Be Counted

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2017 was a year of success and I hope that 2018 will be even better. Of course, a year is what you make it. Although you cannot control what the year will bring, you can control how you react to what it gives you. Good or bad. I hope that one of your resolutions for 2018 will be to look on the bright side. See the glass half full. Be optimistic. If you chose to make 2018 a great year, it will be.

Yesterday I received a piece of mail titled to “Mr. Noble Osu Extension”. Yes, you read that correct. It was from the Arbor Day Foundation and it promised free gifts inside. Naturally, I wanted to at least see these “free gifts” and find out what they were hoping to get in return. Inside was a survey, return address labels, a calendar, and a list of enticing reasons why I should join the foundation and complete their survey.

One of these was the chance to win a “year’s supply of coffee”, which for me was more like twelve weeks’ worth of coffee, but hey, they got me. I completed the survey, hung up the calendar, and slipped the return labels into my desk. I am saving them for a gag where it would be appropriate to call myself “Mr. Noble Osu Extension.” My response will be counted to promote forest conservation. That alone would have been enough for me.

There are two surveys that I urge you to complete this January. One is the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The other is the 2017 Noble County OSU Extension ANR Program Survey. No, they don’t come with “free gifts”, but they should at least have your name and correct when you receive them. I can already see you rolling your eyes as you read this and thinking “Ugh, surveys!” So let me interject with a familiar story:

Luke 2:1-7: “1In those days Caesar Augustus sent out word that the name of every person in the Roman nation must be written in the books of the nation. 2This first writing took place while Quirinius was ruler of Syria. 3So all the people went to their own cities to have their names written in the books of the nation. 4Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in the country of Galilee to the town of Bethlehem. It was known as the city of David. He went there because he was from the family of David. 5Joseph went to have his and Mary’s names written in the books of the nation. Mary was his promised wife and soon to become a mother. 6While they were there in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth to her baby. 7Her first son was born. She put cloth around Him and laid Him in a place where cattle are fed. There was no room for them in the place where people stay for the night.”

In the Christmas story we read that Jesus’s parents rode 65 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, while Mary was nine months pregnant, riding on a donkey, to be counted in a census, so that the government could assess their tax rate! Then when they arrived, Mary was in labor, and there was nowhere to stay except a stable. Can you imagine your first-born child being born in a barn, 65 miles from home, because the government ordered you to go? Does a paper or online census sound as bad now?

The 2017 Census of Agriculture is your chance to be counted. It is conducted once every five years. The information collected from the census is the only uniform, comprehensive, and impartial source of data that reaches every state and county in the U.S.A. It is used so that you will be represented appropriately by the United States Department of Agriculture in conversations with trade associations, researchers, policy makers, extension educators, agribusiness, and more. Every single voice matters. The census survey is lengthy, but keep in mind that every farmer in the U.S. has to complete the same survey. Some sections may not apply to you, but I guarantee that at least one will. You should have received a census form in the mail in December. You can chose to complete the paper forms or you can complete the census survey online at If you did not receive a census packet, you can complete the survey online, or request one by calling (800)-727-9540. The deadline to respond is February 5, 2018.

Noble County OSU Extension looks forward to providing programming for you in 2018. Thank you to those who have completed the survey already. If you have not, please help us develop helpful program content by completing the 2017 ANR Program Survey online at:

If you want to be represented in your community and nation, take these opportunities to be counted.

Have a wonderful New Year readers!

Cover Crop Experiments

One of the best ways to improve a patch of ground is by using a cover crop.  Cover cropping is when you plant a certain plant or mix of plants into an area to solve an problem or improve the soil. Things cover crops can do include:

  • add biomass
  • smother weeds
  • drill through hardpan
  • increase fertility
  • prevent runoff and erosion
  • tie nutrients up in the soil

Almost sounds too good to be true, but it is not.  Cover crops have been used for a long time in agriculture and with the increased focus on preventing nutrient loss into our waterways and the resulting problems this has resulted in, you will be hearing more about them in the future.

Currently I am monitoring/helping with three different small scale cover crop experiments.  I do not have 100 acres of corn or soybeans so I am observing them in three different community garden experiments.

Experiment 1: Demonstration garden at the fairgrounds. 

Tomatoes into no-till residue

Tomatoes into no-till residue

Rob and Rebecca planted winter rye, crimson clover and vetch into the raised beds last fall and crimped them over in spring, the tomatoes went straight into holes in the residue and are doing great.  This cover crop mix added fertility from the legumes, mulches the soil to prevent disease and water loss, prevented erosion over winter and added biomass from the top growth and root remnants. The tomatoes are doing great.  If you go to the garden, you will see they are outperforming tomatoes planted into straight compost.

