Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Programming

On-Farm Research

Nebraska Extension has a long history in on-farm research. In 1989, twenty Saunders County producers came together through Nebraska Extension to form the Nebraska Soybean and Feed Grains Profitability Project. This group began doing randomized, replicated research to answer questions that impacted the profitability of their farming operation. Due to the original group’s success, the idea spread to surrounding counties and in 1998 the Quad Counties research group was formed in Clay, Fillmore, Hamilton, and York Counties in south central Nebraska. Extension Educators and Specialists worked with 20 farmers to produce reliable, unbiased research. The Nebraska On-Farm Research Network builds upon the success of these two organizations, expanding on-farm research to a state-wide effort in 2012.SoybeanPopCount.JPG

On-Farm Research Brainstorming/Discussion Session:  You hear and read about various production practices and products that work for other farmers.  You may have questions regarding a specific practice or product working on your farm.  On-farm research is a way to answer this for yourself!  In the past, our area on-farm research cooperators met before the growing season to brainstorm ideas and discuss potential research topics together.  We are resurrecting this brainstorming/discussion session with it to be held on Monday, November 27th from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Fairgrounds (4-H Building) in Aurora.  We encourage farmers who have conducted on-farm research in the past or are considering/interested in on-farm research in the future to attend.  If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Steve Melvin at steve.melvin@unl.edu or Jenny Rees at jrees2@unl.edu.

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Posted in Horticulture

Proper Tree Planting

Some of the most common questions we receive in the office on an ongoing basis is related to trees. Whether trees appear to be dying, stressed or have a pest problem, sometimes there is nothing that can be done and in fact many times the issue is environmentally related or beyond treatment. That being said, if you do have to replace a tree or are looking to add a new tree to your landscape be sure to get your tree off to a great start by properly planting the tree. Recently Nicole Stoner, a horticulture educator presented a hands-on workshop teaching how to plant a tree. Many people think, dig a hole, put the tree in and that’s it. While that is essentially the case, the depth and techniques used will impact that tree’s life 5-10 years down the road. Many trees are planted incorrectly so let’s examine the proper techniques.

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First, select the best type of tree for your situation. Be well informed on the height and spread of the tree and look all around ensuring it won’t interfere with power-lines or crowd nearby plants. Check the adaptability for the tree; is it well-suited for your area? Is it susceptible to pests? One of the fun parts of selecting trees or plants of any kind is the color and shape of it, pick what you like and look for diversity from your own landscape and the landscapes of many of your neighbors.

Then, when preparing the site, be sure the soil is adequate for the plant. If you are planting in an area for the first time and unsure of your soil quality you can submit a sample to a lab for analysis of the pH and nutrient content. Next, is digging the hole. It is not recommended to add any soil amendments to the hole. Soil amendments can make it more difficult for the roots to move through the amended soils and into the natural soils of the area which can cause the roots to circle and eventually girdle and kill the tree. Dig the hole only as deep as the soil ball of the tree. If dug too deep, the roots will suffocate. The hole should be two to three times the diameter of the tree’s root ball. Also, do NOT dig it deeper than needed and backfill it with loose soil; most likely the tree will settle to the bottom over time and then be planted too deep. Instead, place the soil on undistributed soil.

Then, take the tree out of the container and break up the roots if they are started to circle the pot or are girdled. Then, fill the hole with soil, trying to break it up so the hole has relatively loose soil surrounding the side of the tree’s root ball. Gently pat the hole; do not pack or stomp the hole. Depending on the height of the tree, decide if it needs to be staked. If it is leaning over, it obviously will need support until the roots are able to anchor it. Be sure to use a softer material such as tree staking straps; you should never use a wire or something abrasive that could damage or cut into the bark. It is also important to remove the stakes within a year of planting the tree.

Mulch is very important for the tree as well. Be sure to put down an organic source of mulch such as woodchips. Mulch aides in weed control, conserving moisture and can also regulate the temperature of the soil. Mulch should be no deeper than 2 to 3 inches but should be as wide as acceptable to the tree owner. Then be sure to water the tree well at least once a week with a slow trickle for 20 minutes if no rain occurs, but don’t overwater. Consider using a 5-gallon bucket or tub with drilled holes near the bottom as a cost-effective drip irrigation method.

If you have any additional questions you can contact Nicole Stoner at Gage County Extension (402)223-1384 or by email at nstoner2@unl.edu

Posted in Horticulture, Programming

Tree Grant

img_0203.jpgNebraska Extension- Fillmore County received a grant for ten free trees through the ReTree Nebraska program. This grant was funded by Trees for Nebraska Towns and the Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership programs by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Nebraska Forest Service’s Community Marketing of Trees grant funded by the U.S. Forest Service. As part of the grant, educational outreach to increase public awareness of the benefits of trees and proper tree care was done with a workshop conducted by Nicole Stoner, horticulture extension educator in which I assisted. Seven trees were planted at the courthouse lawn and three trees were planted at the Extension Office and Fillmore County East Building.

Posted in Horticulture, Programming

Tree Planting & Care Workshop

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Need a new tree in your landscape? Then come to the tree planting workshop to learn how to properly plant it. Planting a Tree is essential to the life and health of the tree. Nebraska Extension Educator Nicole Stoner, from Gage County Extension will give a hands-on presentation of proper tree planting. The workshop will be held at 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 12th at the Fillmore County Courthouse in Geneva. Ten trees were donated to Fillmore County Extension from ReTree Nebraska to help renew the trees at the Courthouse and Extension Office. We will be planting these 10 trees at the workshop. The workshop will cover how to properly plant a tree, staking needs and methods, and general management for newly planted and established trees including watering, mulching, and winter protection. Registration is not required and the program is free.

If you have any additional questions you can contact Nicole Stoner at Gage County Extension (402)223-1384 or by email at nstoner2@unl.edu

Posted in Youth

Celebrate National 4-H Week

For the 75th consecutive year, millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni across the country will be celebrating National 4-H Week during the first full week of October.

4-H alumni around the country are always the first to acknowledge the significant positive impact 4-H had on them as young people; the opportunities and experiences that 4-H4hweek_2017_logo.jpg provides youth empowers them to become true leaders. In fact, research has shown that young people in 4-H are almost four times as likely to contribute to their communities, and are twice as likely to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering andMath (STEM) programs in their free time.

In Nebraska, more than 25,000 youth are enrolled in 4-H and 12,000 volunteers are involved in 4-H. In addition, approximately 56,000 youth participate in Nebraska 4-H school enrichment experiences. One of the most anticipated events of National 4-H Week every year is 4-H National Youth Science Day, which sees hundreds of thousands of youth across the nation taking part in the world’s largest youth-led science challenge. The exciting theme for this year’s challenge is Incredible Wearables.2017-09-29_1343

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, youth will use the engineering design process to build a prototype wearable technology that will gather data to help solve a real-world problem. Wearable technologies are now used in industries around the globe, from education and sport, to health, fashion, entertainment, transportation and communication. To learn more about National Youth Science Day, please visit http://www.4-h.org/nysd/.

About 4-H: 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 110 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/4-H and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/4H. For Nebraska 4-H, go to 4h.unl.edu.

Posted in Horticulture

Fall Pests

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

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.

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.

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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.

Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu.

Posted in Crops

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.

IMG_9973.jpgAn 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.

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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!

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!