Peanut Butter Challenge in the Panhandle

Peanut Butter Challenge in the Panhandle

Feed the hungry and meet a challenge; donate peanut butter to UF/IFAS Extension ! 

If you want to help feed the hungry in Florida’s Panhandle this year, you can donate peanut butter during the annual Peanut Butter Challenge, coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension.



Thanks to a partnership of UF/IFAS Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.

From Oct. 1 through Nov. 21, you can donate unopened jars of peanut butter at your UF/IFAS Extension county office. Each year, one or more UF/IFAS Extension agents at your local county extension office collect unopened peanut butter jars.

Since 2012, the volunteers and UF/IFAS Extension faculty have collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties. Last year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 6,222 jars of peanut butter, said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.

In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3,000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.

They hope to surpass that total this year with your support and contributions.

“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of North Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” Johnson said.

Visit your local county extension office today and donate some peanut butter to support nutrition in your local panhandle community! (Press Release authored by UF / IFAS Communications)


Mushroom Growing Workshop – February 10

The Jackson County Master Gardeners are hosting a hosting a Mushroom Growing Workshop on Saturday, February 10 at the Jackson County Extension Office, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna, FL.

Shiitake mushrooms growing on a log. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
• Learn to grow shiitake mushrooms on logs.
• Learn about mushroom nutrition.
• Take home an inoculated mushroom log!
• A home cooked lunch is included!
Registration Fee $20.00
Includes Lunch
Space is Limited
To register, contact the Extension Service at (850)482-9620 or
Pre-register by February 7th.

Why Is My Grass Dying Again?

“We have replaced this grass several times over the past few years; and it’s dying again.”  I have heard this complaint too many times this summer.  Last summer’s heavy rain, the stress of January’s icy weather, and this year’s extended summer have contributed to widespread outbreaks of Take-All Root Rot, a soil-inhabiting fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. graminis.

Symptoms of Take-All-Root-Rot. Photo credit: Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS.

Symptoms of Take-All-Root-Rot. Photo credit: Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS.

This disease causes yellow grass patches ranging in diameter from a few inches to more than 15 feet. The symptoms first appear in the spring, but the disease can persist all summer and survive the winter. Over time, the entire area dies as the root system rots away.  The pathogen is naturally present on warm-season turfgrass roots. High rainfall and stressed turfgrass trigger the disease.

Since the roots are affected, they are not able to efficiently obtain water or nutrients from the soil, nor are they able to store the products of photosynthesis, which result in the loss of color in the leaves. By the time the leaf symptoms appear, the pathogen has been active on the roots for several weeks, probably longer; the disease has been there potentially for years. If the turfgrass is not stressed, leaf symptoms may never be observed.

This disease is very difficult to control once the aboveground symptoms are observed. Measures that prevent or alleviate stress are the best methods for controlling the disease. Any stress (environmental or manmade) placed on the turf weakens it, making it more susceptible to disease. Remember, that every maintenance practice, fertilizer application, and chemical (especially herbicide), application has an impact on turfgrass health.  Cultural practices that impact the level of stress experienced by a lawn include:

  • proper turfgrass species selection
  • mowing at the correct height
  • irrigation timing, frequency and volume
  • fertilizer: nitrogen and potassium sources and application quantities
  • thatch accumulation, and
  • soil compaction

The selection of turfgrass species should be based on existing soil pH, sunlight exposure, use of the area and planned maintenance level.

Mower blades must be sharp to avoid tearing of the leaves. Additionally, turfgrasses that are cut below their optimum height become stressed and more susceptible to diseases, especially root rots. When any disease occurs, raise the cutting height. Scalping the grass damages the growing point. Raising the cutting height increases the green plant tissue available for photosynthesis, resulting in more energy for turfgrass growth and subsequent recovery from disease.

If an area of the lawn has an active fungus, washing or blowing off the mower following use will reduce the spread of the disease to unaffected areas.

The amount of water and the timing of its application can prevent or contribute to disease development. Most fungal pathogens that cause leaf diseases require free water (rainfall, irrigation, dew) on the leaf to initiate the infection process. Irrigating every day for a few minutes is not beneficial for the turfgrass because it does not provide enough water to the root zone, but it is beneficial for turfgrass pathogens. It is always best to irrigate when dew is already present, usually between 2 and 8 a.m., and then only apply enough water to wet the root zone of the turfgrass.TARR Symptoms sdunning

Excessively high nitrogen fertility contributes to turfgrass diseases. The minimum amount required for the grass species should be applied. Potassium (K) is an important component in the prevention of diseases, because it prevents plant stress. Application of equal amounts of nitrogen and potassium is recommended for turfgrass health. When turfgrass roots are damaged from disease, it is beneficial to apply nutrients in a liquid solution. However, nitrate-nitrogen increases the severity of diseases, so their use should be avoided when possible. Ammonium-containing fertilizers are the preferred nitrogen sources.

Heavy liming has also been linked to increases in Take-All Root Rot. Since most turfgrasses can tolerate a range of pH, maintaining soil at 5.5 to 6.0 can suppress the development of the pathogen. When the disease is active, frequent foliar applications of small amounts of nutrients is necessary to keep the turfgrass from declining.

Additional maintenance practices that need to be addressed are thatch removal and reduction of soil compaction. Excessive thatch often causes the mower to sink which can result in scalping and reducing the amount of leaf tissue capable of photosynthesizing. Thatch and compacted soil prevent proper drainage, resulting in areas remaining excessively wet, depriving root systems of oxygen.  Since recovery of Take-All-Root-Rot damaged turfgrass is often poor, complete renovation of the lawn may be necessary. Removal of all diseased tissue is advised.

