Thursday, December 29, 2011

Protecting the Farm from Zombies

I wrote this up for the local papers a few weeks back; but, just in case you missed it...

What a year for disasters. From the La Nina-induced cool winter to the severe storms that seemed to be a nightly occurrence in the spring to the intense heat during the crucial tasseling time for the corn crop, the weather has been rather unusual in this area, not to mention other parts of the world. Perhaps the only type of disaster not experienced in this area of the state this year has been an earthquake. Some readers, the author is confident, are now asking themselves, “But, Author, what about zombie invasions?” To that, the author would reply, “Good point. That kind of disaster, although completely fictional, is precisely the kind of disaster the agricultural community needs to be preparing for now, because preparation for that kind of disaster also helps prepare farmers for real dangers.”
The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) strives to prepare farmers in agrosecurity and emergency management techniques. Although no specific mention of zombies tends to be made in their resources, talks with Purdue Extension Agrosecurity Team member and Warrick County ANR Extension Educator Amanda Bailey offers quite a few good tips that can help deal with disasters such as a zombie attack. The three main things that farmers can do to protect themselves now are to develop a flood management plan, to inform local fire authorities of chemical and highly combustible compounds on the farm, and to keep and communicate written emergency management plans for employees.
In the event of a zombie invasion, levies provide manmade earthen barriers that authorities can use as strategic points with which to engage zombie hordes. Unfortunately, the increased activity can weaken levies and create potential flooding hazards in our area. Therefore, farmers need to plan for the worst and establish areas where livestock, chemicals, and waste can remain safe in the event of a severe flood. Confined Animal Feeding Operations are already required to have liquid manure storage structures that can contain runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour flood. A twenty-five year flood has a 4% chance of occurring in any one year, so these farmers are relatively well-protected from contaminating crucial well water, as city water systems are likely to be shut off or unreliable in the event of a sustained zombie attack. Relocating animals may be necessary in the event of a major flood. The County Emergency Management Plan considers the need to relocate livestock in the event of a disaster situation. If you are unsure of how to coordinate such an effort on your farm, or want more information on the process, contact the Purdue Extension office or the Emergency Management Agency’s office (Terry Hedges in Gibson County at 386-9630). On-farm storage of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals is required to be self-containing in the event of a leak, which also serves as a way to prevent runoff in a flood. However, on-farm chemicals need to be the main point of consideration in the event of a fire.
Everyone has heard the story a thousand times. A stray pack of zombies find an old farmhouse, chaos ensues, and any number of circumstances from a firefight to a gasoline-doused, flaming undead creature starts an uncontrollable blaze. The very real hazard on the farm is that this kind of blaze can start in the proximity of combustible chemicals or gasoline tanks. Every farmer needs to work with his or her local fire station to identify areas on the farm where combustible or hazardous chemicals are stored, to both extinguish a fire more expediently, as well as protect the farmer and firefighters in the process. The fire station should have a record of your farm’s areas of concern. Invite the fire department to the farm for a safety inspection to identify and reduce the number of hazardous areas.
Now, the farmer has accomplished the above steps and feels more confident of damage mitigation in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Meanwhile, the farmer’s employees have no knowledge of his efforts and are no more prepared for mindless shambling walkers than before. For this reason, the farmer needs to commit to writing a detailed and farm-specific emergency management plan and store the plan with his farm records. He or she also must ensure that employees read the plan and know of its location at all times. Not only does a written plan provide guidance, it also serves as an operating standard with which to hold and evaluate employees. After all, the worst action a farmer can take in the event of a zombie invasion is to attempt to hire the zombies and put them to work. Ironically and inevitably, the zombie employee fails to show consideration for simple farm safety, and farm emergencies increase as a result.
Although the threat of a zombie attack is non-existent, fires, floods, and other disasters are very real, and some climatologists claim weather-related extreme events are on the rise. In the best outcome, emergency planning measures are implemented but never used. In the most dire circumstances, those measures can prevent an extreme economic loss, or even the loss of life itself.

Have a great year's end!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Heavy Metal and Trees

I don't put rock bands above scat singing at times to make rhymes. Dana Carvey's "Chopping Broccoli" is a good case study in that. Therefore, I was surprised to learn that Mastodon's new single "Curl of the Burl" actually has validity as a saying.

I suppose I should know what a burl is, being in this position and all. However, "burl" is a seldom-used word, as "knot" is a far more familiar synonym. An atypical tree outgrowth, rounded in appearance is the best definition for "burl" I can find. So, I guess not all knots are burls, but all burls are knots.

It feels good to learn something new, but I am afraid it is a bit of trivia I may never have the pleasure to recite again. I guess "that's just the curl of the burl."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fair season is still upon us...

The Gibson County Fair went very well this year. Despite the heat present that week, I am very glad we were able to avoid the heat of the previous two weeks. The Vanderburgh County Fair is on the slate this week, with Farm Bureau Young Farmers working the Evansville Dairymen ice cream booth on concert night, Wednesday. Should be a good day to attend the fair, with the dairy show occurring earlier on Wednesday.

The following week takes us into the county/state fair weeklong break. There's a No-Till Planter Workshop on August 2nd that I'll be sure to take in. SW Indiana SWCD districts have come together to bring down Barry Fisher for some educational entertainment. What really draws me in is the topic on potential farm bill cuts and NRCS programs. With the farm bill not coming back into official focus until 2012, this will be the first chance to speculate on what Congress is going to do to agricultural spending. Did I mention that it's also on August 2nd? Sounds like a good day to discuss government spending either way. We'll be around Boonville for the field day. For more information and how to RSVP, just click here.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have this weekend off of everything. It excites me to no end to have two days with absolutely nothing scheduled. No meetings, weddings, conferences, or conflicts. The family celebrated Father's Day yesterday, so that one is a freebie as well. I may mow the lawn Saturday, but that is the only day I guarantee getting out of bed.

Now that I have professed my laziness to the world, I am also pretty excited about the weekend of June 25th. Events that Saturday include the DHIA picnic and Obert Farms Open House, coincidentally the same event. Oberts will open up their new dairy facility to the public for tours at 9, 10, and 11 A.M., as well as 4 and 5 P.M. From 12 -2 P.M., lunch will be served. I plan on heading that way immediately following the Adventures with Nature Field Day at Tipsaw Lake. I get to present on weather just before lunch. With 30 minutes to present, I think we'll make cloud viewers. After heading over to Obert Farms, the North Posey Relay for Life gets a special treat this year with homemade ice cream being available. Rumor is 12 flavors, which would be nearly every flavor that the group that makes it can come up with. (I suspect Evansville Young Dairymen, but perhaps it's a SW IN Holstein effort. Hard to keep track of all these groups.)

The following two weekends should be blocked off for the Gibson County Fair. Mark your calendars!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Looking for Tomorrow

Today has been a good chance to dry out from the thunderstorms of yesterday, but we're looking to tomorrow for a pretty good chance of seeing thunderstorms again. On the plus side, river levels are still receding, but we are far too close to June for comfort in the fields at this point. They do say that, by state average, 50% of a crop can get planted in one dry week. Now, where did that one dry week go?

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is your one-stop-shop for severe weather prediction data. Head over and check out the Day 2 Convective Outlook to see a Moderate (45% probability) Risk area engulfing Southwestern Indiana. Batten down the hatches for another storm as we wait for a third chance to continue the planting season.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Emergency Preparedness

It's been a big day in news around the U.S., maybe even the globe. Here are some highlights that your friendly neighborhood Agriculture and Natural Resources educator is happy to point you toward:

The CDC finally has it together enough to recognize the impending zombie apocalypse. You can find out what makes an Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome threat different from or similar to, say, H1N1 here: I'm not kidding in the slightest here (at least about these links existing). The University of Florida might want to reconsider taking down their emergency plan for zombies a few years ago after this most recent expert recognition of the topic.

Apparently, after reading a full page ad in the USA Today on West Lafayette's campus today, the world begins to end on Saturday at 8 P.M. CDT or so with a massive earthquake. Interesting to note that the interview with the proprietor of this world's end theory does contribute the Chinese "exploding watermelon" craze as a sign of these end times. And here all along I thought misuse of forchlorfenuron (registered in Indiana for use on bushberries, mainly) as a plant growth regulator was the cause.

