Archive for April 18th, 2012
Awesome. Awesome article. I really like this article. Thank you Alan.
Gardening is not just for drop-outs says Alan Titchmarsh
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:21PM BST 18/04/2012
Alan Titchmarsh has warned of a skills shortage in horticulture because young people think gardening is for ‘drop outs’.
The gardening industry needs 11,000 new entrants over the next ten years as the older generation retire, EU immigrants return home and young people reject manual jobs. One in ten firms say they are already struggling to find tree surgeons and groundsmen, according to Lantra, the skills council for the land-based industries.
But a Royal Horticultural Society poll found almost 70 per cent of 18-year-olds questioned believe horticultural is for people who have failed academically and have no skills.
Alan Titchmarsh, who has criticised the Prime Minister for describing horticulture as unskilled, said unemployed young people are missing out because of the public image of gardening and a lack of Government support for horticulture in schools and colleges.
“There are now over one million under-25s out of work, so why is the Government not doing more to help funnel skilled young people into a sector where there are opportunities?”
“Through studying horticulture you could end up organising some of the most creative, artistic events in the world or as a scientist working on drought solutions for horticulture,” he said. “But students aren’t seeing the link between their science, art or design courses and jobs on offer in horticulture. We need to act now to change perceptions and ensure our children grow up with a greater respect for and love of the tremendous natural riches that surround them in a country that can boast the best gardens and the finest gardening tradition in the world.”
Mr Titchmarsh said there is “no excuse for snobbery or elitism in horticulture”.
“I’ve no degree, just a passion for things that grow, coupled with a deep-felt desire to communicate that passion and the importance of growing things to a wider audience.”
He said children today are more disconnected from nature than ever before, watching Twilight and playing computer games rather than getting outdoors.
“Schools may teach children about global warming and climate change, but what they also need to do is to get across to their charges the fact that practical involvement in their surroundings is far more important than just an awareness of the changing nature of British weather which, as you and I know, has been going on for rather longer than the couple of decades this thorny subject has obsessed the nation.”
The UK’s horticultural industry is worth £9 billion and employs nearly 200,000 people.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, pointed out the sector is still buoyant even through the recent economic downturn.
“It is quite staggering that whilst youth unemployment is at an all-time high, the horticultural industry has more skilled vacancies than it can fill in the UK despite the recession,’ she said.
“The current education policy is not helping raise awareness of horticultural careers to young people. Today there is a lack of specialist technical skills, especially at higher levels, yet horticulture is not included within the school curriculum, and university degree courses with horticulture are decreasing. On top of this our survey showed that horticultural career opportunities were not highlighted to 70 per cent of people when leaving education.
“A poor perception of the sector has resulted in minimal formal education and training schemes. Thousands of young people are missing out on incredible career opportunities – from gardening and garden design, the science of climate change and researching new pests and diseases to looking after the turf at Wimbledon or teaching children.”
Keswick Golf Course Superintendent Takes Passion ..
He’s the golf course superintendent at the Keswick Club just outside Charlottesville.
But Peter McDonough does more than just turn on sprinklers and fertilize the grass.
McDonough said, “You have to be an agronomist, a horticulturist, an ecologist. My job is science and art. I think that’s the best way, as a golf course superintendent, we kind of frame ourselves, our responsibility to land management, responsibility of having a quality-conditioned golf course for the golfer, and then how are we marrying both at the same time.”
McDonough is proactive in helping the environment through golf course management, and he’s taking his passion to Congress to discuss golf course environmental issues affecting the United States.
McDonough, along with industry leaders including the PGA Tour’s Commissioner and the CEO of the PGA of America, are traveling to the nation’s capital to meet with members of Congress on National Golf Day, which is Wednesday.
McDonough has worked a lot in Richmond with the House of Delegates and Senate at the state level, helping design and write legislation that’s been signed into law, addressing water conservation and fertilization, which in turn helps the Chesapeake Bay restoration project.
