3 Jun

Davis College honors supporters

David | June 3rd, 2014

As West Virginia University continues its march to a $750 million goal in A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design honored some of its most ardent supporters and partners at a recent banquet.

“Last year, we began a new tradition of honoring some of the people and organizations that truly make a difference here in the Davis College providing us with a margin of excellence through donations of their time, energy, ideas and financial support,” said Daniel J. Robison, dean of the Davis College.

“The kinds of investments these people make set us apart, enable us, and inspire us to work all the harder,” Robison said.

Robison noted that private giving and donations of time and energy make all the more difference in uncertain budgetary times and, through endowments, “sustain the good works of students and faculty for years to come.”

Visit for profiles of all of the honorees.

28 May

If you are a gardener or farmer, or have recipes that friends and family are always inquiring about, see how the results of hard work and delicious recipes can pay off with West Virginia University Extension Service’s Food for Profit educational workshop.

The workshop takes place June 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Belington Fire Department, located at 301 Watkins Street in Belington. The cost for the workshop is $30, which includes education materials and lunch.

Food for Profit is a program created by Penn State Extension and customized by the WVU Extension Service to teach West Virginians how to plan, create, finance and run a for-profit food business.

The registration deadline for the event is May 30. For additional information contact Joshua Peplowski at WVU Extension Service’s Barbour County office at 304-457-3254, or by e-mailing

Food for Profit is a collaboration of the Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Families and Health Program units of WVU Extension Service.

– See more at:

23 May
image of Park Hot or cold, rain or snow – there are always complaints about the weather, but an interdisciplinary team of West Virginia University scientists are studying whether the changes are having an impact on honey bees or other creatures that are an integral part of the food chain.

Scientists will investigate the effects of climate change on interactions among pollinating insects, the parasites that plague them and crops that depend on the pollinators to thrive.

“A major issue concerning current agricultural production is decline of pollinators like honey bees,” said Yong-Lak Park, an associate professor of entomology in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “With recent decline of honey bees, crop growers are turning to wild bee populations as alternative or supplemental pollinators. Effects of climate are particularly important when multiple species are dependent upon each other, as with the case of pollinators, their associated pests and crops.”

The team will also look at the effects of temperature changes on major biological events of bees, mites and blueberry crops using biophysical models.

“We will take advantage of recent technological advances in biophysical modeling, geospatial analyses and aerospace engineering to achieve the objectives,” Park explained.

A major aim of the WVU project is to understand the effects of temperature increase on the model system of bees, parasitic mites and blueberry plants. The team will expand their results to other agricultural production systems to conduct statewide or nationwide risk/benefit analyses under global warming scenarios proposed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The risk/benefit analyses/maps will be used to provide recommendation for management of pollination under global warming.

In addition to Park, the principal investigators and collaborators are Nicole Waterland, an assistant professor of horticulture in the Davis College, Eungul Lee, assistant professor of geography in WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and Srikanth Gururajan, a post-doctoral fellow in mechanical and aerospace engineering in WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Youngsoo Son of the California Department of Food and Agriculture will provide geospatial analyses, and Pavel Klimov of the University of Michigan will focus on acarology.

In addition to the faculty personnel, two graduate students, two research staff, two pilots and a grower will be involved in this project. The project has been funded by a $150,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

19 May

New student org promotes diversity

David | May 19th, 2014

A new student organization at West Virginia University capped off its first year of promoting diversity across multiple disciplines.

A WVU chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) began operation in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. In its first year, the group attended the national organization’s Annual Career Fair and Training Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, and received honors as a Chapter of Excellence by the national organization

“MANRRS is a national society that welcomes people from all racial and ethnic groups to become members and to participate in agricultural, natural resources and related sciences careers,” said Adam Redhead, WVU chapter president and doctoral student in animal science.

The goal of MANRRS is to provide its student members – spanning from junior high school through doctoral programs – with the support needed to become productive citizens. The program engages its students in leadership development activities, educational opportunities, job readiness training and facilitates internship placement and permanent employment.

– See more at:

15 May

May 2014 Commencement video

David | May 15th, 2014

If you weren’t able to join us for our May 2014 Commencement, please enjoy this video of the event. Here are some highlights:

Remarks from our esteemed guest speaker and landscape architecture alumni, Keith Bowers, of Biohabitats: 15:10

Doctoral degrees: 42:00

Master’s degrees: 46:00

Undergraduates in Multidisciplinary Studies: 52:10

Undergraduates in the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences: 53:50

Undergraduates in the Division of Design and Merchandising: 1:05:50

Undergraduates in the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources: 1:14:00

Undergraduates in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences: 1:26:10

Undergraduates in the Division of Resource Management: 1:29:50

Remarks from WVU President E. Gordon Gee: 1:44:30

You can also download a transcript of the text of Keith Bowers' speech .

