Tag Archive: Panhandle

Whiteflies Invade the Panhandle

Whiteflies Invade the Panhandle

Over the last month or so, home gardeners and commercial growers alike have noticed what look to be large dust particles floating through the air. It’s probably not uncommon to have inhaled a few or even a few hundred of these mysterious particles. Most likely, these “particles” aren’t dust at all but whiteflies instead. Whiteflies are small (less than a tenth of an inch long), white, soft-bodied insects.  They aren’t flies but are considered ‘true bugs’ by entomologists. The most common whitefly species in Northwest Florida is the silverleaf whitefly, also known as the sweetpotato whitefly. Whitefly numbers have exploded exponentially this year because of last years’ mild winter. These irksome insects feed on a variety of annuals, shrubs, vegetables and trees.

Whitefly adults and eggs.

Magnified whitefly adults and eggs. Photo Credit: James Castner, University of Florida/IFAS.

Whiteflies typically feed on the underside of leaves. Initially, disturbed leaves will become pale in color, then a sticky substance may develop on the surface of the leaves. This sticky substance is called honeydew. Honeydew is actually a sugary substance excreted by the whiteflies as part of their elimination process, similar to what aphids and scale insects produce. After honeydew is deposited, sooty mold develops to feed on this readily available sugar source. Sooty mold is a fungus that forms a gray to black colored coating on plant leaves.  It normally grows on leaves that were previously covered with honeydew. Sooty mold hinders the ability of leaves to absorb light and ultimately limits photosynthesis.

Pale squash leaves due to feeding from whiteflies.

Pale squash leaves due to feeding from whiteflies. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS.

So what should be done to control whiteflies? It depends on what is being grown. If whiteflies are present, the role of beneficial insects should be taken into consideration. Plenty of predatory insects such as lady bugs and green lacewings are around to feed on whiteflies. In fact, leaving the whiteflies alone on your trees and shrubs will attract more predatory insects. Below are some whitefly control methods that produce minimal damage to beneficial insect populations.

Whitefly Control in Vegetables

  • Sticky Traps – Yellow sticky traps are a good way to monitor whitefly populations and can help determine when insecticide application is appropriate.
  • Insecticidal Soaps – Insecticidal soaps are usually applied as a 1 to 2 percent solution (2½ to 5 tablespoons per gallon of water). It is important to follow the application directions on the label. Insecticidal soap should be applied in the evening, when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature is below 85°F. Some insecticidal soaps available at local lawn and garden centers include: Bonide Insecticidal Soap, Bonide Insecticidal Soap, and Bayer Advanced Natria Insecticidal Soap.
  • Horticultural Oils – Horticultural oils should be handled like insecticidal soaps. Like the soaps, they should be applied in the evening.  Some horticultural oils available at local lawn and garden centers include: Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil, Southern Ag Parafine Oil, and Garden Safe Neem Oil.
  • Other Insecticides – Harsher chemicals are not recommended for the home gardener, because whiteflies have become resistant to most products on the market. Use of broad spectrum insecticides may also contribute to an increase in whitefly populations because they kill beneficial predatory insects.

Hopefully winter will be cooler this year and the profuse whitefly population will be knocked back. Until then, we wish all home gardeners the best of luck with fall gardening!


Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/10/03/whiteflies-invade-the-panhandle/

Golden Fall in the Panhandle

Golden Fall in the Panhandle

Silkgrass Pityopsis spp. Picture by: Sheila Dunning

Each fall, nature puts on a brilliant show of color throughout the United States. As the temperatures drop, autumn encourages the “leaf peepers” to hit the road in search of the red-, yellow- and orange-colored leaves of the northern deciduous trees.

Here in the Florida Panhandle, fall color means wildflowers.  As one drives the roads it’s nearly impossible to not see the bright yellows in the ditches and along the wood’s edge.  Golden Asters (Chrysopsis spp.), Tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.), Silkgrasses (Pityopsis spp.), Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) and Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are displaying their petals of gold at every turn.  These wildflowers are all members of the Aster family, one of the largest plant families in the world.  For most, envisioning an Aster means a flower that looks like a daisy.  While many are daisy-like in structure, others lack the petals and appear more like cascading sprays.

So if you are one of the many “hitting the road in search of fall color”, head to open areas.  For wildflowers, that means rural locations with limited homes and businesses.  Forested areas and non-grazed pastures typically have showy displays, especially when a spring burn was performed earlier in the year.

With the drought we experienced, moist, low-lying areas will naturally be the best areas to view the many golden wildflowers.  Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation website, www.flawildflowers.org/bloom.php, to see both what’s in bloom and the locations of the state’s prime viewing areas.

And if you are want to add native wildflowers and other Florida-friendly plants to your landscape join the Master Gardeners for their Fall Plant Sale to be held Saturday, October 14 from 8 am to noon at the Okaloosa County Extension Annex located at 127 SW Hollywood Blvd, Ft. Walton Beach.


Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/10/02/golden-fall-in-the-panhandle/

Battling Scab in Panhandle Pecan Trees

Battling Scab in Panhandle Pecan Trees

Pecan tree grove in North Florida. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

Pecans are grown throughout the Panhandle of Florida. The western side of the Panhandle tends to be acreage dedicated to home gardeners, while the eastern counties have more commercial acreage. Regardless, many in the agriculture community are interested in pecans, because they either grow them commercially, or have some planted on their farm for local consumption. UF/IFAS Extension agents receive a steady stream of pecan questions throughout the year. A lot of the questions tend to focus on reinvigorating older orchards, remedying alternate bearing, and disease management. Pecan Scab is the most devastating of pecan diseases in the Southeastern United States.  Disease samples containing scab are frequently brought in to Extension Offices seeking assistance.

Pecan Scab symptoms on the nut shuck (Photo Credit: University of Georgia Plant Pathology , University of Georgia, Bugwood.org)

Pecan Scab is caused by a fungal pathogen called Cladosporium carygenum. Scab can reduce yields 50 to 100%, if not managed. Years in which pecan scab is worse tend to be years with excessive rainfall, much like 2017. Symptoms are small dark lesions (spots) on the leaves, twigs, and nut shucks. The lesions can grow together, and with extreme scab infections, the lesions started on either side of the leaf will eventually go through the leaf, and some even develop a shot hole appearance. Conditions of prolonged leaf wetness is the optimal environment for scab development.

The best way to manage pecan scab is to plant resistant cultivars. Specialists in Florida and Alabama have developed a list of recommended cultivars with some varying levels of scab resistance.  The varieties include Gafford, McMillan, Excel, Kanza, Adams 5, Philip, Gloria Grande, Lakota, Sumner, as well as several others listed in the chart below. Some of the recommended pollinator cultivars are Amling and Syrup Mill. The data in the chart were derived from Dr. Pete Andersen’s research of scab resistance in cultivars grown in Quincy, Florida, at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

Dr. Pete Andersen’s 3 year research data of scab resistance on several pecan cultivars in Quincy, FL.

Choosing appropriate cultivars is the best way for homeowner pecan growers to deal with scab, as spraying protectant fungicides is not an option for non-commercial growers.  For commercial growers a detailed spray schedule can be followed from bud-break to shell hardening. A plethora of fungicides can be used, but should be rotated to prevent resistance development. Some of the fungicides used for scab control include tebuconazoles, azoxystrobin, kresoxim-methyl, flutriafol, triphenyltin hydroxide, and dodine. Fungicide recommendations do change over time, so check with local Extension Agents to receive  the latest recommendations.

Sources for additional information on Pecan production:

The Pecan Tree

Pecan Cultivars for North Florida

UGA Pecan Production Website

UGA 2017 Commercial Pecan Spray Guide

Southeastern Pecan Growers’ Handbook



Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/22/battling-scab-in-panhandle-pecan-trees/

The American Alligator: a new nuisance for the panhandle?

The American Alligator: a new nuisance for the panhandle?

I recently saw a photograph of an American Alligator (Alligator mississppiensis) crossing Perdido Key Drive on a heavy rain day.  This encounter would surprise some, and unnerve many.  The majority of the nuisance wildlife calls I receive are for snakes.  I have never received a call for an alligator but no doubt, my colleagues in central and south Florida have.  They certainly will with the landfall of Irma.  Just as humans relocate for storms, wildlife does as well.  High, dry ground is a need for all, and as our friends return to their homes after the storm, they will no doubt encounter creatures in the debris that can be a bit unnerving.

Alligator basking on a shoreline; photo: UF/IFAS Communications

“Nuisance” is in the eye of the beholder. Defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as being annoying, unpleasant, or obnoxious, a nuisance species is one we would rather not have in our yard.  Snakes are one of those.  Most of the people who call about snakes wish them no harm; they just do not want them on their porch or in their pool.  Venomous snakes in particular raise anxiety levels, especially when children or pets are around.  Though we do not get many calls on alligators, the feeling a homeowner would have if they found one in their driveway would be the same.


There were no calls on the alligator on Perdido Key. Actually, not everyone believed the photo to be legit.  I cannot verify it, but I did receive a call earlier this summer when an American alligator was found swimming and basking on a Gulf beach in Navarre and later near Ft. Pickens.  Though not as common as they are in central and south Florida, alligators do live here and they are found on our barrier islands.  Though encounters with them are rare, how should a homeowner deal with this potential nuisance? When I give a program on snakes I typically go over four points.  Let us go over the same with the alligators.


Is it venomous or not?

Obviously, this is not a question here – no crocodilian is venomous. They do have bacteria in their mouths that have caused problems for some who have survived an attack, but there is no venom.  However, in south Florida identification is still important because there is more than one crocodilian roaming the landscape.  The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is a native species found in coastal waters of south Florida, the northern reach of its range.  The Speckled Caiman (Caiman crocodylus) is an exotic species from Central and South America that is now found in freshwater canals and lakes of southeastern Florida.  It is likely that post Irma cleanup will include encounters with these two.  However, this is not likely for the panhandle – our winters are too cold.


How do I avoid encounters?

Generally encounters with nuisance wildlife occur for one of two reasons; (a) we have moved into their habitat or (b), they have come to us.

With the population of Florida growing at an ever increasing rate, currently 21 million people and a growth rate of 1.77%, development continues to expand into habitat where these animals have remained out of our sight for some time. As we continue to move into these habitats, encounters with nuisance wildlife will increase. They will be forced to visit our yards and pools.  It is no different with bears.

In other cases we, either knowing or unknowingly, provide food and shelter for them. Predators tend to select the easiest prey to kill, the ones that take the less energy.  Human development tends to provide habitat for vermin, such as rats, in concentrated areas.  This makes hunting for predators, such as snakes, bears, and alligators, much easier – and they will take advantage of this.


With alligators, (a) is more problematic than (b). Alligators have a natural fear of humans and do not typically seek us out looking for easy prey.  They seem to prefer to live and hunt away from us.  However, feeding alligators changes this and thus, it is a felony to do so in our state.  In 2015, the state legislature developed a tiered penalty system for assessing fines and charges.  As we continue to develop in areas where alligators live, it will be harder to avoid encountering them.


What do I do if I encounter one?

The general nature of wildlife is reacting to predators, prey, reproduction, and shelter. Alligators are top predators and feed on a variety of species.  They are opportunistic hunters, selecting prey they can easily swallow and are relatively easy to catch.  Much of these are smaller animals.  If the opportunity to make a large kill presents itself, they will – however, they will drown the creature and leave it underwater to soften the carcass so they can swallow.


The method of capture usually involves lying still and waiting for prey to move within range. If encountering an alligator the questions that come to mind are: (1) am I within range?  (2) are we near water? – remember they need to submerged large prey.  Keep in mind that small children and pets are easier prey and care should taken when in alligator habitat.


Resources provide the following suggestions if an encounter occurs:

  1. They have a nature fear of humans and will try to retreat. This is true. Provide an avenue of escape for the animal. Do your best not to corner it.  Remember it may react to pets and children as prey and could approach.
  2. If they hiss, they are warning you that you are getting too close and they are feeling threatened. Back away slowly. Sudden movements could be misinterpreted and they may defend themselves by attacking.
  3. Keep in mind they are fast moving for several yards, so do not think of them as slow and lethargic.
  4. Females guarding a nest may attack. They will charge to drive you off but typically return to the nest once you have moved to a safe distance (safe in their minds). Alligators build nests of leaf litter above ground in quiet water areas within their range. You may encounter one while hiking along shore. Avoid these nesting areas.

Alligator basking on the Escambia River; photo: Molly O’Connnor

And what if I’m bitten?

This question makes sense if you are talking snakes. With snakes, you are bitten and the snake withdraws.  So the question comes up, now what? Not so much with alligators.  Though alligators tend to feed on smaller and softer prey, as they increase in age and size, their skull structure adjust to where they can crush turtle shells and mammal bones.  Forces have been recorded between 12 and 9452 Newtons, depending on age.  When they bite they do not typically withdraw, but rather will drag you into water.  Do whatever you can to avoid being dragged into water.  Since 1948 there have been 388 alligator attacks, 24 were fatal.  That averages to 6 attacks/year statewide and about 1 fatality every 4 years – so it is not very common.  But remember, human development is encroaching and we will need to learn to live with them as our ancestors did when the animals were more numerous.


In Florida, an alligator is not considered a nuisance unless it is at least 4 feet in length. If you feel there is a nuisance alligator in your neighborhood you can call.





American Crocodile: Species Profile. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/crocodile.htm.


Caiman. 2017. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. http://www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/american-crocodile/caiman/.


Erickson, G.M., A.K. Lappin., A.K. Vilet. 2003. The Ontogeny of Bite-Force Performance in American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Journal of Zoology. Vol 260 (3). Pp. 317-327. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-zoology/article/the-ontogeny-of-bite-force-performance-in-american-alligator-alligator-mississippiensis/150E92D79C5FAEB821DDBF563888E773. P


Florida Population 2017: Demographics, Maps, and Graphs. 2017. World Population Review. http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/florida-population/.


Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nuisance.


Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program. 2017. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/nuisance/.


Swiman, E., M. Hostetler, S. Webb Miller, M. Main. 2017. Living with Alligators: A Florida Reality. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) publication WEC203.



Texas Parks and Wildlife. If You See An Alligator. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/alligator/safety/index.phtml.


Wildlife Feeding Rules and Penalties. 2017. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. http://myfwc.com/news/resources/fact-sheets/feeding-rules-and-penalties/.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/15/the-american-alligator-a-new-nuisance-for-the-panhandle/

Silverleaf Whiteflies in Panhandle Cotton

Silverleaf Whiteflies in Panhandle Cotton

Sliverleaf whiteflies (SLWF), also known as sweet potato whiteflies, are a major pest in many cropping systems. The SLWF has a broad feeding range of over 600 host plants, which includes ornamental, vegetable, and field crops. This season, large populations of silverleaf whiteflies have been reported in in cotton in Georgia, Alabama, and now Florida’s Panhandle.

Whitefly adults and eggs (photo credit James Castner)

Females deposit eggs on the underside of leaves. Once an egg hatches, the first instar in the SLWF life cycle is referred to as a “crawler.” As the name implies, during this stage the immature instar will crawl on the leaf underside until selecting a location to feed. Once settled, the remaining stages of its life cycle are immobile until it reaches adulthood. Both the adult and immature SLWF have sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on plant juices. SLWF excrete honeydew, a waste composed largely of sugars. This honeydew provides a perfect enviroment for sooty mold development on the leaf tissue, which can impact photosynthesis, as well as cause the cotton lint to stick together making it difficult to gin. Feeding damage from SLWF can also result in premature defoliation. SLWF populations will increase and pose a threat to cotton until it is defoliated or the leaves drop from feeding injury.

University of Georgia Extension Entomologist, Dr. Phillip Roberts published the article Georgia Cotton: Whitefly Infestations Across the State – What Can You Do? a few weeks ago.  The article discusses thresholds and other key management factors. A summary for most of his article can be found below. Dr. Ron Smith of Auburn University also published the article Silverleaf Whitefly Control in Cotton that also discusses SLWF management.

Scouting Summary:

When scouting cotton for SLWF, select the fifth mainstem leaf below the terminal to check for infestations. Sample at least 30 random plants in the field, avoid edges by moving at least 25 paces into the field and then keep selected plants about 10 paces apart. Treatment is recommended when 50 percent of sampled leaves have 5 or more immature crawlers. Keep in mind that late planted cotton has a higher risk for SLWF infestations, as well as hairy leaf varieties in comparison to those with a smooth leaf.

