Friday Feature:  The Gluten Free Issue

Friday Feature: The Gluten Free Issue

David Schechter is a news reporter for WFAA News in Dallas Texas who likes to get answers to questions people have on hot topics through video segments he calls Verify.  This week’s featured video was a Verify segment David produced on the Gluten Free craze sweeping across America.  David does a great job interviewing experts that explain the truth about gluten and why this has become an issue for some American consumers, but also debunks some myths about modern wheat production.


If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across a humorous video or interesting story related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo


Tritcale is Gaining Popularity with Dairy and Beef Cattle Producers

Tritcale is Gaining Popularity with Dairy and Beef Cattle Producers

Tritcale is becoming a popular cool-season forage variety for Southeastern cattle producers. Photo: Ann Blount

Ann Blount, Cheryl Mackowiak, Nick DiLorenzo and Jose Dubeux, UF/IFAS NFREC Marianna

Triticale is a winter forage that is gaining in popularity in the Southeast. The name might sound unfamiliar (pronounced trit-i-kay-lee), but it has become increasingly sought after in recent years.  Dairy farmers in the Southeast have had success using triticale for silage production. Beef cattle producers are beginning to use triticale in blends with other winter forages, especially ryegrass.

UF trial comparing heifer performance on free choice hay plus 1 lb./day 50% corn gluten feed – 50% Soy hull supplement. Source: DiLorenzo, N. 2012. Strategies for beef cattle winter feeding in the southeast. Pages 65-72 in Proceedings of the 2012 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course

Close up of triticale grain head. Photo: UF/IFAS Tyler Jones

So what is triticale?

Triticale is a man-made hybrid derived from crossbreeding the small grains wheat and rye. This well-adapted plant has a long breeding history in Florida.  It has real potential for use as grain, feed, fuel, forage, wildlife food-plot, and cover crop, yet it has been under-utilized until recently.   Since the plant has both rye and wheat as its parents, it benefits from having the disease resistance of rye, coupled with the seed and forage quality of wheat. Triticale is more cold tolerant than oats, and rarely suffers the same degree of freeze damage as oats. Triticale has excellent rust and good Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) resistance; two diseases that often reduce oat yields.  Triticale also seems to tolerate our acid, sandy soils better than wheat or oats.

The digestibility, water soluble sugars, and forage productivity are similar to that of oat and cereal rye, and triticale is also tolerant of droughty, lower fertility soils. While we have not yet identified the responsible chemical component(s), recent work at the NFREC-Beef Unit have shown increased cattle weight gains when stockers grazed triticale-ryegrass, similar to that of rye-ryegrass or oat-ryegrass in mixed sward pastures over a two-year period (Dubeux et. al 2016). This is consistent with findings of increased yields in milk production reported by Bill Smith, Northern Seed.

Currently, only two triticale varieties are recommended for use as forage, Trical 342 and Monarch, both developed at the North Florida Research and Education Center. Trical 342 is also being used in the Southeast as a cover crop by row crop farmers, especially for cotton. A more recent triticale release from North Carolina State University appears adapted to this region; however, the lack of seed availability has been a limiting factor for its use. A new awnless cultivar will also soon be available in the Southeastern seed market from Northern Seed, LLC.

Seed increase of awnless FL01143 triticale, Marianna, FL. Photo: Ann Blount

The Florida Department of Agriculture has been promoting best management practices (BMPs) to reduce nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) contamination of water resources.  Florida dairies and concentrated beef cattle areas have long been under close scrutiny for N and P application on crop and pasture land. Consequently, researchers at the University of Florida have been actively evaluating the nutritional content and P and N uptake by triticale, as well as other small grains, grown for silage and greenchop on dairy operations and beef cattle operations. Small grains, such as triticale, in a mixture with ryegrass used for grazing can extend the growing season, from winter into early spring. The recent release of FL01143 from the NFREC will be the first forage-type, awnless triticale commercialized for the Southeastern U.S. and will work well as an early silage or wildlife forage crop. Researchers are also testing other potential forage-type triticale in regional trials across a number of southern states.

If you are interested in trying trying triticale, order seed in late summer to assure seed availability for fall planting. In the past, triticale seed supply has been limited, but a greater supply is expected for 2017, as commercial seed production has greatly increased.  If you have questions about triticale or any forage variety options, please contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office.

