Author Archives: warrencountyag

Episode 8- Supporting Local Cut Flower Growers

July is American Grown Cut Flower Month! Now is the perfect time to celebrate the abundance of locally-grown cut flowers and the farmers that grow them. To discuss more about cut flower production, I interviewed my good friend and co-worker Alexis Sheffield to ask her why July is such a special month for cut flower growers. Alexis is the Boyle County Extension Agent for Horticulture and in her spare time runs a flower farm called Wild Roots. Find out more from her in our interview together on how you can celebrate American Grown Cut Flower Month and how you can support local cut flower farmers, right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast.

Alexis Sheffield, Boyle Co. Extension Agent for Horticulture &
Flower Farmer for Wild Roots

Get involved with Kentucky Grown Cut Flowers Month by joining us daily on Facebook (@KYHortCouncil), Instagram (@KYHorticulture) or Twitter (@KYHorticulture) to learn more about this specialty crop! Each day this month on the Kentucky Hort Council’s social media pages, you can learn more about local flower farmers and the beautiful fresh cut flowers they grow along with buying, delivery, and pick-up options.

Interactive Map: The Kentucky Commercial Cut Flower Grower Directory is now live! This tool helps to highlight local businesses and make it easy for customers to identify purchasing options.

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Gardeners keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Creating a Hydrangea Heaven

June is the month with blessings from several varieties of the Hydrangea shrub in the Kentucky garden and landscape! Hydrangeas are the number 2 most popular shrub planted in the home landscape. It grows in zones 3-9 and offers different shapes and colors of blooms for the landscape throughout the growing season. This plant is relatively pest free if planted in the correct place for bloom production.  

Uses of Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can be used in mass planting, border, and as an accent or specimen plant.

Types of Hydrangeas:

Smooth Hydrangea- Hydrangea arborescens

Oakleaf Hydrangea- Hydrangea quercifolia 

Panicle Hydrangea- Hydrangea paniculata

Bigleaf Hydrangea- Hydrangea macrophylla

Watering

Hydrangea means “water lover” in Greek where “hydra” means water and “angeon” means “vessel”. After planting, water hydrangeas consistently throughout their first year. Even after establishment, hydrangeas will require 1 inch of water per week either by rainfall or irrigation. Additional water may be needed in a sunny or windy location. Make sure to give hydrangeas the proper location based on the type being grown and provide ample amounts of mulch to conserve soil moisture and keep roots cool.

How to Adjust Bigleaf Hydrangea Flower Color

For Bigleaf hydrangea also known as Hydrangea macrophylla, blooms can vary by color from true blue, deep purple, to pink according to the soil’s pH or the availability of aluminum in the soil. For example, in acid soils, aluminum is more available and leads to a blue bloom color. In basic or more alkaline soils, aluminum is found in less amounts and gives a pink bloom color.

Altering soil pH for hydrangea production can take up to 6 months and requires a basic soil test for complete accuracy. Based on soil test recommendations, add powdered or pelletized lime or sulfur in the fall for desired pink or blue blooms for the following summer.

Remontant Hydrangeas

Remontant hydrangeas also referred to as “repeat bloomers” are plants that flower more than once in a single growing season. Some top mophead remontant selections include ‘Blushing Bride’, Endless Summer ‘Bailmer’, ‘Decatur Blue’, and ‘Nantucket Blue’. “Twist-n-Shout’ is the only remontant lacecap type. The bigleaf hydrangea cultivars are more strongly remontant. Make sure to fertilize remontant hydrangeas to help support repeat blooming.

Pruning

In order to prune hydrangea, know the type you have and understand if it blooms on old or new wood.

“Old Wood” refers to previous year’s growth. Hydrangea cultivars with old wood formed the buds the year before.

“New Wood” refers to the current year’s growth. Hydrangea cultivars that bloom on new wood set their buds during the year in which they bloom. 

When is the correct time to prune specific hydrangeas?

Smooth hydrangea blooms on the current year’s growth. For this type, prune back by early March, so plants have time to grow stems and form flower buds.

Oakleaf hydrangea– allow this type to grow in its natural form and prune as little as possible. Oakleaf hydrangea flowers are produced on old wood. If pruning is necessary, finish by the end of July to ensure that there is still time for next year’s flower buds to develop.

