Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
At a Glance
LOUIS A. MAGNARELLI, Director
Kirby C. Stafford, III, Vice Director
Established - 1875
Statutory authority - CGS 22-79 - 22-118
Central office - 123 Huntington Street,
New Haven, CT 06511
Number of employees - 102
Recurring operating expenses -
General Fund – $6,352,622
Federal Funds – $3,750,626
Other – $ 395,807
Organizational structure – Administration, Analytical Chemistry, Biochemistry & Genetics, Entomology, Forestry & Horticulture, Plant Pathology & Ecology, Soil & Water, and Valley Laboratory
The mission of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is to develop, advance, and disseminate scientific knowledge, improve agricultural productivity and environmental quality, protect plants, and enhance human health and well-being through research for the benefit of Connecticut residents and the nation. Seeking solutions across a variety of disciplines for the benefit of urban, suburban, and rural communities, Station scientists remain committed to “Putting Science to Work for Society”, a motto as relevant today as it was at our founding in 1875.
The Station carries out research as determined by its Board of Control or as requested by the General Assembly; conducts analyses as required by any state agency; tests ticks for the Lyme disease agent upon request of a state or municipal health officer or for scientific research purposes; oversees official control, suppression or extermination of insects or diseases which are or threaten to become serious pests of plants; inspects for diseases of honey bees and registers beekeepers; surveys towns for gypsy moths; inspects and certifies nurseries and registers dealers of nursery stock; and reports findings verbally or by correspondence, lectures, or published matter.
Station staff members provide timely answers to routine and difficult but important agricultural, forestry, environmental, consumer protection, environmental health, or homeowner questions through reporting of research findings, by performing analyses, and by providing services to state residents, small and large businesses, municipalities, state departments and the scientific community.
The Station serves a broad base of state residents, large and small businesses, municipalities, and the scientific community within its areas of expertise. People bring or mail samples or call with questions to the New Haven or Windsor facilities. Extensive contacts with state residents are important in the early detection of emerging insect or plant disease problems. Station scientists also make farm or house calls, but only when difficult or unique problems arise. More than 20,000 state residents received direct assistance from staff members at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Employees of other state agencies, such as the Departments of Consumer Protection, Agriculture, Revenue Services, and Environmental Protection, also request help when they send specific samples for appropriate chemical, biological or microscopic analyses. All of these activities help identify emerging problems and facilitate state responses. Receiving comments from state residents on evaluation or survey forms helps the agency’s administrators gauge the effectiveness of research programs and services.
New testing procedures are developed, as needed, when unique problems occur or when samples require more sensitive and specific analytical methods. Scientific research at the Experiment Station involves identifying a problem, investigating existing published knowledge, and designing experiments which will elicit new information to help solve a problem or enhance Connecticut’s economy or the well being of its residents. In many instances, scientific results have impacts nationally.
Specific examples include the following:
· Mosquitoes transmit viruses that cause Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Encephalitis. These viruses circulate in bird populations, and when amplified under certain environmental conditions, can infect humans and horses. As a part of a statewide monitoring program, 111,700 mosquitoes were collected from traps in 91 sites and tested for encephalitis viruses in 2005. West Nile virus continues to be present in mosquito and bird populations. The virus was frequently isolated from Culex pipiens and Culex salinarius, the latter mosquito species was identified as a “bridge vector” in moving the virus from birds to mammals. New molecular-based procedures, developed to identify vertebrate blood ingested by mosquitoes, can determine sources of blood meals to the species level. Application of these new methods revealed that the American robin was found to be a probable reservoir for the West Nile virus in nature. Of the top 100 national science stories written about in 2005, Discover Magazine ranked these two discoveries at #43. In addition, two other viruses (La Crosse and Potosi), not previously known to occur in New England, were discovered in Connecticut mosquitoes. La Crosse virus infects people and can cause severe illnesses in children. It is unknown if Potosi virus is a human pathogen. There were no isolations of EEE virus made during this reporting period. Federal grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture supplemented state funding.
