Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Pesticide Applications- Water Quality

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

It is not uncommon, according to an MSU Extension MontGuide, for Montana applicators to use water sources with pH levels higher than 8.0 and/or hardness ratings greater than 150 ppm.  This poor water quality can affect pesticide product performance, and as a result, product application rates often being raised, resulting in unnecessary losses in revenue.

In trying to work with water pH, remember that most insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are weakly acidic; that is when they are placed in water with a higher pH, over 7, they undergo degradation.  You can test your water with a litmus strip, or a pH meter.  Keep in mind that the pH of your water can vary with time and should be reassessed periodically.  Commercial buffers are available that can lower the pH of a spray solution for those weakly acidic pesticides.
Hardness, or hard water, refers to the presence of metals with a positive charge of more than 1, such as calcium, magnesium and iron.  The effect of water hardness is the further reduction of the effectiveness of weak acid pesticides, especially with a high pH water.  Hardness can be reduced with the addition of dry ammonium sulfate at 8.5 to 17.5 lbs./100 gallons of water, or liquid fertilizers, such as a 10-34-0 at a rate of 1.25 to 2.5% per 100 gallons.  Performance might be further enhanced by the addition of a non-ionic surfactant.

Turbidity can also affect pesticide performance.  This is simply the haziness of a liquid caused by suspended particles, such as soil and organic matter.  Applicators can test water turbidity by dropping a quarter into a five-gallon bucket filled with water.  If the water is too cloudy to see the quarter, seek an alternative source of water for spray mixtures.
If you have questions about your water quality, I would encourage you to contact your local county Extension office for more information, or for a copy of the MontGuide, titled, “Pesticide Performance and Water Quality.”

Monday, April 29, 2019

Podcasts and Windshield Time

          Spring is here and it is time to get out in the field. It is no doubt that some of you will be seeing a lot of windshield time while seeding your spring crops. For this extension minute, I wanted to suggest some podcasts to help keep your mind going while you’re stuck in the tractor seat.
A podcast is a series of digital audio episodes that a user can download and listen. Podcasts have been around since 2004 but they have seemed to have really gained traction in the last few years with smartphones. Podcasts can typically last anywhere from five minutes to an hour, but it depends on the podcast and your attention span. With our sporadic cell phone service in the area, it is quite helpful to download podcasts on your phone or tablet devices then the episode will be available for offline use.
The best thing about podcasts are that there is one for everybody. There are sports, pop culture, lifestyle, business and technology, or just general stories available for free. There are millions of podcasts out there and new ones being born every day. I listen to my podcasts on the Apple Podcast App, which is free on the iPhone but you can also get podcasts on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Google Play on Android phones.
Now I would like to suggest a few podcasts. These are just a few that I enjoy listening to and I hope you might too! Two are agriculture podcasts and two are some of my favorites that I listen to almost daily.
Talking Lane: Lane Nordlund from the Montana Ag Network TV has a podcast called Talking Lane. On this thirty minute podcast, Lane interviews some notable ag producers in Montana and he talks about current ag issues and policies. This podcast is great for learning about local agriculture trends.
AgricultureToday: Agriculture Today is a daily podcast that comes out of the Extension services at Kansas State. In this thirty minute podcast, Eric Atkinson shares current affairs in Ag and market updates from K-State economists. If you are looking for a Montana State Extension podcast, keep looking towards the future. Our own, Mat Walter out of Teton county has received a grant so he can begin a Montana State Extension podcast. I will keep you updated on when that comes out!
How I BuiltThis: How I built this is hosted by Guy Raz from NPR. In this podcast, Guy dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies and weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists and the movements they built. These episodes are typically forty five minutes to an hour. Some of the companies have been big names like Instagram, Airbnb, Lyft, and Stitch Fix.
Stuff YouShould Know: Stuff you should know is my personal favorite podcast. SYSK releases episodes daily on the Apple Podcast App.  Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark research a random topic anywhere from yo-yo's to the Loch Ness Monster to the Pony Express. These podcasts typically last around forty five minutes to an hour but they also have, what are known as “short stuff” episodes that are around twelve minutes long. I think I enjoy this podcast the most because it will be very helpful for when I’m on jeopardy some day!
Now that I’ve given you some tips on how to get started listening to podcasts, I hope you have an excellent seeding season and enjoy your windshield time. Also, if you come across any awesome podcasts that I didn’t mention, be sure to let me know!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Celebrate National Pretzel Day - April 26

by Wendy Wedum, Pondera Extension

Today is April 26th and it’s also National Pretzel Day.  I was very happy to learn that there is a national day recognizing pretzels. 

Part of the reason is it brings back a flood of memories from the year that I lived in Germany as an exchange student.  During this time, I was able to indulge in the variety of pretzels made.  From the old-fashioned twist to rolls to sticks smothered in baked cheese.

The types of pretzels I ate, were chewy on the inside with a tender, crispy crust on the outside.  They are great to eat with sliced meat, cheese, butter or mustard.

Pretzels were originally made of a simple mixture of water, flour and salt. These staples were available to most people. The origins of the pretzel seem to begin in the year 610 with an Italian monk who used small pretzel bites to reward children for learning their prayers.  Another account places the origins at a monastery southern in France. A third reference shows a connection between Greek Communion bread from a thousand years ago.

Today’s pretzels are made in much the same way from flour, water, salt, yeast, milk, or eggs for a lighter, more chewy dough.  In some ways the pretzel is similar to bagels in that after the dough is formed and has raised the second time, they are placed in a pot of hot water with baking soda mixed in for a few seconds to almost a minute before the dough goes into the oven to finish baking.

With snow in the forecast for this weekend, if you feel like having a culinary adventure, consider making pretzels.  They are delicious warm or cold and can be shaped in a variety of ways. 

Below are two links to explore.  
At the bottom of the page of the pretzel recipes are links to the other recipes. 

Whether you like your pretzels soft or crunchy, I wish you Guten Appetit!

Remember to Like and Follow the Montana State University Extension Pondera County facebook page.  Find us here:  https://www.facebook.com/ponderaextension/ 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Emptying the Bank, the Weed Seedbank

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

As a teenager on a farm in south-eastern Washington, I was involved in some spring farm work.  For me, that meant rogueing rye out of wheat fields.  For us, that involved getting into the fields early enough to clip the heads of the rye before the seeds were mature and viable.  I didn’t realize that now, but that simple task each year was giving me valuable insight into parts of my job now.

Weed seedbanks, which we were trying to diminish by clipping the rye, are reserves of viable weed seeds present on the soil surface and scattered in the soil profile.  It consists of both new weed seeds recently shed and older seeds that have persisted in the soil for different periods of time.  So, how do we manage the weed seedbank? 
According to an MSU Extension MontGuide, titled, “Weed Seedbank Dynamics and Integrated Management of Agricultural Weeds,” seedbanks can be managed in one of several ways.  The most efficient approach is prevention.  Care can be taken to avoid bringing new weed seeds into a field by washing equipment before bringing it into the field.  It would also include visual and physical inspections of equipment.

Reduction is another approach as it not only minimizes future weed problems, it also reduces the speed at which weed patches expand across fields.  Increasing crop interference by increasing seeding rates and filling empty niches with cover crops helps minimize weed seeds into the seedbank.  Other approaches include mowing weeds prior to seed production and control of weeds through chemical means or cultivation.
Rotation of crops, say from a cereal to a pulse crop, or vice versa, can also cause a shift in weed species composition.  This also allows existing weeds in a cereal crop to be worked out, for example if you went into a pulse crop system.  Just be careful of residual spray if spraying broadleaf weeds in a cereal system and you plan on rotating into a pulse crop system. 

Many of these tips today can also be applied to a garden setting in one’s garden.  The principles of prevention, reduction and rotation can be valuable tools in our fight against weeds in gardens and cropping systems.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Pneumonia in Calves

Kari Lewis

Hot days and cool nights can predispose
calves to pneumonia, it's important to keep a
diligent eye on those older calves.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

As the weather warms up into spring, it often may feel that the ‘pressure is off’ when it comes to calving.  However, its important to not forget about the potential for pneumonia in those older calves.  As calves age, they have decreasing protection from maternal antibodies so their susceptibility to disease increases, especially in that time frame before they’ve received their branding time vaccinations.

When it comes to weather, these factors can predispose livestock to pneumonia. 
·         Dry and dusty conditions that irritate the lining of the respiratory tract
·         Large daily temperature swings such as hot days and cold nights
·         High humidity as moist air supports more pathogens than dry air

Calves that either received poor colostrum quality or insufficient quantity when they were born or have had inadequate nutrition are more susceptible to pneumonia.

Crowding, such as in barns, especially if there is poor ventilation or poor environmental sanitation increases the chance of pneumonia.  Any stress, such as calves being separated from their dams,

The possibility of pneumonia also increases if groups and ages of animals are mixed.  Mixing stresses animals and increases pathogen shedding, which exposes individuals to new pathogen strains.  When animals congregate, such as in cold and wet weather, concentrations of disease-causing organisms are increased as well, increasing their susceptibility. 

Signs of pneumonia include decreased activity, dropping ears, lowered head, coughing, nasal discharge, reduced feed intake (if you notice the cow hasn’t been sucked, for example), increased respiratory rate, fever, etc.  As pneumonia progresses, open mouth breathing may even be seen.  Severely affected animals will be reluctant to move and will have difficulty keeping up with the herd. 

Animals with pneumonia need to be treated in as low stress of a manner as possible with immediate treatment to minimize possibility of death.  Dehydrated animals would benefit from electrolytes.  Your veterinarian can help design a protocol for treating sick calves and also advise on proper calf vaccinations.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Breeding Yearling Heifers

Kari Lewis

Last week I received a question on the guidelines for breeding yearling heifers, so I thought that would be a pertinent topic for today.  Given that this is the often the time for making that ‘final cut’ on the replacement heifers and fertility testing those bulls, here’s a few points to keep in mind when when heading into the breeding season:

Yearling heifers should be 55% to 60% of their
mature bodyweight at breeding.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
·         Choose heifers that were born in the first 45 days of the calving season.  These heifers will be the oldest and are most likely to already be cycling, plus their mothers calved in the early part of the calving season as well.
·         Choose heifers that were born unassisted and nursed without assistance. 
·         Choose heifers with a calm disposition, these will be your momma cows for hopefully the next 10 or 12 years. 
·         Consider the heifer’s size and if it fits your herd.  The heaviest heifers may represent big, high growth females that might be too big for your environment.  Small, slow growing females are not good replacement heifer candidates either. 
·         Remember that any heifers that were born twin to a bull have an extremely high chance of being infertile.  It’s best to cull them or have a vet palpate them before breeding. 
·         Lastly, replacement heifers should be structurally correct, long bodied and deep made with a nice spring of rib. 

So, what size should a heifer be at breeding?  The recommendation through the 1980’s was that heifers should be about 2/3 of their mature bodyweight at breeding.  However, more recent research out of Nebraska and Miles City has shown that heifers can be 55% to 60% of their mature bodyweight at breeding, and still have acceptable pregnancy rates and longevity, as long as they are on a positive plane of nutrition from before the breeding season through calving. 

Using the 55 to 60% of mature bodyweight recommendation, if heifers are from a cowherd with 1,300-pound mature cows, they should average around 750 pounds at breeding.  These heifers then need to be on a sound nutrition program where they continue gaining weight and developing condition through calving as a first calf heifer. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Eggs Benedict Day

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

It seems like there is a holiday for everything anymore and April 16th is no different.  It isn’t celebrated as “Yeah, I Got My Taxes in On Time” day, but perhaps it should be.  One of the ways April 16th is celebrated is as Eggs Benedict Day.

One story for the origin of eggs benedict is that in 1894 stock broker Lemuel Benedict ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a side of Hollandaise” at the Waldorf Hotel.  They were so impressed with the dish that they put it on the menu substituting ham and English muffins in place of the bacon and toast.  Whether this story is true or not, eggs play a part in our health.
Eggs do contain a lot of cholesterol.  However, for most people, only a small amount of that cholesterol goes into the bloodstream.  According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat in a person’s diet has a greater impact on raising blood cholesterol levels than cholesterol in food.  One large egg has only 1.6 grams of saturated fat.  Compare that to one tablespoon of butter, which contains 7 grams saturated fat.

According to Colorado State University Extension there are several health benefits of eggs.  Eggs are a low-cost food rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.  They contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are bioactive compounds contributing to eye health.  Along with providing 6 grams of protein, an egg is a good source of B vitamins, folic acid, and iron.  Eggs are also a good source of choline, which is important for the brain and nervous system.  Eggs may also help promote weight management.  When adequate protein is eaten early in the day, a person may feel satiated for longer and consume less calories as the day goes on.
Whether selecting chicken eggs, quail eggs, or even duck eggs, there is no question that we can incorporate eggs into our healthy eating pattern.  Hard cooked, scrambled, poached, or baked are healthy ways to prepare eggs.  While fried may not be on the list as the healthiest way of preparing eggs, it is still my favorite way.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Are Non-monthly Expenses Ruining your Budget Plan?

by Wendy Wedum, MSU Extension Pondera County

I must admit I had a small moment of panic this today! I’ve been preoccupied with some family happenings and I realized the registration for my car is due…luckily it’s not expired and better yet, I have the money set aside for the bill!

If you have a system for tracking your family living expenses, you probably have a pretty good idea where your money goes. But, have you ever found that you spent more money at the end of some months or at end of the year than you thought you did?

One reason for overspending could be related to non-monthly bills like car licensing, insurance, holiday and birthday gifts, taxes or unexpected expenses like medical bills or repairs to your home or car.  If non-monthly expenses are burning up your budget, here is a potential solution. 

MSU Extension has a financial planning tool to help plan for non-monthly living expenses. The MontGuide is called Schedule of Non-Monthly Family Living Expenses and it helps you figure out how much money needs to be set aside each month to avoid the stressful feeling that can happen when several major bills are due at the same time and there is no money set aside to pay for them.

The Schedule of Non-Monthly Family Living Expenses MontGuide has a worksheet to identify and list non-monthly expenses that happen during the year.  The steps are very simple and help identify and save money for expenses before the money is needed.
You start by listing your non-monthly expenses. This might include things for school such as pictures, sports, supplies, and events or for the car such as licensing, insurance, servicing, or tires or personal expenses such as birthday and holiday gifts, household repairs, memberships, personal care or vacations.

Then you make an estimate of the cost for all your items in the month or months when that non-monthly expense happens.  After all the expenses are listed, add them up to see what your grand total is.  Divide the grand total by 12 to figure out how much money needs to be set aside each month.  Then remember to add this amount to your monthly budget and put it into your savings.  That way you will have the money you need and it will help to avoid the feeling of financial stress when the non-monthly bills are due.

For more information, there are several options.  
1. Connect with your local Extension Agent, 
2. Click on this link to download a free PDF ofthe Schedule of Non-Monthly Family Living Expenses MontGuide             https://www.msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/MT198910HR.pdf
3. Call Wendy Wedum at 271-4054.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Pruning shrubs

Kari Lewis

Now is the ideal time to prune many trees and shrubs as this time in the late dormant season is when severe cold has passed, but new growth has not yet begun.  This dormant season pruning typically enhances the plant’s vigor, and will stimulate new growth.  In addition, pruning now will provide the trees and shrubs the entire growing season to recover.
When a shrub flowers determines when is an appropriate time to prune that shrub.  Shrubs that bloom on current season’s growth which would be ok to prune now include Peegee hydrangea, potentilla, shrub rose, snowberry, and Hills of Snow bushes. 

