Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
Many folks just got tired of the excessive heat and lack of rain and gave up on their gardens this summer. The heat just took all the fun out of growing, it was hard to get motivated and unless you were constantly watering, the plants couldn't survive. But now that cooler weather has arrived (90 degrees in September normally wouldn't feel very cool, but after this summer.....) it's time to rethink the garden. And fall gardening can be quite successful.
Fall isn't for all crops, but there are certain crops that do exceptionally well when planted in the fall. These include the fall greens such as lettuce and spinach and the cole crops including cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. But you might also consider some other crops such as Asian greens, arugula, beet greens, and others. These are all cool season crops that have problems producing well in the heat of the summer, so spring and fall are ideally suited to their culture.
It may be a little difficult to find transplants of the cole crops. But you wouldn't want to plant these crops as seeds at this late date. But seeds of the greens would be available. They do well in the fall of the year as temperatures decline. In fact, some of these crops can tolerate quite low temperatures; you just have to get them established. And as dry as the soil is, you'll have to water.
Leaf lettuce, head lettuce, romaine and other greens can all be direct seeded in the garden. Many will be ready in as little as 4 weeks (if you want to harvest as baby). For head and romaine, you can sow a little thicker than suggested and use the thinnings, then let the others mature. The head lettuces needs some room to grow, so spacing for mature plants should be 8" or so.
Arugula and the Asian greens (mizuna, tatsoi, etc.) are a little tangier than the other greens, but are gaining popularity. They'll not tolerate as cold of temperature as some of the other fall crops, but should be able to withstand temperatures down to the mid 20's, as should the lettuces. Spinach is the crop that will tolerate very cold conditions. In fact, if you can cover it to keep desiccation to a minimum, you could harvest spinach all winter long. Below freezing spinach will wilt over, but once temperatures reach 32 or higher, the plant becomes turgid and harvest can be completed.
Don't expect much growth once winter sets in, there simply isn't enough sunlight available. However if you time your planting(s) correctly, and get these plants to full growth prior to winter, you can harvest quite late in the year if you provide some sort of protection. Protection can be as simple as a floating row cover or even better, a hot house or a plastic covered low tunnel.
August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
Statistics is the language of agriculture's winter meeting season. Everyone wants to hear what their University or company agronomist has to say about the latest issues facing agriculture, but they usually get to hear those comments with statistical language woven into the exchange. Providing some statistical insight thus seems important. Occasionally, a speaker will get really excited about the number of respondents to a survey or the number of "data points" collected during a study. Why are response numbers and/or lots of data points deemed important from a statistical standpoint? Why do researchers get so excited about lots of responses, etc.?
There really are only two ways to get research "wrong." Either one will state there is a difference between two groups when there actually is not, or they will declare that no difference exists between two groups when a difference actually does exist. Researchers often try to keep the chances of falsely claiming a difference at about five percent, and they try to keep the chances of falsely claiming no difference at about twenty percent. The first is held to a more severe standard because claiming something "works" when it does not seems "the worst of research sins." Decreasing the chance of making a false claim all depends upon how variable a group is and how many responses one receives (how many data points one collects). The idea might best be examined by using the example of height.
Imagine that you wanted to see if people in one community were taller than people in another community. You could measure the height of everyone in a community or you could measure a smaller "sample" from a community. The average detected by measuring the height of every person in a town would be exact. For instance, we might find that the average height is exactly 5' 3" if we talked to every person in a certain village. However, most would prefer to only sample. It's more efficient to do this, but measuring only a portion of a community decreases the confidence in our results. If I only measured the height of five people in each community, I wouldn't be very confident that the results would be exactly the same next time around (or if I measured everyone) especially if those five people tended to have very different heights, especially if their heights tended to be variable.
Nobody likes being wrong, so in the example above I might provide myself some cover. I might hedge a little and say, "I sampled such a small number from each community and people in that community had such different heights that I can't say exactly how tall everyone is." Instead, I might say something like this, "I think the average height is probably somewhere between 4' 4" and 5' 11"." There is some mathematics involved in determining that range, but for the sake of this discussion – let's stick to framing this as hedging/providing cover. Sampling more people increases my confidence even if their heights range from the rather small to the rather tall. I would probably show that increased confidence by providing less "cover" for myself/ by hedging less/ by mentioning less of a "gray area." I might eventually say that "because I sampled a hundred people in a community, I think I've accounted for a lot of the variability and I'm pretty sure the average height is probably between 5' 2" and 5' 4"." Isn't it interesting that as the number of responses (size of the sample) increases, I feel more confident and hedge less? It's almost like using a telescope – as I crank up the magnification the real picture gets into focus a little more, and I'm pretty confident that I am seeing the real story.
