Ohio Noxious Weed Identification – Week 8 Canada Thistle

Canada Thistle

Family: Composite, Asteraceae.

Habitat: Pastures, crops, landscape areas throughout Ohio.

Life cycle: Perennial with creeping roots.

Growth Habit: 1-3 feet high, erect, branched; forming large patches.

Leaves: 3-8 inches long, alternate with spiny, crinkled margins; lower leaves are lobed.

Stems: Grooved and becoming hairy with age; not spiny; branched at apex.

Flower: Lavender flower heads about 1 inch wide and long. Flowers are surrounded by bracts without spiny tips.

Fruits: Seeds borne in white feathery structures, similar to dandelion, spread by wind.

Roots: A creeping root system allows this weed to spread aggressively. Hand-pulling and cultivation are often ineffective control mechanisms because new plants sprout from root pieces that snap off.

Similar plants: Stems of Canada thistle are not spiny in contrast to bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and nodding thistle (Carduus nutans).

The problem is…. An aggressive, spreading root system. Very competitive with field crops and forages. Canada thistle is also prolific in seed production at 700 seeds per stem. Seeds are dispersed by wind and birds.


Root System














Currently there are 21 weeds on the Ohio Prohibited Noxious Weed List:

  • Shattercane (Sorghum bicolor) – February 8
  • Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia) – February 22
  • Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense L. (Pers.))
  • Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • Wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace) (Daucus carota L.)
  • Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthermum leucanthemum var. pinnatifidum)
  • Wild mustard (Brassica kaber var. pinnatifida)
  • Grapevines: when growing in groups of one hundred or more and not pruned, sprayed,cultivated, or otherwise maintained for two consecutive years. – February 15
  • Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L. (Scop.)) – March 29
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Cressleaf groundsel (Senecio glabellus)
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans)
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed (Polygonum perfoliatum) – March 7
  • Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) – March 14
  • Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes) – February 28
  • Marestail (Conyza canadensis)
  • Kochia (Bassia scoparia)
  • Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

Each week, for the next 21 weeks, I will post information and pictures on how to identify these invasive and harmful plants.

“Fix” to Grain Glitch is Now Law | Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation

by: Kristine A. Tidgren, Iowa State University
President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, H.R. 1625, on March 23, 2018. At the end of the 2,232-page legislation, Congress included a section written to “fix” the “grain glitch.” This is, of course, the provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that provided significantly higher tax deductions (in most cases) to patrons who sold commodities to cooperatives rather than to non-cooperatives. You can read more detail about the original provision here.

The 17-page “fix,” while attempting to level the playing field, adds even more complexity to an already convoluted section of the new tax law, IRC § 199A. The fix retroactively takes effect, beginning January 1, 2018. This wipes from existence the provision giving cooperative patrons a 20-percent deduction based upon gross sales.

Non-Coop Sales

Under the fix, the tax benefit to farmers who sell grain, for example, to a non-cooperative does not change. They are generally entitled to the new 20 percent 199A deduction, calculated based upon their net income from the sale. Their overall 199A deduction is limited to 20 percent of taxable income (minus capital gains). It is also restricted by a wages/capital limitation if their income exceeds $157,000 for singles and $315,000 for those who are married filing jointly.

… Read More 



Ohio Noxious Weed Identification – Week 7 Musk Thistle

Musk Thistle

Family: Composite, Asteraceae.

Habitat: Pastures, meadows, wasteland, and roadside ditches. Found sporadically throughout Ohio.

Life cycle: Biennial, forming a rosette the first year and producing flowers and seed in the second.

First Year Growth Habit: A basal rosette. Leaves are waxy and pale green with few hairs.

Second Year Growth Habit: Large, coarse, branched plant that can grow up to 9 feet.

Leaves: 3-6 inches long, alternate, spiny, deeply lobed, long and narrow.

Stem: Stems covered with dense, short hairs and spines.

FlowerJune – October. Purple thistle-like flower heads, 1-2” wide borne singly on stems; spiny-tipped bracts surrounding flower head. Often the flower heads droop or nod, hence the other common name of Nodding thistle.

