Grants awarded for hemlock restoration projects

Dead hemlocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C. Image: Ben Smith, Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests

Dead hemlocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, N.C. Image: Ben Smith, Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests

WNC Communities announced three awards totaling $75,000 to help to restore North Carolina’s hemlock trees to long-term health. The awards program is a part of the new Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a cooperative effort launched by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and the NCDA&CS through a grant to WNC Communities.

Hemlocks across Western North Carolina are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that sucks the sap of young twigs, which leads to tree death. Dead hemlocks can negatively affect nesting songbirds, trout populations, plant nurseries and landscapers, homeowners and tourism. The goal of the Hemlock Restoration Initiative is to work with and through current restoration initiatives to ensure that Eastern and Carolina hemlocks can resist the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on North Carolina’s public and private lands by 2025.

An advisory committee recommended three projects for funding. Together, these projects advance three complementary treatment and restoration methods: chemical treatment to stabilize hemlock trees until more lasting solutions are available, predator beetles to provide long-term adelgid control, and the search for native resistance or tolerance. The recipients are:

The three projects provide opportunities for hemlock restoration across all 17 Western North Carolina counties eligible for the award funds, and each project will also include efforts to educate the general public on how they can help support these restoration efforts.

These projects will each receive $25,000 in award funds, thanks to $50,000 allocated from the NCDA&CS Hemlock Restoration Initiative grant to WNC Communities, and $25,000 donated to WNC Communities by Brad Stanback, a Haywood County landowner and member of the advisory committee.

“We are very grateful to Commissioner Troxler, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and Mr. Stanback for making these funds available,” said Linda Lamp, executive director of WNC Communities. “We also sincerely appreciate the recipients, the other award applicants, the rest of the advisory committee, and countless other individuals, groups, and agencies who are offering help and hope for restoring our hemlocks to long-term health.”

“Hemlocks are important to fish, wildlife, homeowners, businesses and tourism,” Troxler said. “It’s going to take a team effort to protect and restore these trees, and we’re happy to support the search for potential solutions.”

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative Advisory Committee includes representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Forest Service, NCDA&CS, the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests, WNC Communities, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Each agency and group has provided considerable time and financial support for hemlock restoration activities throughout Western North Carolina.

