Hurricane Preparation for Your Farm

Hurricane Preparation for Your Farm

Source: National Hurricane Center

Farmers in Florida worry every fall about potential damage from a hurricane.  Most of the media attention focuses on families in coastal communities, but not as much attention is provided for farmers and ranchers. Emergency responders are also likely to target their efforts immediately after the storm comes ashore on coastal areas hardest hit by storms.  Every farm and ranch in Florida must have an emergency plan for the impact of a hurricane.  The main thing is to prepare to be self sufficient for a more than a week.  The following are ideas that may prove helpful as a checklist to prepare ahead of a major storm.

Resource People

After a major storm large areas in the path are in chaos.  It is important to have a good list of current contact information for important people.  While most of us rely on the phone numbers loaded on a smart phone to do our daily business, it is a good idea to develop a printed list, just in case your cell phone becomes damaged.  Make sure you have current phone numbers for:

  • Extended family – Everyone will want to know you are ok after the storm, and you will want to do the same.
  • Employees and their families – it is good to be able to
  • Veterinarian – not just the office number but a cell phone number as well
  • Neighbors – in rural areas neighbors helping neighbors are the first responders
  • Farm Service Agency Office Damages should be reported within 15 days after the storm.
  • Insurance provider
  • Utility Company – Report downed power lines and power outages so your farm can be added to their response list.
  • County Extension Offices– Agricultural Extension Agents serve as the ESF 17 Coordinators for each county emergency team.  It is their role to assist farm and livestock owners after the storm.  Extension Agents are also part of the State Agriculture Response Team lead by the Florida Department of Agriculture, so they are your local contact in each county for assistance for farms and livestock owners following a disaster.

Loss of Power

At the very least, farmers in rural areas can expect power outages following a hurricane. In rural areas, power may not be restored for 1-2 weeks. This can cause some real problems for farmers.

  • Order fuel to top off farm fuel tanks for tractors and equipment.  Fuel deliveries may be disrupted following the storm.
  • Fill farm and family vehicles with gas.  Local gas stations may not be open for several days after the storm passes.
  • Purchase batteries for flashlights and lanterns.  Have enough flashlights ready for each employee.
  • Stock up on feed for animals receiving supplemental feeds.  Don’t forget the cats and dog food.  Have enough hay, feed and health care supplies on hand for 1-2 weeks. Feed stores may not be open for business for a week or more after a storm.
  • Move animals to pastures with ponds so well filled water troughs are not the only source of water.
  • Dairy farms should have enough generator power so that cows can be milked each day.
  • For operations that rely on electric fencing, have a generator ready to keep the fence hot, or at least move animals to interior pastures so they have multiple fences to help keep them in.

High Winds

Coastal areas normally receive the highest winds as a hurricane comes ashore, but even 50-70 mile per hour winds can create some real problems for livestock producers. Barns and fences are very susceptible to fallen trees and limbs from even tropical storm force winds. Tornadoes are also common in rural areas as storms move through.

  • Make sure chainsaws are in good working order and stock up on mixed fuel.
  • Locate chains and come-a-long for limb and tree movement off of fences and buildings.
  • Stock up on fence repair materials:  wire, posts, and staples for repairing fences damaged by limbs and trees.
  • Move animals and valuable equipment out of barns. Most agricultural barns are not made to withstand more than 75-100 mile per hour winds with out some damage. Metal roofing material falling and flying around can be deadly. Normally open fields or pastures are much safer for both animals and equipment. Animals out in the open have a way of avoiding danger most of the time.
  • Move animals to interior pastures so there are multiple fences between animals and the highway or neighbors.
  • Identify cattle and horses so that if they do wander out of your property, you can be notified of their whereabouts. Halters or collars and luggage tags can be used for horses. If nothing else is available, spray paint your name and phone number on cattle or horses, so they can be returned to you following a storm.  Do not include Coggins number on any identification, because that would allow the animal to be sold at auction.
  • Pick up debris that might become high-wind hazards. Strap down feeders, trailers and other items that might blow around and injure animals or cause damage to facilities.

