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Decoding the secret language of flowers

Published March 6, 2017
Roses of many colors

URBANA, Ill. – Do you give flowers to your loved one on holidays and birthdays? Flowers are a great way to communicate your love and affection, and some can convey a specific message, according to a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension.

“Flowers can represent everything from friendship to true love,” says Rhonda Ferree. “For example, chrysanthemums show friendship. Gardenias represent secret love. Give a primrose to say, ‘I can’t live without you.’ Lilies, a traditional wedding flower, convey chastity, innocence, and purity, while Stephanotis shows happiness in marriage. Tulips are given to the perfect lover, and a red tulip declares your love. Orchids are commonly given as corsages to show love and beauty.”

But, Ferree says, no other flower shows more meaning than a rose. All roses symbolize love, but certain colors of roses have special meanings. “What’s more, when several colors in various stages of bloom are combined in one arrangement, your floral bouquet can speak a whole sentence instead of just one thought!”

Here are some of the most widely accepted meanings for different rose colors, blooms, and arrangements:

- Red roses show love, respect, or courage.

- Yellow roses represent joy, gladness, or freedom.

- Pink/peach roses exude gratitude, appreciation, admiration, or sympathy.

- White roses demonstrate purity or secrecy.

- Two roses joined together display engagement.

- Red and white roses together indicate unity.

Additionally, rosebuds say, “you are young and beautiful.” A single rose stands for simplicity. In full bloom, a rose means “I love you” or “I love you still,” and a bouquet of roses in full bloom signifies gratitude.

If you receive fresh flowers from your loved one, follow the following guidelines to ensure the longest vase life. Add water containing floral food to the vase every day. The best flower food can be obtained from your floral retailer.

Once the flowers are past their prime, discard them or make the memory last by creating a potpourri out of your rose petals. You can also press and dry the flowers for your memory book. “The uses of flowers are endless,” Ferree says.

For a complete fact sheet on the meaning of flowers, visit the horticulture program page at

News Source:

Rhonda Ferree, 309-543-3308

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Managing pests in your garden with IPM

Published March 3, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – When trying to manage pests in your garden this year, consider using integrated pest management (IPM) practices.

“As the saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, and if you’re a gardener you can also include pests in the list of life’s guarantees,” says University of Illinois Extension educator Ken Johnson. “IPM is an approach to reducing pest and disease populations to an acceptable level using a variety of techniques. There are four types of techniques used with IPM: cultural, physical/mechanical, biological, and chemical.”

The idea behind cultural management, Johnson says, is growing and maintaining a healthy plant. A healthy plant is less susceptible to disease and is better able to withstand attacks from pests. This means growing the right plant in the right place at the right time.

“You want to make sure you are planting plants that are appropriate for the site they will be planted in,” Johnson explains. “Don’t plant something that needs full sun in shade, or that requires acidic soils in alkaline or neutral soils. Placing a plant in the wrong environment can prevent the plant from reaching its full potential and will likely lead to a weak plant that is disease and insect riddled.”

In addition to selecting the right site for your plant, Johnson says to make sure it is getting the proper fertilization and enough, but not too much, water. “You can also alter the time of your planting to avoid a particular pest. For example, plant summer squash in early July to avoid squash vine borer, because they have finished laying eggs by then.” Additional management techniques used in cultural management include pruning, sanitation, and mulching.

The goal for physical/mechanical management is to physically eliminate pests. This can be done in a variety of different ways, such as hand picking caterpillars or bag worms; pruning out diseased branches, webworms, or galls; pulling or hoeing weeds in flower beds or vegetable gardens; or putting up barriers to prevent pests from getting to your plants, such as bird netting or fencing for rabbits and deer.

In biological management, pests are managed with other living organisms—their natural enemies. Insects like ladybugs will eat small soft-bodied insects like aphids, scale, and mealybugs. Lacewing larvae, sometimes referred to as aphid lions, will feed on aphids, scale, mealybugs, small caterpillars, and occasionally mites. In addition, some tiny parasitic wasps lay eggs inside of aphids and when the eggs hatch, the larvae will eat the aphid. Other parasitic wasps lay eggs on caterpillars such as horn worms.

“You may have seen these in your garden before if you grow tomatoes. Infected caterpillars will have a mass of what looks like eggs on them, but they are actually cocoons,” Johnson says. “If you see this, don’t get rid of that caterpillar. Eventually the wasps will emerge from the cocoon and will go on to attack more caterpillars.” Insects can also be killed by fungus and bacteria. For example, milky spore, a bacterium, can be used to control Japanese beetle larvae.

Chemical techniques round out the IPM practitioner’s toolkit. The goal is to manage pest populations by using pesticides, whether they are insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides. “If you are using IPM, chemicals are used as a last resort,” Johnson explains. “You want to use the three other techniques – cultural, physical/mechanical, and biological – before reaching for the pesticide bottle. If you do go the pesticide route, you want to try and use the least toxic chemical possible.”

Before using any pesticide product, make sure to read the label. “The label will tell you where you can legally use it, what it will control, how much you should use, how often you should use it, and any precautions you need to take while using the product,” explains Johnson.

News Source:

Ken Johnson, 217-243-7424

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

U of I students design galactic greenhouse

Published March 2, 2017
Alex Darragh examines plants grown in lunar soil simulant

URBANA, Ill. - Two University of Illinois engineering students have designed a miniature lunar greenhouse which they hope will enable humans to grow crops in lunar soil. They will present their design at the Lab2Moon Challenge in Bangalore, India in March. If they win the competition? Next stop – the moon.

Alex Darragh, a freshman in agricultural and biological engineering, and Matt Steinlauf, a freshman in mechanical engineering, won’t be traveling to the moon themselves, but their galactic greenhouse might. 

The device is about the size of a beverage can and has an Archimedes screw that drills into the ground, lifts lunar soil (also called regolith) into the shell, and drops it into rotating cups. When the screw retracts, the hole closes and the device pressurizes and heats up. Tubes deposit seeds, water and fertilizer into the cups. 

Darragh and Steinlauf will present their project to TeamIndus, an aerospace research organization sponsoring the Lab2Moon Challenge. TeamIndus is one of four privately owned companies traveling to the moon in December, hoping to win the Google Lunar XPrize, a global competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the $30 million prize, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth.

To increase the opportunity for lunar research, TeamIndus challenged college students world-wide to design and build an experiment that would help develop sustainable life on the moon. There were more than 3,000 applicants from 15 countries and 300 cities. 

Phase II of the competition narrowed the field to 25 teams. Darragh and Steinlauf’s team, Regolith Revolution, is one of three from the United States to make the cut. Several teams are from India, and Italy, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and the United Kingdom will also be represented. TeamIndus will manufacture the winning design and include it on their lunar voyage.

“Right now we’re conducting experiments in the lab and growing different plants in the lunar soil simulant,” said Darragh. “We’ve worked with Arabidopsis, the first plant that was grown in space. We’re also testing different fertilizer solutions to find the one that will work the best with lunar soils and plants and minimize the amount of nutrients you would have to bring to the moon.”

The team’s faculty mentors are Prasanta Kalita, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering and associate dean for academic programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and Sameh Tawfick, assistant professor in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering.

Darragh says they are excited to be chosen as finalists in the competition, and regardless of the outcome, “It’s been an amazing experience to be part of a project that has so much potential.”

You can follow Regolith Revolution’s journey through video logs on their website at



Benefits of intergenerational gardening

Published March 1, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – Like many life skills, gardening is often learned directly from family members. Grandparents might recruit the grandkids to help water transplants or drop in seeds, setting the stage for a lifetime love of gardening.

“Gardening is classified as a life skill because it not only allows you to grow food for yourself and family, but it also incorporates many skills such as math, reading, science, and even history,” says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Bruce J. Black.

“Like many people, I got bit by the gardening bug while learning how to grow vegetables and flowers from my grandparents and my mother,” Black says. “When I was learning this skill and developing my passion, I did not realize the full benefits or how this passion would impact my life.”

Intergenerational gardening is the act of older adults passing along plant information, gardening skills, and cultural traditions to younger generations. Participants need not be related. For example, when Master Gardeners teach classes in their community, they may be engaging in intergenerational gardening.

The benefits of intergenerational gardening include:

  • An increased interest in gardening in the younger generation.
  • Relationships between elders and children, while helping to counteract negative stereotypes.
  • Improvements in physical and mental well-being and life satisfaction in elder participants.
  • A safe environment for cultural and life experience sharing.
  • An exploration of skills, such as reading, math, science, geography, and life lessons, such as responsibility, accountability, life/death, and patience.