Experiment 2: Logan Community Garden

Buckwheat in unused plots

Buckwheat in unused plots

The Logan Community Garden had some space that needed filled that was not going to be used this season and had a fair amount of weeds present.  The cover crop for this area needed to smother weeds, prevent erosion,  keep the soil in use, tie up nutrients and be easy to manage. The crop chosen was Buckwheat, which is elite at all these needs.  The crop is entering flowering right now if you visit the garden and will be a magnet for pollinators, helping the vegetables the gardeners have as well.  It will be mowed to prevent it from setting seed and allowed to decompose in place adding organic matter.

Experiment 3: Wallace Community Garden

BMR sorghum x sudangrass

BMR sorghum x sudangrass

Sheesh,  what guy planted this? (me).   This spotty planting of BMR(brown mid-rib) Sorghum X Sudangrass is being used as a three year rotation in my garden plot.  My needs are for weed control, increased fertility, increased biomass/organic matter and sub-soil drilling through hardpan.  I have not used this variety before, but have heard many wonderful things about it and its reputation is stellar.  It will get very tall, like corn, and should completely take over this plot by mid summer.  I will mow it to keep it a couple/few feet tall which will signal the roots to double down on root growth.  I will let you all know how this turns out over the season.

Would you like to learn more about cover crops?   I will be talking about cover crops as well as Fertilizers, Organic Matter and Soil Health on Tuesday June 14th at 7pm in a FREE class at the Youth Center,  bring friends and questions and hope to see you there.

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”.

The Great Christmas Tree Debate: Real or Artificial

One great holiday debate is which type of Christmas tree is best: real or artificial.

Real trees have a very long and significant history.  The use of evergreen trees to celebrate the winter season occurred before the birth of Christ.  The first decorated Christmas tree reportedly appeared in the Baltic region of Latvia in Northern Europe around 1510.  The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.  In the early 1900s, retail stores began displaying big Christmas trees and by 1933, Rockefeller Center in New York City began its Christmas tree tradition.

Artificial trees were first developed in Germany during the 19th century.  These trees were made using goose feathers that were dyed, attached to wire branches and then wrapped around a central dowel rod.  In 1930, the U.S. based Addis Brush Company, created artificial trees using the same machinery used to manufacture toilet brushes.  The popular mid-20th century aluminum artificial Christmas trees were first produced in Chicago in 1958.  The aluminum tree popularity died down in the late 1960s, however in recent years, collectors have been buying and selling the trees, especially on online auction web sites which have created a small reemergence.  Today, most artificial trees are made from PVC plastic and imported to the United States.

For myself, I grew up with an artificial Christmas tree but for the past eight years I went “real” and never looked backed.  The reason I never looked back is there are economic, social, environmental and safety advantages to real Christmas trees compared to artificial ones.

Buying a real Christmas can have significant economic benefits.  When you buy a real tree, more often than not, the tree comes from a local tree farmer.  Your money stays within the community which you live; making for a stronger community.  There are more than 15,000 Christmas tree farm in the US with approximately 350 million trees currently growing.  In 2012, 24.5 million trees were sold with a market value of $1.01 billion dollars. A majority of today’s artificial trees are manufactured in foreign countries, like Taiwan, Korea, and China. China itself manufactures 80% of the worldwide demand.

Real Christmas trees have substantial environmental benefits as well.  On average, trees are harvested for Christmas anywhere from five to fifteen years in age.  During this time, they provide oxygen for us to breathe (an acre of Christmas trees will provide enough daily oxygen for 18 people), remove dust and pollen from the air, provide habitat for wildlife, help purify groundwater, and help control soil erosion on hillsides.  Also, when real Christmas trees are discarded, they can be used for sand and soil erosion barriers or can be placed in ponds for fish shelter.  Since real Christmas are natural, they will breakdown rapidly whereas artificial trees will last centuries in landfills and take up space.  On average, artificial trees are replaced about every six years.

Also, there can be many social benefits from real Christmas trees.   Going to a Christmas tree lot or a U-cut Christmas tree farm can be a great family activity.  It’s another way get to children involved with Christmas and gives them a since of ownership in the selection process.  Also, buying a “living” Christmas tree (ball and burlap tree) to plant after the holidays will bring many fond memories for years to come as the tree grows and enhances your landscape.

Finally, real trees are less likely to catch on fire than artificial trees if properly watered and in the unfortunate event of a Christmas tree catching fire, artificial trees give off toxic fumes whereas real trees do not.

With all of the sights and sounds of the holiday season, the one thing that completes the magic of Christmas is filling your home with the fresh aroma of evergreen from a real tree.

For more information on Christmas tree care or help in finding real Christmas distributors, contact your local extension office.

JULY- OSU/WVU Extension Radio Shows:

Catch us on 1170 WWVA, Sunday mornings at 5:00 AM




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