· Invasive aquatic plants can negatively impact the diversity of native plant populations and overall water quality because of their explosive growth potential and corresponding crowding effects. Examination of lakes and ponds in Connecticut revealed the presence of multiple species of invasive aquatic plants. Of the 32 lakes surveyed, 24 (75%) had at least one invasive plant species. Curly leaved pondweed (41% of lakes) and Eurasian water-milfoil (34% of lakes) were most prevalent. Efforts to improve water quality by controlling invasive plants were successful in Lake Quonnipaug (Guilford), Bashan Lake (East Haddam), and Grannis Lake (East Haven). Experiments are being conducted to determine if certain chemical characteristics of water favor the establishment and growth of invasive aquatic plants. New research is planned on developing biological control of invasive aquatic plants. A federal grant from the United States Department of Agriculture supplemented state funding.
· During 2004 and 2005, about 10,000 rhododendron plants, some of which were infected with Ramorum Blight (formerly known as Sudden Oak Death), were shipped from Oregon to Connecticut and were sold to state residents in at least 50 retail outlets. During this reporting period, 213 tissue samples, obtained from plants appearing to be infected with the pathogen for this disease, were analyzed by specific DNA methods. Ramorum Blight was not confirmed. There is no evidence to date that this potentially destructive pathogen to oak trees and dozens of other plant species is established in Connecticut.
· New crops are being evaluated at both research farms to determine if selected cultivars can be grown in Connecticut. Plums and personal-sized watermelons show promise and offer farmers new products that are in public demand. Specialized crops, such as jilo, okra, Chinese cabbage, leeks, sweet potatoes, and calabaza (squash), are now being grown by Connecticut farmers. New varieties of grapes are being tested for greater yield and the ability to survive Connecticut winters. Soybeans and rapeseed are being grown to determine yields per acre for biodiesel fuel production.
· The Department of Analytical Chemistry analyzes samples for other state agencies, such as the Departments of Administrative Services, Agriculture, Consumer Protection, Environmental Protection, and Health. Hundreds of tests are performed annually. Two unique events occurred during 2005. A pesticide shed caught fire on a farm in South Windsor, and the Fire Marshall would not release the strawberries (valued at $60,000) until tests were conducted to determine that there was no pesticide contamination. Results, obtained within 8 hours of receiving samples from the Department of Agriculture, showed no contamination. The crop was promptly released to markets. In another case, a patient entered a Connecticut Hospital with kidney failure. The State Health Department and Department of Consumer Protection requested the agency’s assistance in analyzing juice samples from the patient’s home and from supermarkets. Samples from the patient’s home contained ethylene glycol (antifreeze) at a 40% concentration, but similar juice samples obtained from stores were not contaminated. The patient received proper treatment and recovered. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is a participant in a US Food and Drug Administration national program (Food Emergency Response Network) and is one of 8 states receiving federal grants to cooperate in this counter-terrorism program.
Major discoveries were made when mosquitoes were analyzed for encephalitis viruses. LaCrosse encephalitis virus was found in mosquitoes collected in Fairfield, Connecticut. This was the first record of this virus in New England. Molecular analyses of the Connecticut isolate, compared to those recovered in other states, revealed that the strain in Connecticut was distinctly different from other strains. This virus was probably present in Connecticut for several years. Although human infections of LaCrosse virus are documented in other states, no cases have been reported in Connecticut. The discovery of Culex salinarius mosquitoes feeding on birds and mammals and being a probable “bridge vector” in moving the West Nile encephalitis virus from birds to mammals is significant. This mosquito breeds in brackish as well as fresh water. Therefore, strategies for mosquito control have been modified to include this important species.
Spot treatments of herbicides to control invasive aquatic plants in lakes have improved water quality in Lake Quonnipaug (Guilford), Bashan Lake (East Haddam), and Grannis Lake (East Haven) without contaminating wells in nearby residences. Although results of these experiments show that the chemical control methods used were effective, biological control (e.g., use of beetles) of certain species of invasive aquatic plants will now be explored to develop an integrated pest management program. The goal is to improve control programs by implementing a more balanced method of pest management, which minimizes the use of chemical pesticides.
