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The Painted Lady Butterflies Are Back!


News Column

John Wilson

Extension Educator

August 8, 2019

 

They’re Back!

That sounds like a good title for some horror movie sequel, but that’s not where I’m going with it today. As I’m sure many of you noticed, we’re getting an abundance of butterflies… AGAIN! These are Painted Lady Butterflies… although I’ve heard them called many things… some I can’t repeat. These are the adults of the caterpillars that were devouring many soybean fields, and lots of other plants, a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, the adults do not injure crops as they only feed on the nectar of flowers. They are a bright, colorful, addition to our summer landscape and really don’t do any damage unless you consider smearing up your windshield as you drive down the road. However, the larvae of the painted lady butterfly, sometimes called the thistle caterpillar, can be another story.

To understand when and how these defoliating insects impact soybeans, one of their favorite food sources, you need to understand a little about their life cycle. Painted lady butterflies do not overwinter in Nebraska. They migrated and moved with wind currents from the southern U.S. and Mexico earlier this summer, arriving in Nebraska in June. Where they are concentrated depends a lot on weather patterns, so just because we had a lot of them this year does not mean we will have an abundance of them in 2020.

Unlike some insects that lay large masses of eggs, Painted Ladies will lay individual eggs on the leaves of thistles, soybeans, and over 100 other species of plants that serve as a food source to the larvae once they hatch. In five to seven days, the eggs hatch and the larva begin feeding. Because the eggs are laid over several days up to a week or more, it is common to have different sized caterpillars on a single plant.

The larvae feed an average of four weeks, but sometimes up to six weeks. However, the majority of their feeding damage occurs towards the end of the larval stage as their size and appetite increase. To protect themselves from predators, they often pull several leaves together and connect them with a fine webbing, forming a sheltered area to feed.

Mature caterpillars are usually 1½ to 1¾ inch long and can vary in color, but are covered with numerous branching spines. Once they mature, they form a pupa or chrysalis which hangs from the underside of a leaf and can be blue, brown, or green in color. In seven to 17 days, a new adult Painted Lady butterfly emerges and starts the life cycle over again.

So the butterflies we are seeing now are the adults of the thistle caterpillars that were feeding on soybean fields a couple weeks ago. Knowing the life cycle, we know we can expect to see more larvae feeding in about four to five weeks and can plan our scouting accordingly.

Knowing how to scout is just as important as knowing when to scout. I won’t go into the full explanation on how to scout your fields for defoliating insects, but I can tell you most people will overestimate the amount of defoliation because thistle caterpillar feed at the top of the plant where it is most visible. An easy way to estimate defoliation can be found at https://go.unl.edu/g2259. I really like the images that help you more accurately estimate the percentage of defoliation.

This method applies to all defoliating insects… grasshoppers, bean leaf beetles, thistle caterpillars, wooly bear caterpillars, and any other type of defoliating insect. At this stage of growth for the soybean plant, we don’t want to see defoliation exceed 20% of the total leaf area. Frequently defoliation on the upper leaves is greater, but when we consider the whole canopy, the defoliation has not reached this threshold.

So be prepared to check your fields because I can just about guarantee we will have more thistle caterpillar feeding… and possibly other defoliators. The important thing to know is when that damage just looks bad versus when it is actually reducing your yield… and your profitability. For more information on managing thistle caterpillars and other defoliating insects, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

 

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Mosquitos Suck!


By John Wilson, Extension Educator

Many people consider Memorial Day weekend as the official beginning of the outdoor summer season with barbecues, boating, fishing and ball games… or just mowing your lawn or working in your garden. Nothing spoils these outdoor activities quicker than being swarmed by mosquitos. Rains this spring have provided moisture we will need later this summer, but they also can cause problems for anyone working outside. Rain creates ideal sites with standing water for mosquitoes to develop.

To reduce this problem, eliminate mosquito breeding areas that catch and hold water. Check for leaf-clogged gutters, puddles, bird baths, old tires, cans, bottles, lagoons, and children’s wading pools. Drain water from these when practical. Rinse out your bird bath weekly.

Still water in birdbaths, ponds or lagoons may also be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, in the form of biscuits, available at some garden and hardware stores. The sustained release of the active ingredients of these products may provide up to 30 days control of mosquito larvae. These products specifically attack mosquito larvae and will not harm fish… or birds or other wildlife that drink the water.

Only female mosquitoes possess piercing-sucking mouthparts and require a blood meal to produce viable eggs. Eggs are laid in batches between blood meals. A single female may deposit several hundred eggs in her lifetime. Under favorable conditions, a new generation of mosquitoes can be completed in less than a week.

To keep mosquitoes out of your home, check all doors, windows and window screens, to make sure these are tight and in good repair. Screens should be 1/16th-inch mesh or smaller to prevent mosquito entry into the home. Keep porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects.

To prevent mosquito bites when working outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and full length pants. Two layers of clothing are more difficult to penetrate by biting mosquitoes. Wearing light-colored clothes will reduce your attractiveness. Work outdoors when it is cooler, or when there is a brisk air movement or strong sunlight. Different species of mosquitoes have specific feeding periods, but many are most active in the early evening hours, generally from 5 to 9 p.m.

But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, using an insect repellent while outdoors may be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites. You can use repellents containing DEET. These come under numerous brand labels and many formulations such as lotions, gels, aerosols, creams, and sticks.

Mosquitoes are always a nuisance, but they can also pose a health risk because of their potential to transmit West Nile Virus (WNV). In humans, WNV causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle weakness. WNV can also cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50 and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease and should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

For more information on mosquito control, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

 

 

Minimize Menacing Mosquitos


By John Wilson, Extension Educator

Many people considered Memorial Day weekend as the official beginning of the outdoor summer season with barbecues, boating, fishing and ball games… or just mowing your lawn or working in your garden. Nothing spoils these outdoor activities quicker than being swarmed by mosquitoes. Recent rains have provided moisture we’ll need later this summer, but they also can cause problems for anyone working outside. Rain creates ideal sites with standing water for mosquitoes to develop.

To reduce this problem, eliminate mosquito breeding areas that catch and hold water. Check for leaf-clogged gutters, puddles, bird baths, old tires, cans, bottles, lagoons, and children’s wading pools. Drain water from these when practical. Rinse out your bird bath weekly.

Still water in birdbaths, ponds or lagoons may also be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, in the form of biscuits, available at some garden and hardware stores. The sustained release of the active ingredients of these products may provide up to 30 days control of mosquito larvae. These products specifically attack mosquito larvae and will not harm fish or birds or wildlife that drink the water.

Only female mosquitoes possess piercing-sucking mouthparts and require a blood meal to produce viable eggs. Eggs are laid in batches between blood meals. A single female may deposit several hundred eggs in her lifetime. Under favorable conditions, a new generation of mosquitoes can be completed in less than a week.

To keep mosquitoes out of your home, check all doors, windows and window screens, to make sure these are tight and in good repair. Screens should be 1/16th-inch mesh or smaller to prevent mosquito entry into the home. Keep porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects.

To prevent mosquito bites when working outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and full length pants. Two layers of clothing are more difficult to penetrate by biting mosquitoes. Wearing light-colored clothes will reduce your attractiveness. Work outdoors when it is cooler, or when there is a brisk air movement or strong sunlight. Different species of mosquitoes have specific feeding periods, but many are most active in the early evening hours, generally from 5 to 9 p.m.

But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, using an insect repellent while outdoors may be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites. You can use repellents containing DEET. These come under numerous brand labels and many formulations such as lotions, gels, aerosols, creams, and sticks.

Mosquitoes are always a nuisance, but they can also pose a health risk because of their potential to transmit West Nile Virus (WNV). In humans, WNV causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle weakness. WNV can also cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50 (years ago I would have said older people, but not now!) and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable to the disease and should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

For more information on mosquito control, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

John Wilson

John Wilson

Millipedes


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This must be a good year for millipedes. It is, by far, the number one call I’ve been getting. Millipedes  are small, cylindrical arthropods (not insects) that will curl into a coil if disturbed or when they die. If you looked closely at a millipede with a magnifying glass, you would discover that they have two pair of legs for each body segment… giving them the nickname of “thousand legged worm.” They don’t actually have thousands of legs although one rare species can have up 750 legs. Most species have between 34 and 400 legs.

Millipedes live outdoors in damp areas such as under leaves, needles and dead plant debris, or in cracks and crevices. They feed on damp and decaying vegetable matter and are beneficial as “recyclers” of organic matter.

However, they become a pest when they migrate into buildings as accidental invaders. Millipedes are usually found in the garage, basement or lowest level although they may wander into other parts of the house. They are most active at night and usually hide during the day in cracks and other moist locations.

Millipedes are harmless; they do not feed on building structures or furnishings and they can not bite or sting. Millipedes can not reproduce indoors. All millipedes found inside wandered in by mistake. They will usually die in the first week inside because of the low humidity conditions.

Control for millipedes is aimed at keeping millipedes outdoors or reducing their numbers at the source. Cracks, gaps and other points of entry around windows and doors and in foundation walls should be sealed if possible. Removing organic matter such as tall grass or dead leaves from against the house may help, and damp conditions around the house foundation should be corrected.

Insecticides are of limited benefit in controlling millipedes because of the protected areas where they originate and because of the long distances they migrate. In warm weather when millipedes are actively wandering, residual insecticides can be applied in a 5- to 20-foot wide barrier around the building to reduce entry. If practical, also spray areas where the millipedes likely originate. Thorough application will aid in control, but reliance on chemical control alone is often unsatisfactory.

Millipedes migrate long distances during certain times of the year (commonly in spring or fall). Therefore, actions near the house may have no effect. Some sources of millipedes such as woodlands and grassy areas can produce extremely large numbers of millipedes that invade from distances of 50 feet or more.

The indoor use of household insecticides provides little if any benefit. Millipedes that wander indoors usually die in a short time because of the dryness, and spraying cracks, crevices and room edges is not very useful. Sweeping or vacuuming up the invaders and discarding them is the most practical option.

Watering Lawns


By John Wilson

John Wilson

John Wilson

Hopefully by the time you are reading this, we will have received some significant precipitation. Because unless we can get some rain soon, more and more people are going to be forced to water their lawns if they haven’t done so already. (Fortunately, I’ve only had to water my lawn once this year.) Here are some thoughts on how to efficiently water our lawns throughout the growing season.

It has been UNL Extension’s recommendations for years that it is better to water our lawns deeply and infrequently for the best water use efficiency and plant health. That hasn’t changed… it is much more efficient, and better for the turf, to apply one inch of water in a single application once a week than a quarter inch of water every other day… or an eighth of an inch every day. The water will soak deeper in the soil which encourages deeper rooting AND the evaporation losses will be less so more of the water goes to the plant.

However, what constitutes deep and infrequent irrigation changes during the growing season. Deep and infrequent irrigation is summarized as irrigating only after the first signs of drought stress become visible, water thoroughly to wet the soil to the depth of rooting, and then do not water again until symptoms of drought stress reappear. What is “deep and infrequent” in May is far different than what it is in August, so your irrigation controllers for automatic watering systems need to be changed throughout the year. No more “set it and forget it”!

High soil temperatures decrease root growth while increasing root death, the end result is a shallower and likely less dense root system. August rooting depth may decrease by 50% or more compared to May rooting depth. Therefore, less water is needed to wet the soil to the depth of rooting. Additionally, water use increases with temperature as the plant uses it to cool itself.

The end effect of these two process is irrigation frequency increases during the heat of summer, but the amount of water applied during each irrigation cycle is less. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast numbers recommended for amount and frequency of irrigation.

Turfgrass species, soil type, slope, exposure, compaction, mowing height and frequency, overall plant health, and daily wind, temperature, and precipitation will determine the amount of irrigation required on each individual lawn. It is further complicated by irrigation method and if an underground system is used, volume, pressure, nozzles, head spacing, and condition of the system will also complicate the irrigation.

A good way to tell how deep in the soil the water has soaked is to take a large screwdriver and poke it in the turf in several places. When the soil is moist, it will slide into the soil easily. But when the soil is dry, you can still poke the screwdriver in, but there will be much more resistance. If it slides in easily to a depth of four to six inches, you do not need to water until the turf starts to show signs of moisture stress.

The bottom line is that turfgrasses require water for optimum performance, but they much prefer slightly drier conditions over slightly wetter conditions and are extremely capable of withstanding slight to excess drought or even drought-induced dormancy. Therefore, always error on the dry side when it comes to irrigating your lawn. Not only will the turf perform better, you’ll also reduce your overall water use.

For more information on lawn care, go to the UNL turf website at http://turf.unl.edu/ or contact your local UNL Extension office.

Tomato Problems


By John Wilson

Extension Educator

John Wilson

John Wilson

Nothing is more frustrating to the home gardener than to watch their tomatoes slowly ripen, only to discover the bottom of the fruit has turned black and started to decay.

Blossom-end rot is a serious disorder of tomato, pepper, and eggplant. Growers often are distressed to notice that a dry sunken decay has developed on the blossom end (opposite the stem) of many fruit, especially the first fruit of the season. This nonparasitic disorder can be very damaging, with losses of 50% or more in some years.

The symptoms of blossom end rot on tomato and eggplant usually begins as a small water-soaked area at the blossom end of the fruit. This may appear while the fruit is green or during ripening. As the lesion develops, it enlarges, becomes sunken and turns black and leathery. In severe cases, it may completely cover the lower half of the fruit, becoming flat or concave. Secondary pathogens commonly invade the lesion, often resulting in complete destruction of the infected fruit.

On peppers, the affected area appears tan, and is sometimes mistaken for sunscald, which is white. Secondary molds often colonize the affected area, resulting in a dark brown or black appearance. Blossom end rot also occurs on the sides of the pepper fruit near the blossom end.

Blossom-end rot is not caused by a parasitic organism but is a physiologic disorder associated with a low concentration of calcium in the fruit. Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth. When a rapidly growing fruit is deprived of necessary calcium, the tissues break down, leaving the characteristic dry, sunken lesion at the blossom end.

Blossom-end rot is induced when demand for calcium exceeds supply. This may result from low calcium levels or high amounts of competitive cations in the soil, drought stress, or excessive soil moisture fluctuations which reduce uptake and movement of calcium into the plant, or rapid, vegetative growth due to excessive nitrogen fertilization.

There are several things you can do to manage blossom end rot:

 

  • Maintain the soil pH around 6.5. Liming will supply calcium and will increase the ratio of calcium ions to other competitive ions in the soil.
  • Use nitrate nitrogen as the fertilizer nitrogen source. Ammoniacal nitrogen may increase blossom-end rot as excess ammonium ions reduce calcium uptake. Avoid over-fertilization as side dressings during early fruiting, especially with ammoniacal forms of nitrogen.
  • Avoid drought stress and wide fluctuations in soil moisture by using mulches and/or irrigation. Plants generally need about one inch of moisture per week from rain or irrigation for proper growth and development.
  • Foliar applications of calcium, which are often advocated, are of little value because of poor absorption into the plant and movement to the fruit where it is needed.

 

 

If your tomatoes have blossom end rot and it hasn’t damaged the whole tomato, you can remove the damaged portion of the tomato and eat the rest. It does not affect the edibility of the rest of the fruit.

For more information on blossom end rot, contact your local UNL Extension office.

Signs of Spring: Ticks


By John Wilson, Extension Educator

John Wilson

John Wilson

Sometimes things just fall into place! Last Sunday afternoon, my wife and I did some work in the trees behind our home. Later that evening she was watching some show on TV I couldn’t have cared less about, so I decided I’d go write my column since I didn’t get that done on Friday. I hadn’t been at my computer more than 15 minutes, trying to decide what to write about, when I hear her coming my way. My topic became clear with her question, “Can you get this tick out of my hair?”

Ticks are close relatives of mites and spiders and pass through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult. All stages except the egg are blood-sucking parasites. The larvae and nymphs often feed on smaller animals and birds. Some nymphs and adults typically feed on larger animals, including humans and pets.

Ticks locate their hosts by “questing.” During questing, ticks climb to the tips of vegetation and extend their front legs out away from their bodies while holding to the vegetation with the remaining legs. As potential hosts pass by questing ticks, the hooks on the ends of the front legs become attached to the host and pull the tick from the vegetation. Once on the host, ticks may spend several hours seeking areas to settle, then insert their mouthparts and begin feeding.

Removing an Attached Tick

Prompt removal of embedded ticks is important as the risk of disease transmission increases the longer ticks are attached and biting. The best method for removing a feeding tick attached to an animal or human is to grasp it as close as possible to the skin of the host with tweezers.

Gently, yet firmly apply steady pressure on the tick until you pull it out. If you try to jerk or twist the tick out, you risk the mouthparts breaking off and remaining in the skin where a hard nodule will form until your body naturally breaks it down. Always clean out the wound with a good antibacterial product to help prevent infection.

Do not grasp or squeeze the rear portion of the tick’s body. This can expel the gut contents of the tick into your tissues and increase the likelihood of disease transmission if the tick is infected with disease-causing organisms. The use of tape, alcohol, or Vaseline to cover the tick and cause it to voluntarily pull its mouthparts out of the skin is not effective.

Personal Protection

Ticks usually crawl onto people below the knees and then crawl upwards. When you are outdoors in known tick areas, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Wear light colored clothes so it is easier to see ticks on you. For added protection, tuck pants inside socks. This helps keep them on the outside of your clothing, giving you more time to see and remove them before they get to your skin and start feeding.

Use repellents for additional protection. Apply them to socks, pant legs, and parts of clothing that may brush against vegetation. DEET and permethrin are effective repellents. You can apply DEET to clothing and skin. Apply permethrin only to clothing.

Check your clothes and yourself when you have been outdoors in known tick areas. Particularly examine yourself around the waist, under the arms, inner legs, behind the knees, and around the head, including in and around the ears and in the hair. Adults should help check their young children for ticks.

Pets

Tick control on animals is also important. Many pet owners choose simply to remove ticks regularly from their animals by hand. Other pet owners use chemical products to treat their pets for ticks. Dust or shampoo treatments that contain pesticides are often used, but remember that repeated applications are needed when using these products.

Tick collars are another option. These collars contain pesticides that kill ticks around the head and neck of pets. Manual inspection and removal of ticks on other areas of the body may still be necessary when using tick collars. In addition, collars need to be replaced occasionally in order to remain effective. When using tick collars, read the package carefully for instructions on use. Do not attempt to use these products for controlling ticks on humans.

Your local veterinarian can prescribe certain products for tick control on animals. These products are spot-on, which means you apply a few drops between the shoulder blades of your pet. The chemicals move through the oils of the skin to provide protection on all areas of the body. These products typically persist for up to a month. They are not repellents, so ticks may still temporarily attach to the animal, but those that attach typically die within 24 to 48 hours

In Your Yard

The numbers of ticks that are found on a property are influenced by the amount of favorable habitat that is found there such as brushy, or tall grassy areas, and the number and species of wildlife that are present. You can reduce tick numbers through landscape modification that creates a less favorable environment for ticks and their animal hosts.

Keep grass and vegetation short around homes, where it borders lawns, along paths, and in areas where people may contact ticks. It is not necessary to treat your lawn for ticks as ticks rarely infest maintained yards.

Remove leaf litter and brush, especially from buffer areas where the lawn borders grassy, brushy areas. Also prune trees and shrubs in these areas to allow more sunlight through as ticks are more common in shaded areas.

It is generally not effective to treat large areas of woods, brush, or grass with insecticides as insecticides do not always reach into areas where ticks are found in the leaf litter. Ticks can also be reintroduced into areas when wildlife carrying ticks move into previously treated areas.

In cases where high numbers of ticks are present in areas adjacent to home yards, treating the edges of wooded or brushy areas and paths can help reduce tick numbers. Use an insecticide labeled for a turf area, such as those containing permethrin, cyfluthrin, or carbaryl.

For more information on ticks and tick control, contact your local UNL Extension office.

Spring Lawn Care


 

By John Wilson

Extension Educator

Despite some of the advertisements you may have seen or heard recently, the best advice I can give you now is to slow down on lawn care, especially fertilization and crabgrass control. For cool season turfgrasses like bluegrass and tall fescue, lawn care in late March and April should include hand raking to remove debris, edging, mowing, core aeration, power raking and seeding, overseeding or sodding.
For the season’s first mowing, mow lawns at a height of about two and one-half inches. It is not necessary or recommended to “mow as low as the mower will go”. This can scalp turfgrass and result in root loss or slowed root growth.
Core aerate with a machine that pulls out soil plugs to relieve soil compaction and encourage root growth. This is one of the most important practices we can do for lawns. If possible, core aerate once a year. Homeowners tend to power rake often, but core aeration should be done more often than power raking.
Power rake if the true thatch layer exceeds one-half inch. You can measure true thatch by cutting a plug out of the lawn. True thatch is the reddish brown mat found between the soil and the base of grass blades. It is made up of dead roots, rhizomes, and stems.

John Wilson

John Wilson

A small amount of thatch, up to one-half inch, is beneficial. It protects the plant crown from temperature extremes and traffic. Too much thatch can lead to root growth in the thatch layer making it more susceptible to drought damage; and fertilizers are tied up in thatch and become less available to roots.
True thatch is most common on highly maintained lawns. It builds up whether grass clippings are caught during mowing or left on the lawn. Core aeration will slow the build-up of thatch; but once the true thatch layer exceeds one-half inch power raking is needed to remove it.
Seeding, overseeding, and sodding cool season grasses can take place throughout the month of April. The sooner these can be planted the better to allow time for establishment before the heat of summer. Ideally, soil temperatures should be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit for grass seed to germinate. Seed will germinate quicker at soil temperatures around 45 to 50 degrees F.
Delay fertilization until late April. Research has shown early spring fertilization, when soil temperatures are still cold, leads to an increase in diseases, such as summer patch; increased heat stress due to a less vigorous root system and possible loss of nitrogen due to leaching or run-off.
Delay applying preemergence herbicides for crabgrass control. These products kill the seedling as the seed germinates and begins growth. They are only effective when the seed is germinating. Crabgrass is a warm season grass and optimum soil temperatures for germination are 60 degrees, so most crabgrass germinates from mid May through June. So delay preemergence applications until the first of May so they are full strength when crabgrass is germinating.
For more information on spring lawn care, contact your local UNL Extension office.

Did Your Lawn Survive Winter?


By John Wilson

Extension Educator

With one cold blast after another and very little snow cover, many homeowners are questioning if their lawns survived the winter. We will have a better idea on the extent of winterkill as lawns start to green up with warming temperatures in the next week or two.
Green color at the base of old leaves may or may not be this year’s growth. It could be left from last year and may not be a good indication of plant survival. However, ½” or more of green leaf material on turf plants in our lawns is a pretty good indication that the leaf is alive and growing.
A natural response for many homeowners is to mow as soon as possible to remove that brown leaf material to speed the overall appearance of green-up. This dead leaf material is natural protection and insulation from potential Alberta Clipper cold fronts that still may blow through. This could be especially damaging to turf areas that are already weakened by winter. Therefore, our advice is to hold off mowing for another week or two to lessen the chances of damage from cold snaps.
Another consideration this year is when and where to apply preemergence crabgrass preventors. We normally recommend late April or early May for a first application followed by a second application in late June. That is even more important than ever this year. I know some people like to get out and make that first application in early April, or even as early as late March.

John Wilson

John Wilson

The reason it will be especially important to NOT do that this year is we don’t know yet if there are areas of the lawn that will need to be overseeded or completely reseeded. The products normally used for crabgrass control will also control or kill newly seeded turf grass seed. So wait to apply preemergence products until you know if you will need to overseed or reseed.
There is an option for crabgrass control in new seedings or areas that were overseeded. There is a product called Tupersan, which has the active ingredient siduron, that will control crabgrass but not injure new seedings of bluegrass or fescue. The two drawbacks to this product is it is not readily available, you will probably have to go to a garden center to find it, and it is more expensive. However, it is your only choice on new seedings to control the early germinating crabgrass.
Your other option is to wait until any new grass seedings have emerged and then apply the more commonly available products in mid- to late June. Once new seedings have emerged, the preemergence products will not affect the stand. The problem is, it will not control any crabgrass that has already emerged either.
One final consideration is whether to water your lawn now. Many areas have received light rains or snow, but this has been quite variable. Check the moisture in the top 6-8 inches of soil. If it is dry, consider watering on a warm day. Do this in the morning so it has time to soak into the soil… and only put on enough water so it doesn’t pool on the soil surface. Too much water that doesn’t soak in will form a layer of ice around the grass crowns and could further damage the turf.
For more information on assessing winterkill and repair of winter damaged lawns, check out the University of Nebraska turf website at http://turf.unl.edu or contact your local UNL Extension office.

Protecting Stored Grain


By John Wilson

Extension Educator

It seems like when we flip the calendar over to March, we expect some warmer temperatures. But it looks like the weatherman may have put our springlike weather on hold for a week. While warmer temperatures will be a welcome relief, it also will reveal some problems that started last fall, but were postponed by the colder winter weather.

Spring can be a challenge for folks with grain in storage on the farm in a normal year, but the weather last fall during harvest was anything but normal. Poor drying conditions forced many farmers to put grain in storage at unusually high moisture levels. The grain was held over the winter by cooling it to slow losses. But as air temperatures and grain warm, the chance for grain spoilage increase dramatically.

John Wilson

John Wilson

Periods of warm weather will warm grain near the bin walls, particularly on the south and west sides of the bin, while grain on the north side and near the center of the bin remain cooler. This uneven warming will cause moisture movement within the grain and condensation in the cooler parts of the grain mass.

If the temperature of the grain is below freezing, moisture will freeze between the kernels, forming a block of frozen grain. When you aerate the bin, air will move around, rather than through, these areas. When that grain eventually thaws, it creates a moist area in the grain and increases the likelihood of spoilage.

So how do you avoid this problem when you can’t control the weather? Every couple of weeks you should check the grain temperature with a probe thermometer. Check the temperature of the grain around the bin walls and also near the center of the bin. If there is more than a 10 degree difference between any of the readings, turn on the fans to push a temperature front through the grain to equalize the temperature.

As you gradually warm the grain this spring, try to keep the grain temperature within about 10 degrees of the average outside temperature. Whenever you run the fans, use this as a time to monitor grain conditions. Have someone else turn on the fans while you are positioned by a roof vent or opening in the roof.

If that first blast of air coming out the vents is musty, more humid, or warmer than the outside air, this indicates a problem developing in your grain. You need to run the fans continuously to reduce the problem, monitor this bin more frequently, and then use or sell this grain as soon as possible.

One important safety consideration. Before entering a bin, be sure you have a safety harness or rope connected to yourself and have someone outside the bin that can pull you to safety if you should break through a crusted area. Last fall’s less than ideal drying conditions increase the potential for grain bridging and forming air pockets below the surface. If you break through the bridge, it is likely you will not be able to get out on your own.

For more information on managing stored grain, contact your local UNL Extension office.

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