For panicle hydrangea, pruning isn’t needed. If you would like to create a neater and tidy appearance and help increase the size and number of blooms, cut the plants back hard to approximately two buds. The blooms will develop on new stems, so make sure that this pruning is performed once plants go dormant through early March. If you desire, panicle type hydrangeas can be trained to a tree form unlike other hydrangeas. Begin training at an early age and requires a stake to help support. To keep the tree form shape, remove branches that develop from the trunk several times throughout the year.

Once bigleaf hydrangea is mature, prune no more than one-third of the older branches to the base of the plant in early spring. Pruning will rejuvenate the plant without a large loss of flowers. To reduce size or for shaping, prune after blooms fade but no later than the end of July.

For more information about growing or caring for hydrangeas, please contact the Warren Co. Extension Office at (270) 842-1681.

Warren County Extension Office Operating Procedures

Several people may be wondering about how to submit samples to the Warren County Extension Office for soil, plant disease, weed, insect, and plant identification services. Read HERE to find out what is needed for each of these services.

Soil Sample Collections

How to Submit Soil Samples:

  1. Drop your collected soil sample in the drop box located in front of the Warren County Extension Office (WCEO) door entrance.
  2. Contact the office at (270) 842-1681 to give office staff general information related to your soil sample.
  3. Please pay with exact change or check which is $7.00 per soil sample.
  4. Results will be mailed to the client after agents review the soil tests. If you have any questions regarding your soil test recommendations, please contact the WCEO.
Plant Disease Samples

How to Submit Plant Disease Samples:

  1. If you suspect a possible plant disease, please submit a fresh plant sample along with 5 photos of the plant in its environment to the Warren County Extension Office.
  2. Samples may be dropped off at our location at 5162 Russellville Road and placed in the drop box which is located in front of the Warren County Extension Office entrance door.
  3. Pictures should show an overview of the planting or field, close-up photos of the parts affected (foliage, trunk, stem, etc.) as well as include general plant information (age of plant, when was the problem first noticed, what percentage is plants affected, and how the plant has been cared for such as watering, fertilizer application, and etc.)
  4. In the event that we need to mail off a plant sample, plant samples must be sent from Monday through Wednesday to ensure freshness.
  5. If you wish to make an appointment or have questions regarding your plant sample, please contact the Warren County Extension Office at (270) 842-1681 first.
Weed Identification- Field, Garden, and Lawn

Weed Identification Sample:

  1. Email photos of the weed to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the weed is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. A fresh weed sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined through email. Bring sample and place the sample along with client information in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to notify our staff that you have a sample for identification.   
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Insect Identification Services

Insect Identification:

  1. Email photos of the insect to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the insect is located such as garden, home, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field.
  2. An insect sample may be needed if identification can’t be determined via email. Bring the insect sample along with client information to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road and leave in the drop box located in front of the entrance door.
  3. Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  4. Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.
Identifying Plant Samples

Plant Identification:

  • Drop a fresh plant sample at least 12 inches long or longer to the Warren County Extension Office located at 5162 Russellville Road along with client information and leave in the drop box located in front of the WCEO entrance door.
  • Email photos of the plants to www.warrencountyextension.com/ and tell us where the plant is located such as garden, landscape, lawn, or agriculture field. It helps to have as much information on the plant as possible such as bloom color or shape, when the plant blooms, etc.
  • Contact the WCEO at (270) 842-1681 to let our staff know that you have a sample for identification.
  • Please tell us the best way to reach you either via phone or email. Agents will get back to you as soon as possible.

For questions on how to submit samples for identification, please contact the Warren County Extension Service at (270) 842-1681. Please note if you reside in another county to contact your local Extension office to see the best procedure for handling these services.

Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) Certification Now Available Online

Starting June 1, 2020, the Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) Certification is now available online. Producers can access the online BQCA program by visiting kybeefnetwork.com or http://afs.ca.uky.edu/beef/irm and clicking on “Beef Quality & Care Assurance”. The Beef Quality & Care Assurance certification costs $5 and can be paid online prior to the accessing the course.

This online process is similar to how in-person BQCA trainings are conducted. Producers must complete Module A – BQCA Overview, and two of the other modules: B – Genetics and Handling, C – Proper Equipment and Additional Cattle Handling, and/or  D – Veterinary Diagnostics Lab. Each module contains a video that must be watched before completing the corresponding test. Producers have multiple attempts to achieve a passing score of at least 85%, for each test.

