If you farm or ranch, or own a nursery or greenhouse, have employees, and apply pesticides, this information applies to you. The new rule goes into effect on January 1, 2017.
The original version of the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) rule was passed into law in 1992 and was designed to protect ag workers who may work with or come into contact with pesticides.
Ergot is a fungal disease of small grains and grasses. It reduces yield and quality of grain, and causes ergotism when consumed by humans or livestock. The fungus Claviceps purpurea infects seed heads at flowering and replaces the grain with fungal sclerotia. It is these sclerotia that cause ergotism when consumed. While extremely rare today, ergotism in humans was common in the Middle Ages due to contaminated rye bread.
According to the USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service, grain must contain less than 0.05% ergot by weight. The Merk Veterinary Manual recommends that livestock rations contain less than 0.1% ergot. Here is an example of what this looks like.
Fortunately, ergot is very easy to see in standing or harvested grain and grasses.
Ergot has an interesting disease cycle. Sclerotia develop during the spring and summer in grains and grasses (1). The sclerotia then fall to the ground and overwinter on the surface of the soil (2). The following spring, the sclerotia germinate and shoot spores into the air (3). These spores land on the open flowers of grains or grasses and invade the embryo of the developing seed. A sweet "honey-dew" is produced that attracts insects who then spread spores to other plants (4), continuing the cycle.
Control of Ergot in Small Grains
There are no chemicals labeled for control of ergot so we must rely on cultural practices to reduce ergot in the fields and surrounding environment. Use ergot-free seed and rotate fields out of cereal production for at least 1 year. Grasses are an important host for ergot, and a source of secondary infection. Mowing and grazing grasses along field edges, ditch banks, and fence rows will reduce the amount of ergot that can cause infection.
Ergot sclerotia rarely survive for more than a year on the soil. While the sclerotia may survive in the soil for up to two years, they will not germinate if buried to a depth of at least 1 inch (source).
High temperatures destroy ergot sclerotia. While surface temperatures vary under field burning, the grass seed industry has had success using burning to reduce, but not eliminate ergot. Research has shown that destruction of 100% of the sclerotia requires 116 seconds at 200F , 48 seconds at 300F, and 15 seconds at 400F.
There is some evidence that low soil micronutrient levels (especially copper) increases the likelihood of ergot infection. Copper deficiency can cause prolonged flowering in small grains, which increased the window for ergot infection.
Weather greatly influences ergot infection. Wet weather and soil favors the germination of ergot on the soil in the spring. Cool, wet weather during flowing favors the initial infection and development of the initial floret and "honey-dew".
Ergot and Livestock
Livestock or poultry that consume even small amounts of contaminated grains or grasses can develop clinical symptoms of ergotism. Cattle are more susceptible than sheep. Symptoms can vary based on several factors, but often include the following:
Herbicide damage in gardens can come from spray drift (i.e. "off-target use") or soil contamination. The symptoms of damage will vary based on the herbicide mode of action.
Herbicides that work as growth regulators include 2,4-D, dicamba, picloram, aminopyralid, and clopyralid. Some of these can be very persistent in soil, manure, and compost.
The following photos are from four different gardens in Washakie County. The most likely causes of contamination for these gardens:
1. Spray drift (presumably 2,4,-D)
2. Aminopyralid used to spray thistles the year before (when the area was in pasture)
3. Manure from animals fed hay harvest from a field sprayed with aminopyralid or clopyralid
4. Grass clippings from a lawn sprayed with 2,4-D right before it was mowed
Click on the following images to enlarge
PEPPER and EGGPLANT
Lawns are the largest “crop” in the US. In 2005, NASA estimated that lawns covered over 40 million acres of US soil. If that number is correct, there is more lawn grass in the US than the 8 largest irrigated crops combined!
Most lawns in Wyoming are some combination of Kentucky bluegrass and fescue. We spend a lot of resources fertilizing, watering, and mowing our lawns. Is there any value in all of that grass?
Horses should never be fed grass clippings! Because of the short fiber length, most lawn grass clippings will pass through the digestive system very quickly. A pile of fresh grass clippings is too tempting to resist, and most horses would gorge themselves given the opportunity. Both of these factors can lead to excess fermentation in the hind gut, and colic. Horses are also susceptible to botulism which can develop in anaerobic conditions (i.e. a pile of grass clippings).
Cattle and sheep have a different digestive system and are not at risk of colic or botulism. However, that does not mean throwing grass clippings into the feed bunk is always a good idea.