    Be prepared to remove and clean up broken limbs and uprooted trees on cowpens, fences and buildings following a storm. Photo credit Doug Mayo

Flooding

Tropical storms and hurricanes can generate 3-15 inches of rain in just a few hours.

  • Move tractors, equipment, hay, or other stored items to highest ground.
  • Move animals out of low lying pastures, or at least tie the gates open so they can move to higher ground if need be.
  • Have enough hay on hand to feed for two weeks in case grass runs short from low areas being flooded.
  • Make sure drainage ditches are clean without blockage.

    Photo credit: USDA Archive

Clean Up and Damage Assessment

Notification and documentation are the keys to getting financial aid following a major storm.

  • Beware of downed power lines. Treat them as if they are charged even if they are damaged or knocked down tree limbs. If you drive up near a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, and contact emergency personnel or the utility company.
  • Contact insurance agencies as soon as possible after the storm passes for buildings that are insured.
  • Report major damage to the local Farm Service Agency within 15 days of the storm to be eligible for federal disaster aid.
  • Document damage and repair expenses. Photographs of damages and receipts for services and materials will be very important when applying for insurance claims and federal disaster aid. Any purchased feed, supplies or veterinary expenses related to storm damage should be recorded as well.

    Equipment shed in Hardee County destroyed by at tornado associated with Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Other Resources available to aid with Farm Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Hops and Aquaponics Workshops – November 1 & 2

Hops and Aquaponics Workshops – November 1 & 2

Laura Tiu, Marine Science Extension Agent, Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Aquaponics and Hops – Two New Crops for the Panhandle

The phone rings off the hook at the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office.  Questions run the gamut from agriculture, residential gardening, commercial horticulture, family and consumer science, to youth development and marine science.  Extension agents strive to develop programs to bring the latest research-based science from the Universities to the Counties. In November 2018, two such educational workshops will be conducted.

hops cones

Hop cones. Credit: Evan Anderson, UF/IFAS

Hop Production
There has been a growing interest in growing hops in the Panhandle, for home brewing and potentially to supply the growing number of craft breweries in the area.  Researchers and Extension Specialists from the University of Florida and Ohio State University will be available to share the latest research updates and answer questions about what you need to consider before getting started.  The Hops Workshop will be November 1, 2018 at the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office, 30 98 Airport Rd., Crestview, FL from 9:00 – 5:00 pm.  You can register here: Hops Workshop Registration

Credit: Green Acre Aquaponics

Aquaponics
Aquaponics is another food production method that offers an alternative to traditional soil-based culture. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics to produce fish and produce in a water-conserving recirculating system. Join Extension Specialists from the University of Florida, Auburn University and The Ohio State University as we share the latest in aquaponic research and technology. A small scale, fully operational, hobby-scale system will be available for viewing. The Aquaponics workshop will be November 2, 2018 at the UF/IFAS Walton County Extension Office, 732 N. 9th Street, DeFuniak Springs, FL.  You can register here: Aquaponics Workshop Registration

If you have any questions, feel free to contact: Laura Tiu, lgtiu@ufl.edu, 850-6126197 for more information.

Friday Feature:  Corn that Acquires Its Own Nitrogen

Friday Feature: Corn that Acquires Its Own Nitrogen

This week’s featured video was published by the University of California – Davis to share the results of a remarkable scientific discovery.  Researchers from UC Davis, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Mars, Incorporated have identified a native variety of Mexican corn that can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, instead of relying totally on synthetic fertilizers.

