Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Potential Winter Wheat Diseases

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

With much of the snow having melted or melting out of the fields I wanted to turn people’s attention to the thought of potential diseases in our winter wheat due to the excessive snow cover.  Much of this information comes from Mary Burrows, Extension plant pathologist and a Montana Ag Alert that she put out to statewide producers last week.

First, let’s talk about snow mold.  Snow mold occurs on fall-planted crops under prolonged snow cover or wet conditions with freezing temperatures.  If you see patches of fields with dead plants, look towards the edge of the patches at the sick plants.  If you see lesions on leaves with a tan center and brown halo, this is likely pink snow mold, which is the most common snow mold we see here in Montana.  The good news is that this disease will not infect the spring crop, it requires extended low temperatures and moisture.  It is favored by cool wet falls and continuous winter wheat planting.  There may be a difference in varieties. There is another snow mold commonly referred to as ‘speckled’ snow mold.  Dead plants won’t recover, but if the plants are tillering and have a good root system they should pull out of it.  There is no risk of the fungus spreading to a spring crop should you seed spring wheat nearby.  If replanting, please use good management practices to prevent Rhizoctonia root rot if soil conditions continue to be cool and wet.
Snow mold patches on winter wheat caused by Microdochium nivale and
Myriosclerotinia borealis (Photo courtesy of apsnet.org)
 Rhizoctonia root rot (bare patch) can be partially controlled by seed treatment and by crop rotation, good weed control, and eliminating the ‘green bridge.’  This is a ubiquitous fungus in the soil with a broad host range that prefers cool, wet springs.  Usually you won’t see complete devastation in a field, but if you’ve ever had very shallow-rooted plants and uneven height in the field, likely Rhizoctonia was involved.  Use a good seed treatment with efficacy against Rhizoctonia if you suspect you may have had a problem in the past.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ag Decision Tools

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

While you wait for the snow to clear and the ground to dry out a bit please check out the Southern Ag Research Center website for some tools that may help you once spring actually arrives.

The research centers are good resources that we all need to keep in mind, along with local county Extension offices.  At the aforementioned website you will find a link on the left hand side that says “Agronomy Decision Tools.”  It is under this link that you will find several tools that you can utilize throughout the season.  For example, in the eventuality that we ever get in the fields this spring, you might be wondering about a seeding rate.  There is a seed rate calculator link that you can follow that has you input your desired plant population on a plants per square foot basis.  You can also modify your seed weight, germination rate, purity, emergence mortality, row spacing, the size area that you are planting and the seed price.  Once those numbers are inputted it will spit out your seed rate calculations., including target plant population, planting rate, and total cost.
As we get into the season and are fertilizing crops there is also a fertilizer recommendation tool that you can use, if you have had a soil test done recently that you can refer to, as it asks for numbers from those tests. 

Additionally, as you spray for various weeds throughout the season and plan for your rotations over the coming year, an herbicide selection tool is there to assist you.  All you need to do is select what weeds you would like to control, what your current crop is, what your next crop is anticipated to be, when the next crop will be planted and whether the herbicide will be applied pre- or post-emergent.  This will then spit out all available herbicides for use, including what pesticide group they below to and for what weeds the chemicals will work on, if you selected for control for multiple weeds.  We aren’t making a recommendation.  We are helping you make an informed decision when you talk with your chemical dealer or professional advisor.  The only downside of this tool that I can find is that it doesn’t help with tank mixes.  For tank mixes I would still advise reading the label and visiting with your chemical representative. 
I would encourage all growers to take some time and explore the website and the tools I briefly outlined.  These can greatly help you in your yearly operations.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sweeping, Dusting, Vacuuming...Spring Cleaning!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

In between our spring or 3rd winter, there have been some days when it has been very pleasant outside.  To some people, spring time weather triggers a need to do some spring cleaning.  Today, I have some tips for you from University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension regarding how to whip your house back into shape after a long winter. 
Not only does a good spring house cleaning make everyone feel good, it is a time to get rid of all the dust and dirt that can affect those suffering from allergies.

To do a whole house spring cleaning, plan to do a thorough cleaning in every room. Cleaning household surfaces, washing the bedding, dusting and vacuuming can reduce allergy symptoms. 
Start cleaning in the bedrooms.  Launder all washable bedding, including mattress cover, pillows, bed skirts, blankets, and comforters.  Flip your mattresses and vacuum them.  Dust mites can be hiding anywhere.

Dusting is the next step.  Use a clean, soft cloth sprayed with a dusting product.  Dust all woodwork, furniture, shelves, light fixtures, etc.
Next vacuum everywhere.  Vacuum under the beds, chairs, couches, tables, behind dressers, shelves, the refrigerator, and any other hidden areas.  Remove cushions on furniture and clean thoroughly.  Be sure to do the crevices of upholstery and lamp shades.  Vacuum walls or wipe them down with a cloth.  Remember to give the carpets a good vacuuming.  Vacuum carpets frequently and use a carpet cleaner to remove stains.

To clean the bathroom, use an all-purpose cleaner and clean the walls, tub, shower, fixtures and towel racks.  If necessary, use a mildew remover on the tub and shower walls and a calcium and lime scale remover to remove those hard water mineral deposits.
Wash all floors – for vinyl and ceramic tile floors use a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner or floor cleaner.  

