Extension Notes: Classics from The Preston Citizen
What came first, the chicken or the egg? This is a rhetorical question that has been asked around multiple times, implying that each one is necessary for the survival of the other. In the world of pasture management, I like to propose a similar question: What is more important, plants or livestock? So many people in the area are animal people. They love animals, they love having a little bit of acreage because they love working with animals, and let’s face it, animals need space. You need room to work with them. So unfortunately, so many people have pastures and acreage as a necessary evil to fuel their animal addiction. As a plant guy, I am not offended at all by this, until we start to abuse the ground of which we have made ourselves stewards. A lot of people put 12 horses on a two-horse pasture, and I want to cry out in protest “Let those poor plants grow a little! Can’t you see they’ve suffered enough already!”
Most people assume that if we have water rights, we can just keep watering and we can stick as many animals out there as we want. It is never taken into consideration how much feed is actually being produced, or if more feed could be produced through proper management. I am a little shocked to see how much flood irrigation happens. Not because you are doing it wrong, it is definitely cheaper to flood irrigate than bring in some big fancy equipment. But because of how much water it wastes. It takes more water to flood the ground than to sprinkle it, and the excess flows past the roots never gets used. Any water wasted is money down the drain.
When pastures are overgrazed, we see issues such as weed invasion, monoculture shift and poor productivity. When pastures are grazed properly, we see a higher level of production, biodiversity and less weeds. You could get more tonnage for less input, but it takes patience and you must be proactive, not reactive.
Set realistic goals with the resources you have. How many animals can you feed? How much tonnage can you produce a year? How much water do you have available to you? Are you going to input nutrients back? What payoff do you plan to get from increased inputs? You must also plan on weeds trying to get into your pasture and discuss how you are going to address them. The best way would be to take care of them early in establishment. You will have much less of a battle to fight for the following years.
Select appropriate forage. There is a vast amount of species you can grow, and selection depends on your goals. Most people want as much tonnage as they can get with as little input as they can contribute. However, there are other alternatives to consider. Are you going to include a legume? Do you overgraze? Do you have specific nutrient requirements you need to meet? Different species and varieties are going to function like different tools in the toolbox. Yes, they are all hay. But they don’t all work the same.
When talking about proper pasture management, we all need to step back and ask ourselves what we are really farming. To me, farming is the process of turning sunlight into food. So while you may think of yourselves as an animal person or a beef producer, I’d really like you to stop and think of yourself as a grass producer. The grass is the food produced by sunlight to feed your cows. If you produce better feed, your cows will produce more pounds, have a healthier diet and have less stress. I promise, they will thank you in their own way. And just so you know: the egg came first.
In the past I have noticed that many of my students realize the effects of soil fertility on crop yield, weather in production agriculture or in the garden. They do not; however, realize the effects fertility, especially the elements we call micro-nutrients, have on plant disease interactions. I usually mention these effects in my classes but do not go over them in detail.
We know that our own health is in large part dependent on what we eat. For example, my doctor wants me to eat more fruit and fish. I agree with him that when I eat better I end up getting sick less. The same is true of plants.
Plants protect themselves from disease by forming mechanical barriers (thick and strong cell walls), and through the synthesis of natural intercellular defense compounds such as antioxidants and flavonoids. Fungal diseases are more apt to invade a plant with weak cell walls that are leaking nutrients into the environment. Potassium is a nutrient that plays an important role in producing strong cell walls. Potassium is essential for the synthesis of proteins, starch and cellulose which are each very important for strong cell walls. Calcium plays a similar role in forming effective barriers to bacterial organisms. Virus infection of plants is also linked to fertilization. Over fertilization with nitrogen and phosphorus can enhance the ability of a virus to replicate.
Most of us realize that excess nitrogen can increase plant susceptibility to disease, but we may not know why. One reason is that excess uptake of nitrogen by the plants results in high amounts of amino acids and sugars in plant tissues. These are the things that attract disease organisms and contribute to disease. The same trigger is in affect with soil potassium levels but in reverse. Low levels of potassium can lead to high amino acid and sugar levels in plants which in turn lead to disease. Potassium, calcium, and boron are all related to fungal disease in plants.
Even the type of soil your plants are growing in affects plant health. Plants grown on soils containing high amounts of silicates will end up taking into their cells more silicates. This results in plant cells with higher than normal silicate levels. Plant cells with high silicates are much harder for disease organisms to attack. The silicates will act in some ways like the armor of a knight, protecting the plant from danger.
A book I recommend for those who want to study this topic in detail is: “Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease” it is edited by Lawrence E. Datnoff, Wade H. Elmer and Don M. Huber and published by The American Phytopathological Society.
Reed Findlay, University of Idaho Extension, Bannock and Bingham counties, 208-236-7310 or 208-785-8060, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Stuart Parkinson, UI Extension, Franklin County Extension Educator
A little over 4 years ago I discussed the importance of farmers watching for signs of skin cancer since they spend so much time in the sun. I think this is a subject worth revisiting.
Farming isn’t always safe and can have many hazards. One hazard farmers probably overlook the most is the danger of working in the sun through much of the year. Because of constant exposure to damaging sun rays, farmers should pay close attention to their skin.
More than 11,000 Americans die from skin cancer each year. Fortunately, skin cancer that is detected early has a cure rate of 99 percent. Research shows that farmers are among the least likely workers to get regular skin check-ups from physicians. Farmers who don’t get regular skin check-ups should at least be doing regular self-examinations to look for possible signs of skin cancer.
Follow these ABCs to remember how you can identify a mole or lesion that should be seen by a dermatologist.
- Asymmetry (one half is unlike the other)
- Border (irregular, scalloped or poorly defined)
- Color (varies from one area to another)
- Diameter (the size of a pencil eraser or larger)
- Evolving (changing in size, shape or color)
The following recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology can help everyone minimize their risk of skin cancer:
- Use water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on all exposed skin, before heading out to work. Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Stay in the shade when possible. If your tractor doesn’t have a cab or canopy, make sure it has an umbrella. Keep in mind the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
- If working near water, snow or sand, seek extra shade because these surfaces reflect the sun’s rays and increase your chance of sunburn.
- Inspect your skin at the end of each harvest season. Ask for help from your partner. If you notice any moles or spots changing, growing or bleeding, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.
Doing a skin self-exam requires that you look over the entire body, including the back, scalp, soles of the feet and between the toes and on the palms of the hands. Make sure to use a mirror for looking at hard to see areas. By taking this examination seriously you may be preventing the pain and discomfort of a cancer treatment program.