2018 Fruit Production

Wow… it’s almost February already! As we have progressed past the harshest part of winter (hopefully), it’s time to think more about fruit production and items necessary to promote good plant growth. Grapes, brambles, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, etc., all need pruned in the next few weeks if you haven’t already finished them.  I’ve added some pictures below to help determine what the finished product might look like. Good pruning for sunlight, air penetration and spray coverage is a key to good fruit production.


Grapes before pruning                             Grapes after pruning



Blackberries before pruning                    Blackberries after pruning



Blueberry before pruning                             Blueberry after pruning



Apple or Pear pruning cuts              Peach or Cherry pruning for open center


Tree fruit producers should also be thinking about dormant oil sprays and/or copper applications if fire blight was severe last year in your trees. Oils…only apply when temperatures are above 40°F, never during freezing weather (read the label). Timely applications of any insecticide or fungicide is necessary if you want to get the full benefit of using them, so plan now and have the correct products ready to use as needed.  Also remember, pesticide resistance management is something we all need to guard against. Read the labels of any pesticides being used and rotate to other products as listed on the labels.

Black Rot in Grapes– I have many homeowners who contact me each year, as fall approaches, saying their grapes are turning black and shriveling up just about the time they start to ripen. This is a problem that must be controlled in the spring as the new vines are growing. The period from immediate pre-bloom through 3 to 4 weeks after bloom is the most critical period for controlling black rot. New growth, no larger than seen in the picture below, is the time to start spraying.  Two fungicides, Mancozeb (ex. Bonide Mancozeb 37%) or Mycobutanil (ex. Immunox Fungicide) are products that control black rot. Be sure to read the label for proper application rate, preharvest interval and timing between sprays. If sprays are not made (missed), an improper rate applied or complete coverage is not obtained, you cannot expect to get satisfactory disease control of black rot.

A great resource for home growing fruit producers is OSU Bulletin 780, Controlling Diseases and Insects in the Home Fruit Plantings. Pick one up from your local OSU Extension Office.

2018 is well underway. Are you ready for a productive fruit growing season? Let’s get ready to prune!



Producing High Quality Fruit at Home

Pruning- Pruning the fruit tree is an important step in improving fruit quality. Fire blight, powdery Fruit treemildew and summer rots can be reduced by carefully pruning out limbs harboring disease inoculum. Pruning trees should be done according to the desired structural shape of the tree.

Prune out all broken and dead branches and any sucker growth around the bottom of the tree trunk. Once the dead and broken material has been removed, the general shape of the healthy tree can be seen. Correct pruning helps improve overall air movement and sunlight penetration into the canopy. It also helps reduce disease and insect pressure. A rule of thumb I often use when pruning fruit trees is, “When in doubt, prune it out”. All pruning should be completed no later than mid-March for best results here in Ohio.

If trees have been neglected for several years, they may need to be rejuvenated. A second step is to decide how big/tall the tree should be. A tree with dwarfing rootstock can be maintained at about 8 to 10 feet tall, semi-dwarf rootstock at about 12 to 16 feet and a standard rootstock at about 16 to 20 feet tall. If your trees have not been pruned in many years, you should not cut them to the desired height in one year.

Your plan should be to reduce the tree height over a period of about 3 years by removing no more than one-third of the height each year (ex. 25’ tree to a final height of 16’— lower at a rate of about 3’ each year). Do not cut all the limbs in half or “Top” the tree, like some people and or tree trimming companies do with shade trees, to reduce their height. Pick and choose limbs that can be cut back to the approximate desired length, at a lateral branch, and make the cut there. “Work” the tree height down systematically over the time period rather topping.

When working with neglected trees do not feed the tree with nitrogen after pruning. Nitrogen applications would stimulate growth and compound the problem you are trying to fix. Water sprouts will likely develop around or below pruned areas during the spring and summer. Removal of this vegetative growth should be frequently done by rubbing off or pulling off the shoot while it is still short and green around the bottom (<10-12 inches in length). Pulling is recommended rather than cutting so you remove the entire shoot and not have a short stub remaining. If the shoots become brown and woody at the base, pulling may no longer be an option because you may cause unwanted tearing into the bark. Cutting is then preferred.

Disease Control- Early spring is the best time to apply sprays to control certain insects and diseases. Gardeners who have had problems in the past years should consider applying early season sprays to prevent or minimize pest damage to the leaves and fruit of the trees. Additional applications of fungicide and insecticide sprays during the growing season may be necessary to control specific pests. Early application of the proper sprays should minimize the use of pesticides during the remainder of the growing season.

