Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fires, floods, earthquakes, oh my! Are you ready?

This past week as I’ve heard and watched stories out of the Houston flood, I have stopped to question how prepared I would be if I was in a similar situation.  Do I have bottled water on hand, or would I be one of those forking over $100 for a case of bottled water, because I didn’t have any on hand for such emergencies?  As I listen to reports of the fires across Montana, I ask myself that if I was evacuated, would I be prepared enough to have gas in the car, a plan of where to go, and what to do?  Or, would I be scrambling to find the essentials I needed to take with me?

In the last year, we’ve had fires, blizzards, flooding, earthquakes, and tornadoes across Montana.  The saying “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training,” is especially relevant as it’s only realistic to acknowledge that in the event of a natural disaster, we will only rise to the level we’ve prepared for.

There are numerous lists available for emergency planning, but today I’ll share with you a few tips:
  • ·         Keep important papers accessible – This should include copies of important documents such as insurance cards, immunization records, emergency contact information, deed/lease to your house, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.  These should all be scanned so you have an electronic file, and paper copies should be easily accessible in a bag that you can grab and go with, if needed.
  • ·         Ensure all household members know how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main switches, if needed.
  • ·         Install an ABC type fire extinguisher in your home, and teach each household member how to use it. 
  • ·         Create a Disaster Supplies Kit that you can quickly grab if needed.  Some basics that should be in the kit include:

o   One gallon of water per person per day, with a minimum of a three-day supply.  For a family of four, this would be at least 12 gallons, thus one case of bottled water isn’t going to do it.
o   Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person.  These should be foods that require no refrigeration, cooking, or preparation, such as ready to eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables, nuts, trail mix, energy bars, etc.  Don’t forget the can opener!
o   A minimum 3-day supply of all medicines.
o   A flashlight and battery-operated radio with extra batteries
o   A first aid kit
o   Extra cash, you don’t want to depend on debit or credit cards in a disaster
o   Emergency blanket or sleeping bag(s)
o   Extra set of car keys and/or house keys

These are just a few ideas to get started, I encourage you to take time now to prepare for a potential natural disaster or evacuation.  

While on the subject of fire preparedness, archery hunters should be aware of numerous ranches and block management areas that are currently closed due to fire danger.  If you are planning to hunt, please be sure to ask landowner permission first, as the risk of fire is simply too great in many areas.

Remember, we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training and preparedness.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Post Harvest Kochia Control

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension
With wheat harvest largely behind us, it is time to consider post-harvest weed control in wheat stubble if you haven’t already.  Weeds present before harvest have recovered from cutting and are growing in the absence of crop competition.  Any weeds that have germinated since harvest still have time left to cause problems.  Weeds should be controlled as soon as possible to prevent soil moisture use and seed production.  Controlling seed production to reduce weed populations next season is important when rotating to crops with limited options for in-crop weed control.  From a disease standpoint, early control of volunteer wheat and grass weeds is important to break the green bridge and reduce spread of wheat streak mosaic virus into next year’s crop. 

Kochia and Russian-thistle tend to be the most problematic species right now.  Consistent heat and moisture stress on the large weeds found this time of year make challenging conditions for achieving good herbicide efficacy, particularly with glyphosate.  The potential for glyphosate resistance in kochia and other weeds is an important consideration.  For this reason, glyphosate should be avoided entirely for post-harvest use if possible.  A notable exception to this guideline is when targeting grasses or volunteer wheat, where glyphosate is still a good choice when tank-mixed with other products.

If avoiding glyphosate entirely isn’t feasible, tank mixing with additional modes of action active on the target weeds is essential.  Another practice to improve herbicide efficacy is to spray only when temperatures are 80 to 85 F or less.  When temperatures rise above this, many plants start to shut down, which can reduce the amount of herbicide taken into plants.  When weeds are under drought stress, it may be best to wait for a rain or a period of cooler temperatures to restore active growth before spraying. 

Dicamba and 2,4-D are generally dependable options for broadleaf control alone, together, or tank-mixed with glyphosate or other chemistries.  Occasional reports of poor kochia control indicates that at least some low-level resistance to these herbicides may be present.  Often, this sort of emerging resistance is only expressed in plants under stress – typical conditions for post-harvest applications.  Again, tank mixing with multiple modes of action effective on the target weed is the best response.  Paraquat is a very effective contact herbicide with a unique mode of action.  Post-harvest applications are one of the best uses for paraquat, and a good opportunity to bring it into rotation for herbicide resistance management. 