McDonough said, “I love what I do. That’s the driving factor. I also recognize that if you don’t set yourself out front to promote the game, someone else is going to do it for us, whether the message is good or negative. My belief is that you really need to stand out front and hold your head high, because this is something really fun that we do. I enjoy it thoroughly, and it’s something you hope to hand off to everyone else down the line.”
McDonough received an Excellence in Government Relations award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) in 2008, and now he’s bringing his ideas and solutions to Washington, D.C.
McDonough said, “You’re able to share golf’s good story. Everybody is understanding of the work of the First Tee here in Charlottesville, all the positives it brings with life’s lessons, and the big part is a game that can be played for a lifetime. I think the part of where the environment fits into the picture, and how you’re communicating that message, is something that people in my profession are excited to talk about, so we have a privilege to do so, and that’s why I find this a great opportunity.”
McDonough is a 21-year member of the GCSAA.
UGA researcher trying to revive the chesnut tree
Until the invasive fungus chestnut blight was introduced in 1900, one in every four trees in the mountainous areas of the Eastern United States was an American chestnut.
Now, thanks to a group of University researchers in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the American chestnut may be making a comeback.
As part of a team of universities funded by the Forest Health Initiative and led by Professor Scott Merkle, the University’s research group is collaborating to investigate multiple options to save the chestnut.
Merkle, who has been working at the University for 28 years, focuses on inserting resistance genes directly into the DNA of the plant.
Markle takes the traits from the American Chestnut’s sister plant the Chinese chestnut, which is resistant to the blight, as well as anti fungal genes from orchids and immune system genes from wheat.
“Whatever will work,” Merkle said. “We’ll put it together and get a blight resistant tree.”
Chestnut blight – Cryphonectria parasitica – was introduced when the Chinese chestnut was introduced to America in 1904, beginning in New York. It spread quickly because the American chestnut had no resistance.
“It spread down through the Appalachians at a rate of 20 miles a year,” Merkle said. “It was like when Europeans brought smallpox to North America.”
The Chinese chestnut is immune to this fungus, which develops as bright orange cankers on the tree, eventually forming sunken sores that destroy the plant’s vascular system, essentially depriving the plant of nutrients and water, according to Merkle. The only part of the plant the fungus doesn’t destroy is the root system.
When the fungus first started killing trees, fungicides were proven ineffective and cutting the affected trees down didn’t work either, he said.
The American Chestnut Society, one of the other organizations that invested in Professor Merkle’s research, began trying hybrid backcrosses by breeding the offspring of an American and Chinese chestnut with the American parent in the 1980s, to get a chestnut that looks like an American tree but has the Chinese immunity to the disease.
“There are tons of things you can do with chestnuts,” Merkle said. “The wood is lighter than oak and rot resistant; it makes a perfect constructing material. It was used in railroad ties and telephone poles.”
The chestnut also provides a highly reliable food source because it flowers later than other trees and is less likely to suffer frost damage, he said.
“There are hardly any trees in the United states that make a big nut crop,” Merkle said. “The nuts store energy as starch rather than fat. They were eaten by deer, bears and turkeys. During the Great Depression, it was a source of food for the rural poor.”
There are concerns associated with creating genetically modified organisms like the trees.
“There’s always concern that we’ve engineered something that will weed because it’s a super tree,” Merkle said. “But the trees won’t have any advantage that they didn’t have before.”
The USDA Forest Service has to approve the new trees before they are released from the greenhouse. The soil is checked after the trees are removed to ensure no roots are left behind.
Because the resistance genes need to be inserted directly into the nucleus of a cell to make changes, the new trees are grown from single cells rather than seeds. Merkle and his team have been having more and more success with growing the plants from this basic stage, but still less success than they would like transferring the saplings from their nutrient suspensions to soil.
Merkle said the new plants his lab is growing are going to make a difference, despite concerns about GMOs and a less than perfect success rate.
“There’s a big effort now to get [the plants] out, get them tested so they can be reintroduced to the environment,” he said.