We all can do our part for the planet

Patriotic Smoothies

serving smoothies in Meriden schools

In Meriden schools, they served Red, White, & Blue Smoothies in honor of the winter Olympics and local dairy in February. What a cool idea! And one that you can replicate at home in honor of Memorial Day. It’s a fun and delicious smoothie. The layers were strawberry, banana, and blueberry served at breakfast with graham crackers. 

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food.

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Basic Management of Small Poultry Flocks

By Michael J. Darre, Ph.D., P.A.S.

rooster at UConn facility
White leghorn roosters with chickens at the Poultry Uniton Jan. 27, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

There are several basic needs that need to be provided for poultry. These are feed, water, fresh air, light, darkness, proper thermal environment, protection (from the elements, predators, injury and theft) and proper space. Proper housing and equipment will take care of many of these items. Poultry and other animals function normally when they exist in harmonious balance with the other living forms and the physical and chemical factors in their environment. Therefore, it is the role of the poultry owner to properly manage the animals in their care.

HOUSING

Poultry require a dry, draft free environment. Depending upon the number of birds to be housed, almost any type of building that provides controlled ventilation, such as windows and doors, can be used. Birds should be reared in high, well drained areas. The windows of the coop and, outside run should face south to allow maximum exposure to the sun throughout the year. This helps with warmth in the winter and dryness during the rest of the year.

If you are building new, consider a concrete floor and starting your walls with two concrete blocks. This will prevent rodents, snakes and other predators from digging under the walls and floors for entrance into the coop. If you use plywood for floor construction, consider using two layers of 3/4″ CDX plywood, with a layer of 1/4″ or 1/8″ galvanized wire mesh between the layers, then raise the floor off the ground with posts or 6″ x 6″ runners. Using runners allows you to move the coop as needed. Being off the ground also helps prevent rot and moisture in the coop. All this helps prevent predators from chewing through the floor. Some have found that using the double layer of plywood with wire mesh and insulation between the layers helps keep the coop warmer in the winter. Windows should also be covered with wire mesh to keep wild birds and other predators out. For summer, a wire mesh screen door helps keep the coop cooler at night.

Ventilation provides comfort for the birds by removing moisture, ammonia and other gases; provides an exchange of air and helps control the temperature of the pen. You can use natural or gravity fed ventilation with windows, flues and slats. Or you can use forced air ventilation if you have a larger number of birds. In a small coop (less than 150 sq ft of floor space) you can use a bathroom fan in the ceiling and slats in the walls or windows to remove excess moisture in the winter, much as it does in your home. It is important to remove excess moisture and ammonia from the coop, especially in cold weather when ventilation is at a minimum.

For predator protection, keep your birds confined with fence and covered runs. Outside run fencing should be buried at least 12″ to 18″with an 6″ to 8″ “L” or “J” to the outside, backfilled with rocks and soil to prevent digging predators. To prevent problems with flying predators, cover your outside runs with mesh wire or netting. A 3-4 ft. grid over the pen made from bailing twine has also proven effective against flying predators. A good outside run can be made by digging 12-18” with a slight slopeaway from the coop, and laying plastic sheetingdown (if you don’t have good drainage) with a drain pipe at the end to catch runoff. Add 4-6” of sand, cover with 1⁄4” wire mesh, add 4-6” of coarse gavel, cover with 1/4” wire mesh and topwith 4-6” of pea-gravel. Put a barrier around therun of 2×6” to keep the gravel in place. Or youcan use a good ground cover of millet, broomcorn, sorghum or other tall leafy vegetation which provides hiding space for the birds.

Space:

Birds need adequate space for feeding, exercise, breeding, nesting and roosting.

Minimum Space Requirements

poultry space requirements by type of bird

Roosts: Provide chickens with 6-10 inches of roost space per bird. Round roosts are the best, and a tree branch of about 1″ to 1.5″ in diameter works well. Meat birds and waterfowl do not require roosts.

Nests: It is best to provide one nest box for each 4-5 females in the flock. 12-14” cubeswith front open with perching space for the birds to stand on while entering the nest.

Floor material: Litter floors of wood shavings is the best. Wood has an excellent capacity to absorb moisture and then re- release it into the air. Whatever you use, keep it clean and dry.

FEED AND WATER

Birds need free access to fresh feed. Feeders can be made of wood, metal, or plastic, but it is important to provide about 2-3 linear inches of feeder space per bird and up to 6″ for meat type birds and turkeys. They should be adjustable in height so the lip of the feeder will be at the level of the back of the bird when standing. Keep troughs only half full to prevent feed wastage.

