Damaged Wheat

The less than ideal growing conditions this year has created many issues for grain production especially wheat.  The majority of the wheat in our area has been harvested and producers are experiencing large price docks and discounts at the elevator.  An option is to store and feed the damaged wheat.  Much of the wheat crop harvested has reported to have disease issues, low test weights, sprouts and mycotoxins or molds.  In general mycotoxins have the greatest potential for affecting animal performance as a feed source.  The grain needs to be dried to at least 18 percent moisture to stop mycotoxin or mold growth, however drying to 13 percent moisture is recommended for long term storage.

Before feeding any infected wheat, producers should have the grain tested.  There are several types of mycotoxins each having varied toxic levels and effects on livestock.  The following link lists several laboratories capable of analyzing mycotoxins: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/ohiofieldcropdisease/t01_pageview2/Mycotoxin_Sampling_Laboratories_.htm.  Once you have the test results you can determine your options for feeding damaged wheat.  Blending with clean grains is one option, but this should only be done immediately prior to feeding.  Contaminated grains can infect the entire batch if left in storage for prolonged periods of time.  Toxic binding agents can also be used and are recommended with grains containing elevated levels of mycotoxins.  Ruminants can handle higher levels of toxins than pigs or poultry.  Recommended levels for each species can be found: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/ohiofieldcropdisease/t01_pageview2/Detrimental_Feed_Concentrations.htm.

Pasture Stability and Resiliency

Plants are biochemical factories that are at the base of the food pyramid for nearly all animals on earth (surface). The raw materials plants utilize for synthesizing essentially all components for life are found in the air, water, and in the soil.

To break it down further, 96% of plant requirements are CO2 and water.   If you include Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous, you arrive at 99.4% of all plant requirements. (Taiz and Zeiger, 2002) Proper soil health and environmental conditions such as sunlight, water and soil nutrients are essential for plant health and resiliency from pests and diseases.

Even though 99.4% is close to 100%, it isn’t quite there. It is very important to understand that amending the soil is a major part of plant nutrient needs, but it does not achieve 100% of a plant’s requirement. Having plant diversity and microbe life in the soil will increase the availability of micro-nutrients and increase plant stability in an ecosystem. Whether it be a garden, pasture, or forest; the resiliency of that ecosystem increases with diversity to both biological and abiotic stresses (pests and environmental factors).

One way to increase ecosystem diversity is to incorporate legumes in a pasture field. Legume incorporation in a pasture field has been shown to increase output with decreased monetary input in many experiments across the nation. Things to consider when incorporating legumes in a field are:

  • Could there by residual effects from a pesticide?
    • Products like Milestone can have up to 2 years of broadleaf residual effects on broadleaf plants
  • Did I inoculate the legume seed with the proper bacterial inoculant?
    • Nodules are a symbiotic relationship between the legume plant and different types of Rhizobia bacteria. If the Inoculate spores are not compatible to that plant, expired or non-viable due to improper storage, nodules will not appear and Nitrogen fixation will not occur.
  • Have I recently applied Nitrogen to the soil?
    • A legume will not establish the symbiotic relationship with the Rhizobium bacteria unless there is a need for more N. When Nitrogen is plenty the plant will not make nodules or very few.  


There are many ways to increase bio diversity; including: forbs, a variety of grasses, and legumes in a pasture field are some examples.  Doing so will create a balance in nutrient uptake and availability resulting in stability. Remember that plants are the foundation of the food pyramid, creating a stable foundation will only increase output above that!


A quote from Bill Murphy:

“If you do not find any legumes, a soil fertility or pH problem most likely exists. It’s absolutely essential to have 30 to 50% legume content in your pasture to obtain the excellent quality forage needed to achieve high livestock production levels at low cost.”

Bill Murphy, Greener Pastures On Your Side Of The Fence, 1998

Now is the time to control bagworms!

Every year, around Labor Day, we start receiving calls of damage to many of our evergreen trees. There are numerous small, two inch long brown to gray football shaped bags on the plants, devouring the needles. These are called bagworms. Feeding damage is heavy enough on some plants; spruces, junipers and arborvitae in particular, to have a significant impact on the overall health of the infested plants. Portions of these plants are thinning and/or turning brown and approaching the point of not being able to recover from the damage.  In some cases, the bagworms are still very small with their bags being less than 1/2″ long.

