Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Plate to Plant

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Composting large

UMaine opens new campus composting facility

A joint collaboration between the University of Maine Dining Services and University of Maine Cooperative Extension will establish the first facility for advanced composting of food waste in Maine.

The effort involves the purchase of a 10-foot by 40-foot enclosed, automated composting unit called the EarthFlow 40, manufactured by Green Mountain Technologies, based in Washington state. This unique facility, along with the expertise of  UMaine Extension Professor Mark Hutchinson, has the potential to convert more than 1 ton of organic waste per day from campus dining facilities — from potato peels and lettuce leaves to meat scraps — into a rich soil amendment that will be used in UMaine landscaping and on university crop fields.

The composting facility, located off Rangeley Road on campus, also promises to save money and will continue the institutional advancement toward sustainability, while serving as a demonstration site for students, individuals and potential commercial users.

During the academic year, nearly 1 ton of organic waste is generated daily in UMaine’s three dining commons and the Marketplace, the largest retail dining facility on campus. UMaine Auxiliary Services, which oversees on-campus dining and other student services-related departments, has been composting organic waste for nearly 14 years in an effort to be as environmentally responsible and cost effective as possible by keeping the weighty discards out of the waste stream. Most recently, UMaine has contracted with a private composting firm at a cost of $65,000 annually.

The UMaine compost facility is expected to cost $25,000 a year to staff and maintain using Facilities Management personnel. The resulting compost will be used campuswide as a soil amendment that benefits soil structure.

The compost is a soil enhancer, not a fertilizer. The biggest benefit of compost is its ability to hold plant nutrients in place in the soil, says Hutchinson, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension professor who directs the award-winning Maine Compost School, based at Highmoor Farm, a UMaine Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in Monmouth, Maine.

Hutchinson, who has 10 years of research in composting, developed the “recipe” for the UMaine composting facility. Ingredients will include the pre- and postconsumer waste from the dining commons and the Marketplace, as well as used horse bedding — primarily wood shavings and sawdust — from UMaine’s J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center.

Compost directly from the facility can be used on farm fields. For use in landscaping, including ornamental gardens, the compost will be aged in an open-air shed for several months before it is used in ornamental gardens.

In addition, the compost will supply the new greenhouse located next to the compost facility, where students in the UMaine Department of Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences are growing edible greens to supply the dining commons.

The student-run greenhouse and compost facility are expected to be an educational resource, not just for UMaine students, but also school and community groups.

“This will allow us to close the loop, not only composting on campus, but producing a product that is used on campus,” says Dan Sturrup, executive director of Auxiliary Services. “At UMaine, we’ll go from plate to plant. And, with the help of the greenhouse, back to the plate again.”

According to Misa Saros, UMaine’s conservation and energy compliance specialist, the composting system is in keeping with UMaine leadership and commitment to sustainability — from its sustainable agriculture minor to its campuswide green initiatives, all of which have earned the university a citation in Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges for four consecutive years.

“We are very excited to be implementing a system that makes productive use of a valuable resource that is too often discarded in landfills or incinerators,” says Saros.

UMaine Specialty Potatoes in Las Vegas Trade Show

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The Bangor Daily News carried a Las Vegas Sun article that noted a new potato variety developed at the University of Maine specifically for potato chips was among the new or novel exhibits at the Potato Expo at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

National Association Honors Plant Pathologist David Lambert

Friday, December 14th, 2012

The Potato Association of America (PAA) has honored University of Maine associate professor of plant, soil, and environmental sciences and of biological sciences David Lambert with an Honorary Life Membership for his commitment and work with potato disease. He was one of only three individuals so honored for 2012. Lambert received the Maine Potato Board’s President’s Public Service Award in 1995 for his work combating late blight and in 2005 the University of Maine Presidential Public Service Award. A research faculty member at UMaine since 1986, Lambert is credited with helping to develop successful control strategies for potato scab and late blight, according to a recent profile in the Maine Potato Board newsletter. Lambert also has been active with the PAA and was a key organizer of the association’s annual meeting in the 1990s when it was held in Maine.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

Student-run greenhouse growing greens for campus dining halls

Monday, December 10th, 2012

UMaine Greens Small

Snowflakes floated toward the frozen ground while University of Maine students snipped salad greens inside a campus greenhouse where the temperature approached a balmy 50 degrees.

The greens were a hit with salad bar customers the next day at Maine Marketplace in Memorial Union.

Sonja Birthisel, a graduate student in the sustainable agriculture program, said the red, blue and green leafy mix was tasty and mild. Megan Berthiaune, a senior from Eddington, Maine, majoring in nutrition, described the Elegance Greens Mix as fresh and appealing.

It would have been difficult for the greens to be any fresher or local; they traveled a mere half-mile from the greenhouse to the salad bar.

The Elegance Greens Mix, which includes Pac Choi, red mustard, mizuna and leaf broccoli, was the first harvest of the UMaine Greens Project, supervised by Eric Gallandt, associate professor of weed ecology and chairman of the Department of Plant, Soil and Environmental Sciences.

Gallandt says the inspiration to start a student greenhouse project came from visiting Michigan State University last year. UMaine’s project, which involves growing greens for the UMaine dining commons, builds on the university’s Sustainable Agriculture Program.

UMaine Greens, headquartered in a greenhouse off Rangeley Road, was funded with $11,500 from UMaine’s Unified Fee.

“I wanted to do something where sustainable agriculture students and students interested in local foods, and food enthusiasts could have a hands-on experience,” Gallandt says.

More than $7,700 was invested in a 26-foot by 96-foot greenhouse, purchased from a farmer in New Hampshire.

Gallandt also purchased a piece of equipment he initially didn’t dream he would need — a snowblower to prevent buildup around the double-layer plastic walls of the greenhouse. (He got it on sale in July.)

