Alayna DeMartini

Technical Editor
Focus Areas: 
Production Agriculture, Farm Science Review.
  1. (Photo: Getty Images)

    The roots of slowing climate change are in trees

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—In the fight against climate change, expanding and better managing the nation’s forests are the cheapest and easiest steps to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, according to new research at The Ohio State University.  Across the United States, trees take up about 12% of the carbon dioxide that cars, planes, factories, and other sources generate every year, said Brent Sohngen, a professor of natural resources and environmental economics at Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  But trees could do even more, Sohngen said—possibly taking up as much as 16% of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions—nearly a one-third increase. That would happen by planting more trees across...
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    Hoping to start a meat-processing plant? Here’s some help

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Entrepreneurs wanting to start a meat-processing business in Ohio may be encouraged by the hearty demand, but there’s a whole lot more to consider. What type of meat will the business process? Pork, beef, chicken? Want to sell the meat out of state or just in Ohio? What about employees? Will there be enough workers to staff the facility?  “It’s overwhelming,” said Lyda Garcia, an assistant professor of meat science and Extension meat specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  “The meat industry is a complex system. There are so many hurdles you have to jump over and loops you have to jump through. At any point, any of them can be a problem.”...
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    Dandelions back in full swing on farms

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—As farmers prepare fields for planting, chances are they’ll meet up with dandelions.  The weed is making a comeback in Ohio after decades of thinning out.  The resurgence of dandelions in Ohio has been occurring over the last couple of years, said Mark Loux, a weed specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). Dandelions can create deep, strong roots, and they’re extremely adaptable to herbicides, making them tough to get rid of.  “It doesn’t matter which herbicide you use, you can’t just beat it over the head if you let it go for a few years,” Loux said.  For a gardener, dandelions and weeds in general are a nuisance. For a farmer...
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    Health care and weather distressing farmers

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Weather was a major source of stress for farmers in 2019 when unrelenting rain kept some from being able to plant.  But perhaps more surprising was that health care costs weighed as heavily on their minds as businesses costs and profit margins that year, according to a survey done by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). One in three farmers in the survey reported major stress from farm economic conditions—land prices, production costs, and commodity prices—and paying for health care. “Ohio farmers told us they were experiencing distress, and it wasn’t just because of the prices and economics of agriculture. It was also struggles over health insurance or events that...
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    Conference to discuss progress on NW Ohio water quality efforts

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—In 20 counties across northwest Ohio, a team of water quality specialists is working with farmers to evaluate practices that promote soil health and reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen entering waterways. Part of the team’s work involves running field trials to determine the effects of applying varied rates of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium fertilizers to cropland. Extensive soil testing has been done on fields to see the how planting cover crops and minimally tilling the land affects soil health. And new water quality monitoring stations have been set up to show trends in nutrient runoff rates. Farmers in northwest Ohio have been cooperative, said Heather Raymond, director of the Water Quality Initiative launched by The Ohio State University...
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    Polar vortex could be on the way

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—If you were thinking this winter has been fairly mild so far, it has been, but gear up.  Frigid temperatures could be gripping Ohio, the Midwest, and the Northeast around the last week of January.  The polar vortex, a wide area of swirling cold air near the North Pole, has weakened and split in two, which happens from time to time when air in the stratosphere above it warms. With the split, forecasts indicate one of the portions of the vortex may drift south toward Canada and the northern United States.  These weakened polar vortex conditions often drop temperatures well below normal (think single digits and sub-zero) and may lead to more snow, said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural,...
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    Yes, your poinsettia can survive after the holidays

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Bold when you buy them, poinsettias can wither as winter goes on.  It might be because of how they were treated. If they were exposed to cold drafts or perched by a heat vent, or if they sat in a cold car through too many errands, the leaves could turn yellow and fall off—even before the holidays or not long after.  Native to Mexico, poinsettias favor bright light and warm conditions. “You need to find a location in your house that provides good light. Six hours of bright light are necessary every day,” said Uttara Samarakoon, an assistant professor at Ohio State ATI in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  The biggest mistakes people typically make are not providing...
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    Dreading winter? Try to lighten up

    Another Ohio winter is upon us.  The extra hours of darkness or slate-gray skies can easily drag down a mood already challenged by the pandemic. We’re socializing less often, hunkering down, and shelving vacation plans to warmer and brighter tropical spots. Meanwhile, we have to tackle what seems like an endless string of Zoom meetings while trying to edge our kids into get-it-done mode, and at the end of the day, confront the same hurdle: What’s for dinner? So how do we keep pandemic exhaustion from descending into depression? David Wirt, a counselor with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has some advice on how to lighten your mood in the coldest months of the year. Get out in the sunlight every...
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    Turning a weed into a profit-yielding crop

