Tag Archive: Season

Readying Your Raised Beds for Northwest Florida’s Best Gardening Season

Readying Your Raised Beds for Northwest Florida’s Best Gardening Season

I had to do a hard thing last week.  My battle-worn okra, eggplant and pepper plants that had produced so reliably since June and endured all the summertime challenges (heat, insects, disease, and a hurricane to name a few) were finally pulled out of my raised bed garden and discarded.  A combination of lowered yields, increased insect pressure, and the fact that one can only eat so much okra in a calendar year sealed their fate.

However, before planting our cool-season veggie favorites, like those tender leafy greens and wonderfully crunchy carrots, there are a few things to do to get our raised beds in shape to give maximum yield performance and make growing a little easier.

Replenish the Soil

One of the main benefits of raised beds is the ability to grow in near-perfect soil conditions.  If I was relegated to gardening in my yard’s less than ideal native sandy soil, I might have given up altogether by now and I suspect many of you would be in the same boat.  Raised beds totally alleviate this problem and give gardeners the opportunity to grow in rich, fertile soil composed of your favorite homemade soil mixture (mine is two parts mushroom compost to one part aged pine bark) or commercial potting mix/compost.  However, at the end of each growing season, you will notice you have a bit less soil in your beds than you did at the beginning.  While frustrating, this is a natural process for soils rich in organic material – they naturally break down and decompose!   So to give your veggies’ roots the maximum amount of growing space for the coming season, top off your beds with a quality soil/compost mix and till it in before sowing seed or setting out transplants.

Eliminate Competing Roots

If you have a mature tree anywhere near your raised bed garden, you are going to be in for a surprise when you till that new compost in!  It turns out that tree roots like that rich, fertile raised bed soil just as much as vegetables do and will seek it out. It is not uncommon for mature trees to have root systems that stretch horizontally two to three times the height of the tree, meaning a 50’ oak tree could have roots growing well over a hundred feet away from its trunk!   Therefore, unless you have a totally tree-free property, battling tree roots in your beds will be an ongoing issue.  For instance, each fall, when I transition from warm season to cool season crops, I find that my neighbor’s Laurel Oak has filled all three of my raised beds full of feeder roots glad to be free of the infertile sand.  This is a problem because those roots suck up vital water and nutrients meant for my vegetable crops, robbing them of reaching their full potential.   It is good practice to thoroughly till your beds’ soil and remove as many of the competing roots as you can.  Doing so will give your new plants a head start on becoming established before the competition returns.

Depleted soil and competition from tree roots are two of the biggest threats to your raised bed’s performance.  By planning ahead and accounting for both of these things prior to planting your fall garden, you will be more likely to reap a larger yields when harvest time comes! For more information on raised bed vegetable gardening and other horticultural questions, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.  Happy fall gardening!


Author: Daniel J. Leonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/10/10/readying-your-raised-beds-for-northwest-floridas-best-gardening-season/

With Hurricane Season Approaching, Are You Prepared for an Evacuation?

Hurricane season begins this year on June 1st and ends November 30th. As Floridians, we face the possibility of hurricanes each year. This simply goes with the territory. During these months, it’s important to plan for the threat of a hurricane, and at the same time hope, it never happens.

First and foremost, you may be asked to leave your home in emergency conditions. Emergency management officials would not ask you to do so without a valid reason. Please do not second guess this request. Leave your home immediately. Requests of this magnitude will normally come through radio broadcasts and area TV stations.

Figure 1. UF/IFAS Disaster Handbook.

Credit. UF/IFAS Communications.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to have your own, up to date plan for a possible evacuation. The University of Florida has developed, “The Disaster Handbook” to help citizens plan for safety. The handbook includes a chapter dedicated to hurricane planning. The chapter can be downloaded in pdf at http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/chap7fr.htm.

Utilizing the 15 principles below will assist you in your evacuation planning efforts:

  1. Know the route & directions: keep a paper state map in your vehicle. Be prepared to use the routes designated by the emergency management officials.
  2. Local authorities will guide the public: Stay in communication with local your local emergency management officials. By following their instructions, you are far safer.
  3. Keep a full gas tank in your vehicle: During a hurricane threat, gas can become sparse. Be sure you fill your tank in advance of the storm.
  4. One vehicle per household: If evacuation is necessary, take one vehicle. Families that carpool will reduce congestion on evacuation routes.
  5. Powerlines: Do not go near powerlines, especially if broken or down.
  6. Clothing: Wear clothing that protects as much area as possible, but suitable for walking in the elements.
  7. Disaster Kit: Create a kit complete with a battery powered NOAA weather radio, extra batteries, food, water, clothing and first aid kit. The kit should have enough supplies for at least three days.
  8. Phone: Bring your cell phone & charger.
  9. Prepare your home before leaving: Lock all windows & doors. Turn off water. You may want to turn off your electricity. If you have a home freezer, you may wish not too. Leave your natural gas on, unless instructed to turn it off. You may need gas for heating or cooking and only a professional can turn it on once it has been turned off.
  10. Family Communications: Contact family and friends before leaving town, if possible. Have an out of town contact as well, to check in with regarding the storm and safety options.
  11. Emergency shelters: Know where the emergency shelters are located in your vicinity.
  12. Shelter in place: This measure is in place for the event that emergency management officials request that you remain in your home or office. Close and lock all window and exterior doors. Turn off all fans and the HVAC system. Close the fireplace damper. Open your disaster kit and make sure the NOAA weather radio is on. Go to an interior room without windows that is ground level. Keep listening to your radio or TV for updates.
  13. Predetermined meeting place: Have a spot designated for a family meeting before the imminent evacuation. This will help minimize anxiety and confusion and will save time.
  14. Children at school: Have a plan for picking up children from school and how they will be taken care of and by whom.
  15. Animals and pets: Have a plan for caring for animals and shelter options in the event of an evacuation. For livestock, contact your local county extension office.

Following these steps will help you stay safe and give you a piece of mind, during hurricane season. Contact your local county extension office for more information.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Hurricane Preparation: Evacuating Your Home”, by Elizabeth Bolton & Muthusami Kumaran: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY74700.pdf

UF/IFAS Extension is An Equal Opportunity Institution.


Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/21/with-hurricane-season-approaching-are-you-prepared-for-an-evacuation/

Sea Turtle Nesting Season Has Officially Ended… and what a season it was

Sea Turtle Nesting Season Has Officially Ended… and what a season it was

October 31st not only reminds all that the ghost and goblins are out and about, but that the sea turtle nesting season is complete for another year. These federally protected animals typically begin nesting in late April and continue into the month of October – but there is almost always someone late to the party…

Young loggerhead sea turtle heading for the Gulf of Mexico.  Photo: Molly O'Connor

Young loggerhead sea turtle heading for the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Molly O’Connor

What is neat about sea turtles is that their nesting beaches are usually always in the same general vicinity – meaning Pensacola Beach turtles are Pensacola Beach turtles… each year – and it is always great to see them come back. And this year, come back they did…


I have data collected by Gulf Islands National Seashore going back to 1996. The number of hatching nests on Escambia County beaches has ranged from a low of 8 (2005) to 52 in (2011); it has averaged around 25 hatching nests each year.  This year was different…

This year, within the National Seashore, we had a total of 68 nests in Escambia County, 56 of which were on Santa Rosa Island. This is great news!

59 of the 68 nests hatched (87%) – which is also great news – typically only 10-20% of diamond back terrapin nests avoid predators. Most of the sea turtle nests lost this year were due to flooding from tropical storms in the Gulf.  There was one nest between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach that was raided by a coyote and I am sure there were depredated nests all along the panhandle.  But again, between 75-90% of terrapin nests are lost to raccoons, so the sea turtles had a good year.  A recent report from southwest Florida states the same – a record nesting season for the Gulf coast.


However, there is still one problem lurking out there… disorientation…


Disorientation occurs when these successful hatchlings emerge from the sand and head the wrong way – typically towards artificial lights. Sea turtles are attracted to shortwave light (blues, greens, and white).  Much of our artificial lighting falls into those wavelengths – and attract hatchlings.  Since 1996 between 30 – 89% of Escambia County nests have shown signs of disorientation; the average is 49%.  This year 63% of the Escambia County nests showed disorientation behavior.  We are lucky that we have dedicated turtle watch volunteers to step in and correct these – but they cannot be there for all hatchings – we really need to alter our lighting.  Longer wavelengths (yellow and red) do not attract most hatchlings, and therefore – are considered “turtle friendly”.  Switching our outdoor lighting to these colors, reducing the illumination, lowering the elevation of the lighting, and shielding the light to direct it towards the ground all help reduce the disorientation problem.


Most panhandle counties have some form of coastal lighting ordinance to address this problem and problems with other wildlife. Ordinances vary some from county to county but the basics are the same; keep it long, keep it low, keep it shielded. Keep it long refers to the wavelength – usually less than 560nm (in the yellow/red portion of the spectrum).  Keep low refers the height of the light fixture.  If it can be placed at a lower height this is preferred, if not shielding the light source to direct down is required.  We must also remember indoor lighting.  This can be reduced by simply closing the curtains, moving lamps away from windows, or using tinted windows (if you are replacing yours).  Who has to be wildlife friendly varies from county to county, so property owners should contact their Sea Grant Extension Agents if they have questions.  There are funds available to help some complete this process and this to varies from county to county.


It’s been a great nesting season, let’s make it even better by reducing the amount of disoriented hatchlings.


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/2016/11/04/sea-turtle-nesting-season-has-officially-ended-and-what-a-season-it-was/

Teaching Youth Citizenship this Election Season

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings.  Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings. Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension.

No matter what your political beliefs, there’s one thing we can all agree on: We have been inundated with election coverage. In November 2016, a new president will be elected to serve a four-year term, so now is an ideal time to start teaching kids about the presidential election process. Even though they may not be quite old enough to vote, kids can still benefit from learning about elections and how they can take part in the political process. Chances are that your child has noticed campaign signs, television commercials, news coverage, T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and conversations about the election. You may even hear them reciting what you say about each candidate.

Florida 4-H has a wonderful project that can help youth understand their government. It is Exploring Citizenship – My Government Unit 6. The My Government‖ project helps youth learn about our democratic form of government and understand the importance of citizen involvement in the government. It will also help youth find ways to get involved in government. 4-H Club officers are the beginning of the process learning basic parliamentary procedure. Another wonderful opportunity is the 4-H Day at the Capitol Program that provides youth with an opportunity to learn more about their state government and experience the political process first hand.  During the day, participants will hear from public officials, participate in educational workshops, and see their congressmen in action.
4-H also has an outstanding teen program, 4-H Legislature, in Tallahassee annually. Senior 4-H’ers, ages 13 to 18, develop their skills to debate, analyze legislation and speak publicly, all while making new friends. At this civic educational event, youth can sponsor a bill, amend, or lobby it, then debate the issues on the Capitol House and Senate floors. The 4-H Legislature Program enables youth to understand the basic principles of democracy.

Democratic government requires citizen participation. Each citizen has a responsibility to stay informed on public issues, to express an opinion on these issues, and to make sure that government stays sensitive to the desires of the people. In the United States, only a small group fulfills this responsibility. To most people, voting is the extent of their participating. After election time they wait until the next election to become active again. Many citizens never become active even to register or vote.

Don’t be a “let someone else do it” citizen. Get involved! Make sure your democratic government represents you and other citizens and make sure your child understands what it means to be a citizen of the United States. For more information visit our website . 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest. If you wish to volunteer or for more program information contact your local Extension office.


Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/03/teaching-youth-citizenship-this-election-season/

When It’s All Said and Done – Lessons Learned from the 2016 Peanut Season

When It’s All Said and Done – Lessons Learned from the 2016 Peanut Season

Professor Barry Tillman (left) helping to examine peanut quality at the NFREC in Marianna, Florida. Peanuts, agronomy, factory, food production. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

Professor Barry Tillman (left) helping to examine peanut quality at the NFREC in Marianna, Florida. Photo: Tyler Jones.

As the saying goes, “hind-sight is 20-20.”   As I’m writing this, peering through my bifocals, I wish my vision was still 20-20.  But that’s another topic.  As peanut harvest comes to a close, it’s often a good time to assess the successes and the disappointments of the season before they are forgotten or become exaggerated, like my fishing stories.

If you’re like me, you’re anxious about the crop from the time the seed are planted until the crop is in the wagon.  After a few days, with a few cold nights, I begin to wonder if what I call planting was nothing more than a fancy burial, a final resting spot, a grave for my precious seed.  Then the spring sun rises warm and the ground begins to crack and I’m relieved at the sight of a few green leaves peeking out.  My mind turns to the plant stand.  Will I get the four plants per foot needed?  What if there are fewer than that?

A week later, after a heavy rain, green turns to brown and anxiety returns. Valor burn- Ugh!  “Just come back in two weeks” I’m told.  But I can’t help myself, so I watch every day- a good lesson in patience if you want to try it.  In a few weeks, I discover how amazingly resilient those little seed and newborn plants really are.  In fact, the plant stand was less then optimal, only around three plants per foot of row instead of four. But they are finally growing well and I’m relieved.  Relieved because I know the research shows that two and one-half to three plants per foot of row, somewhat evenly spaced are sufficient.

Valor injury. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Valor injury. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

I’m relieved until a few plants, now the size of my hand, begin to die suddenly.  Crown rot- Ugh!  But, I’m lucky since only a few plants succumb.  By now, I know that crown rot was a significant problem in some fields in 2016 and caused some to be replanted.  The value of seed treatment, adequately applied, at the correct rate, cannot be overstated.  There is no substitute for it when it comes to battling crown rot.

Crown rot. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Crown rot. Photo credit: Barry Tillman

A month later and the plants have nearly lapped the middles and all evidence of cold soils, crown rot, and Valor injury are gone.  On to the inevitable- diseases, dreaded peanut diseases.  I know the crop is at higher risk for spotted wilt because it was planted in late April without Thimet® (I used Imidacloprid in-furrow), in single rows, and because the final plant stand is less than four plants per foot of row.  I’m anxious again because the thrips are hammering the plants where the spray nozzle was clogged.  But, I tell myself, “it was a strip-tilled field and I have some varieties with good resistance, so maybe it won’t be too bad.”  However, I know that spotted wilt is unforgiving- everything I can do to minimize it must be done when the seed are planted.

Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Photo credit: Barry Tillman

Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Photo credit: Barry Tillman

What’s the moral of the spotted wilt story you ask? For minimum risk, here it is: plant after May 10, but before June 1, apply Thimet® in-furrow at planting, plant twin rows, achieve a plant stand of four plants per foot of row, utilize strip-tillage with a good winter cover, and above all, plant a variety with resistance.  Only six things to remember for 2017, actually seven with Classic® herbicide: Variety, Planting Date, Plant Population, In-furrow Insecticide, Row Pattern, Tillage and Classic® herbicide.

Another six weeks passes and its mid- summer.   Fortunately, spotted wilt, while present all around, is less than 5% incidence- that’s manageable.  Fast forward to late August and the plants are big, nearly knee high, and its hot, very hot and humid.  A few black spots begin to appear and a limb here and there begins to wilt – leaf spot and white mold- Ugh!  But, I’ve followed an excellent fungicide program and have only a few weeks until digging.  Surely it will hold until then.

White mold sclerotia at the base of a peanut plant. Photo: Josh Thompson

White mold sclerotia at the base of a peanut plant. Photo: Josh Thompson

Anxiety returns.  Should I spray more frequently? Should I change chemistry?  What I know is this – it’s late in the season and the crop is set, the adjusted Growing Degree Days are close to 2100, the pod profile says three weeks until digging, I just applied my last scheduled fungicide, and the disease incidence is low.  There are only a few leaves falling off in the lower canopy and only a few hits of white mold, otherwise the plants look healthy.  Just another rain or two, or some irrigation and that’s it, it’s time to get the digger ready.

Three weeks pass and the pod profile confirms that it’s time to dig.  I’m pleased with what I see.  Despite the early stand loss, some Valor® burn, a little crown rot, some spotted wilt, leaf spot and white mold, those vines have a lot of peanuts on them.  A few days of sun and they are in the wagon.  Nice, plump peanuts.

Anxiety relieved.  What seemed devastating turned out to be manageable.  What appeared to be insurmountable proved controllable.  So it is with every peanut season it seems, and when it’s all said and done, I can look back and learn a few things to help for the next season.



Author: btillman – btillman@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/29/when-its-all-said-and-done-lessons-learned-from-the-2016-peanut-season/

Seafood… What’s in Peak Season for October?

Seafood… What’s in Peak Season for October?

It’s October and it feels great outside. Time to fire up the grill and enjoy football with your favorite local seafood.  So what’s in peak season this month?


Clams – cultured Cedar Key clams are always in season and can be purchased at some local markets.

Oysters – they like the cooler months, there are a lot of ways to prepare them but we recommend cooking them

White Shrimp – other varieties of shrimp are not in peak season at this time but still available

Spiny Lobster – the Florida (Spiny) lobster is still in peak season but more available in south Florida

Stone Crab – we are JUST entering peak season for these guys, but like lobster – they are more common in south Florida.

Flounder – a local favorite this time of year – we are in peak of peak season – enjoy.

Mullet – This is a local favorite with those along the Florida panhandle.

Snapper – these are in peak season year round, but harvesting regulations reduce their abundance at the markets – so you will need to check.

Yellowfin Tuna – these have been in peak season for most of the summer; we are on the down side of it.


The Striped Mullet. Image: LSU Extension

The Striped Mullet.
Image: LSU Extension




This is one of those – “either you love them or you hate them” fish. It is not news that these are not a popular food fish in much of the Gulf region.  In some locations that have an oily/muddy taste that does not appeal to many.  In those areas the fish is still abundant but is used as bait.  They are an oily fish and are preferred fried or smoked when fresh.  Mullet that sit too long develop a strong fishy taste.  Mullet roe has its fans… and its enemies.  Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) – did not care for them.  They were very popular in the Orient for a period of time, and the local mullet population suffered for it, but that fad has waned.


We actually have 3 species found in the northern Gulf. There are two that frequent the estuaries – the white and the striped mullet.  As the name implies, striped mullet does have body stripes as adults.  They grow a little larger than the whites and are the one of choice for eating.  At times though, the stripes on the striped mullet are hard to see.  What then?… well – the white mullet has 9 soft rays on their anal fin, the striped have 8… have fun counting those.  Another way is to look at the operculum (the bony plate covering the gills).  On FRESH mullet, the white will have a gold spot here that is missing on the striped.  The iris of the white mullet has a gold stripe that runs vertically… on the striped mullet the entire iris is gold.


Both species are what we call euryhaline – meaning that can tolerate a wide range of salinities. Striped mullet have been found several hundred miles inland and in Baffin Bay TX (where the salinities can reach 70 ppt).  The white mullet prefer saltier habitats and do not frequent the upper estuaries and rivers.  White mullet gather and spawn in the spring, striped mullet spawn in the fall – both spawn offshore on the continental shelf.


If you have not tried fried mullet, or smoked mullet dip, give a chance and see what you think. As always – enjoy our local seafood.


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/2016/10/07/seafood-whats-in-peak-season-for-october/

Are Your Replacement Heifers Ready for the Upcoming Breeding Season?

Are Your Replacement Heifers Ready for the Upcoming Breeding Season?

Heifer development at NFREC. Photo: N. DiLorenzo

Heifer development at NFREC. Photo: N. DiLorenzo

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

Fall-calving herds will be breeding replacement heifers at the end of the year.  Now is the time to make certain that those heifers are ready for the upcoming breeding season.

Immunize the heifers.  Ask your large animal veterinarian about proper immunizations for yearling replacement heifers.  Replacement heifers should be immunized for respiratory diseases such as IBR and BVD.   Consider giving the heifers a modified live vaccine for longer lasting protection against these viruses. The heifers should receive this vaccination at least one month before the start of the breeding season.  This would also be a good time to include other reproductive disease protection that may be recommended by your veterinarian.  Examples of other immunizations that should be considered include leptospirosis and campylobacter (sometimes called vibriosis).

If a set of scales is available, weigh the heifers.  There is time to make adjustments to the supplementation being fed to the heifers to insure that they meet the target weight at the start of the breeding season.  To be certain that a high percentage of heifers are cycling at the start of the breeding season, they must weigh a minimum of 60% of their mature weight (Davis and Wettemann:  Relationship between weight at puberty and mature weight in beef cattle).  If these heifers will eventually grow into 1200 pound cows, then they must weigh 720 at the beginning of the estrous synchronization and artificial insemination (or bull turn-out if natural breeding is used).  Calculate the weight gain needed between now and the start of the breeding season to see if additional energy is required to achieve the desired weight gain.

Many small cow calf operations will not have scales available to monitor weight gain.  The next best evaluation tool is to monitor the body condition of the heifers.  If all of the heifers are in a body condition score of 6 (based on the 1 to 9 BCS system) then they should meet the desired target weight.



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/17/are-your-replacement-heifers-ready-for-the-upcoming-breeding-season/

Fungicide Considerations for the Mid-point of the Peanut Growing Season

Fungicide Considerations for the Mid-point of the Peanut Growing Season

Most of the peanuts are close to lapping in Santa Rosa County. Photo Credit John Atkins

Most of the peanuts are close to lapping in Santa Rosa County. Photo Credit John Atkins

Mid July is the time of year where, for most of us, we are at the mid-point in our peanut production season. The peanut plants, if not already lapped, are at a point where the canopy traps humidity and extends leaf wetness periods near the crown of the plant. Barriers are formed blocking movement of fungicide to the crown.

Our high humidity, extended leaf wetness and barriers to fungicide deposition all add to conditions that favor the development and spread of important diseases.

Producers are well into the execution of their planned fungicide management programs.

Several new fungicide products have become available in the last couple of years that are valuable tools in the fight against fungicide diseases.

Retired peanut specialist, Jay Chapin, developed a fact sheet a few years ago to allow producers a quick overview of the characteristics of the peanut products available for use.  The following table is an updated version of this fact sheet based on discussions with Dr. Bob Kemerait, UGA Extension Plant Pathologist.  The objective of this fact sheet is to provide growers a quick reference of fungicides for the management of peanut diseases. Use only as a guide and, as always, follow label instructions.

A Guide to Peanut Fungicides
John Atkins UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Source: Retired Peanut Specialist, Jay Chapin (A Guide to Peanut Fungicides) – updated based on discussions with Dr. Bob Kemerait, UGA Extension Plant Pathologist



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/2016/07/23/fungicide-considerations-for-the-mid-point-of-the-peanut-growing-season/

Planning Ahead for Dove Season

Planning Ahead for Dove Season

mourning dove

Photo courtesy of bugwood.org

Planning Ahead for Dove Season

Every Fall, sportsmen of all ages set their sights on the mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), one of the most widely hunted migratory birds in the United States.  Because it is migratory bird, management falls under federal and state regulations.  Annually, Extension agents receive questions about the legality of putting out supplemental feed to attract dove.  For farmers looking for an alternative revenue stream or landowners searching for ways to attract dove and other wildlife to their land, now is a good time to consider planting supplemental food crops.  Baiting of birds is illegal, but planting of supplemental food crops is legal.  Much of the information found in this article can be found in the University of Florida EDIS publication entitled “Dove Fields in Florida.”  Please refer to this publication for more information.

When considering planting for dove, one should dedicate a minimum of five acres and do sequential plantings to ensure a longer availability of food sources.  Incorporating multiple types of plant species will help keep the birds coming back and also extend the season.  The list below, though not comprehensive, provides an overview of what is typically planted for dove.  Particular attention should be paid to the recommended planting dates and seeding rates; this plays a major role in the discussion of supplemental food source versus baiting.

Browntop Millet—Panicum ramosum: Typical planting dates: June-September; maturation time: 60-70 days; seeding rate: 15-25 lbs/acre (15 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1/2 inch; pH: 6.0; grows well with corn, sunflower, and millets.

Proso Millet—Panicum miliaceum: Typical planting dates: June-August; maturation time: 75-90 days; seeding rate: 10-30 lbs/acre (15 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1/2 inch; pH: 6.0; does well on many soils; grows well with corn, sunflower, and other millets.

Japanese Millet—Echinochloa crusgalli: Typical planting dates: May-August; maturation time: 80-100 days; seeding rate: 10-20 lbs/acre (15 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: <1/2 inch; pH: 6.0; does well on wet soils; grows well with other millets.

Sunflower—Helianthus annuus: Typical planting dates: May-July; maturation time: 90-120 days; seeding rate: 10-20 lbs/acre (5-10 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1 inch; pH: 6.0-7.0; does best on well-drained soils; black variety best; grows well in alternating strips or rows of browntop millet and corn.

Corn—Zea mays: Typical planting dates: March-July; maturation time: 80-150 days; seeding rate: 8-15 lbs/acre (drilled); planting depth: 1-1 1/2 inches; pH: 6.0-7.0; does best on well-drained soils; should be planted in at least 4 rows for adequate pollination to occur; use tropical or late season varieties if planting in June-July; grows well with browntop millet and soybeans.

Sorghum—Sorghum spp.: Typical planting dates: March-June; maturation time: 75-150 days; seeding rate: 4-15 lbs/acre (5 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1 inch; pH: 5.5-6.5; drought tolerant; avoid bird resistant varieties; grows well with many warm-season grasses.

Wheat—Triticum aestivum: Typical planting dates: September-November; maturation time: 180-260 days; seeding rate: 90-120 lbs/acre (drilled); planting depth: 1-2 inches; pH: 6.0; does best on well-drained soils; grows well with other grains.

Oats—Avena spp.: Typical planting dates: September-November; maturation time: 180-260 days; seeding rate: 96-128 lbs/acre (drilled) ; planting depth: 1-2 inches; pH: 6.0; does best on well-drained soils; grows well with other grains.

Buckwheat—Fagopyrum esculentum: Typical planting dates: March-August; maturation time: 40-50 days; seeding rate: 40-50 lbs/acre (drilled) ; planting depth: 1/2 inch; pH: 6.0; does best on well-drained soils, but will grow under a variety of conditions; grows well with many millets, sunflower, and sorghum.

Soybeans—Glycine max: Typical planting dates: March-July; maturation time: 180 days; seeding rate: 30-100 lbs/acre (60 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1/2-1 inch; pH: 5.8-6.5; does best on well- and moderately well-drained soils; grows well with sorghum and corn.

Sesame—Sesame indicum: Typical planting dates: April-June; maturation time: 90 days; seeding rate: 5-12 lbs/acre (5 lbs/acre drilled); planting depth: 1 inch; pH: 6.0-7.0; does best on well-drained soils; grows well with other grains; can be an extremely high seed producer.

Like any crop, these seeds should be properly planted and managed.  Whether you decide to plant on tilled ground or via overseeding, the ground should be leveled and packed before and after planting to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.  Many of the species listed are small seeded, and planting too deep will result in poor germination.  Different crops can be planted in alternating strips 24-30 feet wide.  It is also suggested that strips should be left un-planted between the rows.  These areas can then be sprayed with herbicide or disked so there is bare ground for the birds to forage.

For the most success, remember to ensure good soil fertility by testing and then amending with lime and/or nutrients as indicated in the results of the soil analysis.  For more information on food plot soil analysis, please see the following Panhandle Agriculture article: Underperforming Food Plots? Three Possible Reasons Why.


Small seeded sunflowers are a good option for attracting dove and other wildlife.

Supplemental food source versus Baiting—The Law

The question of what a legal dove field is comes up year after year, and rightfully so.  If in doubt, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with your questions; it is better to be safe than sorry.

The following information was taken directly from the FWC page: Dove Hunting and Baiting in Florida

According to Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 20.11, a baited area is, “any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for 10 days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.”

Furthermore, according to Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 20.21(i) doves may not be taken “by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.” Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 20.21 (i)(2)  also specifically allows the harvesting of doves “on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.”

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) provides dove field managers some flexibility by inserting the word “manipulation.” According to Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20.11, manipulation means, “the alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include but are not limited to mowing, shredding, disking, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning, or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.”

There also is some confusion as to what a normal agricultural planting is, because practices vary from state to state.  According to Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 20.11 , “normal agricultural planting, harvesting, or post-harvest manipulation means a planting or harvesting undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop, or manipulation after such harvest and removal of grain, that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” However, this does not mean that a field is illegal if it was not planted according to IFAS recommended seeding rates, planting dates, or planting methods. A person may plant as they choose, but they may not hunt doves over that field until a minimum of ten days after all seed has germinated or following complete removal of that seed.

So, what is legal in Florida?

In Florida, as long as the grain was grown in the field, and is there as a direct result of mowing, shredding, disking, silage chopping, burning, etc., it is perfectly legal. You can plant your field at whatever seed rate you wish, and time the maturation of your fields to coincide with established dove seasons. However, once the grain leaves the field (even if it is grown there) it can never be brought back in, or the field is considered a baited area for 10 days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.

So, what is illegal in Florida?

In Florida, the top-sowing of seed (without disking it in) is not considered a “normal agricultural planting.” So, you may not hunt over a top-sowed field until a minimum of ten days after all seed has germinated or following complete removal of that seed. You may hunt over a top-sowed field that is already germinating and is actively growing or matured and was manipulated to enhance the field to attract doves.

The take home message is to make sure when you do any planting, you have all seed planted and disked in, well prior to ten days before any hunt.

The FWC recommends that you avoid planting during the season or during the split. If you must plant during the season or split (because your field flooded or army worms totally destroyed your field), then you should make sure all seed is completely covered or sprouted a minimum of ten days prior to hunting.

Finally, the FWC recommends that if you are unsure of whether or not your field may be considered baited, you should call your regional office to have an FWC Wildlife Officer inspect the dove field prior to hunting. Remember, as a hunter, you are responsible for determining whether or not a field is baited.




Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/08/planning-ahead-for-dove-season/

Scallop Season Postponed – Fishing Fun Available Now

Scallop Season Postponed – Fishing Fun Available Now

Bay Scallop Argopecten iradians http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Bay Scallop Argopecten iradians

If you had plans to go scalloping in St. Joseph Bay over the long holiday weekend I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed. FWC has postponed the opening day of scallop harvesting season in St. Joseph Bay until August 22.

The postponement, along with other conservation efforts, is intended to provide the scallop population in St. Joseph Bay additional time to recover from the effects of the Red Tide event we experienced last fall. Scallop season in St. Joseph Bay will start later, end earlier, and have tighter bag limits than the rest of the Bay Scallop Harvest Zone – “the Pasco-Hernando County line (near Aripeka – latitude 28 degrees, 26.016 minutes North) to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County (longitude 85 degrees, 25.84 minutes West)”(FWC). Below are several figures regarding the 2016 Bay Scallop season in St. Joseph Bay. All of the figures are courtesy of FWC.








Here’s the bright side, even with scalloping on hold for a while, here in NW Florida we have tons of other opportunities for fun on the water. If you were ready to go scalloping then you likely already have a saltwater fishing license, a boat, and a family that is ready to go have fun. You can still put all of these to good use – go fishing.

One of the most attractive aspects of scalloping is that it is, quite frankly, easy. It’s fun for the whole family, even those with shorter attention spans. Fishing can be easy too, if you target the right species. When looking to entertain the family don’t think about trying to catch the trophy that will be the envy off all your friends, think about fish that are easy to find and eager to bite. The following are a few species to target that I think fit this scenario nicely.

Sand Perch – If you are dealing with anglers that are very inexperienced and casting is an issue Sand Perch are an excellent option. They prefer deeper bay waters with sandy bottoms. The deeper water allows for bait to be dropped vertically, no casting necessary. ½ of a live shrimp on a #2 or 1/0 hook with enough weight to get to the bottom, is all you need. These little guys bite very aggressively and generally when you find one there will be many more in the area. If you want fish for supper, Sand Perch taste very good but the smaller ones have very little meat.

Sand Perch - Diplectrum formosum http://floridasportfishing.com/sand-perch/

Sand Perch – Diplectrum formosum http://floridasportfishing.com/sand-perch/


Ladyfish – The “poor man’s tarpon” is often found over the same flats where you would go to find scallops but likely in slightly deeper water. These acrobatic fish will readily eat a wide variety of offerings, anything resembling a shrimp or bait fish (live or artificial), as long as it is moving up in the water column, not lying on the bottom. Ladyfish generally travel in schools and put on quite a show when hooked. Unfortunately, they are generally considered unfit to eat and they have a nasty habit of defecating when they are lifted from the water. (When I hook one I generally fight it to the boat, then give it some slack line which it will use to sling the hook from its mouth, thereby avoiding having to lift the fish from the water and the subsequent mess.) Mess aside, these fish are really a lot of fun to catch.

Ladyfish - Elops saurus http://www.captivafishing.net/?p=772

Ladyfish – Elops saurus

Spotted Sea Trout – A game species that is highly regarded throughout the coastal waters of Florida that is almost two fish in one. Big, “gator” trout are widely sought by anglers and can be very difficult to catch; that’s not the fish we’re after here. Juvenile trout are much easier to catch than their more mature counterparts. A live or artificial shrimp drifted under a cork over seagrass beds is a simple but very effective recipe for catching trout. Most “serious” anglers will leave an area when they start to catch “shorts”, that’s exactly where you want to be for lots of fast paced action. Just because they are small doesn’t mean they are not fun to catch. A couple of things to remember with trout; 1) they are a regulated species so make sure you know the rules if you are planning on keeping fish, 2) they are fairly fragile fish and should be handled gently with wet hands and returned to the water quickly. Visit catchandrelease.org for additional fish handling tips.

Spotted Sea Trout - Cynoscion nebulosus http://www.floridasportsman.com/sportfish/seatrout/

Spotted Sea Trout – Cynoscion nebulosus

There are many other species that I could have mentioned; catfish, bluefish, blue runners, and even pin fish can all help make for a day on the water fun for the whole family. It’s all about mindset, look for lots bites and bent poles not trophies. Don’t let the delay of scallop season delay your family’s fun on the water this summer – go fishing.


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/2016/07/02/scallop-season-postponed-fishing-fun-available-now/

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