Fruit: Seeds borne in white or tan feathery structures, similar to dandelion, spread by wind.

Similar plants: In the first year of growth, musk thistle may resemble bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). However, the leaves of bull thistle are covered with hairs. Musk thistle is also referred to as nodding thistle.

The problem is….This prickly weed reduces the quality of grazing land. It has spread quickly throughout much of the Midwest, but is not yet common in Ohio. Avoid handling without gloves.









Whole Plant







Currently there are 21 weeds on the Ohio Prohibited Noxious Weed List:

  • Shattercane (Sorghum bicolor) – February 8
  • Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia) – February 22
  • Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense L. (Pers.))
  • Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
  • Wild carrot (Queen Anne’s lace) (Daucus carota L.)
  • Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthermum leucanthemum var. pinnatifidum)
  • Wild mustard (Brassica kaber var. pinnatifida)
  • Grapevines: when growing in groups of one hundred or more and not pruned, sprayed,cultivated, or otherwise maintained for two consecutive years. – February 15
  • Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L. (Scop.))
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Cressleaf groundsel (Senecio glabellus)
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans) – March 26
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed (Polygonum perfoliatum) – March 7
  • Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) – March 14
  • Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes) – February 28
  • Marestail (Conyza canadensis)
  • Kochia (Bassia scoparia)
  • Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

Each week, for the next 21 weeks, I will post information and pictures on how to identify these invasive and harmful plants.

Knox County Cattlemen’s Association Scholarship

Attention high school seniors and college students: The Knox County Cattlemen’s Association is awarding two $500 scholarships. Applications can be obtained through the OSU Extension website( knox.osu.edu), through your highs school guidance counselor or on the Knox County Cattlemen’s Association social media accounts.

Knox County Master Gardener Volunteers WANTED

Share your love of gardening while giving back to the community! 

Learn: Master Gardener trainees receive University level training in horticulture from The Ohio State University Extension in the areas of botany, soils, trees, flowers, lawns, fruits and vegetables, entomology, pest management, and diagnostic skills. Trainees complete a minimum of 40 hours of training.

Give: After training, new volunteers will work with each other in various activities in Knox County to complete 50 hours of service in the first year. Opportunities include: answering horticultural questions, educating local gardeners on plant selection and care, helping community members within the community gardens and more. There are numerous ways to be involved in the community and you can be a part of it!

Grow: Master Gardeners enjoy the social aspect of learning together, volunteering together, and helping other in out county.

Join: If you are interested in gardening, want to help your community grow, and want to learn more, the Ohio State University Master Gardener is for you!

For more information or to obtain an application contact Sabrina Schirtzinger at 740-397-0401 or schirtzinger.55@osu.edu. 

How Often Should You Cut Alfalfa?

Originally posted in the OSU Sheep Team Newsletter – March 18, 2018

Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University

Most dairy producers are fairly aggressive with alfalfa cutting schedules. Their goal is to achieve high-quality forage.

But cutting too frequently usually shortens the life of alfalfa and often gives lower yields, even when more cuttings are taken per growing season.

Recent results from a two-year study at the Western Agricultural Research Center of The Ohio State University demonstrate the yield and quality trade-off.

We harvested alfalfa every 21, 28, 35, or 42 days resulting in a total of six, five, four, and three cuttings per year, respectively.

Total annual yield increased as cutting interval was delayed up to 35 days (four-cut schedule), but then yield decreased if the alfalfa was cut every 42 days when only three-cuts per season were taken.

With less frequent cutting, forage neutral detergent fiber (aNDF) increased and fiber digestibility (NDFD, 48-hour basis) decreased. This was no surprise.

Most dairy producers in our region are harvesting on about a 28-day schedule.

When we cut alfalfa every 35 days versus every 28 days, yield increased by half a ton per acre (8.5 percent), NDF increased 2.7 units, and NDFD declined 3.5 units.

So can you afford that decrease in forage fiber quality for a seven-day delay in cutting schedule, knowing that your yield will likely increase?

Many factors need to be considered. On many dairy farms, straw is being fed to cows because adequate fiber is lacking in the ration.