Fresh water should always be available to your birds, inside or outside. If using an open waterer keeping the lip of the waterer level with the back of the bird is essential. For winter watering, metal waterers can be placed on low temp heaters, keeping the

water at about 50oF. However, nipple waters are the best, since the birds cannot produce suction in their mouth. I recommend them over any open watering system. Use of a fish tank heater in buckets used for nipple waterers helps prevent freezing in the winter.

Commercial poultry feeds have been specially formulated for the type and age of your birds and are the best source of nutrition for your birds. For egg layers, a 14 or 16% CP laying mash or crumbles can be fed from the first egg until out of production. Chicks should be fed a 18-23% CP medicated starter, unless they received cocci-vac, then use a non-medicated starter feed, for six weeks. Then put on a 16-18% CP layer grower feed till 15 weeks or first egg, then on to the layer feed. Broilers should be feed a broiler starter (21-23% CP) feed for 3 weeks, and a 18-20% CP grower/ finisher till market.

LIGHT

Poultry require artificial lighting to maintain egg production during the short days of winter. Poultry are long-day breeders and we normally provide laying hens about 16 hrs of light per day throughout the year. Light timers set to come on at 5 am and off at 9 pm will supply the hours required. Low wattage CFL, LED or Incandescent lamps that supply about 1 foot candle of light at bird level is adequate. Use a 2700K lamp.

Never decrease the hours of light on laying hens or increase the hours of light on a growing bird.

BROODING

Raising and brooding baby chicks requires special care. Chicks need to be reared in isolation for disease prevention. They should be reared in a clean, disinfected environment. Baby chicks cannot properly regulate their body temperature for a few days after hatching and require a heat source. Heat lamps, brooder stoves, hovers and infrared heaters work well. A brooder guard, a ring of cardboard or plastic at least 18″ high on the floor circling the heat source keeps the chicks from getting too far from the heat and reduces drafts. Watch the birds, if they huddle under the heat source, they are too cool, if off to one side, a draft, if spread evenly, just right. For newly hatched birds is it best to provide them with water for the first couple of hours before giving them solid feed. This helps clean out their excretory system. If you get chicks from a distant hatchery through the mail, then give them a 5% sugar water solution for the first few hours to boost their energy level.

DISEASE MANAGEMENT

Refer to UConn Poultry Pages for more detailed information on health and diseases of poultry.

Download a copy of this article as a PDF.

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Can I Water Vegetables with my Rain Barrel Water?

By Joan Allen

Originally published by the UConn Home & Garden Education Center

rain barrel against side of house in with shrubs
Photo credit: CT DEEP

Collection of rain water from roofs using rain barrels is growing in popularity because of its many environmental and practical benefits. It can help the environment by diverting water that might contain contaminants away from storm drains and the natural bodies of water that those empty into.  Depletion of well water can be a benefit when this non-potable water is used instead of the tap for things like washing cars, irrigation of plants, and flushing toilets. If you’re on a city/public water system, it can save money to use rain water where you can, too. But is using rain water to irrigate vegetables and fruits safe? Are there contaminants in it that could make people sick? Let’s take a look at what’s been studied.

A few universities in the U.S and abroad have done some work to look at potential contaminants in roof run-off water including heavy metals like zinc, copper, lead and others as well as bacteria such as E. coli and other pathogens. Testing done so far has shown low risk from these, but there is some. And of course, it depends on the type of roofing material, the environment (ie acid rain, urban vs. rural, etc) and possibly other factors. In one study, most of the metals tested the same in rain barrel water as in rain water before it hit the roofs, so little to no concern there. One exception was zinc, and elevated levels could lead to build up of this element in soils. At high enough levels, this can cause injury to plants and those plants should not be consumed (1). Monitor for this by having the soil tested.

While risk appears to be low, there were a few samples in studies (1, 2) where E. coli or total coliform bacterial levels exceeded official standards for some uses. Rain barrel water should NEVER be used for potable purposes such as drinking water, cooking or washing. Where do the bacteria in run-off come from? The main sources would be fecal matter from animals such as squirrels and birds that land and move around on the roof.

But if you’d like to water your vegetable garden with rain barrel water, are there ways to do it safely?

Dr. Mike Dietz, Assistant Extension Educator at UConn with expertise in water management recommends “not using roof water on anything leafy that you are going to eat directly. It would be OK to water soil/plants where there is no direct contact”. This is consistent with recommendations from other experts who suggest applying the water directly to the soil and avoiding contact with above-ground plant parts. An ideal set-up would be to hook up a drip irrigation system to your rain barrel(s). Pressure will be improved when they are full and if they are elevated. A full rain barrel can be pretty heavy, at about 500 lbs. for a 55 gallon unit, so make sure they are on a solid and stable base such as concrete blocks.

