URBANA, Ill. – What do you really know about Christmas trees and their history?
Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, offers the following list of interesting Christmas tree facts.
- The tradition of an official Chicago Christmas tree was initiated in 1913 when one was first lit by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park.
- From 1887 to 1933, a fishing schooner called the "Christmas Ship" would tie up at the Clark Street Bridge in Chicago and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.
- In the 1930s, the Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes, but they were dyed green.
- In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22 because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
- The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004, the tree has been topped with a 550-pound Swarovski Crystal star. And, since 2007, the tree has been lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LEDs that are powered by solar panels.
- Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states.
- Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are the top five Christmas tree-producing states.
- It takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail, and drought to grow a mature tree.
- More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On average 1,000 to 1,500 of these trees will survive. In the northern part of the country, perhaps 750 trees will remain.
- An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.
- Artificial trees will last for six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.
- Nearly 33 million farm-grown Christmas trees were purchased in the United States in 2013 with a real market value of $1.16 billion.
- Live Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of 1 percent of residential fires, and mostly when ignited by some external ignition sources. The major factors involved in Christmas tree fires are electrical problems, decorative lights, candles, or a heat source too close to the tree.
Check out the University of Illinois Extension website Christmas Trees & More for more information: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/trees/.
Duckweed a good potential protein source for swine, according to study
URBANA, Ill. – Lemnaceae, commonly known as duckweed, is a small, free-floating aquatic plant with great potential for environmentally friendly applications. It can be used for the production of ethanol, biodiesel, and plastics. Research at the University of Illinois indicates that duckweed may also be a good protein source for swine diets.
"Duckweed yields more protein per acre than soybeans," said Hans H. Stein, a U of I professor of animal sciences. "It is easy to harvest, and because it grows in water, it doesn't compete with food crops for land. This makes it a very exciting crop for a variety of uses, including animal feed."
Parabel’s Lemna protein concentrate is produced by extracting protein from de-oiled and dehydrated Lemnaceae biomass. "Lemna protein concentrate contains approximately 68 percent crude protein, so it has the potential to be a very good protein source," Stein said. "Lemna meal is already fed to cattle and poultry. However, there are no published data on the nutritional value of lemna protein concentrate fed to pigs."
Stein's team conducted three experiments to determine the energy concentration and the digestibility of energy, phosphorus, and amino acids in lemna protein concentrate fed to growing pigs. Results indicated that the apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of gross energy was less in lemna protein concentrate than in soybean meal or fish meal, but the greater concentration of gross energy in lemna protein concentrate resulted in lemna protein concentrate having concentrations of digestible and metabolizable energy (4,076 and 3,571 kcal/kg) that were close to values for soybean meal (4,044 and 3,743 kcal/kg) and fish meal (3,878 and 3,510 kcal/kg).
The concentration of phosphorus in lemna protein concentrate was 0.51 percent, which was slightly less than that in soybean meal (0.62 percent) and much less than that in fish meal (3.09 percent). There was, however, a tendency for a greater standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus in lemna protein concentrate (72.8 percent) than in fish meal (65.6 percent) or soybean meal (62.8 percent).
The standardized ileal digestibility of most indispensable amino acids was greater in fish meal than in lemna protein concentrate, but the overall digestibility of amino acids was the same in fish meal and lemna protein concentrate. The mean digestibility of all amino acids in lemna protein concentrate was 80.25 percent, and digestibility values were 75 percent or greater for all indispensable amino acids.
"The amino acids in lemna protein concentrate are well digested by pigs," Stein said. "Our results indicate that if lemna protein concentrate is included in diets for pigs, amino acid digestibility and the energy value of the diets will not be compromised."
The study, "Concentration of metabolizable energy and digestibility of energy, phosphorus, and amino acids in lemna protein concentrate fed to growing pigs," was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science. Co-authors include Oscar Rojas and Yanhong Liu of the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The research was funded by Parabel, Melbourne, Fla. The full text of the paper is available online at http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/92/11/5222.full.
Ten facts about Christmas’s most popular plant
URBANA, Ill. – For many years, the poinsettia has been the traditional Christmas flower.
Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, offers a few facts about this traditional Christmas plant.
Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.
In nature, poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician, and the first United States ambassador to Mexico.
Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. “For pets, especially puppies and kittens, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. It is probably best to keep pets away from the plant,” Wolford said.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Wolford noted that poinsettias are not poisonous. “A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 1 1/4 pounds of poinsettia leaves (500 to 600 leaves) to have any side effects,” he said.
The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. For the longest-lasting poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available. Though they were once only available in red, there are now poinsettias in pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon, and multi-colors. They have names like 'Premium Picasso', 'Monet Twilight', 'Shimmer', and 'Surprise.’
The red poinsettia still dominates over other color options. 'Prestige Red’—one of many poinsettias patented by Ecke—ranks among the best-selling hybrids.
“Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant,” Wolford said. “Most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to that holiday, representing some $60 million worth.”
Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
For more information about poinsettias, check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Poinsettia Pages at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/poinsettia/.
Being involved in research and meeting others doing studies throughout the university are what Katherine McLachlan enjoys the most as a graduate research assistant in the ACES Department of Crop Sciences. Katherine is working on her master’s degree in plant breeding and pathology with Dr. David Walker and Dr. Carl Bradley. For her thesis, she is studying resistance to the pathogen Pythium ultimum var. ultimum in soybeans.
Katherine enjoys taking 400 and 500-level classes because they go in depth with their topics. She is able to ask questions and think outside the box about multiple issues. She also appreciates having found a close community among her peers and instructors.
“I really enjoy the small town setting of the Department of Crop Sciences and the College of ACES,” Katherine says. “It is great every semester going into new classes and knowing a few people right from the start. I also like the many opportunities that are available, from the Career Fair and ACES Career Services to the variety of classes, including classes based on your specific area of study and others that are part of the study abroad program.”
During her undergraduate years, Katherine was part of Sigma Alpha professional agricultural sorority, Field and Furrow Club, Student of Agronomy Soils and Environmental Sciences (SASES), and Crop Sciences Ambassadors. As part of the ACE 199 class that covers farm food and environmental policy, she traveled to California to learn about agriculture. Opportunities like these are what push students to excel in college.
“U of I has a tradition of excellence that they instill in students,” Katherine says. “This excellence gets passed on to each new generation of Illini.”
Plan for happy, healthy holidays!
URBANA, Ill. – When you’re shopping for holiday gifts this year, think about planning celebrations and choosing presents that will promote better health, a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator advises.
“When you make your holiday list, think about the long-term effects of your gifts and celebrations. Remember, small changes accumulate and turn into big results over time,” Mary Liz Wright said.
Why give a gift that promotes good health? Because you want your friends and relatives to live long, productive lives. Who would benefit from a healthy gift? Just about anyone, she said.
“To be frank, we are a nation on the verge of a health disaster,” said Wright. “Sixty-one percent of Illinoisans are overweight or obese, and 8.5 percent have diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our state.”
If you have young children on your list, consider an outdoor active game instead of the usual electronic gadget. For teens, consider a cool fitness tracker app or wearable device, she said.
And, for those on your list who are a little more mature, there are many healthful gift options, including a yoga app or DVD or a healthy recipe cookbook, she added.
“At your holiday gathering, include some sort of activity on the agenda. It could be as elaborate as a digital scavenger hunt—in which teams have to run around taking pictures of items on a list—to something as simple as charades, with its active miming. How about organizing a competition with a few “Minute to Win It” challenges? Really, anything is better than napping on the couch!” she said.
Now let’s discuss menu---do you really need five kinds of dessert? Could you substitute a fruit salad for one of the more traditional fat-laden items? Could you alter one of your dessert recipes to make it just a bit healthier?
“Remember, you can usually substitute fat-free dairy and reduce both salt and sugar by a third without anyone noticing the difference,” Wright said. “What about those holiday salads? Many of them have more fat and calories than some desserts!”
Try this recipe for a colorful and healthy alternative to the mayonnaise/ whipped cream /gelatin dishes masquerading as salads, she suggested.
Red and Green Holiday Slaw
5 cups shredded red cabbage
½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
2 large Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
1/3 cup walnuts
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Mix slaw ingredients in large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over slaw. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Makes 16 servings
Nutrition facts per serving:
80 calories, 4.5 g fat (0 g trans fat and cholesterol), 10.0 mg sodium, 11 g total carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugars, 1 g protein.