Instead of adding straw, why not provide more of the necessary fiber by cutting alfalfa a little later? This might work in your ration, plus you will get higher forage yield.

Overall harvest costs will be lower because you will likely harvest one less time per year. There will also be less traffic damage on the alfalfa.

Having said all this, we now have a way to maintain adequate alfalfa forage quality even with delayed cutting schedules.

Alfalfa varieties have been developed that contain less lignin, which have the potential to add harvest timing flexibility to your forage operation.

A team of scientists from Forage Genetics International, the US Dairy Forage Research Center, and the Noble Research Institute were able to genetically modify alfalfa to reduce the activity of one enzyme in the lignin biosynthesis pathway.

The result is alfalfa forage with reduced lignin content. Lignin is indigestible by ruminants, so less lignin means higher fiber digestibility and improved dry matter intake by ruminant animals.

This reduced lignin technology is being commercialized as HarvXtra Alfalfa combined with Roundup Ready Technology. There are currently six HarvXtra Alfalfa varieties being marketed.

Over the past two years, we have been evaluating this new technology along with scientists in five other states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, California). Data analysis and summary of the results is in progress.

Minnesota study
The University of Minnesota just published results from a separate study of HarvXtra Alfalfa, evaluated at four locations in Minnesota. The findings of that study are encouraging and similar to our findings.

In the Minnesota study across all harvests, the HarvXtra Alfalfa variety had 8 percent lower lignin content and 10 percent higher NDFD content compared with three alfalfa varieties without the reduced lignin trait.

The NDF content, crude protein content, and forage yield were similar among all varieties.

Minnesota researchers concluded that the HarvXtra Alfalfa would allow producers to obtain a higher quality and more digestible forage when it is harvested on the same schedule as other standard varieties.

In the Minnesota study, they evaluated the alfalfa varieties at different harvest intervals.

When HarvXtra Alfalfa was cut on a 35-day interval, it had a 21 percent gain in forage yield but only a 3 percent reduction in relative forage quality (RFQ) when compared with the other varieties that were cut on a 30-day interval.

The University of Minnesota research showed that using HarvXtra Alfalfa could reduce the forage quality penalty that is associated with a five-day delay in harvest interval.

In other words, HarvXtra Alfalfa offers producers more flexibility in cutting schedules.

Preliminary analysis of the results across the six-state study I’m involved with shows similar trends for HarvXtra Alfalfa as those reported in the Minnesota study.

In fact, our results show that HarvXtra Alfalfa can be harvested up to 10 days later with the same forage quality as other varieties harvested 10 days earlier.

I would like to come back to my original question: Can you afford to cut alfalfa later?

Producers in this region should take a hard look at their rations and the economics of harvesting alfalfa four times rather than five times.

Preliminary economic analysis of our research data demonstrates this will pay off, but producers need to look at their particular situation.

The economic picture for cutting alfalfa less frequently becomes even more positive if HarvXtra Alfalfa is used.

There is the potential to achieve the same forage quality as you are accustomed to achieving, but with less frequent harvests when you grow HarvXtra Alfalfa.

This should result in higher yields, less cost (yes, even when considering the seed cost of HarvXtra Alfalfa), less compaction damage on the stand, and perhaps longer stand life of the alfalfa.

Beef AGRI NEWS Today, the March Podcast

Originally posted in the Ohio BEEF Cattle Letter – March 21, 2018

In this month’s podcast of Beef AGRI NEWS Today, show host Duane Rigsby visits with OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes and about trade tariff’s, ELDs, alternatives for managing mud, and restoring the cattle feeding areas that have been destroyed this winter!

A beginner’s guide to starting seeds indoors

Originally posted in Farm and Dairy
tomato seedling

Starting your own seeds can give you more vegetable options, save you money and make your garden more resilient and productive.

Did you know there are over 2,000 varieties of tomato cultivars? You might not if you purchase your seedlings from nurseries and garden centers where only a handful of popular and proven varieties are offered. And this holds true for pretty much any other vegetable. You’re limiting your options.

