Thursday, March 5, 2020

Penn State Research/Extension Highlights Critical Work On Spotted Lanternfly, Farm Conservation, Public Education & Involvement

On March 2, Dr. Richard Roush, Dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the critical work they and the Penn State Extension are doing on the spotted lanternfly, farm conservation and in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, educating the public and students on a variety of farm and environmental issues and creating opportunities for citizens to improve their communities.  Here is the text of his opening remarks--

Chairman Browne and distinguished members of committee, on behalf of College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University, it is a pleasure to discuss with you the state appropriation for Agriculture Research and Agriculture Extension programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
As part of a top 20 research university and the sole land-grant institution in Pennsylvania, our college creates scientific knowledge and turns it into practical solutions that help keep Pennsylvania's farms, economy, citizens, communities and natural resources healthy. 
I am excited to have this opportunity to share with you today some of our successes and the return on investment to the Commonwealth for this appropriation and our request for a $3.3 million increase.
Our research expenditures reached $121 million last year—a $7 million increase over the previous year. 
Included in this is the $25 million in research funds from the Land Scrip (Commonwealth funding), and another $63 million in grants, contracts and gifts, including from such highly competitive sources as the Gates Foundation, USDA Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. 
A key point is that because of the base capacity funding we receive from the Commonwealth, which allows us to hire staff and collect preliminary data so essential to successful applications, our highly competitive faculty return to the Commonwealth 2.5 times the state’s investment in addressing our state’s needs, many of which are shared nationally and globally.
Further, to the $29.7 million invested by the Commonwealth in Extension, the USDA contributes $22.9 million and the counties $14 million in the Extension partnership.
In addition to research and extension that the College has addressed in the past, new threats, needs, and opportunities have emerged for the Commonwealth, which the College is uniquely placed to address if provided the necessary resources.
Improving Water Quality
Improving water quality in the Streams and Rivers of Pennsylvania. The college in 2016 created the Pennsylvania in the Balance Conference, a collaborative forum attended by more than 120 diverse stakeholders. 
Significant [farm] producer participation and the unique structure of the event created a new forward-looking, continuing collaborative dialogue focused on practical solutions based on a “culture of stewardship”, such as increased adoption of no till and cover cropping, and was followed with a renewal meeting in March 2019. 
Our Matt Royer co-chairs the ag portion of the [Chesapeake Bay] Watershed Implementation Plan.
Riparian Buffers Most Cost Effective
The most cost-effective water quality strategy that has been identified in analysis of the Watershed Implementation Plan is riparian buffers, which address 20 percent of the nitrogen and 46 percent of the Phosphorous in the Bay targets at about $27 million per year. 
We believe that we can further reduce these costs by several million dollars a year and accelerate adoption by expanding  our Master Water Stewards program, thereby engaging the public more fully, and develop novel harvestable uses of land used for buffers.
Combating Spotted Lanternfly
Combating spotted lanternfly as well as other destructive invasive species
The spotted lanternfly is potentially the worst invasive insect pest since the introduction of the gypsy moth nearly 150 years ago
Current economic damages due to the pest are estimated at $50.1 million per year with a loss of 484 jobs, and, if not contained, could increase to $324 million annually and cause the loss of about 2,800 jobs. 
It’s a threat to the survival of Pennsylvania vineyards, with one killed already and at least five more under threat.
The College has not only led public education on the spotted lanternfly, we are leading the way on key research advances, including a biological insecticide, and a world-first technique for detection and possible suppression of spotted lanternfly adults, using tall poles and insecticidal nets. 
Most importantly, we are re-shaping the approach from containment to area-wide management to reduce losses to agriculture, the environment, and irritation of the general public.
In addition to the base funding the state has provided for staff, which include about 12 faculty, mostly in our #1 ranked Department of Entomology, diverted from other research and extension, we have garnered $5.7 million in research funds, $3.5 million of that from the federal government, with the remaining $2.2 million internal to Pennsylvania, mostly Department of Agriculture, but also wine industry, plus $2.7 million outreach funding from the USDA, against the more than $30 million spent by the state and USDA so far.
Emphasizing the need for capacity funding from Pennsylvania, we’ve learned today that our renewal USDA grant application of $1.5 million, has apparently been cut to less than $355,000.
I am sure that we can significantly reduce losses from spotted lanternfly, but there are more invasive species looming on the horizon, and it would be a critical investment to increase the College’s base capacity to address other threats.
Threats To Animal Agriculture
Safeguarding animal agriculture Pennsylvania's animal-agriculture sectors, which account for about 70 percent of the state's agricultural receipts, could be one disease outbreak away from financial devastation. 
The attack could be from highly pathogenic avian flu, African swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, or some other pathogen that can infect poultry, pigs, or cattle.
The College and its Animal Diagnostic Laboratory partner with Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS) to form a first line of defense against infectious diseases that threaten animals, people, and the state's agricultural economy. 
Researchers in the college beyond these laboratories study current and emerging pathogens, with an eye toward anticipating threats to animal and human health and enhancing emergency preparedness, including through monitoring the feed chain. 
This research-based knowledge is shared with producers, veterinarians, and others through Extension. 
For example, we led recent efforts to sequence the genome of avian coryza bacteria, which not only allowed for more rapid diagnosis, the results suggested farm-to-farm transmission was the likely avenue of spread and are researching insect threats.
The threat of African swine fever led the College to organize a national Emerging Animal Infectious Disease Conference (EAIDC) on March 23-25 in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, which is intended to focus on successes and lessons learned from past experiences combating foreign animal diseases and to explore new areas for action, preparedness, and response, including lessons being learned from the coronavirus outbreak.
Local Extension Offices
Extension with offices in all 67 counties, we offer a robust portfolio of educational programs, products, and services available to citizens where they want it, when they want it and how they want it. For instance:
-- Our in-person workshops and conferences register more than 50,000 attendees/year.
-- More than 14 million page views to our nationally recognized Penn State Extension website each year, and growing.
-- Our Penn State Extension 4-H program reaches more than 95,000 Pennsylvania youth/year.
-- Between just two of our flagship programs—4-H Youth Development and Master Gardeners— we engage more than 11,000 volunteers on challenges that affect Pennsylvania, such as water quality.
In sum, we continue to serve the people and industry of Pennsylvania with vigor and excellence, but are faced with additional challenges and opportunities that we cannot cover sustainably within our current resources. 
This is the basis of our requested increase.
[For more information and to take advantage of the online educational resources, webinars, workshops, conferences and newsletters available, visit the Penn State Extension website
(Photos: Spotted Lanternfly on grapes, forested riparian buffer on a farm.)
Related Articles:
[Posted: March 5, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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