Dormant oil sprays are intended to be used before the leaf or fruit buds open in the spring. This can effectively control many scale insects, European red mite eggs and aphids. Be sure to check the label, for temperature restrictions before applying dormant oils. Early season fungicide sprays should be applied at the green tip through pink or white bud growth stages. These sprays will help minimize diseases. Application of fungicides while trees are blooming may be made, but insecticide sprays should not be made during the flower blooming stage to protect pollinating bees. Additional applications of fungicides or insecticides may be needed to insure high quality fruit later in the season.

For more information about pruning specific trees or applying sprays correctly, contact Mark at the Monroe County Extension office at 740-472-0810. Bulletins and factsheets are available which contain pruning information. Also available are spray guides to help you produce high quality fruit your trees are capable of producing.

Lice and Beef Cattle

Cattle Lice -Winter is the prime time for lice populations on beef cattle to increase. As temperatures cool and hair coats grow longer producers need to be monitoring their livestock. Constant rubbing is a sign or indicator your livestock may have biting and or sucking lice. Both biting and sucking lice are spread by direct contact with other animals and these parasites can cost producers a lot of money. Some loss comes from production loss, but other losses occur when livestock rub equipment, fences and buildings causing damage to them. A few cattle have lice year-around and are called carriers. This may only be 1-2 percent of the herd (usually older cows or bulls), but they can re-infect the other animals causing increased populations among all the livestock.

Biting lice survive by feeding on the skin, hair and sloughed skin cells of the animal. A complete lifebiting lice cycle of biting lice can occur in as little as three weeks, and adults can live as long as 10 weeks. The adult biting louse has a brownish-amber color head with a darkly outlined abdomen with a series of brown crossbars on a pale background. It is commonly found near the base of the tail and along the topline of the animals.

Sucking lice, on the other hand, are a more serious pest that survives by penetrating the skin and feeding on the host’s blood. Sucking lice are generally dark in Sucking licecolor and typically found over the shoulders, down the animal’s neck, on the ears, dewlap or brisket. The shortnosed louse can complete its life cycle in about 28 days, although the time may range from 3–6 weeks.

Treatment in Ohio– The non-systemic insecticides are effective against all types of lice, whereas the avermectins, moxidectin and eprinomectin (systemic products) mainly kill sucking lice according to Lee Townsend, University of Kentucky Extension entomologist. Non systemic insecticides should be used from November 1st through early January if cattle were not previously treated for internal parasites (grubs). During this time there is a potential risk of choking, bloat, or paralysis from a response to cattle grubs dying in critical tissues within the animal if systemic insecticides are used.

Non-systemic insecticides come as pour-on products, dust bags, sprays and products for cattle rubs (like the pyrethroids cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin or permethrin) that can be used safely during the November to early January period. If non-systemic products are used, a second application is usually necessary in approximately 3 weeks to kill lice that were in the egg stage during the initial treatment. Read the label of the product being used to be sure of correct treatment procedures and note any withdrawal times that need followed.

Be sure to avoid parasite introductions onto the farm when purchasing new animals. Ask about previous history and management practices to reduce chances of unwanted parasites being brought in.

Frost Seeding


The time of the year when frost seedings are most effectively done will be here before long. One can use this method to renovate pastures, improve stands, or alter the species mix within a pasture. Producers should remember however, this is only a means to get the seed in good contact with the soil. If the area you intend to frost seed currently has poor grass/legume growth, the first thing you need to determine is “why the problem has occurred?” Adding more seed to soil that lacks proper nutrient levels, has a pH that is to low or high for the intended crop, or if the crop is not managed properly for the plant species desired (for example – repeated close grazings), the soil is not going to grow more of the desired forage if you just broadcast more seed.

When plants are severely grazed, or re-grazed before a sufficient rest period has elapsed, the plant takes energy that has been stored in the roots as carbohydrates to support new leaf growth. As carbohydrates are removed from the roots, the root dies, separates from the plant and eventually decomposes. This process continues until enough green leaf surface once again develops to catch sufficient amounts of solar energy that support additional leaf growth and reestablish lost roots. Depending on the severity of root loss, slow re-growth may be noticed for a considerable amount of time.