While large, stressed weeds are generally less susceptible to herbicides than small, actively growing ones, contact products are less affected by weed stress and size than most systemic products.  If a period of dry, hot weather follows application, efficacy of contact herbicides is generally enhanced rather than diminished.  Contact herbicides kill only plant tissues they cover though, so good coverage is critical for performance.  

However it is accomplished, control of weeds in winter wheat stubble within a few weeks of harvest is important.  
Click here for more information about glyphosate resistant kochia:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Growing Garlic in North-Central Montana

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

As August continues to slip away many home gardeners are harvesting the fruits of their labors and probably looking forward to the time when they can wrap up the gardening for the year.  If you love garlic like me and my family, you might want to rethink those dreams of being done for the season. 
There are a number of spring flowers and other plants that need to be planted in the fall for their success next spring.  There has been much discussion about the right time to plant garlic.  Traditionally, garlic is planted in very early spring and harvested at the end of summer.  This schedule works for growing seasons such as those in some areas of eastern Montana.  However, parts of the state such as ours really have no spring, going almost directly from cold weather to hot.  Due to the physiology of bulb formation this condition leads to disappointing yields.

Many gardeners have better luck planting garlic between mid-September and mid-October.  The plants develop a strong root system, overwinter, and are harvested the following summer.  If you decide on fall planting, be sure to mulch your plants with about six inches of straw to protect them from winter heaving and desiccation.  Omit the mulch if you can count on a snow cover for most of the winter.  The plants will grow beneath the snow and may be two inches tall as the snow melts.  If you plant early enough in the fall so that the plants send up several inches of leaf growth, be sure to protect them from deer which will sometimes eat the leaves down to the ground.
Each bulb is made up of several cloves held together by a thin membrane.  Separate the cloves just before planting and plant only the larger outer ones.  Plant small cloves and you’ll get small bulbs.  Garlic does best on rich, fertile, well-drained soil high in organic matter and with a slightly acid pH.  Turn under about five pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer or equivalent per 100 square feet before planting.  Work some compost or other rotted organic material into the soil at this time.

Set the cloves into the soil right-side up about two inches deep and four to six inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart.  Five feet of row will satisfy the average person for one year.  You’ll need about one pound of cloves to plant 20 feet of row.  Garlic does best when planted in a sunny location but will tolerate partial shade.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What lurks in your storage shed? Don't miss out on the Waste Pesticide Disposal Program!

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

Do you ever wonder what to do with that old, outdated pesticide that you no longer use?  Or have you found a container in the back of your shed missing a label, or you’re not even sure what it is?  This is where the Montana Department of Ag’s Waste Pesticide Disposal Program comes in!

The Waste Pesticide Disposal program allows you to deliver old, unused pesticides to a location for disposal.  The first 200 lbs. are free to dispose!  There are NO penalties involved, this is simply an opportunity to dispose of unwanted and unused pesticides in a safe and environmentally friend way. 

Waste pesticides are any pesticide, such as herbicide, insecticide, or fungicide, that is unwanted or unusable as originally intended.  Unusable pesticides may be pesticides that have become contaminated, the registration has been cancelled, or the label has been lost or unreadable.  A pesticide that can no longer be used must be disposed of, and the sooner the better to prevent environmental damage.

Any person, company, or organization that purchases or controls a pesticide is legally responsible for that pesticide’s proper use, handling, storage, and disposal.  It is illegal to bury, burn, or discard a pesticide or its container in a manner inconsistent with the label instructions.

This year, pesticide disposal drop-off locations will be in Kalispell on September 19, Missoula on the 20th, Helena on the 21st, and Dillon on September 22.  The location rotates each year, and next year the drop-off locations will be back in Central Montana. 

To participate, you must register by September 11.  Registration forms are available at your local Extension office or online at the Montana Department of Ag’s website.  Once registered, you will be contacted with the exact location of the drop off.  Again, the disposal fee is FREE for the first 200 pounds and $0.50/lb for amounts in excess of 200 pounds.

Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus Prevention

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I know that as harvest begins wrapping up in the coming weeks that everyone will be turning their attention to fall seeding, if we ever get some moisture.  If you or a neighbor had wheat streak mosaic virus, or even if you didn’t, please make sure that the green bridge is eliminated this fall.  Wheat curl mite, the vector of WSMV, will continue moving from harvested grain, volunteer, cheatgrass and other grasses into new and green grasses, particularly volunteer and planted winter wheat, until a major frost event. 

Please make sure that you give those plants plenty of time to die before planting back in with winter wheat.  This is for wheat streak mosaic virus consideration as much as anything.  Extension’s recommendation is that you spray 2-3 weeks before planting back.  While growers might not find this realistic, please wait as long as you can before going back in with winter wheat seed.  Otherwise there is the risk of a green bridge occurring.
If you have volunteer grains, grazing hailed/volunteer cereal grains and not terminating the remaining volunteer creates a high risk disease situation.  You can graze, but you need to terminate the volunteer with tillage or glyphosate and allow the plant material to die before planting a new crop.  This scenario can provide inoculum for neighboring crops, since the mite can travel in wind.  So, when making grazing decisions, consider neighbor planting decisions.

Good volunteer and grassy weed control is CRITICAL in WSMV-affected areas, and is a good best management practice in all areas, particularly those hit by hail after mid-milk in cereals.  At this point the seed is capable of germinating and creates volunteer.
Hosts vary in their ability to support mite and virus replication.  The best host by far is spring wheat, followed by winter wheat and barley.  A somewhat distant third is downy brome or cheatgrass which due to its life cycle and high populations does serve as a significant alternate host in Montana.  Then, there are numerous grassy weeds that overall are ‘intermediate/poor’ hosts of the mite and virus, but could be sources in some years if conditions are favorable.  They essentially maintain a background level of the virus and mite that we will never eliminate. 

Please contact your local county Extension office with further questions about wheat streak mosaic virus and how to better manage for it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

West Nile Virus in Toole County

You may have heard that West Nile Virus has been detected in Montana in both mosquito samples and human samples. The mosquito samples have come from Blane, Hill, Custer, and Prairie counties and the human samples have been detected in McCone, Big Horn, and Toole County.
The West Nile Virus is maintained in nature and amplified during periods of adult mosquito blood feeding and continuous viral transmission between mosquito vectors and bird reservoir hosts. Infectious mosquitoes carry virus particles in their salivary glands and infect susceptible bird species during blood-meal feeding and the virus can remain in the bird for 1 to 4 days after exposure. The virus is then passed on from the bird host to other mosquitoes after feeding. People, horses, and other mammals are generally considered “dead-end” or incidental hosts.
Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus experience no symptoms but 1 in 5 develop a mild illness called West Nile fever, which may last for three to six days. Other individuals, less than 1 out of 150 may become severely ill with encephalitis or meningitis. Recovery from this may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent and about 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection will die
If you are like me, you may be a little concerned about this. I’m worried because mosquitos LOVE me. I swear I get bit more than anyone else. It must be because I’m so sweet.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services compiled a list of ways to protect yourself and prevent against West Nile Virus.
Fight The Bite·         Stay indoors during the early morning and evening hours. Mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn.
·         If you must be outdoors when mosquitos are active, be sure to dress in long sleeves and pants.
·         Before going outdoors, remember to apply an insect repellent containing 25-35% DEET when outdoors. Children ages 2-12 should use repellent with 10% DEET or less. DEET is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is the most effective and best studied insect repellent available. Products containing picaridin and permethrin have also been found to be effective in repelling mosquitoes and has oil of lemon eucalyptus.
·         To keep the mosquito population at bay around your home. Drain standing water in old tires, barrels, buckets, cans, clogged rain gutters, and other items that collect water. Change water in pet bowls, flowerpots, and birdbaths at least twice a week.

Please remember to be follow these rules to prevent West Nile Virus in these last few weeks of summer. This information was gathered by the Department of Public Health and Human Services. If you have any more information or further questions about West Nile Virus, please contact your local health department or your local extension office.
Kim (Suta) Woodring
Toole County Agriculture Extension Agent

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I found a pretty flower...

Common teasel is a designated noxious weed in
Lake county, MT, and is a taprooted biennial that
can grow to six feet tall with spiny heads.  
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

A couple weeks ago I was visiting with a client who said that while over on the West side of the mountains, he and his wife had come across a unique looking flower.  I was unable to provide an identification of the plant with his over the phone description, so asked him to e-mail me a picture.

