Alabama Forestry Field Day – November 2

Alabama Forestry Field Day – November 2

Join Alabama Cooperative Extension for the 2018 Forestry Field Day at Geneva State Forest Lake near Kinston, Alabama on Friday, November 2nd.  The following topics will be covered:

  • Logging Equipment Cleaning
  • Streamside Management Zones
  • Wild Hog Effects on Water Quality
  • Invasive Plant Management
  • Stream Crossings & Forest Roads
  • Alabama Timber Markets

Download the printer friendly flyer:  2018 AL Forestry Field Day flyer.  Lunch will be provided, but registration is required by calling (334) 684-2484. 

Directions to Geneva State Forest Lake (GPS Coordinates: 31.141655, -86.184714)

From Samson\Geneva\Dothan: Follow AL HWY 52 west from Samson (4.4 miles). Turn left onto AL HWY 54 and travel 1.4 miles. Turn right onto Forest Area Road and follow for 2.9 miles. Then turn right onto Forest Lake Road and go 1.6 miles to reach the lake.

From Andalusia\Opp: Follow the Kinston Highway\AL HWY 52 southeast from Opp (14 miles). Turn right onto AL HWY 54 and travel 1.4 miles.  Turn right onto Forest Area Road and follow for 2.9 miles. Then turn right onto Forest Lake Road and go 1.6 miles to reach the lake.

Mature Longleaf Pine habitat. Photo by Judy Biss

Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute – November 29

Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute – November 29

Join UF/IFAS Extension for the 2018 Suwannee Valley Watermelon Institute to be held on Thursday, November 29th at the Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center (2142 Shealy Drive Gainesville, FL 32611).  For anyone that grows watermelon or cucurbits, this day-long event will be worth the drive to Gainesville.

The optional morning session will provide an in-depth review of Florida’s watermelon diseases (bacteria and virus, etc.) with focus on detection and management of new diseases, and an update on drone research for early disease and other stress detection.

After lunch, the following topics will be covered:

  • Irrigation and nutrient management BMPs for the Suwannee Valley Region and Cost Share Programs
  • Watermelon grower experiences with soil moisture sensors
  • Weed management updates, nutsedge, and brunswick grass concerns
  • Update on the Food Safety Modernization Act and new guidance on water and update regarding On-Farm Readiness review process.
  • Watermelon cultivar and fusarium trial results, and review of pollinating plant choices.
  • Watermelon disease and fungicide program planning for the 2019 season.

For more information, contact Dan Fenneman at (850) 973-4138 or by email at

Fig. 1. Symptoms of the Pseudomonas syringae leaf spot on watermelon

Southern Scientists are Collaborating to Develop Drought Resistant Turfgrasses

Southern Scientists are Collaborating to Develop Drought Resistant Turfgrasses


Teamwork is proving that the grass can be green on both sides of the fence, even in the absence of water! Dr. Kevin Kenworthy, Professor, University of Florida, discusses the SCRI Turf Breeding Project, at the Gulf Coast Turfgrass Expo and Field Day – Jay, FL

Bryan Unruh, UF/IFAS Turfgrass Specialist, WFREC

Urban landscapes, golf courses, and sports venues provide many functional, recreational, and aesthetic benefits. Key functional benefits of turfgrass include soil erosion control, carbon sequestration, ground water recharge, and heat dissipation in our cities, that are becoming increasingly covered with concrete and asphalt. Recreational activities on natural turfgrass lead to improved health as children and adults participate in community sports, or spend time maintaining their landscapes. Similarly, a well-kept and properly managed landscape is pleasing to the eye, increases property values, and leads to community pride and ownership. The value of turfgrass to the economy is well documented. Landscape maintenance expenditures and tourism contribute significantly to Florida’s economy.

However, as population grows and water availability for irrigating turfgrass becomes more limited, the resulting policies on water restrictions, and public opinion impact turfgrass production, and the performance of installed turf, posing challenges to the turfgrass industry. To address these concerns, some policy makers have even considered eliminating turf from new construction. However, the ecosystem trade-offs of removing turf are not well understood, and may create more serious consequences.