Upon successful completion of the course, your training will be processed by the Kentucky Beef Network and your BQCA training card will be mailed to your county Extension office at the end of each month. If you should need your BQCA number sooner, you can call KBN at 859-278-0899 or email at kbn@kycattle.org.

If a farmer cannot access the online course or wishes to wait until in-person trainings are available, and they had a valid BQCA number on March 1, 2020, their existing BQCA certification will remain active until live trainings are available again. These steps have been approved by the Governor’s Office for Ag Policy staff for compliance in the CAIP program.

•••

The Kentucky Beef Network and University of Kentucky merged their Cattle Handling and Care Program with the National BQA program to create a new program, aptly named the Beef Quality and Care Assurance (BQCA) program. This program was implemented to raise awareness of practices that insure the proper handling and welfare of cattle while keeping farmers safe and continuing to supply healthy beef to consumers. In turn, this program enables beef and dairy producers to enhance their product, maximize marketability and strengthen consumer confidence.

The Kentucky BQCA program takes national BQA practices one step further to provide a holistic program for Kentucky producers, by adding a cattle handling and care component to the training model. Educational modules provide the best management practices for handling cattle and providing for their well-being, in addition to training on the core principles of BQA.

Instructions for Enrolling the KY BQCA Course in the Online Learning Environment

https://warrencountyagriculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-KYBQCA-Online-Instructions-FINAL-3.pdf

May Vegetable Gardening Tips

Home gardeners have finally gotten warm-season vegetable crops planted in their home vegetable gardens. Now, you may wonder, “What should I do next?” Today on episode 7 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 4 secrets on how to keep your garden looking attractive to finish strong for the month of May! Stay with me for more details right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

#1- Use Companion Planting Strategies.    

Gardeners have planted several warm-season vegetables in the garden this month! They may have planted a nice mixture of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, and sweet corn. Alongside these vegetables, gardeners should consider planting culinary herbs since they serve as a great companion plant. Companion planting is defined as planting two or more crops near each other crops in the vegetable garden to gain benefits for the home gardener. It has been shown to maximize vegetable yields, improve pest management, increase nutrient uptake, and enhance pollination with some crops. 

Planting herbs around vegetables invite beneficial organisms to the garden. Herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley attract beneficial insects to feed and find shelter to support various stages of predatory and parasitic insects. Lady beetles, lacewings, praying mantids, and spiders are among those organisms that are attracted to aromatic culinary herbs. Not only are companion plantings good for attracting beneficial insects, they also draw in native pollinators. Some examples of culinary herbs to make room for in the garden are basil and oregano. Basil is a good herb for planting around tomatoes and provides shelter for a number of beneficial insects such as lady beetles and lacewings. Oregano is the pizza herb to use for seasoning pizza dishes at home.

Another plant that comes to mind with companion planting is marigolds. Several gardeners plant this warm season flower every year in their garden to protect vegetables from harmful insects. Research has shown that the roots of marigolds produce biochemical that are poisonous to minute worm-like organisms that can cause damage to plants.

To discover other possibilities of companion plants to use in the home vegetable garden, make sure to see the show notes. I have included a table that lists crops that do well when planted next to each other in the home vegetable garden.

Crop:Companions:
CornBeans, Cucumbers, English Pea, Irish Potato,
Pumpkin, Squash  
CucumberBeans, Cabbage, Corn, English Pea, Radish, Sunflowers  
EggplantBasil, Beans, Catnip, Lemon Grass, Marigold  
OkraPeppers, Squash, Sweet Potatoes  
PepperBasil, Clover, Marjoram, Tomato  
SquashNasturtium, Corn, Marigold  
Sweet PotatoOkra, Peppers, Sunflowers  
TomatoAsparagus, Basil, Carrot, Cucumber,
Marigold, Onions, Parsley, Rosemary  

Source: ATTRA publication on
Companion Planting & Botanical Pesticides: Concepts & Resources

#2- Provide vegetable plants with water after being planted.

It is important to provide plants with water after being planted in the ground. Carry out watering routines in the morning between the hours of 6am and 10am. This time frame allows plants plenty of time to dry off during the day. Avoid splashing the foliage with water to reduce foliar diseases.

While it may be expensive, drip irrigation is a convenient way to provide consistent soil moisture to plants. Water is targeted at the base of the plant which is then absorbed by the root system.