A public-private collaboration of researchers have identified varieties of tropical corn from Mexico, that can acquire a significant amount of the nitrogen they need from the air by cooperating with bacteria.  To do so, the corn secretes copious globs of mucus-like gel out of arrays of aerial roots along its stalk. This gel harbors bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by the plant, a process called nitrogen fixation. The corn can acquire 30 to 80 percent of its nitrogen in this way, but the effectiveness depends on environmental factors like humidity and rain.  Scientists have long sought corn that could fix nitrogen, with the goal of reducing the crop’s high demand for artificial fertilizers, which are energy intensive, expensive and polluting. Further research is required to determine if the trait can be bred into commercial cultivars of corn, the world’s most productive cereal crop.  Source: Corn that acquires its own nitrogen identified, reducing need for fertilizer

Thanks to Judy Biss, UF/IFAS Extension Calhoun County, for sending in this video to share.

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

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

 

Tropical Storm Gordon’s Impact on Cotton and Peanuts in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties

Tropical Storm Gordon’s Impact on Cotton and Peanuts in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties

Cotton laid down in the field by Tropical Storm Gordon.

For most row crop growers in Florida, Tropical Storm Gordon had minimal impact.  However, in the westernmost part of the state, much of the cotton suffered significant damage.  Though the winds were not extremely strong, the combination of saturated soils and winds wreaked havoc on what had looked like a stellar cotton crop.

The western Panhandle had been blessed with ample rains throughout the summer.  Prior to T.S. Gordon making landfall on September 3, many farmers were excited about the prospective yields for their 2018 cotton crop.  In northern Escambia County, farmers reported rainfall ranging from 7-11 inches.  Though the area did not receive a long period of high winds,  the combination of waterlogged soils and wind caused a great deal of lodging in cotton that was nearing full maturity almost ready to be defoliated.  Canopies heavy with loaded bolls and wet leaves laid down on damp soil and have not since righted their position.  The bolls touching wet ground have rotted off the plant.  The plants are matted throughout the field.   Many farmers have shared their concerns with the difficulty of defoliating a field that has cotton laying across the row middles.

Though the winds from T.S. Gordon died down within 24 hours, the rains continued.  It has continued to rain regularly since September 3rd.  Not only is the cotton worse for wear, but peanut harvest has been steadily delayed by the rains.  Greg Phillips, manager of Birdsong Peanuts-McCullough, said “Peanut harvest in the area has been greatly slowed by the rain.”  He estimates that around 7% of the entire crop has been harvested, whereas if the weather conditions had been favorable, 15% of the year’s crop would been harvested by this time.  He does report good grades so far, but he is concerned that further delays might cause a decline in both yield and grades.

The  Agroclimate image below shows the total rainfall in inches from August 13th to September 25th.  It is evident that the western Panhandle and Lower Alabama have received ample amounts of rain, but the story that it doesn’t tell is that all of this rainfall is coming at a time of year when conditions are generally starting to dry out for harvesting.

The image below from Agroclimate provides a good comparison of rainfall totals from the past 45 days to September 25.  The map of the southeast on the left shows the historical average rainfall for this time of year  The more colorful map of the southeast on the right shows the deviation from “normal” rainfall amounts.  In the case of late summer 2018, T.S. Gordon brought in much higher than average rainfall in the areas shaded in blue and purple.

It will take some time to know the full extent of the impact from T.S. Gordon.  Crop damage appears significant, but the full effects will not be known until after the completion of the 2018 crop harvest.

BIG Cattle on Feed Inventory and Cattle Market Keys Moving Forward

BIG Cattle on Feed Inventory and Cattle Market Keys Moving Forward

The large inventory of feed cattle that have been placed in the feedyards has begun to affect the price of feeder calves. How large an impact will depend on consumer demand. Credit: Chris Prevatt, UF/IFAS

Cattle on Feed Report

On Friday, September 21st the monthly USDA-NASS Cattle on Feed Report was released. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the number of cattle and calves on feed (Feedlots with 1,000 head or more capacity) for the slaughter market in the United States on September 1st was 11.125 million head, 5.9 percent above Sept. 1, 2017. This is the largest September inventory since the series began in 1996. The monthly cattle on feed inventory not only increased year-over-year, but month-over-month with 32,000 more cattle on feed since the August 1st inventory report. Additionally, this is the fourth month in a row where a monthly record has been set for the number of cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market. A twelve-month moving average of monthly feedlot inventories shows that, over the last year, feedlots have had the largest average feedlot total since 2007. Placements in feedlots during August totaled 2.07 million head, which was 7 percent above August 2017. Net placements were 2.02 million head. Marketing of fed cattle during August totaled 1.98 million head, slightly above the 2017 total.

