Friday Feature:  Farm Bureau’s This Farm CARES Program

Friday Feature: Farm Bureau’s This Farm CARES Program

This week’s video was produced by Florida Farm Bureau to showcase their “This Farm CARES” program.  CARES is an acronym for the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship Program.  This recognition is given out to Florida farmers who are doing an outstanding job implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) to protect water quality and conserve natural resources.

Since 2001, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation has recognized nearly 800 Florida farm families throughout the state for their commitment to protecting natural resources through the CARES program. CARES, also known as the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, not only honors our farmers/ranchers through public recognitions but also through consumer outreach and education to teach all Floridians how farmers/ranchers protect the environment every single day. Caring is their calling and Farm Bureau is proud to tell their story! #ThisFarmCARES

Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s CARES Program from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation.

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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

 

Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

 Tractor clearing debris

Following the USDA-FSA (United States Department of Agriculture-Farm Service Agency) meetings that were held across the Panhandle in response to Hurricane Michael, one word was a common factor program qualification: DOCUMENTATION!

In fact, most times it was said that producers need to “Document, Document, and Document.” But what exactly does that mean, and how exactly should it be done? And let’s face it, most of us in the agricultural industry are not the best at taking the time to write things down, especially after the storm of the century! However, in this case, it is not an option, but a necessity. In addition to pictures, work and purchase logs will be needed to fully document damage and recovery efforts.

Records should be kept for each individual USDA Farm Number. Documentation of labor and efforts will need to be recorded and broken down by farm numbers. If you do not know your farm number or need to create one, please contact your USDA-FSA office. In addition, records should be kept in detail for all work that is done by the producer and/or those that are hired out.

Work Log

Keeping detailed records of all activities related to the storm is critical for the USDA-FSA programs. Producers will not only need to log the scope of work but also record the following:

  • Date work doneCutting up a fallen tree
  • Who completed work (Self vs. Hire)
  • Rate charged (per hour/acre/tree etc.)
  • Scope of work
  • Man-hours worked
  • Size and type of equipment used (Chainsaws, generators, tractors, trucks, trailers, etc.)

This includes all chainsaw work, time spent in your tractors or dozers and other equipment that is used during storm clean up. Also, remember to log it as man hours. For example, if 3 people from your farm run chainsaws for 8 hours doing debris removal, that would be logged as 24 hours (3 men x 8 hours). In addition, include details about locations of work done and how/why it was required to maintain or restore normal operation of your farm. For example, tree removed from the field to allow for harvest equipment to enter a field, or cleanup of damaged feed barn to allow of additional feed to be delivered for livestock.

Purchase Log

Expenses from the storm can help quantify the scope of damage. Detailed records and receipts should be kept of all purchases made in relation to the disaster.  This will be key for disaster relief programs, as well as for tax purposes. These purchase/expenses could include:

  • Fence Repair Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Feed (above normal or as a replacement of lost feed)
  • Vet Supplies (Replacement of lost vaccines from power outages)
  • Capital purchases

Photographs

In addition to work and purchase logs, photographs are key documentation. These too should be kept by farm number. While taking photos, take close ups as well as wide angle pictures that help capture the vastness of the damage in addition to being able to be used to help verify the location of the pictures. If you are able to email pictures to yourself, after documenting a farm/location, email those pictures to yourself with the location and other important information to help keep images organized. This will also allow for pictures to be stored in more than one location as a backup.

Long story short, it is better to over-document, than to wish you had. Utilization of these logs will help keep records for each farm number and give your operation a great starting point when meeting with USDA-FSA program staff to report your storm damage. Detailed information about Disaster Assistance Programs are available online or by contacting local offices.  Additional information or types of documentation can be seen from the Wisconsin FSA document: Disaster Assistance Program Loss Documentation  

Copies of the Work and Purchase Logs can be downloaded for printing using the following links, or are available by mail by calling the UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County Office  850-547-1108.

Work Log

Purchase Log

Hurricane Impacted Timberlands – Availble Resources

Hurricane Impacted Timberlands – Availble Resources

 

A track of mature loblolly pines in Washington County severely effected by hurricane Michael.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

Hurricane Michael was particularly devastating to the timber industry in the Central Panhandle. The Florida Forest Service has released a report quantifying the extent of the damage. As we move from emergency response, towards recovery there are a variety of resources available to help landowners.

