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Look Who Is Enjoying the Beach This Spring… An Alligator!

Look Who Is Enjoying the Beach This Spring… An Alligator!

I received a call the week before Earth Day to let me know that an alligator was laying on Pensacola Beach, on the Gulf side, near the gate to Ft. Pickens. This is certainly not something you see every day.

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

Two questions came up…

One, Is this weird?

Two, Can alligators tolerate salt water?

Let us start with question 1 – is this weird?

Actually, it is not as weird as you may think. Alligators have been found on barrier islands of the northern Gulf of Mexico for decades.  I myself have seen them at Big Sabine (though it has been many years since I saw one).  As a student at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, we found them on Dauphin Island and on Petit Bois Island in Mississippi; I am sure they are on Horn Island in Mississippi as well.  It is listed on the Gulf Islands National Seashore guide as one of the animals you may encounter in the park.  They have been reported in the dune lakes of Walton County, and I have seen them at St. Andrew’s State Park in Panama City.  So yea, they are found in our coastal areas – even the barrier islands.  However, they do prefer the freshwater bodies of water on these islands.  Which brings up the second question…

 

 

Question 2 – can they tolerate salt water?

The quick answer is yes, for a period. There are several reptiles in Florida that can tolerate periods of seawater. Those who spend long periods in brackish to marine waters have lachrymal glands to remove and excrete salt from their blood stream.  This keeps the cells of their body in a more “fresh” environment and thus, can tolerate salt water for longer periods.  Marine turtles, the most salt tolerant of all reptiles, excrete this salt through these glands located near their eyes.  This gives them the appearance of “tears” or “crying” when they are on land.  They are actually secreting salt from their body.

 

Alligators do not have well developed lachrymal glands. However, their tough skin is impermeable to absorbing seawater.  They have thinner areas of skin where saltwater can enter and of course they can swallow seawater.  Because of this, they cannot tolerate seawater very long and must eventually return to freshwater.

 

Alligators, like most Florida reptiles, do have to bask on land to warm their bodies in the morning. This is needed for proper digestion as well as other functions.  It is also another way that alligators can avoid salty water for periods of time.  I understand the alligator still had the faint yellow cross bands on its tail, indicating a younger animal, who may have wondered into the wrong location.

 

As far as being a danger to humans, you have to “read” the animal. Wild alligators have a natural fear of humans and would prefer to avoid us.  According to the FWC, there have been 388 alligator attacks on Floridians since 1948, about 6 per year.  263 of those were considered “major” attacks, about 3 per year.  24 were fatal, about 0.4 per year (1 every 3 years).  Wild alligators can be a problem if

  1. The animal is very large – it will consider larger prey like humans
  2. Attacking a pet (even on a leash) and indirectly attacking the pet owner
  3. Swimming in bodies of water with large alligators, especially at night (when they most often feed)
  4. The person was near a nest or young – alligators are very defensive of their young and nest

Any alligator can become a problem when fed. They lose their natural fear of humans and see us as a source of easy food – though they more often go after our pets, which are easier; they are more willing to approach us looking for an opportunity.  Thus, is against Florida law to feed alligators.

 

I am not sure whether the alligator seen that week was acting aggressively or not but certainly could have been a problem. A “nuisance” alligator is defined by FWC as one being larger than four feet and acting aggressively towards humans or pets.  If this is the case, they have a team of trappers who will come to collect the animal.  It is not recommended that individuals try to capture these animals.  As with snakes, many people bitten by alligators were trying to either catch them or kill them.  It is best to leave this to the professionals.

 

Though it is a bit nerve racking to see an alligator on the beach, they are part of Florida’s environment. Like sharks swimming along our shores, alligators should not be approached but rather contact a local authority to alert them of the possible danger.