If possible, and this is done in larger collection systems automatically, don’t collect the ‘first flush’ of water off the roof. This would be the first few gallons. In a ¼” rainfall as much as 150 gallons can be collected from a 1000 ft2 roof surface (3). The first water to run off tends to have higher concentrations of any contaminants because of them building up on the roof since the previous rainfall event.

Another more practical way to minimize risk of pathogen/bacterial contamination is to treat the collected water with bleach. Rutgers University recommends treating 55 gallons of water by adding one ounce of unscented household chlorine bleach to the barrel once a month (or more often if rain is frequent). Allow this to stand for 24 hours before using the water for irrigation so the bleach can dissipate.

Apply collected water in the morning. Wait until leaves dry in the sun before harvesting. Ultraviolet light from the sun will have some disinfecting effect.

It is recommended to have the rain barrel water tested for E. coli. Be sure to follow the testing lab’s instructions for collection, storage and time sensitivity of the samples.

Thoroughly wash all harvested produce. In addition, you should always thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water after they are in contact with collected water.

In summary, there are risks to using collected rain water for irrigation of food crops. In most cases, the risk appears to be low, and using the above sanitation practices can reduce risk.

References:

  1. DeBusk, K., W. Hunt, D. Osmond and G. Cope. 2009. Water quality of rooftop runoff: implications for residential water harvesting systems. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.
  2. Bakacs, M., M. Haberland and S. Yergeau. 2017. Rain barrels part IV: testing and applying harvested water to irrigate a vegetable garden. Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Fact Sheet FS1218.
  3. Rainfall as a resource. A resident’s guide to rain barrels in Connecticut. CT DEEP.

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Dealing with Storm Damaged Trees

By Tom Worthley, UConn Extension

 

tree down across road in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018
Tree down in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018. Photo: Jeremy Petro

On May 15, 2018, late in the afternoon, a striking example of one of those “severe weather events” we see quite often these days passed through my neighborhood in Higganum. Severe winds, downpours, lightning and thunder all were part of a wicked and deadly storm that ripped limbs from and uprooted trees, downed powerlines and damaged buildings and vehicles in other parts of the state. Images on TV news and social media of damage and cleanup efforts have been striking.

For my part, because of the sudden and severe nature of the winds, and the near-continuous display of lightning, I was as nervous I ever remember being about a storm event and the potential for damage to my humble little house from trees and limbs. Sure enough, one large limb, from the top of a large red oak, did get ripped off and came down about 20 feet from where I park my car. There is, of course, a mess of smaller twigs and branches as well. No real property damage, thank goodness, but it was close. The storm was over a quick as it began, and now, just like many folks around the state, I’m faced with a clean-up task. It’s not a real problem for me; that broken limb is at the edge of the woods and will make a nice neat little pile of firewood.

For many people, however, the task of cleaning up storm-damaged trees is not so straightforward and simple. Many damaged trees are huge and are left in precarious, unstable positions. Storm-damaged trees are fraught with abundant problems, dangers, and risks. Cutting, cleaning up and salvaging downed, partially down or damaged trees is one of the most dangerous and risky activities an individual can undertake.

In viewing the news reports, photos and social media posts I have been shocked and horrified by the personal risks that people are taking to cut up downed trees in cleanup efforts. Pictures of men operating chain saws in shorts and t-shirts, climbing downed tree limbs (and standing on them!) to cut them, working with no personal protective equipment, etc. – it can all be quite distressing for a person familiar with the potential danger. No professional arborist or logger I know does chain saw work without personal protective equipment – and these are the experts!

It cannot be emphasized enough that without personal skill and a thorough knowledge of equipment capabilities, safety procedures and methods for dealing with physically stressed trees, an individual should never undertake this type of work on their own. The very characteristics that make the wood from trees a great structural material can turn leaning, hanging or down trees into dangerous “booby-traps” that spring, snap, and move in mysterious ways when people try to cut them. They can cause serious and life threatening injuries. Just because your neighbor or relative owns a chain saw, it doesn’t make them qualified to tackle a large tree that is uprooted or broken. Contacting a Licensed Arborist, or Certified Forest Practitioner with the right equipment, training, and insurance, is the best alternative for addressing the cleanup and salvage of storm damaged trees, and avoiding potential injury, death, liability and financial loss.