Nitrate toxicity is a risk with many forages, including grass clippings. Bacteria in the guts of ruminants convert the nitrate in forage into ammonia which is used to make protein for bacterial growth and reproduction. Nitrite is produced as an intermediate compound created in this process, and can inhibit the ability of the blood to transport oxygen. Toxicity depends on the nitrate concentration of the forage and rate of consumption. For example, an animal that consumes high nitrate forage quickly is more at risk of poisoning than an animal that consumes this same forage over a longer period of time.
Excessive nitrates will most often accumulate in the stalks or stems of plants under stress.
Stressful conditions include drought or cold weather, herbicides, and disease. While levels of nitrogen in the soil are also a factor in nitrate accumulation, it is not as important as plant stress. Allowing fresh grass (i.e. green chop or grass clippings) to heat up before feeding greatly increases the levels of toxic nitrite (due to bacterial activity in the pile) and can turn an otherwise safe feed deadly.
Considering this, the highest risk of nitrate toxicity from grass clippings would come from a heavily fertilized lawn under stress, that was stored in a pile and allowed to heat up before feeding, and then was consumed quickly by livestock and not mixed with other forages.
If you are concerned about the nitrate concentration of your lawn grass, or any other forages, send a sample into a lab for analysis. It will cost you less than $20. If the grass is high in nitrates, you may still be able to feed it as long as it is mixed thoroughly with other feeds.
Ensiling forages can reduce nitrate levels by 40 to 60%. However, it is still a good idea to test the silage for nitrates before feeding.
Ensiling is a way of storing forages in anaerobic conditions (no oxygen) that preserves their nutritional value. Bacteria ferment the sugars and starches in the grass and produce lactic and acetic acids. Successful ensiling requires grass that has a moisture content of 60-70% and a sealed environment that excludes oxygen. After several weeks of fermenting, silage should have a pH below 4.5, a slight vinegar odor, and be light green to yellow in color.
Pesticides and Poisonous Plants
If the area where you are collecting clippings has been sprayed with any pesticides be sure and thoroughly read the label to determine if the grass is safe to feed to livestock. Some herbicides will pass through the gut without harming the animals and still be active when excreted in manure.
There are many plants that are poisonous to livestock. If you mow an area with heavy weeds, tree leaves, or pine needles it would be wise to put that load in the compost pile instead of the feed bunk.
Rototillers are useful for many things in the garden:
Using a rototiller in the garden is like putting your soil (and all of the amazing life it contains) through a blender. In this arid climate and with our thin topsoil and dry winds, our gardens need all the help they can get! Tillage destroys the structure that allows air and water to move through the soil, and increases subsoil compaction. Bare soil is hot and dry in the summer, blows away in the wind, and encourages weed seeds to germinate.
Leaving plant residue on the surface of the soil, adding mulch, and reducing disturbance (i.e. tillage) will greatly improve your soil health and garden health over time.
Interested in alternatives to the rototiller?
Try building a lasagna garden, a straw bale garden, a pallet garden, or raised beds.
Lasagna gardening, or sheet mulching, is a method that relies on large amounts of organic materials to build the soil "from the ground up" with minimal disturbance. This method can be used to build a garden right on top of grass, weeds, and saline or rocky soils. The basic process is as follows:
Lasagna Garden Bed from Start to Finish
Images courtesy of Home Grown Food Colorado
Cardboard and newspaper can be used as a biodegradable weed or grass barrier. As you layer the organic materials on top of the soil (and cardboard), be sure to alternate the "green" and "brown" layers to aid in decomposition. The bacteria and fungi responsible for decomposing the raw materials need a balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates.
A note about grass clippings:
When using grass clippings in a lasagna bed, be sure not to layer them too thick or they will create a slimy anaerobic zone that is slow to decompose. It works best to use very thin layers, or mix with leaves. Also, make sure that the grass or straw you are using has not been sprayed with one of the persistent herbicides.
There are many ways to build a lasagna garden, as long as you follow the basic process, add plenty of water, and give it enough time to decompose before planting. If you are direct seeding instead of transplanting, consider a layer of potting soil or fine compost on the top to ensure good seed to soil contact.
Other Blog Posts:
Old World Garden Farms
Home Grown Food Colorado
Lasagna Gardening How To by GardenFork TV
No Dig Garden Construction by Myk Rushton
Raised beds can provide many advantages: they can be built high enough to make gardening physically easier and more accessible; they can be built on top of an existing lawn and weedy areas, or in areas with saline soils; they typically have less weed pressure and allow you to grow more food in a smaller space; and they make it easy to extend the growing season.
Raised beds can come in many forms, from small round containers to large boxes. The basic principles are the same, regardless of shape or size.