Keys for the Beef Cattle Market

The cattle on feed report did not create a positive short-term outlook, as it continues to provide bearish information for supply fundamentals. Beef production is on track to reach a record level of 27.1 billion pounds in 2018, up 3.6 percent year over year. For the year to date, beef production is up 3.0 percent year over year. However, fourth quarter beef production is expected to be about 4.0 percent larger than last year.

From the demand side of things, a strong domestic economy and robust exports have continued to support beef and cattle prices during 2018, against record large U.S. beef production and all-time highs in competing meats (pork and poultry). Packing business margins continue to be good. Therefore, packers have great incentive to keep processing as many head as possible to take advantage of margins. Good retail demand and packer margins will be needed to keep the market moving along at a good pace during the last quarter of 2018.

There are many unknowns and potential headwinds for cattle markets during the next 12-18 months. Any weakness in the domestic or global economy compared to the conditions of the last two years would dampen demand for beef and thus cattle. Therefore, two of the keys for maintaining prices moving forward will be for the U.S. economy and export markets to continue growing. These two factors will be challenged by the cycle of tariffs and retaliation. Futures markets may begin to react more aggressively to political announcements that may or may not materialize into price changes. Demand for U.S. beef is critical to the success of U.S. cattle producers. Export markets can take a very long time to materialize, but can be lost very quickly.

Plastic Mulch Retrieval Equipment Evaluation

Plastic Mulch Retrieval Equipment Evaluation

About a month ago I was lucky enough to attend North Carolina State’s Tomato Field Day, at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, NC.  Every summer crowds flock from all over the Southeast to learn what’s new in the world of tomatoes.  Since it’s not always convenient for you to drop what you’re doing to make a road trip to North Carolina, I’ll highlight something I learned from the field day.

NC State in cooperation with Waste Reduction Partners is conducting research on plastic mulch retrieval equipment.  The project is evaluating plastic mulch retrieval equipment from various manufacturers to development recommendations for use and plastic recycling.

CropCare Mulch Lifter

CropCare PR 2500 Plastic Mulch Lifter-Wrapper. Photo Credit: PBZ LLC, a Paul B. Zimmerman, Inc. company.

Project Goals

  1. To determine if plastic mulch retrieval costs can be reduced with well designed equipment.
  2. To reduce the amount of plant material left on the film after crop termination to allow for reprocessing of the plastic materials.
  3. To reduce the volume of plastic mulch bundles/rolls to lower transportation costs.

Retrieval Equipment Tested

Preliminary Testing Observations & Recommendations

  • The crop must be mowed before the mulch is retrieved.  A properly adjusted flail mower with a rear adjustable height roller worked best.
  • The mulch retriever must have features that allow for debris to fall off the mulch either by: 1) providing vertical space between the plow(s) and the winding device; 2) a PTO driven blower to push debris off the mulch; 3) an agitation device to knock debris off the mulch.
  • Detailed instructions for setup, adjustment, and operation.
  • Mulch retrieval is more successful in dry conditions, because mud slows collection process and adds weight to plastic bundles.
  • Drip tape must be collected separately for recycling.
  • 1 mil or thicker mulch is recommended to help prevent tearing with retrieval equipment.

When making a decision about purchasing new farm equipment, such as a plastic mulch retriever, it’s important that you evaluate the cost effectiveness for your respective operation.  For plastic mulch retrieval equipment, make sure a recycling facility is within close proximity to your farm.  Transportation logistics should also be considered.  For more information on this project and for collaborator contact information please visit NC State’s IPM Webpages.