That said, there are a few things a homeowner can do about trees that are damaged and/or causing other damage around a home site:

  • First, from a safe distance note the location of any and all downed utility lines. Always assume that downed wires are charged and do not approach them. Notify the utility company of the situation and do nothing further until they have cleared the area.
  • Don’t forget to LOOK UP! While you may be fascinated with examining a downed limb, there may be another one hanging up above by a splinter, ready to drop at any time.
  • Once you are confident that no electrocution or other physical danger exists, you can visually survey the scene and perhaps document it with written descriptions and photographs. This will be particularly helpful if a property insurance claim is to be filed. Proving auto or structure damage after a downed tree has been removed is easier if a photo record has been made.
  • Take steps to flag off the area or otherwise warn people that potential danger exists.
  • Remember that even if a downed tree or limb appears stable, it is subject to many unnatural stresses and tensions. If you are not familiar with these conditions, do not attempt to cut the tree or limb yourself. Cutting even small branches can cause pieces to release tension by springing back, or cause weight and balance to shift unexpectedly with the potential for serious injury. Call a professional for assistance.
  • Under no circumstances, even in the least potentially dangerous situation, ever operate, or allow anyone on your property to operate a chainsaw without thorough knowledge of safe procedures and proper safety equipment, including, at the minimum, hardhat, leg chaps, eye and hearing protection, steel-toe boots and gloves.

An assessment of the damage to individual trees, or more widespread damage in a forest setting is best undertaken by an individual with professional expertise. Homeowners should contact an Arborist to examine trees in yards or near to structures, roads or power lines. A Certified Forester is qualified to evaluate damage in the forest to trees and stands and advise landowners about the suitability of salvage or cleanup operations. The CT-DEEP Forestry Division can provide information about contacting a Certified Forester or Licensed Arborist. Check the DEEP Website, http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=322792&deepNav_GID=1631%20

or call 860-424-3630. Listings of Licensed Arborists can also be found at the CT Tree Protective Association web site, www.CTPA.org.

While a nice tidy pile of firewood from a tree that was damaged in a storm might be the silver lining, it is not worth the risk of injury to yourself or someone else when tackling a very dangerous task without the proper knowledge, equipment or preparation.

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Extension Offers Greenhouse Biological Control Conference

 

liliesUConn Extension is sponsoring a Greenhouse Biological Control Conference.  This one-day educational program will be held onWednesday, June 20, 2018 at Room 100, WB Young Building, University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.

The speakers featured at this educational program include:

  • Michael Oleykowski,  Syngenta  who will be speaking on Developing an Effective, Integrated Control Program 
  • Debbie Palumbo-Sanders, Bioworks, Victor, NY   who will be speaking on Biofungicides and Their Fit into Your IPM Program
  • Kerri Stafford, Cavicchio Greenhouses, Sudbury, MA  who will be speaking on Implementing Our Biological Control Program
  • Annie White, Nectar Landscape Design Studio, Burlington, VT  who will be speaking on Top Plants for Attracting Pollinators: Natives and Beyond
  • Carol Glenister, IPM Laboratories, Locke, NY  who will be speaking on Plants Talk Biocontrol: How to Use Plants to Manage Pests

A registration fee of $40 is due by June 14 payable by check only to the University of Connecticut. Included in the cost of admission: coffee, continental breakfast, lunch, informational handouts and parking.

Five pesticide recertification credits will be offered. For more information contact: Leanne Pundt at leanne.pundt@uconn.edu or call 860.626.6855 or click here for the program brochure or visit the website: http://ipm.uconn.edu/pa_greenhouse/

This work is supported by the Crop Protection and Pest Management grant no. 2014-70006-22548/project accession no. 1004700 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

[Read More …]

Extension Offers Greenhouse Biological Control Conference

 

liliesUConn Extension is sponsoring a Greenhouse Biological Control Conference.  This one-day educational program will be held onWednesday, June 20, 2018 at Room 100, WB Young Building, University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.

The speakers featured at this educational program include:

  • Michael Oleykowski,  Syngenta  who will be speaking on Developing an Effective, Integrated Control Program 
  • Debbie Palumbo-Sanders, Bioworks, Victor, NY   who will be speaking on Biofungicides and Their Fit into Your IPM Program
  • Kerri Stafford, Cavicchio Greenhouses, Sudbury, MA  who will be speaking on Implementing Our Biological Control Program
  • Annie White, Nectar Landscape Design Studio, Burlington, VT  who will be speaking on Top Plants for Attracting Pollinators: Natives and Beyond
  • Carol Glenister, IPM Laboratories, Locke, NY  who will be speaking on Plants Talk Biocontrol: How to Use Plants to Manage Pests

A registration fee of $40 is due by June 14 payable by check only to the University of Connecticut. Included in the cost of admission: coffee, continental breakfast, lunch, informational handouts and parking.