For more information on triticale, read the following UF/IFAS publication:

Triticale as a Forage Crop for the Southeastern United States


Field Report:  Sick Oats in the Panhandle

Field Report: Sick Oats in the Panhandle

Ethan Carter, Crop IPM Regional Agent and Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Breeder

Crop aftershocks related to last week’s weather conditions (cold, overcast, and wet) were felt this week across in the Florida Panhandle. Growers reported a variety of symptoms in their oat fields, ranging from what appeared to be viral discoloration, fungal diseases, and cold damage. It is important for growers to scout fields and be aware of issues early on, rather than waiting until the problem becomes catastrophic.

The recent cold snap has raised concerns in young plants. Areas in a field that were already stunted or lacking fertility, may turn yellow or white from cold damage, not to be confused with Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus which causes similar discoloration, with additional red and orange leaves, and stunting. Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus is vectored by aphids, which are often found in high populations of infected fields. Aphids contract the virus by feeding on infected plants and they transmit the virus to new plants while feeding. Once plants are infected, there is no cure for the virus. Even additional nitrogen applications or insecticides will not help overcome the virus.

Crown rust (Puccinia coronata), a fungal disease easily identified by the production of bright orange-yellow pustules on the plants has been found in several oat fields in the area. If you are unsure that what you are seeing is rust, wipe the infected tissue to see if the spores smear on contact, or check your pants legs for orange powder, after walking through an infected area of field. In the past two weeks, it has been confirmed in oat fields in Holmes, Gadsden and Jackson Counties. Late last week it also surfaced in the 2016-2017 Cool Season Forage Demonstration Plots in Washington County. The only commercial oat variety currently resistant to rust is Legend 567 (marketed by Mayo Fertilizer).

Rust on oats. Photo Credit: Ethan Carter

Leaf blotch, more commonly known as Helminthosporium or Bipolaris has also been found. This fungal disease is usually associated with poor plant health from stress, often from potash (K) deficiency. It is identified by black spots that form on the plant leaves, sometimes with a tan dot in the center of the infected area.

Leaf Blotch – Helminthosporium or Bipolaris on oats. Photo Credit: Ethan Carter

Management decisions for these issues vary based on the disorder and also the purpose of the oats:

  • If desired for forage use, fungal infestations such as rust and Helminthosporium can be grazed off. The fungal spores pose no danger to livestock, but remember excessive grazing will stunt or even kill out the oats. Once grazed down, livestock should be removed, so the field can grow back.
  • When growing oats for seed, silage, or haylage fungicides are the best option. Left untreated, rust can decimate an oat field in a matter of weeks. Helminthosporium can also reduce yields, depending on the severity of the disease.
  • If fertility is in question, soil samples should be pulled to run diagnostics and determine if any essential nutrients should be applied. When Helminthosporium is often found, K deficiency should be evaluated.
  • The best management tactics for Barley Yellow Dwarf and rust prevention is later planting. When the weather is generally cooler aphid reproduction and movement slows down. Rust outbreaks are worse when the disease gets started in early plantings. Rust resistant cultivars are limited on the commercial market, but would save considerable cost by eliminating the need for fungicide applications. Unfortunately this year, with a very warm fall and winter, aphid populations were high. Grazing small grains with heavy aphid populations to reduce their numbers is another approach, as insecticides are not commonly applied in pasture situations. When growing a grain crop for seed, silage or haylage, insecticide applications may be necessary, however this control may not be cost effective.


Rice Production in Florida – a Minor, yet Uniquely Valuable Crop

Rice Production in Florida – a Minor, yet Uniquely Valuable Crop

Man examines water plants.

Figure 1. Rice growing in the flooded fields of Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area. Photo Courtesy of UF/IFAS File Photo Collection

On a recent trip to Arkansas, I was captivated by the beauty of vast fields of flooded rice nearly ready for harvest.  That image is just something you don’t see every day in the Florida Panhandle!  Equally interesting is the fact that rice is a semi-aquatic plant, related to wild rice “cousins” which grow natively right here in Florida waters (Figure 2).  So, I decided to learn more about how rice grows, and if there is a rice crop in Florida.  Turns out rice is indeed grown in Florida, the acres of which are beginning to increase (Figure 1.)


Figure 2. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) growing in Florida. Note the seed head at the top center of the photo. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS File Photo Collection.

Florida Rice Production:

According to the publication, Trends in Rice Production and Varieties in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), rice has been grown in the wetlands of south Florida for over 60 years.  Part of that history included a protective quarantine on production in the late 1950s, due to a rice disease discovered in South America.  Rice was reintroduced as a south Florida crop in 1977, grown as a cover crop during the fallow period of the sugarcane production cycle.

