Fish Wastewater Perfect for Plants

Ag Illustrated – December 2009 (Research News, Pg.9)

Fish farmers in Alabama who produce tilapia in greenhouse-enclosed tanks can turn the wastewater from those tanks into a new source of on-farm income, say two College of Ag scientists and Alabama Ag Experiment Station researchers.

<em/>A WIN-WIN DEAL -> Left photo, Jesse Chappell, associate professor of fisheries and allied aquacultures at Auburn, scoops a tilapia from a greenhouse-enclosed tilapia-production tank. Chappell and horticulture professor Jeff Sibley are collaborating on a project in which fish wastewater is piped into an adjacent horticultural greenhouse to irrigate and fertilize plants. Right photo, Adam Sleeper, a horticulture graduate student, looks at red verbena that are among the bedding plants, ornamental shrubs, produce and more growing in the adjacent greenhouse. The system can give farmers a dual source of income.

A WIN-WIN DEAL -> Left photo, Jesse Chappell, associate professor of fisheries and allied aquacultures at Auburn, scoops a tilapia from a greenhouse-enclosed tilapia-production tank. Chappell and horticulture professor Jeff Sibley are collaborating on a project in which fish wastewater is piped into an adjacent horticultural greenhouse to irrigate and fertilize plants. Right photo, Adam Sleeper, a horticulture graduate student, looks at red verbena that are among the bedding plants, ornamental shrubs, produce and more growing in the adjacent greenhouse. The system can give farmers a dual source of income.

Jesse Chappell, Extension fisheries specialist and associate professor of fisheries and allied aquacultures, and horticulture professor Jeff Sibley have developed a system in which nutrient-rich fish wastewater from a tilapia tank is piped to an adjacent horticultural greenhouse, where it’s used to irrigate and nourish all manner of plants. So in addition to fish, producers would have high value, organically grown ornamental shrubs, bedding plants, cut flowers, herbs and fresh produce to market.

Chappell says that when greenhouse tilapia are fed, they retainat most 50 percent of the nutrients in the feed and excrete the rest. With the fish-and-plant-production system, a producer can turn a wastewater disposal problem into profit.

One crucial factor in such a system, however, is the nutrient load of the wastewater. The volume of nutrients depends on a number of production variables–including the kind of fish in the tank, how many there are, how big they are, how much water the tank will hold and how much water is in the tank–and determining how those factors impact nutrient levels has been a central element of the study.

Sibley says once all data have been collected and analyzed, the information will be distributed to farmers through printed materials and through educational aquaculture Web sites such as ALEARN ( The materials, which include nutrition details as well as how-to information to help farmers set up their own systems, should be available in early 2010.

World's Aquaculture Economics Endanger State Fish Farmer

By: Dana Beyer – The Gasden Times

Help came Tuesday to Alabama catfish farmers who have had to pay more to feed their fish, making it even harder for them to compete with foreign fish imports.

State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said 141 aquaculture farmers including Hale County farmer Bill Kyser got a total of $9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $50 million national stimulus to offset the cost of fish food.

“Numerous aquaculture producers suffered from financial hardships during 2008 due to increased feed prices,” Sparks said.

“These funds will provide assistance to producers with the aquaculture industry.”

Kyser got about $100,000 to offset last year’s $2 million feed bill that has been increasing because of events mostly out of his and other farmers’ control.

He said the $100,000 will help defray expenses at his family farm that employs 14 people.
“Feed is close to 50 percent of our costs,” Kyser said.

Mitt Walker, director of the catfish division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said prices of soybean and corn, main ingredients in fish food, are up dramatically for a growing and important Alabama industry.

“The five-year average cost of feed has been around $230 per ton, and last year we saw the average price up closer to $400,” Walker said. “That has been a significant burden on those guys.”

Jesse A. Chappel is

an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Auburn University aquaculture department. He said several factors affect the price of commercial fish food.

“Typically, feed prices are up and have been up for the last year or more because feed commodities — corn, soybean meal or wheat — are up substantially.”

Commodity grain trading, higher standards of living in Asian countries that are demanding more meat that are raised on grain and diversion of corn into the fuel stream all contribute to increased prices.

That’s good for grain producers but bad for domestic farmers who also compete with much lower Asian wages and almost nonexistent food quality standards.