When gardening in raised beds or containers instead of a traditional garden, there are a few things to consider: filling materials, irrigation, and cost of construction.
The beds can be filled with a soilless growing medium, a soil blend, or lasagna layers. The best method will depend on the quality and quantity of materials available, and your budget. Be aware that some manure, compost, and straw may contain persistent herbicides.
The following bulletins will help you get started with raised beds, and maintain them for many years to come!
Strawbales are a great way to build an "instant garden". They can be used to turn the patio, lawn, or weed patch into a productive and beautiful garden with very little effort.
The basics steps to building a straw bale garden are as follows:
Straw and grass is sometimes sprayed with a class of persistent herbicides that will damage or kill many garden crops. Be sure to ask your supplier what herbicides were used.
For detailed instructions on building a straw bale garden, check out these bulletins and videos:
UPDATE: I tried using alfalfa bales this summer instead of straw bales and they worked great! Because the alfalfa is high in protein (ie. nitrogen), no fertilizer is needed. Just condition with water for a few weeks and then transplant! Another advantage is that alfalfa is not sprayed with the same class of persistent herbicides that are used on some grasses. You may be able to get some old bales that have been rained on for free.
Cover crops can be used to improve soil health, add nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, discourage weeds, and break disease cycles. There are many different ways to use cover crops in the garden. Species selection is based on your goals, location, the time of year you will be planting, and seed availability.
The Cover Crop Periodic Table is a great place to start exploring many of the different plant species that can be used as cover crops. Keep in mind that many cover crops can turn into weeds if they are not carefully managed!
For more in-depth information about cover crops, visit the Cover Crops Topic Room at Western SARE. The SmartMix cover crop calculator provided by Green Cover Seeds is another useful resource for selecting varieties. Sweet Bay Farm has a great blog documenting their experiences with cover crops and no-till practices for building soil health. I recommend their post on using a rye and vetch cover crop in the garden.
For more information on using cover crops in your garden, check out the following resources:
University of Wyoming Barnyards and Backyards Magazine:
- How Cover Crops Can Benefit Your Small Acreage
Washington State University Extension:
- Methods of Successful Cover Crop Management in Your Home Garden
- Cover Crops for Home Gardeners East of the Cascades (similar soils and climate to WY)
Utah State University Extension:
- Cover Crops for Utah Gardens
- Using Winter Grain as a Cover Crop in the Home Garden
Guest post by Claire Dunne, Master Gardener and member of the Worland Tree Board.
If it weren't for the damage that scales cause to trees and shrubs, they could be looked upon merely as a marvelous part of nature's wondrous pageantry. However, that's just not the case. Scale insects have the capacity to extract plant sap, a little at a time, slowly reducing the vigor of a tree. A heavy infestation will cause stems and branches to die.
Although different species of scale can be quite different in appearance, most share the common features of being closely attached to the tree on which they feed, are covered with a waxy coating, and do not move around much. Most do not even look like insects. After all, as adults they don't possess the antennae, legs or wings of typical insects. However, scale insects can be devastating.
The method in which scale insects feed is quite different from leaf chewers. Scales are classified as one of the "piercing-sucking" insects. They insert long, threadlike mouthparts known as stylets into plant tissues and extract cell sap. As a result of this feeding, scales secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew, which drops on the surfaces of plants below the infected tree (or cars and picnic tables). The honeydew is attractive to other insects, especially ants and wasps.
Damage from scales is twofold: the aforementioned loss of tissue in the tree canopy, as well as the weakness that they cause. Trees stressed from scale insects become more attractive to borers, spider mites and other insect pests as a result of the stress caused by their feeding.
The lecanium scale is sometimes referred to as the terrapin scale because of its turtle-like appearance. This scale insect occurs on numerous tree species including oak, maple, ash, redbud, fruit trees and linden. Infestations on terminal branches will sometimes kill the new growth.
Mature female scales are convex, oval, usually brown in color, and about 3/16 inch in diameter. Partially grown females overwinter attached to twigs and branches. In the spring they complete development and females give birth to living young. These crawlers migrate to the leaves and settle on the midribs or larger veins. The lecanium scale has only one generation per year. Insecticides should be applied when crawlers first appear in the spring.
Monitor your plants for damage-- adult and crawler stages-- and also for activity of biological control agents. If a scale has taken a shine to your plants, look for the tell-tale signs of honeydew and sooty mold. Look for ant activity. Ants, fond of honeydew, will fight off scale's natural enemies to protect the source. Look closely, with a hand lens: these insects conceal themselves near buds, along veins, in the dark cracks of bark, underneath the leaves.
