Tag Archive: Reduce

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

One third of homes in Florida rely on septic systems, or onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS), to treat and dispose of household wastewater, which includes wastewater from bathrooms, kitchen sinks and laundry machines. When properly maintained, septic systems can last 25-30 years, and maintenance costs are relatively low.

A conventional residential septic tank and drain field under construction.
Photo: Andrea Albertin

A general rule of thumb is that with proper care, systems need to be pumped every 3-5 years at a cost of about $ 300 to $ 400. Time between pumping does vary though, depending on the size of your household, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce. If systems aren’t maintained they can fail, and repairs or replacing a tank can cost anywhere between $ 3000 to $ 10,000. It definitely pays off to maintain your septic system!

The most common type of OSTDS is a conventional septic system, which is made up of a septic tank (a watertight container buried in the ground) and a drain field, or leach field. The septic tank’s job is to separate out solids (which settle on the bottom as sludge), from oils and grease, which float to the top and form a scum layer. The liquid wastewater, which is in the middle layer of the tank, flows out through pipes into the drainfield, where it percolates down through the ground.

Although bacteria continually work on breaking down the organic matter in your septic tank, sludge and scum will build up, which is why a system needs to be cleaned out periodically. If not, solids will flow into the drainfield clogging the pipes and sewage can back up into your house. Overloading the system with water also reduces its ability to work properly by not leaving enough time for material to separate out in the tank, and by flooding the system. Sewage can flow to the surface of your lawn and/or back up into your house.

Failed septic systems not only result in soggy lawns and horrible smells, but they contaminate groundwater, private and public supply wells, creeks, rivers and many of our estuaries and coastal areas with excess nutrients, like nitrogen, and harmful pathogens, like E. coli.

It is important to note that even when traditional septic systems are maintained, they are still a source of nitrogen to groundwater; nitrate is not fully removed from the wastewater effluent.

How can you properly care for your septic system?

Here are a some basic tips to keep your system working properly so that you can reduce maintenance costs by avoiding system failure, and so that you can reduce your household’s impact on water pollution in your area.

    1. Don’t flush trash down the toilet. Only flush regular toilet paper. Toilet paper treated with lotion forms a layer of scum. Wet wipes are not flushable, although many brands are labelled as such. They wreak havoc on septic systems! Avoid flushing cigarette butts, paper towels and facial tissues, which can take longer to break down than toilet paper.
    2. Think at the sink. Avoid pouring oil and fat down the kitchen drain. Avoid excessive use of harsh cleaning products and detergents, which can affect the microbes in your septic tank (regular weekly or so cleaning is fine). Prescription drugs and antibiotics should never be flushed down the toilet.
  • Limit your use of the garbage disposal. Disposals add organic matter to your septic system, which results in the need for more frequent pumping. Composting is a great way to dispose of your fruit and vegetable scraps instead.
  • Take care at the surface of yourtank and drainfield. To work well, a septic system should be surrounded by non-compacted soil. Don’t drive vehicles or heavy equipment over the system. Avoid planting trees or shrubs with deep roots that could disrupt the system or plug pipes. It is a good idea to grow grass over the drainfield to stabilize soil and absorb liquid and nutrients.
  • Conserve water. You can reduce the amount of water pumped into your septic tank by reducing the amount you and your family use. Water conservation practices include repairing leaky faucets, toilets and pipes, installing low cost, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, and only running the washing machine and dishwasher when full. In the US, most of the household water used is to flush toilets (about 27%). Placing filled water bottles in the toilet tank is an inexpensive way to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
  • Have your septic system pumped by a certified professional. The general rule of thumb is every 3-5 years, but it will depend on household size, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce.


By following these guidelines, you can contribute to the health of your family, community and environment, as well as avoid costly repairs and septic system replacements.

You can find excellent information on septic systems a the US EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/septic. The Florida Department of Health website provides permiting information for Florida and a list of certified maintenance entities by county: http://www.floridahealth.gov/Environmental-Health/onsite-sewage/index.html.

The Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) identified septic systems as the major source of nitrate in Wakulla Springs, located in Wakulla County. Excess nitrate is thought to promote algal growth, leading to the degradation of the biological community in the spring.
Photo: Andrea Albertin


Author: albertin – albertin@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/29/maintain-your-septic-system-to-save-money-and-reduce-water-pollution/

Plan to Reduce Summer Weeds

Plan to Reduce Summer Weeds

Remember last summer? The hot, dry days.  Grass drying up and turning brown.  Yet, the weeds are green and doing fine.  However, every herbicide label warns against applying when the temperatures are above 85 degrees and especially under drought conditions.  Those weeds flourished and dispersed seed everywhere.  Now, they are just sitting there ready to sprout again.

