Emergency Assistance Program at the Wakulla Extension Office – November 7

Emergency Assistance Program at the Wakulla Extension Office – November 7

Hurricane Michael fencing damage

Hurricane Michael fencing damage, but the cattle don’t know it.

The UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County Office in conjunction with the Wakulla Cattlemen’s Association is hosting Steve Tullar, USDA-NRCS Soil Conservationist Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. Tullar will be speaking about the USDA Farm Service Agency Emergency Conservation Program for agricultural producers effected by Hurricane Michael.

He will instruct the attendees about the required information for requesting financial assistance and is bringing the application forms.  Detailed photographs with date and time stamp, or manually written on photos of any damage before it was cleared up are necessary. If the damage has not been cleared, leave it until after it has been inspected by a USDA representative.

This meeting is open to the public and membership in the Wakulla Cattlemen’s Association is not required. The meeting will be held at the Wakulla County Extension Office at 4 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville, Florida.

For more information call 850-926-3931 or visit the website at http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu

Extension Agents Work to Accurately Measure Hurricane Michael Damage

Extension Agents Work to Accurately Measure Hurricane Michael Damage

Agent and farmer talk

Mark Mauldin, Washington County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, speaks with a producer about his hurricane losses

Hurricane Michael will always be recalled as a milestone in the lives of many Florida Panhandle residents. The course of people’s lives has been altered irrevocably.  Depending on the location within the storm’s footprint, the damage was minor to absolutely devastating. Any tangible asset in the path of the venial weather event was subject to traumatic physical abuse.

After the winds subsided, Extension faculty from every corner of the Northwest Extension District stepped out of the sheltering protection of their homes to assess personal damage and begin the recovery efforts for themselves, and the clients they serve.  One of the many Extension initiatives undertaken to aid recovery efforts has been the assessment of damage to agricultural crops. State and Federal agencies, the news media, insurance companies and many more are interested in the monetary losses resulting from this category four storm.

Dr. Alan Hodges at the University of Florida’s Food and Resource Economics Department is the assembly point for the data. He provided a survey instrument which was developed in conjunction with district faculty and staff. The internet-based questionnaire was printed out by many who engaged farmers and livestock producers in areas where cellular service was inoperative because of hurricane damage.

We went to check on the farmers and ranchers in the area to see what we can do to help their situation,” said Ethan Carter, Regional Crop Integrated Pest Management Agent who is based in Marianna, Florida. “All were happy to see us and willing to share their experiences,” he said.  While assisting others, Carter’s house was unlivable. It had multiple large trees on the roof, some with piercing branches reaching the floor rendering the home a danger to enter for months to come.

It was a bit challenging to navigate some of the roads, especially the dirt roads which were really rutted,” said Mark Mauldin, Washington County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent. “Miles of fences are down, cattle scattered and the hay is wet. It will take a long time for producers to recover from this hit,” he said.  Mauldin took his family to a safe location to ride out the storm, but returned to Chipley the day after the storm passed ready to serve his community. Like so many others, he was out of power for weeks, but did not have damage directly to his home.

damaged barn

Many producers in the effected area suffered severe damage to buildings, equipment and crops

Stacy Strickland, Osceola County Extension Director, led a team which worked on damage assessments in Jackson County. Jim Fletcher, Regional Specialized Water Agent from the Central Extension District, flew a drone over field and vegetable crops to collect photo images for spectral analysis assessment which is used to measure the longer term health prospects of crops.

The survey effort by Extension Agents is continuing in the effected counties. The injury to farms, cattle operations, specialty crop production and all other phase of agricultural are being collected to measure the damage and tell the story of Hurricane Michael’s wrath and the indomitable spirit of north Florida’s agriculture community.

To learn more about north Florida’s Extension Agent’s efforts to collect agricultural damage information, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.

Barn Bugs: Insects in the Outbuildings Can Still Be a Problem

Barn Bugs: Insects in the Outbuildings Can Still Be a Problem

Paper wasps are one of several species of wasp which will inhabit the quiet recesses of barns. Disturbed, they will inflict immediate pain. Photo by Les Harrison.

By August’s languid days, farmers and farm workers in north Florida have done battle with an almost endless array of destructive bugs in fields and pastures. Thrips, aphids, mites, nematodes and many more have all marshaled against successful agricultural production.

Hopefully all have been repelled. While the focus has been on the defense of productive acreage, there are problematic insects establishing a foothold in barns, sheds and other ag-related structures.  Let’s take a look at one of these insects: the wasp.

Wasps are known for their foul nature and dreadful retaliation, if provoked. Whether the provocation was innocent or malicious, as many wasps as available will strike back at the offender.

Wasps fall into one of two general categories: social or solitary.

Social wasps live in colonies much like honeybees, and may have up to several thousand members. Depending on the species (such as yellow jackets or hornets), they build nests in protected places above the ground or below the soil’s surface.

Some social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on overripe fruit and carrion. Some of these social wasps, such as yellow jackets, may scavenge for dead insects to provide for their young.

Like honeybees, social wasp colonies consist of mostly female workers. Another similarity is only the females have stingers, and know how to effectively apply them. Unlike honeybees, the wasp queens live only one year.

A majority of the wasp colony dies away in autumn, leaving only the young mated queens alive. During this period they leave the nest and find a suitable area to hibernate for the winter.

There are also solitary wasps which live and operate alone most of their lives. They do not construct nests, instead depositing their eggs on host insects which serve as a sort of mobile nursery/café.

When the eggs hatch, the host becomes the first meal for the wasp larva. Mature wasps commonly feed on nectar and pollen.

