On Aug. 5, 2015 the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) hosted its Plant Science Day at the Lockwood Farm in Hamden, CT. Mother Nature cooperated, providing a nearly perfect day for the large crowd at this year’s event. The farm provides a field laboratory for Experiment Station scientists who work to investigate the many problems facing commercial growers, home gardeners and many other citizens of the state. These include the many pathogens, insects and cultural issues that seem to be ever present in our fields, forests and gardens. In addition, the Station acts as an important resource for the study of many diseases that affect the general population, especially those where an insect vector is involved.
The program began with words of welcome and opening remarks from Dr. Theodore G. Andreadis, Director of the Station, who gave a progress report on many of the new buildings that have been completed, renovated or soon will be at the various stations throughout the state.
This introduction was followed by a presentation by Dr. Robert E. Marra, Forest Pathologist, Dept. of Plant Pathology and Ecology.
James R. Anderson, an immigrant from Scotland, founded the farm in 1854. Red onions, dairy and tobacco were the primary commodities produced in the early years. Over the years the focus of the operation has changed, prompted by a series of events to where today the primary crops grown are traditional New England vegetables with particular emphasis on fresh spinach, sweet corn and strawberries.
Greenhouse expansion has allowed for the production of bedding plants and the cultivation of early tomatoes. A new building allows for the washing, preparation and packaging of produce. A major outlet for the produce is the nearby Hartford Regional Market as well as sales to other farm markets and the retail market located on the farm.
Since 1960 the farm has been managed by David C. Anderson assisted by two nephews Craig and Christopher, sons of David’s late brother Jim. David is active in a wide variety of activities both civic and those related to the promotion of agriculture.
Mr. Eric Hammerling, Executive Director of the CT Forest and Park Association, presented the Samuel W, Johnson Memorial Lecture. The lectures honor Dr. Johnson who was Director of the Experiment Station from 1877 to 1900 and was a leader in the establishment of agricultural experiment stations throughout country.
Hammerling’s lecture was entitled, ‘Protecting Connecticut Forests for the Future-How are we doing? What will it take’. As Director of the Association since 2008, he gave a brief history of the Association noting that when it was organized in 1895, 25 percent of the land in the state was forested, there were no state parks, no state forests and no schools of forestry.
Today by contrast, 59 percent of the land is forested, this in the fourth most densely populated state in country. Of this 1.8 million acres, 80 percent is privately owned with nearly 75 percent of that total owned by families.
In Connecticut, over 6,000 acres are lost annually to development, making the watchdog role of the association increasingly important. About one million acres are protected through a variety of programs that have been instituted over the past 100 years including Public Act 490.
In the afternoon Dr. Blaire T. Stevens, Environmental Microbiologist in the Dept of Environmental Sciences discussed the role that microorganisms play in climate change and most particularly how they respond to climate change on the coastline.
Following Dr. Stevens’ presentation, Dr. Goudarz Molaei, Medical Entomologists/Vector Biologist in the Dept. of Environmental Sciences discussed tracking ticks and tick associated diseases. In addition to Lyme disease, other tick borne diseases found in the state include anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan virus. The Station, in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and other partners, is conducting research on tick control measures, vaccine efficacy and other aspects of tick-associated diseases.
While the activities listed above were taking place in the main tent, the technical demonstration tent was the site of two topical talks and demonstrations. A subject that is receiving increased attention statewide is that of invasive plants which are threatening the state’s lakes and ponds. Gregory Bugbee, Soil and Aquatic Ecosystem Scientist in the Dept. of Environmental Sciences discussed this important issue as to where they are, what they are and how they can be controlled all based on over 10 years of study by the CAES Invasive Aquatic Plant Program.
The preservation and return of the American Chestnut has long been basic research goal of the station and those studies continue. A brief sampling of the topics being studied include hops in New England, nanomaterials in agriculture: Trophic transfer and potential food chain contamination, Isolated bacterial endophytes enhance plant growth and promote DDE degradation.
The Staff of the Experiment Station are to be congratulated for once again putting on an excellent show for all of those in attendance. Here in Hamden, the dedicated work of this group is an outstanding example of what can be done to bring science into everyday life to the benefit of everyone.