A small sample though means that picture is still too blurry. With a small sample, I'm having to cover myself too much which makes it hard to say anything with much confidence. For instance, if I say that people in one community probably average between 4' 2" and 5' 8" while people in another probably average between 4' 4" and 5' 11" – can I really say they are different or that they are the same? The gray areas that I have created to cover myself overlap. The picture is too blurry. I need more focus. I need to sample enough people, etc. that I don't have to hedge so much. A really high response number does exactly that. It brings the real situation into a little more focus and makes it less likely that I will make the wrong claim. A smaller sample size means less confidence, more hedging, lots of "gray area," a very blurry picture, etc. Having a really big sample is all about sharpening the picture and decreasing the chance of falsely claiming differences or no differences. Sample number is all about bringing the real story into focus/creating less gray area – that idea might just allow one to stumble through the 2012/2013 winter meeting season.
August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
A few species of caterpillar are generally called "woollyworms," correctly termed woollybears, but of those species yellow woollbears, "Spilosoma virginica," are commonly noted in the majority of crop scouting literature. Salt marsh caterpillars, "Estigmene acrea," are very similar in appearance to yellow woollybears and are also noted in many resources.
Yellow woollybears are actually native to most of the continent, reaching almost two inches in length when full grown. They emerge from small spherical eggs, laid in mass. While young, the caterpillars usually feed discretely on the undersides of leaves also in mass. Feeding injury at that time appears resembles somewhat minor "windowpaning." As the hair/setae-covered larvae grow in size, they often shift from lighter colors to darker colors (dark colors are often therefore an indication of maturity rather than a rough winter), and they move away from one another to feed in solitude. There are six instars or growth stages. At that time, feeding injury suddenly shifts to easily observed holes chewed in the leaves. Yellow woollybears feed on many different plants (i.e. they are polyphagous) and often feed toward the top of those plans. Economic injury from the woollybear in field crops does not usually occur unless their feeding accompanies severe injury from several other pests.
After the final molt, larvae move about in a seemingly desperate search for residue cover. The larvae spin a hair-covered cocoon around themselves in which they pupate. In season, the pupae stage lasts for about two to three weeks. The second generation pupates in the fall and remains in that state for the winter months. Adults emerging from the cocoon are white colored moths.
Woollybears usually appear most when conditions are hot and dry for extended periods of time. In such conditions, fungal pathogens that deter wollybear populations naturally are inhibited. Likewise, periods of abundant moisture during either generation can allow that fungal pathogen to thrive affecting the woollybear population for much of the growing season.
August 30, 2012
The University of Illinois has promoted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for nearly forty years; however, surveys indicate the practice has not been adopted very well in the Midwest. University of Illinois Extension's Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Matt Montgomery recently conducted a statewide survey of Illinois Private Applicators to address this concern. He discovered that length of business planning was one of the greatest predictors of IPM adoption.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to pest control that mixes chemical and nonchemical control strategies – selecting the best approach based upon the situation. Illinois Private Applicators are those licensed to apply restricted-use pesticides within the state. They must pass an exam every three years to maintain their certification in a program administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Surveys were distributed to two thousand Illinois Private Applicators out of nearly 17,000 in total. Completed surveys were returned by 911 individuals answering basic demographic, business planning, pest management, and strategic choice questions.
IPM adoption by those responding to the survey was predicted by age, trust levels, and leadership qualities. However, length of business planning appeared even more predictive of IPM adoption. A grower's tendency to focus on only one year at a time was one of the greatest impediments to individual IPM adoption. As business planning shifted to the long-term, IPM adoption often increased.
The results indicate adopting a longer-term farming perspective is at least part of the solution to improving IPM adoption in the state. Growers need to see themselves as doing more than merely surviving each growing season if more IPM is to be practiced. They must see their operation as being sustainable.
