Tag Archives: CSES

Soil Testing Laboratory helps save money and the environment

Tray full of soil samples.

Over the past year, the Soil Testing Laboratory has analyzed more than 51,000 soil samples from roughly 12,000 clients located in every county in Virginia.

For nearly 80 years, the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory has been providing farmers and homeowners with a wealth of information to help them make the best nutrient management decisions for their properties.

The Soil Testing Laboratory helps clients find the perfect amount and combination of nutrients for their field or lawn by using a system that assesses the types of crops grown, past crop yields, and whether or not the field has a drainage system, among other factors.

If too much of one nutrient is used, the excess can be washed away; if too little is applied, the crops or turf may not grow as well. When a lawn or field is treated correctly, the environment is less likely to experience runoff and people spend less money on fertilizer.

“Rather than guessing what your soil needs, we’re actually measuring soil nutrients and making recommendations based on crop or plant needs,” said Steve Heckendorn, lab manager.

Over the past year, the Soil Testing Laboratory, located on Virginia Tech’s campus, has analyzed more than 51,000 soil samples from roughly 12,000 clients located in every county in Virginia.

Local agriculture and natural resources agents like Kelli Scott of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Montgomery County Office recommend soil tests to anyone concerned about their crops or lawns. The tests help protect the environment while saving money.

“Most often, it saves people money because they have that prescribed advice,” Scott said.

Posted in The Environment | Tagged , | 3 Comments

History provides backdrop for pesticide training

An instructor shows how to use a pesticide sprayer.

An instructor provides participants with a demonstration of advanced sprayer technology that uses pulse modulation to prevent pesticide spray drift.

Though the Virginia Tech Pesticide Program was established in 1964, Virginia’s history of pesticide safety education goes back to the late 1800s. Today the Virginia Cooperative Extension program trains pesticide applicators by blending history with modern safety measures.

VTPP trains more than 20,000 agricultural producers and pest managers in 27 different certification categories of private and commercial pesticide application during a reoccurring four-year cycle.

In Virginia, private and commercial pesticide applicators must be certified using a 14-point core curriculum. The training is based on a 300-page core manual that’s approved by its partner, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

VTPP also offers 22 commercial applicator training manuals, training aids, online training, and onsite instruction led by local Extension agents. Through a train-the-trainer workshop held every September, VTPP provides agents with the most up-to-date information about pesticide application technology, regulations, and safety.

“Agents are the key educators in the program,” said Mike Weaver, program director. “They provide training in more than 100 localities and host or support over 200 workshops annually. The program wouldn’t work without their dedication, talent, and hard work.”

Weaver often shares Virginia’s rich history in pesticide education during pesticide safety education workshops.

Researcher Shawn Askew shows participants weeds and grass.

Shawn Askew, turfgrass Extension specialist, presents weed identification and management information to Extension agents and turfgrass industry professionals.

For example, in 1889 William Bradford Alwood went to an Albermarle Fruit and Grape Growers meeting and warned members about the use of arsenic and other poisons on their crops. In 1892 Alwood and Walker Bowman, Virginia’s first pesticide residue chemist, addressed the public’s fear of pesticide residue on grapes by testing them and finding them safe to eat. These two men became the first pesticide safety educators in the commonwealth. Sharing this information sparks the interest of trainees and shows the significance of pesticide safety education over the years.

Another creative use of history was VTPP’s revival of Larry the Label. Larry the Label was a cartoon used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and national Cooperative Extension Service for public service announcements from the 1950s through   the 1970s to warn the public to read pesticide labels.

In July 2014, VTPP launched Larry the Label Jr. on Facebook to once again teach the public about pesticide safety and protecting human and environmental health.

As regulations change over time, keeping people and the environment safe from the misuse of pesticides continues to be the focus of VTPP and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

“We do what we do because it’s required, but also because it’s the right thing to do,” Weaver said.

Posted in Lawn and Garden | Tagged , , | 1 Comment