Alayna DeMartini

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

    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...
  2. (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...
  3. (Photo: Getty Images)

    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...
  4. (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...
  6. (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,...
  7. (Photo: Getty Images)

    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.  “...
  8. (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...
  9. (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...
  10. (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...
  11. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Agricultural exports doing relatively well

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Though the COVID-19 pandemic has cut demand for many U.S. products, agricultural exports are holding up well, according to a new analysis by an agricultural economist with The Ohio State University.  The reason?  “We all have to eat,” said Ian Sheldon, a professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  Even when consumer income declines, the demand for food changes very little, Sheldon said. People in the developed world might be dining out less frequently, but they’re still buying groceries. Exports of U.S. agricultural goods, including soybeans, which are Ohio’s top agricultural export, are up, Sheldon said. By the start of June, the amount of U.S. soybeans exported was 200,000...
  12. Rattan Lal has pioneered agricultural methods across the globe that enrich soil and enhance crop yields. (Photo: Ken Chamberlain, CFAES)

    Ohio State soil scientist awarded World Food Prize

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—A soil scientist at The Ohio State University whose research spans four continents was just awarded this year’s World Food Prize for increasing the global food supply by helping small farmers improve their soil.   Over five decades, Rattan Lal, a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has reduced hunger by pioneering agricultural methods across the globe that not only restore degraded soil but also reduce global warming. “Every year we are astounded by the quality of nominations for the Prize, but Dr. Lal’s stellar work on management and conservation of agriculture’s most cherished natural resource, the soil, set him apart,” said Gebisa Ejeta, chair...
  13. (Photo: Getty Images)

    New federal funds available for farmers

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Good news for farmers dismayed by a drop in prices and demand for what they produce. New federal payments will be issued to eligible farmers to help offset lower demand and prices for their produce, grain crops, milk, and livestock as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.                                  Producers of cattle, hogs, specialty crops, corn, soybeans, and other agricultural goods can apply for the payments through Aug. 28 at their local Farm Service Agency Center. The funding is related to losses farmers have experienced during the first six months of this year. Market prices for...
  14. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Getting your lawn in shape

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—While you’re spending so much time (stuck) at home these days, you can’t help but notice the home improvement projects you haven’t gotten to or didn’t quite finish. And then there’s the lawn. How can you not notice your lawn and how green or dandelion-crammed it is compared to say, the neighbor’s lawn – not that you’re into comparing. You’re a little more Johnny-on-the-spot with mowing because, well, there’s fewer other diversions besides the tiling you need to do in the downstairs bathroom and painting the kitchen cabinets to make them look a bit less 1960s. At least working on the lawn takes you outside. If the lawn is on your home improvement list or just something to do to avoid cabin fever, here...
  15. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Where’s the beef … pork … chicken … lamb?

    Meat prices are up. And some grocery stores have limited how much meat you can buy. While shoppers might be paying more for meat, the prices livestock owners are earning for their pigs, chickens, cattle, and other animals are down—that’s if they can even sell them. Meatpacking plants have had to shut down fully or partially because of the number of their employees sick with COVID-19 or concerned about catching the disease. As a result, farmers have had to keep their fully grown livestock on the farm, though they were ready to go to market. In some cases, farmers in Ohio and nationwide have had to begin reducing their flocks or herds by euthanizing them. Stan Smith, a livestock owner and program assistant for Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County, and Lyda G...
  16. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Backup in meat processing leads farmers to painful decisions

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—The COVID-19 pandemic has led farmers to some excruciating decisions to cut their losses, including euthanizing animals. There’s a financial toll, for sure, but an emotional one as well.  “They’re cringing,” said Lyda Garcia, an assistant professor of meat science with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “It really hurts to have to do that.” With meat processing plants partially or fully closed or backed up with orders, some Ohio farmers who raise pigs and chickens for slaughter are reluctantly turning to reducing their flocks or herds. It’s not a decision they want to make, nor a decision they ever expected to make. This is happening amid other...
  17. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Buying milk during the pandemic

    Got milk? Depends on who you ask. At times, some stores seem to have very little milk. Dairy farmers, meanwhile, have plenty. But milk straight from the cow needs to be processed into products consumers want—like butter, cheese, yogurt and milk in one-gallon jugs. Because of the coronavirus and the shutdowns, demand for milk and dairy products for schools and restaurants has dropped off. So, milk processors have been trying to shift gears—from producing small containers of milk for schools and sizeable packages of cheese for restaurants, to packaging and bottling more products an individual shopper would buy. Either way, dairy farmers have to milk their cows every day. Early in April, for the first time, two companies that buy milk told some of Ohio’s dairy...
  18. Frost damaged early blooming grape varieties last week in southern Ohio.

