Basic Rules to Follow for the First Spring Mowing  

Many homeowners dust off their mowers and start its engines early in the month of April to mark the first mowing of the spring season! Before taking off, follow a few of these basic rules when mowing to guarantee the best looking turf for the home lawn.  

Make sure that mower blades are sharp. A dull mower blade causes leaf bruising and tearing of the grass which results in a rugged appearance that favors turf diseases. Dull blades even increase fuel consumption and put wear on engine parts. Homeowners can sharpen the blades at a mower repair shop or with a few simple tools from the garage. All mower blades should be sharpened several times during the year.

Set the mower blade at the correct mowing height for the specific grass species that is grown in the home lawn. For a cool season tall fescue lawn, the ideal mowing height is between 2 inches to 3.5 inches tall. See table 1 below for optimum mowing heights recommended for Kentucky lawns according to turf type species being grown. Once the correct mowing height is set, this amount will also determine how often the lawn is mowed. For example, if the lawn is mowed at 3.5 inches, it may require mowing once a week. If the height is lowered, mowing will occur more frequently.

Remember to only remove one third of the leaf blade at one time. For example, if the desired mowing height is 2 inches, the lawn should be mowed when it reaches 3 inches tall. Removing more than one third of the leaf at one time leads to clumping of dead clippings which blocks sunlight to the living grass underneath. This lack of sunlight causes yellowing on the blades to the living grass and can result in plant death.

In spring, while the grass is actively growing, homeowners can lower the recommended mowing height to help remove the dead grass leaves. By removing this debris with low mowing, sunlight can reach the soil surface and encourage earlier growth in the grass. When disease pressure is increasingly higher in the summer, homeowners should raise their mowing heights. If different mowing heights are desired, it is recommended to reduce mowing heights gradually rather than in one mowing.

Table 1: Mowing Heights for Kentucky Lawns

Grass SpeciesOptimum Height (Inches)
Bermudagrass1.0–2.0
Kentucky Bluegrass2.0–3.5
Perennial Ryegrass1.5–2.5
Tall Fescue2.0–3.5
Zoysiagrass1.0–3.0

Kristin G. Hildabrand is the horticulture extension agent in Warren County, Kentucky. She loves helping clients answer horticulture questions and can be reached at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.

12-Point Checklist to Ensure your Planter is Ready for the Field

Authors: Simer Virk and Wes Porter

With the 2022 planting season officially underway, we will start seeing more row-crop planters rolling in the fields in next few weeks. For growers to have a successful and stress-free planting season, it is important to make sure that planters are well maintained and ready to go before heading to the field. When it comes to planting, preparation is the key as any breakdowns in the field due to planter malfunction or planting mistakes can cost growers both valuable time and money. We all know that timely and uniform stand establishment is important to maximize yield potential early in the season and one of the main factors that can affect crop stand is planter setup and operation as it influences where and how uniformly seeds are placed in the soil. Spending time on planter setup and preparation to get it field ready goes long way for growers as it not only helps minimize downtime in the field but a successful crop stand also sets the stage for rest of the season.

Before heading to the field, here is a 12-point checklist for growers to consider to make sure that your planter is well maintained and dialed in for peak performance during planting:

Parallel Linkages – Stand behind the row unit and wiggle it up and down and left and right to check for any play in the parallel arms, and adjust or replace linkages and bushings to make sure row units are secured nice and tight on the planter.

Drive System – Check all chains, idlers, sprockets and bushings, and replace any parts that are too worn. Make sure all drive chains are snug and do not have any unnecessary jump or vibration when operating. Lubricate all chains and sprockets before begin planting and regularly in the season. Additionally, check all drive system parts including flex drives, hydraulic drives and lines, and electrical drive systems including connectors and wires.

Tire Pressure – Check and maintain proper air pressure in the tires as recommended by the manufacturer based on the weight of the planter and planting conditions in the field. Independent of drive system, improper tire pressure can have negative effects on seed placement due to improper levelling of the planter toolbar.