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—People who garden may know about pennycress.  It’s also called “stinkweed” for the odor it gives off when it’s crushed. Unlike most weeds, pennycress seeds contain a lot of oil, and that oil can be turned into fuel for jets or diesel trucks and cars.  Two researchers at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) just began a study to create the most resilient, high-yielding varieties of pennycress for farmers to grow.  Planted in late fall and harvested in spring, pennycress could offer dual benefits to farmers. It could protect their fields from erosion in fall and winter. And it could lead to extra money in spring when harvested and sold. “It’s...
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    Keeping a lid on Ohio’s newest pest: the spotted lanternfly

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—A group of spotted lanternflies, which feed on grapevines, hops, and fruit trees, was recently discovered in Ohio, triggering concerns the pest could become established and spread quickly. In October, adult lanternflies were found outside a business in Jefferson County, adjacent to the Pennsylvania border. Adult lanternflies won’t be seen during the winter months because they die off as temperatures drop below freezing. But before dying, the females typically lay 30–50 eggs, and come spring, their offspring could begin feeding. “If there’s anything I’m personally losing sleep over, it’s this insect,” said Maria Smith, outreach specialist in grape production at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural,...
  11. (Photo: Ken Chamberlain, CFAES)

    Ohio State soil scientist honored for increasing global food production

    COLUMBUS, Ohio— A world-renowned scientist at The Ohio State University—whose global work to restore soil health, boost food production, and fight climate change has reaped another honor, this one from a Canadian-based institution.  Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of soil science in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), today received an Arrell Global Food Innovation Award. For 52 years, Lal has been adapting methods to restore soil health globally, including helping hundreds of millions of landowners in the developing world. “My source of inspiration has been the challenges farmers of the world face, especially the resource-poor and small landholders. The majority of these are women farmers,” Lal...
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    Pandemic worsening food insecurity

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Bringing higher rates of unemployment and poverty, the pandemic has also pushed more people into a struggle to buy the basics, including food.  Grocery store food prices have gone up only about 5% since January 2019, but with so many people out of work, food banks have seen a surge in demand, said Zoë Plakias, an assistant professor of agricultural, environmental, and development economics at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). While facing an increasing demand, food banks have also received fewer food donations from grocery stores that give their excess products. When stores can’t keep their shelves stocked, there can be less available for donation, Plakias said. With many incomes...
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    Helping meat workers get used to wearing masks

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—A study done at Ohio meat-processing plants found very few employees were wearing required face masks.  Among the 37 workers interviewed at five meat-processing plants across the state, only nine wore face masks when surveyed at their job sites, according to the study by researchers with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  “What we found is they’re not seeing other people wearing masks, and they’re not seeing the advantage of wearing them,” said Joy Rumble, an assistant professor in CFAES and one of the lead researchers of the study.  The point of the study, done in June and July, was to determine why many meat-processing facility workers don’t wear masks,...
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    COVID-19 spiking in rural Ohio

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—During one of the most significant COVID-19 surges in Ohio, the state’s rural counties have the highest rates of new cases. Counties in northwest Ohio lead the uptick. Putnam County, north of Lima, tops the state's list of counties ranked by the rate of cases reported in mid to late October. Auglaize and Mercer counties are listed second and third. Though state and health officials have required everyone to wear face masks and avoid large gatherings, some have resisted, particularly in rural Ohio, which until October had largely been spared high numbers of COVID-19 cases.  What seems to be a rural-urban divide over mask-wearing can become glaring to Sam Custer when he leaves his home in Darke County and drives about a half...
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    Find out what’s in store for farmers in 2021

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Farmers in Ohio and across the Midwest might have reason to be optimistic this year. Prices for soybeans, corn, and wheat have risen in 2020, and total net cash income from farms in the United States is expected to be up this year by 4.5%. That’s partly because of an increase in government payments to farmers. Those payments will make up 32% of this year’s net cash income from all U.S. farms—more than double the portion those payments typically account for, said Ben Brown, an assistant professor of agricultural risk management at the The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  Traditionally, government assistance to farmers has made up about 14% of the annual net cash income from farms...
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    Farming and parenting—a tough juggling act

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Raising children on a farm might sound idyllic, but in a national study, most farmers with children under 18 said childcare was a challenge. Over two-thirds of first-generation farmers, people who had not grown up on farms, reported struggles with childcare, from finding affordable options nearby to finding providers whose childrearing philosophy matched theirs.  Even multigenerational farmers, many who live near relatives, said childcare’s affordability, availability, or quality was a problem. Just over half of those farmers reported some type of childcare challenge. “This is going to come as a surprise to a lot of people who don’t think childcare is an issue for farmers,” said Shoshanah Inwood, an assistant professor at The Ohio...
  17. (Photo: Heping Zhu, CFAES)

