Posted in Horticulture

Fall Insect Invaders

This time of year, we often receive questions on a variety of pests, especially “bugs” entering homes or around the house. Last year, Extension horticulturalist, Elizabeth Killinger provided great information how to prepare your house to keep these invaders from living in your house, which I decided to share this week.

brown yellow black cross orb weaver spider
Photo by Pixabay on

Some of the more common nuisance pests include occasional invaders like boxelder bugs, multicolored Asian Lady Beetles, millipedes, and crickets.  These pests don’t do any harm once inside the home; they are just looking for a cozy place to spend the winter. Proper identification of the insect will assure the proper control method.  Boxelder bugs are black and orange true ‘bugs’ that can be found in large numbers around foundations sunning themselves or trying to find their way inside. Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles are the orange ‘lady bugs’ with black spots.  Their distinct smell and ability to bite makes them even more of a nuisance once inside the home.  Millipedes are often misidentified as ‘wire worms.’  These skinny, brown critters have two legs per body segment and will curl up when disturbed.  Crickets hop their way into homes and provide ‘music’ in the night with their chirping.  Commonly it’s the black field cricket that migrates inside, but there are others that follow right behind.

animal antenna arthropod background
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

Wolf spiders may look scary, but they are more bark than bite.  These large, hairy spiders can be found both outdoors and occasionally inside the home.  They are not poisonous nor do they want to disturb people.  They are hunting spiders, so they don’t spin a web or a trap, but prefer to chase down their prey.  They often find their way into homes in the fall following their favorite food source the cricket.

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true.  Discouraging occasional invaders from entering the house is going to take a little work, but it will be worth it in the long run.  Start by finding and sealing up any cracks or spaces they could enter through with silicone caulk or expanding foam.  Make sure that window screens are in good repair and that doors are tight fitting.  Also remove any dead plant debris from window wells.

Pests can be discouraged from entering the house in a number of ways.  The most common way is by applying an outdoor perimeter insecticide treatment.  These insecticides are labeled for various pests and often times have residual effects to help protect the house for longer.  Read and follow the label instructions on how and where these products should be applied.  Ideally, try to apply these insecticides out from the foundation about five to ten feet around the perimeter of the home. The insecticides will help to decrease the numbers of pests that make it inside the house, but don’t expect it to stop all of them.

Monitor the home regularly to see what pests have made their way inside.  Glue boards are sticky boards used to catch and hold pests as they try to move throughout the home.  Be sure to use sticky boards in locations where non-target animals, like pets, won’t get stuck in them.  If something other than the target pest does happen to get ‘caught’ in the trap, use an oily material, like vegetable or mineral oil, to dissolve the sticky substance on the trap.  When properly placed, these traps will allow you to see which pests are inside the home and their approximate numbers.

Once pests are found inside the home, there are a few techniques that you can use. The handy broom and dust pan or the vacuum are two techniques; they are also very environmentally friendly and very cost effective.  Be careful when selecting insecticides for use inside the home.  Read and follow instructions carefully as many of these products have to come into contact with the insect themselves and don’t offer much residual protection. With a little prevention and monitoring you can ensure that you are sharing your home with wanted house guests this fall and winter.

Posted in Programming

Area Electronic Recycling Events

What should you do with those old computers, television sets, cables, wires, batteries, cameras, cell phones and other electronics in your house?  An opportunity to safely dispose of them is approaching the area so here is your chance to clean out your house or shop!  Trailblazers RC&D received a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality with donations from the supervisors and commissioners from each of the participating counties to college electronics at several locations in both the Little Blue and Republican Natural Rescamera-98398_1280.pngources Districts.

A report conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association in 2013 showed that the average American household uses about 28 electronic products such as personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and electronic readers (e-readers), Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2015, Americans generated 3.09 million tons of obsolete electronic products and only 12.5% of that waste is recycled. That electronic waste put in landfills poses a serious threat to the environment as they contain hazardous materials such as mercury.


Not only is recycling electronic devices good for the environment, but good for the economy too! By recycling one million cell phones, the EPA states that 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. There is also 30 to 40 times more copper in a ton of circuit boards that can be mined from one metric ton of ore.

The upcoming recycling events are free and open to businesses, schools, government entities, non-profits and households! Locations and times in our area include:

  • September 20th– Hebron –East of Road Department Shop – 8 am to Noon
  • September 21st– Geneva – Bullpen East of Courthouse – 8 am to Noon
  • September 24th– Clay Center – Clay Center Fairgrounds – 8 am to Noon
  • September 24th– Nelson –Nuckolls County Road Department – 1:30 to 5:00 pm
  • September 25th-Guide Rock – 355 University Street – 8 am to Noon

Electronics that are accepted: cables, wires, batteries, UPS backup units, cameras, cell phones, smartphones, circuit boards, computers, computer equipment, copiers, cordless telephones, data center equipment, DVD players,  Blueray players,  gaming systems, hard  drives, hubs, ink/toner (empty or full), iPods, iPads, iPhones, keyboards, microphones, joysticks, lab equipment, LCD monitors, mainframe equipment, modems, routers, medical  equipment, networking equipment, pagers, beepers, PCI Cards, printers, power supplies, scanners, servers, Telecom equipment, microwaves and TVs. Please do not bring any other types of appliances.