Whitefly nymphs and pupae (photo credit Lyle Buss)

Treatment Summary:

Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) such as Knack and Courier are the main component of SLWF management programs in cotton. Their effects on SLWF populations are generally slow due to the stages they target in the insect life cycle, but these types of products have long residual activity. With large infested areas across the southeast, certain products are becoming harder to obtain due to treatment demand. Other products with whitefly activity include Assail, Sivanto, and Venom which target all stages of the insect’s life cycle. Oberon is another product used, which treats primarily nymphs.

It is important to note the role beneficial insects play in the field. Natural enemies of the SLWF include lacewings, minute pirate bug, and some species of ladybug. These types of insects can be conserved by avoiding use of broad spectrum insecticides such as pyrethroids, unless other pest thresholds are reached. Pyrethroids can be identified by looking at the active ingredient listed on a product label, their common name will end in -thrin or –ate. Examples of these types of products include Bifenthrin, Karate, and Orthene.

For more information consult the following articles, or contact your local Extension Agent.

Georgia Cotton: Whitefly Infestations Across the State – What Can You Do?

Silverleaf Whitefly Control in Cotton



Author: Ethan Carter – ethancarter@ufl.edu

Ethan Carter is the Regional Row Crop IPM Agent in Jackson County. He earned his BS in Food and Resource Economics, and his MS in Agronomy, both from the University of Florida.

Ethan Carter

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/silverleaf-whiteflies-in-panhandle-cotton/

New UF/IFAS Entomologist is Surveying Insect Pests in Panhandle Row Crops

New UF/IFAS Entomologist is Surveying Insect Pests in Panhandle Row Crops

Dr. Silvana Paula-Moraes (right) and her field technician Latisa Ledbetter-Kish (left).

Silvana Paula-Moraes began working in the fall of 2016 at the  UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center (WFREC) based in Jay, Florida. Originally from Brazil, Dr. Moraes completed her PhD in Nebraska.  Her research has been dedicated to address several aspects of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Insect Resistance Management (IRM) for corn, cotton, and soybean.

Her appointment at WFREC is 70% research and 30% teaching, and will address several components of IPM, including the ecology of insect pests associated with field crops in Florida, insect movement, host utilization, and differential exposure to Bt toxins in Bt crops. This year, Dr. Moraes and Latisa Ledbetter-Kish, her field technician, have been working with Extension agents to monitor insect populations across three Panhandle counties (Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Jackson) in corn, peanuts, and cotton. UF/IFAS Extension Agent Libbie Johnson is coordinating the effort with growers in the western counties, and Ethan Carter with growers in Jackson County. Starting out, her first objective is to document the pests prevalent in the Florida Panhandle.

Her work includes the use of pheromone traps in both irrigated and dryland peanut and cotton fields. Pheromone traps consist of a plastic popup A-frame structure, with a sticky trap bottom liner placed inside. On the liner a small lure infused with pheromones is used to attract adult moths to the trap from a distance spanning roughly 60 meters.

Sticky sheet known as a liner on the bottom of trap with a lure placed in the middle (left), complete trap showing a liner and lure inside (right).

There are roughly eight fields across each county where pheromone traps are used to collect the adult moths of fall armyworms, soybean loopers, and corn earworms. Each field has a total of six traps, which are spaced equidistant and grouped in sets of three on two sides of a field.

Example of pheromone traps grouped in a peanut field (left), along with a close up of a trap (right).

Every two weeks, the liners are removed from the traps, dated and bagged, so that the number of moths from the two week span can be recorded in the lab for each trap location. The lure itself is replaced every four weeks.

Dr. Moraes holding a newly collected liner (left), example of a bagged liner which is taken to her lab for processing, so that the number of moths can be recorded.

Aside from pheromone traps, she is also collecting insects from the fields through the use of active sampling using a sweep net, beat cloth, and plant inspection. Samples are collected several times throughout the growing season, while the crops are at various physiological stages.

Ethan and Latisa sampled a peanut field during the the 2017 growing season using a beat cloth and plant inspection.

Overtime, this work will provide Florida-specific data regarding the frequency of moth flights, insect life cycle, threshold levels, and will help determine any pest resistance issues- whether it be from insecticide sprays or Bt crops.



Author: Ethan Carter – ethancarter@ufl.edu

Ethan Carter is the Regional Row Crop IPM Agent in Jackson County. He earned his BS in Food and Resource Economics, and his MS in Agronomy, both from the University of Florida.

Ethan Carter

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/new-ufifas-entomologist-is-surveying-insect-pests-in-panhandle-row-crops/

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Our first POL program will happen this week – August 17 – at the Navarre Beach snorkel reef, and is sold out!  We are glad you all are interested in these programs.


Well!  We have another one for you.  The Natural Resource Extension Agents from UF IFAS Extension will be holding a two-day water school at St. Joseph Bay.  Participants will learn all about the coastal ecosystems surrounding St. Joe Bay in the classroom, snorkeling, and kayaking.  Kayaks and overnight accommodations are available for those interested.  This water school will be September 19-20.  For more information contact Extension Agent Ray Bodrey in Gulf County or Erik Lovestrand in Franklin.  Information and registration can be found at https://stjosephbay-waterschool.eventbrite.com.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/panhandle-outdoors-water-school-st-joseph-bay/

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab Team, from left to right: Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab

Northwest Florida’s Mobile Irrigation Lab (MIL), run by Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson, is working hard to help farmers increase crop yields and lower costs through improved irrigation efficiency. By increasing efficiency, farmers can reduce operating costs and increase yields. The MIL has been providing free irrigation evaluations in row crop systems since 2005, and has completed more than 1,000 evaluations across the panhandle, from Escambia to Jefferson County.

Not only are these irrigation assessments good for a farmer’s bottom line, but they are a highly effective way to help conserve Florida’s water resources. The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) estimates that the MIL evaluations have resulted in more than 9.25 million gallons of water saved per day across the district, totaling more than 2.5 billion gallons saved to date. The MIL is funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the NWFWMD.

The team places a water collection bucket every 20 meters in a straight line along the path of the center pivot to capture irrigated water. Once the buckets are in place, the pivot is turned on and starts moving across the field.

Why are these evaluations important and how are they done?

The MIL wants to make sure that a farmer’s irrigation system is running at maximum efficiency, and a major part of this is making sure that the center pivot distributes water evenly across the field. If not, some plants receive less water than others, and farmers have to increase the amount of water applied to make sure all plants get enough. In areas that are over-watered, fertilizers can move past the crop’s root zone into the aquifer system. These nutrients are no longer available for plants to use, and they contaminate our water resources. By fixing distribution problems, farmers reduce the amount of water used and operating costs are lowered – less fertilizer is wasted and pumping costs (electricity or fuel costs) are reduced.

When the pivot has moved past the buckets, Rex Patterson measures the content of each one while Robert Patterson records the data. This will let the team know how evenly the pivot system is distributing water in the field.

During an MIL evaluation, the team will go through the entire irrigation system to evaluate how effectively it is running. This includes testing the center pivot’s distribution uniformity (how evenly water is applied to plants in the field), the application rate, pivot speed, water pressure, water flow rate and checking for leaks. The MIL analyzes this information and prepares a confidential report for the farmer. Recommendations to improve efficiency can include replacing sprinklers, fixing leaks and end gun adjustments, among others. Farmers can have an evaluation done every three years.

Mark Miles (left) places the flow meter on the center pivot’s pipe stand and Rex Patterson (right) waits for the system to pressurize before checking the water’s flow rate on the meter’s console.

How do you schedule an irrigation evaluation for your farm?

To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab, call: (850) 482-0388; Fax: (850) 463-8618. Their offices are located on 4155 Hollis Drive, Marianna, FL 32448.

If your farm is outside the Panhandle, us the following FDACS website to contact the MIL that serves your area:   MILs in Florida.  There are currently 14 MILs providing services in 62 counties across the state.

Cost-share funds for irrigation management

FDACS, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the water management districts offer cost-share funds for irrigation management, which includes irrigation system enhancements and conversions, end gun control and pump bowl upgrades among others. Contact your local FDACS field staff, NRCS office and water management district for more information on available cost-shares and funding deadlines. This information can be found on the following websites:



Author: Andrea Albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

Dr. Andrea Albertin is the Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources.

Andrea Albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/the-mobile-irrigation-lab-team-helping-panhandle-farmers-lower-costs-and-conserve-water/

Beekeeping in the Panhandle Summer Series – Starts August 17th

Beekeeping in the Panhandle Summer Series – Starts August 17th

European Honey Bees
Photo: Ashley N. Mortensen; University of Florida

The UF/IFAS Extension Panhandle Agriculture Team is pleased to offer three intermediate level beekeeping classes.  These classes will be offered via interactive web-conferencing at a number of Extension Offices across North Florida and will be taught by state and nationally recognized specialists.  This summer series will be Thursday evenings from 6-7:30 pm Central Time, 7-8:30 pm Eastern Time.  Each presentation will be followed by a question / answer period with the speaker.  Registration for all three classes is $ 15 per person, or $ 25 for a family up to four, and covers course materials and refreshments. 

Here is the lineup:

Thursday August 17th, Fall Pest and Disease Management -Varroa Mites and Nosema presented by Cameron Jack, UF/IFAS Bee Lab Apiarist

Thursday August 24th, Working With Pollination Contracts, presented by Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection

Thursday September 7th, Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides, presented by Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection.

Here is a link to a printable flyer and further details: Beekeeping in Panhandle Summer Series 2017. 

Please call your local UF/IFAS Extension Office to register.

Call and register today!



Author: Judy Biss – judy.biss@ufl.edu

Judy Biss is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/beekeeping-in-the-panhandle-summer-series-starts-august-17th-2/

Summer Rain in the Florida Panhandle

Summer Rain in the Florida Panhandle

ARTICLE BY DR. MATT DEITCH; water quality specialist – University of Florida Milton

Summer is a great time for weather-watching in the Florida panhandle. Powerful thunderstorms appear out of nowhere, and can pour inches of rain in an area in a single afternoon. Our bridges, bluffs, and coastline allow us to watch them develop from a distance. Yet as they come closer, it is important to recognize the potential danger they pose—lightning from these storms can strike anywhere nearby, and can cause fatality for a person who is struck. Nine people were killed by lightning strike in Florida in 2016 alone, more than in any other state. Because of the risk posed by lightning, my family and I enjoy these storms up-close from indoors.

Carpenter’s Creek in Pensacola
Photo: Dr. Matt Deitch

A fraction of the rain that falls during these storms is delivered to our bays, bayous, and estuaries through a drainage network of creeks and rivers. This streamflow serves several important ecological functions, including preventing vegetation encroachment and maintaining habitat features for fish and amphibians through scouring the streambed. High flows also deposit fine sediment on the floodplain, helping to replenish nutrients to floodplain soil. On average, only about one-third of the water that falls as rain (on average, more than 60 inches per year!) turns into streamflow. The rest may either infiltrate soil and percolate into groundwater; or be consumed and transpired by plants; or evaporate off vegetation, from the soil, or the ground surface before reaching the soil. Evaporation and transpiration play an especially large role in the water cycle during summer: on average, most of the rain that falls in the Panhandle occurs during summer, but most stream discharge occurs during winter.

The water that flows in streams carries with it many substances that accumulate in the landscape. These substances—which include pollutants we commonly think of, such as excessive nutrients comprised of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as silt, oil, grease, bacteria, and trash—are especially abundant when streamflow is high, typically during and following storm events. Oil, grease, bacteria, and trash are especially common in urban areas. The United States EPA and Florida Department of Environmental Protection have listed parts of the Choctawhatchee, St. Andrew, Perdido, and Pensacola Bays as impaired for nutrients and coliform bacteria. Pollution issues are not exclusive to the Panhandle: some states (such as Maryland and California) have even developed regulatory guidelines in streams (TMDLs) for trash!

Many local and grassroots organizations are taking the lead on efforts to reduce pollution. Some municipalities have recently publicized efforts to enforce laws on picking up pet waste, which is considered a potential source of coliform bacteria in some places. Some conservation groups in the panhandle organize stream debris pick-up days from local streams, and others organize volunteer citizens to monitor water quality in streams and the bays where they discharge. Together, these efforts can help to keep track of pollution levels, demonstrate whether restoration efforts have improved water quality, and maintain healthy beaches and waterways we rely on and value in the Florida Panhandle.

Santa Rosa Sound
Photo: Dr. Matt Deitch



Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/29/summer-rain-in-the-florida-panhandle/

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