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/29/look-who-is-enjoying-the-beach-this-spring-an-alligator/

Serving Special Needs Drives this Volunteer

“This group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

Ann Marie Shelton and Syntha Alvarez

On day four of National Volunteer Week, Jackson County 4-H Agent Angel Granger shares the story of Ann Marie Shelton, a volunteer who leads the Jackson County 4-H ASK Club – Always Support Kids.  In her own words, Ann Marie shares what inspired her to start this club and the impact it has had:

“The volunteer part is deep rooted, goes back to me as a very small child.  I enjoyed helping others, it made me feel good!  That stuck with me through the years.  There is so much going on in the world that is tough to hear.  I firmly believe that we have the power to change much of this.  Volunteering time, expertise, and a dash of passion will do much to make this world a better place.  When volunteering, you are given the opportunity to lead by example, by not waiting around for good or needed things to happen you are showing that everyone has the capacity within themselves to be a part of the change.  This may require you to step out of your comfort zone and start something new or join a group of volunteers already working on a cause of interest to you. One benefit of volunteering is you get to choose areas to volunteer that are of interest to you, whether it be something you are passionate about or something you want to learn about.

ASK Volunteer Anne Marie Shelton (pictured 3rd L-R) with her club members.

After having my four children, two of which are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and reconnecting with a friend from High School with two children on the autism spectrum, volunteering became even more important to me.  What we have found, living in our rural part of the state of Florida, is that there are few formal services or programs offered for children with exceptional needs.  I like to refer to these as diffabilities (I did not come up with this word, but it is perfect).  When our son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was having such difficulties in certain settings outside the home, our instinct was to withdraw to the safety of our home, not pursuing social opportunities outside the home, that were new or unfamiliar.

Eventually we realized that was not in anyone’s best interest.  After diagnosis, we began connecting with families and organizations all over the panhandle of Florida that were on similar missions.  We also came to realize that we needed to expand on special interests and explore potential new interests, leisure opportunities, future job skills and the like.  We had been following the ASK-Madison 4-H Group on Facebook and had made connections with Leslie McLeod.  When the opportunity arose last year at Family Café, an annual disabilities related conference in Florida, to hear about their 4-H program, we jumped at the chance to find out more.  After getting to hear them talk about their program and finding out about the number of diverse opportunities 4-H offers, we decided to give it a go, in our community so we contacted our 4-H agent Angel Granger to find out how to get started. We wanted to provide a group that families could feel comfortable in participating in.  We wanted those families to know, that we understand the best way for our kids to learn about participating in group activities and activities within our community, was to experience it.  They often need a safe place to start, to let down their guards, to learn new skills and more importantly be given a multitude of opportunities to practice those new skills, in different situations, with different people, in different environments.”

The group is inclusive, which gives both children with and without disabilities an opportunity to learn from each other.  Our hope is that our group will continue to grow and that through participating in our ASK group, individuals and families might gain the desire and/or confidence, to explore other 4-H groups that are geared toward specific interests.”

If you are interested in starting a similar club in your county (or helping other volunteers support exceptional youth), contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

ASK Jackson County 4-H Facebook

Chipola Area Autism Resource Center, Inc. Facebook

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Author: amgranger – amgranger@ufl.edu

amgranger

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/27/serving-special-needs-drives-this-volunteer/

Annual Bedding Plants This Time of Year?

Annual Bedding Plants This Time of Year?

Yes, even with cool weather setting in, much can be done on the flower gardening front. Let’s kickoff 2017 by being the envy of the neighborhood with flower beds that are rich and vibrant in color.

Figure 1: Bedding Annuals.
Credit: Sydney Park Brown, UF/IFAS.

Annual bedding plants are plentiful in variety and come in an array of colors and forms. These plants will highlight home landscapes, whether in beds or in containers on porches, decks and patios.

Annuals are divided into two categories, warm and cold season. Warm season are tender, and damaged by the first frost. Cool season on the other hand, cannot withstand heat or excessive rainfall. Therefore, to be successful with annuals, you must plant at the right time. For this region, late March for the earliest warm season annual planting and late fall for the earliest cool season annual planting is ideal. For the Panhandle, most annuals only live through the season, not the year. For this time of year, some examples of annuals that enjoy cooler temperatures are the pansy, viola, petunia and snapdragon.

When shopping for annuals, pay close attention to how much sunlight the variety will tolerate. This should be displayed on the container. Be sure to plant your annuals under a minimum of partial light. No annual can tolerate heavy shade. Remember when deciding on which variety to purchase, that annuals are an accent piece or supplement to the landscape, and not the focal point. Think of harmony and balance among other plants in your landscape before coming to a decision.

Figure 2: Pot-in-Pot Method.
Credit: Sydney Park Brown, UF/IFAS.