And limited options give you limited control. You can only do so much with store-bought seedlings because most of the decision-making has been done for you. By reserving the right to choose from everything that’s available, you can choose varieties better suited to your growing region. Vegetable plants that adapt more easily to their environment will be better equipped to deal with climate conditions, diseases and pests during growing season.

Starting your own seeds can also save you money. The cost of one seedling can outweigh the cost of an entire packet of seeds in some cases. It really is a no-brainer when you consider cost.

So instead of buying seedlings, broaden your horizons and grow something weird and wonderful.

Selecting seeds

While starting seeds offers many benefits to gardeners, not every seed should be started indoors. Some varieties grow best when they are directly sown outdoors. Before you start your seedlings, find out which seeds should be started indoors and transplanted later.

Seeds to start indoors

The following list of seeds will transplant well and are prime candidates to start indoors. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds are actually better off being started indoors and transplanted to your garden as seedlings.

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Trickier seeds

These seeds can be trickier to transplant, but can also be started indoors.

  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Melon
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Squash

Seeds to directly sow outdoors

These seeds shouldn’t be transplanted as the roots can be disturbed during this process and plant growth can be hindered.

  • Bean
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Corn

Purchasing seeds

For optimal germination and yield results, it’s best to choose seed varieties suited to your growing region. So you want to purchase seed that is grown, tested and produced in an area with similar growing conditions to your garden. You can find test garden and seed location information within the first few pages of a seed catalog.

You also want to make sure you’re buying viable seeds. Reputable seed companies will only ship seed packaged for the year you purchase it. However, if you buy seed at a traditional store it will be up to you to check the packet for a current date.

When to plant

If you start your seeds indoors between late February and April, they will be ready to move outdoors after the last frost. At this time, you can also directly sow the seeds that weren’t good candidates to start indoors. If you want to narrow the time frame for a specific vegetable, check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Seed Starting and Planting Date Calculator.

How to start seeds indoors

  1. Prepare containers. Make sure your containers have been sterilized in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Then label your containers with the names of the vegetables you plan on planting.
  2. Read seed packets. Make sure to take note of individual planting information for each type of seed and pay close attention to planting depth.
  3. Potting medium. Use a fresh seed-starting mix with a light and fluffy consistency to hold just enough moisture. Then fill your containers 3/4 full.
  4. Sowing seeds. Make sure to sow seeds at the correct depth and cover them loosely with soil.
  5. Add water. Once they have been planted, make sure the soil is damp and warm, about 80 F, for good germination. You’ll start seeing sprouts in 5-10 days.
  6. Adjustments after germination. At this stage, you want to keep soil moist, but not damp, and you want to reduce the temperature to 70 F. If you used peat pots, your soil may have a tendency to dry out. If you used plastic containers, your soil may have a tendency to retain water. If you notice mold, your soil is too wet and you need to water less and increase air circulation with a fan.
  7. Light. Seedlings need between 14 and 18 hours of light a day.
  8. Thinning. You may have to thin seedlings here and there to reduce competition.
  9. Feeding seedlings. You can use diluted fertilizer or compost to feed seedlings as requires.
  10. Hardening seedlings. After the last frost, you’ll have to gradually prepare your seedlings to move outdoors. You can start by moving them outside on warm sunny days and increase exposure from there. They should be ready to transplant after two weeks of hardening.

A Yard Full Of Native Plants Is A Yard Full Of Well-Fed Birds

By Kathi Borgmann -February 27, 2018

Orginally Posted on: Cornell Labs of Ornithology

Carolina Chickadee photo by Doug Tallamy
Carolina Chickadees find more caterpillars in backyards with native vegetation, according to a recent study. Photo by Doug Tallamy.

Taking in the beautiful purple blossoms as the scent of lilac floats on the air seems like a pretty idyllic backyard setting, but new research shows that not all plants are equal. That pretty lilac, porcelain berry, fragrant bush honeysuckle, and ruby red Japanese maple in your yard might look nice, but non-native plants like these consistently have fewer caterpillars than native plants, according to new research published in July in Biological Conservation. And that means less food for birds.

