Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

And the rains came, and they came, and they came last week. Reports in the Water Valley area were from five to seven inches.  

The Coffeeville area reported six to eight inches, and Tillatoba reported as much as 10 inches of rain.  While we would have liked to spread the rain out over a period of time, the large amount of rainfall helped fill up our lakes and ponds, which were as low as they have been in a while.  I hate to be greedy, but a nice normal rainfall about now would certainly help things.  

This weekend is the Northeast District 4-H Horse Show in Greenville.  Look for the Yalobusha County 4-Hers to come back with more than there share of winners and awards.  This group of kids has worked hard.  The quality and numbers are there, and I believe they will get the results they need.

Paul Rodrigue recently resigned as head of the Jamie L. Whitten Plant Materials Center.  But, don’t get concerned that Paul and Pat leaving Yalobusha County, as he’s only taking a job as an NRCS Engineer in Grenada.  Paul went out with a bang, as the annual wildflower tour he headed up was a huge success with over 250 attending.  The interim head of the Plant Materials Center has a definite Yalobusha County flavor.  Sherry Surrette is serving in the interim position for a while.      

Sherry serves as an NRCS Plant Materials Center Specialist in Jackson and often works at the local plant materials center.  With Sherry on board, the work will proceed right on track.

Horticulture Tips:

Afternoon Showers may Flair Dollar Spot

Overnight leaf wetness from evening showers or late afternoon irrigation may stimulate an outbreak of Sclerotinia homeocarpa, better known as dollar spot.   Dollar spot is a common fungal disease that attacks most warm season turf species, but most severe on bermudagrass and zoysia.  It occurs when temperatures are between 50 – 95 degrees with high relative humidity or extended periods of leaf wetness.  

The disease is most severe when the turf is growing slowly either from entering or leaving dormancy, summer stress, or from nutritional deficiency – particularly the lack of nitrogen.  

Early symptoms on individual leaves are chlorotic (yellow) areas that become water-soaked and later turn a bleached straw color.  The fungus generally appears as small, circular spots about the size of an old silver dollar, thus the name dollar spot, even though these spots can be as large as two to eight inches in diameter.  During early morning hours when dew is present you may observe the fungal growth on top of the turf leaf blades that resemble tiny spider webs.      

Upon close examination, spider webs will have a hole in the center of the web and the tiny threads will be spun in a circular pattern.  The fungal mycelium growth will disappear as the dew dries and the turf leaf blades will begin to turn yellow.

Prevention is the best control of this disease.  Good cultural practices including 1) maintaining adequate soil moisture, 2) adequate nutrition particularly nitrogen, 3) mow regularly and maintain correct mowing height, 4) prevent thatch buildup, 5) water early enough in the day to reduce overnight leaf wetness, 6) apply appropriate fungicides if disease becomes severe.

More detailed information on this and other turf diseases can be found on the Extension Service web at www.MSUCARES.com <http://www.msucares.com/> .

Several questions about fall gardens have come this past week. It is good to think ahead. Tomatoes are still the number one garden vegetable and fall production differs from spring in that a freeze is the end of the season, not just a setback to be overcome.  First fall freeze dates vary widely in Mississippi. Average frost dates are as early as the third week of October for Corinth, Batesville, and Oxford, becoming about a week later for every 75 miles south until towns like Pascagoula and Gulfport don’t see frost until the first week of December.

These dates are averages and should be used for planning, but some years even the northern counties may not see freezing temperatures until December, while other years Crystal Springs Experiment has had their fall garden frozen to death before the second week of October.

Use these average dates to count backward for planting dates. If you want to grow a tomato like Big Beef that requires about 70 days from transplanting to first harvest and has about a thirty day harvest season, you need to back up 95 to 100 days from the anticipated frost date This means the plants need to be in the ground the first week of July to make a full harvest of this variety in an area where the first frost is mid-November. However, if you want to grow Early Girl, you can wait until mid-to late July to set out plants. Many gardeners wait until August to plant Fall tomatoes and protect the plants from the first frost by covering them with sheets, blankets, and other things. First frost is often only one-night events and the covers can be removed the next day and the harvest continues. Any of the warm season vegetables can be planted for fall production with this “back dating” method. Cool season vegetables can wait since they can withstand frosts and freezes.

You may have to grow your own transplants for fall production since commercial transplant growers do not generally produce many transplants for fall production. Tomatoes are easy. Pinch out the suckers from disease free plants currently growing in the garden, dip the stem in a rooting compound, and plant the little sucker where you want to have fall production. These tiny plants have no roots, so they are frequently grown under a mist or frequent irrigation. It is easier to start these suckers in a tray in the carport, under a shade tree, or on the porch where they can be frequently watered. Other crops are normally started from seed in similar circumstances. The trays don’t need to be indoors to keep them warm, but outdoor transplant production requires more frequent irrigation due to the drying effects of wind and high temperatures.

Support your local vegetable and fruit growers. Many communities have started Farmers’ Markets this year and there may be locally grown things for you to eat that were picked this morning just waiting for you to buy. Check with your local MSU-Extension Service office to see where your nearest Farmers’ Market is. The freshest is usually the closest.

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