As for care, be sure to water annuals after planting. Provide water on a routine basis until the root system has established. The best way to achieve this is making sure the topsoil layer stays moist early on.

Some gardeners prefer the “pot-in-pot” method with annuals. This method consists of sinking empty pots into the soil and then dropping potted annuals of the same size pot, into the empty pots. This works well for our area for two reasons. Often, our native soils, especially if you live closer to the coast, are not conducive to annual flower bed gardening. By using the pot-in-pot method, rich potted soil encompasses the annual throughout its life span and with no soil bed amendments needed. Also, this can make an otherwise long, laborious gardening day become very short regarding the change out planting from cold to warm season annuals and vice versa.

When supplying water to annuals, be careful with high pressure overhead watering systems, as this can damage petals and can cause bloom rot. A drip irrigation system or handheld hose watering is the best method. Fertilize annuals with a controlled release nitrogen fertilizer, so that a steady supply of nutrients is provided throughout the season. For weed control, mulching with use of pre-emergent herbicides is the best course of action. Depending on the size of landscape, hand weeding maybe the best practice. For pest management use a spot treatment insecticide for the entire flower bed once an insect infestation or disease problems emerge.

The information provided in this article will help your annual bedding plant efforts and in turn reward you with a beautiful flower landscape throughout the year. For more information on annual flower bedding plants, please contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found at the UF/IFAS EDIS Publication, “Gardening with Annuals in Florida” by Dr. Sydney Park Brown: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319

UF/IFAS Extension, An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture, Natural Resource & Community Development

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/11/annual-bedding-plants-this-time-of-year/

What Plant is This?

What Plant is This?

Winter flowers and small leaves with serrated edges lead to identification as Camellia sasanqua. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

A common diagnostic service offered at your local UF/IFAS Extension office is plant identification. Whether you need a persistent weed identified so you can implement a management program or you need to identify an ornamental plant and get care recommendations, we can help!

In the past, we were reliant on people to bring a sample to the office or schedule a site visit, neither of which is very practical in today’s busy world. With the recent widespread availability of digital photography, even the least technology savvy person can usually email photos themselves or they have a friend or family member who can assist.

If you need to send pictures to a volunteer or extension agent it’s important that you are able to capture the features that are key to proper identification. Here are some guidelines you can use to ensure you gather the information we need to help you.

Entire plant – seeing the size, shape, and growth habit (upright, trailing, vining, etc.) is a great place to begin. This will help us eliminate whole categories of plants and know where to start.

Stems/trunks – to many observers stems all look the same, but to someone familiar with plant anatomy telltale features such as raised lenticels, thorns, wings, or exfoliating bark can be very useful. Even if it doesn’t look unique to you, please be sure to send a picture of stems and the trunk.

Leaves – leaf color, size and shape is important, but also how the leaves are attached to the stem is a critical identification feature. There are many plants that have ½ inch long dark green leaves, but the way they are arranged, leaf margin (edges), and vein patterns are all used to confirm identification. Take several leaf photos including at least one with some type of item for scale such as a small ruler or a common object like a coin or ballpoint pen; this helps us determine size. Take a picture that shows how leaves are attached to stems – being able to see if leaves are in pairs, staggered, or whorled around a stem is also important. Flip the leaf over and take a picture of the underside, some plants have distinctive veins or hairs on the bottom surface that may not be visible in a picture taken from above.

Flowers – if flowers are present, include overall picture so the viewer can see where it is located within the plant canopy along with a picture close enough to show structure.

Fruit – fruit are also good identification pictures and these should accompany something for scale to help estimate size.

Any additional information you are able to provide can help – if the plant is not flowering but you remember that it has white, fragrant flowers in June, make sure to include that in your description.

Learning what plants you have in your landscape will help you use your time and resources more efficiently in caring for you yard. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to find out who to send requests for plant id.

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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/2017/01/17/what-plant-is-this/

Consider a Native Evergreen This Christmas

Consider a Native Evergreen This Christmas

eastern-redcedarThroughout history the evergreen tree has been a symbol of life. “Not only green when summer’s here, but also when cedar%20waxwing%20b57-13-103_vit’s cold and dreary” as the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” says.  While supporting the cut Christmas tree industry does create jobs and puts money into local economics, every few years consider adding to the urban forest by purchasing a living tree.  Native evergreen trees such as Redcedar make a nice Christmas tree that can be planted following the holidays.  The dense growth and attractive foliage make Redcedar a favorite for windbreaks, screens and wildlife cover.  The heavy berry production provides a favorite food source for migrating Cedar Waxwing birds.  Its highsouthern-redcedar salt-tolerance makes it ideal for coastal locations.  Their natural pyramidal-shape creates the traditional Christmas tree form, but can be easily pruned as a street tree.  Two species, Juniperus virginiana and Juniperus silicicola are native to Northwest Florida.  Many botanists do not separate the two, but as they mature, Juniperus silicicola takes on a softer, more informal look.  When planning for using a live Christmas tree there are a few things to consider.  The tree needs sunlight, so restrict its inside time to less than a week.  Make sure there is a catch basin for water under the tree, but never allow water to remain in the tray and don’t add fertilizer.  Locate your tree in the coolest part of the room and away from heating ducts and fireplaces. After Christmas, install the Redcedar in an open, sunny part of the yard.  After a few years you will be able to admire the living fence with all the wonderful memories of many years of holiday celebrations. Don’t forget to watch for the Cedar Waxwings.

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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/2016/12/06/consider-a-native-evergreen-this-christmas/

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.

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Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension
http://bay.ifas.ufl.edu/4-h/

pmdavis

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

Persimmon Problems this Fall

Persimmon Problems this Fall

three-persimmons

 

Japanese persimmons are a real treat in the Fall, and for those who enjoy growing fruit, they are a relatively problem free option.  The tree can reach 30 feet tall, if planted in full sun and well drained soils that receive ample moisture.  The orange-yellow fruit really makes a great show in the Fall.  This year, many trees have an ample fruit load, but we have had submissions from growers of fruit that is wrinkled and the skin is discolored.  After contacting Bryan Wilkins at the Auburn Research Station in Fairhope, AL, he diagnosed the problem as being environmental factors.  The very warm nighttime temperatures are not ideal for a persimmon to properly develop, but he blamed the very dry weather of late for the wrinkling.  The discoloration of the fruit is due to sunscald.  The lesson in this is to remember to continue to water your crop when fruit is maturing.  The fruit is still edible.

persimmona

For more information about growing persimmons, please see this UF/IFAS publication: Oriental Persimmon

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Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.
http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/29/persimmon-problems-this-fall/

Next Year’s Bahia Grass Depends on This Year’s Renovation Preparation

Next Year’s Bahia Grass Depends on This Year’s Renovation Preparation

Having Bahia grass ready to graze in 2017 depends on what you do in 2016.

Having Bahiagrass ready to graze in 2017 depends on what you do in 2016.

In that recent flash of time when cattle prices were the highest in my lifetime, many Florida ranchers seized the opportunity to invest some increased income in capital improvements for the ranch. Some fertilized according to soil test for the first time in years, some replaced worn out equipment, and some took the opportunity to plant or renovate Bahiagrass pasture.

In that high market, ranchers may have thought, “Prices are good, I don’t have to worry so much about doing this exactly right.” Now that the good times seem as distant as civil political discussion, doing it right has renewed importance.

I’ve visited several recently renovated fields this year, and here are some of the shortcuts that have come back to bite the rancher.

• Failure to rid the new pasture of weed populations BEFORE planting.
This is particularly important when planting improved varieties in fields which have Pensacola Bahiagrass in them. Bahiagrass’s popularity stems from its persistence. There are no herbicides which can differentiate between Pensacola and its descendants, Tifton 9 and Riata. Moving from Pensacola to one of these varieties may require burning down existing Bahiagrass, and planting a winter feed crop such as oats or cereal rye before planting next year. This intermediate crop may need to be burned down again before planting to assure a clean field.

Wait until after your Bahiagrass is established to add legumes to the mix. If you use broadleaf herbicides for your Bahiagrass, you’ll lose your legumes. That’s another expense you can avoid.

• Planting too deep.
Bahiagrass should be planted only one quarter to one half inch deep. Planting into loose soil or improper drill settings can put the seed below that and decrease seedling vigor and germination. That’s another loss of time and money.

• Failure to use adequate seeding rates.
Recommended seeding rates for Tifton 9, Riata and TifQuik are 15 – 20 pounds per acre and 20 – 30 pounds for Argentine with the lower rates for drilled seed in prepared ground and the higher rates for broadcast applications. Cutting corners on seed rate leaves more open ground, which allows weeds to compete more effectively with Bahiagrass seedlings. A thick, vigorous stand reduces weed competition. Yes, seed is expensive, but if you can’t afford to do it right, can you really afford to do it over?

• Grazing the new crop too soon.
Bahiagrass persistence depends on having sufficient leaf area to sustain itself. Make sure the forage is fully established before grazing. It is possible to get grazing in the season of establishment, however your goal is to have pasture for many years. Jumping the gun can decrease the useful life of the pasture. The IFAS recommendation for minimum stubble height is three inches, if rotationally grazed, and five inches if continuously stocked. You may well be renovating your fields because you’ve overgrazed them in the past. Don’t throw good money after bad.

• Inadequate fertility
The IFAS publication, Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum): Overview and Management, recommends “Light fertilization of Bahiagrass will generally be necessary within 7–10 days after seedling emergence. The initial application should consist of 30 lb nitrogen (N)/acre, all of the recommended P2O5, and 50% of the recommended K2O. Approximately 40–50 days after the initial application, an additional 50 lb of nitrogen and the remaining K2O should be applied.”  Many renovations skip this step out of false economy. In addition, soil pH should be 5.5 before planting.

• No rain
Unless you’re planting under the “Silver Cloud” (irrigation), I can’t help you here. However, Bahiagrass seed can lie dormant for longer than you might think. One of my neighbors had seed in the ground 3 months before a decent rain got it going. Of course, “If it doesn’t rain, it doesn’t matter.”

Chris Prevatt’s market projections in his Panhandle Ag October 7th article show next year’s calf prices below breakeven prices and trending lower. Even though properly renovated pastures are a long term investment and may be more likely justified over time, this near term market downturn intensifies the urgency of ensuring the necessary care and attention be paid to getting everything right in your renovation project. There’s no room for error in this market.

 

Portions of this article were adapted from “Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum): Overview and Management”  and “The Management and Use of Bahiagrass”

 

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Author: Jed Dillard – dillardjed@ufl.edu

Jefferson County Livestock and Natural Resources Agent with a commercial cow/calf background. My degree is in animal breeding, but I do more work wth forage systems. Long time clover/legume booster for both livestock and wildlife

Jed Dillard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/28/next-years-bahia-grass-depends-on-this-years-renovation-preparation/

Scary Things are Happening in Our Landscapes this Halloween

Scary Things are Happening in Our Landscapes this Halloween

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Saddleback Caterpillar – Image Credit Matthew Orwat

The reality of what happens deep down in the darkness of a fire ant mound hidden to human eyes or in the tunnels of a mole cricket where only creepy crawly things dare to enter may be too scary to believe. 

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences along with USDA introduced a tiny South American fly to the U.S. to help control the pesky imported fire ant. Literally, these introduced phorid flies cause the imported fire ants’ heads to fall off. They then use the decapitated heads to reproduce. The flies hover above the ants, dive in, latch on to the ant’s body and inject their eggs. The egg hatches, and a maggot wiggles its way into the ant’s head, where it grows for two to three weeks before secreting a chemical that dissolves the membranes holding the ant’s body together. In a few hours the ant’s head falls off. The maggot eats everything in it and then uses it as a pupae case. Gruesome, isn’t it?  

Assassin bugs are frequently seen slowly crawling on shrubs in our landscapes. Most are brown to black but many are brightly colored. A common species is reddish-orange in the nymph stage. Assassin bugs feed on many harmful insects. Caterpillars are their favorite food.  

They digest their prey before eating it. They do this by piercing their victim with their sharp beak, injecting digestive enzymes. This causes chaos on the unfortunate insect’s nervous system and liquefies the internal organs. The liquefied contents are then consumed, leaving only the shell of its kill. How tragic.  

The larra wasp, an introduced predatory insect by University of Florida entomologists, enters a mole cricket tunnel. The female wasp will pounce on the mole cricket, wrestle with it and sting it on its soft underside. This immobilizes the mole cricket long enough to allow the wasp to deposit a single egg on its underside. The mole cricket recovers and burrows back into the ground. The wasp larva eventually hatches and slowly eats the mole cricket alive. Poor mole cricket.  