Areas chosen for frost seeding should not have large amounts of undecomposed plant material remaining in the field. If it does, put animals in those areas now to graze the area closely before seeding. Removing this plant material will make openings above the soil allowing seeds to fall to the ground. Frost seeding works best with legume seeds typically, because it is easier for smaller seeds to drop to the soil surface than it is for the larger, but lighter grass seeds. Making a muddy mess of an area is not the goal, but if weather conditions are going to cause livestock to trample an area, because you do not have a heavy use feed pad to put them onto, the sacrifice area may as well be where you plan to frost seed.

Encouraging legume growth in pasture fields can minimize production costs by reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilization necessary for maximum forage growth. Stands that contain approximately 30% legumes generally need no additional nitrogen added. Legumes also improve the quality characteristics of a grass stand. Frost seeding offers several potential advantages when properly implemented. These may include: establishment of forage in undisturbed sod, reduced labor, energy and cash expense compared to conventional tillage methods, the ability to establish forages with minimal equipment investment, and little, if any, “non-grazing” period.

Late winter, February or early March, is a good time to frost seed pastures in our area. Broadcast your selected seed while the ground is frozen. The freeze and thaw cycle of the soil is needed for seeds to obtain good soil-to-seed contact. This is necessary if seeds are to grow and compete with established grasses, other legumes, and or weeds.

Planting mixtures and seeding rates differ greatly. Desired species and number of seedlings wanted in the final stand determine how much to plant. As a rule of thumb, if legumes are already present in the pasture, 3-4 lbs. of red clover and 1-2 lb. of ladino or alsike clover seed per acre works well. Birdsfoot trefoil could also be used at 2-3 lbs. per acre. If no legumes are currently present in the stand or seeding one species alone, doubling the above rates may return better results. Also, remember to inoculate legume seed when planting.

If grasses are to be frost seeded into existing pastures, perennial or annual ryegrass, orchardgrass, or smooth bromegrass would be recommended. Perennial/annual ryegrass should be seeded at 2-3 lbs. along with orchardgrass 2-3 lbs. or smooth bromegrass 8-10 lbs. per acre. When planting, using a spinner type seeder, do not mix legume and grass seed together. Grass seed will not spread as far as legume seed causing an uneven stand. Make two trips over the pasture and adjust spacing as needed for the type seed being sown.

In the spring, excessive growth and competition should be controlled. Frost seeded pastures should be grazed or clipped in the spring at regular intervals to allow sunlight to enter the canopy. Do not allow animals to graze plants low enough the first or second rotations that they ruin the new seedlings before adequate roots are developed.

Summary- Frost seeding will not increase the productivity or quality of a pasture if soil nutrients and pH are not in acceptable ranges for the species you are trying to produce. Most often, pastures are a product of management practices. Many times a change in grazing practices (allowing rest periods) or addition of soil nutrients will correct declining pasture production. If you are thinking of making a frost seeding and do not know what your nutrient levels are, a soil test can be a valuable tool. It can tell you if your pastures need more seed or just more “feed”.

Feeding Livestock and Managing Forage Waste

11-1-14 Cows Grazing-Mom's

Stockpiling forage for winter feed was fairly limited this year in our area due to dry soil conditions when most stockpiling growth should have occurred. More stored forage will be required this year and feeding hay has started much sooner than in recent years for many producers.


Loss, associated with feeding hay to livestock, may be much more than just storage loss if precautions are not taken to reduce waste during the feeding operation. Feeding loss is a product of many things. Trampling, leaf shatter, quality deterioration, fecal contamination, and refusal are all things that contribute to waste. One must expect some hay loss during feeding, but the amount of loss may be reduced through good management practices and proper planning.


Feeding losses have been shown to range from less than 2 percent, where great care was taken, to more than 60 percent when no attempt was made to reduce hay loss. A loss of 3 percent to 6 percent would be considered normal, but good management practices must be in place to accomplish this.


Feeding hay throughout various paddocks from moveable racks or wagons promotes distribution of manure rather than concentrating it in one location. Many types of feed bunks, bale rings and other equipment are available today, but the ones which keep hay from contacting the ground generally reduce waste the most. A dry, well‑drained or frozen site should be chosen for feeding hay when possible. Limiting hay fed to a one‑day supply, with enough space for all animal to eat at the same time, helps reduce waste.


Some managers like to feed several bales in one area, which allows them to select a convenient feeding location and minimizes the area of sod killed. However, this eventually results in muddy conditions, often promoting weed pressure. It may also result in soil erosion or soil compaction. If these conditions are encountered, it is very likely that the area used will be unproductive for forage growth much of the following year and weed growth may be a problem. If this occurs, weeds should be controlled before they go to seed.