To address turfgrass water use related issues, a 24-member team of turfgrass breeders, extension specialists, plant physiologists, irrigation engineers, molecular biologists, and agricultural socio-economists from five major universities across the southern U.S. in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas are collaborating together to learn more about turfgrass water use, and to develop grasses that require less irrigation. Funding for this effort stems from the team receiving two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) grants totaling over $8 million. In the initial project, conducted from 2010-2015, the team exchanged and evaluated nearly 2,000 experimental germplasm accessions, and identified 140 advanced lines for short-term drought stress – 40 each of bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and St. Augustinegrass, and 20 seashore paspalum. Additionally, the majority of these lines were screened for salinity responses, since poor water quality (i.e., salinity) will be an increasing problem in the future.

SCRI Turf Breeding Team at their semi-annual planning meeting held this past summer in College Station, TX.

In 2015, a second project was funded that will allow further evaluation of the 140 advance lines identified in the first project. These grasses will be further vetted under differing drought/irrigation scenarios of long-term drought common to Texas and Oklahoma, versus short-term drought common to Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Additionally, shade and salinity assessments will be conducted along with identifying production practices that may limit the acceptance of these improved grasses in the marketplace. The team is also studying socio-economic measures to determine factors that influence producer pricing and consumer demand for improved turfgrasses. Finally, a comprehensive Extension outreach plan is in place to educate, promote and inform end-users of the environmental and economic impacts of newly developed cultivars. Additionally, demonstration landscapes are being installed in each state through partnering extension specialists and agents with industries and government agencies.

Dr. Kevin Kenworthy speaks to the attendees about the SCRI Turf Breeding project at the North Central Florida Turfgrass Field Day in Citra, FL.

Cultivars released from this team effort and include: ‘TamStar’ St. Augustinegrass, ‘TifTuf’ Bermudagrass, ‘Tahoma 31’ Bermudagrass, ‘CitraBlue’ St. Augustinegrass, with several forthcoming zoysiagrasses.

The synergistic approach of this project will avoid duplication of research efforts and capitalize the genetic diversity for developing environmentally sustainable turfgrasses with wider geographical adaptation and broader regional impacts. This CAPs project will significantly increase the productivity, sustainability, and the economic gain of both the individual state turfgrass programs, and the overall turfgrass industry.

For additional information, visit the SCRI Turf Breeding Effort website,or follow the team on Twitter @SCRITURF.


Financial Assistance for Farmers Who Implement BMPs

Financial Assistance for Farmers Who Implement BMPs

Producers in the Florida Panhandle can receive financial assistance from multiple agencies to defer the cost of implementing Best Management Practices on-farm, such as improving irrigation efficiency. Photo credit: Ethan Carter.


Farmers and ranchers have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) that maintain or improve water quality, quantity and soil conditions on their lands for many years. Although BMPs are designed to be technically feasible and economically viable, implementing BMPs can be expensive for producers, and some practices may not be financially viable for all. Multiple agencies in our region recognize this and offer financial assistance to defer the cost of implementing BMPs.

In most areas of the Panhandle, implementation of BMPs is still voluntary, but for producers in an area with a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), such as the Jackson Blue Springs/Merritts Mill Pond Basin, BMP implementation and verification is required.

Financial Assistance to Implement BMPs

The following agencies continually offer financial assistance for producers in our region to implement agricultural BMPs.

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

NRCS offers financial assistance for farmers through two programs: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Staff at NRCS work with farmers and ranchers to develop a conservation plan to address particular on-farm resource concerns. Depending on the objectives of the farmer, these plans can include ways to reduce erosion and improve soil conditions, improve nutrient management and water quality, increase water-use efficiency and/or improve wildlife habitat.