Clean windows, draperies, blinds and screens.  Wash windows and screens.  Use a glass cleaner or glass and multi-surface cleaner for windows.  While screens let in fresh air, they also collect a lot of dust and dirt.  Vacuum the screens to remove dust and other particles stuck to the screen.  Hose down or gently scrub them with a brush dipped in a solution of all-purpose cleaner and water.

Don't forget the closets and other storage areas.  Take out your winter clothes and decide which ones need to be washed or dry cleaned before storing them.  Vacuum under shoes and other items stored on the floor.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Strategic spending of the tax refund check

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier county

April is tax time, which brings about numerous ads for ‘Tax Refund sales.’  Whether it’s a tax refund, inheritance check, or capital credit check, whenever unplanned money arrives it can be tempting to quickly spend it.  However, this is an excellent time to evaluate where you can most strategically use that money to benefit yourself and your family the most. 
First, make sure that you have money saved for potential emergency expenses.  According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69% of all adults in the US have less than $1,000 in savings, with half of those adults not having any savings.  In the event that a vehicle needs a new engine, the refrigerator goes out, the hot water heater needs repaired, or you end up needing to pay your $500 insurance deductible for medical expenses, where does that money come from?  Now is a great time to lock away $500 to $1,000 in an ‘emergency fund’ for potential emergency or ‘occasional’ expenses that need money set aside for them.
Secondly, evaluate any deb  Do you have any unpaid bills that you have gotten behind on, or debts that need paid?  Choose which debts are smallest and knock those off first.  That will provide motivation for continuing to address any remaining debt.  If you have two debts of similar amounts, choose the one with the higher interest rate.  Now is the time to pay off those credit cards and cut them up!  In my household, we plan to put a portion of any additional income we receive towards our home mortgage with the goal of paying our house off early, which will save us thousands of dollars in interest expenses over the course of the loan. 
ts you have.
Next, put money towards a 3 to 6-month emergency fund – If you were to lose your job or had an injury or medical expense that prohibited you from working, would you be able to cover your monthly expenses?  Make sure to budget enough in an ‘emergency fund’ to cover things like housing, utilities, groceries, fuel, any loan payments you have, etc.  Putting any additional money towards an emergency fund is a wise option that can give incredible peace of mind in the months to come and help prevent the temptation of using high-interest credit cards to cover those expenses.
If you do decide to spend a portion of the money from a tax refund, inheritance, or capital credit check, think of what upcoming expenses you may have this summer and spend the money on those expenses.  Expenses such as daycare while school is out, a child’s summer camp expenses, graduation and wedding gifts, back to school supplies, etc. will be here soon. 
When tax refund checks arrive in the mail, the temptation can be high to take advantage of those ‘tax refund sales.’  However, ensuring you have at least $1,000 in the bank, that debts are paid down, and that you have a 3 to 6-month emergency fund in place will have a far greater impact in the long term. 

Seeing Colors...of Mold

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

It has been nice to see grass begin to appear around yards, in between snow storms.  Granted, when we see grass it is still brown to a sickly yellow, but I was beginning to think that we no longer had anything under all that snow.  As we begin to see more grass appear and as the snow disappears we might see some problems with our lawns that I wanted to bring up this week.

As the spring progresses we might see areas with fluffy mycelium in our lawns, especially in areas with matted grass and melting snow.  This mycelium reminds me of what a white mold looks like essentially and is referred to as a snow mold.  There are two types of snow mold, gray snow mold and pink snow mold.  They are fungal diseases that appear in lawns as straw colored circular patches, which continue to enlarge as long as the grass remains wet and cold.  Snow molds usually do not occur every year, but are more common when an early snow cover doesn’t allow the ground to freeze.

Gray snow mold is active at temperatures slightly below freezing and up to about 45°F or as long as the lawn stays wet and cool.  Fungal growth begins in the late fall or early winter underneath the snow on unfrozen ground.  When the snow begins to melt, gray or white patches will appear with webby material.  The fungus will then begin to form yellow structures that turn dark brown when mature, known as sclerotia.  Sclerotia will survive hot summer temperatures in soil or in plant debris.  In the fall, the cycle begins again as the sclerotia begin to germinate and colonize the lawn.

Gray snow mold.  Photo courtesy of maine.gov

Pink snow mold is active at temperatures from approximately 32°F to 60°F.  Just like gray snow mold, fungal growth begins under snow cover on unfrozen ground.  In the spring, white or pink circular mycelium patches will form on the leaf blades.  At the center of the patch, spores will be produced that can be dispersed by heavy rains and cultural practices.  Unlike gray snow mold, pink mold can occasionally form without snow cover in wet, cool, matted grass.

Pink snow mold.  Photo courtesy of maine.gov

To manage these diseases raking the matted area will help to promote drying and warming up of the lawn, which will slow down or eliminate further development of the disease.  This is best done in the spring.  Fungicides are usually not recommended.  Snow mold damage is seldom serious in the urban setting and the infected areas will only take a little longer to green up.  Snow molds can easily be prevented by avoiding excessive nitrogen applications in the fall, raking up leaves in the fall, and mowing grass at recommended heights until it is no longer actively growing.  Try to avoid piling up snow onto the lawn.  With our winter, I know that has been difficult, if not impossible.  However, it is something to consider in the future.