If you’re a Connecticut shellfish farmer, your ears might perk up a bit when you hear the term HABs – harmful algal blooms.
Toxic HABs outbreaks, sometimes referred to as “red tide” or “brown tide” because of the discolored water that can occur along with it, have caused recent shellfish bed closures around the country, including states neighboring Connecticut.
Connecticut has remained relatively sheltered from HABs thus far, but there have been sporadic, rare closures in isolated portions of the state. So while shellfish farmers and regulators here keep watch for any warning signs just in case, the rest of us can keep enjoying fresh clams and oysters grown in local waters, either from a commercial farm or harvested from certified recreational municipal beds.
“People can eat shellfish from Long Island Sound with confidence,” said Gary Wikfors, director of the Milford lab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
That’s because of the well-coordinated early warning system in place in Connecticut to catch an outbreak of the particular kinds of algae that can sometimes emit toxins harmful to clams, oysters and mussels, and sicken the people who eat them.
Algae, which range from seaweeds to tiny single-celled microalgae (also called phytoplankton), form the basis of the aquatic food chain. Among the thousands of different species, about 100 can contain or emit toxins into marine and freshwater bodies that can cause illness and even death in humans, pets and wild animals. Of these 100, a handful of are of greatest concern in Connecticut waters.
The mere presence of these types of algae isn’t a danger – most of the time a bloom occurs with no release of the toxin. But thanks to constant monitoring, there’s a system in place to respond quickly if that were ever to change. It’s a crucial part of ensuring the continued success of the state’s $30 million shellfish industry.
Abandoned boats, broken lobster traps, discarded tires and all types of other trash aren’t just eyesores on Long Island Sound’s beaches, coves and channels.
They’re also hazards to wildlife that can impede navigation and threaten human safety and health. To address this problem, Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs will initiate a Marine Debris Action Plan for Long Island Sound. The project will gather groups involved in removal and prevention work as the basis for to develop a comprehensive strategy to rid the Sound of as much debris as possible.
The Marine Debris Action Plan for Long Island Sound is one of eight projects awarded funding through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant-Marine Debris Special Projects Competition. A total of $350,000 was awarded for the eight projects, which will be matched by $350,000 from the state programs. The CT-NY project will receive $50,000 in federal funding which will be matched with $53,000 from the two programs. The two Sea Grant programs will develop the plan in cooperation with the EPA Long Island Sound Study, a bi-state cooperative partnership of state and federal agencies, and numerous user groups and organizations concerned about the estuary shared by New York and Connecticut. The NOAA Marine Debris Program coordinators for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions will be active participants, sharing insights and experiences from other similar efforts.
Why are wildflowers the most beautiful of flowers? Perhaps it is because they are untamed by mankind and often appear when one is not even looking for them. In spring, one of the pleasures of getting out on nature trails or trekking through the woods is coming across some of Connecticut’s spring blooming wildflowers. These colorful and interesting signs that warmer weather has arrived are a welcome distraction to the events around us. Whether found on purpose or by a happy coincidence, these wildflowers are interesting in their own ways.
Canada lousewort Pedicularis canadensis, also called wood betony, is a native plant in the broomrape family that is found in open woods, clearings and thickets. It has small, 2-lipped yellow flowers in a tight spike. Flowers open from the bottom and progress upward. Plants can range from as low as 5 inches in height to 14 inches. Leaves are fernlike and form a basal rosette. It is a hemiparasite that attaches to the roots of other plants while still producing chlorophyll of its own. Look for these wildflowers as early as April- June. Bees will pollinate wood betony.
Asarum canadense, wild ginger, is native to eastern North America and can create a slow-growing groundcover in shady deciduous forests and can be found in the rich soils of shady deciduous forests. Flowers are seldom seen unless one knows where to look. Lifting the leaves reveals the bell-shaped flowers at the base of the plant close to the ground. Flowers have three triangular reddish- brown petals that fold back to reveal with an attractive red and white pattern that reminds me of looking into a kaleidoscope.
With national data showing Americans have been eating more fish and shellfish during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report on a survey of Connecticut residents’ seafood consumption habits and preferences offers timely information seafood dealers can use to help make the increase permanent.