-Information from WNC Communities


News Roundup: Aug. 23-29

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Several Facets to Implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Southern Farm Network: At the Food Safety Forum this week, several speakers outlined the coming changes with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is being implemented in stages, with the export segment coming next. NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler explains why we need food safety legislation: “There is no doubt that we have the safest food supply in the world. So the question is why do we need this system. Think back to the tomato recall a few years ago, it did about $250 million in damage but it turned out it wasn’t even the tomatoes.” Troxler explains that the new food safety system will be an integrated system: “Out of this bad came a lot of good and that is an integrated food system. Integration between FDA and the states and the local food safety official to make it all work is needed.” …
  • “Worms, stink bugs prove to be problems for North Carolina farmers this year,” Southeast Farm Press: North Carolina State University Extension Entomologist Dominic Reisig says this year is shaping up to be one of the worst years ever for plant bugs in the state with heavier infestations of stink bugs, tobacco budworms and corn earworms being found in more fields. “I’ve been here for five years and it’s been as bad as I’ve ever seen. It’s probably as bad as we’ve seen for 30 years or longer,” Reisig says. “I expect plant bugs are a trend that’s here to stay so farmers are going to need to remain ever-vigilant in their scouting.” The insect infestations appear to be hitting the northeastern part of North Carolina the hardest. …
  • “Officials to hold public meeting on Sanderson Farms poultry processing center,” Fayetteville Observer: To help counter the opposition by some residents and landowners, local officials are holding a public meeting Tuesday to talk about a proposed chicken processing plant. The Fayetteville Regional Chamber is hosting the meeting on the floor of the Crown Coliseum with the support of the Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, whose members are eager to land the $113 million plant that would employ about 1,000 workers. …
  • “NCSF wants local fare,” Carteret County News-Times: A push to use more local seafood and a ticketed concert are two changes for the N.C. Seafood Festival this year. More than 65 festival sponsors, media, board members and affiliates met Thursday at Chef’s 105 to learn what’s new at this year’s event, set for Friday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Oct. 6. In its 28th year, the festival that packs downtown will feature live music, food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides, a few athletic events and the Blessing of the Fleet nondenominational ceremony Oct. 6 that honors the commercial fishing industry. The community-oriented event benefits many of the county’s nonprofit groups, churches and more through their various efforts. Festival board members are making an effort to promote local seafood and produce in partnership with sponsors Got To Be N.C. Agriculture and Got To Be N.C. Seafood, a part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture, according to this year’s festival chairman Patrick Conneely. Thirty-two of 51 food vendors will sell local seafood, Mr. Conneely said. They’ll display a yellow flag at their booths that reads, “Fresh. Local. Got to be N.C. Seafood.” …
  • “Cabarrus County Farmer Takes Educating the Consumer Seriously,” Southern Farm Network: Earlier this week at the 10th Annual Food Safety Forum, hosted by NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler, poultry, swine and cattle farmer Tommy Porter sat on a panel discussing food safety issues from the farm to the plate. Porter takes his responsibility seriously when it comes to educating the consumer about where their food comes from: “I would much rather be home on the farm than sitting on a panel. But I would never turn down an opportunity to talk about the farmers side of the story. The consumer needs to know where their food comes from and how safe it is. And how its produced, everything from the land to the fertilizers to the equipment. We have the safest and most economical food supply in the world and consumers need to know that. And how it gets to their table. There is a lot of science and work that goes into it. There is science, for example breeding stock, to get to what the consumer demands on their table. If we can reach out and educate, that is why I’m here. That is why I took the day off from the farm and I think its worthwhile.” …
  • “Get out on the farms for fall,” Charlotte Observer: Once school starts and the vacation season ends, a lot of things compete for our attention. But some of the best local food all year hits fields in fall. It’s also cooler and less humid, the perfect time to make an excursion to a farm. What can you get and where can you get it? Here are a few farms with special things to offer in fall. For the full lists of you-pick farms and farmers markets that stay open through October, including the markets that are open all winter, go to …
  • “Farmers expect to offer plenty of fruit,” Hendersonville Times-News: Despite hard freezes, frost and hailstorms, Henderson County’s apple orchards emerged from all the bad weather with plenty of fruit for the N.C. Apple Festival. “Everybody around has got different damage in different orchards,” said Jerred Nix, president of the Blue Ridge Apple Growers. “Some places, Romes are affected; other places, they’re not. Some places, Galas are affected, and others they’re fine.” Despite the scattered damage, Nix said there will be no lack of unblemished apples in a range of varieties for sale at the Apple Festival, which starts Friday and runs through Monday, Labor Day. …
  • “Charlotte’s Gleaning Network gets food from fields to the hands of hungry people,” Charlotte Observer: It started in a field of corn on a farm near Concord. It ended with a hungry family in Charlotte. In between, a chain of volunteers gave time, sweat and gasoline to pick the corn, drive it where it was needed and hand it out. “It’s the best job ever,” says Jean Siers, the Charlotte coordinator for the Gleaning Network, which matches volunteers with farms that have more food than they can pick. “At the end of the day, you know somebody ate something healthy and good because you picked up the phone.” The Gleaning Network is one of a half-dozen groups in the Charlotte area that make up the system of food banks, emergency pantries and community gardens. It is also one of the few that focuses exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies by the USDA have found that 17 percent of North Carolina households were in danger of not having enough nutritious food in 2012. …



In the Kitchen with Brian and Lisa: August recipe roundup


WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their Got to Be Good Cookin’ segment using ingredients grown and available right here in North Carolina. Featured this month are salads made with fresh, local ingredients found at roadside stands, farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the state.

This month, Brian and Lisa make an appetizer, dessert, main dish and salad using an abundance of fresh N.C. produce.

The first recipe is a appetizer that was originally entered in the N.C. State Fair by Gail Fuller of Raleigh. Lisa says the Summer Sushi Roll is “perfect for summer” and a “great way to get kids to eat their vegetables.” The recipe below uses Savoy cabbage but any type of cabbage can be used.

