Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Transforming Leaves from Trash to Treasure

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent

Fall is such a beautiful time of the year but before we know it the leaves have fallen and we are left with the seemingly never ending task of raking up leaves. This year I encourage you to look at all those dead leaves as a treasure of organic matter that can be used in many ways in your landscape.

The easiest use of all those leaves is to incorporate them directly into your soil. Add four to six inches of shredded leaves into the soil of your garden or flower beds. To shred the leaves, you can pile them up and run the lawn mower over them a few times. The leaves will naturally break down over the winter months and you will have a healthier soil in the spring. The leaves will break down quicker if there is moisture in the soil. This means if we have a dry winter, you should water the soil to accelerate the decomposition process.

Leaves also make a great mulch for your plants. Add three to four inches of shredded leaves around your plants now or in the spring. Make sure you leave a few inches around the base of each plant so the plant can breathe and will not rot. The advantages of mulching are endless, it helps conserve moisture and control weeds. Which means less maintenance for you during the hot summer months.

Composting leaves is another great way to turn all that dead material into something usable. Compost bins are easy to start and require little care. Fall leaves contain higher amounts of carbon and less nitrogen. So to get them to break down quickly in a compost pile, it is best to add six to eight inches of plant material and then add a one-inch layer of soil. A small amount of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, can also be added to supply nitrogen to the microbes. Continue to build the compost pile in layers until it is 3 to 5 feet high. It is also important to keep your compost pile moist and remember to turn it every two to three weeks. Compost piles are a great way to reuse plant materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

Even though it may seem like a daunting task, pick a nice fall day and rake up all those leaves. It’s important for the health of your lawn and an easy way to turn trash into treasure.

For further information on composting, contact Cassie at any Post Rock Extension District Office in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne or Smith Center, or email

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beef - It’s Bigger Than One Ranch

Barrett Simon, Livestock Agent

Our industry is similar to a revolving door. Not only in the sense that it is always changing, creating turnover, and utilizing a circular method of production; but also because the goal is nearly always the same. With the door, the task is as simple as getting in or out of a building. In the beef business, the task is to promote a healthy, well-managed product to feed the mouths of all social classes across our country and others around the world and to do so in an efficient and humane manner. This goal is no secret to those of us who have made a livelihood in agriculture. Unfortunately, it may as well be a secret to the general public. The consumer’s eye has become a trained laser focusing on any single negative aspect that it can target, and often times, the laser acts as a magnifying glass-blowing false statements and opinions into predicaments that harm our industry and the reputation of the product that we strive to grow and serve every day.

Beef producers: I urge you to brag on your production systems. We have come so far in herd-health management, cattle-handling facilities, and operation sustainability. I venture to guess that if the general public knew of the strides we’re taking to build healthy environments that play home to top-notch animal nutrition and care, they would have a much greater appreciation of the healthy product served on plates around the world.

The key to doing so is to give yourself a platform to stand on. The BQA certification can be just the platform many of us are looking for. As stated on their website, “Beef Quality Assurance is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase – and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry.” Becoming BQA certified will not only serve as a refresher course for the most respected animal husbandry practices but it will also inform us, as producers, of new concepts and data that have impacted the beef business.

Once in a while a producer may grumble about the checkoff dollars they paid in the fall after selling calves. Well, it’s your turn to get the maximum return out of those dollars. The Beef Checkoff is currently paying for all producers to engage in the certification process. All there is to do is sign up online and start your refresher on aspects of health, cattle handling, and animal husbandry practices. Organizations like the Kansas Beef Council and Kansas Livestock Association are here to join forces with producers from across our state and are looking to provide these beneficial opportunities to all. Don’t forget the KLA Convention coming up at the end of this month. This is the perfect time to start building your platform!

For more information or to begin BQA certification please follow this link:

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Barrett may be contacted at or by calling our Mankato Office at 378-3174, Smith Center Offfice 282-6823, Beloit Office 738-3597, Lincoln Office 524-4432, or Osborne Office 346-2521.  Join us on Facebook at “Post Rock Extension” along with our blog site at  Follow us on Twitter @KSRE_PostRock. Also remember our website is

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fact from Fiction about Insurance Coverage

Nora Rhoades, Family and Youth Development Agent

Taking the time to read the fine print of health, auto and home insurance policies may not always happen with consumers. Yet, it pays to understand what you are purchasing so there are no surprises if you ever need to file a claim.

Ken Selzer, Kansas Commissioner of Insurance, discusses nine common insurance misconceptions that may occur from a lack of policy knowledge. These misconceptions were compiled from questions to the Kansas Insurance Department Consumer Assistance Division and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  
  • My spouse wants a life insurance policy, but I don't think it is necessary. While life insurance covers the life of the policyholder, it is the policyholder's family who benefits from the coverage. If a family's primary breadwinner passes away, how will that person's income be replaced? Also, consider potential losses incurred by the passing of a stay-at-home parent who cleans, takes care of children, and manages a home. It could cost a lot of money to replace these services. Understanding your family's needs will help determine whether a life insurance policy makes sense.

  • I only need collision and liability coverage for my vehicle. Liability coverage protects you and your family if you are at fault during an accident, and it will cover damages to property, vehicles or people up to your policy limits. Collision coverage will cover costs to repair your vehicle (minus the deductible) in a collision such as hitting a pole, a vehicle or another object. However, if your vehicle is stolen, or flooded, or if you hit a deer, you'll need comprehensive coverage to recoup your loss. Think about all of your risks and the potential costs of replacing a vehicle when deciding on coverage.

  • If I lend my car to a friend, and my friend has an accident, his/her insurance will cover it. It may seem only fair that a friend's insurer would cover the accident, but auto insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. Therefore, your insurer would bear the primary responsibility for any damage a friend causes while borrowing your vehicle. If the damage exceeds your policy limits, then your friend's policy would kick in as secondary.

  • I do not need any additional rental car insurance because my credit card will cover me. Many credit cards will only cover collision insurance, not liability. That means you'll be on the hook for the other driver's damages if you're at fault. In addition, depending on where you travel, your credit card company may restrict coverage. However, your own auto insurance policy might cover a rental car, so be sure to call the company as well. Don't make assumptions; take time to find out what is covered.

  • Health insurance is available for purchase whenever I need it, no matter what. Not true. To purchase coverage in the individual market or from the federal marketplace, you must either purchase during open enrollment or experience a qualifying life event, such as marriage, birth of a child, divorce or death. Additionally, if you get a new job that offers health insurance, you may have to wait 30-60 days before your coverage takes effect.

  • Health insurance will pay the same, no matter where I receive care. Insurers negotiate payment rates with networks of providers. If you use a provider outside your insurer's network, your insurer may not cover the entire bill, and you may be required to pay more out-of-pocket. Check to see if your provider is in your insurer's network to avoid a surprise bill.

  • My state's minimum auto liability coverage is sufficient. If you're at fault for an accident where you damage an expensive vehicle or more than one vehicle, your minimum property damage limits might not cover the full costs of the damage. Have you checked what your liability limit is for bodily injuries? Serious injuries or even death can translate into millions of dollars in settlement fees. In this case, you are personally responsible for the costs not covered by your auto insurance policy.

  • A tree in my backyard fell and hit my home; therefore, the removal and damages are covered. If the tree was damaged by water or wind, you may not be able to get it replaced, depending on the language of your policy. If not, you're covered for damages to your home and any of your belongings that were also damaged. You will have to pay your deductible, but your homeowners insurance typically will also cover the cost of removing the tree and even replacing it.

  • Homeowners insurance means I am covered for flooding losses. Think again. Flood insurance is not covered as part of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. If you want to be covered for flood damage, you'll have to purchase coverage specific to flooding. If you live in a flood zone or if your home could be flooded by an overflowing creek or pond, or even water running down a hill, look into buying flood insurance. And buy it before you need it, because there is a 30-day waiting period after purchase before the coverage takes effect.

The content in this article is from Insurance Matters, an informative column made available by the Kansas Insurance Commission. If you have insurance questions, contact their Consumer Assistance Division by calling 1-800-432-2484, or by going online to to use the chat feature on the home page.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What are the NEW label restrictions and guidelines for Dicamba in soybeans?

Sandra Wick, Crop Production Agent

Well, I’m sure some of your soybean fields might have been affected this last growing season with the chemical dicamba. Several reports of non-Xtend soybeans expressed some kind of damage. Most producers have probably already heard that EPA, and the companies selling dicamba products registered for use on Xtend soybeans and other crops, have reached an agreement on label modifications and application requirements to try and further minimize the potential for off-target damage to susceptible crops. Below is a brief summary of the key changes to the Xtendimax, Fexapan, and Engenia product labels according to KSU weed specialists:
  • All products will be classified as “restricted use”, permitting only certified applicators to purchase and apply or supervise the application of the products.
  • Supplemental labeling will be incorporated into the regular labels, and application guidelines will be the same for all uses, including dicamba and non-dicamba tolerant crops.
  • Applicators must complete dicamba or auxin-specific training prior to application.
  • Requires more specific record keeping of applications, including checking for the presence of sensitive crops in the area.
  • Do not spray when wind is blowing in the direction of neighboring sensitive crops, including non-Xtend crops. The label more clearly states that this restriction includes non-Xtend soybeans.
  • Restricts applications to wind speeds between 3 and 10 mph. Reduced maximum wind speed from 15 mph in 2017 and prohibits all applications at less than 3 mph when temperature inversions are more likely to occur.
  • Prohibits applications between sundown and sunrise. All applications prohibited during temperature inversions regardless of time of day.
  • Restricts the maximum application ground speed to less than 15 mph, with 5 mph recommended on field edges.
  • Thoroughly clean spray equipment before and after application. Must be documented.
  • Use an approved buffering agent if the water source or tank mix components result in an acidic spray solution less than pH 5.
In addition, remember that AMS is not allowed with any of these products because it greatly increases the volatility of dicamba. Approved tank-mixes, adjuvants, spray tips, and maximum pressures are still presented at the corresponding websites for each respective product as listed below:


There is still a great deal of debate in the scientific community about the degree of vapor drift that might be occurring from dicamba applications. Most of the new application guidelines are directed more towards minimizing physical spray drift vs vapor drift. The time-of-day restrictions are intended to help reduce applications during temperature inversions which could result in greater off-target movement from both fine droplets and vapor. Be aware that the majority of problems seemed to occur from post-emergence applications made after soybeans were emerged and during warmer conditions. Applications earlier in the season may help minimize off-target issues.

So what are temperature inversions? In the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere that reaches the earth’s surface, temperature typically declines as altitude increases. This rough estimation of temperature with height doesn’t always fit the situation due to weather, terrain, and solar radiation. Anomalies in the lowest layer of the atmosphere occur when temperatures increase with height due to these factors. These anomalies are called inversions. When cooler, higher density air, is in place under warm, less dense air the atmosphere can behave much differently than expected. These differences include poor air dispersion, light winds, and fog.

How can you tell in the field if an inversion is present? More often than not, there is no simple way to determine the presence of an inversion. You absolutely must take temperature measurements at two different heights to determine the change in temperature with height. Occasionally, there are some visual indicators of an inversion. A few indicators might be low lying fog in valleys, low points, and over different ground cover along with frost or dew on the ground.

The KSU Weather Data Library does have stations around the state of Kansas that NOW provides these different height temperatures on the “Mesonet.” Our Post Rock Extension District stations are in Jewell, Mitchell and Osborne counties. The KSU Mesonet “inversion” data website is

KSU weed specialists stress to keep in mind that additional restrictions may be implemented by state regulatory agencies. If you have further questions on chemical restrictions, contact me at any Post Rock Extension District Office 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” along with our blog site at “ Also remember our website is and my twitter account is @PRDcrops.