Here are critical times to water common vegetable crops in the home garden.

  • Cucumber- flowering and fruit development
    • Eggplant- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
    • Melon- fruit set and early development
    • Pepper- uniform supply from flowering through harvest
    • Summer squash- bud development, flowering, and fruit development
    • Sweet Corn- silking, tasseling, and ear development
    • Tomato- uniform supply from flowering through harvest

#3- Apply fresh organic mulch.

Mulch can offer several benefits to the home gardener! It helps conserve soil moisture by creating a barrier between the soil and the air, controls weeds by blocking the sunlight, and is aesthetically pleasing and attractive to the garden.

Apply 2 to 4 inches of fresh mulch around plants to help conserve soil moisture and reduce weeds. If you desire an organic mulch, layers of newspaper or straw are good mulches to consider. These mulches will return nutrients into the ground after they have decomposed. Another option would be inorganic mulch like black plastic. This type of mulch will reduce weeds and encourage earlier planting for crops by 2 weeks.  

Organic mulch return nutrients to the soil after decomposing.

#4- Side-dress vegetables at the correct time.

In order for vegetables to produce lush, continuous growth throughout the season, they require a uniform supply of nutrients. Gardeners should side-dress vegetable transplants at the correct time and at the recommended rate to give them an extra supply of nutrients needed for continuous growth throughout the season.

Here are the recommended times for side-dressing common vegetables in the home garden.

    • Cucumber- apply 1 week after blossoming begins and Eggplant- after first fruit set
    • Peppers- after first fruit set
    • Squash- additional nitrogen might reduce yield or lower quality
    • Sweet corn- when plants are 12 inches tall
    • Tomatoes- apply 1 to 2 weeks before first picking and same amount 2 weeks after first picking

I hope that you found this information helpful today. If you would like additional information on other gardening tasks to perform this month, make sure to see the show notes on the blog at Warren County Agriculture to find the May Gardening Checklist that I have created. It lists other activities to do in and around the home garden. To view this checklist, visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have or make any additional comments on the blog.

As always, make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what future gardening information to share with you each week. To help sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will receive a gardening prize. 

Gardeners keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, ID-128- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

Top 10 Tomato Growing Tips

It is no wonder that tomatoes are the number one vegetable that every gardener makes room for in their vegetable garden! Tomatoes can be cultivated in different soil types and grown in many areas. The wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of tomatoes make it easy for gardeners to select their favorite variety based on taste. Today on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I am sharing 10 top tomato tips to give you better tasting tomatoes this season.

  1. Know your tomato type. Determinate type tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, grow to a certain height and then stop. Generally they range in size from 2-3 feet in height. The fruits of determinate tomatoes also ripen all about the same time. For this reason, these tomatoes are ideal for gardeners who wish to can and preserve their tomatoes from the season. Determinate tomatoes work best for small gardens or even container gardens. These do not require support system or structure. Some examples of determinate type tomatoes include Mountain Spring, Mountain Pride, Patio, and Sunmaster. Indeterminate type tomatoes. This tomato type is also referred to as vining tomatoes. Vining type tomatoes keep growing and growing until they are killed by frost. Their mature heights can reach anywhere from 3 to 6+ feet. With that said, indeterminate tomatoes will require sturdy support system through caging, staking, or trellising. The fruit is also staggered throughout the growing season. Common examples of indeterminate tomatoes include Better Boy, Early Girl, Sungold, and Super Sweet 100.   Semi-determinate plants. Plants are intermediate in size between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. These varieties produce fewer suckers than indeterminate varieties and reach a height of 3 to 5 feet. An example of a semi-determinate tomato variety is Celebrity. Dwarf indeterminate. This type is a new tomato classification where the tomatoes produce very short, bushy plants that are similar to determinate types, but keep flowering and producing fruit continuously like indeterminate tomato varieties. Some examples of dwarf indeterminate tomatoes are Husky Red Cherry and Husky Gold.
  2. Plant tomatoes in succession. It is easy to get carried away and plant all the tomatoes in the garden at once. Instead, stagger tomato plantings to help lengthen the season. Select an early maturing tomato for canning and preserving and then plant a mid-season tomato. The late maturing varieties are good to capture the last remaining harvests before fall frosts set in.
  3. Plant them deep and provide plenty of space. Set tomato transplants in the garden a little deeper than when it was growing in the container. The stems will form roots compared to other vegetables. If plants appear leggy, place the leggy tomato stem in a trench and place soil on top where the top part is pointed up. It is best to give plants plenty of space to grow and develop. For determinate type tomatoes, space them 24 to 36 inches between plants and 3 feet apart in rows. For indeterminate type tomatoes, space plants 36 inches apart with 4 to 5 feet in rows.  
  4. Utilize a support system. Tomatoes will benefit from the use of a support system such as a cage, stakes, or even a trellis system. Using these support systems keeps fruit off the ground, which prevents fruit rotting and other harmful diseases. Staking tomatoes makes the job easier to care for them and helps aid in reducing fruit rots. Caging tomatoes gives the benefit of showing fewer cracks and sunburn on fruit. It also helps them ripen more uniformly and produces fewer cull fruits. Whatever the preferred method, gardeners need to implement the support system shortly after planting to avoid damaging the root system.
  5. Give them water. The best thing that you can do for tomatoes is to make sure to water them and water them consistently. I recommend watering early in the morning rather than later in the evening. A morning watering routine will allow plants to dry off during the day. If you water in the evening, plants stay moist and that can bring on more tomato diseases. When you water plants, target the stream of water directly at the root system so the root system can take up the water and transfer up the stem to the plant. Avoid hitting the foliage when watering to also help in decreasing tomato diseases. Deep, infrequent watering is strongly encouraged over light, frequent watering. This tip allows help promote a deeper root system for the plant. 
  6. Mulch them. Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around tomato plants. Mulch conserves soil moisture, protects low growing tomatoes, and prevents water from splashing onto the foliage which spreads disease such as blight. It also helps to deter weeds from growing and it is also very attractive in the garden. Selecting an organic mulch such as leaves, straw, grass clippings, and even newspaper will return nutrients to the ground and help the soil structure after it decomposes. Lastly, mulch will also assist in reducing blossom end rot from occurring later in the season.
  7. Prune suckers. Indeterminate tomato varieties like cherry type tomatoes will benefit from removing suckers that grow below the first flower cluster. The sucker is a small plant that is located in the axil of each leaf of the tomato plant. It robs energy and nutrients from the tomato plant, so it is best to pinch it before it becomes too large.
  8. Side-dress them. Tomato plants benefit from additional fertilizer after the fruit has set. When first fruits reach golf ball size, scatter 1 TBS ammonium nitrate in a 6 to 10 inch circle around each plant. Water thoroughly and repeat every two weeks.
  9. Scout plants daily and perform health checks. Different insects and diseases can affect tomato plants throughout the growing season. Scout plants daily to determine if there are any plant pests. Look on the undersides of leaves for any aphid damage, watch for water soaked areas to form on the fruit from blossom end rot, and keep an eye on foliage for early signs of tomato blight. Blight starts at the bottom of the plant and eventually works its way up to the new growth of the plant. For questions on tomato pests, contact your local Extension Office in your area. They can help pinpoint the problem and help you come up with a solution.
  10. Enjoy the tastes of tomatoes! Tomato growers are often rewarded with more than enough tomatoes when they reach the harvest stage. Share the bounty with family, friends, and neighbors. I find that it is fun to try different tomatoes varieties to compare and explore their tastes. You can easily see which tomatoes that you want to add to your garden for next year!  

Well, there you have it, Kristin’s top 10 tomato growing tips. With all these tips, I guarantee that you will be harvesting tomatoes quicker than you can say “BLT”! I hope that you enjoyed this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast. If you would like additional information on growing tomatoes for the Kentucky garden, make sure to see the show notes for episode 6. I have posted the link to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service publication for Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky. This is the gardening bible to help you learn more about gardening in Kentucky. To can find more information on tomatoes, turn to pages 42 and 43 in this publication. To view the show notes, visit the blog at Warren County Agriculture, https://warrencountyagriculture.com/. Feel free to leave any questions that you might have on the blog or make additional comments.

Make sure to tune in with me for more gardening information each week right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Each week, I plan to share seasonal gardening tips and tricks to help gardeners reach their gardening goals and to help the sun shine a little brighter over their Kentucky garden. To stay up to date on all the latest episodes, hit the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

I would love it if you could leave me a review on iTunes, so I can know what future gardening information to share with you next time. To help sweeten the deal, the first 10 subscribers to leave me a review on iTunes will receive a gardening prize. 

Gardeners, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Resources:

Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, ID-128- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

Applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Are you interested in applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program but aren’t sure how?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will host a webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET, for farmers, ranchers and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

#UKAgPrograms #UKAgriculture

To register: https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_SPWI7yOFSqaGG1JKzhEbjA. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. We encourage participants to submit questions through the Q&A box or by emailing CFAP.webinars@usda.gov. While questions will not be answered live during the webinar, answers will be posted at farmers.gov/CFAP.

USDA is hosting this webinar to share what information is needed to apply for direct payments through CFAP, once the application period begins. Producers who are new to participating in FSA programs are especially encouraged to join the webinar. More details about CFAP direct payments will be announced soon.

As part of President Trump and Secretary Perdue’s April 17 announcement of a $19 billion Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, USDA will provide $16 billion in direct support based on losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Also, USDA will assist eligible producers facing additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

For more information: https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/usda-host-webinar-producers-interested-applying-direct-payments-through-coronavirus-food

A recording of the webinar, the answers to its questions, and other CFAP information can be found at farmers.gov/CFAP.  

Virtual Wheat Field Day

To view the video, click here.

In this time of social distancing and much uncertainty, University of Kentucky scientists are using innovative ways to get producers the information they need to grow high quality crops. As a result, members of the UK Wheat Science Group have turned their annual Wheat Field Day into a virtual experience this year. It is scheduled for 9 a.m. until noon CDT May 12 on the video conferencing app Zoom.

“We wanted to provide the results from our unbiased wheat research that our producers are accustomed to, and we also wanted to make sure the program was safe for all participants and speakers amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carrie Knott, grain crops specialist with the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “A virtual field day seemed like the perfect solution.”

UK specialists and industry representatives will make presentations much as they would during a normal field day. Participants can expect to hear information on wheat management, small grain economics, sustainability, UK variety trials, rye, and management of diseases, insects and weeds in winter wheat. As in the past, producers will have an opportunity to ask specialists questions and interact with each other during the online event.

Pesticide applicators can receive one specific continuing education unit for categories 1A, 4 and 10 for attending the virtual field day.

Producers can view the field day through Zoom using any type of computer or mobile device.  The direct link to the meeting, other ways to participate and additional information about the field day are available at https://wheatscience.ca.uky.edu. Once they click the field day link, participants will receive a prompt to install Zoom, if they have not already done so. Contact: 

Carrie Knott, carrie.knott@uky.edu

Time for Termites!

Kentucky Pest News: Zach DeVries and Mike Potter, Entomology Extension Specialists

Termite season has begun in Kentucky!  To assist homeowners in addressing this growing problem, this article provides basic information on termite biology and control. That said, this article is intended to be a quick reference guide to answer the most common questions/concerns; for more detailed information please see our Entfacts on termites (Entfact-605Entfact-604Entfact-639)

Termite Basics

Termites are small, soft-bodied social insects that feed on wood. They are found almost everywhere that wood is present and represent an important component of most ecosystems since they help remove dead wood from forests. That said, termites quickly become a problem when they invade our homes and structures. Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year, and when identified in homes they should be of concern. Not only can their damage be costly, they can also impact real estate transactions and put people in incredibly stressful situations (what is worse than thousands of unidentified bugs flying around your home!).

Figure 1: Termite workers and swarmers. (Photo: Mike Potter, UK)

Spring Emergence

Between the months of March and May (depending on temperature and rainfall) is when winged termites (known as “swarmers”) appear in homes. In nature, swarmers serve to disperse and reproduce, but when they emerge indoors, they become trapped and a major nuisance to homeowners. While swarmers found indoors are not a risk to homeowners (they can’t eat wood), they do indicate that an infestation is present.

Infestation Signs

The presence of swarmers indoors almost always indicates an infestation is present and requires treatment. Additionally, termite swarmers observed emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining structure also warrant further investigation and possible treatment. That said, termites are ubiquitous in residential landscapes, and their presence around the outside of homes is not always cause for concern. Termite swarmers are also often confused with winged ants, which can swarm at the same time of year. Termites can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist, and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists, and forewings that are longer than the hind wings).

Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure. Termite damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall covering can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.

Unfortunately, there will oftentimes be no visible indications that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Therefore, it is critical that the signs listed above not be overlooked and that trained professionals be consulted to confirm an infestation.

Treatment Options

Once termites have been identified in a structure, a professional pest management company should be consulted. While some pests can be managed effectively by homeowners, termites require a special skill set and equipment most householders do not possess. Therefore, we strongly recommend that termites be left to the professionals.

Treatment options are generally divided into two categories: (1) liquid barrier treatments and (2) baits. Liquid barrier treatments are applied into the soil surround the structure. The main idea is to form a non-repellent zone that will kill termites that tunnel through the treated soil (e.g. when they enter or leave the structure). Baits work by placing an insecticide treated, cellulose-based substrate into a cylindrical container in the ground surrounding the building. Termites forage around homes for food, and when they bump into the baits, they will begin eating and sharing this food with the colony. Once consumed, the baits will begin to slowly kill termites. Both treatments are usually effective, but the decision of which to use is best left to the pest control company and the homeowner. No matter which method is selected, it is important to have an experienced technician, backed by a responsible pest control company.  It is important to note that all treatments take time to work, so the problem will not disappear overnight.

Due to the expense of termite treatment, homeowners often ask if “partial” or “spot” treatments can be conducted. While these are appealing, they are a major gamble for homeowners. Termite colonies often number in the hundreds of thousands, and we can only see a fraction of the population. Therefore, termite infestation signs are observed, they are usually indicative of a larger termite problem, meaning spot treatments are unlikely to be effective. Additionally, these treatments are generally not warrantied, meaning future problems will be the responsibility of the homeowner.

Lastly, it is important to note that when applied following the label instructions, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets, or the environment. However, please consult with your pest control provider to determine the best course of action if you have any concerns.

How to Select a Good Pest Control Company

Termite treatments are often expensive; therefore, it is important that homeowners take their time in selecting a company. Time is seldom an issue given that termite damage progresses slowly, meaning homeowners can take weeks (even a month or more) to make a decision with little increased risk to the structure. It is recommended that homeowners get a least a couple quotes so they can compare costs and treatment options. Oftentimes companies have different approaches regarding treatment, which is beneficial for homeowners to hear and compare. Some things to consider when selecting a pest control company:

  • Reputation: How long has the company been around and how have they worked for other clients?
  • Experience: How many termite jobs has the technician done and what is their success rate?
  • Licensed and Insured: The company should be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to operate a pest control business in the state of Kentucky. In addition, the company should hold insurance on all of their pest control operations.
  • Membership in Pest Control Associations: Are they members of either the Kentucky Pest Management Association or the National Pest Management Association? Both offer numerous training resources and suggest that the company is an established firm with access to technical and training information needed to do the job correctly.
  • Warranty/Service Agreement: Does the company guarantee their work and do they offer an annual renewal on the service?
  • Ask lots of questions: This is a great way to determine the knowledge of the company providing the treatment.

Termites are a challenging pest to say the least. However, given the excellent termite control products currently available, an experienced technician should have little to no problem controlling infestations.

USDA Announces $19 Billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

We have received many questions about who will receive Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), what are the determinations, etc.  I talked with Sherri Brown, Warren-Edmonson County Farm Service Agency Executive Director and they are still waiting on guidance from the state and national level on how sign-ups are going to occur and the specifics on how the payments will be made.  Please continue to watch our social media sites for additional information as it comes down about the CFAP program.  Below is the information from a press release from the USDA about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

At the bottom of this article is information about our USDA Service centers from their newsletter and a USDA website to check about updates.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.  

USDA will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers including:    

  • $9.6 billion for the livestock industry
    • $5.1 billion for cattle
    • $2.9 billion for dairy
    • $1.6 billion for hogs
  • $3.9 billion for row crop producers
  • $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
  • $500 million for other crops

 
Producers will receive a single payment determined using two calculations:

  • Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.
  • Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters and will cover 30% of expected losses.

 
The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. Qualified commodities must have experienced a 5% price decrease between January and April.
 

USDA is expediting the rule making process for the direct payment program and expects to begin sign-up for the new program in early May and to get payments out to producers by the end of May or early June.

  • USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

Our USDA Service Centers in Kentucky will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment.

I also encourage you to visit farmers.gov/coronavirus to keep up-to-date on temporary program flexibilities available as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.