Summer Sushi Roll


  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 1⁄2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 10 large Savoy cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium fresh carrot
  • 15 spears fresh asparagus
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 2 slices fresh onion


For the rice:

  • In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix to a boil.
  • Add the rice, cover and steam until rice is tender. (about 10 minutes)
  • Cool and add the cream cheese, mixing well.
  • Refrigerate until cold and solid.

To prepare vegetables:

  • Cut carrot into about 6 inch sticks, the sweet pepper into slices and cut the onion slice in half.
  • Bring 1 cup of water and chicken bouillon to simmer.
  • Add all vegetables and blanch about 2 minutes (until just tender, but still whole).
  • Remove cabbage leaves, pat dry and let them come to room temperature.

To make the sushi:

  • Lay 2 cabbage leaves flat on work surface.
  • Spread about ½ cup rice mixture evenly on cabbage. (mixture will be sticky)
  • Lay 1-2 asparagus spears, 1-2 carrot sticks, 1-2 slices of yellow pepper and 1-2 half rings of onion lengthwise across the spinach leaves.
  • Roll cabbage leaves tightly around vegetables.
  • Cut each roll into 4-6 slices

Next Lisa and Brian make peach wontons from fresh N.C. peaches. Brian calls these a “new take on the peach turnover.” Lisa suggests making these wontons with a variety of N.C. fruits like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or plums. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Peach Wontons


  • 8 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
  • 1⁄2 cup N.C. peaches (peeled and chopped, 1-2 peaches)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • peanut oil
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream


In a sauce pan, add butter, honey and peaches. Sauté until the peaches are soft. Stir in cornstarch and let boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool fully in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Beat the egg and add a little water to make an egg wash. Place a dollop of the peach mixture on the wonton. Brush egg wash around the edges and press together at the tips.

In a large, heavy duty pot, add enough peanut oil to allow wontons to swim and heat to 350 degrees. Add wontons and fry until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Place 2 fried wontons on a plate and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Lisa’s husband, Robert, provided the next recipe, which Brian notes uses so many ingredients that their might not be “anything left at the grocery store after this one.” Lisa suggests it is a “great way to use all that stuff coming from the garden.” It is her version of Chinese comfort food. Add a little sriracha if you want a little extra heat .

Robert’s Stir-Fry


  • 2 cups sticky rice, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 green onions (green only cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons celery, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce plus and few dashes
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 3⁄4 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cups broccoli florets and stalks cut small
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces water chestnuts, sliced and drained
  • 5 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups peppers (red, yellow, green, sliced)
  • soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


For the Broth:

Combine chicken broth, green onion, celery, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Let simmer on low for 30 minutes then turn off to cool.

For the Chicken:

Chicken is easier to slice thin if slightly frozen. Place the chicken in a zip lock bag add the egg white and coat. Combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Pour into the bag and shake to coat.

In a large pan or wok, set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add the yellow onion and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger, cook for 10-20 seconds. Don’t burn it. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink and starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Continue to toss and stir the chicken. The chicken can be cooked in 2 batches but remember to divide your oils, onion, garlic and ginger. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

For the Sauce:

Combine ¼ cup soy sauce, ¾ tablespoon oyster sauce and ½ cup of the broth mixture. Then add ½ tablespoon cornstarch and stir to combine.

For the Vegetables:

In same pan, still set on high heat; add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Once hot, add spring onions and cook for 30 seconds add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 ½ teaspoon ginger and cook for a few seconds, and then add the mushrooms. Continue to stir so the garlic does not burn. Cook for a minute so the mushrooms can sweat. Then add water chestnuts, dash or two of soy sauce, pinch of salt and pepper cooking for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and celery with another pinch of salt and dash soy sauce and cook until they begin to soften. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the sauce to the pan and then the broccoli. Turn heat down to medium. Add the rest of the broth mixture if more juice is needed. Stir occasionally keeping the broccoli on top as much as possible. Cover to steam the broccoli for 2-3 minutes and serve over the rice.

The month wraps up with a cold marinated salad which Lisa says is perfect for summer.

Edamame and Green Bean Salad


  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces Edamame (shelled soybeans)
  • 1 pound green beans (trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 green onions (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1⁄2 red pepper (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
  • 1 can Garbanzo beans (15.5 oz drained and rinsed)


  • In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper; gradually add olive oil.
  • Cook edamame in boiling water for 5 minutes, then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Cook green beans in boiling water for 3-6 minutes then put into an ice bath. Remove and pat dry.
  • Combine the edamame, green beans, garbanzo beans, green onions, red pepper and parsley. Pour dressing over the salad and gently stir to coat. Refrigerate a few hours before serving.



Taking care of your lawn also means taking care of your trees

Mowers and trimmers can damage trees and may cause dieback, disease, or decay.  Image: J. O’Brien, USDA Forest Service,

Mowers and trimmers can damage trees and may cause dieback, disease or decay. Image: J. O’Brien, USDA Forest Service,

It’s summer in North Carolina and that means many homeowners are pulling out the mowers on a regular basis to keep their grass trimmed throughout the growing season. While mowers may make your lawns look great though, they have the potential to make your trees look terrible.  Mowers and trimmers have the potential to damage trees, causing mechanical injury.

Trees can’t really “heal” the way you and I think of healing.  That’s why when a branch is trimmed, a permanent scar remains on the tree rather than new bark growing over it.  Instead, trees compartmentalize damage so that it does not injure other parts of the tree.  When trees are injured over and over or injured severely, it could lead to dieback, disease, decay and in some cases, death.  They just may not be able to get over the injury you cause them.

So, while you’re out in the yard this summer, cut your trees a break by not cutting them with power equipment.  Take extra care when mowing or trimming around your trees.  Another option is to mulch around your trees.  Not only will this result in a healthier tree with better soil moisture available, but you will not need to mow or trim against the main stem of the tree.


Today’s Topic: Fees for forest management plans

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

N.C. Forest Service shieldThe state budget approved by the General Assembly directed the N.C. Forest Service to start charging fees for woodland plans, which are commonly known as forest management plans. The budget bill also allowed the state Board of Agriculture to review and approve the fees, which the board did in early August.

Woodland plans will have a base fee of $45. In addition, there will be a fee of $3 per acre for forest management plans and forest stewardship plans, both of which are comprehensive plans. Practice plans, which are simpler plans that usually address just one management practice, will cost $2 per acre in addition to the base fee.

Commissioner Troxler says there are financial and environmental benefits to having a woodland plan. For example, certain types of plans can qualify a landowner for participation in the state’s Forestry Present Use Valuation Program, resulting in significant property tax reductions.

Woodland plans provide detailed forestry recommendations, but they can also advise landowners on wildlife habitat, soil and water protection, and recreational opportunities. In addition, they can help qualify landowners for forest certification.

The N.C. Forest Service continues to offer a variety of programs and services that are free of charge.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss forest management plans.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.