Double Disc Openers – Check that the double disc openers are still sharp and within the diameter tolerance outlined by the manufacturer. Replace if they are dull or worn more than half an inch of their original diameter. Perform a quick check using a business card to ensure adequate contact (1.75 to 2 inches) between the disc openers at the 4 o’clock position.

Double Disc Openers – Check that the double disc openers are still sharp and within the diameter tolerance outlined by the manufacturer. Replace if they are dull or worn more than half an inch of their original diameter. Perform a quick check using a business card to ensure adequate contact (1.75 to 2 inches) between the disc openers at the 4 o’clock position.

Gauge Wheels – Inspect the gauge wheels for any cracks or wear. Adjust the gauge wheels so that they run tight against the disc openers but just enough so they can easily be turned by hand with slight pressure. Gauge wheels should also move freely up and down without sticking in any position.

Row Cleaners – Check row-cleaners for any wear and replace any bearings if they are not turning freely. Floating type row cleaners should also travel up and down to effectively clear soil/crop residue out of the way.

Seed Meters – Inspect each seed meter thoroughly for any wear or damaged parts including vacuum seals, brushes, scrapers, and doubles eliminator. Ensure that the correct crop kit (for newer meters) is installed in the meter. If not utilizing a seed monitor (capable of by-row feedback) during planting, it is also recommended to run the seed meters on a test stand to check performance and make any necessary adjustments.

Seed Tube – Check seed tubes for any cracks and wear at the bottom. Seed tubes should also be cleaned properly to clear any debris or obstructions (seed, cobweb, etc.). Make sure that the seed sensor is secured properly to the tube and working as intended.

Closing Wheels – Check that closing wheels are centered directly over the center of the row. Inspect closing wheels for any wear or play in the arms and replace parts or adjust as needed.

Vacuum – Inspect the whole vacuum system including hydraulic motor, fan and hoses for any wear, leaks or loose fittings. Check that vacuum hoses are attached properly to the manifold and to the seed meters on each row unit.

Downforce – For mechanical (spring type) systems, check all the components thoroughly and make sure different downforce adjustments can be made easily. For pneumatic or hydraulic systems, inspect all air or hydraulic connections carefully and perform a static diagnostic test to verify that the downforce system is functioning properly. This includes the compressor for air systems, in some cases it stays in the cab and can be neglected.

Technology – Check that the GPS receiver and planter display have the most recent firmware upgrades installed and are functioning properly. Check if the GPS correction subscription services and any other display unlocks for advanced planting features are activated and paid for rest of the season. Perform a thorough inspection of all technology components including sensors, harnesses, ECU’s and connections to ensure everything is connected and functioning properly. Also, make sure to back up planting data from the previous season on a computer or an external storage device before start recording this year’s data.

Keep in mind that once in the field, growers should get out of the tractor and check seed depth, placement and seed-to-soil contact during the first pass, and adjust planter settings as needed to optimize planter performance within each field. Also, check all of these parameters anytime field conditions change drastically, and especially when changing crops.

Orchid Love in the Home

Orchids are a popular and colorful addition to any home setting. In this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I called up Dr. Rick Durham, Extension Professor and Consumer Horticulture Specialist to have him answer common questions about how to properly care for orchids in the home! To get the full scoop on showing orchid love in the home, stay right here for more on the Sunshine Gardening podcast!

Tell us about some of the common orchid types for the home.

Phalaenopsis – Moth Orchid – Southeast Asia

  • Often considered easiest to grow
  • Epiphytic
  • Require moderate light and good moisture
  • Temperatures of mid 60s night, 70-80 days
  • Flower spikes often produce new buds after flowering
  • May bloom anytime of the year, many flowers
  • Individual flowers last from a few days to a month or more
Moth Orchids

Dendrobium – many resemble Phalaenopsis, Philippines, Australia, East Asia

  • Epiphytic
  • More light than Phalaenopsis
  • Temperature variable, most require nights of 55-60, daytime in 70-80.
  • Somewhat forgiving of dry medium –pseudobulbs, some like a dormancy period
  • Seasonal bloom periods
  • Flowers may last for 6 weeks or more
Dendrobium Orchids

What kind of care is needed to keep orchids happy at home? Tell us more about the cultural requirements needed for orchids such as light, growing media, and humidity.

