Monday, May 21, 2018

Grain Sorghum Planting Guidelines

Sandra Wick, Crop Production Agent

Producers are busy in the field planting corn and soybeans, however, it won’t be long and it will be time to plant grain sorghum. Well let’s hope that Mother Nature helps us out and keeps rain in our forecast! Our wheat continues to need moisture and our spring row crops need it to germinate and continue to develop.

Some of the main planting practices affecting yields in sorghum are: row spacing, seeding depth, seeding rate/plant population, planting date, and hybrid maturity.

Sorghum plants can compensate and adjust to different environmental conditions through adjustments in the number of tillers, head size, and the final seed weight. For sorghum, the final number of seeds per head is the plant component that varies the most; and thus has more room for adjustment than the other plant components (seed weight and number of tillers).

Let’s start with the Sorghum population or the seeding rate. Recommendations can vary significantly depending on your annual rainfall. So for north central Kansas the recommended seeding rate is approximately 35,000 to 64,000 seeds per acre with final stands of 25,000 to 45,000 plants per acre. Because of sorghum’s ability to respond to the environment, final stands can vary at least 25%, depending on the expected growing conditions, without significantly affecting the yields. Lower seeding rates help minimize the risk of crop failure in dry environments. Sorghum can compensate for good growing conditions by adding tillers and adjusting the head size, but yields can be reduced in a dry year if populations are too high. Sorghum will tiller more readily in cooler temperatures and less readily under warm conditions. Higher seeding rates also should be used when planting late and should be increased by about 15-20% if planting in late-June or even later. About 65-70 percent field germination is a good general rule to use. Row spacing goes hand in hand with the seeding rate. Using narrow row spacing, such as 15-inch compared to the traditional 30-inch row spacing, is significantly dependent on the environmental conditions especially moisture. 

A summary of research data performed at KSRE in the last several years has confirmed that the optimum planting date for maximizing yields will be around early June. Still, the decision related to the optimum planting date should be timed so plants have the best possible chance of avoiding the hot, dry weather at the flowering stage, but can still have sufficient time to mature before the first frost.

Seed placement or planting depth is also a critical factor in sorghum production. Optimum seed placement for sorghum is about 1-2 inches deep. Shallower or deeper planting depths can certainly affect the time between planting and emergence thus affecting early-season plant uniformity.

Lastly, but certainly not the least is hybrid selection. The selection of sorghum hybrids should be based not only on maturity, but also on other traits such as resistance to pests, stalk strength, head exertion, seeding vigor, and overall performance.

If you have more questions on grain sorghum, give me a call at any of our Post Rock Extension District Offices in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center.

Be sure and mark your calendars for our annual Post Rock Extension District Wheat Plot Tour scheduled for Tuesday, May 29 with five stops around the district. There will be two “legs” to our tour with an eastern and western tour. The western tour will begin at 9:00 a.m. in Smith County and the eastern tour will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Jewell County. The tour will conclude in Mitchell County at the KSRE Replicated plot at 4:30 p.m. located south of Beloit on Hwy. 14 to X Road (the Hunter Road), then 4 ½ miles west, on the north side. A meal will follow the tour which will be held at the Fletchall house close to the plot. A meal or refreshments will be served at each of the stops thanks to our agribusiness sponsors around the area. For more details call any of our Post Rock Extension District Offices in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center. Hope to see you there! Have a GREAT day!

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Sandra may be contacted at or by calling Smith Center, 282-6823, Beloit 738-3597, Lincoln 524-4432, Mankato 378-3174, or Osborne 346-2521. Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension”. Also remember our website is and my twitter account is @PRDcrops.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Gluten and Your Gut’s Good Health

Ashley Svaty, Nutrition, Food Safety and Health Agent

Many people have heard about gluten free diets but they may be misinformed about who should really follow a gluten free diet. May is Celiac Awareness Month, a perfect time to discuss what celiac disease is along with some myths that go along with gluten intolerance. Here are some quick facts about gluten, for more information please watch the video found here:

What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley, and some related grains that provides the elastic, chewy properties in breads and other baked products. The word gluten comes from Latin gluten, meaning “glue”. It is the glue-like characteristic that allows bread dough to stretch, but not break as it rises. Bakers select flours for the amount of gluten they contain. For example, high protein durum flour works well for pasta while low protein flour is used for cakes and pastries. Though gluten’s elastic properties are essential in baking and cooking, some people must avoid gluten to prevent gastrointestinal tract symptoms and even intestinal damage.

Who should follow a gluten-free diet?
Gluten has long been considered part of a sound diet for healthy people. However, for some people, good health depends on the elimination of gluten and wheat foods from the diet. People with celiac disease and others who are intolerant of gluten must adopt a gluten-free diet to control symptoms.

Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the North American population. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder-the only where the trigger (in this case, gluten) is known. Celiac damages the villi of the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. This may result in decreased absorption of nutrients from food, which can lead to dietary deficiencies. The symptoms vary greatly from one personal to another, increasing the difficulty of an accurate diagnosis.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a type of celiac disease that not only results outwardly in a painful skin rash when gluten is eaten, but also damages the small intestine of most people with this condition. Diagnosis is made through a skin biopsy and blood tests.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) differs from celiac disease because it is NOT an allergy or autoimmune disease. People with NCGS may have GI symptoms similar to people with celiac disease but there are no tests at this time to determine NCGS, but a diagnosis is made by the physician once celiac disease and other conditions are rules out.

How can I know if I would benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Overall, people diagnosed with the above gluten-related disorders should follow a gluten-free diet. The recent popularity of gluten-free diets is due in part to the increased diagnosis of the above conditions and also because of the dramatic health benefits noted by some who eliminate gluten from their diet in a personal effort to relieve symptoms. It is important to note that there are no published scientific reports supporting the idea of weight loss as a result of a gluten-free diet in people without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It’s not considered dangerous to eat gluten-free, but it can be overly restrictive and unnecessarily costly. Dieters may needlessly limit important nutrients such as iron, folic acid, and other B vitamins by excluding wheat foods and others that contain gluten if they choose to follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons than symptom relief.

If your health-care provider advises you or a family member to follow a gluten-free diet, there are many reputable resources available to help you. Here are just some that are available:

• Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
• Celiac Now:
• Celiac Disease Foundation:
• Celiac Disease, 2nd Edition: A Guide to living with gluten intolerance (2014) by Sylvia Llewelyn
   Bower, RN; Mary Kay Sharrett, SM, RD, LD, CNSD; and Steve Plogsted, PharmD

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Raise Your Hand 4-H Alumni and Friends to Help Kansas 4-H!

Kim Naber, 4-H Program Assistant

4-H, the largest youth development program in the nation, is calling on alumni and supporters to raise their hands to help bring 4-H to 10 million youth by 2025. Currently 4-H empowers nearly six million young people in every county across America, reaching over 82,000 youth in Kansas in 2017.

For more than 100 years, the 4-H impact on young people has been immeasurable. “Having experienced our programs first-hand, our alumni know best what a positive impact 4-H had on them growing up, which is why we’re reaching out to them to support the next generation of true leaders,” said Amy Sollock, 4-H Youth Development Area Specialist in southwest Kansas.

“Whether they’re running Fortune 100 companies, performing to sold-out crowds, leading community programs or volunteering to empower local youth, 4 H alumni are the epitome of true leadership,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4 H Council. “Our alumni and supporters across the country now have the perfect opportunity to support 4-H youth in their communities, ensuring that the next generation has the opportunity to benefit from the 4 H experience.”

As part of the Raise Your Hand campaign which runs April 1 - May 15, 2018, 4-H is asking supporters in Kansas to ‘Raise Your Hand’ to help kids in our community by providing the hands-on learning that only 4-H provides.

“Voting” is easy – alumni can go online to Raising your hand is a vote towards a $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000 award for the states with the most hands raised.

Your vote takes less than one minute and could help win money to support local Post Rock District 4-H activities. Help Kansas be one of the winning states; so Raise Your Hand now and select Kansas! The contest ends May 15.

“4-H gives kids the opportunity to learn by doing, to grow from not only the encouragements brought by success, but also through challenges and failures, as these skills will help them to handle whatever life may throw their way,” explains Jennifer Nettles, Grammy-award winning musician, actress and 4 H national alumni spokesperson.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Growing Tomatoes 101

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent

Tomatoes are one of the most common veggies grown in the garden and for good reason, nothing beats the taste of a juicy tomato on a hot summer day. Store-bought tomatoes just can’t compare with a fresh, ripe tomato picked straight from the garden. They are easy to grow and you don’t need to plant many to have a bountiful harvest. Here are some tips to have a successful tomato crop this year.

When to Plant
Plant tomatoes after all danger of frost is past. For North Central Kansas early May is a good time to starting thinking about getting your plants in the ground, although this year may be a little later than normal. Wait until soil is about 60F degrees before planting.

Most garden tomatoes should be spaced at least 18 inches apart to 2 feet apart in rows 3-5 feet apart. Newer varieties called dwarf tomatoes can be spaced closer, or planted in containers.

Tomatoes are usually grown from transplants. Choose a strong healthy transplant that has a dark green color and balance between the size of the plant and the container. Set the plant slightly deeper than the container and firm soil well around the root system. Water with a starter solution immediately after planting. Tomatoes respond to mulching because they require stable soil moisture. Black plastic mulch encourages early growth, while organic mulches are excellent for summer when applied 2-3 weeks after planting. Weeds compete with tomatoes for nutrients, water, and light. Use shallow cultivation near the plants to scrape away small weeds. A side-dressing of fertilizer when the first fruits on the plant are about the size of a walnut usually will improve yields and lengthen the harvest period. Cold nights early in the growth period or hot, dry, windy weather may cause blossom damage or blossom drop.

Tomatoes will ripen on or off the plant when the fruit are full sized and starting to show a slight tinge of color. Harvest early to reduce the chances of cracking, fruit rots, and other damage. Early harvest encourages additional production. Store ripening fruit at 55F degrees for maximum storage life or place them in a warmer location for quicker ripening. Red pigments do not form in temperatures of 95F degrees or above; therefore, deeper red color will result from ripening off the vine in summer heat.

If you’ve never planted tomatoes before, this is your year to get some started! They are easy to grow and you will be rewarded with juicy fruit throughout the season. For further information on tomato gardening, contact Cassie at any Post Rock Extension District Office in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center, or email

If you would like to know what tomato varieties will thrive in our Kansas climate, go to

Monday, April 16, 2018

Post Rock District Community Leaders Engage in Critical Community Health Conversations

Nora Rhoades, Family and Youth Development Agent

In a move to create a more prominent “culture of health” in Kansas, community leaders representing Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne and Smith Counties participated in a series of meetings Kansas State University organized across Kansas in late March. They had one goal in mind: to make Kansans healthier.

K-State Research and Extension recently brought family and consumer science extension agents and specialists together with community partners including health departments, nonprofit organizations and other agencies to discuss health-related needs in communities, resources available and how they can work together to boost Kansans’ health.

The meetings in Colby, Garden City, Girard, Manhattan, Olathe, Salina and Wichita connected more than 250 participants via video-conferencing technology over the two-day period.

“We are living in a time when we can no longer expect our children to live longer than their parents,” said Paula Peters, assistant director of family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension.

Speaking from Manhattan to all participants, Paula Peters, cited some of the health challenges in Kansas which demonstrates the need for increased emphasis on health initiatives.

  • 25 percent of health is related to genes and health behaviors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 75 percent is related to other factors such as poverty, access to health care, education plus other social and environmental factors.
  • In 2013-2015, opioid addiction increased by 28 percent and heroin deaths by 71 percent. Rates of both are trending higher, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
  • 31 percent of all Kansans older than age 10 are obese.
  • Farmers in some states have suicide rates higher than the rates of military veterans.
  •  Nearly 20 percent of Kansas children do not have enough food to eat (food insecure).
  •  More than 12 percent of Kansans live in poverty.

Fifteen percent of adults in Kansas reported being in fair or poor health, just under the national average of 16 percent, according to a report, “2018 County Health Rankings for Kansas: Measures and National/State Results” by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. Seventeen percent of adults in Kansas were smokers, the same as the national average, and 32 percent of adults in Kansas were obese, above the national average of 28 percent.

Peters said the word “health” brings to mind physical health, but it’s really much broader than that.

The Robert Wood Johnson report showed the average number of mentally unhealthy days in Kansas at 3.3, compared with 3.8 days nationally in the 30 days prior to the study. The ratio of population to mental health providers was 560-to-1 in Kansas compared with the national average of 470-to-1.

“More and more we’re learning that it’s not just about public health professionals coming up with solutions to public health problems,” said Daniel Craig, tobacco cessation program coordinator with the Central Kansas Foundation. He attended the meeting in Salina. “It’s really about engaging the entire community, both in identifying what the needs are, as well as identifying the solutions to those problems.

“Everyone wants a community where it’s easy to make healthy choices, so if you’re engaged in that process, as Kansans grow up, the healthy choice is going to be the easy choice,” he said, adding that the use of technology used at the meetings was beneficial in bringing people together from across the state.

To be able to come together, hear different perspectives from other communities and pool time and resources is more effective in reaching common goals than different programs or individuals can accomplish alone, he said.

With its existing programs and with an office in each of Kansas’ 105 counties, K-State Research and Extension is well positioned to lead this effort to facilitate coordination and cooperation among many organizations that are all seeking to bolster the health of the people of Kansas, Peters explained. She shared areas where K-State is already working, including nutrition and physical-activity education, safe and adequate water and food, social and emotional development in relationships, personal financial education, community emergency preparation, health insurance education and others.

The Post Rock Extension District is committed to improving the health and wellness in Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne and Smith County communities. To get involved or to learn more information about why sustaining a strong “culture of health” is important where you live, work, and play, please contact your local Post Rock District Office.

Blog story adapted from the K-State Research and Extension news release posted online at

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How has the cold temperatures affected the wheat?

Sandra L. Wick, Crop Production Agent

Well, here we go again with Mother Nature not cooperating with us! Several areas of the state, including northcentral Kansas, experienced some rather cold temperatures! So you might be wondering if that may have affected the wheat.

Minimum air temperatures across Kansas reached very low levels during April 3-4, 2018 and then again this past weekend, April 7, 2018. The minimum temperature observed (April 3-4) across the state was 11 degrees F. reported at the K-State Mesonet station in Scandia along with another station in southern Kansas. The Post Rock District weather stations ranged from 13-14 degrees F. For the April 7 temperatures, the minimum observed was 5 degrees F. reported in Hill City while our Post Rock District weather stations indicated 8-9 degrees F. at each of the three in Jewell, Mitchell and Osborne counties. Different stages of wheat development vary in their sensitivity to cold temperatures and this year, wheat development is quite delayed relative to the past two years in Kansas. So the delayed wheat development is good in regard to potential damage to the wheat here in north central Kansas from the cold temperatures.

While it is late in the year for these observed temperatures, most of the wheat that I have examined, in our Post Rock District, the wheat growing point is below the ground, so is more protected than wheat that would be more advanced in the development. However, since the wheat has been greening up, you may have noticed that some of your fields may have experienced some winter-kill or winter damage especially with the significantly dry conditions. According to the most current Kansas Drought Monitor map, parts of northcentral Kansas, including our Post Rock Extension District, are in the moderate to severe drought.

According to Mary Knapp, K-State Research and Extension, State Climatologist, “It is important to consider that air temperatures reported by our meteorological monitoring stations are often measured 5 feet aboveground, and may not fully reflect the microclimate to which the wheat canopy is actually exposed.” For example, a lush wheat canopy will tend to reduce the extent of freeze damage as the warmth of the soil will radiate up into the canopy. In addition, moist soil buffers temperature changes better than dry soils and therefore less freeze injury may occur at a given temperature when soils are wet. Unfortunately, we really don’t have either of these two conditions for our wheat crop.

A dry soil will cool down faster than a moist soil, thus increasing the chances of low temperatures at the crown level. The circumstances for concern with the crop’s ability to make it through these recent cold days include:

• Extremely dry soils with poor root development
• Late-sown crops with delayed development (less than 4-5 leaves and 1-2 tillers)
• Shallowly-sown fields where the crown is closer to the soil surface
• Heavy-residue situations which may have precluded good seed soil contact

So let’s take a look at the reported soil temperatures during this time. As a result of so many interacting variables, evaluating solely air temperatures may not completely reflect the conditions experienced by the wheat crop. Soil temperatures can help determine the extent of cold stress at the crown and lower canopy levels. According to the Kansas Mesonet Library (, 2-inch soil temperature depths at the Jewell, Mitchell and Osborne County weather stations dipped down to 34-38 degrees F. with the 4-inch soil temperature depths at 38-41 degrees F. for both weather events. As you can see in the chart below, wheat in the tillering stage (Feekes 3, 4 or early 5) can sustain 12 degrees F. (air temperatures for at least 2 hours) with minimal potential damage. But, as mentioned earlier, the three weather stations in our Post Rock Extension District recorded air temperatures of 8-9 degrees F. So a “wait and see” game on the potential damage that the wheat may have experienced!

Where most of the wheat in the northcentral part of Kansas still has the developing head (growing point) below ground and insulated from cold air temperatures (Feekes 3, 4, or early 5), there is a low risk of potential damage that may be expected from the cold temperatures from the first part of April at this time. But with the temperatures expected to warm up for the next few days, wait a few days and the wheat may start to show symptoms if damage has occurred. It would be a good idea to actually go out in the field and dig up some plants and split the wheat stems to find the growing point (developing head) and see the condition. A healthy growing point will be whitish, greenish and firm while a damaged growing point will be yellowish, brownish and somewhat mushy.

Other than the above circumstances, most of the damage at this stage (Tillering – Feekes 3, 4 or early 5) should occur to leaf tissue, which might give the crop a rough look for a few weeks. The chart provides you with the symptoms and the yield effect on the wheat at certain temperatures and at specific growth stages. The first apparent sign of freeze injury will be leaf dieback and senescence (death) which should occur regardless of damage to the actual growing point. This will occur more quickly if temperatures warm up after low temperatures. Existing leaves will almost always turn bluish-black after a hard freeze, and give off a silage odor. Those leaves are burned back and dead, but is not a problem as long as newly emerging leaves are green. Provided that the growing point is not damaged, the wheat will recover from this damage in the spring with possibly little yield loss.

K-State Research and Extension has an excellent publication, “Spring Freeze Injury to Kansas Wheat” that is available either online or at one of our Post Rock Extension District Offices in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center. The publication, at NO COST, is an excellent resource that explains the potential injury to wheat at different growth stages and at different temperatures along with color pictures.

If you have more questions on wheat freeze, give me a call at any of our Post Rock Extension District Offices in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center.

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Sandra may be contacted at or by calling Smith Center, 282-6823, Beloit 738-3597, Lincoln 524-4432, Mankato 378-3174, or Osborne 346-2521. Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension”. Also remember our website is and my twitter account is @PRDcrops.