Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fall Garden Clean-Up

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent

On October 14 most of the Post Rock area got their first taste of winter with a blanket of snow. The snow and the cooler temperatures mean that our gardening season is coming to an end. It is important to get rid of leftover plant debris in annual flower beds and vegetable gardens to reduce the risk of disease and have a successful garden next spring. Here are some garden clean-up tips.

Vegetable Garden Clean-Up
To insure a pest and disease free spring garden, remove all plant material, with the exception of winter vegetables or cover crops. Fall leaves, tree and shrub trimmings and dead garden material make a great addition to your compost pile. Another option is to chop up the plant debris and till it into the soil. The tilling process will work the pieces into the soil and allow for the debris to decompose more rapidly than if left on the soil surface.

Perennial Garden Clean-Up
Unlike annual and vegetable gardens, completely clearing your perennial garden of plant debris may not be necessary. Fall garden clean up helps reduce overwintering pests and disease, but for perennials that haven’t experienced these issues, leaving stems and stalks can add winter interest to your landscape. Ornamental grasses, even turned brown, are better than stumps of straw. They create a pleasant rustle in the winter wind and look lovely covered in snow!

Leaving foliage can help some perennials overwinter by protecting crowns (ferns are one example) and seed heads can feed your back yard birds. Not all foliage should be left however. For herbaceous perennials (a plant whose growth dies down annually but whose roots or other underground parts survive) follow the rule of the 3 C’s. Cut, Clean, and Cover. Cut any dead or diseased materials. Clean the bed of leaves, weeds, and debris. Then cover the area with mulch to protect the plants from the unpredictable Kansas winter.

Prepare for Spring
Fall is a great time to reflect on your gardening season. It’s always a good practice to keep a journal to map out your garden and note what did well and what wasn’t as successful. Fall is also an ideal time to work your soil. Roughly tilling soil can give you a head start in the spring. If you had some crops that didn’t produce as well as you hoped, you might want to conduct a soil test. This is a great way to see what amendments need to be added to your soil for next season. To take a soil test collect 4 to 5 cores or slices. Collect a vertical sample starting at the surface of the soil and dig 6 inches deep for gardens and 3 inches for lawns. Mix all the samples thoroughly in a clean bucket. Bring two cups of the mixed soil to your local Extension Office in a re-sealable plastic bag. Fall is a great time to do a soil test because your amendments, like nutrients and organic matter, have time to break down and become incorporated into your soil before you start planting.

Cleaning up the garden might feel like a chore, but planning for next spring can be fun on a cold winter day. Stop by the Extension Office for more tips on composting, cleaning your garden, and overwintering plants!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

U.S. Swine Industry On-Edge with Disease Outbreaks Over Seas

Barrett Simon, Livestock Agent

African Swine Fever is currently wreaking havoc on the foundation of China’s commercial swine production.  The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has reported nearly a five percent reduction of the Chinese sow herd, and a whole percent of that has taken place between August and September. 

Animal disease outbreak is a major factor in the reduction of China’s hog populations, and African Swine Fever is just one variable in that equation.  If we follow simple laws of supply and demand, a competitor’s misfortune should be our good fortune, right?  While there is truth to that statement, large scale players in the U.S. swine industry are more focused on the vastly detrimental effects a disease outbreak in our own country could have.  Some go as far as to say it would completely cripple our current export markets. 

What is African Swine Fever?  The disease is accompanied and produced by hemorrhages.  Though they are clinically unrelated, symptoms of African Swine Fever show great resemblance to those of Classical Swine Fever (hog cholera).  Clinical signs include: lethargy and increased body temperatures, yellowish stool, and discoloration to the ears, lower body, and abdomen.   Acute forms of the disease have a short incubation period followed by the previously listed signs and will most often prove fatal within five to ten days.  Throw in the fact that aborted pregnancies are usually the first sign of the disease and you can see where this becomes extremely detrimental from a financial standpoint.

For now, African Swine Fever has still not entered the United States, with the closest known case being in Haiti and dating back to the 1980’s.  However, along with other large scale, dangerous diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth, it has the pork industry on alert.  Industry experts are studying countries in Europe that have been successful in preventing an outbreak or an entry into their own food supply, even though the disease has run rampant all around them.  Dr. Liz Wagstrom, NPPC chief veterinarian, states that Poland, Denmark, and Germany are major exporting countries and that any outbreak within their production system would put global trade at a standstill. 

For more information on swine production systems, diseases, and management tactics reach out to your local extension office or come visit with me in Mankato at any time.  In regards to animal disease traceability, mark your calendars for November 5th where we are hosting an informative meeting on the current CattleTrace pilot program going on across the state of Kansas.  K-State Research and Extension is partnering with the Beef Cattle Institute, Kansas Department of Agriculture, and the Kansas Livestock Association to kick off a producer driven disease traceability program and serving as the template program for the entire nation.  If you have seen CattleTrace advertised and are curious about what it means to your operation, join us in Mankato for a free meal and great conversation about the program.  There is no cost to attend, but RSVP’s are due by Friday, November 2nd.

Post Rock Extension District of K-State Research and Extension serves Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, and Smith counties. Barrett may be contacted at Barrett8@ksu.edu 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 postrockextension.blogspot.com. Follow us on Twitter @KSRE_PostRock. Also remember our website is postrock.ksu.edu