News Roundup: Aug. 15-22

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Native Son: Winery takes root on family farm,” Asheboro Courier-Tribune: In fields where tobacco once flourished, a new crop has taken over. Planted deep in land that Tammy Smith played on as a child, next to the family farm where she grew up, are the muscadines. Muscadines are the native grapes first mentioned by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 before the United States came into existence. They are as rooted into the soil of North Carolina as her family. …
  • “Caswell site gets land conservancy grant,” Burlington Times-News: The Piedmont Land Conservancy has been awarded $314,000 to assist with the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement in Caswell County. The easement is on 363 acres of a livestock and poultry farm owned by V. Mac and Peggy Baldwin of Yanceyville. Also, the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center at Mount Olive University received $192,764 for a project that will serve Alamance County. The grants are part of nearly $2.3 million that the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund awarded to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. …
  • “Blackland Farm Managers Tour draws big crowd,” Southeast Farm Press: Rainy weather brought muddy fields to the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth on Aug. 6 which meant field tours had to be taken off the agenda of the 44th annual Blackland Farm Managers Tour, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 400 farmers and others in attendance. “We were very pleased with the tour,” said Beaufort County Extension Agent Rob Gurganus, who served as master of ceremonies. “Of course, we had hoped to do field tours, but we made adjustments and carried on. We fed 430 people, and all told I would guess we had more than 450 people on hand because some folks left before the meal. Without a doubt, valuable information was presented at the tour.” …
  • “Safety first for today’s farmers,” Robesonian: Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the world. Working with heavy equipment, live animals, and various other tasks around the farm create ample opportunities for accidents to occur. Farm workers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. According to a recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 374 farm workers died from work-related injuries resulting in a fatality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for farmers and farm workers. …
  • “Forestry plans no longer free,” Wilkes Journal-Patriot: Fees must now be paid for forest management plans developed by the N.C. Forest Service. As required under the state budget recently approved by the N.C. General Assembly, the forest service developed and recently announced a schedule of fees for certain services that previously were free. The fees start with a base charge of $45 for any type of woodland plan and include another $3 per acre for forest management plans and forest stewardship plans and $2 per acre for practice plans.
  • “Apple harvest opens across county,” Hendersonville Lightning: Henderson County apple growers have began harvesting early apples amid guarded optimism that the 2014 crop will bring favorable market prices. Crews fanned out in apple country orchards where the earliest varieties, the yellow Ginger Gold and the popular Gala, have ripened. “We’ve just been getting started harvesting,” said Jack Ruff, an “Enjoy NC Apples” marketing specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. …
  • “Swine Producers Ramping Up for another PEDv Season,” Southern Farm Network: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus has the reputation of taking the summer off, so to speak, and remerging again in cold weather. Dr. Gene Nemechek, Technical services veterinarian with Zoetis, working with swine producers and swine veterinarians in North Carolina says it’s time to re-evaluate some biosecurity measures: “I think most of them are continuing to think about things like transportation issues that are high risk in spreading the virus. …
  • “Brown marmorated stink bug found at damaging levels in Cleveland County N.C.,” Southeast Farm Press: For those accustomed to the rapid spread of kudzu bugs, the brown marmorated stink bug seems like a slowpoke. This is an insect we’ve been talking and warning about for years. Unfortunately it’s decided to make its debut in Cleveland County. Here are some initial observations about it, predictions, and what should be done. Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invader from Asia. It has been confirmed in many parts of North Carolina, but its main distribution has so far been restricted to the mountains and Piedmont. …
  • “Getting the NC Tobacco Crop to the Finish Line Full of Challenges,” Southern Farm Network: Growing tobacco in North Carolina has been mostly a trouble-free affair, once it got into the ground. But, as we’re aiming for the finish line on this year’s crop Don Nicholson, NCDA Regional Agronomist says some problems are starting to pop up: “Normally we would be saying we are very close to the finish line, but this year we are very late. The crop has been in the field a long time but we are going to start seeing some progress as well as some problems come up. I’m seeing what I call ‘popcorn’ where the stalks are starting to show disease, mainly wilt. And with wet fields, and more moisture, you are seeing folks having to go in and save what they can.”
  • “NC breweries tapped to create ‘state beer,’” News & Observer: It took official acts and legislative debate to get North Carolina a state dog (Plott hound), state flower (dogwood) and state tree (longleaf pine). It will take more than 20 breweries to get a state beer. Margo Knight Metzger, the director of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, announced the effort to make a “statewide collaboration beer” Wednesday at a beer industry event at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s new facility in Charlotte. The idea is to create a single beer using all N.C. ingredients and input from a group of N.C. brewers.  …

August: What’s happening on the farm?

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.

There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount. 

Field days are important outreach opportunities for research stations, where farmers and visitors can see research being conducted firsthand in a field setting and gain new insights into production techniques from researchers. The staff with the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been busy in recent weeks getting the station ready for Cotton Field Day on Sept. 10 and a Wild Soybean Breeding Tour on Sept. 30. A Sorghum and Corn Aflatoxin Control Field Day was held Aug. 14. These events draw farmers from near and far in Eastern North Carolina because of the widespread production of these crops in this part of the state.

The Upper Coastal Plain Research Station has been showcasing its agricultural research work for a long time, as it is the oldest of the 18 state-operated stations in the state, starting on a trial basis in 1902. The station has about 450 acres in research trials. Dr. Clyde Bogle has been the station superintendent for over 24 years.