Any questions can be directed to the event coordinator Jim Farmer with Trailblazers RC&D of Red Cloud at (402) 746-4132.

(Source: Little Blue Resources District)

Posted in Crops, Irrigation

Harvest Safety

It is hard to believe that harvest is starting and just as a reminder that with harvest comes more traffic on the county roads and other stresses for farmers. It never fails, that equipment can break, there can be delays at the elevator and those extra-long hours can all add extra stress to farmers. That being said, it is important to carefully slow down and realize the many hazards you are being exposed to during harvest.slow-down

An Iowa State Extension publication, Harvest Safety Yields Big Dividends points out that injuries can occur by taking shortcuts to perform routine tasks, not getting enough sleep or regular breaks, or failing to follow safety practices. Some injuries occur when operators are pulled into the intake area of harvesting machines, such as balers, combines, or corn pickers, and many injuries occur from slips or falls around these machines. Exposure to powerful machinery is highest during the harvest season. The equipment must be powerful to effectively handle large amounts of agricultural commodities. When equipment plugs, NEVER try to unplug it with live equipment, instead always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine. Regular maintenance of these machines can also make harvest go smoother. Also, lots of accidents actually happen by the operator slipping and falling off equipment.

In the same publication listed above, there are several tips for reducing fall hazards:

  • Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.
  • Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount and dismount, or operate the machine.
  • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
  • Be sure your position is stable before you work on a machine.
  • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol, and age may affect stability.

Other helpful tips during harvest are to keep kids away from machinery. Tell them the dangers that can occur and not to play near the equipment, even when it is shut off; you never know when they will be playing in hidden areas of the equipment. Operators should double check where kids are before moving the equipment. Too many accidents can occur when youth are in the path of equipment out of the operator’s view. Operators of all equipment should check in regularly and let someone know where you are. Keep all guards on equipment; it is there for a reason! harvest.jpg

It is also important for the public to understand the increased traffic on public roads and be patient. The greatest threat raised between farm equipment and passenger vehicles is the difference in speed. Farm equipment runs at an average speed of 20 miles per hour while passenger vehicles average 60 miles per hour. If the motor vehicle overtakes a tractor, the impact is comparable to a passenger vehicle hitting a brick wall at 40 miles per hour. If the tractor and a car, mini-van or pickup collides head on, the impact is the same as hitting a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

Farmers can reduce the chances of an accident by using warning lights, reflectors and reflective tape on their machinery to keep passenger vehicle operators aware of their presence on roads. Some farmers may choose to install supplemental lights to increase visibility. It also is a good idea for producers to keep off heavily traveled roads as much as possible and avoid moving equipment during the busiest part of the day.

Some farm equipment, such as combines, can take up more than half of the road. Even so, it is up to both drivers to be aware of their own limitations and adjust accordingly. Farmers should not take up more space than is needed, but other drivers should try to provide as much room as possible. It is a good idea for passenger vehicles to turn off onto side or field roads until larger machinery has passed. Whenever possible, farmers should use an escort vehicle such as a pickup to precede or follow large machinery and equipment on public roads. More than one escort may be necessary. Ideally, the escort vehicle would have extra warning lights and a sign indicating oversized or slow equipment ahead or following.

Have a safe harvest!

Posted in Crops, Programming, Youth

Future Agronomists at Work

IMG_3598Three states competed at the 3rd Annual Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition on August 27, 2018 at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, Nebras­­ka. Teams of youth participated by completing six crop scouting exercises in field plots.  This educational, hands-on program provided students an opportunity to learn crop scouting and principles of integrated pest management (IPM) for corn and soybeans, obtain knowledge and skills that will be helpful in future careers and to demonstrate newer crop scouting technologies.

Youth worked in teams of 4-5 to create a solution or answer to the crop scouting exercise. 

The top two teams from Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana qualified for the competition. Extension faculty from Nebraska served as judges for the program and tested the teams’ knowledge on the basics of scouting corn and soybean fields. This included crop staging; looking for patterns of crop injury; disease, insect and weed seedling identification; etc.
Results from the 2018 competition were as follows:

  • First place- Nebraska Team, Colfax County 4-H (Logan Nelson, Brad Kratochvil, Austin Steffensmeier & Korbin Kudera)

    Colfax County 4-H received top honors as the 2018 Regional Crop Scouting Competition Champion.
  • Second place – Indiana Team, Heritage Hills FFA (Sydney Hassfurther, Bryce Peter, Gabe Gogel, Alex Gehlhausen and Luke Rahman
  • Third place (Tie) – Nebraska Team of Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club of Cuming County (Payton & Levi Schiller, Matthew & James Rolf and Kaleb Hasenkamp) and Iowa Team from Clayton County (Team #1) consisting of Andre Shirbroun, Max Gibson, Matt Whittle, Cassidy Penrod and Cole Deitchier.