Crawlers test the sight of even young eyes. Use double-sided sticky tape to capture crawler emergence. As they emerge from their protective cover, they stick to the adhesive tape encircling either side of the infestation. When crawlers are seen, apply soaps and oils, and insect growth regulators.
Adult scales are protected by their "shells" and not affected by insecticides. However, because the crawlers do not yet have a protective cover, they are very vulnerable to insecticides (including alternatives such as soaps and oils). Some scales have extended egg hatch periods and may require repeat applications to achieve satisfactory control.
In addition to treatment at the crawler stage, some scales are vulnerable in their overwintering phase to horticultural oils used as dormant applications. These oils asphyxiate the scales. Oils should be applied in spring before plant bud break (March-April). There are temperature and host restrictions for applying these oils, so read all labels carefully. Thorough coverage is essential for achieving good control.
Here is some additional information about using dinotefuran on pine needle scale from UW Extension Entomologist Scott Schell:
The timing of the dinotefuran treatment in the spring on pine needle scale doesn’t need to coincide with the crawler hatch or activity. It is preferable to treat the tree with product early, before they hatch, though. This prevents any damage on the new needles. Dinotefuran trans-locates in trees faster than imidacloprid (an alternative product) and has given more control on the hard scale insect species experimentally. Imidacloprid is slower to move up into a tree so it is usually recommended to be applied in the fall. Imidacloprid are often not very efficacious on hard scale insects but it does provide decent control on pine needle scale for some reason.
Additional information on managing scale:
Guest post by Dannele Peck, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wyoming
Bovine brucellosis is a disease of concern for cow-calf producers in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Free-ranging elk and bison carry the disease, and occasionally transmit it to cattle. Cattle get the disease by sniffing and licking contaminated materials, such as an aborted fetus, birthing tissues, and contaminated soil or forage. Brucella abortus bacteria can survive in the environment for many weeks, especially in cold, dark, damp locations.
Brucellosis is often detected when cull cows are sent to market. If a cow tests positive for brucellosis antibodies in her blood, the herd will be placed under temporary quarantine for additional testing of all reproductive cattle. Any suspect cows are sent to slaughter, so tissues can be tested. If the Brucella bacteria can be grown from the cows’ tissues, the entire herd is placed under a written quarantine. This means the herd will not be allowed to use any pastures that would allow fence-line contact with other herds. The herd is quarantined until all test-eligible cattle pass three consecutive blood-tests. The final test must occur after the herd has finished calving.
Quarantine can be very costly to a producer. The biggest cost typically arises from having to feed hay outside of the usual winter feed-season, particularly if the herd is not allowed to access any pastures for grazing. Several management options are available to producers to reduce the risk of cattle contracting brucellosis.
Management options are outlined in the presentation below, along with annual costs. Producers should weigh the cost of a particular practice against its potential benefit (ie. reduced brucellosis risk), to determine whether it is economically worthwhile. Every operation is unique – facing a different level of brucellosis risk, a different cost of quarantine, and a different cost for particular management activities. The presentation below provides a few examples to help producers estimate their operation’s unique costs and benefits.
UW Extension bulletins on the cost of brucellosis prevention:
Do you want a better understanding of your herd’s risk of getting brucellosis? Contact Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan at 307-857-4140, or Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer at 307-777-6443. They can help you develop a voluntary and confidential “Herd Plan”.
For more information on this topic or specific questions about the economics of brucellosis management, contact Dannele Peck with UW Extension at 307-766-6412.
Here are a few tips and resources on managing pests in stored grain from Scott Schell, UW Extension Entomologist, presented at WESTI Ag Days 2016.
Step 1: Keep bins clean and repaired
Step 2: Use residual sprays
Step 3: Store only clean, dry grain
Step 4: Aerate
Step 5: Protect the grain
Step 6: Inspect grain regularly
Guest Post by Mae Smith, University of Wyoming Extension Educator, Big Horn County
In goes garbage, out comes black gold. Vermicomposting (composting using worms) is a great way to recycle food waste into a product that will help ensure a bumper vegetable crop.
Want to build your own worm bin? Here is what you will need:
Containers can be purchased or built. Plastic storage containers are light, convenient, and come in a variety of sizes. Wooden bins can be more durable and provide better air movement. Surface area is more important than the type of material. Containers 1-foot deep or less work best. They are more efficient and have less potential odor problems than those that are deeper. Depending on the size, the bin can be kept in the house, in a heated garage, or outside depending upon the temperature and available space.
Holes (1/4 – ½ inches) drilled in the sides and bottom of the bin allow air movement while keeping the bin dark. More holes are needed in a plastic container than one made of wood because wood naturally breathes.