Light
• Orchids generally need bright, often indirect, light
• Those listed above will grow in the home under proper conditions
• Southeast or south exposure window is best for those needing lots of light: Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, close to window
• East or west exposure window is best for lower-light species: Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum
• No mid-day sun for any, may benefit from summers outdoors but no direct mid-day sun
• Also – possible to grow orchids under lights

Epiphytes – grow on trees
• Light, airy growing medium
• Tree fern fiber, fir bark, sphagnum peat, vermiculite, redwood fiber, lava rock, mounted on cork
• Pots should have ample drainage
• Pot-in-pot systems may increase humidity around root system, avoid standing water
• Repot every 2-3 years as medium breaks down and plants out grow their pot
• The presence of aerial roots is normal and healthy
• Soft, dark colored roots are a sign of too much water

Humidity
• Many orchid species are native to tropical rain forests
• Home humidity levels can be quite low (both summer
and winter)
• Avoid drafts of forced air (hot and cold)
• Use room humidifier, group plants together, or place plants on pebble-filled trays with water
• Spraying plants with water is less beneficial
• Orchids may benefit from summers outdoors
– protect from mid-day sun
– step up watering and increase fertility

How often should you water orchids? How often should you apply fertilizer?

Watering
• Water often enough so that medium stays moist, brief periods of dryness is ok
• Pots will become light – indication that water is needed
• If water accumulates in saucer or outer pot, pour it out soon after watering
• Ice can be used as a substitute for watering, I prefer to do so only occasionally
• Note pseudobulbs – They should be plump and firm, naturally shrivel with age

Fertilization
• Fertilization is most crucial when new growth is occurring (after flowering)
• Orchids are not heavy feeders
• I fertilize about once a month with a ¼ strength soluble house plant fertilizer
• I generally fertilize more in summer when I also water more

If someone wanted to learn more about orchids, what resources are available?

For more information, check out these resources:
• American Orchid Society, http://www.aos.org
• Wikipedia, http://www.wikipedia.org – search for various types of orchids
• Various on-line forums and web sites including YouTube videos of how to….

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on showing orchid love in the home! A special thank you to Dr. Rick Durham for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

To view the show notes for Episode 21, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

If you enjoy listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I would love if you could take a quick minute of your time to leave a review.

Leaving a review is simple! Just pop open that purple app on your phone, share your biggest takeaway from an episode or what you would like to hear featured in the future!

Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Show Love with a Flower Bouquet Subscription

Show love and support for local flower farmers this month by purchasing a seasonal bouquet subscription! With a seasonal bouquet subscription from a commercial cut flower grower, consumers ensure that their monies go back to the local economy to support farmers and their families.

A bouquet subscription is similar to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. With this system, the consumer invests early in the growing season to assist the cut flower farmer with upfront costs such as seeds, soil amendments, and other materials and supplies. In return for the investment, the customer receives beautiful, seasonal, and locally-grown flowers from their fields.

Each bouquet looks different throughout the growing seasons. Spring bouquets are filled with stems of tulips, ranunculus, and poppies. Summer bouquets have stems of bright warm season flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, and basil. Fall bouquets contain several other varieties of sunflowers and other fall themed blooms. Since the subscription lasts the entire growing season, they make wonderful gifts for that special someone in your life!  

Every cut flower grower operates their bouquet subscription service a little differently depending on what works best for their farm. Some may offer delivery and others may have a few designated locations on specific days for customers to pick-up. 

In South Central Kentucky, we are fortunate to have several cut flower growers to consider. Below is information about each cut flower grower in the south central Kentucky area and ways to contact them about their bouquet subscription service. 

· Warren County- Davida’s Flowers in Oakland, KY and Starry Fields Farm in Rockfield, KY

· Allen County- The Maple Yard and River Bend Blooms in Scottsville, KY

· Barren County- Thornless Thistle in Glasgow, KY

· Logan County- Old Roots Farm in Russellville, KY

To discover other cut flower farmers in Kentucky, check out this map from the center of crop diversification website. It lists commercial cut flower farms and the services that they offer throughout the state. To check it out, click here: https://uk-horticulture.github.io/KY-Cut-Flowers/

Here is a short video to learn more about flower subscription services as well.