As a native soil-inhabiting pathogen, Take-All-Root-Rot cannot be eliminated. However, suppression of the organism through physical removal followed by proper cultivation of the new sod is critical to the establishment of a new lawn. Turfgrass management practices, not chemicals, offer the best control of the disease.

It is acceptable to use fungicides on a preventative basis while rooting in the sod. Azoxystrobin, fenarimol, myclobutanil, propiconazole, pyraclostrobin, thiophate methyl, and triadimefon are all fungicides that can be utilized to prevent disease development while having to excessively irrigate newly laid sod. Ideally, the turf area should be mowed and irrigated prior to a fungicide application. Unless the product needs to be watered in, do not irrigate for at least 24 hours after a chemical treatment. Do not mow for at least 24 hours, to avoid removal of the product attached to the leaf blades.

With all the stresses that our lawns have experienced, it is very important to continue monitoring the turf and be cautious about the cultural practices being used.  Take-All Root Rot is likely to flourish.  Do not encourage its development.  A pathology test with the University of Florida Laboratory can confirm the presence of the disease causing organism.  Before resodding again, have the dying sod tested.

For information and the submission form go to:

Sample Submission Guide

For more information on the disease go to:



Phosphorus – Know Your Soil

Phosphorus – Know Your Soil

In our area of Florida, soils will vary in the amount of nutrients they hold. In general, we think of our soils as nutrient poor because sand is often the highest component. Sandy soils have large pore spaces and the particles themselves do not ‘attract’ many of our nutrients. Therefore needed plant nutrients can leave a sandy soil quickly, especially when rainfall or irrigation is prevalent.

There are areas along the Panhandle that do have more quality soils that have the ability to retain some nutrients. Also, frequent fertilizer or lime applications in home landscapes can create soils with abundance of certain nutrients over time .

One nutrient that may become prevalent in routinely fertilized soils is phosphorus. We know that phosphorus is one of the big three nutrients needed by plants in order to grow and flourish. When we routinely apply phosphorus to garden beds or lawns, it can build up. Phosphorus is a nutrient that does not leave the soil as readily as other nutrients. It binds to other elements to hang around. If we keep adding phosphorus to the soil, even though there is plenty there, problems can occur. One negative impact is the potential for soils with phosphorus to wash away and pollute local water systems.

Phosphorus is absolutely necessary for plant growth. It is needed for the energy transfer which is involved in plant growth functions. Phosphorus is also important for flower and fruit formation, and root growth.

Flowering plants benefit from fertilizer but make sure your soil needs the nutrients before an application.  Photo:  Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Escambia Extension

Flowering plants benefit from fertilizer but make sure your soil needs the nutrients before an application. Photo: Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Escambia Extension

There can be too much of a good thing. The key to remember, as with any nutrient, is make sure it is needed before applying it to your soil. Plant growth will not be improved beyond what is normal by adding more of any nutrient. Before you grab the bloom promoter or starter fertilizer with high phosphorus, run a soil test to accurately determine what is really needed in your soil.


4Rs of Fertilizer Application

4Rs of Fertilizer Application

4RSystemThe old cliché is “April showers bring May flowers”, but April deluges create weak plants and yellow grass. You were following the UF/IFAS recommendations and waited until April 15th to fertilize. You followed the Urban Turf Rule and applied a low-phosphate fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen. Yet, your grass is yellow and the shrubs haven’t put on any new growth. What happened? The 18” + of rainfall that we experienced at the end of April flushed nearly everything out of the soil, including any fertilizer you applied. Nitrogen and potassium are highly leachable. Phosphorus is also depleted under saturated soil conditions.

If you haven’t submitted a soil test since the storm, now is the time to do so. It’s time to apply a summer fertilizer, but it needs to address all the nutrient deficiencies created from the excess rain. Soil test kits can be obtained from your County Extension office. When you get the results from the University of Florida Lab, it is important to remember the 4 Rs when applying fertilizer. It needs to be the Right Source, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Time, and over the Right Place.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) have been developed to allow individuals to make conscientious decisions regarding fertilizer selection that will reduce the risk of water contamination. The Right Source for a BMP-compliant fertilizer is one that contains a portion of slow-release (water insoluble) nitrogen with little to no phosphorus, and a potassium level similar to the nitrogen percentage (e.g. 15-0-15, that contains 5% coated nitrogen). However, a soil test is the only way to accurately identify the specific nutrients your landscape is lacking. Many soil tests indicate a need for phosphate and currently it is illegal to apply more than 0.25 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. without a soil test verifying the need.

Next, the fertilizer must be applied at the Right Rate. In order to do that, you must know the square footage of your property and how much you can spread using the settings on your equipment. Individuals walk at varied speeds and the product recommended rates are based on 1,000 sq.ft. areas. For information on calibrating application equipment refer to fertbagthe publication, “How to Calibrate Your Fertilizer Spreader”. Using the 15-0-15 fertilizer mentioned earlier, the Right Rate for one application would be 3 pounds per 1,000 sq.ft.. That 35 pound bag is all that is needed for a nearly 12,000 sq.ft. yard (a large corner lot).

The Right Time for applying fertilizer is when the plants are actively growing and beginning to show nutrient deficiencies. Summer, when rainfall and irrigation is frequent, is often a typical application time. The Right Place is only on living plant areas. Be cautious to avoid getting fertilizer on the sidewalk, driveway and street. A deflector on your spreader is very helpful. Otherwise, be sure to sweep or blow the fertilizer back onto the grass or into the landscape beds. Avoid having fertilizer end up in any water body.