The bin should be raised on bricks or blocks with a tray underneath to catch the “worm tea” (the juices that are secreted). This worm tea is packed full of nutrients and can be used as liquid plant fertilizer.
Building a worm bin at the 2016 WESTI Ag Days in Worland
Once you have your bin ready, the next step is bedding. Here are some materials that make great bedding:
Obtain the worms through lawn and garden catalogs, websites, bait stores, or harvest them from a friend’s worm bin when their worms are stampeding. Place the worms in the bin (and while you are at it, check out this AMAZING worm video).
The best worms to use are commercially grown red worms (Lumbricus rubellus or Eisenia foetida). Common garden worms do not do well in home composting systems. Red worms grow best in temperatures between 55 and 77 F. The bedding temperature should not dip below freezing or exceed 84 F.
The bedding should be moistened before the worms arrive and maintained at a moisture level similar to that of a wrung-out sponge.
Non-fatty Kitchen Scraps
Tips for feeding worms:
Harvesting Your Treasures
After feeding the worms three to four months, they have probably eaten most of your “trash” and turned it into “treasure.” At this point, you may want to start harvesting the compost (or you can wait longer but add moist bedding if needed and eventually, the bin will get full.)
You can either:
Food scraps and bedding have been added to the right side of this worm bin
and worm castings can be harvested from the left side
Guest post from Scott Schell, University of Wyoming Extension Entomologist
It is never too early in the year to think about grasshopper management. We lump all grasshopper species together but only 12 out of the 120 plus species found in Wyoming cause problems on a regular basis. Of that “dirty dozen”, the 4 species in the genus Melanoplus have the greatest ability to increase in population from non-economic levels to crop and garden devastating densities in one year. The worst species in Wyoming’s crops and gardens is Melanoplus bivittatus, the twostriped grasshopper. It can eat its body weight daily and destroy even more leaf area than it consumes. While one twostriped grasshopper alone is not significant, just 30 adults per square yard equals 200 lbs. per acre!
The major grasshopper pest species in Wyoming start hatching from eggs in mid-May and continue hatching all the way to early July. Most available treatments for grasshoppers don’t last very long so effective crop and garden grasshopper control will probably require multiple treatments as the hatch of eggs progresses through the spring.
The good news is that most crop pest grasshopper species concentrate their egg pods in field borders and non–crop areas that are weedy, uncultivated, and don’t get submerged in water. Scout those areas for hatching grasshoppers from mid- May to the end of June and treat them when necessary. This can prevent damage from adult grasshoppers moving into crop fields and gardens later in the summer. It is better to treat grasshoppers away from the crop field or out of the garden than in them. More economical and selective treatments are available for grasshopper control in non-crop habitats. This targeted control also reduces the impact on beneficial insects such as those that pollinate plants.
Stop by the Washakie County Extension office to pick up a "square foot job aid" to help you count and identify grasshoppers in the field.
Grasshopper Control in Gardens and Small Acreages - Colorado Sate University
Community Wide Grasshopper Control - Utah State University
Grasshopper Management (non-chemical methods) - ATTRA
And don't hesitate to call or email me if your have further questions!
Guest post by Chance Marshall, University of Wyoming Extension Educator, Fremont County
Times are changing and the cost of current sources of energy use are continuing to rise for landowners in Wyoming. University of Wyoming Extension is in the process of exploring alternative energy applications that could save money but still be dependable for their clientele.
The Wyoming Renewables website provides a wealth of information on many sources and applications for alternative energy in Wyoming.
Typical renewable energy systems that are used are: biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind. Currently 87.5% of Wyoming’s energy comes from coal, however, alternative methods (solar, small hydro, wind) are growing quickly and account for about 11.2% of the state’s electricity production.
By the year 2100, it is speculated that solar energy systems could account for the majority of energy production in the United States. Many wonder why solar may be the answer and not other methods (i.e. wind)? The reasons are simple. Solar is easy to install, energy from the sun is reliable throughout most of the country, and due to technological improvements, installation costs are decreasing while energy capture continues to increase. Other methods are often more site-specific and less reliable.
Currently, UW Extension Educators are exploring the applications of do-it-yourself solar-thermal stock tanks during the Wyoming winter season as an alternative to electric tank heaters. These tanks are designed to run solely off the sun’s energy. These custom tanks are made with easily obtainable materials (lumber, insulation, etc.) and no electricity, solar panels, or batteries are necessary. Commercially made solar-thermal stock tanks have proven to be effective but come with a hefty price tag. The goal of the project is to determine if a livestock owner in Wyoming can create an affordable winter watering system that will save money but still keep water from freezing. Initial results are still pending, but stay tuned for more information.