It’s time to start thinking about weed prevention.  Pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied prior to seed germination.  Late winter is the time to focus on summer annual weeds.  The narrow window of application is challenging.  Homeowners often wait too late into spring to put out preventative products.  A general rule of thumb for pre-emergent herbicide timing is February 15 – March 1 in North Florida.

However, weed seeds germinate in response to soil temperature, not calendar dates.  By monitoring day time temperatures, one can determine a more effective application date.  When there are 4-5 consecutive days that reach 65 to 70 degrees weeds will germinate.  This generally coincides with the first blooms appearing on azaleas and dogwood.  With a warm winter it may occur as early as mid-January.

Some of the active ingredients in pre-emergent herbicides include dithiopyr, isoxaben, oryzalin, pendimethalin, prodiamine and simazine.  Always read the label for specific weed controlled and observe all directions, restrictions and precautions.

Weed and feed products that contain nitrogen are not suitable as pre-emergent herbicides.  Irrigation before and after application is necessary to activate these products.  The chemical binds to soil particles, creating a barrier that remains effective for 6-12 weeks.  Reapplication will be necessary for season long control, especially with constantly fluctuating winter temperatures.  Now is the time to purchase pre-emergent herbicides and prepare to apply them. For more information on weed control in lawns go to: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141


Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/04/plan-to-reduce-summer-weeds/

Reduce 100 Bags of Fall Leaves to Ten

Reduce 100 Bags of Fall Leaves to Ten

Image Credit: Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS ExtensionBillions of leaves blanket the fall landscape and are bagged by hundreds of homeowners to be placed curbside for local trash pick-up.

Many of these leaves could be easily turned into valuable mulch or compost.

Why do all those fall leaves end up in bags to be discarded?

It’s probably because the homeowner is overwhelmed by the volume. For instance, one resident reported raking more than 100 large bags of leaves from his half-acre property. One large oak tree can contain over 250,000 leaves!

Bagged and discarded leaves could become a quality mulch or could be composted.

Homeowners have tools for reducing 100 bags of leaves to 10 in their own backyards.

Shredding and composting can reduce leaf volume by 90 percent and provides a manageable quantity of valuable mulch and an excellent organic source for composting and converting into rich humus to improve garden soil.

Shredded leaves stay seated better on the landscape than whole leaves. They also do a better job of holding moisture in the soil and don’t mat down like whole leaves.

But how do you shred leaves if you don’t have a costly leaf shredder?

All you need is a lawn mower, a little extra time and a concern for the environment. Just put the leaves on the lawn in rows around three feet wide and two feet deep.

Then, with the lawn mower at the highest wheel setting, run over the pile. If the mower has a bag attachment, collecting shredded leaves is a neat and easy task.

Without a bag, the easiest way to collect them is to put a 9-by-12-foot drop cloth parallel to the row of leaves. Then, by running the mower in one direction so the leaves are discharged onto the cloth, cleanup is easier.

Throw the shredded leaves in the compost pile to cut the volume by another 50 percent.

Shredded leaves will shrink within a week and compost faster than whole leaves.


To compost dry leaves, add water, a little garden soil and a cup of garden fertilizer.


For more information on gardening and landscaping, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.


Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/12/02/reduce-100-bags-of-fall-leaves-to-ten/

Weed Control Can Also Reduce Insect Damage

Weed Control Can Also Reduce Insect Damage

A caterpillar feeding.

A caterpillar feeding at the edge of a field. Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension

Insects, like humans, do not like exerting more effort than is necessary. They are also picky eaters. When an insect lands on a plant that it cannot eat or doesn’t prefer to eat, then it must exert more time and effort to search for a more palatable host plant. Fortunately for the farmer, the more time spent searching for a host equates to less time damaging crops and multiplying. Sometimes, the pest will evacuate the area completely and hopefully perish. Unfortunately, however, weeds growing in and around your crops not only rob the soil of nutrients, but many weed species serve as hosts to plant pests. These weeds are not only detrimental to a cash crop, but they can also serve as a host to crop pests on the edge of a field.

A few simple practices can help exclude pests from your crops:

  1. Sanitation – Keep the ground immediately adjacent to your fields (10-20 feet) free from weeds. Most likely, you have roads throughout your fields. It is important to control weeds on these roads and to extend the weed free area around your fields out to at least 10 feet.
  2. Scouting – Not only should you scout the crops in your field, but you should also scout the areas around your field. Scout the areas especially if you did not follow step number one.
  3. Plant Trap Crops – A trap crop can be planted to draw pests away from the cash crop. Trap crops are an alternate host for the pest. They can be planted along the perimeter of the field and sprayed with insecticide when an insect threshold is reached. View Trap Cropping in Vegetable Production: One Tool for Managing Pests for a list of trap crops suitable for the Southeast.

Insects do not like their feeding patterns to be disrupted. You can modify their feeding progression by eliminating host plant species along their path to destruction. In turn, you can potentially reduce the amount of insecticide applications needed to control them which saves you both time and money. Two publications that will give you more information on this topic are Intercropping, Crop Diversity and Pest Management and Exclusion Methods for Managing Greenhouse Vegetable Pests.



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/2016/07/23/weed-control-can-also-reduce-insect-damage/

Five Tips to Reduce Pesticide Spray Drift

Five Tips to Reduce Pesticide Spray Drift

Sprayer for WebErdal Ozkan, Agricultural Engineering, Ohio State University

Due to concerns for production costs, safety, and the environment, it is important to maximize the pesticide deposit on the target. One of the major problems challenging pesticide applicators is spray drift, which is defined as movement of pesticides by wind from the application site to an off-target site. Spray drift accounts for about half of all non-compliance cases investigated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Spray drift not only results in wasting expensive pesticides and pollution of the environment, it may damage non-target crops nearby, and poses a serious health risk to people living in areas where drift is occurring.

Although complete elimination of spray drift is impossible, problems can be reduced significantly if you are aware of major factors which influence drift, and take precautions to minimize their influence on off-target movement of droplets. The factors that play a role in either the creation or reduction of spray drift are: a) Spray characteristics, such as volatility and viscosity of pesticide formulation; b) Equipment and application techniques used for spraying pesticides; c) Weather conditions at the time of application (wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity and stability of air around the application site); and most importantly, d) Operator care, attitude, and skill.

Five cost-effective tips to minimize spray drift.

  1. If you can, keep your nozzles as close to the target as possible while still producing a uniform distribution of spray on the target. This doesn’t cost any money as long as it is practical to make it happen.
  2. When you’re ready to change nozzles, consider selecting nozzles that produce much fewer of the extremely small droplets that are most likely to drift away. Low-drift nozzles are in the market and do a tremendous job of eliminating extremely small, drift-prone droplets from the droplet spectrum.
  3. There are chemicals sold in the market that are designed to increase the droplet size, and reduce the number of very small droplets when added into the spray mixture. Most of them are some sort of polymer that tends to increase the viscosity and density of the spray mixture which leads to larger droplets. This, however, should be the last defense against drift. First consider the other option such as better targeting of the spray and switching to low-drift nozzles.
  4. Use shields that cover partially or fully the distance between the target and the nozzles. There are companies manufacturing and selling such attachments to the boom. Shields prevent small droplets from moving away from the immediate application area. This, however may not be practical for sprayers with extremely large booms.
  5. If there is any doubts about a spraying job that might result in drift, wait until there is no longer that element of doubt. Always pay attention to wind direction and magnitude. The best investment you can make is to buy a wind meter that tells you how high the wind velocity is at any given time. Having a wind meter handy will help you avoid a costly problem associated with spray drift.
Source:  C.O.R.N Newsletter


More detailed discussion on these tips and other drift reduction strategies are outlined in following fact sheets:

OSU Effect of Major Variables on Drift Distances of Spray Droplets

OSU New Nozzles for Spray Drift Reduction

OSU Effectiveness of Turbodrop® and Turbo Teejet® Nozzles in Drift Reduction



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/25/five-tips-to-reduce-pesticide-spray-drift/

Planning ahead can reduce home and landscape damage

Planning ahead can reduce home and landscape damage

Even large oaks may fall during a tornado. Photo credit: northescambia.com

Even large, healthy oaks may fall during a tornado. Photo credit: northescambia.com

When we think of bad weather in Florida, hurricanes are typically the first thing that comes to mind. In reality, Florida is 4th in the nation in tornado frequency—and when adjusted for frequency per square mile, we are actually number 1. Residents of Escambia County are believers now, as the community reels from enduring two tornadoes in the span of a week. Both rated as EF3 storms, the winds in the twisters (136-165 mph) were nearly equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The western Panhandle and much of south Alabama were under tornado watches as the most recent band of thunderstorms moved through.

Based on a thorough study of surviving trees after hurricanes in Florida, there are several species of trees best suited to windstorms. For north Florida, some of the top species are: Florida scrub hickory, several native holly species, Southern magnolia, sand live oak, myrtle oak, and bald and pond cypress. Data from the full study and an in-depth overview is available from the University of Florida.  To prepare for a heavy thunderstorm or a milder hurricane, it is wise to replace or plant trees with the most wind-resistant species. Because of the damage from falling trees in storms, many homeowners are nervous about planting trees. However, there are so many benefits to healthy trees in a landscape that they vastly outweigh the small risk of them falling.

Keep in mind that tornadoes are the most violent natural disasters and may cause complete devastation of homes, neighborhoods, and forests in a matter of seconds. After the Escambia County tornadoes, we witnessed large uprooted trees, downed power lines, flipped vehicles and blown-off roofs. Several homes and apartments were completely flattened or blown off their foundations. Luckily, the odds are in one’s favor of not getting hit directly by a tornado—because there’s often little anyone can do for a landscape in that situation. It’s best to hunker down in a windowless inner room or hallway, which saved the lives of hundreds during the last round of bad weather.

Updraft entering the garage of this house may have caused the roof blowout above it. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Wind entering the garage of this house may have caused the roof blowout above it. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

However, there’s good news that work that can be done to help protect a home during storms. Hardening homes through “windstorm mitigation” techniques can prevent updraft from strong winds. A house is only as strong as its weakest area, and those are typically the connections between the walls, roof, and foundation. A wind-rated garage door and/or brace are crucial, as strong winds can enter a garage and blow out the roof above it.

When strong winds enter a hope, their force moving out can cause an updraft and lift off the roof. Graphic courtesy UF IFAS.

When strong winds enter a home, their force moving out can cause an updraft and lift off the roof. Graphic courtesy UF IFAS.

In Escambia and Santa Rosa County, the local nonprofit “Rebuild Northwest Florida” operates a cost-sharing program to help residents harden homes. After the tornado in Century (near the Alabama border in north Escambia County), engineers from Rebuild examined a home that suffered a direct hit from a tornado. The home had been retrofit with crucial wind mitigation techniques and sustained no structural damage. Buildings, sheds, and homes all around it were destroyed. Examples of several wind mitigation techniques, including storm shutters, wind-rated windows, garage door braces and a tornado shelter are available for public viewing at the Escambia County Extension office in our windstorm mitigation building.

As the spring storm season heats up and rolls into hurricane season, keep in mind these suggestions for both the landscape and home. As always, contact your local Extension office if you have any questions.


Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/02/planning-ahead-can-reduce-home-and-landscape-damage/

Stockpiled Grazing Can Reduce Winter Feeding Costs

Stockpiled Grazing Can Reduce Winter Feeding Costs

Researchers at Auburn Univerity have conducted research trials feeding cow-calf pairs and stocker calves on stockpiled Tifton 85 bermudagrass at the Wiregrass Research and Education Center in Headland, Alabama.

Researchers at Auburn University have conducted research trials feeding cow-calf pairs and stocker calves on stockpiled Tifton 85 Bermudagrass at the Wiregrass Research and Education Center in Headland, Alabama.  This photo was taken on December 9, 2015 before the temporary electric fenced was moved over to allow access to fresh grazing.  Notice that the heifers are mainly grazing on the tender, high quality leaves and leaving the course stems that are much higher in fiber.  Photo credit:  Doug Mayo

Winter feeding is one of the largest expenses for ranchers, and hay production and feeding is one of the major labor requirements in the annual management of a cattle operation. Researchers across the country have long searched for ways to extend the grazing season to reduce the “forage gap,” so that less hay is required each winter.  Gary Lacefield, Emeritus Kentucky Forage Extension Specialist, has a great tag line when he talks to ranchers, “Every day grazed is money saved!”  Much of the research focus in the Southeast has been on identifying cool season forage varieties that can fill the gap over the winter before warm-season permanent pastures emerge again in the spring.  A relatively new idea, that researchers at several universities in the southeast have been evaluating, is stockpiling Bermudagrass for late-fall grazing to reduce the forage gap before winter grazing is available.

The basic concept of stockpiled forages is to utilize forage varieties with high digestibility such as Tifton 85 Bermudagrass or limpograss, that maintain their quality even when mature.  A hay-field can be managed so that 2-3 cuttings of hay are produced through the growing season, and then fertilized after cutting in August.  Instead of making a fall cutting of hay, the grass is harvested utilizing “frontal grazing,” which is relatively easy to manage with temporary electric fences that are moved every 3-4 days, until all of the grass has been utilized.

Auburn Stockpiled Grazing Trials

Researchers at the Wiregrass Research and Education Center, near Headland, Alabama recently conducted a two-year trial to evaluate the effectiveness of this practice as compared to the standard of feeding hay and a supplement for fall calving cows (2013-13), and are currently evaluating this management technique with weaned heifers (2014-15), as seen in the photo above.  Notice the Bermudagrass that had already been grazed on the right side of the photo.  You can see one of the real advantages of this system is that the cattle primarily graze the high quality leaves and left the course stems behind.  When we make hay, all of the plant is harvested, which lowers the overall nutrient value of the forage.  As you can see in the photo below, because 2015 was so mild, with minimal frost in November and December, the grass stayed green and continued to grow late into the year.

Tifton 85 Bermudagrass can be stockpiled from August through October and then grazed prior to the hard freezes that generally come in mid-January. Temporary electric fences are gradually moved across the field to limit graze the stockpiled grass. Photo taken December 9, 2015 by Doug Mayo.

Tifton 85 Bermudagrass can be stockpiled from August through October and then grazed prior to the hard freezes that generally come in mid-January. Temporary electric fences are gradually moved across the field to limit graze the stockpiled grass. Photo taken December 9, 2015 by Doug Mayo.

One of the challenges for using this management technique is determining the stocking rate for the system and how far to move the fences for each grazing period.  For the trial conducted with cow-calf pairs, the stocking rate was set at one cow per acre.  The following formula was used to calculate the stocking rate:Stockpiled grazing formulaThe performance cows grazing the stockpiled Bermudagrass was compared to cows fed free-choice August cut hay that was 10% crude protein (CP) and 51% total digestible nutrients (TDN) plus 6 lbs./head/day of whole cottonseed. Over the two-year study, forage samples were collected at five points throughout the grazing period.  From the chart below you can see that the stockpiled grass was higher in nutrient quality than the hay, even in January, with an average nutrient content of 12% CP and 60% TDN.

Stockpiled Bermudagrass forage quality chartResults of the Auburn Cow-calf Stockpiled Grazing Trial

Over the two years of this study, researchers at Auburn were able to provide around 100 days of grazing, with the 1 cow/acre stocking rate.  They were able to reduce the costs for feeding these animals $ 332 per head during this period.  While the cows did lose some weight, which is expected for fall calving cows, they were able to maintain the cows in an acceptable Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5 to 6 throughout the study.The reproductive performance (88% pregnancy rate) and the weaning weights of the calves (550-620 lbs.) was similar to cows that had been fed the traditional hay and supplement.

AU Stockpiled Grazing Summary ChartThe Bottom Line

  1. Growing, fertilizing, harvesting, storing, and feeding hay is expensive.  Finding ways to extend the grazing season to allow precision, automated, 4-wheel drive forage combines (cows) to harvest (graze) their own food is certainly more efficient than hay or baleage production and feeding.  Like Dr. Lacefield says, “Every day grazed is money saved.” In the recent Auburn study they were able to cut their feeding expenses by 66%.
  2. Like all grazing operations, there are weather and pest risks to this system.  Armyworms, early freezes, flooded fields, and fall drought can reduce how effective this system will be each year.  But these same factors affect hay and baleage production as well.
  3. Stockpiling a hay field from August to October does prevent harvesting of hay in October when we generally have more predictable weather.  This system does require adequate and quality hay production from spring and summer cuttings.  If for some reason more hay is still needed from fall production, ranchers could always cut the grass for hay instead of stockpiling, and simply purchase more supplements for a traditional feeding system that year.
  4. While this system won’t completely eliminate the need for hay production and feeding, it can reduce the feeding period by as much as 90-100 days and reduce the forage gap.  Forage quality declined significantly in January, so this system would not be suitable for the entire winter.  But, if winter annual pastures are also utilized, the amount of hay needed to carry a herd through winter could be significantly reduced.  In the Auburn study, cows grazed the stockpiled Bermudagrass from late October through early February with a stocking rate of a cow/acre.  Many operations don’t have access to an acre of Bermudagrass for every cow, so the total grazing period would be shorter.  Even with higher stocking rates, hay and supplements would only be needed to carry the herd until cool-season annual pastures are ready, and then between grazing periods.
  5. This system would not be near as effective on lower quality forages.  Bahiagrass would not work as well, since it is much less digestible with lower protein levels in the late fall.  Fertilization is also a key element of this system.  Just pulling cows off a pasture and letting unfertilized bahiagrass mature would not provide the same results.

Source:  Stockpiled Tifton 85 Bermudagrass as an Alternative to Feeding Hay for Lactating Cows

Kim Mullenix, Extension Beef Cattle Systems Specialist, Courteney Holland, Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Animal Sciences, and Walt Prevatt, Extension Livestock Economist, Auburn University, Auburn, AL.


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/2016/01/08/stockpiled-grazing-can-reduce-winter-feeding-costs/

Dogfennel: Ugly Pasture Weeds that Reduce Bahia Production

Dogfennel will decrease forage production.  Photo credit:  John Atkins

Dogfennel will decrease forage production. Photo credit: John Atkins

According to B. A. Sellers and J. A. Ferrel in their publication Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium): Biology and Control

Dogfennel is currently the number one most commonly occurring pasture weed in Florida.  Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) is an aggressive native perennial found throughout much of the Southeast. Dogfennel is particularly troublesome in unimproved or overgrazed pastures where it adds to the decline of forage yield and quality. Although dogfennel is generally considered to only be unsightly, research has shown that significant bahiagrass yield loss will be observed when dogfennel infestations are not removed prior to July 1.

Cattle do not normally feed on dogfennel, but they may eat it when more suitable forages are lacking. However, the leaves contain low levels of the toxin tremitol, which causes dehydration when ingested by cattle.

As with most pasture weeds, the most efficient control is achieved when the plants are small.  Learn to identify dog fennel as it emerges from winter dormancy and begin your herbicide treatments in the spring. It is advisable, however, to avoid herbicide applications during periods of drought, when plants are wilting during the day, because it can reduce levels of control .

According to Sellers and Ferrel, in the the publication referenced above, a bahiagrass pasture with more than 50% coverage of dogfennel will experience a yield reduction of between 42%-74% when compared to a bahiagrass pasture free of dogfennel.  So not only are dogfennel plants unsightly in a pasture, more importantly they steal water and nutrients from the forages that feed your livestock.


For more information on dogfennels and pasture weed control, download the following publications:

Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium): Biology and Control

Weed Control in Pastures and Rangeland 2015



Author: John Doyle Atkins – srcextag@ufl.edu

John Doyle Atkins is the Agricultural Agent in Santa Rosa County.

John Doyle Atkins

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/08/dogfennel-ugly-pasture-weeds-that-reduce-bahia-production/

Tips to Reduce Spending

"Oh where does all my money go?"

“Oh where does all my money go?”

Do you need help managing your finances so that your family can realize more of their needs and wants?  Family members of all ages must learn to communicate and understand what their financial situation is.  Open discussions among family members often results in greater cooperation when deciding what the best things upon which to spend. Family members need to understand the difference between a need and a want.  Then an open discussion can set priorities for the money available.

Your family may decide to reduce spending so that more needs and wants of each family member can be made.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Categorize your expenses in two categories: wants and needs. Make everyone aware of the difference and how important it is to consider each purchase through this categorization.   Needs include housing, basic utilities, childcare, etc.  Wants could include going out to eat, high fashion, newest electronics, etc.  Everyone has to understand that a want purchase can be spaced over time.
  • Do not let your impulse determine purchases. Postpone unplanned purchases at least 24 hours so you can rethink your plan.
  • Before purchasing an item, ask yourself, “Why?” Many people are now wearing a plastic bracelet that reads “Do I really need this?”  It helps them make decisions based on wants and needs.
  • Save on food by planning meals with abundant seasonal items and based on supermarket specials. Check the store ads and utilize coupons to buy what is on your list but don’t let the coupon result in your buying items you would not buy without a coupon.  Make a list before going to the supermarket and then work your list.
  • If you have debts, accelerate repayment. There is little reason to retain savings that earn 3% interest while you still owe installment debts and loans that carry true interest rates of 12%-22%. Yes, everyone needs an emergency fund but after it is secured, repay your loans.


Want additional suggestions on how to cut expenses and save money?  Go to www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu and request the bulletin FCS7009.



Author: Shelley Swenson – sswenson@ufl.edu

Shelley is the FCS/EFNEP Agent in Wakulla County. She joined the UF/IFAS Wakulla County staff in 2008 after re-locating in Florida. She previously worked for the Kansas State University’s Extension Service for 13 years in a county position. She also spent 15 years in various administrative roles in the Kansas community college system. She owned and operated an interior business for five years.

Shelley Swenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/02/11/tips-to-reduce-spending/

Reduce Maintenance and Improve Palm Health!

Reduce Maintenance and Improve Palm Health!

Over-pruning.  Photo credit:  JB McConnell, UF/IFAS

Over-pruning. Photo credit: JB McConnell, UF/IFAS

Many people picture sugar sand beaches, emerald green water, and gorgeous palm trees swaying in the breeze when they think about visiting or moving to Florida. The panhandle offers the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and sugar sand beaches, but sometimes its palms look a bit deficient. Why is that and what will it take to correct this? Although it seems counter-intuitive, major improvements can result from providing less attention to the palms by reducing the amount of pruning.

Over pruning palms leads to nutrient deficiencies and increases the likelihood of insect and disease problems. Pictured at left is an example of over pruned palms. This technique leaves the heads looking spindly and unattractive, and also hurts the palm’s short-term and long-term health. So, why do property owners send someone up a ladder to harm their palms? Most likely a combination of misinformation and routine.

Palms should have a 360 degree canopy, for example if the top of your palm tree is a clock (with hands, not digital!) you would not prune any fronds above 3 and 9 o’clock. The palms pictured above are pruned in a range from 11-1 o’clock and 10-2 o’clock.

Why does it matter how many fronds are on the palm?

  • First off, palms are not trees as many people believe, but instead are grasses. Palms have just one growing point that is located at the top of the trunk, and this one bud called the apical meristem is busy making fronds that will not appear until several months from now.
  • When nutrients are not available in the soil it can take 4-6 months for a deficiency to show up, so palm nutrition is tricky. Although they grow differently than trees and shrubs, one commonality is that they produce food through photosynthesis and need all available green tissue to make this happen.
  • When there are fewer fronds, the palm has limited resources to create energy.

Native Florida soils are not able to meet the specific nutrition needs of most palms, so it is common to see nutrient deficiencies. Some nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium are mobile in the plant. This means that they can be moved to areas with sufficient amounts of the nutrient to other parts of the palm that do not have enough. This will cause some partial discoloration in leaves, which can be misinterpreted as a dying leaf when in reality it is just sharing food with the rest of the palm. If that frond has any green tissue remaining and is cut off, then a great source of nutrients has just been removed thus making the overall deficiency even worse!

What about “hurricane-cut” to improve wind resistance?

  • Another common myth is that making a “hurricane cut” will reduce the likelihood of trees breaking in storms. Observations after the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 along with research by scientists have shown that the opposite is actually true. Trees that had been given a “hurricane-cut” were more likely to have their crowns snapped than palms with full crowns.
  • Damaged or dead fronds should be removed before storms to prevent them from becoming airborne during a storm, but green leaves should remain on palms.

So, how do you know the difference between normal shedding of fronds and a deficiency?

  • Normal shedding (senescence) is indicated by an overall discoloration of the whole frond, not just sections, and the whole process of turning color and falling off (or hanging down depending on the palm) only takes a couple of days.
  • A gradual shift to yellowing, browning, abnormal growth or other similar symptoms are typically nutrition related.


Nitrogen deficiency.  Photo credit: UF/IFAS Magnesium deficiency.  Photo credit:  UF/IFAS Potassium deficiency.  Photo credit:  UF/IFAS


Above are some examples of common nutrient deficiencies found in Florida landscapes. These are examples of leaves that are still supporting the palm and should be left attached to the tree until the whole frond is brown.

For more information on proper pruning and nutrient deficiencies of palms, please see the publications indicated below.
Nutrient Deficiencies of Landscape and Field-Grown Palms in Florida
Pruning Palms


Author: Julie McConnell – juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Horticulture Extension Agent I

Julie McConnell

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/12/02/reduce-maintenance-and-improve-palm-health/

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