And while fewer insects may seem like a good thing to some, Desiree Narango, a graduate student at the University of Delaware and lead author of the study, found that where there are more non-native plants, one of our common backyard birds, the Carolina Chickadee, stays away. Non-native plants don’t have enough caterpillars, the chickadee’s primary source of food during the summer months, to feed them.

Narango and colleagues from the University of Delaware and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center studied Carolina Chickadee foraging behavior, monitored chickadee nest success, and counted caterpillars in the backyards of homeowners in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area participating in Neighborhood Nestwatch during the summer months in 2013 and 2014.

Their research also showed that Carolina Chickadees raise more baby chickadees in yards with lots of native plants. But in yards with more non-native plants, the chickadees didn’t fare so well. In yards mostly consisting of non-native plants, baby birds didn’t survive because there wasn’t enough for them to eat.

plants4wildlife native plantings in yardNative shrubs in this Habitat Network yard include red chokeberry, common ninebark, Virginia sweetspire, redosier dogwood, fragrant sumac, and American hazelnut. Photo by plants4wildlife.

“The plants that you put in your property matter and they are not all the same,” says Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware and coauthor of the research.

“Native oaks, elms, and cherries are phenomenal food producers for birds,” says Narango. But some native plants are better than others. Tulip trees for example, are native, but researchers found that they support about 8 caterpillar species whereas an oak tree can support over 530 different species of caterpillars. If you were a bird, where would you go to get your next meal?

Urban and suburban habitats are increasing around the globe, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also provide homes for wildlife. In fact, Tallamy, says, “Now more than ever we need to create functional ecosystems in our neighborhood. It’s no longer an option.”

Tips For Turning Your Yard Into A Native Haven

What can you do to create better habitat for wildlife in your yard? Tallamy says “Cut your lawn in half, pull out the non-native species, and don’t buy new ones.”

But don’t worry, says Rhiannon Crain, “You don’t have to get rid of all your lawn.” Crain is the project leader for Habitat Network, a joint citizen-science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Nature Conservancy that offers online wildlife-friendly landscaping tools and advice.

“If your kids play on the lawn you should keep that lawn,” says Crain. “Focus on the spaces that you are just keeping as lawn that no one uses. If no one walks there, no one plays baseball on that lawn, consider taking that part and turning it into something else, something more useful.”

Tallamy suggests that homeowners can start by looking at the kinds of trees on their property, the kinds of trees on their neighbor’s property, and then filling in the blanks with other native plants that support a lot of insects or provide fruit. But Tallamy also suggests making a three-dimensional landscape that also includes shrubs and wildflowers.


Narango, D. L., D. W. Tallamy, and P. P. Marra. 2017. Native plants improve breeding and foraging habitat for an insectivorous bird. Biological Conservation 213:42-50.

What should you plant? Narango suggests choosing native species such as oaks, elms, and cherries. “If your local nursery doesn’t carry the plants you want, demand that they carry them,” Narango says. If you have the option between buying a cultivar or a pure native, go native, she says. Japanese cherry is a popular tree in the Washington, D.C., area, but Narango found that those trees supported fewer insects than a native cherry—only 40% as many, on average.

If you don’t have much time or are renting a property, but still want to help birds and other wildlife in your area, Narango suggests calling your local forester or arborist and telling them what species you’d like to see planted along your street or in your neighborhood. Every little bit can help, says Narango, “even a handful of native trees can function as a really important food hub for breeding and migratory birds.”

Crain also suggests that doing nothing, in some cases, can help out birds, too.

“A little thing like leaving a dead tree standing, if it’s not threatening your house, can help wildlife,” she says, noting that dead trees offer great feeding and nesting habitat for woodpeckers and other insect-eating birds.

And even if you aren’t a fan of bugs and worry that those native plants could support more insects that make your skin crawl, or itch—again the scientists say, ‘Don’t worry.’

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Narango. “The more insects you have the less you actually see them, because the birds are eating them. And besides, according to Narango, “gardening for wildlife is really the easiest kind of gardening there is.”