6 May
Joginder Nath 2014 For more than 40 years before his retirement in 2009, Joginder Nath gave to West Virginia University students by mentoring and sharing his knowledge as a genetics professor. Now, he is giving back in a different way, but helping students is still at the core.

Through the WVU Foundation, Nath, now an emeritus professor, has established the Nath Student Food Pantry Endowment that will provide funds to purchase food for distribution to students from The Rack, WVU’s student food pantry.

“Students have been my life,” Nath said. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the students. So we must take care of them. They are very precious.”

Nath learned about “The Rack” after reading a local newspaper article, and was surprised to find out just how many students are using its services. Since its creation in the fall of 2010, “The Rack” has served over 4,000 students and their dependents. Nath said he had wanted to do something to help combat hunger in the local area, and after talking extensively with those who operate “The Rack”, it seemed like a great fit.

“It bothered me after reading about students foregoing meals because of expenses like tuition, fees, books and transportation,” Nath said. “I feel very strongly about helping students these days. I’m very happy and proud to be able to make this gift to the WVU food pantry.”

– See more at:

23 Apr
Farm Credit with Dan Robison

The West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design was endowed $100,000 by the Farm Credit of the Virginias.

Calling it “an investment in the future of agriculture,” the gift will create the Farm Credit Agriculture Graduate Student Fund for students in agriculture-related master’s and doctoral programs in the Davis College. It will provide research seed money, defray the costs of conference and research travel, support study abroad opportunities and enable other activities that enhance graduate education in agriculture at WVU.

“Farm Credit of the Virginias is excited to support the Davis College and make this investment in the future leaders of agriculture,” said David Lawrence, CEO of the company. “We view this as a way of paying forward, supporting the next generation of great thinkers in our industry.”

Daniel Robison, dean of the Davis College, added, “Graduate students are the research engine at WVU, and for the Davis College to really do its part innovating in science, policy and technology we’ve got to have ways to enable their work.

“This key and generous support from Farm Credit of the Virginias does exactly that,” Robison said. “David Lawrence and his forward-looking team at Farm Credit have made this terrific investment here, and it will make a real difference in what our students can do, what their faculty advisers can encourage them to accomplish, and how we contribute towards the future of agriculture and rural communities.”

Farm Credit of the Virginias, ACA is part of a nationwide network of cooperative lending institutions that provides financing for: farm and country home loans, land purchase, home construction and improvements, buildings, machinery, livestock, equipment, operating expenses and lines of credit.

Farm Credit was created in 1916 and is now the largest single provider of agricultural credit in the United States. Farm Credit of the Virginias provides more than $1.5 billion in financing to rural homeowners, farmers and landowners in 96 counties in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

To find out more about the graduate student fund and other giving opportunities, please contact Julie Cryser, Director of Development, at 304-293-2400 or

Farm Credit’s donation was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.

21 Apr
WVU Soils Team

The West Virginia University Soils Team recently traveled to Quakerstown, Pa., for the 2014 National Collegiate Soils Contest.

Becca Swope, an agricultural and extension education major from Columbiana, Ohio, placed 13th in the field of 76 competitors and was the team’s top individual finisher. Overall, WVU placed 10th as a team – its sixth top 10 finish in the past nine years.

Hosted by Delaware Valley College, the competition featured 19 teams representing colleges and universities from across the country.
The nine-member team includes Swope, Nicholas Beaver, a Dec. 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Sistersville, W.Va.; Elenaor Bell, a soil science major from Snowshoe, W.Va.; Riley Biddle, an agronomy major from Carmichaels, Pa.; Caleb Griffing, an agroecology major from McHenry, Md.; James Lenoard, an agroecology major from Middletown, Md.; Emily Lessman, a soil science major from Sistersville, W.Va.; Adrienne Nottingham, a soil science major from Green Bank, W.Va.; and Emily Wells, an agribusiness management and rural development major from Morgantown.

“As always, I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of all of these students,” said James Thompson, associate professor of soils and land use and the team’s advisor. “These students continue to build upon the past success of the WVU Soils Team. I believe this speaks to the quality of the training that these students receive from the Division of Plant & Soil Sciences. It also reflects the overall strength of the academic programs across the Davis College. Thank you for your support of these students, particularly when they are away from campus for extended periods at critical times during the semester.”

