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Cummings and Goings in Agriculture

Cold Weather Can Go Away And Fishing Can Begin

By Steve Cummings

Spring needs to hurry up and get here.  I have had about all the cold weather that I can handle.  The snow flurries were pretty, but spring flowers will be also.  Hunting season is about over and I am ready to fish.

There will be a forest landowner program and meeting on Monday, February 2, 2009, at the Yalobusha County Multipurpose Building.  Former Extension Forester, Tim Traugott, will be the speaker.  Britton Hatcher, MSU-ES Forester, and Lamar Burgess, NRCS County Director, will also have parts in the program.  Please call our office at 675-2730 prior to noon on January 30th to make reservations to attend.  This program is open to all forest landowners.

Our office has been getting several questions about pruning trees and landscaping plants.  On Thursday, February 5th, there will be a Quick Bites program on basic pruning.  This program will begin at noon at the Yalobusha County Multipurpose Building, and Dr. Lelia Kelly, MSU-ES Horticulture Specialist, will conduct the program.  Bring a sack lunch and come learn the basics of pruning.

Horticulture Tips:

Grape growers take note: the time to prune your vines is now. The month of February is the best time to prune your vines to stimulate the best growth and productivity. Mid-March will be too late. Muscadine and other grape vines bloom and produce fruit on this year’s growth. The vines are pruned to develop old wood for support, and new growth for production. Most vines are trained to have two or four support “branches”, called cordons,  that run along the wires, fences, trellis or other support structure. Cordons should be no longer than ten feet and most vineyards space vines twenty feet apart along the support structure. The side branches from the cordons are called spurs.  Spurs should be at least 6 inches and preferable 8 to 10 inches apart down the cordon. Each year the wood from the previous year is pruned to about four buds to be the fruiting spur for the coming year. After several years the spurs become too tangled and the cluster of spurs is removed and a new spur from the cordon is established. Remember to remove the spurs or branches from the trunk, or main vine, every year.

Folks who planted cover crops last fall need to be planning when to terminate their growth so you can plant your spring plants. Mowing the cover crop before turning it into the soil will speed up the decomposition process. It takes about six weeks in cool weather for the soil biota to decompose the fresh plants you plow in. Biota are the organisms that live in the soil that includes beetles, earthworms, round worms, bacteria, fungi, ascomycetes, and other creatures that use the plants as a source of food and energy and digest them into a form that other plants can use more readily. People who planted legumes to fix nitrogen should wait until the clovers and vetches flower before turning them in to capture the most fertilizer value.

Lawn Pests Control Without Chemical Pesticides

 Occasionally I receive request for recommendations to control lawn pests without the use of chemicals (pesticides). While there are cultural practices and products available to lessen the use of chemical pesticides the success of these products and practices can vary considerably depending upon how and when they are used, the severity of the pests, and the amount of damage that can be tolerated.

If you happen to be someone that prefers not using conventional pesticides then I suggest that you learn as much as you can about biological alternatives that can fit into an integrated pest management program that includes careful scouting for pests, good cultural practices of proper mowing, watering, fertility, etc. and acceptance of the fact that your lawn may have some blemishes from time to time.

Bacterium-based (Bacillus spp.) and fungal-based (Trichoderma spp.) products along with beneficial nematodes and grain and animal by-products have been successfully used to suppress disease, insect or weed pests in turf.

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