The good news is young bagworms can be effectively controlled using a biological insecticide that will not hurt beneficial insects. The efficacy of these biological insecticides declines once bags reach 3/4″, so a standard insecticide will need to be used after bags exceed this length. However, if the bag gets too big and the worm has too much protection from the bag, no insecticide will work. If possible and if the infestation is not too bad, you can simply pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water (picture source: University of Kentucky ENTFACT 440).


Why Are the Bottom of My Tomatoes and Squash Rotting?

This is the time of year we receive inquiries about blossom-end rot on zucchini and tomatoes, especially in a wet year like this. This disorder affects tomato, pepper, squash, and eggplant and occurs when soil moisture is uneven. It is easily recognized by the flat, leathery, discolored area on the blossom end of the fruit.    Blossom-end rot occurs when there is a calcium deficiency in the blossom-end of the fruit. If demand for calcium exceeds the supply during rapid fruit development, deprived tissues break down, leaving the leathery-looking blossom end to the fruit.  It may be due to lack of calcium in the soil; however, this is not usually the case. The real culprit is usually drastic changes in weather (cool to hot) or uneven or extreme soil moisture fluctuations. When these situations are prevalent during fruit development, calcium uptake is limited or non-existent and blossom end rot can occur.   What is a gardener to do? Avoid wide fluctuations in soil moisture. Calcium sprays for the fruit are sometimes recommended, but are of little value due to poor absorption and movement of the calcium to the fruit. Long term solution is to make sure the pH is at acceptable levels by adding lime to the soil (this fall will be an excellent time to apply lime).  Soil test kits are available at Extension offices to help determine your garden nutrient needs.



Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning is usually a term associated with trees or shrubs, but pruning tomato plants can be very important. When pruning a tomato plant you are pruning what are called “suckers.”Suckers are small shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch on a plant meets the stem. The joint will be in the shape of a V and if a sucker is growing it will be more in the shape of a W. You do not want to allow suckers to grow to form the W. These small shoots will eventually grow into a full size branch if left alone, which will result in a bushier, more sprawling tomato plant, but will not harm your plant. Typically, this should from the time the plant is small, but if you are finding yourself with a jungle of tomato plants, it’s not too late to start.

Pruning will promote fruit growth and allow better air circulation throughout the plant. By pinching off the sucker branches, less of the plants energy will be directed toward producing and maintaining foliage and will result in more energy being directed toward producing larger fruit that will ripen sooner. However, some studies do not recommend pruning because sucker branches will actually produce fruit. Your result may be larger amounts of smaller fruits versus larger fruits. So, it really is a personal decision on if you want to prune.

You want to make sure to prune during a dry, sunny day. Anytime you are pruning it causes an opening into the plant that is an area where disease can get in. This is similar to cutting yourself and having an open wound. If you use scissors or pruners instead, be sure to sanitize them before and after use to make sure there is no transfer of disease.

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Still Time to Plant While Harvesting

Even though we are in July, there is still time to plant many things in the garden.  To figure out what you can still plant, check how many days it takes the crop to mature, then count back from October 10, which is the average first frost in our area.  If there is enough time, you can still plant.  Some bean cultivars require as few as 45 days to mature.  By the end of the month, it will be time to start planting some cooler season crops like peas, turnips and other leafy vegetables.

Yellow Poplar Weevil

Yellow Poplar Weevil


Recently I’ve noticed in Southeastern Ohio damaged leaves on Yellow Poplar, Sassafras and Magnolia trees.  This has also generated several calls to our Extension Offices.  The cause of this damage is the yellow poplar weevil.  These are tiny insects only about 2/16” long and are sometimes thought to be ticks at first glance.  Older trees will normally sustain the attack of these pests, but if you have newly planted trees in your landscape you may want to apply an insecticidal treatment.  The following links have additional information and control strategies:  http://entomology.osu.edu/bugdoc/Shetlar/factsheet/ornamental/FSyellowpopweevil.htm, http://bygl.osu.edu/content/yellow-poplar-weevil-2.