New Delaware study points to benefits of irrigation

DOVER — Irrigation can increase grain production and profitability even in a near-ideal growing season, a new survey of Delaware cropland shows.

Delaware farm fields that used irrigation in 2013 produced 27 percent more corn per acre on average than non-irrigated fields, according to new data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.

Irrigated acres produced 40 bushels of corn per acre more than non-irrigated ones, or 189 bushels for irrigated land compared to 149 bushels for non-irrigated land, the survey shows.

“Irrigation is an incredibly valuable tool that can help increase economic stability and improve profits even in a record-setting corn yield year like 2013,” Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said. “This data shows how an initial investment can make yields more predictable and let farmers influence production in periods of drought.”

Kee noted that irrigation also has environmental benefits, making crops more efficient in the uptake of nutrients so they don’t stay in the soil during dry weather and then add to nutrient loading during the wet fall and winter months.

The data is the first time Delaware has compared yields for irrigated and non-irrigated corn. Of the 174,000 acres harvested for corn for grain in 2013, 43 percent – or 75,000 acres – were irrigated, the data shows. About 57 percent, or 99,000 acres, were not irrigated.

Delaware corn producers saw a record average yield of 166 bushels per acre in 2013, beating the previous record of 162 bushels per acre, in 2000.

An innovative partnership now in its fourth year offers help to Delaware farmers who want to add new irrigation systems. The Delaware Rural Irrigation Program, or DRIP, offers no-interest loans to install new equipment in partnership with private lending institutions.

Eligible farmers must have been actively engaged for at least two years in growing and harvesting of cash crops, such as corn, soybeans, fruit and vegetables, in Delaware, and must own or lease the land to be irrigated.

The loan fund finances up to 25 percent of the total project cost, not to exceed $25,000, at zero interest for a term of no longer than seven years. Repayment of principal must begin in year three of the loan. Financing is limited to one project per farm each year.

DRIP loans can help farmers add new irriation systems, including center pivot, linear move, towable systems, span angle systems, corner arm systems, single phase systems or wells and filters associated with drip irrigation systems. All work must be performed by experienced and qualified contractors licensed in and located in Delaware.

Farmers interested in participating should contact James Pennewell at the Delaware Economic Development Office at 302-672-6807 or Applications should be submitted concurrently with approved bank financing. The loan application will be reviewed by DEDO Capital Resources staff with comment from the Department of Agriculture.

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Delaware corn for grain, 2013

Irrigated: 77,000 acres planted … 75,000 acres harvested … 189 bushels/acre yield

Non-irrigated: 103,000 acres planted … 99,000 acres harvested … 149 bushels/acre yield

Total: 180,000 acres planted … 174,000 acres harvested … 166 bushels/acre yield

Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service

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Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture

Delaware Forest Service to hold 19th “Fire Camp” at Redden State Forest on April 26

The Delaware Forest Service will hold its 19th Annual Fire Camp – an intensive one-day seminar to train volunteers in wildland firefighting  – on Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (rain or shine) at Redden State Forest, 18074 E. Redden Road, Georgetown, DE 19947  (Phone: 302-856-2893).

Highlights of Delaware Forest Service’s “Fire Camp”:

  • “Fire Camp” marks the capstone of the Delaware Forest Service’s annual training cycle to ready its wildland firefighters for the upcoming summer fire season.
  • The intensive one-day course serves as a necessary prerequisite for firefighters to achieve yearly “red-card” certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) to serve on out-of-state fire assignments
  • Delaware’s crew is a well-regarded unit that has seen regular action battling blazes in the western United States since 1998. In 2013, Delaware dispatched a 20-person crew to an 85,000-acre blaze near North Pole, Alaska as well as a subsequent crew that served a two-week assignment fighting wildfires near Terra, Utah and Riggins, Idaho.
  • The one-day seminar provides potential crew members with hands-on instruction in several key areas: wildfire suppression techniques, the influence of weather on fire behavior, crew mobilization and teamwork, pump and power saw usage, and most importantly, how to apply their experience to a “live” simulated fire situation.
  • In addition to training sessions and the “live” burn, many participants will also be completing an arduous work capacity or “pack test”—which calls for hauling a 45-pound pack over a three-mile course in less than 45 minutes.  Passing this test is a required component of NWCG certification.

This event often offers compelling visuals of actual wildland firefighting and provides journalists with excellent opportunities to capture photos and other audiovisual recording. Firefighters and instructors will also be available for interviews; however, media members who plan to capture footage of the live burn are advised to arrive at the site on Saturday, April 26 by 12 noon.*

Event Contact: Henry Poole, Assistant Forestry Administrator, Delaware Forest Service
(302) 943-3593 (cell)
(302) 698-4548 (office)

* The timing and location of the “live burn” is subject to change based on actual weather conditions.

Delaware farm stands, markets opening for season

DOVER — With farm stands opening their doors and farmers’ market seasons kicking off this month, it’s now easier than ever for Delawareans to buy their farm-fresh items directly from growers.