A few days later, I received a couple pictures of the flower in my inbox.  It was tall, spiny, and had a purple flowerhead that I wasn’t familiar with (and no, it was definitely not knapweed, I’ve seen plenty of that!)  The client had found the plant near Ronan, noted it was very plentiful over there, and was interested in using the plant in dried flower arrangements due to its unique appearance.  Because I wasn’t personally familiar with the plant, I forwarded the pictures onto the MSU Extension agent in Lake County, who within a few minutes responded that the plant in question was Common Teasel, which is a designated noxious weed in Lake County.  Teasel is a stout, taprooted biennial which grows to 6 feet tall, and produces spiny heads often reaching over two inches with purple flowers protected by spine-like bractlets.  The plant is a native to Europe, and is now widespread as a weed in North America.

I thought this was a very teachable moment for a few reasons. 

First, the clients had participated in my Level 1 and Level 2 Master Gardener classes, where we discussed Integrated Pest Management and how critical it is to properly identify plants in order to correctly manage them.  Further, we discussed the danger of horticulturists transporting ‘pretty flowers’ as that is how most weeds are established.  I was proud that rather than simply bringing the plant home to Glacier county and potentially establishing it here, my Master Gardener students chose to seek out an identification of the plant. 

Secondly, even though I was not able to identify the teasel myself, I was able to quickly get an answer through the MSU Extension network.  Since common teasel is a Lake County noxious weed, it should be not moved across county lines, and I was able to quickly let my client know that this plant should NOT be brought back to Glacier county.

Lastly, I think this serves as a good reminder that if you come across a plant that you are unfamiliar with, please be sure to get proper identification before making plans to use it.  This is not an isolated incident, as occasionally we see weeds in flower beds that were originally introduced as flowers.  I also remember the story of one well-meaning church harvest dinner decorating committee that planned to use some fall like décor in the table arrangements, until someone pointed out that their planned décor was actually a weed and should not be transported to the church harvest dinner!

Your local MSU Extension office is a great resource for plant identification, and we really appreciate diligent clients who serve as ‘first responders’ from the field, noting if there’s new weed infestations we should be aware of, or checking before they add an unknown plant to a flower arrangement.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reducing Fungicide Resistance in Crops

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

The plant diseases we have in our crops are caused by many different organisms, including fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes and others.  Fungicides are pesticides used for controlling fungal and fungal-like diseases.  This week, I wanted to bring a new M.S.U. Extension MontGuide to your attention that is about fungicide use in field crops and specifically talk about how to reduce the risk of fungicide resistance developing.
When using fungicides for disease management, the principles of integrated pest management should be used to avoid resistance development.  This includes such things as preventative cultural practices, monitoring, acceptable pest levels, mechanical controls, biological controls, and responsible use. 

Preventative cultural practices include using high quality, pathogen-free seed, crop rotation, using an adapted crop variety, optimal seeding rate, planting date, irrigation practices where able, fertilization and sanitation, such as breaking the “green” bridge.
Monitoring involves scouting crops for pests regularly and getting them accurately identified.  You can then determine at what level the pest can or will be tolerated. 

Mechanical control methods include removing infected plants from the crop to prevent reproduction and spread of the disease.  Natural biological controls can also mitigate pest damage.  For plant diseases, these can include beneficial insects predate on or parasitize insect vectors of plant viruses. 
When a pesticide is needed, be responsible and follow all label restrictions and use the best application methods possible to target the disease of interest.  If a lack of efficacy is suspected, leaved an untreated strip to compare with treated areas.  If the level of disease is the same, then a symptomatic sample should be sent to the diagnostics lab.  Other recommendations to prevent fungicide resistance include selecting and using fungicides correctly, rotating the use of fungicide modes of action, limiting the number of applications of fungicides in a particular mode of action each season, mixing modes of action in blends or tank mixes, using fungicides at the recommended rates and following all label directions.  Following these directions should dramatically reduce your risk of developing resistance.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Diagnose cowherd pregnancy now for extra money in the pocket later

