Tordpedograss (Panicum reopens) is one of the most concerning weeds in Florida and now easily found in the Panhandle. This weed’s favorite habitat is in or near ponds and ditches, but will spread across lawns and pastures.
A native grass of both Africa and Asia, torpedograss was introduced through seed in the U.S in the late 1800’s as a forage crop for livestock. Torpedograss is in the family Poaceae, along with other grasses such as the persistent invasive threat, cogongrass, as well as common bermudagrass. It gets its name from the sharply pointed tip and not only is it exceptionally fast spreading, it can grow as tall as 3 feet. Torpedograss is a poor seed germinating species in our climate and primarily relies on rhizome expansion.
Photo: Tordpedograss (Panicum reopens).
Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County.
This plant has a tendency to choke out and completely take over native vegetation. Agronomist in south Florida have been concerned about it for years. In 1950, the University of Florida agricultural experimental station warned: “Torpedograss is a serious weed when established in farm or grove land and indiscriminate planting without the regard to future crops or adjoining land is dangerous.” (Hodges and Jones).
Photo: Tordpedograss pond infestation.
Credit: Jeff Hutchinson, UF.
So, what is the impact of torpedograss on Florida?
Since 1992, torpedograss has taken over 70% of Florida’s public waterways. Lake Okeechobee is considered ground zero with approximately 7,000 acres of native marsh now displaced. These dense mats of grass can impede water flow in stormwater applications, and restrict usage of irrigation holding ponds and fish ponds.
How does one manage this invasive grass?
Infestation prevention can be accomplished by controlling the rhizome expansion. This is easier said than done, as a small rhizome fragment left behind will no doubt cause re-establishment. Keeping the infestation at bay, by controlling the spread at waterways is key.
For IPM (integrated pest management) solutions follow these steps:
For cultural management, invasive plants tend to quickly establish in open or recently tilled areas. So, prescribed burn and clearing by mowing are methods that tend to promote infestations. A healthy, diverse landscape with native plants, or species with non-invasive tendencies will provide a level of defense.
Mechanical control is not very effective. Tilling the land only spreads the rhizomes through fragmentation.
There are few biological controls, although cattle and goats will graze and they may continue to spread the grass.
Chemical control using Glyphosate (Roundup, etc.) at a 2-3% solution and imazapyr (Arsenal, Chopper or Habitat) at 0.5 to 1 % solution has been effective for on land use. Aquatic herbicides with glyphosate (Rodeo, etc.) are effective for ponds. This can be applied in a liquid or granular form. A non-ionic surfactant will be needed to adhere the liquid chemical with success. Keep in mind, these herbicides are systemic, meaning they are absorbed and move through out the plant tissue. Be sure to minimize over spray damage of desirable plants, especially related to drift. Imazapyr also has longer soil activity and could impact sensitive oaks. Torpedograss is much more difficult to treat in water and will require multiple applications to completely control whether in water or on land.
For more information on torpedograss, contact your local county extension office.
Information for this article provided by the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants: https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/panicum-repens/ and the Wetlands Weeds Journal article “Torpedograss – Forage Gone Wild” by Ken Langeland & Brian Smith of UF/IFAS and Charles Hanlon of the South Florida Water Management District: https://www.se-eppc.org/wildlandweeds/pdf/su98-langeland-p4-6.pdf
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
Soon, two important ecological surveys will begin in Gulf County, concerning both diamondback terrapins and mangroves.
Florida is home to five subspecies of diamondback terrapin, three of which occur exclusively in Florida. Diamondback terrapins live in coastal marshes, tidal creeks, mangroves, and other brackish or estuarine habitats. However, the diamondback terrapin is currently listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).
Diamondback terrapin populations, unfortunately, are nationally in decline. Human activities, such as pollution, land development and crabbing without by-catch reduction devices are often reasons for the decline, but decades ago they were almost hunted to extinction for their tasty meat. The recent decline has raised concern of not only federal agencies, but also organizations and community groups on the state and local levels. Diamondback Terrapin range is thought to have once been all of coastal Florida, including the Keys.
Figure 1: Diamondback Terrapin.
Credit: Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Extension & Florida Sea Grant, Escambia County.
Mangroves, a shoreline plant species of south Florida, are migrating north and are now being found in the Panhandle. Both red and black mangroves have been found in St. Joseph Bay. Mangroves establishment could be an important key to a healthy bay ecosystem, as a factor in shoreline restoration and critical aquatic life habitat.
Currently there is a significant data gap for both diamondback terrapin and mangrove populations. Therefore, there is a great need to conduct assessments to learn more about their geographic distribution.
Figure 2. Black Mangrove in St. Joseph Bay.
Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension & Florida Sea Grant, Gulf County.
The Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center is partnering with UF/IFAS Extension & Florida Sea Grant to assist in surveying and monitoring diamondback terrapins and mangroves in St. Joseph Bay, and we need your help! UF/IFAS Extension & Florida Sea Grant Agent’s Rick O’Connor and Ray Bodrey are providing a training workshop for volunteers and coordinating surveys for St. Joseph Bay. Terrapin surveys require visiting an estuarine location where terrapin nesting sites and mangrove plants are highly probable. Volunteers will visit their assigned locations at least once a week during the months of May and June and complete data sheets for each trip. Each survey takes about two hours, and some locations may require a kayak to reach.
If you are interested in volunteering for these important projects, we will hold a training session on Monday, April 22nd at 1:00 p.m. ET at the Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center (located at 1001 10th Street, Port St. Joe).
For more information, please contact:
Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County, Extension Director
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
Storm Season is Right Around the Corner, Let’s Be Ready
Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Gulf County Extension Director
Hurricane season technically begins on June 1st and ends November 30th. However, storm season may reach us in the Panhandle as early as Memorial Day weekend. As Floridians, we face the possibility of tropical storms and hurricanes every year. This simply goes with the territory. During these months, it’s important to have a safety plan in place.
Be sure to keep a basic emergency kit in your home, even for storms that may not require you to evacuate. This kit should have at least the following supplies:
- battery powered NOAA weather radio
- extra batteries
- manual can opener
- food and water
- moist towelettes
- first aid kit. The kit should have enough supplies for at least three days.
If the approaching storm is a major threat, you may be asked to leave your home. State & County emergency management officials would not ask you to do so without a valid reason. Please do not second guess this request. Leave your home immediately. Requests of this magnitude will normally come through radio broadcasts and area TV stations.
UF/IFAS photo: Marisol Amador
The most important thing to keep in mind if a major storm is approaching is to have your own plan for a possible evacuation. The University of Florida has developed, “The Disaster Handbook” to help citizens plan for safety. The handbook includes a chapter dedicated to hurricane planning. The chapter can be downloaded in pdf at http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/chap7fr.htm.
Utilizing the 15 principles below will assist you in your evacuation planning efforts:
-Know the route & directions: keep a paper state map in your vehicle. Be prepared to use the routes designated by the emergency management officials.
-Local authorities will guide the public: Stay in communication with local your local emergency management officials. By following their instructions, you are far safer.
-Keep a full gas tank in your vehicle: During a hurricane threat, gas can become sparse. Be sure you fill your tank in advance of the storm.
-One vehicle per household: If evacuation is necessary, take one vehicle. Families that carpool will reduce congestion on evacuation routes.
-Powerlines: Do not go near powerlines, especially if broken or down.
-Clothing: Wear clothing that protects as much area as possible, but suitable for walking in the elements.
-Emergency Kit:This kit should have at least the following supplies: battery powered NOAA weather radio, extra batteries, flashlight, whistle, manual can opener, food, water moist towelettes and first aid kit. The kit should have enough supplies for at least three days.
-Phone: Bring your cell phone & charger.
-Prepare your home before leaving: Lock all windows & doors. Turn off water. You may want to turn off your electricity. If you have a home freezer, you may wish not too. Leave your natural gas on, unless instructed to turn it off. You may need gas for heating or cooking and only a professional can turn it on once it has been turned off.
-Family Communications: Contact family and friends before leaving town, if possible. Have an out of town contact as well, to check in with regarding the storm and safety options.
-Emergency shelters: Know where the emergency shelters are located in your vicinity.
-Shelter in place: This measure is in place for the event that emergency management officials request that you remain in your home or office. Close and lock all window and exterior doors. Turn off all fans and the HVAC system. Close the fireplace damper. Open your disaster kit and make sure the NOAA weather radio is on. Go to an interior room without windows that is ground level. Keep listening to your radio or TV for updates.
-Predetermined meeting place: Have a spot designated for a family meeting before the imminent evacuation. This will help minimize anxiety and confusion and will save time.
-Children at school: Have a plan for picking up children from school and how they will be taken care of and by whom.
-Animals and pets: Have a plan for caring for animals and shelter options in the event of an evacuation. For livestock evacuation, contact your local county extension office
Following these steps will help you stay safe and give you a piece of mind during the storm season. Contact your local county extension office for more information.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Hurricane Preparation: Evacuating Your Home”, by Elizabeth Bolton & Muthusami Kumaran: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY74700.pdf
For emergency management planning information for individuals and families, please visit the following University of Florida website: https://emergency.ufl.edu/preparedness/emergency-preparedness/ & https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
UF/IFAS is An Equal Opportunity Institution.
It’s a struggle to manage our Panhandle landscapes, especially over the late spring-summer months. Just remember, small adjustments can mean significant impacts in conserving water.
Some homeowners are not aware that watering plants too much can have as much of an ill effect as not watering enough. Shallow rooted plants, as well as newly set plants can easily become water stressed. Some people lightly water their plants each day. With this practice, one is only watering an inch or less of the topsoil. Most plant roots are deeper than this. Instead of a light watering every day, soaking the plant a few times a week is best. A soil that has been soaked will retain moisture for several days. This is a very good practice for young plants. In contrast, some people soak their plants to often. This essential drowns the roots by eliminating vital oxygen in the root zone. This can also cause root rot. Signs of overwatering are where leaves turn brown at the tips or edges, as well as leaf drop.
Figure 1: Rain Barrel.
Credit: UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping.
The following are tips from the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscape Program. These tips will help you conserve water and provides best management practices for your landscape.
- Choose the right plant for the right place: Be sure to place plants in your landscape that match conditions with plant needs.
- Water Thoughtfully: Of course, follow water restrictions first and foremost. Water early in the morning and water when plants and turfgrass start to wilt. Refrain from watering in the late afternoon or evening. This is when insects and diseases are most active.
- Perform regular irrigation maintenance: Remember, an irrigation system is only effective if it is maintained regularly. Check for and repair leaks. If using a pop-up heads for turfgrass, point heads away from driveways and sidewalks.
- Calibrate turfgrass irrigation system: Ideal amount of water to apply to turfgrass is ½”- ¾”. A simple test can be done to calibrate. Place a coffee or tuna cans throughout the landscape. Run the irrigation system for 30 minutes. Average the depth of the water containers. Adjust running time to apply the ½”- ¾” rate.
- Use microirrigation in gardens and individual plants: Drip or microspray irrigation systems apply water directly to the root system with limited surface evaporation.
- Make a rain barrel: Rain barrels are an inexpensive way to capture rainwater from your roof. This can translate into a big impact on your water bill as well.
- Mulch plants: Mulch helps keep moisture in the root zone. Two to three inches in depth, for a few feet in diameter will work well for trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.
- Mow correctly: Mowing your grass at the highest recommended length is key. Be sure to cut no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade each time you mow. Keep mowing blades sharp as dull cuts often cause grass to be prone to disease.
- Be a weather watcher: Wait at least 24 hours after a rainfall event to water. If rain is in the forecast, wait 48 hours until irrigating. Use a rain gauge or install a rain shut-off device to monitor irrigation scheduling.
Following these tips will help you conserve water and maximize watering efforts in your landscape. For more information on water conservation principles please contact your local county extension office.
Supporting information can be found at the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology’s Drought Toolkit: http://clce.ifas.ufl.edu/drought_toolkit/
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
In the Panhandle, we are blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse, fresh & marine water bodies on the planet. Paddle sports are the perfect way to experience. So, get out and explore!
The oldest form of paddle sports, canoeing, is a great way to explore our natural waterways. Canoeing is an ancient mode of transportation that dates to the late 19th century. This simple recreational activity involves a single-bladed paddle and the canoe. It’s best to have friend along for the canoe ride to share the adventure, and to make paddling a breeze. Fun fact, canoeing and kayaking became part of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1936.
Photo: Kayaking on Econfina Creek.
Credit: Laura Tiu, UF/IFAS Okaloosa & Walton Counties.
Kayaking is a bit different than canoeing. In contrast, kayaks were first built thousands of years ago in the Artic. The first kayaks were built of driftwood and animal skin. Kayaks can be made of many different materials today, and inflatable crafts are gaining popularity. The sitting position of the paddler on a kayak is more centrally located than with the canoe, with legs in front and the paddler facing forward. This activity also requires a double-bladed paddle. Sizes and shapes will vary depending on the region and size of the paddler. Kayaking is great to couple with diving, snorkeling, or even fishing. Sites for these activities can often range for miles off the coastline or in remote river locations with no launching or wading point nearby. Not only is kayaking much cheaper than purchasing and maintaining a power boat, it’s an environmentally friendly and healthy way to navigate waters.
Paddleboarding is the new kid on the block. This is essentially stand up paddle surfing. Paddleboarders stand up right on boards and use a single-bladed paddle to thrust through the surf. This activity is usually performed on the open ocean. It’s especially fun in Florida bays. A paddleboard that is approximately 14’ in length is usually the recommended size for most settings. There are various types of boards that can be used, including surfboards. Most paddleboards are made of fiberglass.
As with any watercraft, a buoyancy aid or life jacket should be equipped on the person always. The participant should also have various other measures of safety gear. A whistle for signaling for help should be with all participants. For kayakers and canoers, rope is helpful to have when someone needs rescue. A diving knife and water shoes can be helpful when bottom terrain poses a threat. Proper clothing such as a rash guard or wet suit will help protect from the elements. Don’t forget your sunscreen any time of year!
For more information on paddle sports and ecotourism please contact your local county extension office.
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.