State-of-the-art DNA analyses have been developed to identify the pathogen that causes Ramorum Blight. The new methods are more sensitive and specific than conventional procedures and require less time to perform. The cost-effective procedures will facilitate laboratory diagnostics and will result in more rapid state responses in destroying infected nursery stock.
A multi-year cooperative agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration in the Food Emergency Response Network has led to improvements in detecting chemicals in the food supply. New instrumentation has been purchased, and scientists and technicians have been trained to screen samples for toxic chemicals. Collaborations exist with the Connecticut State Health Department, Consumer Protection, and Civil Support Team (National Guard).
Outreach programs have been expanded to disseminate new research findings to a diverse group of stakeholders. The Experiment Station’s website received 1,384,712 successful hits during 2005. More than 725 talks and interviews were given to civic groups and the media during this reporting period. Two open house events provided opportunities for state residents to see Experiment Station research facilities, meet scientists, receive information, and to provide comments on programs. Special efforts have been made to reach youth, an under-served group. For the second consecutive year, the Experiment Station hosted Farm/City Week, which attracts about 800 students to the Lockwood Research Farm in Hamden, Connecticut. Public input on Experiment Station research has been sought and considered in shifting research priorities.
Efforts have been made to reduce agency operating costs and to improve delivery of services. Library costs for scientific journals have been significantly reduced. Further cost savings were achieved when the tick testing program for Lyme disease was modified and as internal newsletters and scientific publications were made available on the Experiment Station’s website. Reducing energy costs remains in high priority. Greenhouses were shut down during the colder months. The Station participates in the Cool Sentry Energy Savings Program.
The Experiment Station performed chemical, seed, soil, fertilizer, pesticide, animal feed, and tick tests; answered inquires; conducted plant, nursery, and bee inspections; and surveyed for the gypsy moth as listed below:
Service or Test Number 2005-2006
Inquiries answered (all departments) 22,799
Field visits and diagnostic tests 1,696
Soil Tests Completed
New Haven and Windsor 10,292
Department of Agriculture 213
Department of Consumer Protection (CP) 304
Department of Environmental Protection 132
Department of Revenue Services 170
Station Departments, Municipal Health Departments 41
Seed Samples Tested (vegetable, lawn, field crop) 365
Plant Samples Tested (incl. tests for CP and P. ramorum) 3,429
Nursery and Seed Inspections
Greenhouse plants 1,580
Nursery stock containers and bare root 59,715
Perennial plants 444,290
Nurseries inspected 329
Nursery inspections 846
Tobacco (bales, boxes, bundles, and cartons) 151,482
Homeowner plants moving out of state 592
Seed (packets) 4
Acres of nursery stock inspected 8,733
Gypsy Moth Survey
Forest acres surveyed for gypsy moth by air 1.8 million
Beekeepers registered 300
Bee hives examined for mites and foulbrood 744
Tick Identification and Testing
Ticks identified 4,731
Ticks tested for spirochetes 3,585
Ticks infected with spirochetes 961
Mosquitoes trapped, identified, and tested for EEE and
West Nile virus 111,700
Number of trapping sites 91
The Experiment Station reaffirms its continuing policy of commitment to affirmative action and equal opportunity employment as immediate and necessary objectives and relies solely on merit and accomplishment in all aspects of the employment process and research programs. Three women were hired in the Scientist and Service/Maintenance occupational categories, which show underutilizations for women. Six minority summer workers were also employed as a part of a mentoring program for college students. The goal is to promote interest in science and to provide specialized training. Station scientists also participated as judges in science fairs in New Haven and encouraged high school students to further their science education. The Experiment Station continues to comply with diversity training requirements, has provided instruction on prevention of sexual harassment to all employees, and is also participating in the Employee Assistance Program. The agency’s goals in awarding contracts to small businesses and minority business enterprises were exceeded. The Experiment Station’s Affirmative Action Plan was filed on schedule and was approved by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.