Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tools for Small-Scale Crop Production

This webinar, broadcast October 25, 2012, focuses on tools and techniques for small-scale crop production. National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Agriculture Specialist Andy Pressman discusses the importance of investing in good quality and well-designed tools, their different purposes, and how to use them to properly plant and maintain crops.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

High Tunnels

There are many companies out there selling high tunnels. Some are worthwhile to buy and build. Others are just made too light and not worth the effort putting up. Hopefully I can help you out in this. I will point out, that my company (Morgan County Seeds LLC) does sell high tunnels and greenhouse.

First of all let’s look at steel gauges. This is the thickness of the steel. In high tunnels, it is the wall thickness of the tubing. Steel gauges for high tunnels usually range from 17 gauges all the way to a 12 gauge. No that is not a mistake; the numbers are in the correct order.

Now let’s look at what the numbers mean. When you see steel tubing or sheeting gauge, make a fraction out of it. For instance if you have a 13 gauge it would become 1/13 of an inch. In other words, the gauge means the number of sheets or tubing wall thickness it takes to make an inch in thickness. The thicker the tubing is, the more strength it has. In tubing, 13-gauge wall thickness has more strength then a 17-gauge tube. Plus if you are putting in a screw, there is more meat there to hold unto.

The next thing we need to look at is the tubing diameter. In all of the high tunnels out there, tubing sizes range from 1.315” all the way up to 2 3/8” diameter. What does this mean? Talking with Neal Zimmerman from Zimmerman’s Welding I found out that each time you increase the tubing diameter by 1/3, the strength increases by 66%. That can make a big difference. If the tubing size from one company is 1.7” diameter and the other is 2.27” diameter, there is 66% more strength in the 2.27” tubing. This one area that some high tunnel manufactures are cutting corners on cost. It also cuts down on the strength of the tunnel.

Now let’s look at bracing. Some have lots of bracing and others have almost no bracing or none. For strength of a building you need bracing to help it stay square or upright. On buildings with a sheet metal cover, the sheet metal can work as bracing. On a high tunnel you do not have any sheet metal on the outside for bracing. Greenhouse plastic does not brace. In fact it will stretch if pulled to hard.

Here are some of the common types of bracing used in high tunnel construction. Corner bracing. This brace is usually placed in between the first and 2nd sidewall post at all 4 corners of the high tunnel. This helps keep the corners of the tunnel in line. Some manufactures use them and others cut corners here and do not use them to save a little money on the cost of the high tunnel. It also leaves a weak spot in the tunnel.

Roof bracing, is another spot some cut the cost of a tunnel. These cheap tunnels rely on the purlins to help brace the roof. A very poor choice. Other tunnel manufactures use several braces in the roof. Usually the bracing starts at the peak of the tunnel on the first bow and goes at angle to the 2nd bow. Some also continue this bracing from the 2nd bow to the third bow. This is done on both sides of the center purlin. When standing under the tunnel and looking up, it will make V. Both ends of the tunnel roof should have this bracing.

Side to side bow bracing. Some provide this option and others do not. There are several types used for this. One is just a long brace from one side of the bow to the other side. This makes a small truss in the peak of the tunnel. It will help with wind and snow loads.

The other popular one is called a W truss. On the bottom of the W truss, there is a long pipe. This pipe fastens to the bow at each end. Several feet in, at a angle a short brace goes from the bow to the lower pipe of the W truss. At this point, another brace takes off and goes to the center of the peak of the bow. This is done on both sides of the bow. When looking at it, it makes capital W. This is by far the strongest bracing you can get for your bows. If each bow has one of these W trusses, it will hold a lot more snow or ice.

(By Norman Kilmer, Morgan County Seed)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Managing Risks for Small Ruminants Workshop

The 2015 Managing Risks for Small Ruminants Workshop sponsored by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Small Ruminants Program & University of Illinois Extension will be held on May 1-2, 2015 at George W. Carver Farm, 3804 Bald Hill Road, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

History: Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Small Ruminant Program and the University of Illinois Extension have joined collaborative efforts to bring a pilot program to central Missouri that will address the concerns of small ruminant producers and risks faced by many beginning producers.
There are risks in everything we do, and livestock production is no exception.  If raising goats and   sheep; we encounter many obstacles that are considered risks depending on the type of production goals one might have.