“We have to get more efficient and get better at what we do to protect ourselves,” Chappel said.

“Of course, fish and shellfish and aquaculture is a new business on the scene, and it’s a good, environmentally friendly business, but nonetheless, we’re vulnerable in the world market.”

Catfish sales peaked at $5 billion nationally in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and foreign “dumping” of cheaper fish has been blamed for the decline of domestic sales to $4.1 billion last year.

Alabama catfish sales were nearly $93 million last year, down from a high of $101 million in 2004.

About 2,700 Alabamians work in the catfish industry, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation, and fish farming that also includes aquaculture production had a $500 million impact in Alabama in 2005.

Alabama is second to Mississippi in catfish production. And Hale County is the No. 1 producer among six or seven west Alabama Black Belt counties where catfish is an important part of the local economy.

Catfish farmers say another reason Asian fish are cheaper is they are not raised under strict environmental and food purity laws as in the U.S.

Walker said Alabama’s new state-of-origin placards in restaurants will inform customers that domestically grown fish is safe to eat.

Kyser said Asian catfish is about $1 per pound less than domestic catfish primarily because of lower wages and government subsidies.

Domestic producers have to nearly match the import price or they can’t compete.

“We’re kind of exposed here, there’s no protective trade structure to speak of,” Auburn’s Chappel said.

Flouride hurts bass spawning, guides insists

By:David Brewer – Times Staff Writer

Effects of treament on Roseberry will show later, they say

SCOTTSBORO – Bass fishermen say they fear the recent private herbicidal treatment of weeds in Roseberry Creek here destroyed one of the best spawning areas on Guntersville Lake.

But an Auburn University expert on fish and lake weeds said it shouldn’t. And Richard Radon of Scottsboro said he knows it hasn’t.

“I’m still catching fish,” he said Friday, adding that he’s caught 57 bass in the lake tributary since June 27, including a couple of five-pounders.

But local fishing guides Doug Campbell and Troy Jens said it could be a few years before the real impact is noticed. Jens said he’s been getting calls from fishermen “who are angry at what happened in Roseberry.”

Jens said he’s boycotting fishing here and referring clients to other areas downstream like Guntersville and Pickwick Lake.

But Dr. Alan Wilson, an assistant professor at Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, said Thursday the recent treatments “should not have a negative effect on the bass spawning habitat.”

Bass, he said, do not spawn in beds of aquatic plants like hydrilla and milfoil. However, “bass are ambush predators and do hide in (aquatic plants) to find prey,” Wilson said.

Lowell Bivens, spokesman for the Roseberry Rescue Group that hired the Guntersville company Aqua Services to control weed growth on Roseberry Creek, said he’s probably heard from hundreds of people who are pleased with the results.

“I can tell you that the boating community is very happy,” he said Thursday. He said the weeds made it difficult, if not impossible, for pleasure boaters to travel far from shore without getting their propellers entangled.

Bivens said Fluridone was used on about 900 acres of the 1,800-acre tributary. It is, a herbicide that disrupts photosynthesis, the process that allows plants to get energy from sunlight

After the Tennessee Valley Authority announced that it would no longer treat weeds in private and commercial areas along the lake after this summer, the Rescue Group of about 200 lakefront property owners formed and sought financial help from the local government.

Contributing $42,500 toward the $170,000 treatments, the group received the same amounts from the city and Jackson County’s legislative delegation.

Campbell said hydrilla and milfoil are what make the lake so popular among fishermen.

“If you start destroying the cover” where the spawning occurs, “at some point the fishing goes down,” he said Wednesday.

Campbell, owner of two fishing tackle shops, said he’s never had a problem with treating weeds along boat houses and docks. “But when they go killing vegetation all throughout the creek,” he said, it’s a major concern.

But Wilson said “not all plants provide good habitat for bass and their prey.”

“Moreover, hydrilla and milfoil are an invasive species,” he said. “So, their removal via herbicide may actually reduce competition between invasive and native plants.”

Bivens said the group tried to reach a balance with the bass fishermen by leaving lake weeds north of the marina toward the Alabama 35 causeway and in Ski Cove along Goosepond Island untreated. “But they want the entire lake to be in weeds,” he said.