Also participating was Indiana Team, Eastern Hancock FFA with Jackson Beaudry, Ryan Kohlstrum, Loren Matlock, Zach Sickle and Brent Sorrell and Iowa Team from Clayton County (Team #2) which consisted of Mia Gibson, Jon Whittle, Tom Whittle, Laci Orr and Macy Weigand.


More information about the crop scouting competition are available online at

This program was sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, the Nebraska Independent Crop Consultant Association and Farm Credit Services of America in collaboration with Nebraska Extension. If you know of a company or you would are interested in sponsoring the 2019 program, please contact me at

Posted in Programming, Youth

Nebraska State Fair

The Nebraska State Fair will be held August 24-September 3, 2018 at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Grand Island, Nebraska. The state fair is a great opportunity for youth to showcase the skills gained through their projects. I’d like to wish all youth the best of luck at the state fair and hope they have lots of fun and learn. For more information or to check results on the 4-H side of things, go to  Nestatefair.png

Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Programming

South Central Ag Lab Field Day


Wednesday, August 29th will be the South Central Ag Lab (SCAL)  Field Day with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. and concluding at 4:00 p.m. Approximately 100 applied field research trials are conducted at SCAL annually by University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty and the United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service scientists. Trials are focused on irrigation and water management, soil fertility, entomology, weed science, cropping systems, disease management and crop variety testing. Field day speakers will share information about their research for improved crop production and profitability.

Specific topics and speakers include:

  • Cropping Systems: From cover crops to corn earissues – Roger Elmore, NE Extension Cropping Systems Agronomist; Katja Koehler- Cole, UNL Agronomy Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Justin McMechan, UNL Crop Protection & Cropping Systems Specialist; and Osler Ortez Amador, UNL PhD Grad Student
  • Insect Management: European corn borer, Corn rootworm & Western bean cutworm – Robert Wright – NE Extension Entomologistagenda.png
  • Weed Management: Opportunities & challenges for weed control in soybean – Amit Jhala, NE Extension Weed Management Specialist
  • From Inhibitors to Sensors: Nitrogen fertilizer management in irrigated corn – Leonardo Bastos, UNL PhD candidate in Soil fertility/precision ag, Brian Krienke, NE Soils Extension Educator and Joe Juck, NE Extension Precision Ag Specialist
  • Disease Management: Corn and Soybean disease updates – TamraJackson-Ziems, NE Extension Plant Pathologist
  • Water Management: Fundamentals of variable rate irrigation & fertigation in comparison to fixed rate irrigation & conventional fertilizer management & Imapct of cover crops on soil quality, Suat Irmak, Harold W. Eberhard Distinguished Professor of Biological Systems Engineering

Register online by August 26th for lunch planning purposes which can be done at For more information, call the South Central Lab Office at (402)762-3536. CCA credits are available.

Posted in Crops, Horticulture

Sustainable Agriculture Tour Recap

To define sustainable agriculture is quite the task, as many organizations and individuals view what is defined as “sustainable” in different ways. For the purpose of this column, I’ll use the definition that was addressed by Congress in the 1990 “Farm Bill” by USDA. Under that law, “the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
Lazy Horse Vineyard & Brewing 

This week, Fillmore County was the stop for an annual Sustainable Agriculture tour my colleague Gary Lesoing coordinates so I participated in the Fillmore County stops and decided to share some of what I learned in this week’s column. First the tour went to Lazy Horse Vineyard and Brewing near Ohiowa. For those unfamiliar with Lazy Horse, they grow their own grapes and have a large outdoor porch where guest can enjoy being outside and watch the horses graze the pasture or sit in the gorgeous tasting room, watching the wood fired oven bake delicious pizzas. It’s safe to say, the participants enjoyed their time here.

Slezak Ag & Natural Resources can take removed trees and turn them into usable products such as lumber. 

The second and final stop of the tour was Slezak Ag & Natural Resources. They provide “Trees2Products” and sawmill services in addition to creating biochar. Their philosophy is that if someone has a tree coming down, why not utilize it by turning it into somethings useful? For example, rather than burning or burying trees coming down, one can take the logs to Slezak Ag and have it milled and turned into lumber which can create amazing furniture or other creations. One of the other products they are working to produce is biochar. If you haven’t heard of biochar, the USDA’s definition is as follows, “black carbon produced from biomass sources (i.e. woodchips, plant residues, manure or other agricultural waste products) for the purpose of transforming the biomass carbon into a more stable form (carbon sequestration).” Biochar can be used as a soil amendment  that builds soil quality, increases crop yields and sequesters carbon in soils for years to come.

Here are samples of biochar. 

For more information on sustainable agriculture projects or to apply for funding on a project, go to which is the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education website. Nebraska’s coordinator, Gary Lesoing is very helpful in helping others learn more about sustainable agriculture practices or opportunities.