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Noteworthy News

Monument dedicated to sheep, scientists * Plyler cited for service to poultry industry * Ground broken for 4-H environmental center * Scholar learns what science can — and should — do * Legates remembered * Rivers run through it: Watersheds map published * The ties that bind: Larson's neckties gain renown * Dairy dedicated at environmental farming center * On the road with the NeuseMobile

Monument dedicated
to sheep, scientists

For the Continental Dorset Club — the organization that guards the quality and purity of the Dorset sheep breed — the name NCSU 402 has been commanding respect and gratitude since 1954.

Last spring, the club dedicated a monument to NCSU 402 — the granddaddy of all polled, or hornless, Dorset sheep.

Shepherd Taylor visited with the polled Dorset flock recently.Many thousands of hornless sheep are descended from this one ram whose genes dominate the breed today.

Polled Dorset sheep emerged from the pioneer work in the early 1950s of two N.C. State livestock scientists. The late Dr. Lemuel Goode and the late Sam Buchanan are credited with identifying and developing the hornless sheep.

Their names and that of Ed Taylor, the shepherd who managed the herd, are inscribed in the monument dedicated in May at the university’s Small Ruminant Educational Unit near the N.C. State Fairgrounds. In 1949, four hornless lambs, sired by a horned Dorset, were born on an N.C. State farm. Over the next five years, the N.C. State sheep experts bred the horned Dorset to those four ewes and all other ewes in the flock. Finally, a ewe delivered twin rams; 401 had, according to Taylor, “the heaviest horns you ever saw.” But his twin, 402, was hornless.

Other breeders bought his offspring, and, within 20 years, 70 percent of all registered Dorsets were polled.

Polled sheep don’t have horns that can get tangled in fences and brush, and they do little damage if they butt each other.

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Plyler cited for service
to poultry industry

N.C. Sen. Aaron W. Plyler was honored in June by the Department of Poultry Science with its Distinguished Service Award.

Sen. Aaron Plyler was honored for his support to the poultry industry.A luncheon awards ceremony was attended by Dr. Jim Oblinger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Jerry Simpson, director of the Union County Cooperative Extension Service; Ed Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Poultry Federation; and Dr. Gerald Havenstein, head of the Department of Poultry Science.

A member of the N.C. General Assembly for more than two decades, Plyler has represented the 17th Senatorial District since 1982. His district includes three of the state’s top eight turkey-producing counties and two of the top seven broiler-producing counties.

Plyer’s leadership has produced funding for a statewide system of poultry diagnostic laboratories; renovation and expansion of Scott Hall, which houses the Department of Poultry Science; and additional resources to address poult enteritis mortality syndrome, a major disease problem for turkey producers.

—Natalie Hampton

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Ground broken for
4-H environmental center

The 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center, also known as the Eastern 4-H Center, moved a step closer to becoming a reality with a groundbreaking ceremony in late April.

The Eastern 4-H Center will feature classrooms, youth and adult lodges, a swimming pool and ropes courses.The center, located on 242 acres in Tyrrell County, N.C., will be used as an environmental teaching facility, said Dr. Jim Oblinger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The center site, on the shore of the Albemarle Sound, is a living environmental laboratory filled with stands of hardwoods, pines and pocosins. The area provides habitat for red wolves, black bears, white-tailed deer and migratory waterfowl.

“This center is designed to facilitate youth development and environmental education in a way that complements the pristine natural setting,” said Dr. Jon Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. “It will be a tremendous benefit to people not only in North Carolina, but throughout the region.”

The N.C. General Assembly has allocated $8.5 million for the project, and the N.C. 4-H Development Fund has raised $750,000 toward a $1.5 million goal.

Among more than 200 guests at the ground-breaking ceremony were Dr. Mike Davis, state 4-H leader; Bob Jenkins, chairman of the center fund-raising committee; and Marc Basnight, president pro tem of the N.C. Senate.

“North Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, but many of our citizens know very little about the environment in which we live,” Basnight said. “I strongly support the new 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center because its mission is to teach us more about the world around us.”

Basnight dedicated the center on behalf of the N.C. General Assembly and presented a state flag to Dwayne Watson, a 4-H’er who represented North Carolina’s 200,000 4-H’ers.

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Scholar learns what science
can — and should — do

When Patricia Margaret Festin began her professional career in June with the nation’s leading research-based pharmaceutical company, she had little idea of what her career might look like five or 10 years later. But she did have a concept for the bigger picture: “No matter what I do,” she said, “I want to make science work for society.”

Patricia Festin and Gerald ElkanTo her job as a research assistant at Glaxo Wellcome in the Research Triangle Park, Festin brought a sense of what advances in science and technology can — and should — do for humanity.

And she brought strong credentials: Bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry, chemistry and English, plus a minor in French. A 3.5-plus grade point average. Experience as a researcher. World travel. And interpersonal skills gained in student government and as a coxswain for the men’s and women’s rowing teams.

As a Thomas Jefferson Scholar at N.C. State University, Festin earned degrees in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Jefferson Scholars also engage in activities designed to increase their appreciation for the ethical and social dimensions of the challenges facing agriculture and the life sciences.

For Festin, one of the most enriching of those activities was a study tour in Egypt.

“It challenged me and my world view in a way I’d never experienced,” she recalled. “My classroom was a desert, a Sphinx. My classroom was being in Aswan and seeing the poverty.”

That poverty moved Festin to undertake a research project. As a Howard Hughes Minority Undergraduate Research Intern, she explored the possibilities of adapting the North Carolina beach pea to the Sahara. There, she supposed, the beach pea could stabilize shifting desert sands and perhaps provide a food source for nomadic tribes.

"No matter what I do, I want to make science work for society." -- Patricia Festin

Though she couldn’t get the nitrogen-fixing beach pea to nodulate in her lab experiments, Festin remained upbeat. After all, she said, the experience allowed her to work with one of the world’s leading experts on nitrogen fixation, Dr. Gerald Elkan.

Of Elkan, an emeritus professor of microbiology, Festin says, “He was just such a great mentor. He never looks at science without considering how it will help people.”

The empowerment Festin gained through Elkan and other faculty members was evident in the speech she delivered during Commencement in May. Speaking on behalf of the university’s 2,800 graduates who received degrees, Festin said, “It is our poems, our inventions, our cures, our ideas that will one day make this world go ’round. And we have you, our parents, and this great university, to thank for helping us realize our potential.”

—Dee Shore

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Dean Legates

Dean LegatesWhen former College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean James Edward Legates died in February, he did so in the place he always said his heart was — on the farm.

Growing up on a Delaware farm, he raised his own small dairy herd alongside his father’s larger one. And when he died on Feb. 6, he was tending the LeLait Dairy Farm he had built in his retirement years in southern Granville County.

In the years between — 37 of them as renowned animal geneticist and administrator at N.C. State University — Dr. Legates worked to advance farming to the betterment of people throughout the state.

Legates came to the university in 1949 as an assistant professor of breeding. In 1956, he was named William Neal Reynolds Professor of Animal Science, and in 1970 he became head of the Department of Animal Science’s Animal Breeding Section. In 1971, he was appointed dean of what was then called the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Characterized as steady — poised — Legates will be remembered for enhancing the college’s status, for strengthening and integrating extension functions with the rest of the college, and for helping guide efforts to secure land for university farms and research stations.

Given Legates’ legacy, it is clear that throughout his 75 years, he lived an adage he was known to quote: “Live as if you might die tomorrow, but farm as if you must farm forever.”

—Dee Shore

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Rivers run
through it

Through a unique, three-dimensional map developed by a team of university faculty members, North Carolinians have a new way to view how water links people, cities, towns and streams within watersheds.

The watershed mapTo create the poster-size North Carolina Watersheds Map, Dr. John Fels put the state’s 17 major watersheds on a background of the state’s physiographic regions and topography. While major cities and towns are noted, the map — unlike most other maps — shows no roads.

“What matters in the message of this map is not that Raleigh is connected to Greensboro via Interstate 40, but that Raleigh is connected to New Bern via the Neuse River,” said Fels, a cartographer and research associate professor in landscape architecture at N.C. State University.

More than 4,000 copies of the maps were funded and published earlier this year by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. They were distributed to extension agents and environmental agencies across the state.

Teachers and others who wish to obtain copies of the map should call N.C. State’s Water Quality Group at (919) 515-3723.

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The ties that bind:
Professor's neckties gain renown

Dr. Roy Larson is known for his poinsettia breeding -- and his neckties.Over a 35-year career, Dr. Roy Larson, professor emeritus of horticultural science, developed an international reputation for his work with poinsettias and azaleas. He also became known for his neckties.

His tie collection numbers around 500. Most are adorned with representations of flowers, and many were made by Larson’s wife, Darlyne.

Larson’s ties are so well known that when Christine Anderson and Terry Tischer were researching a book about poinsettias, representatives of a California company that grows poinsettias suggested the authors contact Larson. They did, and a picture of six of Larson’s ties with poinsettias on them is in the book, which is titled Poinsettias, The December Flower, Myth and Legend, History and Biological Fact.

It’s not the first time Larson’s ties have been on display. A few years ago, 39 of them were displayed at the University of North Carolina General Administration building in Chapel Hill. On another occasion, some of Larson’s ties were shown at Texas A&M University.

Larson also learned recently that an azalea cultivar developed by Greentime Nurseries in Paarl, South Africa, has been named the Dr. Roy Larson azalea. Larson isn’t familiar with Greentime Nurseries and says he learned of the honor “out of the blue” when he received a letter from Greentime Nurseries. He doesn’t know what the cultivar that bears his name looks like, but at least he is now even with his wife in the cultivar name game. A French breeder has already named a poinsettia cultivar after her.

—Dave Caldwell

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Dairy dedicated at Center for Environmental Farming Systems

David Iles, a Halifax County dairy farmer, believes that pasture-based dairy farming may be the best hope for making dairying profitable for his two sons, who want to continue working the business Iles’ father started in 1931.

“This may be the only area in agriculture today where a small farm can be more efficient than a large operation,” he said. “We have to revitalize and reinvigorate the industry by bringing in new technologies.”

Iles was one of the speakers at the June dedication of the new Pasture-Based Dairy Unit at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro. He joined representatives of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. A&T State University and the N.C. General Assembly in the official opening of the new facility, which strives to reduce ennvironmental impacts and increase dairy profits.

The milking facility, housed in an open shed, is similar to systems used in New Zealand. The practice of moving cows between paddocks has been used in New Zealand, Australia and European countries, according to Dr. Steve Washburn, animal science department extension leader. Washburn says the start-up costs for this system may be only 50 to 75 percent of the cost for a traditional dairy.

“The whole system has much less investment than a free-stall milking barn. The manure system is less expensive to install than a traditional lagoon,” Washburn said. “With the low cost of land in Eastern North Carolina, we feel this would be an economical system to put into place.”

In a typical North Carolina dairy, cattle are fed when they gather for milking twice each day. Large amounts of liquid and solid waste collect in the milking area and must be removed for use as fertilizer or moved to a lagoon for holding and processing.

The pasture-based system relies more heavily on pasture-grazing to feed cattle. Fields with different types of forages are maintained, and the cattle are moved from paddock to paddock daily to avoid concentrating waste in one area.

Cows spend about four hours each day concentrated in the milking and feeding area, where they are fed in an open shed with a concrete floor. Waste from the floor is washed into a holding tank and sprayed on fields to avoid concentrating it in one area.

The milking parlor, also an open shed, is designed for rapid milking and allows one or two people to handle the milking and preparation of up to 32 cows at a time. At the new dairy unit, about 80 cows can be milked in one hour.

Pastures are planted with different forages to meet various nutritional needs and to ensure that there is a green forage in pasture year-round. Some pastures have been planted with fast-growing trees — loblolly pines and others — to provide shade in summer without concentrating all the cows around a few trees or a pond. Buffers are maintained between pastures and streams to prevent runoff.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems dairy began operating in January, and the response has been favorable. In the future, researchers hope to use the site to find ways of better adapting this dairying system to Eastern North Carolina.

—Natalie Hampton

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On the road
with the NeuseMobile

Extension educators have a new tool for teaching people about water quality via hands-on activities. The Neuse Education Team has developed the NeuseMobile, a mobile classroom of sorts.

The team of five Extension agents and four specialists uses a basinwide educational approach targeting farmers, urban residents, youths and local governments.

"The NeuseMobile gets the word out there about water quality, and it recognizes the positive impact Extension programs are having on the environment," says Dr. Jon Ort, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

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