Liu recognized for key role in aquaculture genome project

     The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has recognized John prednisone vs hydrocodone Liu for his contributions to and participation in the National Animal Genome Research Program and his dedicated service as coordinator of the program’s Aquaculture Genome Committee. Liu, who has served as associate dean of research for the College of Agriculture and assistant director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station since January 2008, is an Alumni Professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, director of Auburn’s Aquatic Genomics Unit and one of the world’s premier fish geneticists, known globally as leader of the effort to map the genome, or complete genetic makeup, of catfish. When the Aquaculture Genome Project became an official part of the National Animal Genome Project in 2003, Liu was appointed as the project’s first coordinator and in 2008 was reappointed to a second five-year term. Prior to 2003, he had served for five years as coordinator of a regional catfish genome project.

Dr. Dunham helps local communities sustain their way of life

By: Charles Martin - Wire Eagle

     Auburn University fisheries professor Rex Dunham, true to his school’s land-grant mission, conducts research with the goal of helping catfish farmers and local communities sustain their way of life.

“The goal is to serve the entire catfish farming industry and local communities,” said Dunham, who recently won Auburn’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award. “In addition to helping the farms in rural west Alabama, research helps the processing plants, which employ a lot of people, and there is an indirect impact on the local businesses. These include tractor parts suppliers, restaurants, any type of local shop. Hopefully, the impact of that research helps make that way of life sustainable.”

A primary aspect of Dunham’s career has been the hybridization of channel and blue catfish, considered a possible savior of the U.S. catfish aquaculture industry. Farm-raised catfish is the largest aquaculture industry in the country and has been a significant part of the economy of the Southeast for 30 years. But this industry faces high feed prices and marketing pressure from imported fish.

“The hybrid catfish, which has been Dr. Dunham’s signature area of work, has the potential to improve production efficiency to the point where U.S. farmers can continue to compete in today’s marketplace,” said Craig Tucker, director of the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center and USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, in nominating Dunham for the Auburn research award. “He has been directly or indirectly responsible for most of the technologies now used to produce this fish.”

Dunham says it is now feasible to produce commercial quantities of hybrids, which have better growth, survival, disease resistance, feed conversion and tolerance of poor water quality – all leading to an improved harvest. His research is being applied to the catfish industry though Auburn’s Office of Technology Transfer, which is working with the company, Aetos, to provide hybrid fingerlings to catfish farmers.

“It is very gratifying that we finally reached this point,” he said. “With the tough economic times globally, this can greatly impact the catfish industry. The industry now has the technology to make hybrids.”

Dunham is recognized as a world leader in his field and has been awarded $14 million for research through 77 federal, state and university grants during his time at Auburn. He came to Auburn in 1978 to work on his master’s degree, which he earned in 1979 followed by Ph.D. in 1981. He has published 223 scientific articles, chapters and proceedings papers.

He says a goal-oriented approach to research is vital to obtaining results that will impact specific fields and industries. “Some scientists change directions to follow the research money,” Dunham said. “If a goal or objective is worthwhile, then you should stay the course, even if it is not easily fundable.”

Dunham’s major research achievements include:

* First researcher to demonstrate that selection works for the genetic improvement of channel catfish;

* First release of genetically improved fish in the United States. In total, responsible for four releases of genetically improved catfish;

* His research has led to the formation of the first four commercial genetics and breeding companies in the catfish industry; and

* First to produce a transgenic fish in the United States, and the fourth worldwide.

     “He has a history of successful collaboration with university and government scientists, as well as farmers and technicians in the private sector,” Tucker said. “He gives freely of his time to work with other scientists, an important contribution that does not show up on his resume.”

Dunham sees the next major impact coming from transgenic sterilization, which involves the development of a genetic system that puts catfish reproduction control in the hands of the laboratory culturist.

“We would genetically turn on or off a fish’s ability to reproduce,” Dunham said. “This would virtually eliminate all environmental impact that might occur if farm or laboratory fish were accidentally released into waterways. They would not reproduce in a natural environment, so they would not threaten native fish.”

Dunham believes integrated solutions are needed to make advances in genetic improvement and that genetic research is a long-term, never-ending puzzle that has great rewards along the way. The future of catfish research, he says, includes learning more about traditional selective breeding, building a better hybrid through both selection and transgenics, learning how to use genome data to make practical applications, and using cryogenics to preserve species.

“In building a house, you use more than one tool,” he said. “The same is true for research. You use more than one tool to reach your objective.”

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