Tag Archive: Production

Evaluate Forage Production While the Grass is Still Growing

Evaluate Forage Production While the Grass is Still Growing

Washington County cow in mid-September with plenty of forage waiting on her just beyond the temporary fence.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

There has been a delightful coolness in the air these first few “post Irma” days. Don’t be fooled, it’s not fall yet. Mid-September, in Florida, is definitely still summer and pasture grass should not be in short supply in the summer. This is a good time of year to evaluate your operation’s forage production ability.

Granted we may be a little past our peak forage production, but we are still quite a way from the “fall forage gap” – that rough period when our summer grasses are done and our cool season annuals have yet to really get started. In other words, there should be plenty of forage available right now. If that is not the case on your operation, your “fall forage gap” is going to be much longer than it should be.

There are many factors that can, collectively or independently, result in less than impressive forage production. The purpose of the following comments are to help you identify the factor(s) that might be holding back your forage production. Sitting here at my desk, I won’t presume to tell you you’ve done something wrong with your pastures. I am keenly aware of the old adage: If it don’t rain, it don’t matter. That said, if drought is not the issue at hand, consider that one or more of the following issues may be causing your less than optimum forage production. Each of the issues mentioned below would warrant their own article for a full explanation; the purpose here is simply to introduce the topics and encourage you to honestly evaluate your current situation.

  • Weeds – The presence of weeds reduce your pasture’s ability to produce forage. Weeds are undesirable plants that are not readily utilized by livestock, and in some cases are toxic. If these undesirable plants become established in your pasture they can displace desirable forage species, essentially decreasing your acres of grazable forage. We commonly only think of weeds as broadleaf species like Tropical Soda Apple, but some of the most problematic weeds we encounter in Florida are weedy grasses, like smutgrass. Broadleaf or grass, anything that is taking up stealing water and nutrients in your pasture, that your livestock do not utilize is lessening your overall ability to produce forage, and placing added pressure on the remaining desirable forage. Take steps to identify weeds and begin a control program. Weed Management in Pastures and Rangelands will be a valuable tool in this effort. 
  • The Wrong Grass – Unfortunately, I have received more than one call about “bahiagrass” that won’t grow. More often than not, especially in the northern half of the state, what the producer actually has in their pasture is centipede grass. Centipede is a good turf grass for the same reason it is a horrible forage grass; it doesn’t produce very much no matter what you do to it. Centipede is different from many other weedy grasses, in that livestock will graze it. However, its forage yields are far too low for it to be a viable forage. Centipede “creeps” into pastures and often goes unnoticed until the infestation is quite substantial. If you have areas in your pastures that are green but appear not to grow, take the time to check and see if you have an infestation of centipede grass.
  • Soil Fertility – Our improved forage species are bred to be highly productive. However, to reach their potential they must have adequate fertility available all throughout the growing season. Expecting a forge to be highly productive without adequate fertility is akin to expecting an engine to produce maximum horsepower with a clogged fuel line. There may be some level of performance, but the true potential will not be realized. Fertilizing once a year is not sufficient to maximize forage potential. Even if large amounts of nutrients are applied in a single application (which is not advisable) the nutrient demands of the grass will not be met for the entire growing season. Nutrients, like Nitrogen and Potassium, do not remain available to the grass indefinitely. Some nutrients are taken up by plant roots, then grazed and converted into animal tissue or waste; while other nutrients are washed down through sandy soils by frequent rains until they are too deep to be accessed by plant roots. Either way, nutrients need to be replenished to maintain a productive pasture. Utilize a fertility program that is based on a soil test to help maximize forage production. See Fertilizing and Liming Forage Crops for more information on soil fertility management.
  • Grazing Management – A key concept to remember here is that, in general, the growth rate of forages increases as the amount of leaf area increases. In other words, as the plant gets bigger it can grow faster. When pastures remain closely grazed, their growth potential is suppressed due to insufficient leaf area. Implementing grazing strategies that allow your pastures to rest for 14-21 days between grazing periods will enable your grass to take full advantage of its rapid growth potential. Not to mention the improvement you’ll see in forage utilization. If you are not currently utilizing any form of rotational grazing, making the switch can be a little daunting, but the long-term benefits will be well worth the initial effort.

While rotational grazing can help improve forage availability, it cannot make up for an excessive stocking rate. As the number of animal units increases, at some point their nutritional demand will exceed what the forage is capable of producing, regardless of management strategies. If you have addressed all of the previously mentioned issues and your forage supply is low before fall arrives, it is highly likely that you have too many cows.

Overstocking/overgrazing can lead to centipede infestations and other weed problems, which compound the forage suppression that is caused by persistent lack of leaf area. Overgrazing can cause a rapid downward spiral in the overall health and performance of a pasture. Grazing Management Concepts and Practices provides more specific recommendations for improving your grazing management.

Main Image: The edge of a grazing cell (or paddock), used in an intensive rotational grazing system in Washington County. Inset: A closer view at the amount of forage awaiting the herd in the next cell. Both pictures taken 9/14/17.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

The list of issues above is by no means exhaustive. There are other factors that reduce forage productivity but in my experience the ones listed are the most frequent offenders. It is my hope that you read this without concern because your cows are fat as ticks, standing in belly deep grass. If that is not the case, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Agricultural Extension Agent for assistance identifying and fixing whatever the issue is that is limiting your forage production.

A “bonus” hayfield; acreage cut for hay in late July to more efficiently utilize excess mid-summer forage. Regrowth is being stockpiled and will be used to help bridge the fall forage gap. Picture taken 9/14/17.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin



Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/09/15/evaluate-forage-production-while-the-grass-is-still-growing/

Fall Vegetable Production Workshop – Combating Insect Pests September 12, 2017

Fall Vegetable Production Workshop – Combating Insect Pests September 12, 2017

On Tuesday, September 12, 2017 UF / IFAS Extension Washington County will be providing a insect pest identification and management workshop for vegetable producers and home gardeners throughout Northwest Florida.

Entomology specialists from the University of Florida and Extension agents will be leading hands on sessions focusing on insect pest management in vegetable production. This workshop is relevant to anyone growing vegetable crops in any season, but will have a special focus on fall vegetable pests. 

Lunch will be provided and  CEUs for pesticide license holders will also be available.

Cost: $ 15.00

Address: Washington County Ag Center East Wing, 1424 Jackson Ave, Chipley FL 32428.

Time: 8:30am-3:00pm

Pre Registration required for count: Contact Nikki or Cynthia at 850-638-6180 or email Matthew Orwat at mjorwat@ufl.edu

or register online at eventbrite HERE !


  • Welcome and Introduction  8:30am-8:35 Matthew Orwat, Washington County Cooperative Extension,  Amanda Hodges, University of Florida

  • True bugs in Fall Vegetables-Identification and Management                      9:00am-10:15am

  • Cowpea Curculio                                                                                           10:15am-10:30pm

  • Break                                                                                                             10:30am-10:45am

  • Whitefly Management                                                                                    10:45am-11:10am

  • Invasive Species problems in North Florida Vegetable Production        11:10am-11:30am

  • Invasive Stink Bugs and Related True Bugs                                                  11:30am-11:50pm

  • Lunch    11:50pm-12:30pm

  • Tomato leafminer Tuta absoltua                                                                     12:30m-12:45pm

  • Old World bollworm and Exotic Spodoptera Pests                                         12:45pm-1:05pm

  • Common Vegetable Plant Diseases in the Florida Panhandle                       1:05pm-1:35pm

  • Pest and Pathogen Walk                                                                                 1:35pm-2:05pm

  • CAPS Exotic Corn Diseases of Concern                                                         2:05pm-2:35pm

  • Sample Submission, Arthropod and Disease samples                                    2:35pm-2:50p







Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/26/fall-vegetable-production-workshop-combating-insect-pests-september-12-2017/

Friday Feature: Large Scale Lettuce Production on Muck Soil near Belle Glade

Friday Feature:  Large Scale Lettuce Production on Muck Soil near Belle Glade

This week’s featured video was produced by Erin Freel to promote TKM Bengard Farms, Belle Glade.  This video highlights the four generations of the Basor family that produces 15 different types of lettuce and other produce in the rich, fertile muck soils just north of the Everglades.  This video highlights large scale vegetable production with 15 different harvest crews and 500-550 employees each day.

Video Link:  TKM Bengard Farms – Growers of Quality Lettuce in Belle Glade, Florida


If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across a humorous video or interesting story related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo


Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/04/friday-feature-large-scale-lettuce-production-on-muck-soil-near-belle-glade/

Evaluation of ESN Controlled Release Fertilizer for Florida Corn Production

Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN) corn trial at the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, FL. Photo: Mike Mulvaney

Dr. Michael J. Mulvaney, Cropping Systems Specialist, WFREC, Jay, FL

Now is the time to start thinking about nitrogen (N) management strategies for corn production in the Panhandle.  This is a follow-up to the March 2016 article:  Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN) as a Controlled-release Nitrogen source for Cotton, or ESN for cotton production.  Researchers now have data on the use of ESN for corn production in Florida.

ESN is a polymer-coated urea formulated as 44-0-0. The reason it contains 2% less N than urea (which is 46-0-0) is due to the weight of the polymer coating.  ESN is commercially available in bulk in some parts of the Panhandle.  Many growers blend ESN with urea, commonly as a 50-50 mix, with the idea that some N is immediately available, while the rest will release slowly over time to “spoon feed” the crop.

How slowly does ESN release N?

The release of N from ESN is temperature dependent under controlled conditions.  That is, the higher the temperature, the faster the release.  So, it stands to reason that ESN release should be slower at corn pre-plant as compared to corn sidedress application.  Likewise, we should see different N release if we broadcast as compared to incorporating ESN.  UF Researchers took this out of the lab, and measured the release rates under field conditions at Jay and Citra, FL during the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons.

The Florida data showed that ESN releases 50% N in approximately 2-5 weeks, with broadcast applications releasing N slower than incorporated ESN.

But does it make a difference in yield?

We used different ESN:urea blends at different times (all pre-plant, or 25% N pre-plant with 75% N sidedress) under corn production at two sites across the Panhandle during 2015 and 2016.  These corn trials were all fertilized at 183 lbs N/ac (except the control, of course) – the only differences were in how it was applied.

Figure 1. Corn grain yields using various ESN:urea blends, applied either all pre-plant or using a 25% N pre-plant, 75% N sidedress split application. 183 lbs N/ac were applied to all plots except the control.

Yield differences were not statistically significant among any of the application treatments.


Global urea prices are near 5-year lows, but are about the same price as last year (Figure 2).  Locally sourced urea in March of 2016 was selling at $ 380/ton, and ESN was $ 600/ton.  That’s a 65% increase per unit of N for ESN over urea.  March 2015 prices were $ 560/ton urea and $ 687/ton ESN, an increase of 28% per unit of N over urea.  It is expected that prices in March 2017 will be slightly higher those in March 2016.

Figure 2. Global urea prices over the past five years.

Break even cost

If corn prices are $ 3.60/bushel, and 200 lbs N were applied, you would need a 15 bu/ac yield increase to break even for the additional cost of ESN over urea.  If only half of the N was applied as ESN, a 7.5 bu/ac yield increase would be needed to break even.


During corn production in the Florida Panhandle, 50% of N release can be expected in 2-5 weeks, depending on timing and placement. Although controlled release of N may lead to increased N use efficiency, there was no evidence of significant yield differences among blends, or timing of applications when applied at 183 lbs N/ac at either Jay, FL (a sandy loam) or Citra, FL (sand).

Advantages over urea:

  • It may limit the opportunity for N loss through volatilization, which may be useful under certain conditions where urea-N loss can be high (warm, moist, broadcast conditions). Research on N volatilization from ESN is underway through Dr. Cheryl Mackowiak’s program.
  • It stores better than urea. It won’t gum up unless prills are broken.

Disadvantages compared to urea:

  • It currently costs 65% more per unit of N than urea.
  • In a heavy rainfall, broadcast ESN can be pushed into low spots in the immediate area. You can incorporate ESN to help avoid this, particularly if you are on a slope.
  • ESN should be handled with reasonable care. Damaged prills are as good as urea but considerably more expensive. When the front-end loader scoops from the bottom of the pile, significant damage can occur to the polymer coating.  Also, broadcast applications can damage prills with contact to spreader fins.  Incorporation of ESN may damage prills as well, which may explain why incorporated N release was faster than broadcast N release.

    ESN prills washed into localized low spots after a heavy rain in 2016. Photo: Mike Mulvaney


Author: Michael Mulvaney – m.mulvaney@ufl.edu

Cropping Systems Specialist, University of Florida, West Florida Research and Education Center, Jay, FL. Follow me @TheDirtDude

Michael Mulvaney

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/13/evaluation-of-esn-controlled-release-fertilizer-for-florida-corn-production/

Panhandle Hay Production Conference and Trade Show – January 25

Panhandle Hay Production Conference and Trade Show – January 25

Regardless of weather conditions, the ability to supply ample and nutritious forage is critical for livestock production.  Learn more about this topic at the Hay Production Conference and Trade Show on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at the Holmes County Ag Center, 1169 E Hwy 90, Bonifay FL.  Presentation topics will include: Fertility and Relative Forage Quality (RFQ), Decision Making for Variety Selection, Pest and Weed Management, Marketing Your Hay and Production Cost, and Understanding Weather Forecasting. Use the following link for the flyer with more details: 

Panhandle Hay Conference 2017


  • 7:30 Registration
  • 8:00 Speakers
  • 10:30 Trade-show Break
  • 11:00 Speakers
  • 12:00 Lunch is Served
  • 2:00 Trade Show Closes

The $ 10.00/person registration fee includes lunch and proceedings.

For More Information Contact and to pre-register, please contact:
UF/IFAS Extension Holmes Co. Extension Office
Kalyn Waters, County Extension Director
Phone: 850-547-1108
Email: kalyn.waters@ufl.edu



Author: Kalyn Waters – kalyn.waters@ufl.edu

Holmes County Extension Director working in the areas of Agricultural Management in row crop, natural resources, livestock and forage production. Specialized in Beef Cattle Production in the area of reproductive, nutritional and finical management.

Kalyn Waters

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/07/panhandle-hay-production-conference-and-trade-show-january-25/

Rice Production in Florida – a Minor, yet Uniquely Valuable Crop

Rice Production in Florida – a Minor, yet Uniquely Valuable Crop

Man examines water plants.

Figure 1. Rice growing in the flooded fields of Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area. Photo Courtesy of UF/IFAS File Photo Collection

On a recent trip to Arkansas, I was captivated by the beauty of vast fields of flooded rice nearly ready for harvest.  That image is just something you don’t see every day in the Florida Panhandle!  Equally interesting is the fact that rice is a semi-aquatic plant, related to wild rice “cousins” which grow natively right here in Florida waters (Figure 2).  So, I decided to learn more about how rice grows, and if there is a rice crop in Florida.  Turns out rice is indeed grown in Florida, the acres of which are beginning to increase (Figure 1.)


Figure 2. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) growing in Florida. Note the seed head at the top center of the photo. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS File Photo Collection.

Florida Rice Production:

According to the publication, Trends in Rice Production and Varieties in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), rice has been grown in the wetlands of south Florida for over 60 years.  Part of that history included a protective quarantine on production in the late 1950s, due to a rice disease discovered in South America.  Rice was reintroduced as a south Florida crop in 1977, grown as a cover crop during the fallow period of the sugarcane production cycle.

During the summer period, more than 50,000 ac of fallow sugarcane land is available for rice production. In 2015, approximately 23,000 ac of rice were planted in the EAA (Florida Rice Council 2015). The net value of growing rice in the EAA as a rotation crop far exceeds its monetary return. In addition to being a food crop in Florida, production of flooded rice provides several benefits to the agroecosystem. By flooding fields, growers greatly reduce the negative impacts from issues related to soil subsidence (Wright and Snyder 2009), nutrient depletion, and insect pests (Cherry et al. 2015). This, in turn, enhances the subsequent sugarcane crop and maximizes the longevity of the soil by reducing soil loss due to oxidation. Trends in Rice Production and Varieties in the Everglades Agricultural Area

The acres of rice grown in south Florida have increased since 2008.  Most of the rice acreage is produced by the Florida Crystals Corporation (FCC).  This company primarily grows sugarcane, but incorporates rice during fallow periods.  Other rice producers include local farmers that grow sugarcane and winter vegetables.  According to the above referenced publication, 22,861 acres of rice were planted in 2015.  Of the 22,861 acres, local growers planted 6,564 acres, and FCC planted 16,297 acres.

Rice Production:

Discovery of ancient fields in China dates the beginnings of rice cultivation to more than 6,000 years ago.  Now rice is grown all over the world, and is a critically important food crop for many countries.  Over 90 percent of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in the Asia-Pacific Region, and in terms of production, rice is one of the top 3 grains grown and harvested in the world.  The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reports nearly 500 million metric tons are produced each year in the world, and according to the USDA Economic Research Service, U.S. citizens consume over 100 million pounds of rice each year.

Most of the rice in the United States is grown in six states.  As shown in Figure 3, Arkansas leads the nation’s rice production with over 1.5 million acres planted in 2016.  Other major rice producing states are, in order of 2016 acres planted, California, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Texas.


Figure 3. USDA 2016 Rice Planted Acreage in the U.S

Rice Cultivation:

Because rice is a semi-aquatic plant, production is unique among agricultural crops as it includes periods where the fields are flooded.  Flooding rice fields aid in the management of weeds and pest insects.  While rice is adapted to growing in water, many weeds are not, and the flooded fields reduce germination of these weed seeds.  The timing, duration, and frequency of floods depends on a number of factors including planting method, time of year, seedling emergence, soil type, field size, and how level the field is.  Land preparation for planting rice begins in late winter.  In Florida’s fallow sugarcane fields, rice planting usually begins during spring and continues into early summer. The process of incorporating the flooding cycles into the rice fields usually begins in early summer when rice reaches a certain growth stage.  Rice is harvested in late summer through early fall using combines that cut the stalks and thresh the grains from the seed heads.  The grain is then dried to optimum moisture levels for storage, transport, and packaging.



Rice is a globally critical crop that feeds people on nearly every continent.  While the scale of rice grown in Florida is relatively insignificant, when compared to the rest of the United States, the inherent growth characteristics and cultivation methods provide important secondary benefits to both the environment and sugarcane fields of the Florida Everglades Agricultural Area.  These values include improved pest management, water conservation, habitat for wildlife, improved fertilizer efficiency, and increased organic amendments from rice stubble.  The short video above by Florida Crystals Corporation highlights the unique attributes of growing rice in Florida.

For more information on rice, please see the following resources used for this article:




Author: Judy Biss – judy.ludlow@ufl.edu

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

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/05/rice-production-in-florida-a-minor-yet-uniquely-valuable-crop/

SesameFARM – A New Irrigation Scheduling Model for Sesame Production

SesameFARM – A New Irrigation Scheduling Model for Sesame Production

Rowland SesameRomain Gloaguen and Diane Rowland, UF/IFAS Agronomy Department

Sesame research has been carried out at the University of Florida (UF/IFAS) for more than 5 years now.  Scientist there know more about the crop and its behavior in the Southeastern US than ever before. Research results from multiple aspects of sesame management, such as row spacing, cultivar selection, fertilization rates and timing, planting date and irrigation, is now being compiled and submitted for publication. These results will soon be available to interested growers in the region. The UF/IFAS team has also developed SesameFARM, a new irrigation scheduling model that has a similar platform to the model already available for peanuts called PeanutFARM (http://peanutfarm.org/).

Sesame is known to be a relatively low input crop, able to reach good yields with 60 lbs/ac of nitrogen fertilizer. It is also, and more importantly, drought tolerant. In fact, in some African countries it is the last crop that can be grown when every other crop fails under severe drought. This trait is particularly interesting since water consumption in Florida is likely to intensify in the coming years, accentuating the conflict between urban and farming uses. However, like all crops, sesame will perform better under irrigation.

The purpose of SesameFARM is to help growers with the irrigation management of their crop, taking advantage of its relatively low requirement for water. Sesame is a new crop for most growers in the Southeast, so questions arise about whether to irrigate or not because of the drought tolerant reputation of the crop. Common questions include, “How long can the crop resist a dry period?” and, “How can I determine if the crop is water stressed before the first wilting symptoms appear?”  SesameFARM addresses these questions through utilizing phenological measurements of the crop over the past five years of research, and the application of a growing degree day (GDD) model for sesame. The development and validation of the model is a collaborative effort between UF/IFAS and the University of Georgia with Drs. Wes Porter and Scott Tubbs.

Rowland Screenshot 1SesameFARM estimates the daily amount of water available for the crop in the soil, compared to the estimated daily amount of water used by the crop. To do so, SesameFARM models root length, canopy development, and water use throughout the season utilizing accumulated GDDs. The user simply inputs the daily average temperature, rainfall, evapotranspiration and irrigation applied, and the model estimates whether irrigation is needed. The weather data can be accessed through the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/) website for Florida, and the UGA Weather Network for Georgia (http://weather.uga.edu/). Rowland Screenshot 3

The final output from the model is either “Adequate Soil Moisture” when the water supply is sufficient for the crop, “Check Field” when it falls below 70% of the maximum plant available water and “Irrigate” when it falls below 50%. The model can only run with data from the previous day, since the weather stations release their information after a 24 hour cycle. To compensate for this, the model gives an estimate of how many days are left before the next call for irrigation.Rowland Screenshot 2


An online version of SesameFARM is not yet available, but a free beta version can be obtained upon request to: Romain Gloaguen. If you choose to use it, feedback and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



Author: Diane – dlrowland@ufl.edu

My professional research is focused on the physiological mechanisms which determine stress response in crops. I am particularly interested in drought tolerance and irrigation scheduling. I study peanut, cotton, corn, and sesame.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/24/sesamefarm-a-new-irrigation-scheduling-model-for-sesame-production/

The Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida: The Go-to-Guide for Vegetable Farmers

The Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida:  The Go-to-Guide for Vegetable Farmers

Figure 1 freeman 3The recently updated Vegetable Production Handbook of Florida (VPH) is the go-to-source of information on vegetable production.  So you need to know how to control leafminers in sweet potato? It is in there! Maybe you have a problem with Cercospora leaf spot in okra? Need some weed management options in tomato? That is in there too! You will also find information on weed management in watermelon, disease control in squash, and on and on.  You will be hard pressed to find a better desk-top or truck-seat reference guide for vegetable production.

The Vegetable Production Handbook has production recommendations for most of the vegetable crops produced  commercially in Florida. For each crop group there are recommendations for varieties, planting date, plant spacing, soil fertility, weed, insect, and disease management. Always remember to consult pesticide labels before making any application. Links below are to the entire VPH document, as well as the UF/IFAS Extension website that has each individual chapter listed

Freeman Crop IndexInformation in the VPH is derived from the research and years of experience of a team of UF/IFAS specialists.The VPH Team is made up of specialists in horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, nematology, weed science, and soil science.   The 2016-2017 edition is now available online, or as hard copies available to commercial growers at your local County Extension office. The authors and editors hope you will utilize this valuable resource to contribute to the success in the current and coming growing seasons.

Links to the Vegetable Handbook online:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_vph (by crop)

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/cv/cv29200.pdf (complete 371 page handbook)



Author: Josh Freeman – joshuafr@ufl.edu

Dr. Freeman’s program focuses on vegetable and melon cropping systems important to the state and region. Much of his research and extension efforts are focused in the area of soil fumigants and fumigant alternatives for soil-borne pest and weed management. Many of the vegetable crops in Florida are produced using the plasticulture production system. For decades growers have relied on the soil fumigant methyl bromide for pest management. This chemistry is no longer available and Dr. Freeman’s program is addressing this issue.

Josh Freeman

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/27/the-vegetable-production-handbook-of-florida-the-go-to-guide-for-vegetable-farmers/

National Beekeeper Reports Reveal a Significant Decline in Colonies, Production, and Income

National Beekeeper Reports Reveal a Significant Decline in Colonies, Production, and Income

Bees and Brood. Photo by Judy Biss

Bees and Brood. Photo by Judy Biss

It has been a tough year for beekeepers.  Two recent national reports revealed that beekeepers suffered the triple whammy of colony loss, reduced honey production, and lower prices, all of which ultimately reduced income over this past production year.

The Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), conducted their tenth annual national survey of honey bee colony losses.  The survey is part of a larger effort to understand why honey bee colonies are declining, and what can be done to manage the situation.

Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $ 10 and $ 15 billion annually, and according to the recently released UF/IFAS publication Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides,

“The western honey bee is conceivably the most important pollinator in American agricultural landscapes. The honey bee is credited with approximately 85% of the pollinating activity necessary to supply about one-quarter to one-third of the nation’s food supply. Over 50 major crops in the United States and at least 13 in Florida either depend on honey bees for pollination or produce more abundantly when honey bees are plentiful. Rental of honey bee colonies for pollination purposes is a highly demanded service and a viable component of commercial beekeeping and agriculture. Bee colonies are moved extensively across the country for use in multiple crops every year. There are also over 3,000 registered beekeepers in Florida, managing a total of more than 400,000 honey bee colonies and producing between 10–20 million pounds of honey annually.”

According to preliminary results as reported in the Bee Informed collaborative annual nationwide survey and Colony Loss 2015 – 2016: Preliminary Results:

  • Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year April 2015 to April 2016.
  • Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year.
  • Over 5,700 beekeepers completed the survey providing valuable information about honey bee colony numbers and health for the 2015/2016 winter season.
  • All told, these beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey bee colonies.
  • Collectively, responding beekeepers managed 389,083 colonies in October 2015, representing about 15% of the country’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey producing colonies
  • An estimated 28.1% of the colonies managed in the United States were lost over the 2015-2016 winter.
  • This represents an increase in losses of 5.8 percentage points compared to the previous 2014-2015 winter, but is close to the 10-year average total winter loss of 28.6% (see figure 1).
  • Just over half of the survey respondents (59%) experienced winter colony loss rates greater than the average self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate of 16.9%.
  • In 2015, summer losses, at 28.1%, were the same as winter losses.
  • When all results were combined, beekeepers lost 44.1% of their colonies between April 2015 and March 2016.
  • This high rate of loss is close to the highest annual loss rate over the 6 years we have collected annual colony loss numbers.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the survey. https://beeinformed.org/2016/05/10/nations-beekeepers-lost-44-percent-of-bees-in-2015-16/

In their report, researchers indicate that colony losses are likely due to a number of factors.  Pesticides, poor nutrition, and changing land use resulting in loss of foraging habitats are likely causing stress to honey bee health and survival.   One of the greatest factors at this point, however, is the varroa mite (Varroa destructor), a devastating bee parasite that easily spreads between colonies.  Based on current research, the varroa mite is more numerous than previous estimates have shown, and they are also implicated in being vectors of several bee viruses.

A female Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, feeds on the hemolymph of a worker bee. The mite is the oval, orange spot on the bee's abdomen. Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

A female Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman, feeds on the hemolymph of a worker bee. The mite is the oval, orange spot on the bee’s abdomen. Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

For more information on the Varroa mite and other bee diseases, please see the following press release about a new study of honey bee pests:  First Multi-year Study of Honey Bee Parasites and Disease Reveals Troubling Trends and view the video on varroa mites from UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab.

Coupled with this report of colony loss is the decline in national honey production reported in 2015.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has released their annual Honey Production Report which describes a 12 percent decrease for operations with five or more colonies.

NASS HOney ProdThe NASS report states that United States honey production in 2015 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 157 million pounds, down 12 percent from 2014. There were 2.66 million colonies from which honey was harvested in 2015, down 3 percent from 2014. Yield of honey harvested per colony averaged 58.9 pounds, down 10 percent from the 65.1 pounds in 2014.  United States honey prices also decreased during 2015 to 209.0 cents per pound, down 4 percent from a record high of 217.3 cents per pound in 2014.

Just as with managing any livestock commodity, beekeepers must manage their bee colonies based on ever changing environmental, biological, and economic variables.  The good news is that the importance of pollinating insects to our food supply is receiving greater attention on a national scale, resulting in increased recognition and research into the factors causing bee colony declines.

For more information, please see the following resources used for this article:




Author: Judy Biss – judy.ludlow@ufl.edu

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

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/17/national-beekeeper-reports-reveal-a-significant-decline-in-colonies-production-and-income/

Improving the Efficiency of Your Hay Production

Improving the Efficiency of Your Hay Production

Hay is the most expensive feed for livestock because of the shear volume needed when pastures are dormant. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Yield is what is typically evaluated when you consider hay production efficiency, but the forage quality also plays a huge role, because it determines the amount of supplemental feed that must be purchased to maintain animal performance. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

As cattle prices have drastically declined, producers are closely examining every production expense.  It makes perfect sense to closely evaluate the efficiency of the hay produced on an operation, because hay is typically the most expensive feed fed to livestock.  Not only because of the cost to produce it, but because of the sheer volume needed as the base feed when summer pastures are dormant.

Yield is what is typically evaluated when you consider efficiency, but the forage quality also plays a huge role, because it determines the amount of supplemental feed that must be purchased to maintain animal performance.  Producers often focus on the protein provided by forages, but the biggest challenge to maintaining the body condition of cattle through the winter for growth, reproduction, and milk production relates to fiber digestibility and ultimately the level of energy provided by the hay.  In cattle production the energy content of feedstuffs are usually measured as Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN).  In essence then the goal should be to produce the optimum level of both yield and quality measured, not in total pounds of hay, but in total pounds of TDN/acre.  As you drill-in on hay production, there are four key areas of management that impact overall efficiency.

1 Variety Selection

There are clear differences between forage types as to both the yield and quality of hay produced.  In general, legumes and annual forages have the highest quality, while perennial grass varieties provide the greatest yield per acre.

Summary of16,000 forage samples from several different forage species submitted to the University of Georgia’s Feed and Environmental Water Lab between July 2003 and February 201. The average (black vertical lines) and typical range (yellow to green horizontal bars) of TDN in samples of various forage species submitted. Behind the graph lies a gray bar representing the TDN needs of a typical dry cow and a blue bar for the TDN needs of a typical lactating beef cow. Source: Forage Quality Differences in Species.

Summary of 16,000 forage samples submitted to the University of Georgia’s Feed and Environmental Water Lab between July 2003 and February 2011. The average (black vertical lines) and typical range (yellow to green horizontal bars) RFQ Scores for samples of various forage species submitted. Behind the graph lies a gray bar representing the RFQ requirements for dry cows and a blue bar for the RFQ requirements for lactating beef cows. Source: Forage Quality Differences in Species.

In the early 2000s, researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Florida developed a more robust measure of forage quality called Relative Forage Quality (RFQ). The RFQ index is based on TDN and and fiber digestibility as well as estimates of dry matter intake (DMI) .  In the chart above you can see the variation in Relative Forage Qulaity (RFQ) of different forages. Just as cattle producers have learned to depend on indexes such as $ Weaned or $ Beef for cattle selection, the RFQ scores provide a single index number that accounts for the total nutrient quality and digestibility that affects both voluntary intake and nutrient availability.  An RFQ score of 100 meets the nutritional needs of dry, mature cows.  In the Chart above the black bars are the averages for the listed forage varieties.  It is clear that alfalfa,  perennial peanut and traditional peanut hay are superior for RFQ. There are other annual varieties however, such as small grains, and ryegrass that can also meet the needs of lactating cattle.  Notice that the higher quality pearl millet and sorghum samples sent into the Forage Lab met the energy requirements of lactating cattle as well.  In years when weather conditions favor annual forage production, excess growth can be harvested for excellent quality baleage or hay.

2006-08 UGA Warm Season Grass Variety TestLegumes, however, are generally no match to the yield of perennial grasses.  Most legumes will only produce 2-5 tons of forage per acre in a season.The table above shows how much forage can be produced with high fertility at the research station in Tifton, GA.  Researchers there produced an average of 6-12 tons of forage with Bahia and Bermudagrass Varieties in their 3-year variety test, which is not really the same as large scale commercial hay production.   The key point of this chart, however, is that when all varieties were managed equally, the newer grass culitivars produced superior yields as compared to the old standards of Pensacola and Coastal.

As you can see, there are a number of forage variety options to choose from to efficiently produce quality hay for cattle.  On most operations, however, the hay fields have already been established, so the remaining three areas of management should be the focus for improving the efficiency of fields already in production.

2 Production Management

Fertilization is the primary management tool used to boost hay production.  The chart above illustrates the level of nutrients removed from a 6-ton hay harvest season.  When it comes to fertilization, “Nitrogen is the gas that makes grass grow.”  Nitrogen has the greatest impact on the growth and total yield of forages.  The other three elements are still very important for the health and long-term productivity of a hay field.

During his presentation on Improving Pasture Efficiency at the 2015 Northwest Florida Beef Conference, Jose Dubeux shared the results of some research on the effects of both nitrogen and potassium fertilization of Bermudagrass in Georgia.  In this study, 100 pounds of nitrogen doubled the Coastal Bermudagrass yield, but there were diminishing returns for nitrogen fertilization beyond that point.  The potassium that research has shown is so important for health of the stand, had a much smaller effect on total forage yields.

Don’t forget to pull soil samples annually to make sure the pH of the field is in an acceptable range to get full use of the fertilizer that is applied, and that only the phosphorus, potassium and sulfur that are needed by the crop are applied.  These nutrients are essential for stand health and maintenance, but will only enhance yields if they are deficient.  The small investment in soil testing ensures the most efficient use of expensive fertilizers.

The other key area of production management is pest management.  With lower cattle prices, it may be tempting to skimp on the costs for weed and armyworm control, but these pests rob hay fields of both yield and quality.   Weeds steal water and nutrients, and armyworms consume the most nutritious parts of the plant – the leaves.  The way to control pests more efficiently is to scout hay fields more frequently and control them when they’re small and easier to control with cheaper chemicals.

3 Harvest Management

No matter which forage variety you choose to harvest for hay, or the level of nitrogen fertilization utilized, maturity has the greatest effect on the digestibility and ultimately the level of energy available to livestock.  At six weeks of growth or re-growth, Coastal Bermudagrass has a 3% higher protein concentration and is 10% more digestible than at eight weeks re-growth.  While that may not sound like that big of a difference, the cost of purchasing supplemental feeds can add up quickly.

 Assumptions: 1,200 lb beef cow, average to above-average milking ability, first three months postpartum, 6.0 lbs of TDN required daily, and supplement that provides 85% TDN and costs $  200/ton ($  0.10/lb). Source:

Assumptions: 1,200 lb beef cow, average to above-average milking ability, first three months postpartum, 6.0 lbs of TDN required daily, and supplement that provides 85% TDN and costs $ 200/ton ($ 0.10/lb). Source: Understanding and Improving Forage Quality

The data in the chart above, with an assumed $ 200/ton supplemental feed, shows a significant difference in hay quality based solely on when it was harvested.  The 6-week old bermudagrass grass was high enough in quality that only 3.5 pounds of daily supplemental feed would be needed to maintain a cow nursing a calf during peak lactation. The 8-week old grass would require 6.5 lbs./day/head of supplement.  The three pound/head difference may not sound like a big deal, but when you do the math for a 100 head herd being fed for 120 days it equals an additional 18 tons of feed, which in this example, is an added $ 3600 expense.  The only difference in how it was managed was how mature the hay was when it was harvested.  True the older grass would produce higher yields, so it is somewhat of a balancing act to harvest immature hay that is old enough for adequate yield.  As a general rule, 5-6 week old hay provides a good balance for both.  Certainly, rainfall plays a major factor on the timing of harvest, but in general the goal should be to harvest before the grass becomes rank with seed heads and much lower digestibility. Harvesting more frequently will increase harvest costs, but it will also spread your risk from losses due to unexpected rainfall and armyworms.

There are other factors in addition to maturity that affect forage quality, so it is important to send in forage samples for lab analysis before developing your winter supplementation plan.  While your at it, enter that quality hay you have produced in the Southeast Hay Contest, so you can get the forage analysis you need and potentially earn some bragging rights as one of the best hay producers in the region.

4  Storage Options

The final challenge is protecting this valuable resource you worked so hard to produce. You can do everything right:  best forage variety, fertilizer, weed control, and harvest date, and still be inefficient, if hay is left outside in the weather for 6-9 months.  As the chart above indicates, hay stored on the ground, and out in the elements deteriorates by 28%.  Put another way, you could get by producing almost 25% less hay each year, if you store it under a barn.

There are other tricks to the art of hay making that can also improve efficiency, such as the type of equipment used, managing the moisture content, and weather forecasting abilities.  If you make the effort and investment in a productive forage variety, fertilize it well, keep the weeds and pest to a minimum, harvest before maturity, and protect it during storage, you can produce a consistent, quality feed for your herd year after year.  The management techniques described in this article are not the cheapest methods to produce hay, but if you compare the digestible nutrients produced to the investment made, it will be more efficient.



Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/04/improving-the-efficiency-of-your-hay-production/

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