The conservation plan outlines activities or practices to reach these objectives and NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to help carry out these practices.  For example, NRCS will provide financial assistance for exclusion fences for cattle around streams or wetlands as well as assistance for alternative watering systems, such as watering tanks, pipelines and solar wells. Other examples of what they help finance include cross-fencing for improved grazing management, soil sampling for improved nutrient management, irrigation retrofits, waste storage facilities for dairies, tree planting and forest stand improvement, and nesting boxes for wildlife. These are just a few examples – there are many more!

Financial assistance is provided at a flat rate for a particular practice (for example, per foot for fencing, per acre for weed treatment, per item for a well or a nesting box, etc.). In general, they do not offer financial assistance to purchase equipment.

Contact information:

For more information on available NRCS funding and how to apply, contact your local NRCS office. In the Panhandle, these contacts are found on the Florida Area 1 Directory.   Applications for financial assistance are accepted year-round with batching deadlines in November.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)

FDACS also offers cost-share funds to producers so that they can effectively implement BMPs on-farm. Unlike NRCS, funding is largely (but not exclusively) for equipment purchases. They will fund up to 75% of the cost of equipment, which they then reimburse the producer once an item is purchased.

Funding falls under three broad BMP categories: (1) nutrient management, (2) irrigation management and (3) water resources protection. Examples of equipment and other items that FDACS will cost share include no-till grain drills and GPS guidance systems to reduce soil loss and improve nutrient management. To improve irrigation efficiency they provide funding for irrigation retrofits, nozzle packages, smart irrigation control panels and soil moisture sensors. To protect water resources, they, like NRCS, provide financial assistance for cattle exclusion fences and solar wells so ranchers can have alternative water sources for their animals.  These are just a few examples of the equipment that can be purchased through the FDACS  cost-share program.  It is important for producers to work with their local FDACS field technician to determine which BMP practices are feasible on their operation. To receive cost-share funds, producers have to have been in production for at least one year and they must be enrolled in the BMP Program.

Contact information:

Contact your local FDACS field technician for more information on available cost-share funding and how to apply. Applications are accepted year-round.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD)

The NWFWMD’s cost-share program for producers is focused on improving water quality and increasing water-use efficiency in the Jackson Blue Springs Basin. To be eligible for funding, farming operations have to be located within the spring basin and producers must be enrolled in the FDACS BMP Program. Under the current BMP grant program, the district is accepting cost-share applications year-round, through September 2019.

Funding is available to cost share up to 75% of BMPs such as irrigation system retrofits, pump upgrades (high to low pressure), remote control systems for irrigation, control panel upgrades, endgun controls, fertigation systems, and other precision agriculture tools.

Contact information:

For more information about the NWFWMD’s cost share program, please contact Linda Chaisson by phone at (850) 539-5999 or by email at To find out if your farming operation falls within the Jackson Blue Springs Basin, the district’s BMP website provides links to a street view map and an aerial view map of the basin, as well as additional information about the BMP program.

The three agencies listed above are not the only entities offering financial assistance for BMP implementation in our region. Interested producers can also receive cost-share funds from the FDACS’s Office of Energy to improve energy efficiency on-farm. Other organizations may also receive grants to help producers defer the costs of BMPs, and as we at UF/IFAS Extension hear about these opportunities, we will work to get that information out to you.


Water Requirements for Beef Cattle

Water Requirements for Beef Cattle

Things are heating up in the Panhandle, and everyone is trying cool off. Clean, fresh drinking water is critical for cattle performance in the summer heat. Photo Credit: K. Waters

When producers think about nutritional requirements for beef cattle, protein, energy, and minerals often come to mind. However, none of the above-mentioned nutrients will meet an animal’s needs without adequate water consumption.

There are minimum amounts of water required for growth, fetal development, lactation and the replacement of water from urine and evaporation (Table 1).  Going into the summer months in the Southeastern U.S., it is critical to remember that water is required for the animal to regulate body temperatures, as well as to maintain health and maximize production.