The final report on theConnecticut Seafood Survey, a project to better understand current eating habits and how best to get more seafood into residents’ diets — especially shellfish, fish and seaweed from local waters — was released earlier this month to the Connecticut seafood industry. Key findings, based on anonymous surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018 of a cross-section of 1,756 residents, include:
About 50% of residents eat at least one meal of seafood per week.
About 15% of residents eat two or more meals of seafood per week.
Seventy-nine percent (79%) of residents eat shellfish.
Twenty-five percent (25%) of residents are interested in trying seaweed products.
Spring 2020 generally arrived on time in Connecticut, but with some hesitation. A few bright, warm days have been sprinkled between cool or rainy, windy days and some localized snow showers. Those warm days brought out the rakes, pruners, shovel, and a pop-up yard bag to clear the debris that accumulated since the fall clean up in the shady perennial beds and sunny pollinator garden. Tiny shoots of the ephemeral bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia sp) were buried under still-soggy leaves and had to be uncovered carefully by hand to prevent damage to the delicate new shoots.
Ephemerals are plants that pop up in early spring, produce leaves, flowers and seeds but then disappear when the summer perennials are at their peak of display. The ephemerals take advantage of the short period between when snow cover disappears and trees start to leaf out. Usually found in cool, moist, rich soil in shady woodland areas, they produce their flowers for a short time, are pollinated, produce seeds then disappear underground until the following spring. Ephemerals provide essential nectar and/or pollen for early foraging bees and flies
Areas around the home that are in dappled shade are perfect spots to grow ephemerals. The best way to add these early bloomers to home beds is by purchasing root stock from a trusted supplier. Plant the bare roots or corms 2-3 inches deep in moist, humus-rich acidic soils (4.5-6.5 pH) that drain well and are sheltered from all-day summer sun. In the fall, keep the area with the new plantings moist so they develop a good root system. A light winter cover of shredded leaves will make it easier for the new growth to emerge in the spring. Eventual cold temperatures will force dormancy. The plants will start to develop roots and shoots after about 3-4 months when soil temperature starts to rise. Divide mature plants in the fall being careful to provide roots for each new section. A light scattering of balanced fertilizer (such as 5-5-5) can be added to each new planting area.
Interested in learning more about other early garden arrivals?
The common theme is sustainable gardening, with emphasis on water quality and connecting the watershed to Long Island Sound (and these days, quality of life).Preston shares ways gardeners can work in the dirt without having a negative impact. From tips and techniques to trends and growing towards sustainability, “Gardening for Good” is a great resource!
Recordings of the first three shows are also available on the website:
The April 3 show featured guest Nancy Ballek of Ballek’s Garden Center in East Haddam
The March 6 show featured guest Mary Ellen Lemay, originator of the Pollinator Pathways project in CT and N.Y.
For the first show on Feb. 7, Preston provided an overview of the program and gardening resources.
There are amazing stories from across Connecticut about the efforts being made to feed our communities.
Responding to COVID-19 requires generosity and ingenuity.
We recognize, more than ever, it is clear the roles schools play and the necessity of school meal programs to connect and serve healthy and local food with our communities.
Put local on Your Tray is teaming up with Northeast farm-to-school folks to collect stories and photos of how #CommunitiesFeedKids in this pandemic.
Our goal is to spread gratitude and inspiration for the hard work school nutrition professionals are doing to feed kids during the Covid-19 crisis, lifting up school meals and how critically important they are so we build toward a changed, more resilient system in the future.
We invite you to share the story of your community feeding kids in response to COVID-19! #CommunitiesFeedKids
Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics aligned to the CAHNR strategic initiatives:
• Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
• Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
• Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate
• Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state (see map). The “by the Numbers 2019” highlights some of our key impacts from these initiatives.
We understand many of our Connecticut farms and families have been dealing with stress long before this pandemic took place. Through a collaborative of UConn Extension faculty and staff along with some of our critical partners (Farm Credit East, ACA, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Connecticut Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, Eggleston Equine, and Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services) we have created a resource page to help you mitigate some of the stressors you are facing. http://ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/agstress.php
We also have created a Private Facebook Group for Farmers and Agricultural Service Providers to communicate with one another through this challenging time for all of us. Join the group today! https://www.facebook.com/groups/361718224745725/
We at UConn Extension are working though unable to make farm visits at this. Please let us know if we can help you.