Meet the Author: Ray Bodrey

Ray Bodrey is in his fifth year as the Gulf County Extension Director. Ray is originally from the “Watermelon Capital of the World” – Cordele, GA, where he grew up on a family row crop farm. His extension areas are Agriculture, Natural Resources (including Sea Grant programs) and Horticulture. He holds degrees in Biology, (B.S. 2006, Georgia Southern University); Agricultural Leadership, (M., 2011, University of Georgia) and Soil & Water Sciences, (M.S. 2015, University of Florida). Ray is also beginning his second year of the PhD program in UF’s Soil & Water Sciences Department. His research concerns strategies for building soil health after timber to pasture land conversion.

Ray’s natural resources programming efforts include teaching courses for the Florida Master Naturalist Program and Panhandle Outdoor Live Water Schools. Ray has also trained and managed volunteers for citizen science programs, as well. These programs include mangrove and diamondback terrapin tracking and monitoring, scallop restoration (scallop sitters) and coastal water quality assessments, through which, the St. Joseph Bay Water Watch Program was established. Ray is also involved with wildlife food plot on-farm trials and was a team member of the sea turtle-friendly lighting initiative.

Before coming to UF/IFAS Extension, Ray was a member of the Water Quality Program of the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service – Georgia Sea Grant Program for eight years. As a Marine Resource Specialist, Ray’s extension and research centered on nonpoint source pollution activity in coastal surface waters.

When not juggling extension hats, Ray enjoys fishing, hunting, gardening and really, just being in the great outdoors. Growing skyscraper sunflowers, raised bed gardening, home composting and caring for citrus and peach trees are just some of the fun times had around his homestead.

It’s not Too Late to Prep Your Landscape for Storm Season

We’re now in the prime of hurricane season. Living in Florida, preparing for possible destructive storms is just part of life. So, it’s important to plan and take steps to protect ourselves, our homes and our landscapes.

This time of year, we need to have a contingency plan against powerful winds and flooding rains. Ornamental trees and shrubs are especially vulnerable.

An important protective measure is to stake and attach guide wires to any recently planted (within 12 months) trees or large shrubs. Although root systems may very well be established, the young roots may not yet have anchoring capacity and could snap under strong winds. Stakes should be 2’-3’ in length. Using three or four stakes and driving them away from the plant at a 45-degree angle for 18” or more should be sufficient. So, how far should the stakes be from a tree? A good practice is to drive the stake approximately the same distance from the base of the tree as the height above ground from where guide wires will be attached.

Studies have shown that 20% of storm damage is caused by trees during hurricane or tropical storm events. Just a cubic foot of pine branch weighs 52 lbs. A branch ten feet in length can deliver as much as one ton of force. Imagine what that can do to a roof! So, check your trees now. Look for signs of weakness, like bark falling off, internal decay, root rot and branching too close to a structure. If a structure is in question, if possible, the tree canopy should be thinned, or the outer edge pruned. Any trees that had roots cut during new home construction is a red flag, also. The tree will most likely fall during a storm event in the future.

As we saw with Hurricane Michael, older trees and pines do not hold up well against major storms. Maple, Live Oak and Elm trees have good wind resistance as they age. Bald Cypress, Crape Myrtle and Dahoon Holly are a few ornamental tree species that also fit the category of resistance.

For more information contact your local county extension office.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Bay & Gulf County Scallop Webinar

Tuesday, August 11th from 6-7 PM ET

Join us to learn more about recreational scalloping!

Hear from UF/IFAS, Florida Sea Grant, FWC, and FWRI presenters and stay for Q&A.

The pandemic has been challenging, to say the least. We must all must be contentious to all residents and visitors looking forward to spending some good quality time on the bay. The 2020 recreational scalloping season is set to take place August 16th – Sept. 24th for St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

During this event, UF/IFAS Extension & Florida Sea Grant Agents, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will give updates and hold Q & A about the status of scallop populations in the area and the ongoing monitoring projects. There will also be information presented regarding regulations, as well as boat safety reminders so that everyone will have a safe trip out of the water this season!

Join us to learn more about recreational scalloping! Don’t miss out!

This event is free, but you must register here: https://www.facebook.com/events/329876454812541/

For more information, contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 or email at rbodrey@ufl.edu. *Due to COVID-19, our physical office location is closed to public traffic at this time. However, please call or email us for assistance with extension related needs. Sorry for the inconvenience.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

 

Storm Season and Mosquitoes, the Double Whammy

Storm Season and Mosquitoes, the Double Whammy

Attacking mosquitos are spoilers for our outdoor activity interests this time of year. Hurricanes and other storm events tend to be a catalyst that increases these populations. Not only are mosquitos a nuisance, but they are carriers of several diseases. But, there are ways to control these annoying pests and get some relief.

Mosquito populations can be divided into two categories: floodwater mosquitoes and standing water mosquitoes.

Floodwater mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs, and the eggs also need to dry out before hatching during a storm event. Moist areas like pastures, planting furrows, salt marshes and swales are prime habitat. If you look close, the eggs can be found in cracks in the soil. Again, stormy rains and surge act as a catalyst for these eggs to hatch. So, what is the approximate estimate of mosquito eggs per acre in floodwater habitat in Florida? Scientist estimate 700,000 to 1.3 million eggs per acre. And yes, that’s per acre. Unfortunately, small scale efforts to reduce standing water around properties have little effect on control.