Finally, the real emergencies lie in the poor residents of the floodwaters now in the Mississippi Delta, the cleanup after the flooding in our area, the nuclear accident and tsunami in Japan, a debt-ridden Greece possibly reaching 15 percent unemployment in the near future, the ever-exploding powder keg of instability and human rights issues in the middle east, and numerous other humanitarian and environmental issues around the globe. Another day in the human comedy (oh so delicately related to tragedy) that is life. Purdue Extension in Gibson County still has hard copies of "First Steps to Flood Recovery" for those in need, as well as information on other natural concerns. Sadly, there is no official recommendation at this point for biting midges, but we're working on it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Never pass up an opportunity to get your hands dirty. Today, I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the 4th Grade Farm Fair at the Gibson County 4-H Fairgrounds. We talked soils, including the layers and types, and attempted to make soil ribbons from sand and sandy loam. Needless to say, a lot of hand soap was expended. Other speakers discussed topics from composting to forestry, swine, quilting, recycling, and wagon rides. Definitely a fun day for both kids and presenters.

Other opportunities to get our hands dirty during the growing season abound through volunteering with the Southern Indiana Cooperative Weed Management Area. Their May newsletter came out very recently, to be found at their homepage, Those wanting to protect their hands can sign up for the Weed Watcher program, an observe and report program for invasive species that allows one to avoid having to pull any of the noxious weeds.

Also, the Gibson County Master Gardeners are picking up their volunteer work for the year. There will be a landscaping blitz at Lyles Station School in the near future, and all are invited to help. For more information on the blitz or the Master Gardener program, let me know (ph: 385-3491 or email!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flying on Fungicide in Wheat

$35.00/acre, give or take. That's what we're up against. Flying on fungicide in local wheat, while expensive, may be necessary this year, as the rains butted up against head emergence and flowering in wheat, exposing acres to the risk of Fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB infects and quickly ruins a wheat plant for any commercial use by rendering spikelets useless and accumulating mycotoxins that are dangerous to consume.

What makes an application of fungicide so expensive? Look for low flying yellow planes in the next few days. Wheat cannot be driven through at this point without a significant loss of yield, so the fungicide must be applied via plane at a higher cost.

Do the economics side with spraying? Even with a high risk of infection, the economics are a bit more difficult to justify. Assuming the risk turns real, total loss of a field is not out of the question. In this case, it is most likely justified to absorb the cost of spraying. If infection were not to occur, or not to be very severe, taking a DON dock at the elevator may be preferential to the extra cost. Either way, waiting until disease is present is not a wholly viable option. There is no curative for FHB, only preventatives. Those qualified to fly on fungicide will also get much more busy should FHB be found in the area.

For more information on fungicide decision-making, Purdue Extension specialist Kiersten Wise has a nice write-up in the latest Purdue Pest and Crop Newsletter.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Flood Resources

Despite the threat of severe weather ebbing for a time, the flooding in Gibson County has been widespread, continues to be widespread, and will likely be a threat for the near future.

To ease the burdens of those dealing with flooding, emergency managers and organizations in the county are mobilized. To ease the troubled minds of any in the county, Purdue Extension has ample information (the best way to fight fear) on mitigating flood damage or cleaning up after the damage has been done.

For paper copies of any publication, please call the Gibson County Purdue Extension Office. One of the better resources we have to offer is called "First Steps to Flood Recovery," and this publication is currently available in our office, at the Red Cross office in Princeton, the USDA offices of SWCD, FSA, and NRCS in Princeton, and at the Gibson County Heath Department. A web link to the information is available at this address:

The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) is the main source for extension materials on natural disasters. By going to, you can prepare yourself.

If you've been watching any of the broadcast meteorologists, you've heard the grim report that, despite all the tornadic activity in the Southeast and Midwest thus far, May is the month when most tornadoes occur, on average. Please prepare accordingly:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Should versus Am

Well, it's muggy, humid day in Gibson County. Still a little wet from some light rain this morning. The South Annex is pretty comfortable on floor one, but cool air sinks.

What I should be doing for the remaining three hours until the Farm Bureau meeting tonight: Catch up on climate change research, go through about 12 soybean rust articles, and get to work on formatting a newsletter.