Five pesticide recertification credits will be offered. For more information contact: Leanne Pundt at leanne.pundt@uconn.edu or call 860.626.6855 or click here for the program brochure or visit the website: http://ipm.uconn.edu/pa_greenhouse/

This work is supported by the Crop Protection and Pest Management grant no. 2014-70006-22548/project accession no. 1004700 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

[Read More …]

A low-priced water reuse process that also delivers renewable energy in rural areas

What do Yucatan (Mexico), Michoacan (Mexico), Karur (India), and Jan Kempdorp (South Africa) have in common? These are all places with successful stories of implementing Anaerobic Digestion (AD) for wastewater treatment. But what is AD? What are the benefits?  

AD systems are installed for many different purposes, such as a waste treatment step, a means to reduce odours, a source of additional revenues, or a way to improve public image. The AD treats water and waste, reducing adverse environmental impacts. Through AD, two main by-products can be obtained: biogas—that can be used as a fuel, and sludge—that can be used as a soil amender for improve crops. These AD “by-products” are important in the context of mitigating the impacts of climate change, where environmental co-benefits come from efficient use of “by-products”. For instance, livestock enteric fermentation, livestock waste management, rice cultivation, and agricultural waste burning are all sources of methane emissions, representing between 7 and 10 percent of global methane emissions. AD not only treats water through an environmentally sustainable approach, but also contributes to produce high rates of methane for recovery and further utilization.

Source: The Global Partnership on Output-based Aid, 2015. Note Number 8. Biogas Support Program in Nepal.

AD is being implemented all over the world, but cutting edge research and technologies are improving the currently expensive AD infrastructures, while maximizing the treatment and minimizing the production of biogas—hence making new AD technologies with higher economic returns.

  • In Karur, India, for instance, a large-scale beef-producing farm installed an AD facility to avoid GHG emissions (help control pollution from 1,800 cows) and generate carbon credits for the company and local community.
  • In South Africa, the Jan Kempdorp Abbatoir site uses an AD system to address cattle and bovine wastes to reduce GHG emissions, improve the elimination of animal by-products, reduce power grid demand by producing onsite energy, and create jobs.
  • In Yucatan, Mexico, a novel approach merges water treatment and methane reduction, while promoting reforestation. This initiative installed 13 wastewater management systems for 44 swine farms. The systems were equipped with anaerobic digesters, solid separators, forest plantation areas, and a storage lagoon. The systems utilize the effluent as a source of water and nutrients for the forest plantations. Additionally, these systems capture and produce biogas energy, which is used to supply electricity to all the farms. 
  • The facility located in  Michoacan, Mexico, operated by NOPALIMEX is the first AD plant in the world which uses cactus waste as a biomass source for biogas production. They use the biogas as a fuel for the local`s vehicles, who enjoy the benefits of a cheaper and environmentally friendly fuel.

Through these examples, and more, there is testament that biogas production from AD is becoming popular as a sustainable and affordable solution in rural communities.

Researchers and environmental consultancies are promoting the “biogas culture”, encouraging people of poor communities to use their whole spectrum of organic wastes (manures, gardening, kitchen, or human faeces) to be treated by small-networks of anaerobic digesters. These tendencies are focusing on scaling up these solutions and educating the rural population about the importance of renewable energy and the benefits of collecting and taking advantage of the by-products released through AD processes.

AD costs are much lower compared to that of other technologies. Depending on the country, the cost of the materials to build an anaerobic digester can be from USD $35-100. In larger markets, some companies in low income countries have developed a wide range of supplementary items that use AD by-products, such as lamps, stoves, and power-generating plants. However, their price, despite being lower, represents an extra investment that the people in rural areas may not be able to afford. On social media some people have shown skilled and creative ways to build items for by-products and (re)use with recyclable materials that can help to reduce AD’s unit costs, while providing the best usage to the biogas.
 


 

In Latin America, there is enormous opportunity to exploit AD and provide economic benefits to the poorest in a region where one in five people live in poverty, and where about 51 million live in rural areas. It can also contribute to accelerate the pace of coverage of safely-managed sanitation to reach the water Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where the lack of safely-managed sanitation services has been stagnant over the last years, according to the World Bank.
 
