Monday, July 27, 2015

Urban and Non-Traditional Missouri Department of Agriculture Matching Grants Available

The Missouri Department of Agriculture today announced a total of $50,000 for the Urban & Non-Traditional Agriculture Matching Grant Program. The department will award grants of up to $5,000 to assist the development of production infrastructure, direct distribution venues, education programs, workforce development and an increased understanding of the importance of agriculture.

Examples of projects include assisting farmers’ markets, developing small agribusinesses, implementing or coordinating youth initiatives related to promoting agriculture, and providing training and developing skills for the next generation of agricultural producers.

Applications must be received by September 1, 2015, and the award date is anticipated for October 1, 2015, with project completion by June 1, 2016.

For a grant application or more information about this and other grant opportunities available through the Missouri Department of Agriculture, visit the Department online at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Cover Crops for Pest Management

Due to recent efforts by Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and many private groups, the phrase “cover crop” has become familiar to most vegetable farmers. It is now generally accepted that cover crops should be a part of any sustainable agriculture operation. For example, there is much information about how cover crops improve soil health and reduce the need for costly fertilizers. However, the focus here is on a lesser known role that cover crops play in the agro/ecosystem: pest management. Careful selection of cover crop species can help to fight pesky insects, diseases and weeds.

Following is a simple breakdown of which crops can be used in the spring and summer to battle uninvited guests. These include pigweeds (weeds often fed to pigs), nematodes (roundworms) and cabbage worms (a type of worm whose larvae eat cabbage and similar plants).

Weed Snuffers: Getting rid of weeds calls for a fast growing cover crop. It will quickly shade the soil and out-compete weeds. If a field is left fallow during the summer, a heat-loving grass, such as sorghum-Sudan grass or pearl millet, will choke out all but the toughest perennial (a plant with a life cycle of two or more years) weeds. The same crops can be seeded between plastic-covered raised beds. The cover crop should be mowed every so often to create a turf that feeds the soil while curbing weeds; it also creates a mud-free work area between rows. Sorghum-Sudan grass releases a chemical from its roots that acts like a pre-emergent herbicide; it prevents weeds from growing near it. A low-growing cover crop, such as buckwheat, can be used in the same manner along­ side vine crops that will not allow a mower between rows. Buckwheat will suppress weeds and diseases without competing too much with squash or melons.

Disease Eradicators: Cover crops help to fight plant disease in a few ways. First of all, cover crops with deep penetrating root systems help to improve drainage; this makes it hard for many diseases to thrive. Cover crops planted alongside cash crops help to protect plants from the damage caused by sun and wind. Less damage means there are fewer wounds where pathogens (agents capable of causing disease) can enter. Also, cover crops can help to reduce the splashing of soil onto cash crops, which is also a common route for infection. Lastly, some cover crops in the mustard family contain chemicals that are toxic to nematodes, diseases and even to small weed seeds. Some good examples of these bio fumigant (using natural aspects of a plant to reduce the number of weeds) cover crops are daikon (large, long, hard) radishes and mustards like ‘Pacific Gold’. With some careful management, these crops can work much like methyl bromide (a synthetic soil fumigant), with none of the environmental concerns.

Insect Annihilators: The relation­ship between cover crops and in­sects is a bit more complex than the relationship between cover crops and other pests. Unfortunately, there is no known cover crop that repels hornworms (certain caterpillars) or is toxic to cucumber beetles. But cover crops can help to kill bugs in­directly by providing resources for the predators that eat them. Many beneficial insects, both predatory and parasitic (feeding off a host), feed on nectar and pollen as adults; however, the less mobile larvae (in­sects in the juvenile stage of insect development) gorge themselves on aphids and caterpillars. Therefore, the key to attracting good bugs is having floral resources available at all times. Summer annual legumes, such as cowpeas and sunn (an In­dian herb with strong fibers such as hemp), produce nectar both in their flowers and at spots along the stems called extrafloral nectaries (a gland that releases nectar). Fast-flowering buckwheat can be planted any time after the last spring frost; it can begin producing nectar and pollen in as little as 30 days. Many clovers, such as crimson and red clover, can support large numbers of predatory insects when they are in bloom. Borders and hedgerows are great out-of-the-way areas than can be used to plant flowering cover crops for beneficial insects without giving up field space.

