Department of Plant and Soil Science
Sweet Message: UVM Research Yields Many Happy Returns
Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station Studies Vermont Issues
- By Cheryl Dorschner
The first crop of this year's maple syrup was not yet tapped and boiled on February 12 when about 180 University of Vermont scientists, their star students, program leaders and state officials gathered in the Vermont State House cafeteria for sugar-on-snow and Vermont apple pie and ice cream to celebrate the publication of the Annual Report of the Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station and UVM Extension. Here's the slide show.
But the taste of things to come was a metaphor for UVM's thinking "way ahead of the times in scientific research, outreach programs and maple syrup produced by the University of Vermont, the state's land-grant institution that serves Vermonters," as the introduction to the report says.
UVM President Tom Sullivan spoke of the role of the state’s flagship university in conducting cutting edge research and teaching that helps Vermonters and the Vermont economy, with the cooperation of the state. He cited examples, such as Professor David Barrington, one of the foremost experts on ferns, studies of the fiddlehead fern genetics as a key to whether the populations can withstand heavy picking now that its an extremely sought after and lucrative Vermont food product. Sullivan introduced Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin who echoed the theme of collaboration between the State and its University.
RESEARCH BENEFITS VERMONTERS
Barrington and three other UVM College of Agriculture and Life Science researchers funded through the Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station (VT-AES) were on hand with their students and posters to chat with state leaders while they sampled Vermont products.
- John Barlow and senior animal science major Amanda Carmellini and graduate student Katrina Light study the microbiology of bacteria Staphyloccus aureus on Vermont farms where cheese is made.
- Yolanda Chen brought master’s degree student Gemelle Brion, Ph.D. candidate Chase Stratton and newly minted Ph.D. Victor Izzo. Her team studies plant-insect interactions and how insects such as the Colorado potato beetle and Swede midge become rampant agricultural pests in Vermont and elsewhere.
- David Conner brought his former graduate student now research specialist at UVM Center for Rural Studies, Florence Becot. The duo surveys and quantifies the effect of Farm-to-Institution sales relationships on the Vermont economy.
Their stories, along with that of four UVM Extension projects were featured in the annual report of state and federally funded programs for the fiscal year 2013.
This year’s cover features a photo of one of UVM’s recent leaders of the student-managed dairy herd (nicknamed “CREAM” for Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management ), Olivia Thompson bringing in the cows for the evening milking. The cover’s smaller photos represent VT-AES research and teaching mission and UVM Extension’s role of outreach, that is, making the results of science and education’s knowledge available to Vermonters so they can make their own informed choices.
“Science is needed to clarify some of the unknowns of the future and focus research on key topics relevant to Vermont’s agricultural economy,” says Tom Vogelmann, dean of the VT-AES and UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Those “unknowns” include the challenges of feeding an increasing population, creating a resilient local food economy, addressing food safety, controlling invasive species and indentifying adaptive responses to severe weather.
Of course, it takes money to carry out this research and outreach to Vermonters. And the crux of the annual report, is that last year the combined budgets of the Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station (VT-AES) and University of Vermont Extension totaled about $21.9 million, down $1.5 million from the previous fiscal year due largely to the federal budget sequester. Still the message from every corner of the State House cafeteria is that it is money well invested, duly leveraged that brings a huge return to the home state. UVM students and scientists and state officials agreed that, like the Proctor Maple Research Center sugar-on-snow and Vermont apple pie and ice cream, this success is very cool and sweet.