To be more impactful, U of I Extension may need to incorporate IPM into a larger comprehensive program that promotes agricultural sustainability. Affordable cash rent education, marketing education, best management practices education, estate planning and other mechanisms that shift the applicator's perception toward multi-year planning appear important to successful IPM promotion. Changes are being made to local programming based upon the results of this study.For more information about the Agriculture and Natural Resource programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, please contact Matt Montgomery, Extension Educator, Sustainable Agriculture, at email@example.com or 309-547-3711.
August 30, 2012
The summer is winding down, but should your garden also? The answer is NO. There are many crops that may still be planted in the home garden, and lettuce is one of them.
Lettuce can still be planted in central Illinois during the latter part of September. Spacing plantings about two weeks apart should allow the homeowner to have a continuous supply of lettuce in late October.
Lettuce loves cool weather, and contrary to popular belief, the cool weather does not necessarily have to be in the spring. As long as temperatures are within the 60°F to 70°F range, lettuce can be planted and grown beautifully.
When planted, seeds should be one-fourth inch to one-half inch deep and spaced one and one-fourth inches apart. When the lettuce begins to grow, the homeowner should "grab the old hoe" and cull out the weaker plants until each remaining plant is about 4" apart. This provides the plant adequate room to grow leaf tissue and improves aeration, thus reducing the chances of disease establishment. Rows should be spaced about 12"-18" apart.
When caring for lettuce, remember that the plant does need frequent light watering to achieve succulent leaf growth rapidly. Be careful not to overwater, since root and leaf rots may prove to be a problem.
Finally, do not hesitate to refrigerate your lettuce and use it for the month following harvest. The lettuce stores best in an environment that stays around 32°F. Just wash the leaves, drip dry, and store in a gallon plastic bag. You may end up with better tasting lettuce, since bitterness appears to decrease in refrigeration.
Whatever you decide to do with your lettuce, enjoy your gardening while you can. Winter snow is coming, and lettuce doesn't freeze well.
August 30, 2012
The 2012 season has generated concern over the carryover potential of herbicides. Around a dozen herbicide families tend to be used in crops, but only a few have the potential to carryover.
ALS inhibitors encompass a wide range of plant herbicides. They include products such as Pursuit, Classic, Beacon, Accent, Broadstrike, etc. Depending upon the product these chemicals can be foliar applied or soil applied. They "do their damage" by causing plant enzymes to discontinue amino acid production. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of "plant parts". Therefore, grasses and broadleaves exhibit a wide range of poor growth symptoms. Since roots of the grass plant are withheld necessary proteins for growth, the roots are stunted, and the plant exhibits yellowing or purpling due to a lack of nutrients. The leaves of the grass plant are often stunted. Broadleaves are also stunted with leaf yellowing or purpling. The distance between nodes often decreases giving the plant a "stacked" appearance. Carryover becomes more likely when soil pH is high, if too much product is applied, or if the soil environment fails to break down the product.
Several chemical herbicides affect cell growth. These "cell growth inhibitors" are soil applied. As the plant absorbs the material from germination to emergence, the material either affects root growth or shoot growth. The root inhibitors include such chemicals as pendimethalin (Prowl) and trifluralin (Preen) causing poor emergence, stunting of plants, and small bulky-looking roots. Shoot inhibitors, such as Dual, cause shoots to be stunted, grasses to leaf out underground, or broadleaf leaves to resemble wadded newspaper. Of these, only trifluralin occasionally carrys over. However, such carryover tends to be rare.
Triazines keep photosynthesis from occurring efficiently. In fact, seedlings will only die after they emerge because photosynthesis is needed for triazines to kill. Leaves may be yellowed around the tips or between veins in broadleaves as the chemicals retard food production. The oldest leaves yellow first. Carryover may be a potential problem when the soil environment slows down the metabolization of the product. However, high pH environments are more prone to triazine carryover. Atrazine and sencor are examples of triazine family members.
The final group of herbicides that "might" carryover is the pigment inhibitors. Pigment inhibitors cause plants to look white or partially transparent as they keep photosynthetic pigments from being produced, thus retarding growth. Those pigments are called carotenoids. Minus the presence of carotenoids, chlorophyll rapidly breaks down damaging the plant. Carryover potential exists with these products where too much product is applied or where the soil environment decreases metabolism.
Growers concerned about carryover may be able to use oats as a good carryover indicator. By seeding oats in pots using soil from suspect areas, growers may be able to see if herbicide is still present enough to damage plants.