There are federal programs available to provide financial assistance with tasks like debris removal. (Follow the link for more information on the federal programs currently available.)

The Florida Forest Service and the Florida Forestry Association have both complied resources to help landowners begin to move through this challenging time. Perhaps the most sought after resource right now is contact information for loggers and consultants. This information is available through the FFS Vendor Database and the FFA Master Logger Contact List.

UF/IFAS Extension has released a new publication, Assessment and Management of Hurricane Damaged Timberland, to assist timberland owners navigate the plethora of post-storm challenges they are facing.

Hurricane Michael left the area with an incredible number of downed trees. All of these trees are now potential fuel for wildfires. In areas, estimates are as high as 100 tons of available fuel per acre. As time passes and the fuel dries the risk of devastating wildfires increases. To help prevent wildfires there is a complete burn ban in effect for Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf, and Jackson Counties. In other counties burning is only permissible with a Burn Authorization from the Florida Forest Service. Do Not burn without an authorization – it is unsafe and irresponsible. Throughout the impacted area, even after the burn bans are lifted, burn authorizations will be issued on a very limited basis; possibly only to certified burners. In an effort to increase the number of certified burners in the impacted area the FFS is offering two Certified Pile Burner Courses. Courses will be held at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Marianna on November 27 & 28. Contact your county forester to register for the courses.

There is a complete burn ban in place for the 5 counties shown in orange.  Source: Florida Forest Service

Assistance Available through NRCS for Ag Land Damaged by Hurricane Michael

Assistance Available through NRCS for Ag Land Damaged by Hurricane Michael

Source:  USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Florida farmers and ranchers who suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality due to Hurricane Michael are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Agricultural producers in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington counties are eligible to apply for assistance. The first sign-up period ends Nov. 16, 2018. A second sign-up period will end Dec. 14, 2018. This assistance is available to individual farmers and ranchers to aid in recovery efforts on their properties and does not apply to local governments or other entities.

Conservation practices available through EQIP can protect your land from erosion, support disaster recovery and repair, and can help mitigate loss from exceptional storm events in the future. Farmers and ranchers seeking financial and technical assistance through EQIP should visit their local NRCS office to sign up. Bonifay, Marianna and Quincy field offices are open to serve producers in Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf and Liberty counties until the Blountstown Field Office is repaired.

For more information on NRCS and the EQIP program, visit the Florida NRCS website. For more information on disaster assistance programs for farmers and ranchers, visit farmers.gov/recover.

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

 

The Bumble Bee – One of Florida’s Vital Pollinators

The Bumble Bee – One of Florida’s Vital Pollinators

Bumble bees and other pollinators often visit the vast fields of cotton flowers in north Florida’s agricultural lands. Although cotton is mainly self-pollinating, pollination by bees can increase seed-set per cotton boll. Note the pollen grains stuck on each bee. Photo by Judy Biss

Bumble bees and other pollinators often visit the vast fields of cotton flowers in north Florida’s agricultural lands. Although cotton is mainly self-pollinating, pollination by bees can increase seed-set per cotton boll. Note the pollen grains stuck on each bee. Photo by Judy Biss

Bumble bees are among the most recognizable of insects. They are large, colorful, and a wonder to watch.  They’re also popularized in media, cartoons, and clip-art images, but beyond the popular images, bumble bees are worthy of our attention as important pollinators of both native plants and agricultural crops.  They are one of hundreds of pollinating bees that are critical to the abundance of our native lands, wildlife, and also our food supply.  Protection of pollinators has received national recognition and many programs are now geared towards pollinator conservation. 

Why is Pollinator Protection Important?

According to the UF/IFAS publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides:

The western honey bee is conceivably the most important pollinator in Florida and American agricultural landscapes. The honey bee is credited with approximately 85% of the pollinating activity necessary to supply about one-quarter to one-third of the nation’s food supply. Over 50 major crops in the United States and at least 13 in Florida either depend on honey bees for pollination or produce more abundantly when honey bees are plentiful.

And:

“Growers also use other managed bees species, such as the bumble bee to provide field and greenhouse crop pollination services. Additionally, there are more than 315 species of wild/unmanaged bees in Florida that play a role in the pollination of agricultural crops and natural and managed landscapes. These include mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, feral honey bees, and carpenter bees, among others.”