We mere mortals should be aware of these horrifying happenings occurring in our own backyards. And we should be frightened by those people who attempt to kill every six-legged critter in sight because they have wrongly identified them as bad. In reality, less than one percent of all insects that exist are damaging to our plants. Most are of no consequence to our lawns, landscapes or gardens. And many are beneficial.  

These beneficial insects are helping us gardeners battle the bad bugs during Halloween and year round.

 

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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/2016/10/26/scary-things-are-happening-in-our-landscapes-this-halloween/

Salvaging Winter Forage Production this Year

Figure 1. Nitrogen deficient triticale forage. Notice older leaves are yellow and stems have a purple cast. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

Figure 1. Nitrogen deficient triticale forage. Notice older leaves are yellow and stems have a purple cast. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

Cheryl Mackowiak, UF/IFAS NFREC Soils Specialist

Cool-season forages took a hit this year from challenging growing conditions. Summer extended into winter, so perennial summer grasses remained competitive with the cool-season forage plantings all the way into December and January. Diseases were much more plentiful, particularly on fall-planted annual ryegrass. In addition, heavy fall and winter rains resulted in wasted fertilizer applications, as nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur) washed or leached beyond the reach of annual forage root systems. In general most producers are frustrated with the productivity of their winter forages this season.  Fields are pale and stunted, when they are normally lush green and abundant at this point in the year.  This leads to the key question, “Is it worth trying to salvage some cool-season forage production this late in the season?” The short answer is maybe.

The following are some general observations that may help with your decision-making. In addition, you should consider contacting your local county extension agent for further consultation if your options seem unclear, or if a poor choice might result in additional financial hardship.

  • To keep small grains forages (wheat, cereal rye, triticale, oats) productive longer, it is best to prevent head formation by cutting or grazing. Once the heads have formed, the plants will not likely respond well to additional nitrogen fertilizer. The plant has entered its reproductive stage, when most of the nutrients are reallocated from the plant to the grain. If the plants have lots of young, non-heading tillers (shoots), then they might be somewhat more responsive (later maturing, annual ryegrass may respond for a somewhat longer period).
  • If you observe leaf spotting or other foliar disease symptoms on any cool-season grass forages, you might prolong production by grazing or cutting off the forage to remove the disease inoculant. Chances are improved that the regrowth will be more vigorous and look healthier.
  • If your small grains or annual ryegrass field looks uniformly yellow (particularly the oldest leaves), you may be suffering from nitrogen (N) deficiency (Figure 1 above). If your field appears more like a patchwork of yellow and green, you may have a sulfur (S) or nitrogen + sulfur deficiency (Figure 2). Luckily only 10 lbs S/A is required for a quick response (7 to 10 days). A nitrogen application response is similarly quick. Thirty to 50 lbs N/A should be sufficient for good cool-season forage recovery to salvage some of the investment made in winter.
Figure 2. Triticale field with sulfur deficiency symptoms, early March. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

Figure 2. Triticale field with sulfur deficiency symptoms, early March. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

  • Three or more nitrogen fertilizer applications of 50 lbs N/A, or a high seasonal N application (above 80 lbs N/A) increases your risk of accumulating nitrates, particularly if used to promote regrowth following cutting or grazing. Dark green forage is beautiful to behold, but it may signal nitrate accumulation from supra-optimal N fertilizer applications (Fig. 3). Heavy forage regrowth can dilute tissue nitrogen, thereby reducing the risk of nitrate poisoning to livestock.
Figure 3. Triticale field ten days after a 28-0-0-5 application (55 lbs N/A and 10 lbs S/A. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

Figure 3. Triticale field ten days after a 28-0-0-5 application (55 lbs N/A and 10 lbs S/A. Photo credit: Cheryl Mackowiak

For more information please see the following UF/IFAS Publications:

Nitrate Poisoning in Grazing Cattle – Questions and Answers

Factors Affecting Forage Quality

 

PG

Author: Cheryl Mackowiak – echo13@ufl.edu


http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu

Cheryl Mackowiak

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/18/salvaging-winter-forage-production-this-year/

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