It’s sneezing season: With pollen levels likely to be high this year, allergy sufferers prepare for the worst

Elise Waldman, of Linwood, lives her life, but her allergies don’t make it easy. Every day, all year long, Waldman takes the over-the-counter medication Zyrtec for her hay fever and allergy symptoms. She doesn’t open the windows at her home. Shoes are left at the door from the spring through the fall. Waldman does a great deal of gardening, but the clothes go straight to the washing machine afterward…Pollen counts at the beginning of April 2012 reached 4,500 per cubic meter of air, higher than in recent years, said Leonard Bielory, director of STARx Allergy and Asthma Center. LLC, and professor, Rutgers University, Center for Environmen-tal Prediction. A pollen count is the number of grains of pollen collected during a 24-hour period in a cubic meter of air. Last year’s high was on May 6 with 10,930 grains per cubic meter of air, Bielory said.

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Ocean County seeks $2 million for Barnegat Bay water treatment

A $2 million portable stormwater treatment system could be the latest tool to protect the steadily declining health of Barnegat Bay. The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has submitted a grant application to the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust for $2 million to fund the system, which would provide onsite treatment of water removed from storm drains…"Any effort by the county to address the problems in stormwater basins and drainage pipes is a good thing, but it is not a remedy for the nitrogen in Barnegat Bay," said Michael Kennish, a research professor with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. But Kennish said that what is predominantly causing the bay’s decline is the nitrogen eutrophication of the waterway.

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South Jersey farmers fear harsh winter’s effects on crops

Temperatures will start to rise, and the long, cold winter will begin to recede – but for a lot of local farms, the damage already may have been done. The extreme lows reached this year could impact crops, timing and pricing for agricultural businesses throughout the region, experts said. "We haven’t had anything like this in 20, 25 years," said Atlantic County Agricultural Agent Gary Pavlis…Mark Ehlenfeldt, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Rutgers University, spoke at the Blueberry Open House in Hammonton on Thursday, where growers heard from researchers on all aspects of growing the fruit. "People have been concerned about how much cold we have had, and have we had any damage?" Ehlenfeldt said. "Our research shows that if buds are unopened and tight, they are 50 percent hardy to at least (negative) 4 degrees. It varies by variety, but this is an average."

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Group comes up with artsy way to promote rain barrel use at the shore

The people who try to make a splash each year by naming New Jersey’s 10 best beaches are sponsoring a new contest this winter – to find artists to design the state’s 10 coolest rain barrels…And to help spread that message, they’ve started the 2014 Top Ten Beaches Rain Barrel Art Project. The Sea Grant and its partners are calling for artists to use plastic barrels as the circular canvases for designs that "feature iconic coastal, beach, bay, ocean and boardwalk scenes, and images celebrating the Jersey shore…" The value of that stipend hasn’t been announced yet, but all the details of the contest – and access to the actual applications – are available on the website of its partners in the project, the Water Resources Program at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

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4-H Youth Summit set

The New Jersey 4-H Program of Rutgers University will host the Science of Soil 4-H Youth Summit on Jan. 15 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Sixth- through eighth-graders from public, private or parochial schools, as well as youth involved in student clubs, after-school programs or home-school groups, are invited to participate…The Cape May County 4-H Horse Council and equine driving instructor Jessica Axelsson invite the public to attend an Introduction to Driving Presentation at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15. The presentation will feature a basic introduction to what equine driving has to offer you and your horse.

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