Unrolling large round bales is a practice which many of our producers have implemented where terrain and or equipment permit. If this method is used, only unroll enough feed for one day’s supply or use an electric wire over the middle of the unrolled swath to prevent trampling and bedding on the food source. Moving to a new area each feeding promotes even manure distribution and this type nutrient management will help produce more forage next year.

Crop Photo

Many producers use the unrolling` method to promote re‑seeding in places with sparse vegetation. Unused forages help to increase organic material and fertility in these feeding areas. Feeding priority of various hay lots should also be considered when using the feed. Hay exposed to the elements/outdoor should be fed first to reduce loss.


Separating livestock into smaller groups with similar nutritional needs is recommended. The highest quality hay should be fed to young, growing livestock or lactating animals. Lower quality hay should be used for livestock with lower nutritional needs, such as bulls and non‑lactating cows. Sending samples to a laboratory for forage analysis is recommended so actual nutritional values are known.


If you have low quality hay, a good way to use it is to combine it with forage in stockpiled paddocks. Most stockpiled grasses, when fed in a timely manner, contain higher protein levels and more total digestible nutrients than many lots of hay which were harvested in the summer. If you are going to place round bales in stockpiled forage, use a front electric wire to limit livestock’s access, thereby controlling waste of the stockpiled forage and the round bales.


A heavy use feeding area, constructed of concrete, geotextile cloth and stone, or other suitable material, is a good place to feed livestock when conditions are very wet, muddy and not suitable for feeding in your fields. Using heavy use areas at proper times reduces pugging and injury to forage plants in the paddocks.


Whatever feeding method is used, your management decisions determine the impact to the land on your farm. Establishing good management practices can alleviate unsightly problems, reduce soil erosion, increase water quality, increase forage production and boost profit margins.

Is it Bagworms or Fall Webworms Damaging My Trees?


As Chris Penrose mentioned in a post last month, damage from bagworms is often seen this time of year by homeowners. Bagworms are the insects which make the pine-cone like structures at the ends of branches on many evergreen and other tree/shrub species in the landscape.  As the larva feeds and grows, often unnoticed throughout the summer, it enlarges the bag and begins to incorporate bits and pieces of plant material. By mid-August, the larvae are mature and they often move to a sturdy branch or other structure where they attach the bag firmly with a strong band of silk. We are now to the point where spraying insecticide on your tree or shrub at this time of year will not kill the larva inside the bag. Hand picking the bag at this time of year is the best strategy. The mature larvae usually attach their bags to a branch by wrapping extra silk, which does not decay rapidly. This band of silk may girdle the branch as it grows, resulting in dead branches several years later. Be sure to cut or scratch off this silk band when removing bags from a plant. FOR MORE DETAILS: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/pdf/2149.pdf


Fall Webworm

Another pest often noticed this time of year is the fall webworm. It is actually the second generation of nests that are being seen now. The first generation nests (usually in June-July) are seldom as numerous or as large in size as those produced by the second generation. First generation nests normally involve only a few leaves.  Female moths however, often lay their eggs on or near the nests from which they developed, thus second generation caterpillars expand the nests once occupied by first generation caterpillars. The second generation nests in Ohio typically reach their maximum size in the fall (late August thru October) which accounts for the common name. The fall webworm is not usually a serious pest in woodland forest stands, but infestations are of greatest concern to homeowners on shade, ornamental, and landscape trees. Here, loss of foliage and unsightly webs seriously reduce the aesthetics of the trees in the yard. In this circumstance, control of the fall webworm may be desirable. Control measures should be initiated when the webs and the larvae are small. Large webs make it difficult for insecticides to penetrate and contact the larvae within. Smaller larvae are also easier to kill. For effective control spray the web and the foliage surrounding the web. Many insecticides (such as (Sevin), orthene, BT or Malathion, etc.) may be used. Hand eradication is also possible when smaller webs are spotted early. Note…burning webs out of your trees with fire usually does more damage to the tree than the damage caused by the webworm. FOR MORE DETAILS: http://bygl.osu.edu/content/fall-webworm-update-0


Common Tomato Plant Problems

Each summer I receive many phone calls from home gardeners who have problems with tomato plants. The four items listed on the following pages are ones I often see. Pictures and descriptions of three blights are listed on the first page and one physiological disorder is listed on the second page. Fungicides are listed that can help control these problem blights if applied at the proper time and measures to reduce blossom end rot are explained.

Click here for a detailed description of common diseases and disorders: Tomato Diseases