Please look through my presentation on the topic of alternative energy for the 2016 WESTI Ag Days and don't hesitate to call me with any questions.
Guest post by Mae Smith, University of Wyoming Extension Educator, Big horn County
As the days get longer and we start dreaming about spring, its time to do a little garden planning. The first step is to decide what you want to plant and how many. Read the seed packet or do your research to determine the plant’s special needs.
Many native seeds require stratification, which is a process that requires cold, moist temperatures for a specified length of time. If seeds were dropped outdoors, the seeds would naturally go through this process during the winter and spring. Since you’ve stored them in unnatural conditions, this process must be mimicked. Stratification varies depending on the plant species but can add a substantial amount of time to seed starting and may need to be started now.
Most seeds sold in seed packets don’t require preparation such as stratification. However, some are best started indoors long before they’re planted to give enough time for crop production and maturation. Tomatoes and peppers are commonly started indoors 6-10 weeks before planting.
You’ll want to plant after there is little threat of a heavy frost. To find your the last frost date for your area, check the Wyoming Last Frost Map. The lower part of the Big Horn Basin has an average last frost date of May 11-20. Check the seed packet and count from that date on the calendar to know when to start seeds.
Keep in mind this is an average and there is no guarantee we won't get a frost in June. For example, this table shows us that on May 23rd in Worland there is still a 10% chance that the temperature will drop below 32 degrees F.
There are several things you’ll need for starting seeds indoors.
For more information about starting seeds and other garden topics check out some of the articles in the UW Barnyards and Backyards Magazine.
Click here for a complete guide to starting plants from seed, including seed selection, planting, thinning, hardening off, and transplanting.
If you are using seeds leftover from last year, or seeds saved from your favorite tomato variety last year, consider testing them for germination rate.
The garden is all covered in a blanket of snow, but don't let that fool you! The worms, and microbes, are still hard at work eating what is left of the leaves, roots, and fruit left behind from your garden harvest and turning it into rich humus. When the snow melts, and spring returns to the valley, you will begin to see the results of all their hard work! This year, do the worms a favor and leave your rototiller in the shed.
UW Extension Horticulture Specialist Karen Panter provides the following tips on Christmas tree care. Click on the image above to read the full bulletin.
For those of you who have a live tree and plan to keep it to plant in the spring, it is important to keep your tree from “waking up” and breaking dormancy. This means that you really should only keep inside for 5 days before storing it in a cold, protected area until the weather warms up enough for planting. Mulch around the base of the tree to protect the rootball from freezing, and water several times throughout the winter until spring arrives.
Additional blog posts on Christmas Cacti and Poinsettias
Fall is a good time to think about soil management. You can collect soil samples, decide on management changes for the next growing season, and have the winter to do some reading and research.
When it comes to soil management, ask yourself three questions:
In answering these questions, think about both soil conditions and soil nutrients. For example, grasses are more tolerant of saline soil condition than alfalfa, but does not have the deep taproots to access nutrients and water in the subsoil like alfalfa.
What do I have?
A soil test can tell you several important things about your soil, including nutrient and organic matter status, pH, and salt content. Most labs will provide fertilizer recommendations based on crops, yield goals, irrigation, and previous manure applications. A few things to keep in mind:
Additional blog post on Soil Testing.
Just getting out and digging a hole is useful too! Pay attention to the color and smell of the soil, presence of earthworms, and rooting depth. This can reveal important information about soil carbon, compaction, and general soil health.
The Idaho Soil Health Card is a useful matrix for evaluating changes in your soil over time.
What does my crop need?
There are many good nutrient management resources available for forages. Here are a few to get you started:
And some good resources on forage management from University of Wyoming Extension:
What changes can I make to increase profitability?
When making changes to your production system, be it tillage, fertilizer, or cropping systems,
keep good records. Remember, if you don't measure it you can't manage it! Depending on your soils and what your crop needs, here are some changes to consider:
The Wyoming Ranch Tools website has some useful tools that can help you determine if the benefits of adding fertilizer are worth the additional costs, based on hay prices, input costs, and labor. Considering hiring a custom operator to do some of the work for you, or putting your tractor to work for someone else? Read my blog post on custom rates.
We had our first frost last night and that means it is time to harvest green tomatoes. For those willing to put in a little extra effort, fresh tomatoes can be enjoyed all the way through Thanksgiving! Following a light frost, the green tomatoes can be harvested and stored for ripening. Following a heavy frost, use them right away for pickles, chutney, etc.