    A better way to spray

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—By cutting the amount of pesticide that ends up in the air or on the ground, a new high-tech pesticide sprayer can save vineyard, orchard, and nursery growers money while protecting the environment. The “intelligent sprayer” system was first put on the market in spring 2019, but since then it has been upgraded. Now, among other improvements, it can take an inventory of trees or vines by height and width and measure the amount of pesticide sprayed per tree or vine to help growers manage pesticide costs.  Developed by a team led by an agricultural engineer with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the spray technology can sense the location and structure of the trees or vines it is...
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    Go outdoors, but watch for ticks

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—With the great outdoors being a popular destination during the pandemic, it’s important to watch out for another potential threat you might not easily see: ticks.  Be on the lookout for them through late fall. The warmest months are the most common times these tiny, blood-sucking bugs pass on diseases. “I always tell people the outdoors is healthy for you. You need to be outdoors,” said Risa Pesapane, an assistant professor with the colleges of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University.  Pesapane researches ticks in Ohio. She actually thrives on going through tick-infested areas and collecting ticks, even off of deer shot by hunters. In January,...
  19. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Selling meat from your farm

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—More and more Ohio livestock producers are selling their meat directly to consumers through farmers markets or online. That’s because consumers are increasingly valuing locally produced food and having a relationship with the farmer who raised it.  And the profit margin for farmers can certainly be higher than selling livestock to a company that processes and packages it for grocery stores.  But direct marketing of any product comes with challenges.  “Figuring out what consumers want is important,” said Garth Ruff, beef cattle field specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  Bacon or bratwurst?...
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    The good and bad about Ohio’s jobless rate

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—The news is mixed about the rate of Ohioans out of work.   The state’s unemployment rate has rebounded from late spring’s rates, and it’s below the national rate. But, in July, Ohio’s jobless rate of 8.9% topped that of many nearby states. Across the Midwest, only one state had a higher rate than Ohio’s: Illinois.  Keep that in perspective, said Mark Partridge, an economics professor with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  During a recession, Ohio typically takes a bigger hit, he said. Jobs in manufacturing make up the largest portion of Ohio’s economy, and typically manufacturing sharply declines during a national recession. So...
  21. (Photo: Getty Images)

    How to grow fruit in your backyard

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—That tomato plant you had hopes for might have lagged during the summer’s rainless days. Or maybe it had you filling bag after bag to give to the neighbors, and the triumph inspired a new ambition: I should add fruit to my backyard. Grapes. Berries. Maybe apples?  Great idea if you’ve got the space. But there’s a lot to consider before you fill a patch in the yard, and months later, can reap the fruits of your labor. How sunny is your yard? Is it well-drained, or does it stay wet all spring? Do you want to spray pesticides? Do you have time to take care of backyard fruit? It helps to start small, said Gregory Meyer, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food,...
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    New fertilizer guide for field crops

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Farmers in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan now have a new guide for creating fertile ground for their corn, soybean, wheat, and alfalfa crops.  Working with a team of soil scientists and agronomists from across Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, Steve Culman, a soil fertility specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), led the effort to revise a 1995 guide for fertilizing field crops.  The free and newly revised Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa offers guidelines for how much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and micronutrients soil should have to spur high crop yields without jeopardizing water quality.  “...
  23. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Farm animals and COVID-19: Should you be worried?

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—With the rapid spread of the new coronavirus believed to have started in bats, some people might be genuinely concerned about their farm animals. Could the animals catch COVID-19?  The answer is murky.  While there have been no reported cases of pigs, horses, sheep, chickens, or cows getting COVID-19, their susceptibility to the respiratory disease has yet to be studied.   And though some pig cells have been able to get the virus that causes COVID-19 in lab studies, it does not appear that pigs can catch or spread the virus very easily, said Scott Kenney, an assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “There are a...
  24. (Photo: Kayle Mast, CFAES)

    Farm Science Review 2020: Online and free

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Farm Science Review will come to you on your laptop or smartphone this year, and for free, you can watch livestreamed talks and recorded videos featuring the latest farm equipment and research to pique your curiosity.  From Sept. 22–24, people from across the Midwest and the world can learn tips for increasing farm profits and growing crops from soybeans to hemp.  Beginning in September, virtual visitors can find out about the show’s offerings by going to fsr.osu.edu and clicking on an image of the show’s site. Within that image, people can click on the various icons to find the schedules for talks and demos they’re most interested in, such as field demonstrations or “Ask the Expert” talks.  Among...
  25. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Ohio farmers hankering for rain

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Shifting from a wet spring to a very dry summer, Ohio now has over one-third of the state in moderate drought conditions, with northern Ohio the driest. August forecasts offer a bit of optimism, at least for southern Ohio. Above-average rainfall is expected in the south but not the north, said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “I think there are some farmers who are worried,” Wilson said. “But no one is panicking.” Across Ohio, moderate drought conditions cover 37% of the state, and nearly 85% of the state is at least abnormally dry, Wilson said, citing the July 30 update from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Moderate drought is the lowest...

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