Congratulations to Warren County Cattlemen Kenneth Lowe for being inducted into the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame!

KCA Names 2022 Hall of Fame Inductees 

Five deserving cattlemen were honored during this year’s Evening Banquet at the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention in Lexington, KY. Gary Woodall, Kenneth Lowe, Tom McGinnis, Charles Wills and Dr. David Williams were the association’s 2022 Hall of Fame inductees.

Gary Woodall has owned and managed commercial cattle since childhood but started Woodall Angus Farm in 1980.  It is a registered Angus seed stock operation selling over 100 bulls yearly across KY and the southeast.  Woodall has been active in his county association and has sponsored and hosted many agricultural field days and educational events on his farm.  He was KCA President in 2015 and has served on several committees during his time at the state level.  He was the 2015 Kentucky Angus Association Performance Breeder of the Year, 2008 Logan County Chamber of Commerce Farm Family of the Year, and 2010 Logan County Extension Service Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Woodall was instrumental in the establishment of New Life Baptist Church and has served as an elder since its inception in 2005.  Gary is married to his wife, Aubrietta and they have 2 children and 5 grandchildren.

Kenneth Lowe has been operating a Purebred Angus operation, Oak Hollow Angus, in Warren County for 41 years.  He is a 7th generation cattle farmer.  He received his B.S. in Animal Science from Western Kentucky University.  He was President of the Warren County Cattlemen’s for 20 years and hosted multiple educational fields days for local, regional and state cattlemen.  He also hosted several University classes and livestock judging teams.  He was President of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association in 1994 and worked on committees for NCBA and was on the Board of Directors for the Meat Export Federation. He has been awarded the American Angus Association Largest KY Angus breeder for several years, the Kentucky Seedstock Producer of the Year and the Kentucky Angus Association Performance Breeder of the Year. He has been married for 35 years to his wife Theresa and they have one son, Joe, who also works on the family farm.

Tom McGinnis raises Purebred Angus cattle in Shelby County.  Heritage Farm raised 200+ head of cattle and started in 1996.  Tom is an avid supporter of youth livestock projects and the Angus breed. He has been a buyer at the local youth livestock auction since it began in 1997.  He has been a sponsor of meals and activities for 4-H, cattlemen, Extension and other local agriculture organizations. He has also hosted several events at his farm including Great Meadows Angus Association sales. Tom served in the United State Army in Vietnam in 1967-68 and went on to receive his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky.  His kindness and generosity are huge assets in the Shelby County Community but he is very humble and finds joy in the success of others over himself.  He is married to his wife, Pam and has two children and 3 grandchildren.

Region 4 winner Charles Wills purchased a 155 acre farm from his grandfather in 1960.  He later added acreage and started cattle farming in the early 1970’s.  He became a premier backgrounder of heifers.  He always opened up his farm to novices and those interested in getting in the cattle business. He is a charter member of the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association and served for 2 years as President.  He was instrumental in recruiting and retaining over 650 members annually.  He served as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and was promoted to Captain during the Korean Conflict.  He returned and was a teacher and principal for 36 years.  Mr. Wills still runs his cattle operation with the help of his two grandsons, is a respected member of his community and is active in his church.  He was married to his wife for 62 years and has two children and 3 grandchildren.

Dr. David Williams is the Owner/President of Burkmann Industries, Inc, that owns and operates 13 animal feed manufacturing plants and 17 retail locations throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. He also owns Forever Spring Farm in Danville, KY.  Dr. Williams has provided Kentucky farmers nutritional support and feed products for over 42 years.  He has served in numerous positions over the years, including Kentucky Cattlemen’s Foundation Chairman, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Treasurer, and a member of the Kentucky State Fair Board.  He has spent the last 47 years supporting and being a resource to Kentucky farm families.  He began his career in the Kentucky Extension Service and his passion for agriculture education has continued throughout his career.  He has been very active in the Boyle County community sitting on Boards and donating to programs like the Backpacks for Kids program. He is very active in his church serving as Deacon, Treasurer and Sunday school teacher.  His advice and mentorship to so many in the state is second to none.  He received his B.S and M.S. in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky and his Ph.D from Iowa State University in Animal Nutrition.  He has been married to his wife, Betty-Gayle for 53 years and has two children and 4 grandchildren.

The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association would like to congratulate all of these deserving individuals for their years of service and numerous contributions to the agriculture industry. Videos of the 2022 inductees can be viewed on the KCA Youtube and Facebook pages.   Applications are now being taken for the 2023 KCA Hall of Fame.  Call the office for more details at 859-278-0899. 

Contact: Carey Brown, KCA

859-278-0899 or cbrown@kycattle.org

Tornado Relief Fund

KCARD is working with the Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to develop the Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief Program. This program will help farmers in Kentucky access needed farm supplies from local farm retailers following the disasters experienced in many areas of Kentucky on December 10 and 11, and on January 1.  Farm retailers in the program will receive funds to offset the costs of such supplies for farmers. 

How does the program work?  The participating retailer will set up an account in their sales system to record sales of eligible supplies to eligible farmers up to $1,500 per farmer.  They will provide records of those sales to the program and receive reimbursement (up to $30,000/store, subject to change) for those sales. 

What supplies are eligible under the program? 

  • Fencing supplies- wire, staples, fence chargers, testers, etc.  
  • T-posts and wooden posts 
  • Tools, such as hammers, rakes, and shovels 
  • Rope and bungee cords 
  • Livestock mineral and mineral feeders 
  • Hay and livestock feed 
  • Work gloves 
  • Chain saws, bar oil, and sharpeners 
  • Hay rings 
  • Gates 
  • Tarps 

What farmers are eligible?  Farmers will have to certify that they have farm property in one of the following counties and experienced farm damage from the storms on December 10 and 11, 2021, and on January 1, 2022:  Barren, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor, and Warren.  Farmers will sign a form at the retailer and provide their contact information. How do I become a Participating Retailer?  Participating retailers must be located in or near the affected area, be locally owned and operated, have the necessary inventory on hand or be able to secure it, and agree to maintain the necessary records for the program.  If you meet these criteria and are interested in the program, you can contact KCARD staff member, Mattea Mitchell at 270-681-0163 or by email at mmitchell@kcard.info.  Our first priority is to get at least one store in or near affected counties.  Additional stores will be added as funds are available.

What Retailers are currently participating? 

Caldwell County

Akridge Farm Supply & Ace Hardware

55 Wyatt Street, Fredonia, KY 42411

(270) 545-3332

Graves County

Falder’s Farm Home and Industry Supply

1428 Cuba Road, Mayfield, KY 42066

(270) 247-7790

Hart County

Hedgepeth Farm Supply

1406 Hedgepeth Road, Canmer, KY 42722

(270) 528-2133

Hopkins County

Calhoun Feed Service/Southern States

515 Nebo Road, Madisonville, KY 42431

(270) 821-5034

Logan County

Southern States – Russellville Cooperative

209 North Bethel Street, Russellville, KY 42276

(270) 726-7678

Marion County

T&H Feed Service

836 West Main Street, Lebanon, KY 40033

(270) 692-2749

Marshall County

Marshall County Co-op

501 Popular Street, Benton, KY 42025

(270) 527-1323

Taylor County

Arnold’s Feed and Seed

599 Arnold Road, Campbellsville, KY 42718

(270) 465-3659

Warren County

Southern States – Bowling Green Cooperative

640 Plum Springs Loop, Bowling Green, KY 42101

(270) 843-1146

Clean Up Garden Now for a More Productive Garden Next Spring!

Don’t put that trowel and rake away just yet! This year’s gardening season may be over, but it can also be a great opportunity to start preparations for next year’s gardening season. Taking care of a few garden clean-up chores now means fewer pests and disease problems which leads to a more productive garden for next spring! 

To help shine the light on garden clean-up, I contacted Kim Leonberger, our UK Agriculture Extension Associate to get the checklist needed to help take the guesswork out of garden clean-up. To hear the full episode, make sure to stay right here for Episode 20 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

  • Why do we clean up?
    • Plant pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses can survive in plant debris and on items in the garden.
    • Cleaning-up helps to remove these pathogen structures so that they do not survive winter and come back to cause issues next year.
    • Failure to clean-up can result in more disease next year.
  • What gardening activities should we consider to help clean-up our gardens for the winter?
    • Remove plants and plant debris.
    • Turn soil when possible.
    • Clean tools, stakes, cages, decorations, pots and other items from the garden.
  • Do not compost diseased plant material.
    • Diseased plant material should be burned, buried, or taken off-site.
    • Home compost bins do not get hot enough to kill these plant pathogens.
    • Large-scale, commercial compost piles do get hot enough to kill pathogens.
    • Some communities have yard waste pick-up, which go to a large compost pile. It is ok to put diseased material here.
  • Cleaning tools
    • Cleaning products (soaps and detergents) remove loose organic matter. Products include dish soap, hand soap, some household cleaners.
    • Disinfection products (disinfectants/sanitizers) have anti-microbial activity and can kill disease-causing micro-organisms. Products include rubbing alcohol (70%), 10% bleach (9 parts water and 1 part bleach), hand sanitizer, some household cleaners.
    • Steps to cleaning tools
      • Clean and scrub to remove organic matter.
      • Rinse to remove any residues.
      • Disinfect – Follow product directions. Most require a dip, soak, or spray. Be sure to note exposure time. A lot of products it is between 3 and 5 minutes. Bleach is the most effective and requires 30-45 seconds. However, bleach is corrosive so a rinse is need to limit effects. Make sure to never mix bleach with other cleaning products as a toxic gas can form.
      • Rinse and Dry.
      • Example of cleaning a tool – Wash with dish soap to remove soil and other organic matter. Rinse and dry. Dip in 10% bleach solution for 30-45 seconds. Rinse in clean water (not the same as before). Dry with a paper towel.

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on garden clean-up! A big thank you to Kim Leonberger for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 20, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

Kim Leonberger, UK Agriculture Extension Associate

FORAGE ALERT: Frost Brings Potential for Prussic Acid Poisoning

Last night many areas of Kentucky experienced their first frost.  Prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) poisoning can occur when the sorghum species (forage sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass, sudangrass, and Johnsongrass) are frosted.  Freezing causes plant cells to rupture and the precursors for prussic acid formation (cyanogenic glycosides) are released.  Please find below some frequently ask questions about prussic poisoning, a note from the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, and a link to Dr. Arnold’s prussic acid publication.

Frequently Ask Questions:

Can I cut the sorghum species for dry hay after frost?

YES.  Make sure the hay is properly cured before baling.  

Can I make baleage from frost sorghum species?

In most cases the answer is YES. Hydrogen cyanide concentrations are reduced during the ensiling process. However, as noted below, if toxin levels are excessively high at ensiling, forage should be tested prior to feeding.

How long do I need to wait to graze freshly frosted sorghum species?

Freshly frosted sorghum species should NOT be grazed until the affected tissue has dried down. This usually occurs 5-7 days after frost. Since fields are often not uniformly frosted and several frost events can occur over several days, make sure and wait until 5-7 days after the last frost event.

Drs. Arnold and Gaskill also has an excellent publication on prussic acid poisoning that can be found at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ID/ID220/ID220.pdf.

Note from UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab:

This note can be found at http://ruminant.ca.uky.edu/content/beware-prussic-acid.  

BEWARE OF PRUSSIC ACID

Prussic acid, hydrogen cyanide or hydrocyanic acid all are terms describing the same toxin or “poison”.  A number of common plants, including sudangrass, johnsongrass, sorghums and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids easily accumulate the “cyanogenic glycosides” in the epidermal or outer cells of the plant.  Further inside the leaf tissue in the mesophyll cells are the enzymes needed to convert these compounds to the actual poison.  When the plant undergoes a stressful event such as cutting, wilting, freezing, drought, crushing, trampling, chewing or chopping, the plant cells rupture which allows the cyanogenic compounds and the enzymes to combine and produce prussic acid.  Once consumed, the toxin goes immediately to the bloodstream and blocks a necessary step in the release of oxygen from hemoglobin in the blood to the cells.  The animal essentially suffocates from lack of oxygen.  Ruminants are much more susceptible to prussic acid poisoning because they have enzymes in the rumen capable of converting the cyanogenic compounds in the plant into hydrogen cyanide.

Clinical signs of cyanide poisoning can occur in as quickly as 15-20 minutes and up to a few hours after consuming the toxic forage.  Usually the affected animals are found dead but, if observed early, may show rapid, difficult breathing, frothing at the mouth, muscle tremors, staggering then collapse.  The mucous membranes (for example-the gums) are bright pink and the blood will be a bright cherry red color.  A definitive diagnosis is usually made by testing the suspect forage for high levels of cyanide.  This test can be performed at a diagnostic laboratory (the UKVDL in Lexington and Breathitt Lab in Hopkinsville both offer this) and forage samples should be immediately frozen and shipped frozen.  It is difficult to diagnose from blood, animal tissues or rumen contents because it disappears rapidly after death.  If prussic acid poisoning is suspected in a live animal, a veterinarian has treatments available that can re-establish oxygen transport at the cellular level. 

Prussic acid is most often associated with sorghums (forage and grain) and sudangrass but many plants can be cyanogenic including:

Plants with Cyanogenic Potential

————————————————

Apple                                Johnsongrass

Apricot                              Lima bean

Arrow Grass                      Peach

Birdsfoot trefoil                 Poison suckleya

Bahia                                Service berry

Cherry                               Sudangrass hybrids                                                                                                                

Elderberry                         Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids

Flax                                   Shattercane

Forage Sorghums             Velvet grass

Grain Sorghums                Vetch seed

Hydrangea                         White Clover

Indiangrass

Important Points to Remember:

  1. Leaves produce much more prussic acid than stems, especially young upper leaves.  New shoots often contain high concentrations of prussic acid.
    1. Never graze sorghums less than 18” in height (“knee high”) to significantly reduce the potential for poisoning.
    2. Feed hungry cattle hay or grain before allowing them to graze forages which may contain high levels of prussic acid therefore reducing the amount of cyanide consumed.
  1. Drought increases the chance for prussic acid because slowed growth and the inability of the plant to mature favors the formation of cyanogenic compounds in the leaves.
  1. Frost/Freezing is especially dangerous because the plant cells actually rupture allowing prussic acid to be released.  Do not graze until well after the entire plant and new shoots are killed and have turned brown.
    1. **  NEW FORAGE GROWTH FOLLOWING DROUGHT OR FROST IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH IN CYANIDE.  WAIT AT LEAST 7 DAYS TO GRAZE AFTER A KILLING FROST TO ALLOW CYANIDE TO DISSIPATE. **
  1. Plants grown in high nitrogen soil  (and low in phosphorus and potassium) tend to have more prussic acid potential.  Splitting nitrogen applications will reduce the risk of toxicity.  Herbicides such as 2,4 D can also increase prussic acid for several weeks following application.
  1. Chopping or ensiling plants high in prussic acid will reduce toxin levels if properly cured.  However dangerous levels of prussic acid may remain if extremely high before cutting.  If in doubt, analyze suspect forages before feeding.
  1. Johnsongrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids also have the potential for nitrate accumulation, especially during drought conditions.  Nitrate tends to accumulate in the lower stem, so cutting hay very short, or overgrazing so that cattle have to eat the lower stem bases ( the “stubble”) can cause more intake of nitrate and signs similar to prussic acid poisoning.

Planting Peonies in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! In Kentucky, peony blooms appear in spring around the month of May and their flowers have a richness unlike any other. Peonies add beauty with their wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms as well as their wonderful fragrance! If planted correctly, peonies can last a long time in the garden from 50 to as much as 80 years. The fall season is the perfect time for plant peonies in your home landscape. To get the full scoop on tips for planting peonies in the garden, make sure to stay right here for Episode 19 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Types & Cultivars:

There are three types of peonies for gardeners to consider for planting in the Kentucky garden.

  • Herbaceous/garden peonies are herbaceous perennials that reach 20 to 36 inches in height. This type is the most common peony used and is the least expensive compared to other peonies.
  • Tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back to the ground. They are a medium-sized shrub that reaches no more than 4 to 5 feet in height. Tree peonies are slow growing, so it may take four or more years to bloom well.
  • Intersectional peonies are a hybrid type produced by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. These peonies get the best of both worlds. They possess the hardiness of the herbaceous peonies with the attractive flowers and foliage of the tree peonies. Itoh peonies, named by the first hybridizer Toichi Itoh, are a type of intersectional peony.  

To hear more about planting peonies in the garden, make sure to check out the full episode on The Sunshine Gardening Podcast with host Kristin Hildabrand!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on planting peonies in the garden! A big thank you to Dennis Morgeson for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 19, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Tips for the Best Pumpkin

There is no better symbol for the month of October than the pumpkin! While pumpkins are widely used throughout the fall season to decorate the home, many people associate them with Halloween. Nowadays, pumpkins have expanded from the traditional orange Jack o Lantern pumpkin into a wide variety of shapes and colors. To find out more about pumpkins, I called up my good friend and co-worker Metcalfe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources Brandon Bell. While talking to him, I discovered tips for picking the best pumpkin and how to properly store them at home. What I didn’t expect to learn was the better and more efficient way for carving my Jack o’ lantern! To find out this secret to carving pumpkins this season, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!



There are a lot of different varieties of pumpkins that are available to the public to purchase. Tell us about some of those varieties and what trends you might have noticed with some of those varieties.

  • Pink Pumpkin. The first pick pumpkin developed was called a ‘Porcelain Doll’. Growers had to sign a contract to give some of their proceeds back to breast cancer awareness.
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Large White Pumpkins
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
Various Pumpkin Varieties

A lot of these pumpkin varieties that you can find in these colors are stackable pumpkins, especially the orange and burnt orange and red Cinderella pumpkins. Most retailers will sell you a stack of pumpkins.

Cinderella pumpkins were the original stacker pumpkin, and then later they started incorporating other colors.

Looking for texture? Warty pumpkins and peanut pumpkins offer some unique shapes on the outside of the pumpkin.


How should you select the best pumpkin? What things should we look for to buy a good pumpkin?

Stackables pumpkins- get pumpkins that match each other. the flatter they are they better, Cinderella on bottom

Jack o’ lantern is shape, and will sit up on its own. Hard texture as far as the rind. Make sure that it is hardened off. Firm, stout green stems. Avoid shriveled up and soft stem. Pick up the pumpkins by the bottom rather than from the stem. Look for an overall good shape and color.

Earlier in the season, the stems are still green. A good stem means a lot. A bad stem will cause decay to form earlier.


As far as helping these pumpkins last during the season, what things can we do to encourage a longer lasting pumpkin? OR are there things that we don’t want to do.

Wait as late as possible to carve the pumpkins. Keep them under cool, dry and shady spot. Keep them out of direct sun.

Clean the pumpkin with a 10 percent bleach solution to help them last longer.


What is the best way to carve a Jack o’ lantern pumpkin?

Anytime that you expose the internal flesh of a pumpkin, it will start to decay. I have learned over the years with Jack o’ lantern pumpkins is to not cut the top off of it. It is actually better to cut it from the bottom of the pumpkin. Whenever the pumpkin starts to decay, it easily moves down the pumpkin. Cut the part from the bottom. It makes it harder for decay to move up from the bottom.


Do you have a favorite pumpkin? 

Old fashioned field pumpkin called ‘Autumn Buckskin’. People would refer to them as the cow pumpkin. Years ago, farmers would plant corn and mix pumpkin seed in with their corn for a companion crop. They would harvest their corn by hand and then also load the pumpkins on a wagon. Then, they would bust the pumpkin up and feed it to the cattle. Once the cattle acquire the taste of pumpkin, they will eat the entire pumpkin. It is basically the same pumpkin that you would find in a can of Libby’s pumpkin. Libby’s produces 85% of the US canned pumpkin.   


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on tips for the best pumpkin. Thank you to Brandon Bell for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 18, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!