    Frost grips grapes in southern Ohio

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Southern Ohio vineyards took a hit last week when frost killed off early emerging buds, and northern Ohio grape growers are bracing for the potential in their area as well. “Some grape varieties like Chardonnay got absolutely obliterated in southern Ohio,” said Maria Smith, viticulture outreach specialist at the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science within The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “For grape growers and some wineries, it’s a very big deal. You have vineyards that can’t cover the cost of the season because they lost one or two varieties of grapes.” While spring frosts can threaten vineyards across the state, the prospects for Ohio’s grapes this...
  19. (Photo: Getty Images)

    CFAES researchers working on a new COVID-19 test

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Many people infected with COVID-19 show little to no symptoms of the disease, so researchers at The Ohio State University are creating a blood test that could detect the true extent of the pandemic The researchers have also assisted Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center physicians who have created a treatment for severe cases of COVID-19, using the blood plasma of people who had COVID-19 and beat it. Both the blood test for COVID-19 and the plasma treatment for those suffering from the respiratory disease could be critical in understanding and controlling the current pandemic.   Unlike the standard nasal swab test being used to diagnose COVID-19, the test that the Ohio State scientists, including ones at the College of Food, Agricultural, and...
  20. (Photo: Getty Images)

    More and more viruses ‘spilling over’

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Viruses have been increasingly shifting from animals to people, a recent trend that has researchers at The Ohio State University closely studying a pig virus that can survive in human cells. The rise in viruses jumping to other species, so-called “spillover” events, is spurred by people, particularly in the developing world, cultivating land that was once isolated forests. In clearing those areas, people are exposing themselves to the viruses of wild animals that once lived secluded in those forests, said Scott Kenney, an assistant professor of veterinary preventative medicine at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). Kenney’s research focuses on viruses that spread between animals and people. Exotic live...
  21. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Solar development expanding in rural Ohio

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Despite what you might think in the winter or even early spring, Ohio gets enough sunshine year-round to fuel solar energy facilities—massive ones. The smallest solar energy project being planned in the state is 610 acres, and the largest is more than five times bigger, a facility slated to stretch across nearly 3,300 acres —over 5 square miles—in Hardin County. “We’re not talking about a few panels here and there,” said Peggy Hall, agricultural and resource law field specialist for The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). In total, the 12 solar energy facilities being built or in the planning stages will cover about 16,000 acres—primarily in southern Ohio (Brown,...
  22. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Are animals vulnerable to COVID-19?

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—While there’s no evidence so far that pets, livestock, or their owners can infect each other with COVID-19, there’s also very little research about a potential crossover. The novel coronavirus started with an animal, then mutated to transfer to people, but research hasn’t yet shown if the virus has jumped back to animals, said Scott Kenney, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “Viruses are constantly sampling and evolving, trying to find other hosts,” said Kenney, who studies coronaviruses, including those that cross over from one species to another. Quickly spreading among people across the world, COVID-19 is believed to have originated in bats, but the bat...
  23. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Mud and more mud

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Rain creates mud, and mud creates angst for farmers kept from doing what they value most: getting out in the fields. 2019 ended what was the wettest decade in Ohio on record. This winter has not been as wet as the last one, but it has been warmer, so the ground has not frozen for long, leaving fields saturated. And this spring is projected to bring above-average rainfall to Ohio, which will bring on more mud. And mud is not simply a gooey mess for the animals and people who trudge through it. Mud can keep farmers from planting and harvesting, lower crop yields, put livestock at higher risk for some diseases, and make it tougher for livestock to gain weight. Drive on wet soil with heavy equipment such as a planter or harvester and the pore space between the...
  24. (Photo: Getty Images)

    How to talk about the environment with people of either political leaning

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—It seems intuitive: A social media post or an ad about an environmental issue written in a way that appeals to conservative values will likely persuade conservatives. But more often than not, messages about environmental issues are framed to resonate primarily with liberal-leaning individuals, said Kristin Hurst, a postdoctoral research associate with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “They’re preaching to the choir, but they’re not reaching the conservatives they’re trying to convince,” said Hurst, who researches behavior as it relates to sustainability. In a recently published study, she and Marc Stern, a professor at Virginia Tech, wanted to see how different written...
  25. (Photo: Getty Images)

    News tips and events for the week of March 9

    Tip 1: Boosting sales of food and farm businesses: An upcoming set of workshops is aimed at helping food and farm businesses that sell products such as eggs, pork, or baked goods to identify strategies to increase sales. Participants of the workshops, which will be held March 23 and March 30 in Chillicothe, Ohio, will learn marketing, social media, and sales tactics, among other skills, and will generate a set of goals to improve their businesses. The workshops are being hosted by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives, Ohio State University Extension Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Team, and Ohio Farm Bureau. The two workshops will be 2–6 p.m. at the Ross County Service Center, 475 Western Ave.,...

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