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August 30
Farmed Fish - A More Sustainable Protein
Farmed Tilapia

Information from

If you're like many other Americans, at some point this week unless you are a vegetarian you will probably be eating some sort of red meat like beef or pork. In fact, you might be having it for dinner later this evening. However, a significantly smaller amount of the people reading this might have recently had a meal of seafood. As of 2012, the average American consumed 71.2 pounds of red meat a year, compared to only 14.4 pounds of fish and shellfish, according to the annual report Fisheries of the United States 2012

This might not seem like a huge deal today, but something to consider is our planet's growing population. Over the next 40 years, we will have 2.3 billion extra people and 2.3 billion extra mouths to feed, and not a whole lot of extra space for producing food. Looking to the future, it is crucial that we think about efficiency and sustainability to maximize the amount of food we can produce with the resources we have. And we have to start thinking about the idea that the amount of red meat currently being produced might not be the most effective way to do that.

To feed a cow, it needs to be supplied with grass to graze on. A lot of grass, actually. A cow needs calories not only to grow but to produce heat and stay upright. Pound for pound, a cow needs 8.7 pounds of feed for every pound of meat it provides. Pigs, while a little more efficent, still need 5.9 pounds of feed per pound of pork. A large percentage of our crops grown go straight into feed for animals that provide much less than they take. This sounds pretty inefficient compared to just eating the plants and vegetables ourselves, and skipping the energy-burning middle man. However, this is not to say that livestock is a bad thing - they provide many benefits to agriculture like consuming resources not edible to humans, and providing natural fertilizer in the form of manure. Non-edible parts of the animals are used in many things from food glue to train brakes. Eliminating livestock is not the answer, but perhaps switching our focus to farmed fish is.

Farmed fish is not to be confused with fisheries. Both are highly inspected and provide us with food with great health benefits, as discussed in our blog post "The Benefits of Seafood Consumption". However, there is a distinct difference between the two. Farmed fish are grown in cages or monitored areas and fed regularly similar to livestock on land. Fisheries catch fish in the wild, and use a little more energy in the process. There are likely very few new areas for fishing left to be discovered, and already there is a limit to how many fish we can catch so that the fish population can keep up. So, while fisheries are also important, a focus on fish farming, where we can still grow, is important.

Unlike a cow, or any other warm-blooded livestock, a fish does not need to spend energy to keep warm and stay upright. In fact, a farmed fish can provide a 1 to 1 ratio of feed to weight. This feed comes from other low-value fish, and research is being conducted for even cheaper alternatives such as insects or flax. Shellfish actually don't require feeding at all, taking their nutrients through filtering and cleaning the water. Some people have a negative view on farmed fish after some pretty unregulated and chemical-infused fish farms of the 1980s showed the practice in an unflattering light. However, practices have changed dramatically since then, and as the industry evolves, newer and cleaner methods are being developed every day. Salmon, once the face of "bad fish farming", are now being certified sustainable for the first time

Using fish for a larger amount of our protein is key to sustaining our food supply to meet a growing need. Farmed fish provide a very efficient source of protein that could lessen the demand for much less-efficient red meats, freeing up more resources and allowing us to feed more people. It might take a conscious effort at first; a salmon might not be a desirable replacement for a steak dinner for some, especially in our country. We're already making progress; as of 2012 more farmed fish was produced than beef​. With enough people on board we can begin making the change today and help to feed the people of the future. 

Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources - Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources Extension
The Benefits of Seafood Consumption - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
A Fish Farmer's Guide to Understanding Water Quality - The Education Store
Everything you always wanted to know about fish farming but were afraid to ask -
Basic Questions about Aquaculture - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries

Aaron Doenges, Assistant Webmaster and Video Editor
Purdue FNR Extension

August 26
Help the Hellbender Day This Saturday August 29th

This Saturday, the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette is hosting a special event in honor of the hellbender salamanders. Help the Hellbender Day will be from 12:00pm to 4:00pm and will have a variety of games and activities for the whole family to enjoy. The Salamander Tale exhibit and Hellbender Havoc video game will be on display to spread awareness of this endangered species in a fun and interactive way. Visitors will also get a glimpse of the hellbenders transfered to the zoo by Purdue Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Rod Williams and his team this May. Come and celebrate this interesting amphibian with the Lafayette community this Saturday at the zoo!

Help the Hellbender Event - Columbian Park Zoo
Help wanted: Columbian Park dedicates day to hellbender salamander - WLFI
Help the Hellbender - Purdue Extension
Saving a Species - Purdue Agricultures Magazine
Williams Lab - Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Rod Williams​, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Hellbender Day Flier
August 24
New Podcast: What's a GMO? - Making Trees Stronger

What's a GMO? Making Trees Stronger, Got Nature podcastThe first topic in the series on the genetics behind trees focused on tree improvement. In this podcast we are going to focus on the genetic modification of trees.  Please join us as our host, Rod Williams, discusses this topic with Dr. Shaneka Lawson.  Dr. Lawson is a research plant physiologist with the USDA Forest Service-Northern Research Station.​

Listen here:
What's a GMO? - Making Trees Stronger, Got Nature? Podcasts
iTunes - Got Nature? Podcasts

Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond, genetic modification to papaya, The Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management & Economics

Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC)

Shaneka Lawson, Adjunct Assistant Professor
USDA Forest Service-Northern Research Station

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

August 20
Keep an Eye on Urban Trees Dying From Weather Stress

Indiana has experienced extreme weather over the last couple of years. Extreme heat, draught, cold, winds, you name it, we've dealt with it. Most recently, through June and July Indiana has experienced record-breaking rainfall and flooding. These weather conditions can make it difficult for our surroundings, but it can also cause a lot of stress on our trees. 

Maple Tree

Photo credit: Keith Robinson

Urban trees are more susceptible to weather-related injury because of their oftentimes compromised root systems. In forested areas, trees spread their roots out two to three times the length of the tree. This is important, because roots are the tree's way to receieve oxygen from the soil. This provides for a healthy defense system, giving the tree advantages like the ability to draw in moisture during dry spells and secrete fungi- and insect-repelling chemicals. In urban areas, roads and construction oftentimes sever roots or restrict where they can go, leaving the trees in a vulnerable state.

Our vulnerable urban trees are especially likely to be harmed by weather-induced stress. Symptoms like browning of leaves, dying branches, and early coloration in the fall are all signs that a tree's health is declining. 

Keep an eye on your trees, and if you are concerned, use the Purdue Tree Doctor app​ or submit a sample to the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab as you seek best practices to care and protect your trees.

Purdue experts: Tree deaths across Indiana may be related to weather stress - Purdue Agriculture News
Drought? Don't forget the trees! - The Education Store, Purdue Resource Center
Plan Today For Tomorrow's Flood - The Education Store
Community & Urban Forestry - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
The Root of the Problem - Northern Woodlands

Purdue University Agriculture News

Lindesy Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Department of Natural Resources, Purdue University

B. Rosie Lerner​, Extension Consumer Horticulture Architecture
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University​

August 13
Excess Rain and Pond Integrity

Photo credit: Dan Annarino

​Hopefully no one is reading this after a catastrophic loss of their pond. This very wet summer has tested some ponds ability to hold and safely release excess water. I would like to quickly review the overflow structures ponds should have and also some management necessary to ensure the safety of ponds levees/dams.

For recreational ponds there should be one or perhaps two means of releasing water from the pond. Most of these ponds are built on sloping land in order to capture rainwater to fill the pond. In this case it is necessary to have an emergency spillway that will divert excess water, once the pond is full, away from the dam to prevent erosion and save the integrity of the structure. Usually they are just an earthen channel that runs around the end of the dam with an initial elevation 1-2 feet below the top of the dam. Water only runs through the spillway when the pond is full. An emergency spillway should have vegetation to prevent erosion but not to the extent that water is blocked from passing through efficiently.

A distinct advantage can be gained by having a drain structure installed through the dam when ponds are initially constructed. Drains such as this typically have a valve or swivel pipe which can regulate water level to whatever height the owner would like. With a wet summer such as we have had, the pond water level could be proactively lowered to save massive amounts of water passing through the spillway. Additionally you can remove stagnant low oxygen water from the bottom of the pond. If a drain structure is releasing water from the bottom of the pond it is a good idea to flush this valve 2-3 times per year to remove debris from around the structure which may plug it up if used infrequently. With these structures it is a good idea to use the 6/12 rule. Water levels are kept six inches below maximum in order to catch any rain water event without overflowing. Evaporation and seepage will reduce the level back down over time. The 12 refers to the level the inches below maximum where you would add well water if you have the capacity. Generally this is only used with aquaculture ponds. 

Control structures to maintain water levels will ensure the integrity of your ponds dams and levees. By controlling the amount of water flushing through a pond, the owner can also manage the productivity of the pond ecosystem by releasing/maintaining nutrients in the pond.

Commercial Greenhouse and Nursery Production: Controlling Algae in Irrigation Ponds​ - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Indiana Ponds - The Education Store
Indiana Ponds Q&A - The Education Store
Management of Ponds, Wetlands, and Other Water Reservoirs to Minimize Mosquitoes - The Education Store
Indiana Pond Management​ - Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) - Fish & Pond Management
Ponds - Planning, Design, Construction - USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Bob Rode, Extension Aquaculture Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

August 06
New Publication! Tree Pruning Essentials

Tree PruningTrees continue to survive in spite of the many challenges they face in the urban environment. However, to grow from seedling to a mature tree in the urban forest, they need our help. They are the largest, oldest living organisms on the planet and can live long, healthy lives with some assistance. We often place trees in less-than-favorable growing locations that don't allow natural development and maturity and often require pruning to develop a durable structure, improve clearance, and maintain aesthetics.

Pruning has been called "one of the best, worst maintenance practices" performed on trees. The process creates wounds, which have a major impact on plant processes. Improper cutting on a tree causes severe damage or even death. To prune properly, it is important to understand both the proper techniques and how the tree responds to pruning.

In this publication, Urban Forestry Specialist Lindsey Purcell explores the techniques behind good pruning, from the planning process before planting to monitoring the tree's response after the pruning cuts. Check out Tree Pruning Essentials and make sure you are pruning your trees to maximize safety, aesthetics, and tree health!

Tree Pruning Essentials - Purdue Extension
Trees and Storms - Got Nature?
Tree Risk Management - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Pruning - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Prune Your Trees - Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Department of Natural Resources, Purdue University

August 05
Indiana DNR looking for volunteers to monitor spreading of aquatic species
Purdue Boat

Photo credit: Tom Campbell

​As boats enter and exit public bodies of water, they risk transfering aquatic plants, mussels, or invertebrates that attach themselves to the bottom of the boat. While this might seem pretty harmless at first, this spreading of aquatic species runs the risk of introducing invasive species into new environments. 

Invasive species cause harm to local ecosystems by reproducing exponentially when they are outside of their usual habitat and the organisms that keep their populations in check. They can then cause great damage by feeding on local species and the food they depend on. Once an invasive species is detected, it is oftentimes very expensive and difficult to control. For example, around 1991, the U.S. and Canada spent an estimated $20 million per year to control invasive sea lampreys and restore the trout populations that were damaged by them. In Indiana alone, we spend around $800,000 a year to attempt to control the growth of Euarsian watermilfoil, another nuisance invasive species. 

In an attempt to avoid more cases like this in the future, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR) is looking for help. Volunteers can sign up to record information about boats and their potential aquatic hitchhikers entering and leaving lakes during times of heavy use. The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife can take this data and use it for public outreach and planning species management.

Those interested are highly encouraged to sign up on INDNR's Volunteer Program page

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
DNR seeks help gathering info on spread of aquatic species - WSBT22
Indiana Invasive Species Council - Purdue Entomology Extension
Invasive Plants - Purdue Agriculture Weed Science
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (place "invasive as keyword in search field)

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

July 30
Bio-Control of an Invasive Tree
Tree of Heaven Seedling

Tree-of-heaven seedling

​Invasive plant species threaten many habitats including forests across Indiana. The introduced Asian tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is one of these aggressive and troublesome invaders. Tree-of-heaven grows very quickly on a wide variety of sites from seed and sprouts and can rapidly out-compete native trees and shrubs. There are areas in Indiana forests already dominated by this unwelcome invader. Controlling large infestations of this tree can be very expensive and even dangerous. The sap and wet sawdust of this tree can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. There is some hope on the horizon. Research work done by the US Forest Service and universities in Pennsylvania and Ohio has identified a fungus that can kill tree-of-heaven and has minimal or no impact on surrounding plants. Verticillium nonalfalfae or Ailanthus verticillium wilt is a soil fungus that has so far been identified in Pennsylvania and Ohio that can rapidly kill large patches of tree-of-heaven. Tests with this naturally occurring soil fungus have shown it to be very effective at killing tree-of-heaven without having significant impacts on surrounding native plants.

This naturally-occurring killer of tree-of-heaven could be an important tool in managing this invasive problem in Indiana. The quickest way to get started with natural bio-control of tree-of-heaven is to locate the fungus here in Indiana. Citizens and resource professionals can help us locate ailanthus verticullium wilt by identifying patches of tree-of-heaven that are being impacted by the fungus. This requires familiarity with ID of both tree-of-heaven and the symptoms of the wilt disease on the tree.

Tree of Heaven Closeup

Close-up of the "teeth" on the leaves of tree-of-heaven

Tree of Heaven has long, compound leaves resembling sumac or black walnut, but possessing small notches or teeth at the base of the leaflets. The plant parts have a very unpleasant burnt nut odor when crushed or bruised. The bark is smooth and grey with light grey or white fissures running vertically in the bark. Twigs are very stout with a light tan spongy pith in the center.

Ailanthus wilt causes rapid death of the tree, often within one season, so look for patches of tree-of-heaven where most trees are showing wilting foliage or are already dead. The mortality will often be radiating out from a central group of dead or dying trees. Trees with wilt will have a yellow to yellow-brown discoloration of the wood directly beneath the bark. Healthy tree-of-heaven will have nearly white wood under the bark. The mortality will almost always be groups of trees, not scattered individuals. Several resources are included below to help you identify tree-of-heaven and ailanthus wilt.

If you encounter what you think is ailanthus wilt in Indiana please contact:
Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
Phone: 765-494-2153

Joanne Rebbeck, Plant Physiologist
USFS, Northern Research Station
Phone: 740-368-0054

Ailanthus Verticillium Wilt Photoguide - United States Department of Agriculture
Tree-of-heaven Images - Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
Scientists using fungi to stop an invader​ - The Columbus Dispatch
Ailanthus and Verticillium nonalfalfae Research - USDA Forest Service
Invasive Species - Purdue Extension​
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (place "invasive" as keyword is search field)

Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University 

July 29
See "The Salamander Tale" exhibit and play video game, Hellbender Havoc, at State Fair
Salamander Exhibit

"A Salamander Tale" Exhibit

​Explore the wonderful world of salamanders with Herbie the Hellbender at the Indiana State Fair August 7-23, 2015, in the newly named Purdue Extension Agriculture Horticulture Building. The exhibits will be there every day. Learn what makes a salamander a salamander. Discover how amphibians differ from reptiles. Read about how you can help protect salamanders. Play the Hellbender Havoc video game and guide a hellbender through a river environment. Eat fish, and the hellbender grows! But watch out for fish hooks!

Demonstrations will include fish cleaning, deer processing and their cooking methods, home and family arts along with food and nutrition advice.

More details and other exhibits presented:


July 24
Purdue's BioWall Project Aims For Cleaner Indoor Air

BiowallWe all know that trees help to improve our air quality. Absorbing toxins, reducing CO2 levels, and providing shade are well-known benefits of trees, and many initiatives are in place to increase urban forested areas. However, there is an interesting fact to consider. According to the U.S. EPA, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, where those benefits of outdoor trees aren't nearly as impacting. In fact, indoor pollutants are estimated to be two to five times higher indoor than outdoors, and account for several billion dollars of health costs nationally. Indoor air needs to be cleaned too. This is the problem Purdue's BioWall team hopes to solve.

The project began in 2009 as part of a fully self-sustainable house called the INhome. In 2011, INhome competed against 20 other teams in the United States Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon and scored second place, largely due to it's most distinguishable feature, the BioWall. The BioWall was integrated into the return duct of INhome's air conditioning system, filtering the air inside the home through the roots of goldon pothos and other species of ivy that are known to have a strong effect on air quality.  

Today, the BioWall team is in the process of testing out an updated version of the BioWall. Prototype designs are being tested to improve the air cleaning qualities as well as the lifespan of the plants. Bypass tubes are being implemented to lessen the amount of air passing over the plants' roots, allowing them to dry out slower and live longer. Eventually, the team would like to put out a consumer version in the next few years for about $2,000. It's a lofty goal, but the team believes they can succeed and bring affordable and self-sustaining indoor air cleanliness to homes around the world. 

For more information, check out the BioWall team's website.

BioWall - Purdue University
Office of University Sustainability - Purdue University
Purdue Biowall hopes to boost air quality - WLFI
Questions About Your Community: Indoor Air - United States Environmental Protection Agency

William Hutzel, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology
Purdue University ​

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