Goal: This program if successful will be developed into a significant educational series that will culminate over three years of progressive training for small ruminant producers in an effort to increase the proficiency of knowledge and independence of goat and sheep production in the Midwest. Certificate of competition will be given.

Topics: Low-input management, toxic plants, when to call the vet, drug use, animal disease traceability, disaster preparedness, parasites, and how to efficiently raise a market goat or lamb are offered in this pilot program.


Day 1
11:00 am - 12:00 pm - Registration

12:00 pm - 12:15 pm - Welcome

12:15 pm - 1:30 pm - DOs and DON’Ts of a Low-Input Operation, Mr. Mark Kennedy

1:30 pm - 2:30 pm - Toxicities: Differences for Goats & Sheep, Dr. Tim Evans

2:30 pm - 2:45 pm - Break

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm - Toxic plant ID- hands on, Dr. Tim Evans

3:45 pm - 5:00 pm - When to call the Vet - Q & A, Dr. Dusty Nagy

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm - Animal Disease Traceability, USDA

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm - Dinner - Disaster Preparedness for Producers, TBA

Day 2
8:00 am - 9:00 am - Raising Market Worthy Animals without Breaking the Bank, Dr. Beth Walker

9:00 am - 10:00 am - Safe Farm – Safe Animals (Biosecurity on your farm), Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert

10:00 am - 10:15 am - Break

10:15 am - 11:45 pm - Parasite Management: 5-Point Check, FAMACHA, BCS, Dr. Teresa Steckler

11:45 am - 12:00 pm - Evaluation and Adjourn

Conference Format: Dinner and light snacks will be provided during conference; along with educational materials

Lodging: 10 RM block available at each location, under “Lincoln University” cut-off April 24, 2015

Days Inn Jefferson City - 1-573-761-3600
2100 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO 65109

1716 Jefferson Street, Jefferson City, MO, US, 65109

Registration Fees: $60 w/included dinner and daily snacks

*Pre-registration is available to reserve your seat via web-link or by attaching it to an email message addressed to: or call / fax (see below)

Complete registration by returning this form by mail to the address below with full payment to: Lincoln University Cooperative Extension c/o Regina Thompson, 900 Chestnut Street; Allen Hall Room 109, Jefferson City, MO  65101

Monday, April 13, 2015

Moisture and Compaction Key to Well-Built Pond

A pond can be a valuable asset to a farm or suburban landowner according to Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"A well-planned and built pond can provide livestock water, fishing opportunities, soil erosion control, fire protection, and a nice place to relax," said Schultheis. "But a good, usable pond is not inexpensive to build. Depending on the geology of the site, a half-acre pond could cost between $11,000 and $15,000."

According to Schultheis, undersized and leaky ponds are the two most common problems he encounters.

"A properly-sized farm pond will have one acre of surface area for each 10-15 acres of watershed that drains into it and be at least eight feet deep. Cutting corners on size to save money only ends up costing more later in repairing erosion damage and downstream neighbor relations, and in dealing with aquatic weed problems," said Schultheis.

Leaky ponds are frequently due to the wrong soil being used for sealing or because the right soil was improperly compacted. When building or enlarging a pond in the Ozarks, Schultheis says to be sure to do it when the soil is moist and sticky, never when the soil is dry.

"Many of the red and yellow clay soils in the Ozarks are quite leaky in their natural state. Pulverizing these soils with a disk breaks down their blocky soil structure and keeping them moist during the recompaction process and after construction will help the pond better hold water," said Schultheis.

Compaction of several four to six-inch thick layers of moist clay in the pond bottom will usually be needed to assure a seal. Additives such as bentonite clay or soda ash may need to be mixed with some soils to keep them from leaking.

"Don't expect a bulldozer to do good soil compaction," said Schultheis.

Bulldozers have a large "footprint" that spreads out their weight, resulting in ground pressure of 7-13 psi, which is no greater than a person just standing on the ground. A better choice is a wheel tractor and disk (15-45 psi ground pressure), or a sheepsfoot roller (300+ psi ground pressure), to compact each clay layer before adding the next one.

"A well-built pond should fill within one year, and seepage plus evaporation should be 12 inches or less in hot summer months and 4 inches or less in winter months," said Schultheis.

Excellent resources for planning, building and managing ponds are available through the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation and University of Missouri Extension. A hot-linked list of these resources can be found online here

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Grafting Research Could Rescue Watermelon Crop

The watermelon crop has declined dramatically in Washington because of disease. But Washington State University researchers are developing a solution that involves grafting watermelon plants onto squash and other vine plant root stocks.

“We’ve lost about a third of our state’s watermelon production over the last 10 years because of Verticillium wilt,” said Carol Miles, a professor of vegetable horticulture at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. “Growers have switched to other crops that are less susceptible.”

Today, there are about 550 acres of watermelon grown in Washington, with a value of approximately $5 million.

Miles said growers can lose 25-75 percent of their yield to the disease – but this loss does not occur until the very end of the growing season. That’s when the damage from Verticillium appears.

The fungus also affects tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and many other crops and plants.
Watermelon grafting used worldwide

Last fall, Miles received a $138,000 grant from the state agriculture department to look into grafting, a solution that doesn’t require fumigants. She is also working with a national team of researchers on a $3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Her portion is $171,000 to look at grafting tomato and eggplant.

Grafting involves cutting a young seedling from its roots and attaching it to the roots of a related plant that is disease resistant. The grafted plant produces fruits that are equivalent or better in quality than those of non-grafted plants.

“Grafting is very old technology, going back over 1,500 years in China,” Miles said. “Farmers in Japan have used grafted watermelon since the 1920's. In the Mediterranean region, farmers have been using grafted watermelon, tomato and eggplant for almost 20 years.

“We just need to find out what works best for our region and we’ll solve the Verticillium wilt problem,” she said.

Testing root stocks in the field
Her research involves testing which plants work best together under Washington growing conditions and which root stocks are most resistant to Verticillium wilt.

The first goal is to increase the survival rate for newly grafted watermelon plants. If only 25 percent survive, the effort is not worth it, Miles said.

The second goal is to find successful plant combinations that are disease resistant and have equivalent fruit yield and quality, compared to non-grafted plants grown in healthy soil. Miles and her team are testing watermelon grafted to pumpkin, squash and bottle gourd because they are all resistant to Verticillium wilt.

This year will be the second of a two-year field study. While these studies actually started about five years ago under a previous grant, Miles and her team are applying new information that they have learned along the way. They will have two full years of testing in commercial fields by the end of the grants.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Save 75% on GAP Certification

In January 2002, USDA formally implemented the Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP & GHP) audit verification program.  This voluntary program is offered to the fruit and vegetable industry to verify an operation’s efforts to minimize the risk of contamination of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by microbial pathogens.  The program does not guarantee the product is free from microbial contamination, but verifies the participant has taken proactive measure to reduce the risk of contamination by adhering to generally recognized industry best practices.  The responsibility for product safety and the continued observance of best practices rests with the operation producing and handling the fresh product.

Some of the areas covered by GAP include:
  • Water – for both crop growth and processing
  • Manure management – identify microbial hazards, address treatments to reduce pathogens and cover manure handling
  • Worker health and hygiene – identify microbial hazards and necessary worker training
  • Sanitary facilities – includes toilet facilities and hand washing stations
  • Field sanitation – identify microbial hazards and required equipment maintenance
  • Packing facility sanitation – identify microbial hazards, maintenance concerns and pet control
  • Transportation
  • Traceback
Implement GAP on a farm makes sense since the measures reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses for both growers and consumers.  The MO Dept of Ag has received funding from FDA which allows us to cover 75% of the cost of GAP certification for Missouri vegetable producers.  If you are GAP certified or are thinking of becoming GAP certified, the cost share is a sweet deal.  

To participate:
  • Develop a written farm safety plan
  • Have a GAP inspection conducted
  • Submit a copy of the passing GAP inspect score sheet
  • Submit a copy of the GAP inspection invoice
The funding is available for a limited time so please contact the MO Dept of Ag at 573-522-4170.