Among these loners is a wingless wasp native to Florida. It is commonly known as the Velvet Ant or the Cow Killer. While it will deliver a painful sting, as other wasps will, there are no verifiable reports of livestock lethality.

Over-the-counter treatments can be effectively use on small nests which are usually found on ceilings and roof beams, and occasionally in idled equipment. Larger nests will require a pest control operator who has the necessary protective gear.

If the wasps are not a threat and left in place, just be sure to give them the space to work and live. Everyone will be better off for it.

For more information on this subject use the following University of Florida/IFAS and Alabama Extension publication links:

Yellowjackets and Hornets

Yellow Jackets, Wasps, and Hornets


Prolific Pokeweed Now Emerging

Prolific Pokeweed Now Emerging

Warm weather and ample soil moisture have encouraged common pokeweed to get an early start in 2018.

Common pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a perennial weed native of North American frequently found in pastures as well as fence-rows, row crop fields, and wooded areas.  As winter moves to spring, this plant is emerging from its winter dormancy. The recent warm weather has accelerated the regrowth in North Florida.

Pokeweed is toxic to livestock.  All parts of the plant contain saponins, oxalates, and the alkaloid toxin phytolacine. The roots and seeds of this species contain the highest concentrations of these compounds.

Once common pokeweed becomes established, it regrows each year from a large, fleshy taproot. The crown of the root is where the plant is regenerated and can be as large as five and a half inches in diameter at the soil surface within two growing seasons.

Pokeweed usually has a red trunk like stem, which becomes hollow as the plant matures later in the year. Leaves become quite large as the plant grows to its full potential and are the basis for poke salad.

When in bloom the individual flowers appear green to white and are typically missing petals. Fruits are green when immature and turn a deep purple to black at maturity which is the basis for one alternate name for this species, inkberry.

Each fruit contains about nine small, hard-shelled seeds. Pokeweed can produce over 48,000 seeds per plant annually.

These seed may remain viable in the soil for over four decades (40 years) under the right conditions. When exposed to the right environmental conditions the seeds sprout and the process is repeated.

While not a suitable selection for people or livestock, birds eat the fruits without much evidence of harm and are usually the means for seed dispersal. Roosting sites along fence rows and under utility lines frequently show signs of seed deposits.

In addition to feed for cardinals, mocking birds, cedar waxwings, and other birds, the pokeweed is a host to a variety of insects. Some are beneficial and others are not.  A number of caterpillars utilize this weed to sustain their larval stage of development. Unfortunately, some other less desirable insects use the local weed as well.

Pokeweed can act as reservoirs of various viruses transmitted by insects and are destructive to agronomic as well as ornamental plants. Whiteflies and aphids are the main culprits, but other insect species can contribute to the disease issue.

Control of common pokeweed can be a bit tricky because of its strong tap root and large crown.  Single plants can be removed by digging out the crown and most of its tap root.  For more extensive populations, the herbicide active ingredients glyphosate, 2,4-D, or dicamba can severely injure or kill the plant.

To learn more about pokeweed and its control, please read this UF/IFAS publication Common Pokeweed, or contact the nearest UF/IFAS County Extension Office.


Time for a Change: Coolant System Maintenance

Time for a Change: Coolant System Maintenance

Field work is slowing, but it is a good time to schedule needed maintenance of cooling systems.

The seasonal slowdown is underway, at least for some of the farm’s rolling stock and motorized equipment. This does not equate to an idle period for the farm manager, who is responsible for maintaining the engines of agriculture production.

One of those maintenance chores is the servicing of engine cooling systems, a critical component to most power systems used in agricultural production. The right coolant/antifreeze is key to success with these systems.

The first step is to consult the vehicle’s maintenance chart in the owner’s manual to determine which antifreeze the manufacturer recommends. Equipment manufacturers have their own antifreeze formulas designed to work best with the metals used to build the engine and cooling systems.

Much research and effort has been focused on the peak performance of any individual cooling system by highly trained specialists. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations ensure getting the product which works best any particular engine system.

The coolant’s mixture with water should be kept at the manufacturer’s recommended ratio, commonly fifty percent distilled water and fifty percent antifreeze. Too much antifreeze in the mixture causes unnecessary wear on the water pump, since it is thicker than water and must work harder to pump a thicker mixture through the cooling system.

Having too much water can prevent the antifreeze from fighting corrosion and deposit buildup in the cooling and engine system. The result is a system which is constrained from proper coolant circulation.

Use only distilled water to dilute coolant. Tap and well water contains minerals which react with metals in the radiator and engine housing. The results will be mineral buildup in the cooling system and a clogged water pump.

Do not mix propylene glycol based antifreezes with ethylene glycol based products. The two chemicals will react with each other to create deposits and residue in the cooling system.

An obvious step in cooling system maintenance is to keep the radiator and any cooling units clear of dirt and debris. This material will reduce the air flow and retain excessive heat which will reduce the systems effectiveness.  However, do not clean with water unless there is enough time for thorough drying. Wet cooling fins quickly clog again with mud and rubbish.  An alternative is to use an air hose to blow out the debris. It is effective and allows for a quicker return to use in the field.

Checking the efficacy of antifreeze/coolant can be done with a hydrometer, a refractometer, or test strips. The cost of these test systems is inexpensive, especially when considered against the value of farm engines.  While ethylene glycol hydrometers are widely available and mass-marketed, they can give false readings at high temperatures. The specific gravity of propylene glycol solutions cannot be tested using a hydrometer.

Additional information can be found at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association site http://www.farmequip.org/