17 Apr

BPC profiles: Mountain State Hydroponics

David | April 17th, 2014
Mountain State Hydroponic

Gaylynn Johnson, a graduate student in horticulture, won the Hospitality & Tourism category in the 2014 West Virginia Business Plan Competition for Mountain State Hydroponics.

Mountain State Hydroponics, a start-up venture located in the Mid-Ohio Valley region of West Virginia, specializes in the year-round production of high quality vegetables, herbs and fruits. This venture will utilize an innovative growing method, hydroponics, where produce is grown without soil, relying instead on mineral nutrients.

We asked Johnson some questions about her experience in the competition and about her next entrepreneurial steps.

How did you decide to participate in the Business Plan Competition?

I’ve always been interested in starting a business, but I didn’t know where to begin with writing a business plan. I spoke with and enrolled in Dr. Fonda Holehouse’s “Rural Enterprise Development” to help me get started. Entry into the competition was a course requirement, whether your idea was accepted or not. Being from Michigan, I had no plans of staying in West Virginia, but the more I started seeing how viable Mountain State Hydroponics was in the state, the more determined I was to get the company started. And discovering West Virginia in my travels has been a positive experience; this state is beautiful, the people are passionate, and have been most supportive of Mountain State Hydroponics. The whole thought of doing what I love and being my own boss is so satisfying to me and I continued to see this competition through. This is my second year of competition in the finals and it shows the determination and devotion I have in this business.

Can you talk a little about the process of how you arrived at your idea? Did you have it in mind before you decided to compete?

My first idea tanked when I found a patent already listed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Then I thought, why not apply my research in aquaponics, which is the production of plant crops with the wastewater and organic matter from aquaculture, to the competition. However, being in horticulture and all-around plant geek, working with plants was enough for me. I’m not the most comfortable around animals and decided against fish production; it’s not to say that it won’t happen in the future, but I felt it is the best decision for me right now.

By all accounts, the competition is a lot of hard work. How were you able to build it into your regular life as a student?

As a graduate student, I have no choice, but to be disciplined and focused on tasks. “Sleep? What’s that?” is quickly becoming a new phrase for me as write my thesis and papers for peer-reviewed publications. Not to say that I don’t get out, but I’m more responsible and know when it’s time to take care of business.

What advice would you give for a student who wanted to pursue the Business Plan Competition, or just try and turn an idea into a business of their own?

Get a mentor! I would have never completed a business plan without the help of Fonda. She is so passionate about her students and wants the best for us. I would not have been confident in my business plan, financials especially, or comfortable with presenting without the help of my coaches, Ajay Aluri and Frank DeMarco. These people set me in the right direction and they’re very willing to point out the positives of the business and the negatives. They’ve all said, “No’ or “I don’t like that” at some point during this process. There were times when I thought, maybe this isn’t for me, but I came to understand that they were making the business better.

What are your next steps for your business? How would you like to see it develop?

I want to get started after I finish school this summer and have my first crops available January 2015. As far as development, I want to see Mountain State selling a value-added product or more specialty crops like mushrooms and wasabi. I not only want to be a local business to West Virginians, but a regional business as well. So I want to hit markets in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, maybe even Michigan, but I want to have that high production and quality capability. I’m doing big things here and I’m ready to walk on the path I’ve set forth for myself.

16 Apr

By Brian Gallaher
Writer and Editor, WVU Extension Service

You might have noticed that boxwood plants around your home and garden aren’t looking as healthy as they did last year. The reason could be “winter burn.” West Virginia University experts offer advice to help restore boxwood plants to their previous state and prevent future damage.

“Boxwood plants aren’t native to West Virginia, and they sometimes aren’t as winter hardy as other more common, evergreen plants,” explained Mahfuz Rahman, WVU Extension Service plant pathology specialist.

This winter caused widespread winter burn damage to boxwood plants across the region. Winter burn occurs when plants lose water from their leaves, and roots are deprived of water because the ground is frozen.

“It’s important to take proper measures during the winter months to protect boxwood plants,” Rahman said. “Prune away any damaged parts of the plant in the springtime before new growth starts to help the plant recover from any winter burn from the previous season.”

There are a few ways to determine if boxwood plants have suffered from winter burn. Black or brown discoloration, or bleaching of new growth are typical signs of winter burn damage.

“Wind is a common factor that causes winter burn,” said William MacDonald, WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design forest pathology professor.

The southwest facing side of the plant typically has the most noticeable winter burn damage, especially if the plant has no protection from wind-induced withering.

MacDonald explains that winter burn damage could be reversed if you take steps to fix it now.

“April is the perfect time of year to prune boxwood plants because the plants haven’t started to sprout new growth,” he added.

– See more at: