Friday, April 18, 2014

Horticulture Resource Page

Did you know that there is a Horticulture Resource page on the University of Missouri Crop Resource Guide website to help you learn more about the commercial production of fruits and vegetables in Missouri?  Yea, well I didn't either but now we all do!

Sections include direct links to publications in:

·       Vegetable Budgets
·       Vegetable Production Guides
·       Marketing
·       Price Reports
·       Grading, Certification and Verification
·       Fruit Budgets
·       Fruit Production Guides
·       Nut Guides and Budgets
·       Post-harvest and Food Safety

Funding was provided by the Delta Area Economic Corporation (DAEOC) in support of the Missouri Bootheel Local Foods Initiative Program Steering Committee.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

Do you raise animals and sell them direct to the consumer or are thinking about it?  Then here's a resource that you should find helpful.

Some of you might be familiar with the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) and others, maybe not.

NMPAN is a peer learning community, a national information hub, and a source of targeted applied research and direct technical assistance. Their mission is long-term stability and profitability for both processors and the producers who depend on them to market sustainably raised meats.  

Their website has a wealth of information on starting and operating meat processing facilities, working effectively with your processor, food safety, mobile slaughter units, marketing local meats, and much more. 

They have a very active listserv with over 1,000 members where people ask all kinds of questions about meat processing and get answers.  They hold about 6 - 8 webinars a year and also publish a monthly newsletter.
If you raise animals for meat, check them out.  Please, offer them feedback!  They want to be as useful to you as possible.  So, if you have ideas or suggestions, please send them their way.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strong Cattle Prices Open Door to Performing Management Practices that Could Make a Good Year Even Better

Spring and summer weather may be unpredictable but everything else associated with beef cattle production looks optimistic for 2014 according to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“I hear beef producers talk about tight margins involved in practices like vaccinating, deworming, implanting, supplement feeding, fly control and a few others,” said Cole. “But the way the cattle price situation is now this year could be the time to perform some of the practices you’ve backed away from in the past.”

Cole says profit margins are projected to be at record levels this year and likely next year for all classes of cattle. That means this could be the year to experiment a little with a herd.

“Over the years, I’ve stressed the importance of improving the genetics in our cattle.  We’ve made progress but improvement can be made to practices that allow those genetics to be expressed,” said Cole. “So when management practices may not have appeared to be economically sound in the past, this year appears to be when these practices will pencil out.”

Now is a good time to inventory various management items used in the past. Some items are additive and may result in significant improvement in rate of gain, for example.

“The use of growth promoting implants, along with feeding an ionophore are examples if you’re a stocker operator,” said Cole. “Just remember, you can’t force an animal to perform better than their genetic makeup allows.”

Cole says it is still important to compare the cost/benefit side of the equation. But with prices going up, producers can afford to try a new practice or two now.

“I’d recommend visiting with your veterinarian, feed dealer and extension livestock specialist to assess what you might do this year to make a good year, even better.  You may even decide to put a few steers in a feedout program which can evaluate your herd’s genetic merit beyond the weaned calf stage,” said Cole.
(by David Burton, MU Writer)
(Photo courtesy of MO Dept of Ag)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NRCS Develops New Webpages for Farmers

For generations, children have been singing about the farmer, his wife and kids, and even the mouse and the cheese. But today, a modern farmer is more likely to be using the mouse on his computer (or more realistically, a smartphone or tablet) than dancing around a small wooded valley with his family and farm animals.

The website of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service,, has been evolving to keep pace with the needs of today's farmer, says NRCS Webmaster Elisa O'Halloran.

"Our mission is to provide American farmers, ranchers and other visitors with the tools and resources they are looking for on a site that is easy to use and navigate."

The most-effective websites combine clear and readable text, usability, functionality and simple navigation. NRCS writes the text for targeted audiences, which include farmers and ranchers, as well as people who use NRCS online tools, such as Web Soil Survey, PLANTS database and COMET-FarmTM.

Recently, the agency created a new Get Started with NRCS page. This new webpage helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners learn how they can make improvements to their land with conservation.

This webpage features the five steps to getting assistance from NRCS, so that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can know about the process of applying for assistance from the comfort of their own home, barn, tractor or wherever else they hop online.

Also, NRCS revamped it’s About and Drought Resources pages and created a Resourcesfor Small Farms page. About NRCS provides an overview of what NRCS offers, including those popular tools that bring many visitors to the website.

Drought Resources houses information on assistance and resources that can help farms and ranches be more resilient to drought. And finally, the Resources for Small Farms page pulls together information and resources that may be of interest to owners and managers of smaller farms, such as information on organics and seasonal high tunnels.

NRCS uses a number of tools to help create these pages, including site traffic and customer experience information. "We've found that more than 61 percent of people coming to our website were new visitors, many of whom were farmers, ranchers and forest landowners looking for information on conservation programs," O'Halloran said.

NRCS has about 13,000 visits per day on its national website. Some of the most popular pages deal with soils, Web Soil Survey and the Farm Bill.

"We hope you enjoy these new and revamped pages, and we welcome feedback on how we can improve our 'digital' service center," says O'Halloran. "We're excited to have the opportunity to help you get started with NRCS!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Attracting Wild Bees to Farms is a Good Insurance Policy

Inviting more wild bees to farmland is not only sustainable, but it also will pay for itself in four years or less.

Investing in habitat that attracts and supports wild bees in farms is not only an effective approach to helping enhance crop pollination, but it can also pay for itself in four years or less, according to Michigan State University research.

The paper, published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Ecology, gives farmers of pollination-dependent crops tangible results to convert marginal acreage to fields of wildflowers, said Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomologist and co-author of the paper.

"Other studies have demonstrated that creating flowering habitat will attract wild bees, and a few have shown that this can increase yields," he said. "This is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage. This gives us a strong argument to present to farmers that this method works, and it puts money back in their pockets."

As part of the study, marginal lands surrounding productive blueberry fields were planted with a mix of 15 native perennial wildflowers. The fields were pollinated by honey bees, but Isaacs and Brett Blaauw, MSU graduate student, were interested in whether increasing the wild bee population would improve pollination in nearby crop fields. The results weren't immediate, which implies that landowners would need to be patient, Isaacs said.

"In the first two years as the plantings established, we found little to no increase in the number of wild bees," he said. "After that, though, the number of wild bees was twice as high as those found in our control fields that had no habitat improvements."

Once the wild bees were more abundant, more flowers turned into blueberries, and the blueberries had more seeds and were larger. Based on the results, a two-acre field planted with wildflowers adjacent to a 10-acre field of blueberries boosted yields by 10-20 percent. This translated into more revenue from the field, which can recoup the money from planting wildflowers.

With 420 species of wild bees in Michigan alone, it makes sense to attract as many free pollinators as possible. However, this doesn't mean that this approach would replace honey bees, which are trucked in via beekeepers and pollinate crops valued at $14 billion nationwide, Isaacs said.

"Honey bees do a great job of pollinating blueberries, and we're not suggesting that growers stop using them," he said. "But, our research shows that adding some wild bee habitat to the farm can increase bee abundance in the nearby crop, can be profitable and is an insurance policy to make sure there is good pollination each year."

Establishing habitat for wild bees requires an initial investment, but there are existing federal and statewide programs, such as the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program and Michigan's State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, to help pay for this. In such cases, growers could see their return on investment even quicker.
(from American Bee Journal, April 2014)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Plant Diagnostic Clinic Reopened April 1st

The University of Missouri Plant Diagnostic Clinic was established in 1965 to provide answers to plant health questions.  The clinic receives samples from various agencies, businesses and private citizens throughout Missouri.

The mission of the clinic is to provide accurate, timely answers and management recommendations for plant diseases.  Management recommendations reflect research-based results and an integrated pest management (IPM) philosophy.  Besides addressing plant diseases the clinic handles samples submitted for identification of weeds, mushrooms, insects or arachnids.

They welcome your sample submissions to the clinic.  In addition to serving you, the samples you send help to determine what plant health issues are occurring around the state.  All diagnostic results are maintained in the National Plant Diagnostic Network's national Repository.  This system helps to track down disease occurrences and spread, quarantined or threatening pest locations and noxious weeds.

Patricia Wallace is now serving a the clinic Director and along with clinic staff will handle your samples.  When necessary, the clinic can utilize the expertise of University of Missouri Extension Specialists and faculty in the Division of Plant Sciences who specialize in Agronomy, Entomology, Horticulture or Plant Pathology to ensure accurate and effective diagnosis and reporting.

Please visit the Plant Diagnostic Clinic website for:
  • Information on how to collect and ship a sample
  • Submission forms (types of samples accepted)
  • Plant Disease Identification
  • Insect/Weed Identification
  • Plant/Weed Identification (to include mushrooms)
  • Clinic hours for dropping off a sample
  • Fees associated with services
Contact information:
University of Missouri
Plant Diagnostic Clinic
28 Mumford Hall
Columbia MO 65211
To receive Pest Alerts:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Don’t Guess – Test Your Soil

Soil testing is a home gardener and farmer’s best guide to the wise and efficient use of fertilizer and soil amendments. We frequently get questions from customers like “I apply fertilizer every year. How come my plants are not doing well?” Most of the time the answer is they never have done a soil test, but have been guessing on fertilizer requirements. They do not realize that by guessing they are not only wasting money by over or under application, the excess fertilizer can end up in streams, ponds and underground water polluting the environment.

A recent soil test summary of lawn and garden soils indicated about 55 to 75% of the lawn and garden soils tested high or very high in soil test P levels and about 65 to 80% of the samples tested in high or very high levels of soil test K levels. We see home garden samples testing up to 900 plus lbs. of P and 1000 plus lbs. of K which is extremely high. So without testing soils and adding a 12-12-12 fertilizer one can keep building their soil test P and K levels which will be harmful to the plant growth and environment.

A soil test is like taking an inventory of the nutrients available in the soil, which can be too high or too low. Although soil testing kits are available in garden centers, laboratory testing is more reliable and the results are accompanied by interpretations and recommendations for the plants of your choice.

Some plants grow well over a wide range of soil pH, while others grow best within a narrow range of pH. For example Blueberries, Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow well only on acidic soils. So it is important that you know the pH of soil and use amendments like lime or sulfur to adjust the pH for optimum levels for plant growth. A soil test is the only precise way to determine whether the soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline.

Soil samples should be taken in the spring or fall for established sites. For new sites, soil samples can be taken anytime the soil is workable. Most people submit soil samples for testing in the spring. Since the gardeners apply fertilizers and manures to their soils each year, garden soils should be tested every two to three years.

The test results are only as good as the sample taken. It is extremely important to provide a representative sample to the testing lab so that a reliable test and recommendations can be made for the entire area. Divide the area into lawns, flower gardens, vegetable gardens and take representative samples from each area and submit to the lab for analyses.

This can be accomplished by submitting a composite sample. A good representative composite garden sample should contain eight to 10 cores or slices. Each core or slice should be taken at the same depth (zero to six inches) and same volume at each site. Sample at random in a zigzag pattern over the area and mix the sample together in a clean plastic bucket. More samples need to be taken if the areas was recently limed or fertilized.

The Soil Testing Laboratory at MU offers a regular fertility test that includes measurements of pH, line requirement, organic matter, available phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and cation exchange capacity. Test costs vary according to the number of nutrients tested. The MU testing lab charges $10 when submitting directly to the lab for a regular fertility test. Several other specific analyses are available. Test reports provide interpretation and nutrient and lime recommendations. Normally samples are processed within a day after being received in the lab. But during the busy time (spring/fall) it can take little longer. Customers should add mail time to get their reports by regular mail service. Lab can email your test results too.

You can contact your county Extension office to obtain Sample Information Forms, sample boxes, and submit samples through their offices. You can also send samples directly to the University of Missouri Soil Testing lab at 23 Mumford Hall, Columbia, MO., 65211. For more information call 573-882-0623. The lab also maintains a website where useful information on submitting samples, services offered and the sample information forms can be found.
(By Manjula Nathan, Soil Testing Lab Director)