What I will undoubtedly be doing: Glued to and, I will impatiently watch for radar updates and soak up as many different forecast discussions on the possibilities of severe weather this evening. In the end, this cold front that is setting up ever so slowly will probably arrive after dark, ruining convective instability. The front will also probably wait until I'm already in bed to produce an unspectacular thunderstorm for the sole purpose of robbing me of sleep.

Maybe both shoulds and wills get done this evening. One can always hope. Either way, farm visits tomorrow should restore my normal unwavering positivity.

Friday, April 8, 2011

In Need of Rainy Days

I spent two years over in Orange County from 2008-2010 serving in a split 4-H and Ag position with Purdue Extension. Now, during that time, in a county known mainly for woodlands and cattle grazing, contacting farmers was not too difficult. Everything was put on hold to cut hay, but everyone tended to have a slightly different schedule for cutting hay. Only a handful of farmers had enough tillable acres to really be off-the-grid during planting season. Gibson County is nothing like Orange County. Anhydrous tanks are on the move, sprayers are burning down weeds, and I cannot really contact ANYONE unless precipitation is actively falling. Allow me to amend that last statement: I feel awful attempting to contact ANYONE when this much is happening around the county. Farmers are some of the more outgoing, cordial folks around. Very few will intentionally skip or screen a phone call. Which compounds the sense of guilt I feel by asking them to take time out of their day to discuss plans for researchers to scope out their fields. Important business, but none-too-urgent when knives full of anhydrous are going into the ground. So, this is a great time of year to wait for rain while building a newsletter email list. For updates on Gibson County and surrounding area agricultural and natural resource news, send an email to Newsletters start going out in May.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Now, where was I again?

Campus specialists south of 40 always make me extra-wary to be on my best behavior. Bob Nielsen, a fine human being and corn extension specialist for Purdue University, is on a roadtrip through Gibson, Posey, Spencer, and Jackson counties in Southern Indiana this week. If you missed him in the far SW IN, you still have time. But not much.

In other news, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I can flex time the first two hours of my day out, stroll into the office at 10 A.M., and still be completely confident that I'll be doing some form of work for the next 12 hours. They only call it flex time until you break.

Master Gardener classes are going strong. The third week here in Princeton starts in an hour and a half, a nice little Plant Disease number led by yours truly. Well, it's the internet, so yours falsely seems more appropriate.

Now, I have a little soybean survey to finish up for Orange County and the wonderful folks over there. They had a little problem with Sudden Death Syndrome this past year, but I won't hold that against them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

The Gibson County Community Foundation's annual farmer meeting is today, with none other than Max Armstrong ( as the keynote speaker. Over the weekend, it's Farm Life Family Day at Angel Mounds in Evansville and the Beef Preview Show in Princeton. All the while, I keep my eyes on Egypt, where the true power of peaceful opposition has exhibited itself in a wonderful way. What wonderful times in which to live!

For those of you that know me, such optimism is scarce. I justify it here by observing that when the underdog wins, and the status quo is rejected fiercely, pessimism must take a quick hiatus to celebrate iconoclasm.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Area Corn and Soybean Day

I'm excited. Sure, there is a lot going on before the end of this month, and a lot that I get to feign responsibility for. But, then, on Jan. 28th at the Gibson County Fairgrounds, I get to relax a little bit and listen to Hans Kok, enjoy a great meal, and let someone else lead the PARP (pesticide applicator's recertification program). Plus, it'll end out what has already proven to be a rather stressful month. Stay warm out there...and the Area Corn and Soybean Day is open to the public, so join me, won't you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Next Week in Gibson County

Master Gardener class sign-ups are underway, and one application is already in and accepted. We're hoping for a 12-16 person class this year, and we may just reach that goal.

Farm Winter Workshops continue Monday night (Jan. 10) at GSHS with Andy Lowry discussing the current state of beef genetics, AI, and sire selection.

From my end, I'm in the middle of preparing a funding proposal for climate change education, as well as developing a flyer for an Indiana state youth dairy leadership program.

I've also been admonished earlier today at the dentist for my level of coffee intake. I maintain that the level of caffeine intake required for sanity continuance cannot decrease.