Pollinator Protection was formally recognized at the federal level in 2014, when the President of the United States signed an official memorandum entitled: Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators  which outlines specific steps to increase and improve pollinator habitat. These steps are geared towards protecting and restoring populations of not only honey bees, but native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies; all of which are vital to our nation’s economy, food production, and environmental health.

Bumble Bee Biology and Ecology

There is much to learn about these fascinating insects.  Here are some facts to feed your curiosity.  Additional resources are listed at the end of this article.

  • Bumble bees belong to the genus Bombus within the family Apidae. As such, they are related to honey bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, digger bees, stingless bees, and orchid bees.
  • There are about 50 species of North American bumble bees.
  • Bumble bees are social and form colonies like honey bees do, but bumble bee colonies are smaller (50 – 500 individuals), and their colonies only last one season.
  • Bumble bees generally make their nests in the ground, using abandoned rodent cavities or under old tree roots, etc.
  • Each spring, a mated queen emerges from winter hibernation and finds a suitable underground cavity. She begins collecting nectar and pollen and laying eggs to build her colony.
  • By late summer and into fall, the only surviving member of the colony are new queens.
  • These queens mate and then they hibernate during winter 2-5 inches deep in the soil. The following spring these queens emerge and start new colonies, repeating the annual cycle.
  • Bumble bees are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and can forage in cooler, cloudier, and wetter weather better than other bees. Because of this adaptation, they are generally the first bees out in early spring and the last bees out in the fall.
  • Since bumble bees are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions, they are also able to feed on a wide variety of flowering plants.
  • Bumble bees do make honey, but only enough to feed the colony during bad weather, when they are unable to go out and forage.
  • Bumble bees, like the blueberry bee collect pollen from certain flowers using a unique behavior called “buzz pollination,” or “sonication.” This behavior is not found in European honey bees. Some plants, blueberries for example, hold tightly to their tiny pollen.  Bumble bees and blueberry bees grab the flower structure and powerfully vibrate their wings while holding onto the flower.  Their whole body vibrates and literally shakes the pollen lose from the flower.
  • Bumble bees are so effective at pollinating important food crops, they are raised commercially and sold to pollinate produce such as tomatoes, peppers, cranberries, and strawberries.
Bumble bees busy at work on our native flowers. Photo by Travis MacClendon. Calhoun County Florida Wasps and Flies

Bumble bees busy at work on our native flowers. Photo by Travis MacClendon. Calhoun County Florida Wasps and Flies

Create Your Own Pollinator Pasture

You can help increase the abundance and health of bumble bees, other native pollinators, and honey bees by creating nectar and pollen rich bee pastures.  These pastures can be filled with annual plants, which grow from seed each year, perennial plants, which return and spread on their own each year, various flowering shrubs and trees, or any mixture of above. You can also manage existing natural areas and woodlands by employing recommended prescribed fire regimes, non-native invasive plant control, and other practices to encourage a diversity of native pollinator plants.

The ideal bee pasture is one in which flowers are blooming as continuously as possible throughout the year. Research shows bees thrive best in open sunny pastures that are as large as possible, with a diversity of plants types. While flowering shrubs along woodland edges are well used by bees, a bee pasture that is allowed to become dominated by trees and shade will become less attractive to bees. A dedicated, open, sunny pasture having nectar and pollen plant diversity is best.  Just as with any field you intend to plant, the first step is to collect a soil sample for analysis of existing nutrients and pH levels. (For more information on soil samples read the article Soil Test First!

Pollinator Plant Types

There are many plants that provide nutritious nectar and pollen for North Florida’s pollinators. Some examples of plants which are good pollinator food sources are maple trees, redbuds, poplars, gallberries, blackberries, palmettos, partridge pea, mint, thistles, goldenrod, asters, tickseeds, sunflowers, squash, melons, and clovers. If you purchase a bee pasture blend from a seed company, make sure it is suited for growing in North Florida and does not contain noxious, invasive, weedy plant species. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council maintains a listing of documented invasive plants here: List of Invasive Plant Species.

Summary and Resources

The business, biology, and botany of pollination is fascinating and critical to sustainable and diverse food production in Florida and the United States. Bumble bees are just one of the many native pollinators that frequent our forests, fields, and gardens.  Consider turning your fallow lands or backyards into productive bee pasture and reap a sweet harvest.

For more information please see the resources used for this article below: