RIDGWAY — Nicole Carutis, field and forest crops educator with Penn State's Elk County Extension office, discussed some of the projects the office is working on with the Elk County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Carutis said her position covers Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties, and is very “research-based and field-tested.” She said she mostly works with soybeans, corn and hay, and not so much with vegetables.

Carutis has been tracking the migrations of several crop pests, including the western bean cutworm and the black cutworm, both of which infest corn, as well as aphids. She said occurrences of the western bean cutworm, which seems to be migrating from Canada, have decreased within the last few years. Carutis said most cutworms have been coming from the western or southern United States.

She also spoke of the Soybean Sentinel Plot Program, which puts researchers in the field to assess economic damage due to pests and report their findings into a state database. She said locally, an intern has been scouting a field in Kersey for pests.

Last year was the first year the Extension office found any noteworthy pest damage, according to Carutis. She noted a “damaging level of aphids” were found, which is uncommon for the area. However, Carutis noted the presence of lady beetles usually help control the aphid population.

Her office also has been working with the county conservation district about the promotion of cover crop species with area farmers. Carutis noted the climate in the area is much different from the rest of the state.

The Extension office has also joined the “War on Weeds,” said Carutis. Also known as the “Roundup Resistance,” the Extension office has been investigating the prevention of invasive plant species into Pennsylvania, she said. Carutis cited the example of marestail, instances of which have been isolated in Elk County while being widespread in other areas.

Carutis noted in the Midwest, it has become so “detrimental people are abandoning their land” or placing the land in a “long-term hay rotation” to manage the weed more effectively.

Elk County also made a national forage trade magazine for soil samples, according to Carutis. She said a man who travels the country to obtain soil samples was looking for some Hazleton Soil, which is the state soil of Pennsylvania. Carutis said Hazleton Soil is “prominent” in Elk County. Andy Sorg of Sugar Hill Farm in St. Marys allowed the man to obtain the soil sample on his property.

Carutis said Hazleton Soil consists of a dark humus on top of clay. She said the soil is acidic and shallow, and “gets rocky real quick.” Carutis said it is more of a “forest soil.”

In other news, the commissioners appointed ARS Engineering Services of Johnsonburg as the county engineers.

Commissioner Jan Kemmer said ARS not only submitted the lowest bid, but would also save taxpayers money on mileage charges. ARS submitted a bid of $100 per hour for the services of a senior engineer.

Also bidding were Keller Engineers of Hollidaysburg with $135 per hour for an engineer; KTH Architects of DuBois with $135 per hour for an engineer and $150 per hour for a senior engineer; and EADS Group of Altoona with $116 per hour for an engineer and $144 per hour for a senior engineer.

Commissioner Matt Quesenberry noted the appointment of ARS will also allow the county to meet federal requirements to obtain Community Development Block Grant funding.

The commissioners also recognized Kathy Kroeger of the Cameron/Elk Counties Behavioral and Development Programs as the first recipient of the Pamela J. Cousins Excellence in Social Work Award.

Cameron County Commissioner Jim Thomas was on hand to share in Kroeger's recognition, describing her as an “excellent administrator” who “leads by example.”

The next commissioners meeting will be held at 10 a.m. July 5.