During the summer period, more than 50,000 ac of fallow sugarcane land is available for rice production. In 2015, approximately 23,000 ac of rice were planted in the EAA (Florida Rice Council 2015). The net value of growing rice in the EAA as a rotation crop far exceeds its monetary return. In addition to being a food crop in Florida, production of flooded rice provides several benefits to the agroecosystem. By flooding fields, growers greatly reduce the negative impacts from issues related to soil subsidence (Wright and Snyder 2009), nutrient depletion, and insect pests (Cherry et al. 2015). This, in turn, enhances the subsequent sugarcane crop and maximizes the longevity of the soil by reducing soil loss due to oxidation. Trends in Rice Production and Varieties in the Everglades Agricultural Area

The acres of rice grown in south Florida have increased since 2008.  Most of the rice acreage is produced by the Florida Crystals Corporation (FCC).  This company primarily grows sugarcane, but incorporates rice during fallow periods.  Other rice producers include local farmers that grow sugarcane and winter vegetables.  According to the above referenced publication, 22,861 acres of rice were planted in 2015.  Of the 22,861 acres, local growers planted 6,564 acres, and FCC planted 16,297 acres.

Rice Production:

Discovery of ancient fields in China dates the beginnings of rice cultivation to more than 6,000 years ago.  Now rice is grown all over the world, and is a critically important food crop for many countries.  Over 90 percent of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in the Asia-Pacific Region, and in terms of production, rice is one of the top 3 grains grown and harvested in the world.  The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reports nearly 500 million metric tons are produced each year in the world, and according to the USDA Economic Research Service, U.S. citizens consume over 100 million pounds of rice each year.

Most of the rice in the United States is grown in six states.  As shown in Figure 3, Arkansas leads the nation’s rice production with over 1.5 million acres planted in 2016.  Other major rice producing states are, in order of 2016 acres planted, California, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas.


Figure 3. USDA 2016 Rice Planted Acreage in the U.S

Rice Cultivation:

Because rice is a semi-aquatic plant, production is unique among agricultural crops as it includes periods where the fields are flooded.  Flooding rice fields aid in the management of weeds and pest insects.  While rice is adapted to growing in water, many weeds are not, and the flooded fields reduce germination of these weed seeds.  The timing, duration, and frequency of floods depends on a number of factors including planting method, time of year, seedling emergence, soil type, field size, and how level the field is.  Land preparation for planting rice begins in late winter.  In Florida’s fallow sugarcane fields, rice planting usually begins during spring and continues into early summer. The process of incorporating the flooding cycles into the rice fields usually begins in early summer when rice reaches a certain growth stage.  Rice is harvested in late summer through early fall using combines that cut the stalks and thresh the grains from the seed heads.  The grain is then dried to optimum moisture levels for storage, transport, and packaging.



Rice is a globally critical crop that feeds people on nearly every continent.  While the scale of rice grown in Florida is relatively insignificant, when compared to the rest of the United States, the inherent growth characteristics and cultivation methods provide important secondary benefits to both the environment and sugarcane fields of the Florida Everglades Agricultural Area.  These values include improved pest management, water conservation, habitat for wildlife, improved fertilizer efficiency, and increased organic amendments from rice stubble.  The short video above by Florida Crystals Corporation highlights the unique attributes of growing rice in Florida.

For more information on rice, please see the following resources used for this article:



Temporary Pastures Can Hide Ugly Surprises

Coffee weed in a loafing area adjacent to winter grazing. Sickle pod and crotalaria are even more toxic. Photo credit: Jed Dillard

Coffee weed in a loafing area adjacent to winter grazing. Nightshade and crotalaria are even more toxic. Photo credit: Jed Dillard

Using row crop land for cool season grazing is one of the great opportunities for North Florida livestock operations. Early crops come out in time to allow seedbed preparation for planting, and late harvested crops can be aerially over-seeded with ryegrass. Corn and soybean residue can be grazed by dry cows, if it’s not double cropped. It’s a real bonus to have additional land available in fall and winter, especially if these crop fields have fencing and access to water. Even if permanent fencing isn’t in place, temporary electric fencing can provide controlled access for grazing.

These temporary pastures, however, can present problems for the unaware. Issues can be especially likely when the crop manager and the livestock manager are not the same person, whether in a large operation, or when leased land is involved. Here are some of the concerns.

Toxic Plants

Row crop operators generally keep weeds out of the crop. However, they may not be as conscious of weeds in lay out areas of the field, under trees, in waterways or other non-cultivated areas. Toxic weeds may also emerge as a problem between crop harvest and grazing. Sicklepod can be a particular problem since it remains green after frost. Hungry livestock and livestock unfamiliar with a species are the ones most likely to consume toxic plants. I see more deadly night shade in loafing areas under or near trees and around water troughs that have been out of use than anywhere else.

Herbicide Carry Over

Adding clover or other legumes to cool season grazing increases forage quality and animal performance, but legumes are particularly susceptible to some herbicides. Be sure you know the herbicide history of a field before you invest in legume seeds and planting. Dead clover seedlings, or non-germinating seeds provide little or no biological benefits for your grazing, and absolutely no economic benefits to the operation.

“Left Overs” and “Left Opens”

These are less likely, but if you’ve been around livestock for long you’ve heard at least one story or had one incident like these. You’ll really kick yourself, if you get burned by one of them.

Make sure the crop operation hasn’t left anything that can be an issue for livestock. Check for pesticide, fertilizer, fuel, gas, oil and lubricant containers, or spills, batteries, or any equipment or parts which can cause physical injury to livestock. Curious, flighty and freshly weaned, put-together calves have an amazing ability to eat and drink things they shouldn’t, and run full speed into things a level headed momma cow will just walk around.

What’s a “left open”? That’s a fence or a gate that was damaged by the crop production enterprise, creating an open place in what used to be an effective containment system. Maybe you cut the fence when you had to get a fertilizer truck out of the mud last spring, and you thought one of your dear family members had fixed it.

All of these problems have happened to someone I know (a distressing number of them to me), so take some time to make sure you’ve prevented any Halloween surprises.

With cattle prices and many inputs at record levels, this year is no time to have poor preparation rob you of the financial opportunities cool season grazing can provide. You might not have any war stories to tell, but that’s a small price to pay for the insurance and peace of mind.

For further information on toxic plants go to UF/IFAS Solutions for your Life – Toxic Plants, or contact your local county Extension agent.


Panhandle Farm Facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture

Panhandle Farm Facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture

12 Ag Census HeaderEvery five years the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) sends out in-depth surveys to farmers called the Census of Agriculture, with numerous questions about specific farming operations.  While most farmers will admit that filling out surveys is not their favorite activity, the summarized information provides very useful data to help the Agriculture Industry tell its story, and also guide federal and state agencies with their assistance programs.

12 Census Crop & Livestock SalesAccording to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than three million farmers in the U.S. tended 914 million acres, and sold $394 billion worth agricultural products in 2012.  For the first time since 1974, crop products had a greater market value than livestock products.  The $394 billion farm gate sales represented a 33% increase from 2007.  Unfortunately, operating expenses also increased by 36%.  Even so, US farmers saw a 24% increase in net farm income, because they found alternative sources of income to help boost their profitability.

12 Census Income and Expenses12 Census Production ExpensesIn 2012, there were 47,740 Florida farms that managed 9,548,342 acres, and generated $7.7 billion dollars in farm gate sales. Obviously, agriculture is huge part of Florida’s economy.  Florida’s 74,539 farmers also employed 107,192 full and part-time farm workers.  Florida was one of states that actually saw an increase in the number of farms and acreage dedicated to agriculture.  Since the 2007 Ag Census, 277 additional farms were added, and an additional 316 thousand acres were utilized for some type of farming operation.12 FL Farm TypesAgriculture in the Florida Panhandle also has a great story to tell.  With less than 2% of the current population actively engaged in agriculture, every farmer and rancher needs to have an “elevator speech” or a short story to tell about farming back home.  Whether you talk to school kids who visit your farm, help with the county “Ag in the Classroom” program, host a farm tour of politicians and community leaders, or simply talk with people in your community, it is helpful to know your county agriculture facts.

The Census of Agriculture provides all sorts of information from each county.  The following charts are just some of the highlights of types of information that can be found in the 2012 US Census of Agriculture. Farming in the 16 Panhandle Counties was a $414 million dollar business in 2012.

[notice]If you have trouble reading the data, each chart will expand to full screen view, if you click on it with your mouse or finger on a touch screen. A direct link to a printer friendly version of the charts is also provided at the very end of this article.[/notice]

Source;  2012 USDA Census of Agriculture

Source: 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture

12  Ag Census Crop stats

12 Ag Census Livestock stats

Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture

Source:  2012 Census of Agriculture

Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture

Florida Panhandle Counties MapTo find nationwide, statewide or county summaries of information from the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, utilize the follow website links:

2012 Census of Agriculture Website

2012 Florida County Data

2012 FL Panhandle Farm Facts
(printer friendly pdf version of the charts in article)