For producers, this means ensuring cattle have clean and abundant water sources available to them at all times. The total amount of water that is required for cattle is influenced by weight, stage of production, and weather conditions.

Factors influencing water requirements for cattle include:

  • Stage of production: Lactating cows will have a much higher water requirement. Milk composition in beef cows is about 4% fat and 8% other solids (proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals).  The remaining 88% of milk is water. Research in dairy herds shows that for every pound of milk produced by a cow, an additional 0.87 to 0.9 pounds of water will be required for consumption by that cow.
  • Environment: Temperature and humidity are key players in water consumption. For every 10 degrees above 40° F cattle consume about 1 more gallon of water per day.
  • Diet: Water content in the feed is highly variable. For example a total mixed ration (TMR) such that would be fed at a feed yard is much drier than what cattle grazing lush forages will be consuming.  As the water content of feed consumed increases, the amount of water cattle will drink decreases.

All of these factors impact the total water requirements and intake by cattle.  Cattle producers must continuously supply clean, fresh water to ensure they are meeting all of the nutritional requirements of their herd.

If you believe you have an issue with your water source or supply, please contact your county extension agent.

For more information on this topic, use the following links:

Estimating Water Requirements for Beef Cows

The Impact of Water Quality on Beef Cattle Health and Performance

Water Nutrition and Quality Considerations for Cattle


Water Source Recommendations for Food Safety

Water Source Recommendations for Food Safety

Supplemental water is necessary for good crop yields in fruit and vegetable production. Water quality is equally as important as water quantity when it comes to fruit and vegetable production. Unfortunately, water can transport harmful microorganisms from adjacent lands or other areas of the farm. The water source and how the water is applied influence the risk for crop contamination to occur.

Water is used for various purposes during production: harvesting, and handling fresh produce, irrigation, cooling, frost protection, as a carrier for fertilizers and pesticides, and for washing tools and harvest containers, hand washing, and drinking.

Washing lettuce. Photo Credit: Cornell University Extension

The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed water compliance date is not until 2022, but it will be here before you know it. Water quality is an important component of a Food Safety Plan. A good first step in ensuring compliance with FSMA water quality standards is to evaluate the water sources on the farm.  For more information on compliance dates, please visit the Produce Safety Alliance’s Website.

Water Source

The three common sources of water used on farms are surface water, well water, and municipal water.

Surface water includes ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. It is at the highest risk for contamination because there is limited control on what flows downstream or from adjacent land. Wild and domestic animals, manure piles, and sewage discharges are all potential sources of contamination in surface waters.

The most common water source for North Florida farms is well water. Well water used for farming is at a moderate risk of becoming contaminated, when compared to surface water (highest risk) and municipal water (lowest risk). Wells are at a higher risk of becoming contaminated when located near flood zones, septic tanks, drainage fields, and manure/compost storage areas. The risk of contamination is further heightened if the well was not constructed properly, or if the casing is cracked. Wells should be properly sited, constructed, and maintained to keep contamination risks lower.

a well pump

A recently installed well pump on a North Florida watermelon farm. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension

Well Design and Construction

  • Preliminary Investigation – A preliminary investigation helps determine the design of a well. Existing wells in the area should be checked out to help determine depth and potential capacity. If records for the area aren’t available, then test holes should be drilled to determine the best location for water production.
  • Casing – Casing material should be determined based on site characteristics. The casing needs to extend above the surface water level to reduce contamination risks. The casing is sealed in place with grout. A poor grouting job can also promote contamination. Casing diameter is selected based on well capacity.
  • Well Screen – A commercially designed well screen should be installed to minimize hydraulic head loss. Screen diameter and material should be determined based on the preliminary investigation results. Gravel packing is recommended in some areas.

For more recommendations on well design and construction, please visit the University of Florida/IFAS publication: Design and Construction of Screened Wells for Agricultural Irrigation Systems

Please note that it is important to monitor your well water quality at least twice during each growing season.  A list of FSMA approved water testing methods can be found at Cornell University’s Law School Website.