The simplicity of usage of the AD and the warm weather in Latin America are key factors that can change life in rural communities. The biogas production and waste treatment is better when the temperatures are high and would allow to get a fuel for cooking or boiling water, produce energy, and, at the same time, treat wastes, obtaining an odourless slurry, rich in nutrients, which can be used for irrigating crops or gardens.
 
Nevertheless, the large increase of AD installations and capacity is largely driven by regulatory and policy incentives. Development organizations and practitioners must work closely with governments to design, promote, and implement these types of technologies.

[Read More …]

A low-priced water reuse process that also delivers renewable energy in rural areas

What do Yucatan (Mexico), Michoacan (Mexico), Karur (India), and Jan Kempdorp (South Africa) have in common? These are all places with successful stories of implementing Anaerobic Digestion (AD) for wastewater treatment. But what is AD? What are the benefits?  

AD systems are installed for many different purposes, such as a waste treatment step, a means to reduce odours, a source of additional revenues, or a way to improve public image. The AD treats water and waste, reducing adverse environmental impacts. Through AD, two main by-products can be obtained: biogas—that can be used as a fuel, and sludge—that can be used as a soil amender for improve crops. These AD “by-products” are important in the context of mitigating the impacts of climate change, where environmental co-benefits come from efficient use of “by-products”. For instance, livestock enteric fermentation, livestock waste management, rice cultivation, and agricultural waste burning are all sources of methane emissions, representing between 7 and 10 percent of global methane emissions. AD not only treats water through an environmentally sustainable approach, but also contributes to produce high rates of methane for recovery and further utilization.

Source: The Global Partnership on Output-based Aid, 2015. Note Number 8. Biogas Support Program in Nepal.

AD is being implemented all over the world, but cutting edge research and technologies are improving the currently expensive AD infrastructures, while maximizing the treatment and minimizing the production of biogas—hence making new AD technologies with higher economic returns.

  • In Karur, India, for instance, a large-scale beef-producing farm installed an AD facility to avoid GHG emissions (help control pollution from 1,800 cows) and generate carbon credits for the company and local community.
  • In South Africa, the Jan Kempdorp Abbatoir site uses an AD system to address cattle and bovine wastes to reduce GHG emissions, improve the elimination of animal by-products, reduce power grid demand by producing onsite energy, and create jobs.
  • In Yucatan, Mexico, a novel approach merges water treatment and methane reduction, while promoting reforestation. This initiative installed 13 wastewater management systems for 44 swine farms. The systems were equipped with anaerobic digesters, solid separators, forest plantation areas, and a storage lagoon. The systems utilize the effluent as a source of water and nutrients for the forest plantations. Additionally, these systems capture and produce biogas energy, which is used to supply electricity to all the farms. 
  • The facility located in  Michoacan, Mexico, operated by NOPALIMEX is the first AD plant in the world which uses cactus waste as a biomass source for biogas production. They use the biogas as a fuel for the local`s vehicles, who enjoy the benefits of a cheaper and environmentally friendly fuel.

Through these examples, and more, there is testament that biogas production from AD is becoming popular as a sustainable and affordable solution in rural communities.

Researchers and environmental consultancies are promoting the “biogas culture”, encouraging people of poor communities to use their whole spectrum of organic wastes (manures, gardening, kitchen, or human faeces) to be treated by small-networks of anaerobic digesters. These tendencies are focusing on scaling up these solutions and educating the rural population about the importance of renewable energy and the benefits of collecting and taking advantage of the by-products released through AD processes.

AD costs are much lower compared to that of other technologies. Depending on the country, the cost of the materials to build an anaerobic digester can be from USD $35-100. In larger markets, some companies in low income countries have developed a wide range of supplementary items that use AD by-products, such as lamps, stoves, and power-generating plants. However, their price, despite being lower, represents an extra investment that the people in rural areas may not be able to afford. On social media some people have shown skilled and creative ways to build items for by-products and (re)use with recyclable materials that can help to reduce AD’s unit costs, while providing the best usage to the biogas.
 


 

In Latin America, there is enormous opportunity to exploit AD and provide economic benefits to the poorest in a region where one in five people live in poverty, and where about 51 million live in rural areas. It can also contribute to accelerate the pace of coverage of safely-managed sanitation to reach the water Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where the lack of safely-managed sanitation services has been stagnant over the last years, according to the World Bank.
 