“Not everything that grows in a garden is a plant,” Black says. “Gardening is just one of the many common-ground activities where intergenerational transfers can happen. In my experiences as not only the child but also now as a garden educator, the learning opportunities do happen on both sides.”

With 35 percent of American households growing food in gardens in 2014, the opportunities for intergenerational gardening are abundant.

To learn about a volunteer opportunity that incorporates plenty of intergenerational education, check out the University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardener Program at

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Agricultural robot may be ‘game changer’ for crop growers, breeders

Published February 28, 2017

A robot under development at the University of Illinois automates the labor-intensive process of crop phenotyping, enabling scientists to scan crops and match genetic data with the highest-yielding plants. Agricultural and biological engineering professor Girish Chowdhary, right, is working on the $3.1 million project, along with postdoctoral researcher Erkan Kayacan. Read more at the Illinois News Bureau


News Source:

Sharita Forrest

2017 Illinois Performance Tested Bull sale results

Published February 28, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – The Illinois Performance Tested Bull sale was the lead-off event of the 2017 Illinois Beef Expo held on Feb. 23 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. The sale averaged $3,400 on 54 lots.

"This sale continues to be one of the best sources for total performance genetics in the Midwest," says Travis Meteer, IPT sale manager. "During the past 49 years, the sale has sold 4,717 bulls valued at over 8.4 million dollars."

There were three breeds represented in the 2017 sale: Angus, Simmental, and Polled Hereford. Meteer says a senior Simmental bull was the top seller, selling for $6,500. The bull, DAF Cadillac Style C4, was sold by Diamond A Farms, from Altamont, Illinois, to Lukach Cattle, Grand Ridge, Illinois.

The top-selling Angus bull was consigned by Kramer Farms, Keith and Brady Kramer. He was the high-indexing Angus bull in the sale. He sold for $5,500 to Chris Bruns, from Carthage, Illinois. Other high sellers included Lot 43 consigned by Osborne Simmentals who sold for $5,300 to Eugene Stufflebeam of Lewistown.

Three Angus bulls tied for the second-high selling Angus bull at $4,700. Lot14 and Lot 18 were consigned by Murphy’s Angus LLP and were selected by Charles Hunt, Oakford, and Lukach Cattle, Grand Ridge, respectively. Evans Angus consigned Lot 31, who also sold for $4,700 to Dusty Farms, Rushville.

Arlyn Rabideau consigned the two high-selling, and also high-indexing, Hereford bulls. Rabideau’s lot 66 brought $3,000 and lot 63 brought $3,000 as well. Travis Hagen selected lot 66. Triple J Farms, Shumway, took home lot 63.

The University of Illinois Extension, U of I Department of Animal Sciences, and consigning breeders sponsored the sale. Also, Vita-Ferm, ABS, Merial, Zoetis 50K, Illinois Angus Association, and Illinois Simmental Association provided industry support, Meteer says.

Producers interested in viewing a breakdown of all the prices can visit the IPT Bull Sale website at Also included on this site are the individual bull prices from the 2017 sale and the numbers and averages from the previous 48 sales.

Seed-stock breeders interested in consigning to the 2018 IPT Bull Sale should contact Travis Meteer at 217-430-7030 or to request a copy of the rules and regulation and nomination form. Nominations need to be made by Dec.15, 2017, for the 2018 sale.

News Source:

Travis Meteer, 217-823-1340

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

“Commercial Agriculture in the Tropical Environments” was focus of Third Annual Food Security Symposium

Published February 28, 2017

On April 3-4, 2017, International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) hosted the Third Annual International Food Security Symposium: "Commercial Agriculture in Tropical Environments."

The symposium brought together over 25 experts across multiple disciplines to discuss the latest research concerning the nexus of production agriculture and the rich and diverse biomes of the tropics.  The speakers challenged themselves and their audience to wrestle with the global need to increase food production, the urgency to reduce poverty and malnutrition among the many poor nations of the tropics, and the responsibility to protect the natural environment. The entire event was webcasted live to a global audience representing 12 countries and four continents.

Visit the event page for links to recorded presentations from the event.