Keep in mind that tomatoes harvested after the vines die are less acidic so care must be taken when canning the ripe fruit. For more information on canning safety consult the USDA Guide to Home Canning.
Ripening Green Tomatoes
Harvest green tomatoes at the first frost when you know the plants will die and the fruit will no longer be able to vine-ripen. Sort the tomatoes by maturity (pink, white to very light green, and darker green) and then layer in a box or tray with newspaper and story in a cool, dark place. Light green tomatoes will ripen in about 2 weeks, and darker green tomatoes will ripen in 3 or 4 weeks.
As the tomatoes ripen, they produce ethylene gas which stimulates ripening in other fruit. This is why bananas stored with apples will ripen more quickly. Here is a bulletin with more detailed instructions for ripening green tomatoes.
Green Tomato Recipes
Get creative! There are many uses for green tomatoes, including picles, chutneys, pies, salads, and salsas. Here are few to get you started:
Pickled Sweet Green Tomatoes
Spiced Green Tomatoes
Green Tomato Pie
Fried Green Tomatoes
And some very creative recipes including salsa, pasta sauce, and eggs benedict!
URGENT UPDATE - August 24, 2015
The following is from a press release from the Wyoming Department of Health
Tularemia Deadly, Unusually Active in Wyoming This Year
Tularemia caused the recent death of a Big Horn County man and has sickened at least 10 other Wyoming residents so far this summer as the state continues to experience unusually high reported levels of the bacterial disease, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“To see this many cases reported in Wyoming in a single year is striking,” said Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with WDH. “While tularemia should always be of potential concern, we typically are notified of just one or two cases annually. Over the last 25 years the highest number of cases reported in Wyoming was six in 2001 and the last time we had a reported tularemia-linked death was in 2010.”
There have been five tularemia cases reported this year among Weston County residents, two from Crook County and one each from Goshen, Natrona, Converse and Big Horn counties.
Murphy noted some of Wyoming’s neighbor states are also seeing high tularemia activity.
“Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, tularemia can be a serious, even deadly, disease,” Murphy said.
Tularemia symptoms can include fever, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, skin ulcers and diarrhea. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness and pneumonia.
Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever” or “deer fly fever,” frequently affects rabbits, hares and rodents. People may acquire tularemia when bit by infected ticks, deer flies or horse flies. It can also be transmitted by handling infected animals; through ingestion or contact with untreated, contaminated water or insufficiently cooked meat; or by inhaling bacteria that may be present in contaminated dust or animal material.
Murphy said while tularemia cases are more commonly reported during warmer months when people are more likely to be involved in outdoor activities, some of the disease’s risk factors continue year round.
Specific precautions to help reduce tularemia risk include:
· Avoid bathing, swimming or working in untreated water and avoid drinking untreated water.
· Avoid handling rabbits, squirrels or other animals that appear sick.
· Wear rubber gloves when skinning animals, especially rabbits and squirrels; skin animals in a well-ventilated area.
· Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling sick or dead animals.
· Cook meat thoroughly before eating, especially rabbit and squirrel.
Recommendations to help avoid tularemia and other tick-related diseases include:
· Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks crawling on clothing.
· Tuck pant legs into socks.
· Apply insect repellents such as those containing 20 percent or more DEET and/or picaradin.
· Upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, search self and children for ticks and remove if found.
· Check pets for ticks; use tick control products recommended by veterinarians.
Carbon is an often overlooked but very important component of the soil, and the impacts of carbon loss can be slow to manifest. While we know how to manage nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for optimum yield, soil carbon can be more challenging to understand and manage.
Soil health is the capacity of a soil to function in terms of biological productivity, environmental quality, and plant and animal health. As such, it is our best indicator of long-term sustainability in land management. Soil carbon status is one of the most important factors in soil health, and our best opportunity for improvement.
Soil organic matter includes all organic components of the soil system: living and dead plant and animal tissue, excretions, and microbes. While only a small percentage of the soil (less than 3% in most Wyoming agricultural soils), it is very important for soil health, disease suppression, drought resistance, water quality and quantity, and long-term agricultural viability. It is what gives healthy soil it’s dark brown color and rich, earthy smell.
Accumulation of carbon in the top layer of a pasture soil due to plant root secretions,
and the activity of worms and microbes.
Carbon is the primary component of soil organic matter, accounting for approximately half. Nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and other plant nutrients make up the rest. When it comes to managing for soil health, it is the organic soil carbon that is of interest. Organic soil carbon was once a part of a living organism, and will be again. In contrast, inorganic soil carbon includes things like charcoal and lime and does not provide the same benefits to soil health.
