Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Be Well-Informed When Hunting and Preparing Mushrooms

Mushrooms are in season. And although a person does not need a license to hunt them, if someone wants to sell them, a licensed or certified inspector must attest to their safety first.

When hunting mushrooms, it is important to be 100% sure that the mushrooms you find are safe to eat. For example, morel mushrooms vary in size and color, but one identifying factor for them is their hollow, cone- or globe-shaped head connected at the base to a hollow neck. The convolutions on the head make them look very porous. The cap is one to five inches high and the stem is about the same height. They are generally found in various shades of brown from tan to black. A description and picture of morels (and other edible types) can be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation's website at

If it is a morel, as described above, it is safe to eat. However, if it is shaped and sized similarly but is NOT hollow, it is poisonous, so be very careful.

If you find a large amount of edible mushrooms or grow them yourself, you may consider selling some. The state of Missouri requires that a certified inspector confirm that they are a safe variety for sale. Certification is done through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Mushrooms keep in the refrigerator for only 2-3 days. If you have more than you can use in that time, consider freezing some within a day of picking to maintain best quality. You can find information on the best way to freeze mushrooms in the MU Extension publication Freezing Unusual Fruits and Vegetables (GH1507). Drying is another option and is described in the publication How To Dry Foods at Home (GH1563).

Unlike some other mushrooms that are enjoyed raw, morels must be well cooked to be eaten safely and avoid the irritation to the stomach that can otherwise occur. The first step, and perhaps the most tedious, is getting them clean. All the cracks and crevices make for lots of places for sand, dirt and small insects to hide. To clean, rinse several times quickly and carefully under running water to remove dirt and sand. Then set in salt water for about an hour, changing the water often to draw out the bugs. Avoid over-soaking as this can dilute the flavor. Use freshly collected mushrooms within 2-3 days.

For more information on cooking and preserving mushrooms, contact Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition Specialist, at 660-425-6434 or

(by Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension)
(Photo from Missouri Department of Conservation)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FSMA and Water

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulates irrigation water testing and what water needs to be tested. This article outlines a fine point that can make a big difference in the amount of testing required of growers.

As many growers are aware, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping legislation in 70 years regarding raw agricultural products. FSMA spans over 500 pages and is extremely complex. One area of particular complexity is the issue of irrigation water testing and what water needs to be tested.

The act classifies two types of water used in the field: agricultural water and indirect water. If water comes into direct contact with the edible portion of a plant, it is considered agricultural water. If a grower uses overhead sprinklers to irrigate a lettuce field, it would be considered agricultural water. The second type of water is called indirect water. In this case, the water would not come into direct contact with the edible portion of the plant. If drip tape under plastic is used to maintain tomato plants, this would be considered indirect water.

Sometimes the plant stage dictates whether a particular type of water is either agricultural or indirect. Sprinkler irrigation of blueberries from bloom through harvest would be considered agricultural water. The same source of water delivered in the same way would be indirect water when used after completion of harvest.

These differences seem like small points, but they can have a big impact in the cost of sampling under FSMA. FSMA requires that surface water used for agricultural water be tested weekly for generic E. coli. There is no testing frequency proposed for indirect water.
(from Michigan State University)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Food Safety Modernization Act and Good Agriculture Practices are not the Same

Being GAP-certified is not the same as being FSMA compliant. Check with your buyer first to determine if you need a GAP certification above and beyond being FSMA compliant.

With the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we now have a uniform minimum standard of food safety that the overwhelming majority of fresh produce growers must adhere to. The key with FSMA is that it is a minimum requirement. It will not eliminate buyer imposed programs for food safety, such as Good Agriculture Practice (GAP,) that are already in place. Even if a farm is FSMA compliant, they may still need to be certified under one or more GAPs to sell to certain buyers.

There are several different “brands” of GAP certification, each with their own special requirements and certification agency. Primus GAP is one example of a brand of GAP certification. A particular retailer or processor may not accept your product unless you are Primus GAP certified. The type of GAP certification required is wholly the choice of the produce buying company. In some cases, a grower may need two or more certifications to sell to several different buyers. It is best to ask your produce buyer what certification they want first before even starting a GAP manual.

All certifications cost time and money. You need to gather the information ahead of time and maybe adjust handling practices. You need to keep more records of your management. You need to pay to have the auditor spend a day with you on farm. The total process may cost as much as $2,000 in actual money and more than that in devoting time to the process.

The good news is that often food safety is the same, irrespective of the audit that a grower needs to perform. The food safety manual for a particular audit will be virtually the same for another audit under two different GAP brands. This saves time upfront when a grower needs more than one audit.

If you sell to a retailer or processor, good communication is the key to effectively meeting the certification needs of your buyer. Ask them what brand of GAP certification they want. In many cases, there are only marginal differences between GAP certifications, but they are different and not interchangeable. Ask your produce buyer what certification they want first before beginning to assemble a GAP manual.
(from Michigan State University)


Friday, April 25, 2014

Plant Breeders Release First 'Open Source Seeds'

A group of scientists and food activists is launching a campaign Thursday to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new "open source pledge" that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely.

It's inspired by the example of open source software, which is freely available for anyone to use but cannot legally be converted into anyone's proprietary product.

At an event on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, backers of the new Open Source Seed Initiative will pass out 29 new varieties of 14 different crops, including carrots, kale, broccoli and quinoa. Anyone receiving the seeds must pledge not to restrict their use by means of patents, licenses or any other kind of intellectual property. In fact, any future plant that's derived from these open source seeds also has to remain freely available as well.

Irwin Goldman, a vegetable breeder at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, helped organize the campaign. It's an attempt to restore the practice of open sharing that was the rule among plant breeders when he entered the profession more than 20 years ago.

"If other breeders asked for our materials, we would send them a packet of seed, and they would do the same for us," he says. "That was a wonderful way to work, and that way of working is no longer with us."

These days, seeds are intellectual property. Some are patented as inventions. You need permission from the patent holder to use them, and you're not supposed to harvest seeds for replanting the next year.

Even university breeders operate under these rules. When Goldwin creates a new variety of onions, carrots or table beets, a technology-transfer arm of the university licenses it to seed companies.

This brings in money that helps pay for Goldman's work, but he still doesn't like the consequences of restricting access to plant genes — what he calls germplasm. "If we don't share germplasm and freely exchange it, then we will limit our ability to improve the crop," he says.

Sociologist Jack Kloppenburg, also at the University of Wisconsin, has been campaigning against seed patents for 30 years. His reasons go beyond Goldman's.

He says turning seeds into private property has contributed to the rise of big seed companies that in turn promote ever-bigger, more specialized farms. "The problem is concentration, and the narrow set of uses to which the technology and the breeding are being put," he says.

Kloppenburg says one important goal for this initiative is simply to get people thinking and talking about how seeds are controlled. "It's to open people's minds," he says. "It's kind of a biological meme, you might say: Free seed! Seed that can be used by anyone!"

The practical impact of the Open Source Seed Initiative on farmers and gardeners, however, may be limited. Even though anyone can use such seed, most people probably won't be able to find it.

The companies that dominate the seed business probably will keep selling their own proprietary varieties or hybrids. There's more money to be made with those seeds.

Most commercial vegetable seeds are hybrids, which come with a kind of built-in security lock; if you replant seed from a hybrid, you won't get exactly the same kind of plant. (For this reason, some seed companies don't bother getting patents on their hybrids.)

John Shoenecker, director of intellectual property for the seed company HM Clause and the incoming president of the American Seed Trade Association, says his company may avoid using open source seed to breed new commercial varieties "because then we'd ... have limited potential to recoup the investment." That's because the offspring of open source seeds would have to be shared as well, and any other seed company could immediately sell the same variety.

The initiative is probably more significant for plant breeders, especially at universities. Goldman says he expects many plant breeders at universities to join the open source effort.

Meanwhile, two small seed companies that specialize in selling to organic farmers — High Mowing Organic Seeds in Hardwick, Vt., and Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, Ore., are adding some open source seeds to their catalogs this year.
(by Dan Charles, NPR Correspondent, Food and Agriculture, The Salt)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MU Meat Study Looks at How Value Cuts Affect Ground Chuck

Jon Black, a senior in ag
business management at MU,
 stacks freshly cut steaks to be
packaged at the Mizzou Meat Market.
Removing value-added cuts of beef from the chuck increases profits for producers while offering consumers lower-cost, high-quality steaks. The meat that is left over is usually sold as ground chuck. Does removing those value cuts affect the quality of the ground beef?

Claire Ohman, a meat science graduate research assistant at the University of Missouri, looked at the overall color and odor stability of ground chuck when value cuts like the flat iron and Denver cut were removed.

“We processed 24 beef steers over five months, isolating the left and right chucks,” Ohman says. Value cuts were removed from each animal’s left chuck while the right chucks were processed in a traditional style.

The two blends of ground chuck were made into patties and then analyzed for color stability and odor.

“When consumers go to the retail case to purchase meat, the biggest factor in their decision is the color of the meat,” says Carol Lorenzen, professor of meat science in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “So this project looked at not only changes in overall color but also changes in the percent of discoloration over a seven-day storage period.”

They found no differences in the color or odor profiles of ground chuck with and without the value cuts.

“This shows that we are maintaining quality ground chuck while improving consumer choice,” Ohman says. “Consumers are able to purchase these new cuts at a lower price per pound than many of the steaks and roasts that have historically been on the market.”

Funding for this research was provided by the beef checkoff program through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Sidebar: Value cuts
In the late 1990s, the price of beef cuts from the chuck and round dropped 20 to 30 percent, according to USDA data. The Beef Promotion and Operating Committee authorized the use of checkoff funds for a project to find ways to maximize the value of beef for America's farmers and cattle ranchers.
The profiling project looked at properties that affect processing conditions and consumer acceptability. They characterized 39 primary muscles in the chuck and round and used innovative cutting techniques to create cuts that would fall between premium steaks and ground beef in price and value.
So far, value cuts from the chuck roll, shoulder clod and the round introduced to the market include:
  • Flat iron, petite tender, petite tender medallions and ranch steak (from the shoulder clod).
  • Sirloin tip side steak, sirloin tip center steak, western griller steak and western tip (from the round).
  • America's beef roast, boneless country-style beef chuck ribs, Delmonico steak, Denver cut and Sierra cut (from the chuck roll).
The flat iron, petite tender and ranch steak are available in more than 20,000 restaurants and are making significant inroads in the retail market as well.
(by Jason Vance, MU Senior Information Specialist and photo by Jessica Salmond)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Illinois Fruit & Vegetable News

Mache is one of the hardiest
winter greens  and it survived
the winter without being damaged
by the extreme cold. 
For those on the eastern side of Missouri, you may be interested in subscribing to this e-newsletters from the University of Illinois Extension – the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News by Dr. Rick Weinzierl, Professor and Extension Entomologist, SARE PDP Program Coordinator, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois.  I found it to be very informative for commercial fruit and vegetable growers.
A new issue of the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News (Volume 19, number 20) has been posted on the web.  To reach the home page for the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News (with links to all issues and additional resources), use the following link:

For direct access to issue 19:20, use the following link:
In This Issue:
Upcoming Programs (an extensive list of educational programs for beginning and established growers)

Regional Reports (from western and southern Illinois)

Fruit Production and Pest Management (pheromone traps for fruit insects)

Vegetable Production and Pest Management (soil temperatures and spring planting; notes from the high tunnel workshop in southern Illinois earlier this month)

Local Foods Issues (August 2014 deadline for food safety cost-share audits)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

USDA Economic Research Service Updates Organic Agriculture Information

Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 3 of 4 conventional grocery stores, and often have substantial price premiums over conventional products (see data on Organic Prices).

Organic sales account for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, though organic products account for a much larger share in some categories (see the chart in Organic Market Overview). Certified organic acreage and livestock have been expanding in the United States for many years, particularly for fruits, vegetables, dairy, and poultry (see data on Organic Production). The U.S. Department of Commerce began adding codes for selected organic products to the U.S. trade code system in 2011, and the tracked value of organic imports and exports has been increasing (see the chapter on Organic Trade).

Through analysis of USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data, ERS compares the costs of production and returns for organic and conventional production in major crop/livestock sectors, and analyzes other economic characteristics of organic agriculture (see Characteristics of Conventional andOrganic Apple Production in the United States, July 2011, as an example). A 2009 ERS report, Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry, examined a broad spectrum of economic research on the profitability and market conditions in this rapidly changing sector. 

Government research and policy initiatives often play a key role in the adoption of new farming technologies and systems (see Readings). USDA has a current goal to increase the number of certified organic operations and is expanding programs and services for organic producers and handlers. Funding for organic research, certification cost-share assistance, and other programs has been increasing since 2002, when national organic standards were implemented (see 2014 FarmAct-Highlights and Implications: Organic Agriculture).

On March 16-18, 2011, USDA held a major conference in Washington, DC to examine findings from research on the agronomic, economic, ecological, and quality-of-life performance of organic farming systems. Conference proceedings are published in the online interdisciplinary journal Crop Management. Most sessions were recorded live and are available on the university extension website, eOrganic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Experience Helps Restaurant Managers Stick with Local Foods

Past decisions to purchase local foods increases the likelihood that chefs and food purchasing managers continue to buy local products.

Restaurant chefs and food purchasing managers who have bought local foods in the past are more likely to continue adding them to menus and store shelves, according to a team of researchers.

"Past experiences will have an impact on buying local foods," said Amit Sharma, associate professor of hospitality management, Penn State. "Restaurant managers who buy local foods currently are significantly more likely to keep purchasing locally."

In a study of the cost and benefits of purchasing local foods in restaurants, managers and chefs indicated that certain actions of local food producers stand out as reasons why they continue to buy local foods. For instance, managers said that a local farmer's or producer's response time -- the time it took a business to respond and process an order -- was more important than delivery time -- how long it takes to actually receive the goods -- as a factor when they considered buying local food products.

"Interestingly, we did not find that delivery time mattered as much for those who purchased food, not to say that delivery time wasn't a concern at all," said Sharma. "However, what was more important to these managers was the response time of a local food producer."

Food purchasers also indicated that they would not stock local food just because it is local. Local foods must have a unique selling point, according to the researchers, who report their findings in current issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

For instance, a special variety apple used in an apple pie may be more important to the food manager than just a locally grown apple.

"Simply saying 'local food' was not enough, chefs really want to provide their customers with a dish that is unique," said Sharma. "You can't just slap a label on it that says it's 'local', and expect it to sell, in other words."

While many studies have explored the reasons that customers would want local food, this study was focused on management's buying decisions.

"We're not discounting customer demand, we recognize that consumers have to want it -- in fact our previous studies suggest consumers are willing to pay more for local foods," said Sharma. "But the manager has to make decisions before the food is served."

Clear labeling is another selling point for restaurant managers who are purchasing foods in grocery stores and markets. The labels should be accurate and easy to read, containing specifications including weight, date and product details, for example, according to Sharma, who worked with Joonho Moon, doctoral student in hospitality management, Penn State, and Catherine Strohbehn, state extension specialist and adjunct professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, Iowa State University.

Training staff to handle local foods properly and to communicate the advantages of local foods with customer was also an important factor that could explain the decision to purchase local foods.

"Training tells us a lot about the commitment of an operation to local foods," said Sharma. "Local foods may or may not be delivered or processed in the same way as non-local foods, so the staff should be trained and, particularly, chefs need to be trained in developing unique menus using local foods."

Managers did not seem to think food safety was an issue with handling local food.

"That's not to say food safety isn't important to managers, it just isn't an obstacle to purchasing locally," said Sharma. "It's not a constraint."

The researchers sent surveys to independently owned restaurants in Midwestern states to investigate management's attitudes toward the decision to purchase locally grown foods.

"In this project, we investigated the cost-benefit analysis of restaurants purchasing local foods, along the foodservice value chain, which ranged from the sourcing of local food all the way to serving local foods to customers," said Sharma.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University supported this work.
(By Matt Swayne, Penn State University)



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)


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

All About Seeds-From Germination to Re-Generation

The University of Nebraska SARE Program is offering a webinar scheduled for April 22nd at 10:00 a.m.  The webinar is titled, "All About Seeds-From Germination to Re-Generation."  Rebecca Bloom and Elizabeth Goodman will partner together to present this webinar.  Rebecca is from Omaha, Nebraska and is an experienced organic producer that grows organic vegetables across the river near Crescent, IA.  Rebecca has experience with CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), selling to fine restaurants in the Metro area, farmers markets and food coops.  Elizabeth Goodman, also from Omaha is working with Rebecca on her operation.

They will discuss issues of seed germination, seed savings and succession planting and how they are using these principals in their operation.  To access this webinar go to: 

For any questions, call (402) 274-4755 or email Gary Lesoing, Nebraska SARE Coordinator.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sign-Up Begins April 15 for Livestock, Honeybee, Fruit Grower for Farmer and Rancher Disaster Assistance Programs

USDA announced that farmers and ranchers can sign-up for disaster assistance programs, reestablished and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, beginning Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Enrollment also begins on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

  • LIP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible livestock includes beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, and other livestock as determined by the Secretary.
  • LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on publicly managed land. An eligible livestock producer must own, cash lease, or be a contract grower of eligible livestock during the 60 calendar days before the beginning date of the qualifying drought or fire in a county that is rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as D2, D3, or D4.
  • ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
  • TAP provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees have worked exceptionally hard over the past two months to ensure eligible farmers and ranchers would be able to enroll to receive disaster relief on April 15.

To expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

For more information, producers may review the 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet, ELAP and TAP fact sheets online, or visit any local FSA office or USDA Service Center.
NOTE:  I emailed for additional information pertaining to honeybees and got this response:
Eligible honeybee losses include colony losses, hive losses and feed losses due to an eligible adverse weather or loss condition. This includes CCD for colony losses and other weather events may be eligible.  To be an eligible colony loss, the loss must be in excess of the normal mortality rate of 17.5% and could not have been prevented through reasonable available measures. Applicants will have to provide proof of “best management practices” which would include mite control. Also, eligible producers must be using the bees and/or honey for commercial use.