Volume 11, Number 2, 2002

What do you see

Celebrate the farm

When you look at UD's Newark Farm, do you see a herd of dairy cows grazing in a pasture? A horse and her foal romping in a meadow? An historic farmhouse bordered by rows of corn? These are all elements of this 350-acre working farm.

Now, look again.

UD Prof. Jim Hawk, an internationally recognized plant breeder, looks upon the Farm as a "living laboratory," where he develops new corn lines with better pest resistance. ?

Students see the Farm as a place of learning that is every bit as vital as the classroom. It's a place where animals--from cows and chickens to pigs and sheep--are footsteps away from academic halls. The Farm means easy access for field trips to experimental plots, hedgerows, small wetlands and a 35-acre woodlot.

A local milk cooperative views it as a source of more than 1,000 gallons of milk per day.

Wildlife enthusiasts consider the forest fragment behind the stadium--called, simply, the woodlot--as a haven for squirrel, box turtle and insect studies and an area in which learning about basic ecological interaction is within daily reach.

Local families know the Farm from Ag Day, a fun community festival where city and suburban folk can learn where our food comes from and how to protect our wildlife, water and soil.

And, that's just scratching the surface. An on-campus resource for students, researchers, farmers, teachers, gardeners and the general public, the Farm serves teaching, extension and research functions for the College, the University and the state. The Farm also is a nostalgic touchstone for all the students who have walked its lanes, explored its woods and fields and worked with the animals housed there.

Botanic Gardens

The University Botanic Gardens serve as a laboratory, living classroom and public exhibit on 10 acres of grounds surrounding Townsend and Worrilow halls.

Established in 1992 through the efforts of plant science faculty and staff, Cooperative Extension horticultural professionals and community volunteers, the Gardens are used regularly by classes and for undergraduate research in such areas as plant identification, landscape design, entomology, horticultural practices and plant maintenance.

Open all year to the public, the Gardens contain plants that are labeled with both Latin and common names.

Seven distinct landscaped areas display a variety of rare, familiar and native plants.

One of those areas, tucked behind an arbor next to the greenhouses, is the Herbaceous Garden. An outdoor laboratory for plant science and entomology students, this Garden features a colorful display of annual and perennial plants.

The Habitat Trail, behind the Herbaceous Garden, encompasses a native garden, a woody old field, a miniature wetland and a meadow. Certified by the National Wildlife Federation, the Habitat Trail features 10 stations where students and visitors can view birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles and small mammals and study their interaction with plants.

Just out of the gate

On a wind-swept May morning on the Newark Farm, a day-old colt scuttles about on tentative legs, under the watchful eye of another "newcomer" to the Farm, veterinarian David Marshall. Both are here to make a good thing even better.

In response to student demand and community needs, Marshall has been hired as a new assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, focusing on equine studies.

UD boasts a rich equestrian tradition--seen in its consistently top-notch Equestrian Club. Marshall says he is eager to tap into and complement that tradition of excellence as he builds up UD's equine course offerings.

The Farmhouse

Built more than 140 years ago, the Farmhouse, with its wraparound porch and three-bay-window façade, has stood grandly, serving a number of purposes since 1907--the year the Farmhouse, the farmland and surrounding buildings became the property of the University.

Identified in the Delaware Historical Registry as the Edward R. Wilson House, the structure is "notable for its unusually large size and uncommon number of rooms," according to the Delaware Historical Society.

While the exact year of construction is undetermined, the house's architecture suggests that it was sometime in the 1860s. What is known is that the surrounding land has been farmed since Colonial times.

For many years, the Farmhouse was a family residence for College personnel. In the 1960s, it was converted into a dormitory, and it now serves as offices for the College. It remains a treasured part of the Newark Farm for its historical significance and genteel beauty--and as a reminder of the College's century-long heritage.

Got Milk? The UD Farm Does!

The UD dairy cows are voracious eaters. Each cow gobbles down about 90 pounds of food a day, which, amazing as it might seem, is considered typical for a dairy cow. And while most of us spend only 20 or 30 minutes on a meal, the UD dairy herd devotes the whole day to dining – it takes them a full eight hours to consume their daily rations!

Farm manager Scott Hopkins and his staff painstakingly tend to the forage. Hopkins knows that the hard work pays huge dividends in milk production--each cow produces more than 11 gallons a day. With 95 cows in the herd, it add up to $325,000 in annual gross sales.

Even more importantly, the dairy herd is a vital teaching tool for Prof. Limin Kung, an internationally known expert in ruminant nutrition. "It's a wonderful environment for the students; they get involved in almost every aspect of the dairy operation," Kung says.

Wood lot

One of the longest-running neo-tropical bird research studies in the Western hemisphere is stationed in the woodlot. Over the past 29 years, more than 1,000 adult woodthrush and 1,300 young woodthrush have been banded and data gathered on the productivity of the woodthrush.

This forest fragment harbors many species, including red foxes and great horned owls, and provides opportunities for observation and experimentation. In recent years, more than 100 species of birds have been observed in and around the woodlot.

It also is the site of a 35-year box turtle study that has resulted in a database of information on woodlot box turtle populations.

Searching for gems among corn rows

A cornfield seems an unlikely spot to search for gems, but that's exactly what Prof. Jim Hawk and research associate Tecle Weldekidan are doing on a six-acre spread on the Newark Farm.

These internationally known plant breeders are looking for new inbred corn lines in collaboration with the USDA Germplasm Enhancement Maize project, better known as GEM. GEM lines are developed using both foreign and U.S. maize germplasm to broaden the genetic diversity necessary for long-term improvement. This is good news for the American farmer, since it ultimately results in corn hybrids that boast better pest and disease resistance, improved yield and altered grain composition, including oil, sugars and protein.

The researchers already have unveiled two GEMS--DE3 and DE4--that were released to the seed industry this past spring. While the primary focus is on traditional plant-breeding methods, the researchers also make use of molecular techniques. UD is uniquely positioned in that Hawk's "living laboratory" allows him and his co-workers to bridge molecular studies and applied fieldwork.

What's Buzzin' on the farm?

If you visit the Farm Apiary, make sure you're dressed for the occasion--meaning heavy protective clothing. After all, this is the home of 40,000 northern European bees.

Prof. Dewey Caron, who teaches apiculture, is the "landlord" in charge of these 25 colonies of bees. Caron, a world-renowned bee scientist, uses the Apiary to better understand and control the deadly parasite bee mite. The Farm Apiary also serves as a place to teach beekeeping to the general public, a pollination resource for farmers and a research center for tracking regional environmental changes. Foremost in importance, though, is the Apiary's role in teaching bee science to UD students.