One exception to pruning shrubs this time of year includes shrubs grown primarily for their flowers that that bloom in the spring.  Spring flowering shrubs are any shrubs that bloom at the same time or before the lilacs bloom.  These spring flowering shrubs bloom on LAST year’s growth, so should be pruned right after flowering.  Examples of these are honeysuckle, rhododendron, lilac, and rambling rose bushes. 

If you are wanting to prune shrubs into a hedge, small shrubs that are 1 to 3 years old should be cut back to about 3 to 5 inches above the ground to encourage growth of new shoots at the base.  If you have older shrubs that you would like to transition into a hedge, cut back one-third from their tops and sides to help develop a full, bushy hedge. 

The main thing to remember when pruning a hedge is that the ideal hedge is wider at the base than the top.  A hedge should look like a truncated cone shape. 

Often, I will see the exact opposite of this, that is, the top of the hedge is wider than the base.  This leads to thin, weak growth, as the wider top portion of the hedge shades the lower portion and without adequate sunlight to the lower portion of the hedge, it becomes less vigorous. 
Formal hedges should have one-third to one-fourth of their oldest branches near the ground cut back each year.  Upper branches of the hedge can also be cut back to their main parent stem to encourage fresh, new growth. 

If you prune any infected branches while pruning, make sure to clean your pruners with rubbing alcohol after each cut so that the pruners don’t transmit the disease to another portion of the hedge or to the tree you prune next. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

What my Needles Wouldn't Do for a Little Water!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

This week, I wanted to address what I think is going on with some of the brown we may be seeing on our evergreens this time of year. 
A lot of our problems come down to what is probably winter desiccation.  Winter desiccation of evergreens is discoloration or damage of the needles.  Winter sun and wind can cause water loss.  Additionally, if the roots are in frozen soil, they are unable to replace the moisture and it will result in browning needles.  It is most common to see the damage on the south, southwest or windward sides of the plant, but the whole plant can be affected in severe cases.  This is more common in young trees.
Photos courtesy of Utah State University Extension.
For our evergreens, the best thing to do to prevent winter desiccation, or at least alleviate some of the more severe damage, is to water all trees and shrubs prior to the soil freezing.  In some winters, when we have chinooks, we also have the opportunity to water then.  Unfortunately, the past few winters haven’t necessarily provided us with many respites between storms.  If your trees are young, you can provide them with some sort of wind or sun barrier, such as burlap stretched between two posts.  However, this only works with younger trees and smaller shrubs, such as the arborvitae we see occasionally around town.  If a person does go with this method, you also need to remember not to cover the entire plant as air needs to continue to circulate around the trees to some extent.
Another problem that might occur around town is with our deciduous trees.  These are ones like our ash, birch, and chokecherry trees.  Bark on the south and southwest sides of tree trunks and in branch crotches may be killed by sunscald.  With sunscald, bark is warmed and the cells in tree de-hardened by afternoon sun.  Rapid temperature drop after sunset then kills the cells and bark. There are several ways to reduce sunscald.  Tree wrap, such as that made from heavy craft paper, can be applied to the trunk in October to reflect the sun and reduce abrupt temperature fluctuations.  This also helps keep rodents from feeding on the bark.  White latex paint also reflects the sun and prevents rapid temperature changes.  Wrap or paint the trunks from the soil line to the lowest branch.  The purpose of tree wraps is not to keep the trunk warm but instead to keep it cool.  Evergreen shrubs interplanted with trees help shade the tree bark during winter and reduce sunscald.

For more information about tree care, either for new or mature trees, the Extension office has a MontGuide titled, “What’s Wrong With This Tree” that is free and available to the public.