Daniel Blanton, a senior majoring in sustainable agriculture from Stow, Mass., one of the 25 students involved in the UMaine Greens Project, helped build the greenhouse.

“It was like a really big puzzle,” he says. “This has been one of my favorite experiences at UMaine. Hoop houses are the future in Maine for sustainable farmers. Winter production is exciting.”

In September, project participants had a “greenhouse raising”; they gathered at 7 a.m. one calm Friday to pull the two layers of plastic over the metal tubing frame.

Oct. 12, students planted rows of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Nov. 29, about 20 pounds of the tasty greens crop became lunchtime salad bar fare for students and staff.

The idea of growing and eating healthy, local food is logical and appealing to many in the college community, Gallandt says. Frequent themes in agriculture classes include reducing the number of food miles — the distance food travels to reach the table — and the ability to control and extend the growing environment. This project addresses both topics in a hands-on, positive manner, he says.

And there is room, literally, to grow.

“It might not be possible to feed the campus, but we can plant one bed of greens at a time, so to speak,” Gallandt says.

Glenn Taylor, director of Maine Culinary Services and a champion of the UMaine Greens Project, says 15 percent of all food served in campus dining halls is harvested at Maine farms from meat to beets. That equates to the university spending $700,000 annually with area businesses.

Taylor says in two years, the goal is to increase the proportion of locally grown food served at the university to 25 percent.

Purchasing vegetables from the UMaine Greens Project won’t displace any other local grower, Taylor says, and will help the project become financially self-sustaining.

“We focus on local foods and this is about as local as you can possibly get,” says Taylor, carrying a tote of just-clipped salad greens to his vehicle.

Gallandt says it’s also fitting the greenhouse is adjacent to the university’s new composting facility. Compost from the vegetables that feed the students will subsequently nourish the greenhouse soil where the greens are grown.

“It’s symbolic,” he says. “It’s a visual closed nutrient system. Each year, we can use compost to amend the soil.”

Interested students are invited to join the current motivated group of volunteers participating in the project.

“We’re always looking for more help,” said Rose Presby, a fifth-year biology major from Farmington, Maine. “If you’re looking for local food and you care where it comes from, you should definitely get involved,” she said.

Garth Douston, a junior from Arundel, Maine, says there are many benefits to digging in and taking part.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about winter production and extending the growing season and keeping plants alive and thriving,” says Douston, a sustainable agriculture major.

Lincoln, Maine native Bourcard Nesin had a hand in keeping the greens growing this fall. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture from UMaine last spring and says he’s pleased that students are contributing to the university’s reputation as a healthy campus.

In 2011 and 2012, UMaine was one of 16 colleges nationwide named to The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.

In addition to getting hands-on farming skills, growing healthy, local food, and helping the environment, Gallandt said a greenhouse is simply an inviting place to be.

“Last Sunday, it was 32 degrees and the wind was howling,” he said. “Inside the greenhouse, it was 54 degrees and there was 85 percent humidity. You can’t help but get happy in a place like that.”

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

Channel 7 Features Moose Lungworm Research

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Channel 7 (WVII) interviewed University of Maine Cooperative Extension veterinarian Anne Lichtenwalner and recent UMaine veterinary sciences graduate and research assistant Darryl Ann Girardin for story broadcast in the 6 p.m. news on Nov. 9 about a two-year research project helping the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife determine how prevalent a possible new parasite, lungworm, is in moose in Maine. Girardin and Lichtenwalner began analyzing lungs from hunted moose in northern Maine last fall at the UMaine Animal Health Laboratory to genetically identify lungworms in moose. They are exploring the possibility that a lungworm normally found in deer and sometimes livestock can migrate to new host species, which in this case is moose.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

UMaine’s Highmoor Farm Featured

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Central Maine Morning Sentinel published a feature story about the University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’s Highmoor Farm Agricultural Experimental Station in Monmouth and its research on pest management. David Handley, University of Maine Cooperative Extension vegetable and small fruit specialist based at Highmoor, and Highmoor superintendent Greg Koller discussed the university’s integrated pest management policies, including how to control the spotted wing drosophila, a breed of fruit fly originally from Asia that now threatens soft-skinned fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and raspberries. The website Fresh Plaza also carried the story.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

Column Lauds UMaine’s Magnolia ‘Butterflies’

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

A column in the Bangor Daily News about the beauty and fragrance of Magnolia “Butterflies” garden ornamentals cites the author’s impressions of the magnolias in the University of Maine’s Lyle E.Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden as a source of inspiration. The cultivar is slow growing, but worth the wait, the writer noted.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Health Article Cites UMaine Blueberry Research

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The Triton newspaper in Florida cited University of Maine blueberry research in an article about the many health benefits of wild blueberries. The article referred to UMaine research establishing that blueberries have antimicrobial properties that can counter foodborne pathogens like salmonella or E-coli.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

UMaine Experts Interviewed for Honeybee Article

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

David Yarborough and Frank Drummond were interviewed for a Bangor Daily News article about the value of bees for pollinating Maine’s wild blueberry and fruit crops. Drummond has been leading a national $3.3 million grant-funded consortium to study native bee populations and biological threats to them. Growers depend upon native and imported honeybees and bumble bees to pollinate crops.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756

Lichtenwalner in TV Report on Pets, Poisonous Plants

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Anne Lichtenwalner, director of the UMaine Animal Health Lab, was interviewed for a Channel 2 (WLBZ) news report warning pet owners to keep potentially poisonous flowers and plants away from family pets. Animals that eat leaves from certain plants, like azaleas, daffodils and hostas, can experience vomiting and possibly kidney failure if untreated, Lichtenwalner said.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756