all 17 UGB faculty come to OSU to work with our faculty, to receive training and develop curriculum,” Dick explained. “Also, OSU faculty will go to Senegal to offer short courses on the land-grant model and professional faculty development. Our goal is to assist them develop one of the premier agricultural programs for Africa, so that they will in turn improve Senegal’s ability to produce food, enhance people’s livelihoods, and protect the region’s ecosystems.”

The project will also enable participating Ohio State faculty to create new opportunities for research and Extension collaborations in West Africa.

Dick added that developing Africa’s food-production capabilities in an environmentally sustainable manner is crucial to ensuring the continent’s food security, economic development and political stability. “Sixty percent of people in Africa depend on agriculture,” he pointed out.

Read more here.

Richard Dick (center) with Université Gaston Berger professor Mateugue Diack (right) and a UGB technician.

Leaf litter healthy for lawns, gardens

Remember as a kid how fun it was to run and jump into a pile of leaves? Now as an adult, that fun has turned into a chore of raking and disposing of leaf litter.

But instead of wasting money on lawn bags, take a more sustainable approach and turn that litter to compost, mulch or organic matter for your home garden or lawn.

Image of leaves

Ohio State University Extension Licking County offers a number of tips for recycling leaves:

  • Dry leaves can be plowed or tilled under in the vegetable or annual flower garden to provide a source of organic matter. Shred the leaves to speed breakdown and mix the leaves intothe soil rather than leaving them on top of the ground during winter.
  • Leaves can be recycled on the lawn. Use your power mower or shredder to break the leaves into smaller pieces. A fall application of nitrogen fertilizer (about 1 pound of N per 1,000 square feet) will help speed decomposition and also benefit grass plants.
  • Leaves make great composting ingredients, especially when mixed with green trimmings and grass clippings. If you don’t have green trimmings or grass clippings, add a source ofnitrogen, such as commercial fertilizer or composted cow, horse, sheep, or poultry manure. Water just enough to moisten. The compost will heat up as it breaks down. Stir the contents occasionally to add air and allow for uniform heating. Compost is ready to be added to the garden when it looks uniformly dark and crumbly.
  • Shredded leaves can be used as a winter mulch to protect tender perennials through the coming harsh weather. To provide winter protection, apply a 3-6 inch layer of shredded leaves over the top of tender perennials after several hard freezes. The goal of winter mulch is to keep plants dormant through the winter, so it must be applied after the ground is cold and plants are fully dormant. The timing of application will vary from year to year with the weather, but generally will be appropriate sometime between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Spirit(s) of sustainability

Whoever heard of green vodka?

We have. Late last week, I learned how our college is helping a new local microdistillery become “green.”

Middle West Spirits, located just a mile from campus, produces an award-winning vodka, but its owners say their goal is to be a “smart, sustainable urban manufacturing model.” Students from two CFAES classes are on-site to help.

It’s great to be part of a college goes beyond the classroom to provide real-world sustainable solutions. Read more at http://go.osu.edu/mwspirits.

‘Weird’ algae green tech at OSU workshop next week

Is there greener green in green?

Representatives of three Ohio businesses that turn algae, a form of plant life, into clean, sellable fuels will speak at Ohio State University’s 2010 Renewable Energy Workshop next week.

Organizers of the Nov. 18 program say algae fuels could cut our reliance on overseas petroleum, while a recent Newsweek article includes algae fuels among a dozen of “The Weirdest Green Technology Innovations.”

Speaking during an afternoon session on the topic will be Jeff Bargiel, Phycal, Highland Heights, “An Integrated Algae Production System”; Drew Spradling, Touchstone Research Laboratory, Wooster, “Using a Phase Change Material for Algae Production”; and David Cohio, Algaeventure Systems, Marysville, “New Technologies for Algae Production and Harvesting.”

Workshop hours are 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) (the research arm of our college,) 1680 Madison Ave., in Wooster. Check-in starts at 8:30 a.m., the algae talks at 1 p.m.

For program details, registration fees, and a registration form, click here.

Year-round farming in Ohio? Check out this workshop

Farming is typically a spring-to-fall affair in Ohio. But as interest in buying local food increases and consumers expect fresh produce year-round, the need and opportunity for four-season production in colder climates has taken center stage.

On Dec. 14, Ohio State University researchers and grower groups will offer a daylong workshop on high tunnels — a season-extension strategy that is becoming increasingly popular among vegetable farmers and that can deliver on the promise of profitable fall-to-spring production in the Buckeye state.

The workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be held at Dutch Heritage Restaurant, 720 State Route 97 West, Bellville, Ohio. Cost is $25 per person and $20 per additional registrant from the same operation or family, and includes lunch and refreshments. All growers are invited to participate, but experience with high tunnels is helpful.

To register for the workshop, log on to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/4seasonworkshop; or contact Kleinhenz at 330-263-3810 or kleinhenz.1@osu.edu.

Click here for more information.

Register for Renewable Energy Workshop by Tomorrow (11/9), Save 28%

Remember: Register for Ohio State University’s 2010 Renewable Energy Workshop by tomorrow (11/9) and save 28 percent off the registration cost. The workshop, featuring 15 sessions by Ohio experts on effective, affordable alternative energy, takes place Nov. 18 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) (the research arm of our college) in Wooster. Registration, which includes lunch, costs $25 per person if postmarked by tomorrow, $35 afterward and $10 for college students. For complete program details and a downloadable registration form, click here. For more information, contact Mary Wicks, 330-202-3533, wicks.14@osu.edu.

4 Months’ Worth of Electricity from … Manure?

Ohio State University’s Nov. 18 Renewable Energy Workshop in Wooster includes a firsthand look at quasar energy group’s new anaerobic biodigester at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).

Located in OARDC’s BioHio Research Park, the system turns unused waste — manure, food scraps, sewage sludge, and the like — into clean, renewable, useful energy. It came on line in April.

It can process up to 33,000 wet tons of biomass every year. In doing so it can produce and capture enough methane gas to generate 750 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power the OARDC campus for the equivalent of four months out of the year.

Quasar is headquartered in Cleveland. In addition to the biodigester, it has lab and engineering facilities on the OARDC campus. For a video about the partnership between OARDC and quasar, click here.

The workshop features presentations by fifteen Ohio experts on wind power, solar power, biofuels, bioenergy and green transportation, including electric cars. It ends with a tour of the quasar system.

Hours are 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. in OARDC’s Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave. Check-in starts at 8:30 a.m. The quasar tour is at 3 p.m.

Registration, which includes lunch, costs $25 per person if received by tomorrow (11/9), $35 afterward, and $10 for college students.

To register, send name, contact information and registration fee (checks payable to OARDC/OSU) to Mary H. Wicks, OARDC/OSU, Admin. Bldg., 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691. Indicate if a vegetarian or vegan lunch option is needed.

For more information, call 330-202-3533 or e-mail wicks.14@osu.edu.

To get full program details in a downloadable flier, click here.

In addition, quasar, Ohio State University Extension, and the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC) will host two free workshops on anaerobic digestion tomorrow and on Nov. 19, both from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. in OARDC’s Shisler Conference Center, 1680 Madison Ave. A tour of the quasar facility is included. Contact OBIC’s Denny Hall, 614-292-4188, hall.16@osu.edu, to register.