Cotton, soybeans, sorghum and corn  are not the only crops at the station. It also produces burley and flue-cured tobacco, peanuts, small grain and small acreages of other crops. In fact, in one field visitors can see burley tobacco growing beside flue-cured tobacco, something that does not occur in real life. The site contains three black shank nurseries and Granville wilt nursery for developing disease management strategies and disease-resistant cultivars in tobacco, Sclerotina and CBR disease nurseries for fields involved in weed and insect studies. Weed management strategies are being developed for the various crops utilizing nearly 50 acres devoted to weed nurseries. Also, insect management studies are being conducted in tobacco, cotton, soybeans and corn.

Burley tobacco (plant with longer, more upright leafs in the foreground) and flue-cured tobacco (in the background) are planted side by side in one field at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station.

Burley tobacco (plants at right with longer, more upright leaves) and flue-cured tobacco (plants to the left with shorter, more arching leaves) are planted side by side in one field at the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station in Rocky Mount. Research specialist Louis Pitt manages tobacco production at the station.

One of the research station’s three black shank nurseries. The white bags over the tobacco blooms are used to collect seed from plants that were more resistant to the disease.


































Creig Deal, a research specialist who manages all crop trials other than tobacco, recently showed off some of the work on the station, and crops and test plots looked good with a few obvious exceptions — fields being used for weed control and disease and insect research.

In a normal growing situation, farmers would try to keep weeds from growing up with plants, Deal said, but in a research situation rows that have been treated for weeds and those left untreated illustrate the effectiveness of various types of weed control. In another field, Dan Mott, an agricultural research specialist with N.C. State University, was looking for insects in a cotton field. Using two flat wooden sticks and a black canvas, Mott hit the leaves of the cotton plant knocking loose any insects in the plant onto the canvas. Then he quickly counted and inventoried the insects so he would know the insect pressure in the field.

Farmers routinely survey fields for pests as part of day-to-day management of crops.

This photo shows a weed research plot. The two rows in the center have been treated for weeds; the two rows on either side have not been treated.

This photo shows a weed research plot. The two rows in the center have been treated for weeds; the two rows on either side have not been treated.


Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott looks for insects in a cotton field.

Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott looks for insects in a cotton field.


Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott discusses the insect findings with Creig Deal, the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station crop research specialist.

Agricultural research specialist Dan Mott discusses the insect findings with Creig Deal, the Upper Coastal Plain Research Station crop research specialist.

Research is expected to help farmers meet future food needs by finding new plants and techniques to increase yields and efficiencies on the farm. The United Nations predicts farmers will need to increase production by 75 to 100 percent by 2050, so agricultural research will be critical going forward.

Learning what  doesn’t work is equally as important as what does work when it comes to agricultural production, and saves farmers the time and expense of having to do their own experiments to improve crop production. A calendar of field days planned at the research stations can be found here.



Flavor, NC: Coon Rock Farm

Flavor NC logoTwice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode one of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough and  Zely & Ritz restaurant in Raleigh.

There are more than 600 family farms in Orange County. Coon Rock Farm, located in Hillsborough, is a sustainable farm bordering the Eno River. Owners Richard Holcomb and Jamie Dement grow several garden crops and provide pasture-raised chickens, eggs, pigs, lambs and goats.

The same year Holcomb and Dement bought Coon Rock Farm, they opened Zely and Ritz in Raleigh. More than half of the ingredients used at the restaurant are fresh from Coon Rock Farm. This includes more than 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including Mr. Stripey and Cherokee purple. Be sure to watch the whole episode to get Lisa’s tips for choosing and storing tomatoes.

Below is the recipe for Bacon Basil Tomato Sauce, which  uses many of the ingredients found at Coon Rock Farms. Serve over pasta for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.


1 pound bacon
2 pounds peeled, chopped tomatoes
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice bacon into 1/4-inch chunks. Fry in skillet until almost done. Add minced garlic. When garlic starts to look clear, add tomatoes and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add basil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta and garnish with fresh grated cheese.



Blogging from the fireline

With humid conditions, the summer months are typically less active for the North Carolina Forest Service in terms of battling wildfires. However, the same isn’t true for other parts of the country. As part of a cooperative agreement, the N.C. Forest Service has been dispatching employees to assist with suppressing wildfires in the western United States.