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

It’s finally August, which means that on the cow-calf side, I’m looking forward to fall cow work, when the days are cooler and it’s time to pre-condition calves and preg-test cows.  Recently, yearling prices have really taken off, with many dry yearling heifers selling in the $1.20 to $1.40/lb. range, which can easily create $1,100 to $1,200 yearlings.  This may be a valuable time to consider early pregnancy diagnosis on those yearling heifers in order to capitalize on the current prices.
                Early pregnancy diagnosis can create additional marketing options on both the yearling heifer and cow side.  Knowing which heifers or cows are open allows you to sell open heifers now when they’ll bring top dollar, and to wean calves early from the open cows, allowing cows to be marketed early in the year saving forage during a drought as well.  Iowa State Extension summarized the price of cull cows out of Sioux Falls, SD from 2005 to 2014, and there was a $11/cwt advantage to selling cows in August versus November.  On a 1,300-pound cow, that extra $11/cwt equates to nearly an additional $145/head, simply by targeting an earlier marketing window on those dry cows. 
Data from Iowa State Extension article, 'Seasonal Price Patterns' by Lee Schulz, Extension Economist, available at  Prices for utility cows are typically greatest in the summer months, thus early pregnancy detection to market open cows in a more favorable market environment is especially attractive.  
                In addition, early pregnancy detection also allows cows to be sorted into calving groups, with later calving cows not needing as high quality of nutrition as the earlier calving cows.  Similarly, it always surprises me when I hear of folks who don’t pregnancy test, as that means they end up feeding dry cows all winter long, when that $200 in winter feeding costs could be going to cows that will instead produce a calf.  Even if the plan is to add extra weight and condition on to dry cows before they are sold, that can be done in a much more economical manner than feeding the dry cows the same ration as pregnant cows.  For less than $5/head, a pregnancy diagnosis can help sort out dry cows versus using hay and supplement on cows that won’t produce a calf. 
Early pregnancy detection in yearling heifers and cows can
allow producers to capitalize on a better market, and save grass
for bred cows.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
                Rectal palpation is the traditional pregnancy detection method, which allows detection of pregnancy by as early as 35 to 40 days pregnancy.  Experienced veterinarians can estimate pregnancy stage with relative accuracy between 30 to 100 days pregnant. 
                Ultrasound can detect pregnancy earlier than palpation, as early as three to four weeks after the heifer or cow has been bred.  In addition, ultrasound can provide additional information such as incidence of twins and calf sex, which rectal palpation cannot do.  From approximately day 55 to day 70, ultrasound can be used to detect calf sex, which can be valuable information if choosing to market a group of heifers or cows, and can advertise them as carrying all bull calves or all heifer calves. 
                Given current yearling prices and knowing traditional cull cow market price patterns, now is the time to consider early pregnancy diagnosis in your cowherd. 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Flea Beetles, Flee!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I received my first flea beetle sample of the year just yesterday in the office.  Let’s spend some time learning about how to control them.

Flea beetles are small, black beetles that give an appearance of jumping when you try and capture them.  They will often leave a shotgun pattern of holes in various leafy vegetables, especially impacting vegetables when they are younger.  I’ve noticed them before on our plants but generally let nature run its course and the plants can sometimes outgrow their damage.  Here are some options that the University of Minnesota Extension have for control if you find that you have the pests as well.
First, some basic tips for flea beetle control; proper weed control in and around planting sites will deprive flea beetle larvae of food sources needed for successful development, and may help to lessen the flea beetle population. 

Floating row covers or other screening can exclude the beetles during seedling establishment and as crops advance.  However, remove row covers before the flowering stage to allow pollinating insects access to the plants.  I have also toyed with the idea of putting them back on afterwards for overall protection.
If you were thinking far enough ahead this year you might also have considered planting a trap crop, which can be successful in some situations.  Planting a highly favored crop such as radish before you plant your main crop can attract flea beetles away from the main crop.  Adult flea beetles will be attracted to the tallest, earliest crops available.  Once beetles are actively feeding in the trap crop, they can be sprayed with a labeled insecticide, or the crop can simply be harvested.

There are naturally occurring biological control agents that can aid in controlling flea beetles.  These will kill the adult flea beetle as the wasp emerges as well as sterilize the female flea beetle while developing in her body. 
There are many insecticides labeled for treating flea beetles.  The active ingredients in these insecticides include pyrethrins/pyrethrum, carbaryl, malathion, spinosad, permethrin and bifenthrin among others.   Look for those active ingredients when reading the label in the store.  Most flea beetle treatments are applied as foliar sprays to protect the foliage against the feeding of the adult beetle.  They will also have differing residual rates so pay attention to how often you might need to reapply an insecticide.