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: http://emergency.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies_blog.asp. 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, http://www.sicwma.org/. 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 hschmitz@purdue.edu)!

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.