“Delaware is looking forward to another great growing season,” said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “Whether you buy local from a farmers’ market vendor or a roadside stand, you can get the best and freshest produce right here in Delaware.”

Shoppers can easily and quickly find local sources of fresh produce, meat, eggs and other agricultural products by using several new resources:

>> The new Buy Local Guide, at, featuring lists of farmers’ markets, farm stands, creameries, equine operations and more.

>> The revamped Delaware Fresh app for mobile devices, now offering a search function to help users find products faster.

>> A new edition of the printed Delaware Ag Directory, available at locations around the state.

“Finding a farm selling your favorite foods is as easy as clicking, swiping or turning a page,” Kee said. “Getting to know your local farmers also helps create connections between neighbors, and fosters more awareness of agriculture’s important role in Delaware’s economy.”

The farmers’ market season this year features 27 community-run markets, with the Milton Farmers’ Market opening the season on Friday, April 18. The 2013 season set a record, with $2.1 million in sales. Six markets are accepting the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card system, allowing families to purchase local produce and food items as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture

Delaware growers first on East Coast to get new tool to help with pesticide drift

DOVER — Delaware growers are the first on the East Coast able to take advantage of a new online tool that helps protect sensitive crops from pesticides that may drift due to wind or weather.

Delaware is the newest participant in the DriftWatch program, which allows growers of certain crops or commercial beekeepers to alert pesticide applicators of sensitive areas before they spray.

“Proper pesticide use is an important part of agriculture, and we are pleased to provide this new tool to help applicators and growers communicate and share information,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture regulates pesticide applicators through a rigorous training and certification process, registers all pesticides used in Delaware, and investigates complaints about pesticide drift or improper application. Drift on to neighboring parcels of land can occur because of high winds, certain weather conditions, or application errors.

The free DriftWatch program applies to such uses as commercial beehives, certified organic crops, fruits, grapes, nursery crops, greenhouses, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes and vegetables. The program is not designed for homeowners or for sites smaller than a half-acre.

Once the locations are registered online, pesticide applicators can then check the DriftWatch site to map out sensitive areas near their application sites and take precautions to avoid drifting onto those areas. Enrolling a sensitive site does not guarantee that pesticides are not sprayed near a property, but instead aims to improve awareness of pesticide use and reduce instances of drift exposure.

“The best way to reduce pesticide drift is for pesticide applicators and growers to communicate, and we hope the DriftWatch tool will open up dialogues,” said Dave Pyne, the Department of Agriculture’s environmental program administrator and pesticide compliance director.

Pyne said DDA handles a handful of drift complaints each year, with most dealt with amicably between applicators and growers or landowners.

“This mapping program will provide an easy-to-visualize tool to help reduce any incidents,” Pyne said.

Developed by Purdue University staff members, DriftWatch is now run by a Purdue-created nonprofit organization. Ten states are participating in the program, with most in the Midwest and West.

Delawareans can go to for more information and to register.

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Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture

Michalski named Delaware Tree Farmer of the Year


Brian Michalski was named the 2014 Delaware Tree Farmer of the Year at the recent annual meeting of the Delaware Forestry Association held in Bridgeville. Michalski owns a 59-acre tree farm near Greenwood in Sussex County that became a certified Delaware Tree Farm in 1997 and was recertified in 2010. An active Tree Farm inspecting forester since 2001, Michalski also chaired the Delaware Tree Farm Program Committee from 2000 to 2003. Currently, he is President of the Delaware Forestry Association, a post he has held for about four years.

As a procurement forester for Hardwood Mills – based in Millington, Maryland – Michalski has actively managed his 59-acre tree farm largely through his own efforts. The property, which consists of 30 acres of mixed upland/wetland hardwoods and 29 acres of native pine trees, is operated under an active Forest Stewardship Plan. Previous management activities include:

  •  2013 = TSI (timber stand improvement) on 10 acres of hardwood by himself – girdling & chemical application
  • 2011 = 25 acres of pine aerial sprayed with Arsenal
  • 2010 = 25 acres of pine pre-commercial thinned, residues left at site
  • 2005 = 5 acres of pine TSI
  • 2004 = spot planted Bald cypress and Loblolly pine throughout woodland
  • 2002 = spot planted about 2,000 pine trees
  • 2001 = pine area intensely managed, 25 acres of pine plantation established, aerial application of Arsenal
  • TSI in hardwoods to release oaks, yellow-poplar and gums

Delaware’s program is affiliated with the American Tree Farm System, which was established in 1942. As a program of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), the American Tree Farm System focuses on the long-term sustainability of America’s forests in ecological and economic terms. The vision statement of AFF states, “AFF is committed to creating a future where North American forests are sustained by the public that understand and values the social, economic, and environmental benefits they provide to our communities, our nation, and the world. The network of over 90,000 woodland owners is organized through state committees and governed at the national level. Currently 45 of the 50 states have committees.

For more information about the Delaware Tree Farm Program, contact Dot Abbott at (302) 730-4000. Email: