Tag Archive: System

Friday Feature: The Cow Sprayer Automated Fly Control System

Friday Feature:  The Cow Sprayer Automated Fly Control System

Thanks to Nick Simmons, Escambia County Extension for sending in this week’s featured video.  This video highlights an innovation developed by Hue Fussell, a farmer in Ambrose, GA who invented “The Cow Sprayer.”  The Cow Sprayer automatically applies insecticide to every cow as they walk through a portable frame gate.  For just under $ 3,000 this solar powered system can be used to spray every cow in the herd without having to catch them in a squeeze chute or pen the cattle.  As they walk through the system voluntarily,  cows are gently sprayed individually.

 

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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

 

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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.
http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/03/friday-feature-the-cow-sprayer-automated-fly-control-system/

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

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Author: albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

albertin

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/

Using the Linear Bed Foot System for Vegetable Fertilization

Using the Linear Bed Foot System for Vegetable Fertilization

Some production systems, particularly vegetables, utilize wide row spacing (anywhere from 4 to 8 foot wide). In these systems it is of economic and environmental importance to fertilize the crop root zones evenly, and not fertilize the row middles, where nutrients will go to waste or could even become a pollutant. The linear bed foot method (LBF) is utilized in order to help growers with mulched beds apply the correct amount of nutrients based on soil test recommendations.

Plastic mulch-bed systems utilize the linear bed foot method. (PC:Blake Thaxton)

Plastic mulch-bed systems utilize the linear bed foot method. (PC:Blake Thaxton)

Different row spacing are used by growers, so the LBF system standardizes the rate regardless of the chosen row spacing. The LBF system uses the fertilizer recommendation, usually expressed in a pounds to the acre (lbs of NPK/Acre) format, and the “typical row spacing” for the crop being grown. The “typical row spacing” can be found in Table 1 below, and will also be supplied by UF/IFAS extension soil testing reports.

Using this information, you can calculate that in an acre planted with a six foot row spacing (center to center), 100 linear bed foot will fit 72.6 times.

  • 43,560 square feet in an Acre/6 ft row spacing = 7,260 LBF
  • 7,260 LBF/100 = 72.6 (100 ft of row)

On the same acre a grower could have 100 linear bed foot fit 108.9 times with a four foot row spacing.

  • 43,560 square feet in an Acre/4 ft row spacing = 10,890 LBF
  • 10,890 LBF/100 = 108.9 (100 ft of row)

Although, there will be more total fertilizer applied to the field with the 4 foot row spacing, each 100 foot of row will receive the same amount of fertilizer regardless of the row spacing.

Once the grower has a fertilizer recommendation based on soil testing, that information can be used to acquire the amount of fertilizer to apply per 100 linear bed foot (or 100 feet of row). The fertilizer recommendation will be expressed in pounds/acre. This number can be converted to the lbs/100 linear bed foot by using Table 2 below. Using this conversion table will allow growers to apply the same amount of fertilizer per plant, regardless of the chosen row spacing. This is accomplished by expressing the amount of fertilizer to be applied in 100 linear bed foot increments.

Read more about the Linear Bed Foot system and additional examples of how it is used in the following UF/IFAS publication:

Calculating Recommended Fertilizer Rates for Vegetables Grown in Raised-Bed, Mulched Cultural Systems

 

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Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/27/using-the-linear-bed-foot-system-for-vegetable-fertilization/

Sprinkler System check up

Sprinkler System check up

Setting the sprinkler head for an irrigation system. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

Setting the sprinkler head for an irrigation system. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

Lawns and landscapes require water to flourish and provide the green surroundings desired around homes and recreational areas. Often nature provides water for the landscape in the form of rain, but that is not always adequate. Turf and ornamental plants in the establishment stage need supplemental irrigation during hotter months, especially in the sandy soils of northwest Florida, which can dry out at a rapid pace. February is typically a time when very little supplemental irrigation water is needed because most of the desired landscape plants and grasses do not use much water in the cooler temperatures. The warmth of spring and the heat of summer are around the corner and preparations should be made now to ensure that irrigation systems are working properly before being needed. Here are a few things to think about when prepping irrigation systems for spring:

  • Maintain, Repair, or Replace the Rotors, Nozzles, and Heads. Many sprinkler heads get damaged over time from riding lawn mowers, utility workers, vehicles, or other causes. To avoid having a geyser in the irrigation zone, it is a good idea to test run the system to make sure the rotor and heads are working properly and the nozzles have not been knocked loose. Many times broken rotor or spray heads can be replaced simply by taking the interior mechanical parts out and replacing them with new parts. This may not even require digging! Sometimes repairs are as simple as replacing a filter or spray nozzle that has popped off over time.
  • Calibrate the system to provide 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch during an irrigation event. Many Florida homeowners and horticultural professionals apply too much or too little water while irrigating. Most do not even know how much irrigation water is being applied. It is important to calibrate the irrigation system to apply only 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of water during an irrigation event to promote a healthy lawn and landscape. To little water will stress the plants while too much water may promote disease and insect problems.  Irrigating improperly may also cause environmental issues, from soil and fertilizer runoff, to develop. Watch this short video on irrigation calibration.

  •  Inspect and make sure the Rain Shutoff Device is working properly. In Florida, it is state law to have a rain shutoff device on an automatic irrigation system. Most systems have a device installed that utilizes a small cork disc that expands when wet and physically clicks a button to tell the system to skip the next automatic cycle. As the cork degrades over time, it will cause system malfunction and should be replaced periodically. It is best to skip using an automatic timer and instead watch the weather and the plants for symptoms of drought stress. If an automatic timer is used, a functioning rain shutoff device is essential for proper irrigation management. Other types of shutoff devices are available as well.

The following University of Florida / IFAS publications contains more information on proper irrigation management for landscapes:

Residential Irrigation System Rainfall Shutoff Devices

Using Reclaimed Water for Landscape Irrigation

Florida Lawn Handbook: Watering Efficiently

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Author: Blake Thaxton – bthaxton@ufl.edu

Santa Rosa County Extension Agent I, Commercial Horticulture

Blake Thaxton

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/16/sprinkler-system-check-up/

Does Your Sprinkler System Know It Has Rained?

At the halfway point through 2013, cumulative rainfall amounts for the calendar year were near normal, on average, across the Northwest Florida Water Management District.  January, March and May were rather dry.  Yet, February, April and June had an abundance of rain.  Then, in early July, an unusual persistent mass of moist tropical air brought intense rainfall to the Florida Panhandle.  Instead of fireworks on the Fourth of July, most places had record rain.  The flooding resulted in washed out roads, drown peanuts and exploding watermelons.green-grass-with-drops-raining

Yet, many landscape sprinkler systems were still running.  One has to ask, “Where are all the rain shut-off devices?”.  Florida is one of just a few states with a rain sensor statute.  Since May 1991, new installations of irrigation systems have been required to include a rain shut-off device.  However, no wording was included to cover installation or maintenance.  The 2010 statute change now states the following: “Any person who operates an automatic landscape system shall properly install, maintain and operate technology that inhibits or interrupts operation of the system during periods of sufficient moisture.” (Florida Statute 373.62). 

Thus, ALL automatic landscape irrigation systems require rain sensors, or other shut-off devices such as soil moisture sensor irrigation controllers.  No “grandfather clause” was included for existing systems.  Regardless of when it was installed, every sprinkler system must have an operational rain shut-off device.  Irrigation contractors can be fined for working on a system without checking out and/or connecting a device.

Moisture sensing technology conserves water, saves money, reduces wear on irrigation system components, reduces disease and helps protect water resources from runoff.  Previous research has shown that homeowners using in-ground, automatic irrigation systems, typically in Florida, apply 47% more water for landscape irrigation than homeowners without automatic irrigation systems.  This over-irrigation is largely due to a “set it and forget it” mentality despite seasonal fluctuations in plant water needs.  If the water costs and the amount of water applied per watering cycle are known, it is easy to calculate how much money is being saved each time the sensor interrupts the program.  For example, if a system irrigates ½ acre of turf and is set to deliver ½ inch of water to each zone, approximately 13,576 gallons of water will be used during each watering event.  If the cost of the water is $ 2.00 per thousand gallons, every time the sprinkler system comes on the water bill will be $ 27.15.  A significant amount of money and water can be saved by maintaining a rain shut-off device.

RainSensor_1Irrigation is common in Florida landscapes because of sporadic rainfall and the low water holding capacity of sandy soils.  Water conservation is a growing issue due to increased demands from a growing population.  The least expensive and most common rain sensor device is the expansion disk rain shut-off.  Expanding cork disks trigger a pressure switch.  The expansion space can be easily adjusted by rotation of the disk cover to a predetermined amount of rain required to trigger the switch.  The amount of rain that will interrupt the irrigation system is marked on the adjustment cap.  A rain sensor must be mounted where it will be exposed to unobstructed rainfall, typically installed near the roofline on the side of a building.

Irrigation control technology that improves water application efficiency is now available.  Soil moisture sensors (SMS) can reduce the number of unnecessary irrigation events.  Most soil moisture sensors are designed to estimate soil volumetric water content based on the soil’s ability to transmit electricity, which increases as the water content of the soil increases.  Bypass type soil moisture irrigation controllers use water content information from the sensor to either allow or bypass scheduled irrigation cycles on the irrigation timer.  Another type of control technique with SMS devices is “on-demand” where the controller initiates irrigation at a low threshold and terminates irrigation at a high threshold.  A single sensor can be used to control the irrigation for many zones or multiple sensors can be used to irrigate individual zones.  In the case of one sensor for several zones, the zone that is normally the driest, or most in need of irrigation, is selected for placement of the sensor in order to ensure adequate irrigation in all zones.  Sensors should be buried in the root zone of the plants to be irrigated.  For turfgrass, the sensor should typically be buried at about three inches deep.  The placement of SMS should be at least 5 feet from hard surfaces and sprinkler heads.  The sensor needs to be calibrated and/or the soil water content threshold needs to be selected.SMS

The amount of water that can be saved using rain shut-off devices is substantial.   Since the end of March, groundwater levels in the coastal Floridan aquifer shows a slight decline, primarily due to increased pumping from higher seasonal populations during the spring and summer months.  In the western panhandle, groundwater levels in the Sand and Gravel aquifer are below normal, which indicates that infiltrating recharge from the above normal rainfall has yet to reach the water table. Remember that every drop that hits the ground will be picking up pollutants as it flows to our groundwater.  Nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems.  These pollutants have harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife. 

 

By only irrigating when the soil needs it, you are also preventing contamination of drinking water.

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Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu

Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/08/23/does-your-sprinkler-system-know-it-has-rained/