Soil microbes break down complex carbon-based molecules in crop residues and manure (ie. cellulose, lignin, fat, protein) for food and energy. As a result, nutrients are made available to plants and carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct. Nitrogen and many other nutrients in soil organic matter are not available to plants until the microbes do their job. The microbes responsible for the most rapid organic matter decomposition are aerobic (require oxygen). Tillage introduces oxygen into the soil, stimulating microbial activity. This burst of microbial activity leads to increased rates of organic matter metabolism in the soil, and subsequent loss of soil carbon as carbon dioxide. There many soil benefits to adopting no-till or reduced tillage systems, however, the long-term effect of no-till on soil carbon levels (especially in subsurface soil) is still unclear.
Soil Carbon Pools
There are three pools of soil carbon (see image below). The active pool (labile carbon) includes living organisms, crop residues, and manures. It turns over in seasons to years as soil microbes break it down and convert it into more stable forms. This pool plays an important role in structural stability (resisting erosion) and as a food source for soil microbes. It is made up of primarily “fresh” materials and nutrient release is relatively rapid. This pool is most affected by tillage practices and cropping systems.
The passive pool of soil carbon turns over in hundreds to thousands of years. It is very stable, and physically protected from soil microbes by forming organic-clay complexes. This pool is the major contributor to cation exchange capacity (ability to hold nutrients), and water holding capacity of the soil. It is very slow to change, and primarily lost through wind and water erosion of topsoil. Humus is part of this pool and has been shown to promote root development and plant growth.
The slow pool of soil carbon is an intermediate pool that turns over in decades and provides some benefits of the other pools. It is especially valuable for its slow release of nitrogen and micronutrients. Changes due to tillage and cropping systems may take longer to manifest than in the rapid pool.
Think of these pools as a checking account, savings account, and retirement plan. You can add to these “accounts” with cover crops, manure and compost, and by including soil-building crops in your rotation. You can minimize losses by reducing tillage, leaving crop residues in the field, and protecting the soil from erosion.
Image: N. Brady and R. Weil.The Nature and Properties of Soils. 2008. Pg 518.
Changes in the Field
Changes in soil carbon (and soil health) can be measured in the lab or in the field. The simplest method requires a shovel, while more advanced methods involve laboratory analysis. By digging a small hole and noting the color, smell, and structure of the soil you can learn a lot about soil carbon status. A soil with more carbon will be darker in color, have a stronger earthy smell (humus), and better tilth. You may also notice more earthworms, and deeper roots. Compare soil from a cultivated field to soil from a pasture, fencerow, or garden. Here is a good primer on evaluating soil health in the field.
Observing changes in these three basic characteristics (color, smell, and structure) over time can tell you a lot about the effects of your current management on soil health and carbon status. Laboratory soil tests will typically include soil organic matter along with N, P, K and micronutrients. Watching how the level changes over time can be very informative, especially if you are making any changes to cropping or tillage systems. As they say, “if you don't measure it, you can’t manage it.”
The process of observing and recording changes in the soil over time can be facilitated by Soil Health Score Cards. Many states and regions have their own version, including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Nebraska.
As you manage soil N, P, and K for maximum crop production, consider ways to manage C too. The long-term benefits will be well worth the investment.
Addition blog posts on Soil Management in Forage Production and Soil Testing
In July, 2015 glyphosate-resistant kochia (Kochia scoparia) was identified in a field in Washakie County. It is highly likely that additional glyphosate-resistant populations will soon be confirmed in the region. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup® and many other herbicides. Resistance develops when herbicides with the same mode of action (MOA) are used repeatedly.
Decisive and coordinated action on the part of farmers, homeowners, municipalities, counties, rights-of-way managers, and weed and pest districts is necessary to prevent further spread.
If glyphosate-resistance in suspected, prevent seed and pollen spread by any means necessary. Zero-tolerance for suspected resistant kochia populations is the goal.
UW Extension and Washakie County Weed and Pest developed two fact sheets on the topic that include herbicide recommendations.
You can download the bulletins here:
More information about herbicide resistance and management:
International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds
Herbicide Resistant Weeds and Their Management - Pacific Northwest Extension Bulletin
Facts about Glyphosate Resistance - Purdue Extension Bulletin
Herbicide Resistant Weeds - University of Minnesota Extension website
Understanding Herbicide Mode of Action - Oklahoma State University Extension Bulletin
Control Freaks blog - a project of University of Wyoming faculty Andrew Kniss and Brian Mealor
If you suspect herbicide resistance please contact your UW Extension Educator as soon as possible. They can help you verify resistance and determine the best course of action.