2015 Invasive pest awareness workshops will focus on early detection and response
URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension has announced the dates for its 2015 Illinois First Detector Invasive Pest Workshops covering important landscape and nursery pests, diseases, and invasive plants. Workshops will be offered at eight locations in Illinois beginning in January 2015.
Early detection and response is key to managing invasive pests. The Illinois First Detector Workshops, now in their third year, are aimed at improving first detector training and invasive species awareness. The workshops will cover new topics on current and emerging invasive plants, pathogens, and insects. Each location will have sessions covering the brown marmorated stink bug, viruses in ornamental plants, and invasive plants and their management, as well as a session devoted to discussing invasive pest pathways.
“Community involvement is key in the early detection of invasive species. We are very excited about these new workshop topics and look forward to working with participants in learning more about these issues facing our local communities,” said Kelly Estes, state survey coordinator.
As in previous years, these in-depth training sessions will cover material that includes:
- Life cycle/biology
- Commonly confused look-a-likes
Once again, those attending will also take part in hands-on activities, which will allow attendees to examine these pests and diseases in more detail.
The target audience includes certified arborists, tree care professionals, Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, forestry and natural resource professionals, conservationists, and others with an interest in trees.
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be available for: IAA Certified Arborists, Continuing Forestry Education Credits, Master Gardener, and Master Naturalist.
Workshops will be held at the following locations:
- Collinsville, Jan. 29 – 618-344-4230
- Wheaton, Feb. 3 – 630-584-6166
- DeKalb, Feb. 4 – 815-758-8194
- Mt. Vernon, Feb. 11 – 618-548-1446
- Charleston, Feb. 12 – 217-543-3755
- Macomb, Feb. 18 – 309-837-3939
- Moline, Feb. 19 – 309-756-9978
- Bloomington, Feb. 26 – 309-663-8306
Those interested in attending should contact the host locations above for registration. A $40 non-refundable registration fee covers instruction, on-site lunch, and training materials. Space is limited.
Versatility of work settings, travel opportunities, and working directly with customers are just a few of the things that agricultural and consumer economics (ACE) alumnus Erick Garcia enjoys about his career with Valent USA. So far, Erick’s career has led him to work in 15 different states while developing skills, gaining professional experience, and exploring different parts of the country.
“My U of I experience was instrumental in preparing me for my current position,” Erick says. “If it had not been for the ACE 199CA class with Dr. Paul Ellinger and Jessa Barnard, I would not have been introduced to Valent.”
Erick adds that the work involved in his college projects and group activities parallels what he experiences in the real world. Characteristics that have allowed him to excel in his profession include versatility, time management, communication skills, perseverance, and humility. Meeting deadlines, collaborating, making presentations, analyzing data, and drafting professional documents have also transferred on to be useful in his career.
“The diverse selection of classes and activities allows students to pursue and develop the skills necessary to succeed in any future setting,” he says. “U of I has the ability to enrich and prepare its students for life after graduation as well as doing an exceptional job in connecting students with potential employers.”
Christmas tree care and safety tips
URBANA, Ill. – According to the National Fire Protection Association from 2007 to 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
To keep your tree from becoming a statistic, Wolford recommends following these tips.
- After purchasing your tree, place it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures until you’re ready to bring it indoors. Make a fresh 1-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water. Continue to water your tree on a daily basis. If the tree is not taking up water, make a fresh cut.
- When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh 1-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water, or a rule of thumb is one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk.
- Check the water level in your tree stand daily. Keep the water level about the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. Commercially prepared mixes that include aspirin, sugar, and other additives added to the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.
- Keep the tree as far away as possible from heat sources such as heaters, vents, radiators, and fireplaces. Keeping the room where the tree is located cool will slow down the drying process.
- Check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords. Use UL-approved electrical decorations and cords. Be sure to turn off the tree lights when leaving the house. Unplug tree lights at night. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree. Be sure not to overload electrical circuits.
- Many fresh-cut trees, if properly cared for, will last a few weeks before drying out. Take down the tree before it dries out.
- Recycle your tree after Christmas. Many communities will pick up trees and turn them into mulch. You might put the tree in your backyard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.
For more information, please check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Christmas Trees & More at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/trees/index.cfm.