So, the next time you are shopping for cover crops, get creative and think beyond the soil. Consider what you can do for the total farm ecology by cutting back on pesti­cides through the innovative use of cover crops that are compatible with vegetable production.

NOTE: This year, several of the cover crop options described above will be showcased by the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) IPM Program at the uni­versity farm field day at the Alan T. Busby Farm and late August for the Veg­etable/IPM Festival at the George Washington Carver Farm).

(By Jacob Wilson, IPM Extension Technician)

Friday, July 17, 2015

USDA to Hold Free Webinar on Backyard Bird Biosecurity

Through the Biosecurity for Birds initiative, the USDA will hold a free webinar and Twitter chat on Thursday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. EDT.

Get expert tips to keep your birds and your family safe and healthy. During the webinar, you will be able to submit questions during a simultaneous Twitter chat using #Chickenchat2015. Whether you are just getting started or are an experienced hand at raising birds, you’ll find lots of valuable information for free!

Webinar Title: Practice Backyard Bird Biosecurity: Learn from the Experts

When: August 6, 2015, 6:00 p.m. CDT

Reserve your webinar space on USDA's registration website.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar. For more information, visit USDA Biosecurity for Birds.

What you will learn
§  How to recognize and protect your birds from devastating diseases like highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)
§  How to protect your family from illness caused by your birds
§  Ways to keep predators and disease-carrying wild birds away from your flock
§  Where to find resources to help you keep your flock safe and healthy
§  The do's and don'ts of live bird markets
§  The whys and woes of raising backyard chickens
§  What to expect from your flock in the fall
§  How to get your birds ready for winter

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What You Should Know About Buying Livestock

What a bargain! The price looks great, but are you really getting a bargain? When buying livestock, there are a number of things you should consider before you make the commitment to purchase. Here are a few things to take a closer look at.

Disease Risks
Even though a herd or flock looks healthy, they could potentially be carrying organisms that cause disease. If your current herd or flock has not been exposed to these diseases, you could very quickly have a disease outbreak that could make animals sick or even cause them to die. When animals are trucked to a new location, the traveling and new environment causes these animals to become stressed. This stress can then show up in the form of disease in the new animals or they may be more likely to shed the organisms that cause the disease at their new location.

Vaccination is a great way to prevent disease not only in the new animals, but also in your current herd or flock. Animals should be vaccinated when they are healthy and at least several weeks prior to moving to a new location. Be sure to follow the same vaccination protocol for the existing herd or flock and for the new animals.

There are a few other very simple things that livestock producers can do to prevent spreading diseases to their farm. Anytime a producer visits another barn he or she should be careful not to carry diseases home. Change footwear and clothing prior to entering your own barn. Be sure to disinfect any footwear that was worn in another barn prior to wearing in your own barn.

New animals should be isolated from their new herd or flock mates for three to four weeks after they arrive at their new location. Also, once new animals have arrived on your farm, be sure to feed them last so that diseases aren’t spread to the existing herd or flock by care takers.

Clean Truck or Trailer
Always haul new animals in a clean truck or trailer. Disease organisms can live in the bedding of dirty trucks or trailers and can possibly infect new animals. For further insurance, disinfect the tuck or trailer prior to hauling any other animals.

Pre-purchase Testing
Where possible, test newly purchased animals two to four weeks prior to transporting them to their new home. Known disease carriers can then be removed before transporting the animals and their disease to your farm.

Once the new animals arrive, a very important task is to spend 5 to 10 minutes each time you feed just observing the animals. This will help identify any disease problems very quickly and before the disease spreads through the rest of the new acquired animals. Following these few simple tips can make purchasing new animals a good experience rather than a lasting nightmare.

(By Melanie Barkley, Penn State Extension Educator)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Grow Wise, Bee Smart site launches

TheHorticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort, today announced the launch of the Grow Wise, Bee Smart™ website. This resource is a key component of the Horticultural Industry’s Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative, which was created to provide leadership and guidance to the industry on pollinator health. The site serves as the communications hub for the latest research and developments related to the role horticulture plays in supporting pollinator health.

Grow Wise, Bee Smart™ currently features information on the importance of bees and pollinators, threats to their health, and steps everyone can take to improve habitat and forage. Links to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and Pollinator Partnership further guide retail and landscape firms and their customers on how to plant and register new gardens and habitats for pollinators.

As the Grow Wise, Bee Smart™ stewardship program for plant production is launched, and as funded and directed research yields results and guidance, the site will feature timely new information and insights.

The Horticultural Industry’s Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative has three goals:

1.  fund and guide research to answer urgent questions regarding impact of pest management practices and bee and pollinator attractiveness of major plants we grow and sell;
2.  develop a plant production stewardship program based on best practices; and,
3.  partner with other interested groups to improve and expand pollinator habitat and forage.

Great progress is being made on all fronts. The Horticultural Research Institute has directly funded five related research projects totaling $160,100. AmericanHort and HRI helped to secure another $272,000 for a priority project that received special Farm Bill funding. A grower and scientist task force has developed key components for the stewardship program. And, AmericanHort was one of eight founding partners of the National Pollinator Garden Network, which in early June launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

“Horticulture, the health of pollinators, and the success of our industry are intertwined,” said Harvey Cotten, past president of the Horticultural Research Institute and a leader in the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. “We are the original green industry, and our plants and expertise can make a difference for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators,” he added.

Funded by hundreds of green industry philanthropists and businesses, HRI provides effective, efficient, and relevant solutions for horticultural business. Supporting research and guiding efforts that form best practices is exactly how HRI helps build prosperous businesses, advance the green industry, and fulfill its core vision.
(By Horticultural Research Institute)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Farm to School - Mid-Missouri Road Trip

In an effort to connect schools to local farmers, producers and food, sign up for a bus tour through Mid-Missouri on Friday, July 31, 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Join food service directors, chefs, farmers & others interested in Farm to School for a road trip across Mid-Missouri.

8:00 a.m. Welcome / Meet & Greet
Farmer’s Market (Kmart parking lot, US 50 Jefferson City)

8:15 - 8:45 a.m.* Load Bus / Travel to Clarksburg School

8:45 - 9:00 a.m. School Garden Talk w/ Carrie Long

9:00 - 9:20 a.m.* Travel to Central Missouri Produce Auction

9:20 - 10:30 a.m. Central Missouri Produce Auction Tour

10:30 - 11:00 a.m.* Travel to Troutdale Farms

11:00 - 12:00 a.m. Troutdale Farms Tour

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.* Travel to Seven Springs Winery

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Lunch at Seven Springs Winery
Rest, relax & enjoy lunch featuring Troutdale Farms & other local producers.

2:00 - 3:00 p.m.* Travel to Jefferson City Farmer’s Market

3:00 - 3:30 p.m. Boys from Chamois & Farmer’s Market Shopping
Ben & Alex, of Boys from Chamois, have been selling produce locally for over 15 years. They grow sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupe & pumpkins. They have been selling across Mid-Missouri & hope to keep putting great produce on the plates of Missourians for years to come!

*Information relevant to upcoming stops will be shared along the way. James Quinn & Lindsey Jones will also discuss Farm to School concepts.

Registration Information: Cost: $25.  Make check/money order payable to Seven Springs Winery. For cash payment, contact Lindsey Jones at 573-645-1588.  All reservations must be made by July 24.

Please mail registration and payment to:
Lindsey Jones, Farm-to-School Coordinator
Missouri Department of Agriculture
1616 Missouri Boulevard
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

High Tunnel Workshop

A High Tunnel Workshop will be held in Mountain Grove on Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm.

The workshop will be held at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove at 9740 Red Spring Road.

Topics and features include High Tunnel Construction with Norman Kilmer, Morgan County Seed; Tomato Production in High Tunnels with Patrick Byers, MU Extension; High Tunnel Raspberry Production in High Tunnels with Jennifer Morganthaler and Marilyn Odneal, MSU. We will have a Discussion Panel Luncheon with Craig Jennings of Three Oaks Farm, Deborah French and Wayne Simpson of Simpson’s Family Farm, Randy Stout or Jeremy Emery of MSU as well as the program speakers.

After the presentations we will visit the research and demonstration plantings in the high tunnel at the Fruit Experiment Station. An optional tour of our winery/distillery will be featured after the event.

Please visit our website for the complete schedule and to download the registration form.
Registration is $5.00 and pre-registration is required.

Funds for this workshop were provided in part through the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.