Monday, May 1, 2017

Teton County Ag Update

Teton County Ag Update
Lawn fertilizing, pine trees, and weeds

Spring is off and running in Teton County and that means everyone is trying to get five things done at once.  Calving and lambing is winding down, brandings are a weekly event, spring seeding is well underway, gardens are being tilled and lawns are starting to grow.  Just remember if you didn’t store your summer gas powered equipment either dry or with a fuel stabilizer, you may want to swap out the fuel before you try and start things up.  After the long winter, most homeowners are really looking forward to having a nice, lush summer lawn.  To achieve that, apply 2 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn per year.  Make two to three applications so that no more than 1½ pounds of available nitrogen per 1000 square feet are applied at one time.  The precise times for fertilizing lawns vary across the state, but fertilizing around Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day (after the last mowing but about four weeks before the soil freezes) are good rules of thumb.
I’ve seen or heard of several more cases of fungal infection of Ponderosa pine trees in windbreaks called Dothistroma Needle Blight.  You may have noticed on some of your trees over the past two summers that the outside half of the needle turns reddish brown mid-summer, while the base of the needles remain green.  Successive years of severe infection of this little known disease can result in decreased growth and death.  Fungicides can be applied for preventative control of Dothistroma needle blight.  New needles are resistant, but become susceptible by mid-summer.  Older needles are susceptible throughout the growing season.  Some experts recommend an application of a copper containing fungicide in early spring and again once the new needles are fully expanded.  A second application seven to ten days later may be helpful especially if weather is cool or rainy.  Generally, fungicide applications are not needed in the summer, since hot and dry conditions are unfavorable for the disease.  Thorough coverage is essential and hiring a tree care professional to treat large trees is advised.  If the disease is severe, several years of meticulous treatment may be required to control Dothistroma needle blight.  Keep up with all the current disease, weed and insect outbreaks facing Montana farmers and gardeners by following the Schutter Diagnostic Lab on Facebook. 
                From the looks of things, it will be a bumper year for weeds.  I’ve had several calls already on the little yellow weed covering driveways and on the roadside.  This one is Alyssum desertorum and should be fairly easy to chemically control.  I would seed some low maintenance grass back into that areas, as it doesn’t like competition.  If you are spraying your yard, driveway, or garden, make sure you have your sprayer calibrated correctly.  There is a simple shortcut method you can use and we have pocket guides at the Extension Office for you to pick up.  I remember trying to calibrate a sprayer several years ago and after several frustrating pages of scribbled calculations, I was completely confused.  To use the shortcut method for hand or backpack sprayers, simply mark off an area 18 ½ feet by 18 ½ feet.  Record how many seconds it takes you to spray that area.  Spray into a measuring cup for the same number of seconds and that number is the gallons per acre output you use in your calculations.  We also have a pocket guide that can be used on anything from a slide in sprayer with broadjets to the largest self-propelled sprayers.  As we move into spray season, let’s be conscientious of our neighbors and watch our drift.  Whether it is your neighbor’s tomatoes or a field of chickpeas, please watch your nozzle type, pressure, time of day, chemical formulation, and wind speed and direction.  Whether you are spraying one acre or a thousand, take time to read the label.  The label gives you the application rate, protective clothing required, and replanting interval for those of you rotating pulses.  Teton County Weed Coordinator, Mark Korte, recommends you also register your pulse or sensitive crops on DriftWatch.  He downloads the county maps weekly and distributes them to his crew, so they can minimize spraying adjacent to those areas. 

                Finally, the biggest driver of profitability in the cow-calf business is getting the cow rebred every year.  That sounds really simple, but the beef business (like almost every other commodity) has been in a down cycle and many operators are facing a cash flow crunch.  However, keeping good feed in front of those young cows so they keep condition up is imperative for rebreeding.  This short, high moisture, high protein, early spring grass provides some nutrients, but in reality, just gives her a good bit of exercise while she chases it.  Producers need to keep a good energy source available for these young cows.  If you think the livestock business is unprofitable with low prices, you should try it with a seventy percent conception rate.  As we approach turnout, keep lactating cows on a good high magnesium mineral package.  These wet, cold, cloudy days could trigger some grass tetany, if you take lactating cows or sheep from a full hay diet and turn them unprepared on lush pasture too quickly.  

May 11, 2012 Shelf cloud east of Fairfield.
Pairs on early spring pasture.

Dothistroma Needle Blight on a Ponderosa pine tree in eastern Teton County.

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