The simplicity of usage of the AD and the warm weather in Latin America are key factors that can change life in rural communities. The biogas production and waste treatment is better when the temperatures are high and would allow to get a fuel for cooking or boiling water, produce energy, and, at the same time, treat wastes, obtaining an odourless slurry, rich in nutrients, which can be used for irrigating crops or gardens.
 
Nevertheless, the large increase of AD installations and capacity is largely driven by regulatory and policy incentives. Development organizations and practitioners must work closely with governments to design, promote, and implement these types of technologies.

[Read More …]

Soaking in Another Victory

by Tom Damm

It’s a four-peat.

For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Maryland, College Park has won high honors in EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national collegiate competition to design the best ideas for capturing stormwater on campus before it can harm waterways.

A UMD team took second place nationally in the Master Plan category for “The Champion Gateway” project.  The project blends green infrastructure features into a campus entryway and pedestrian corridor adjacent to a proposed light rail system.

Along with providing more aesthetic appeal, the 7.9-acre site design – with its 367 new trees, permeable pavement, bioswales, rain garden and soil improvements – generates some heady environmental benefits, like:

  • A 40 percent increase in tree canopy and a reduction in stormwater runoff of 44 percent.
  • An increase in permeable surface from 5 to 74 percent.
  • The removal of 273 pounds of air pollutants and the sequestering of 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide – each year.

Green infrastructure allows stormwater to soak in rather than run off hard surfaces with contaminants in tow, flooding local streets and polluting local waters.

Chalking up impressive design numbers and wowing the judges is nothing new for UMD teams in the Campus RainWorks Challenge.

The university won first place awards in 2015 and 2016 for designs to retrofit a five-acre parking lot and to capture and treat stormwater on a seven-acre site next to the campus chapel, and won a second place award last year for its “(Un)loading Nutrients” design to transform a campus loading dock and adjacent parking lot into a safer pedestrian walkway with 6,660 square feet of plantings and 18 percent less impervious surface.

Dr. Victoria Chanse, a faculty advisor to all four UMD winning teams, said the competition “serves as an ongoing catalyst to encourage universities to develop innovative, sustainable learning landscapes that draw upon collaborations among students and faculty from a diverse set of disciplines.”

Check out more information on how stormwater runoff impacts your community.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division

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Lettuce Learn a Bit About E. Coli

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator/Food Safety

 

romaine lettuce
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recent news reports regarding the romaine lettuce outbreak have, yet again, raised concern about pathogens in our food supply. In particular, leafy greens continue to show up as a source for outbreaks. Two outbreaks since late fall have implicated romaine and/or leafy greens. In both outbreaks, E. coli O157:H7 was the culprit.

What exactly is E. coli?

Escherichia colior E. coliis a group of bacteria, some of which are harmless, and some of which are pathogenic, or disease causing. These bacteria are ubiquitous in the environment: they can survive in water, soil, on plants, and in the intestinal tracts of people and animals. Some types of E. colicause diarrhea, some cause urinary tract infections, and other may cause pneumonia or other diseases.

If you have a well, you are likely familiar with the term “generic E. coli.”  Generic E. coli(sometimes referred to as Biotype I), is found in the intestinal tracts of animals. Therefore, the public health and regulatory community use the presence of generic E. coliis an indicator that some type of fecal contamination (poop) is present. A test for generic E. colican determine if well water is drinkable, if food processing environments are clean, if meat is potentially contaminated with fecal matter or if irrigation water is safe to use on crops.

Generic E. coli, because it is found in fecal matter, may also indicate the potential for the presence of other pathogens that can be found in feces: bacteria such as Salmonellaand pathogenic types of E. coli; viruses such as hepatitis A or norovirus; and parasitic protozoa including Cryptosporidium parvum. All of these microorganisms have been associated with foodborne disease outbreaks.

While there are a number of pathogenic strains, it is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli(STEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli(EHEC) that is identified most often as a cause of foodborne illness. O157:H7 is one of several STEC strains. Hamburger, spinach, lettuce, sprouts, unpasteurized or “raw” milk and cheeses, unpasteurized fruit juice including cider, and  flour have all been identified as food sources in O157:H7 outbreaks.

This can be an awful disease. This type of E. coliproduces a Shiga toxin, which can be associated with more severe disease, including bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. The experience of an STEC infection can be different for each person. Contributing factors might include the age of the patient (very young or older people may have more severe infections due to compromised or undeveloped immune systems) and the general health of the person (again, if the immune system is already compromised, the disease may be more severe). However, a healthy adult can also experience more severe disease. Often, the symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Again, the CDC states, “If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.”

Life threatening complications can occur when the Shiga toxin latches onto specific organs, such as the kidney. HUS can result in short term kidney failure or may result in long term disability, or even death.

How does E. coli get into our food?

We have been aware of the risk of E. coliin animal products for years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “STEC live in the guts of ruminant animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, deer, and elk. The major source for human illnesses is cattle. STEC that cause human illness generally do not make animals sick. Other kinds of animals, including pigs and birds, sometimes pick up STEC from the environment and may spread it.”

It was likely the Jack in the Box hamburger related outbreak in 1993 that increased the awareness of both the public and the public health community of the relationship. After that outbreak, Rhode Island passed a law that does not allow restaurants to serve undercooked hamburgers to kids under 12 – a population that is at risk for the worst consequences of an E. coliinfection. At the same time, the recommended safe end-cooking temperature of hamburger was increased to 160 degrees F and sweeping regulation was passed that required meat and poultry processors, to develop food safety plans and be part of a food safety regulation program that included testing for generic E. coli,as well as pathogenic strains of the bacteria.

That makes sense to consumers. After all, if these pathogens are found in the intestinal tracts of animals and in fecal matter, then animal foods are most likely at risk for contamination.

So, how are fruits and vegetables contaminated with E. coli? As stated earlier, E. colican live in ruminants, including deer. Other wildlife may carry the bacteria after picking it up from the environment—the soil, dead animals, or contaminated water. The great outdoors is also the great toilet for these animals. Their feces end up in the soil and water or on the feed of birds or insects. Fruits and vegetables are grown in this soil. There is some risk of contamination as a result. Birds poop on tomatoes, apples fall on deer poop, etc.

Newer regulation target produce growers in an effort to reduce the risk for foodborne illness from fresh fruits and veggies. The Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule includes requirements to test irrigation water, keep records of sanitation practices in the packing house, and employee training concerning personal hygiene and safe handling of produce.

Leafy greens continue to be associated with more outbreaks than other types of vegetables, with the exception of fresh sprouts. First, we eat them raw. There is no kill step to destroy pathogens. Second, they are leafy and grow close to the soil. If contaminated, those leaves can harbor and protect the bacteria. If lettuces are cut and then washed, the contamination can spread to greens that have not been contaminated, making the problem bigger. Once cut or chopped, the greens have even more open surface area that may allow the bacteria to internalize.

Like meat and poultry, any food product that is grown in the field will never be 100% risk free. The industry is hard at work doing what they can to reduce your risk.

So what should a consumer do?

First, do not stop eating greens, tomatoes, or other fresh fruits and vegetables. The benefits of a diet high in fresh produce far outweigh the risk of contracting a foodborne disease from them. Learn how to choose, store, prepare and handle them safely.

Purchase your produce from a farmer that has instituted good agricultural practices and good produce handling practices. If you buy from a local farmer at the farm or at a farmers’ market, ask the farmer if they have attended a food safety course or if they have a food safety program on their farm.

When buying fresh produce, avoid those that are bruised or cut if you are going to eat them raw.  Openings in the skin or bruises may increase the ability of bacteria or other microorganisms to reach the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. Refrigerate produce that should be refrigerated (leafy greens, scallions, broccoli, cucumbers) to minimize growth of microorganisms. In addition, refrigerate all cut produce.

Other food safety tips:

  • Wash all produce prior to eating.
  • Use clean knives, cutting boards, hands and other utensils when preparing raw lettuce for a salad or cutting a melon for breakfast.
  • Don’t cross contaminate ready-to-eat fresh produce with raw meat or poultry. I always prepare the salad first, then the meat for my meal.
  • Store raw, ready-to-eat produce to protect it from raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Place the meat on a plate if it must be stored above the veggies. (I can never understand why produce drawers are under all other shelves in the fridge, making it a bit easier for meat juices to drip down onto the fresh produce.)

Some folks may want to consider purchasing heads of lettuce rather than chopped greens, though even whole heads of romaine were implicated in the most recent outbreak. If you do purchase pre-cut greens, make sure they are of good quality without a lot of browning or slimy leaves in the bag. If they are washed it is best not to rewash as you risk contamination during the process. However, if there are beginning signs of wilting or mushy leaves, I would wash, dry and store the remaining greens in the refrigerator, wrapped in a clean paper towel.

Continue to enjoy salads, fresh fruit and other veggies on a daily basis. It is an important part of a healthy diet. Just be sure to pay attention good safe food handling practices as you prepare to enjoy your meal.

For more information about food safety, visit our website at www.foodsafety.uconn.edu, check out some of the links in the article, or contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

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