A dispatch normally lasts for 14 days, plus two days for travel at each end of the assignment. Jobs filled by NCFS personnel include everything from the top manager on a fire (the incident commander) to members of hand crews digging fire breaks in the soil. At press time, there were 93 employees assigned to out-of-state incidents.

Mecklenburg County Forester Eddie Reese recently sent back an update from the front lines of the South Fork Complex fire in Oregon. Reese’s group is at the end of its dispatch and will return to North Carolina this week.

Western fire detail has an ideological air about it that the public seems to fear and respect. Ever since the early 1900s it has been the job of forestry agencies to contain all wildfires that occur in nature to protect life and property. Over the last 114 years our western areas have been impacted from the decision to completely contain and extinguish all wildfires. Also, our western areas have experienced large insect killed timber areas that aren’t harvested and also extended droughts that have added to the overall fire potential in our western states.

This year, 2014, has been another one for the record books for the Northwestern United States. Northern California, Oregon and Washington have been the victims of all of the above factors coming together to make this year’s fire season extremely active. To date, the N.C. Forest Service as sent more than 120 personnel out to aid in the containment of these wildfires and gain further experience dealing with extreme fires. I had the opportunity to come to Oregon to help this year with the South Fork Complex. The last couple of days have been really active on this fire. We have two N.C. Forest Service hand crews on this fire, as well as myself as Situation Unit Leader, a Division Supervisor, and a Communication Technician. We all have our role to play — from the crew actively engaging the fire on the fireline, to Division Supervisors supervising the crews and other resources on the fireline, to the Communication Technician helping maintain radio communication between all of the personnel on the fire, to my position, Situation Unit Leader, which is as you would think, keeping abreast of the current situation of the fire and creating maps to aid those on the ground with where they are, and where the fire is headed.

Wildfire is a very fluid “beast” that tends to have a mind of its own. The South Fork Complex is no different. On Aug. 7, the fire jumped across a road and river that were side by side, and burned 7,000 acres in less than six hours. Crews and engines tried to keep the fire contained by using burn out operations (burning brush ahead of the fire) to get a handle on it, but the fire spotted across the burn out areas and continued its push. Our plans change daily and our ground personnel are critical to gaining the upper hand on the fire. To date the South Fork complex has burned about 64,990 acres and is 72 percent contained. The incident has changed from a Type 2 Team to a Type 1 Team.

A typical sleeping arrangement for dispatched fire fighters

A typical sleeping arrangement for dispatched fire fighters.

Preparing a weather balloon

Preparing a weather balloon.

The sun is obscured by the thick smoke in the area.

The sun is obscured by the thick smoke in the area.

A helicopter is on its way to drop water on the fire.

A helicopter is on its way to drop water on the fire.


Today’s Topic: August crop report forecasts big year for soybeans, cotton

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

USDA’s August crop report forecasts a big year for soybeans, cotton, flue-cured tobacco and peanuts in North Carolina.

More than 1.6 million acres of soybeans have been planted in North Carolina this year, and the yield is forecast to be 37 bushels per acre. That combination of acres and yield should push production up 32 percent compared with 2013.

Cotton acres are a little higher than last year, but the yield is forecast to be 939 pounds per acre. That’s 140 pounds higher than last year’s yield. Total production is forecast at 910,000 bales, which is a 19 percent increase.

Production of flue-cured tobacco is forecast at 416 million pounds, which is 16 percent higher than last year. Commissioner Troxler says some in the business are describing the crop as a barn buster, but recent wet weather in eastern North Carolina may temper the yield.

Peanut production also is expected to increase this year. The yield is projected to be 4,000 pounds per acre, which is not far off the record of 4,100 pounds that was set just two years ago. Peanut acreage is forecast at 89,000 acres, and total production is expected to be 356 million pounds. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2013’s totals.

These crops are on the rise, but corn production is forecast to dip about 15 percent this year. Acreage is forecast to be 800,000 acres, and the yield is projected to be 132 bushels per acre. That’s 10 bushels less than last year’s record yield.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the latest crop report.

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