Figure 1. Standing water mosquito and eggs (Culex quinquefasciatus).

Credit: S. McCann, UF/IFAS/FMEL.

On the other side of the coin, standing water mosquitos need,…you guessed it,  standing water to lay their eggs. These mosquito eggs cannot withstand drying out, therefore cannot hatch into larva. Females lay eggs on the surface of water with a hatching time of around 24 hours. The larva to pupae to adult stage happens quickly in mosquitoes, and the thirst for blood is not far behind. After a female finds a blood source, the cycle starts all over again. Only the females have biting mouth parts. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowers. It’s the female mosquitoes that usually need a blood meal to insure mature eggs.The combination of the two groups of mosquitoes provide for a double whammy put in place by a storm. When dry areas flood, floodwater mosquito eggs hatch. When floodwater has nowhere to go, standing water mosquitoes have an abundance of places to lay eggs.

Unfortunately, some diseases can be transmitted by mosquitoes, such as west nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and even heart worms in dogs. So, what can be done to combat these pests around your property? Reducing the amount of standing water helps dramatically, especially, dumping water holding containers. Cleaning debris from rain gutters too, can help as water can collect in blocked gutters. Mineral or cooking oil can be added to standing water and rain collection devices, as the oil forms a thin film on the surface of the water which causes larvae and pupae to drown. This is also a good control method with plant containers that collect water. Mosquito biological controls, like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) are helpful and will not harm pets or livestock. These products can be used in fish habitats, animal water troughs, bird baths, rain barrels, roof gutters and tree holes, just to name some. Please read precautionary statements and manufacturer application directions before use. Rain gardens are also very beneficial in suppressing standing water. If you have an area of your property that is known for water holding capacity, be sure to plant water loving plants in that area.

For more information please contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Hurricanes and Mosquitos” by C. Roxanne Connelly: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN53500.pdf

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Torpedograss a Challenge to Manage on Land or Water

Torpedograss a Challenge to Manage on Land or Water

Tordpedograss (Panicum reopens) is one of the most concerning weeds in Florida and now easily found in the Panhandle. This weed’s favorite habitat is in or near ponds and ditches, but will spread across lawns and pastures.

A native grass of both Africa and Asia, torpedograss was introduced through seed in the U.S in the late 1800’s as a forage crop for livestock. Torpedograss is in the family Poaceae, along with other grasses such as the persistent invasive threat, cogongrass, as well as common bermudagrass. It gets its name from the sharply pointed tip and not only is it exceptionally fast spreading, it can grow as tall as 3 feet. Torpedograss is a poor seed germinating species in our climate and primarily relies on rhizome expansion.

Photo: Tordpedograss (Panicum reopens).

Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County.

This plant has a tendency to choke out and completely take over native vegetation. Agronomist in south Florida have been concerned about it for years. In 1950, the University of Florida agricultural experimental station warned: “Torpedograss is a serious weed when established in farm or grove land and indiscriminate planting without the regard to future crops or adjoining land is dangerous.” (Hodges and Jones).

Photo: Tordpedograss pond infestation.

Credit: Jeff Hutchinson, UF.

So, what is the impact of torpedograss on Florida?

Since 1992, torpedograss has taken over 70% of Florida’s public waterways. Lake Okeechobee is considered ground zero with approximately 7,000 acres of native marsh now displaced. These dense mats of grass can impede water flow in stormwater applications, and restrict usage of irrigation holding ponds and fish ponds.

How does one manage this invasive grass?

Infestation prevention can be accomplished by controlling the rhizome expansion. This is easier said than done, as a small rhizome fragment left behind will no doubt cause re-establishment. Keeping the infestation at bay, by controlling the spread at waterways is key.

For IPM (integrated pest management) solutions follow these steps:

For cultural management, invasive plants tend to quickly establish in open or recently tilled areas. So, prescribed burn and clearing by mowing are methods that tend to promote infestations. A healthy, diverse landscape with native plants, or species with non-invasive tendencies will provide a level of defense.

Mechanical control is not very effective. Tilling the land only spreads the rhizomes through fragmentation.

There are few biological controls, although cattle and goats will graze and they may continue to spread the grass.

Chemical control using Glyphosate (Roundup, etc.) at a 2-3% solution and imazapyr (Arsenal, Chopper or Habitat) at 0.5 to 1 % solution has been effective for on land use. Aquatic herbicides with glyphosate (Rodeo, etc.) are effective for ponds. This can be applied in a liquid or granular form. A non-ionic surfactant will be needed to adhere the liquid chemical with success. Keep in mind, these herbicides are systemic, meaning they are absorbed and move through out the plant tissue. Be sure to minimize over spray damage of desirable plants, especially related to drift. Imazapyr also has longer soil activity and could impact sensitive oaks. Torpedograss is much more difficult to treat in water and will require multiple applications to completely control whether in water or on land.

For more information on torpedograss, contact your local county extension office.

Information for this article provided by the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants:  https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/panicum-repens/ and the Wetlands Weeds Journal article “Torpedograss – Forage Gone Wild” by Ken Langeland & Brian Smith of UF/IFAS and Charles Hanlon of the South Florida Water Management District: https://www.se-eppc.org/wildlandweeds/pdf/su98-langeland-p4-6.pdf

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.