• 17Jun

    Loan Forgiveness For Young Farmers Proposed

    The Young Farmer Success Act was introduced into Congress on June 1st, 2015. Under this act, farming as a career would be added to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, an existing program that currently includes professions such as government service, teaching, and nursing. This would serve as an incentive for young people to pursue farming as a career, thus working to ameliorate the current American crisis that not enough people are becoming new farmers. Learn more at youngfarmers.org.

    EPA Proposes Pesticide Restrictions to Protect Bees

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to adopt mandatory pesticide label restrictions to protect bees from toxic pesticides. These would prohibit bloom-time foliar application of pesticides acutely toxic to bees when managed bees are known to be present. the EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule until June 29, 2015. In addition, the EPA is seeking comment on a proposal to rely on efforts made by states and tribes to reduce pesticide exposures through development of locally based measures, specifically through managed-pollinator protection plans. Read the full document here.

  • 11May

    There are many difficulties we must face when farming and growing crops. These issues come at us in many ways, each often requiring their own type of remedy. One of the biggest problems we face is with pests. Whether it is fleas on your barn cat or bugs in the garden, there is simply no place for pests on the farm. Rather than purchasing various products to get pest problems under control, there is one option that has proven useful in the war on pests. That product is food grade Diatomaceous Earth, also known as DE.

    Diatomaceous Earth exists as a result of the death of microscopic sea organisms known as diatoms which, upon dying, sink to the seafloor and fossilize, then becoming a part of the nutrients present on the seafloor. Diatoms are essentially a common type of algae, or phytoplankton, with cellular walls made of hydrated silicon dioxide, also known as silica. It is through the harvesting of these organisms that DE is produced.

    So what good is a bunch of dead algae on the farm? Well, diatomaceous earth has properties that make it a successful ally against pests. Specifically, DE repels fleas, ticks, mites, spiders, ants, cockroaches, and other crawling insects that can be harmful to produce, pets, and people. The way it works is by penetrating the exoskeleton of pests and making their protective exterior useless. Pests are then dehydrated and their respiratory system can no longer function, resulting in death. All it takes is for a bug to come into contact with DE and the deed will be done; ingestion is not necessary for it to take effect.

    Photo: Diatomaceous.org

    Photo: Diatomaceous.org

    There are several ways DE can be used around the farm, such as :

    1. Treat mites or lice on chickens with DE by adding some to their dust bath. Since chickens are naturally inclined to dust bathe, they will do the work for you, although sprinkling some around the coop is helpful as well.

    2. Repel flies with DE. Although it will kill flies in much the same manner as mentioned above, it is very typical of flies to avoid DE entirely, so sprinkle it in common manure areas where flies tend to congregate.

    3. Clean up spills with DE. If your tractor is leaking fluids, sprinkle DE on the mess.  The diatoms are porous and will quickly absorb any liquid present.

    4. Protect crops from bugs through the use of DE. Dusting DE in the garden will help eradicate common garden pests such as aphids, ants, earwigs, slugs, and much more, saving crops in the process.

    5. Treat working animals such as barn cats and cattle dogs with DE to control fleas and ticks. Apply to fur and work in to rid pets of pests. It can also be used to keep ticks off of you by dusting clothing.

    When purchasing Diatomaceous Earth, be sure to always purchase it in food grade. Take care during application to minimize inhalation as it can irritate nasal passages and sometimes irritates skin as well. Be sure to read labels and follow all instructions prior to handling.

    Diatomaceous Earth is just one more useful item to aid us in meeting the many demands present on the farm. Whether it is battling insects in the barn, in garden, on the animals, or even in the house, it is an easy go-to that enables you to restore comfort and reduce damage done by pests. It also keeps going where other insecticides fail as pests do not become immune to it over time. Diatomaceous earth is even said to have many human health benefits, about which you can learn more here, which make it seems as though adding DE to your farm is a win all around.

  • 04May

    One of the biggest nuisances on a farm is the presence of flies. They harass the poultry. They harass the livestock. They even harass us humans as we attempt to get work done. Keeping them at bay can be difficult and coping with their presence frustrating. As the weather warms up, the flies become more and more plentiful and in much of the country farmers are already at wit’s end trying to cope with that which bugs them.

    Fly control is big business, fed by anyone who works on a farm or spends time outdoors. There are a plethora of products on the market that claim to solve the problem, but which option is best for you? With so many to choose from that vary in cost from modest, recurring price to a big investment, it can be tough to settle on the option that suits you best. Despite the difficult choice, something is going to have to be done about flies otherwise you face a general decrease in health of farm animals as well as a more likely spread of disease in addition to wounds that don’t heal. In order to stop this, you have to stop the flies. Here are some fly control options:

    Do away with manure as it draws flies and is essentially a home base where they thrive. It is in the manure pile that they breed, so doing away with the manure helps to do away with the flies. This may sound easier said than done, but manure can be sold to gardeners or spread on fields as fertilizer. Regardless of the method you choose to dispose of manure, it is important that something is done to keep manure at a minimum.

    Photo: NCSU.edu

    Photo: NCSU.edu

    Since manure is vital to the life cycle of the fly, hit them where it hurts. Should you find yourself unable to get rid of manure quickly enough to impeded fly reproduction, go straight to the source to stop flies by making the manure pile inhospitable. This can be done through the use of fly predators which live in or near manure and destroy future fly generations before they mature. Though ineffective against adult flies, fly predators will stop them from breeding by doing away with their young. Fly predators do have to be replenished on a monthly basis during fly season and the number ordered must correspond with the number of livestock animals you have as well as those in general area, which makes them a possibly expensive venture depending on the size of your operation.

    Some farmers embrace a feed through technique that works one of two ways. The first way is to use a product that contains cyromazine that when consumed and digested results in manure inhospitable to flies. Since this often comes in an appetizing form, such as in molasses, its consumption must be monitored in order to keep animals from gaining excess weight or foundering. The second way is to add apple cider vinegar to drinking water or feed sources. This is thought to make the animal smell unappetizing to the fly, resulting in reduced bites. Suggested amounts vary from 1 cup to 50 gallons on up to 1 cup for every 6 gallons so some experimentation may be necessary. Not all animals will drink this mixture so it is important to monitor water intake to ensure animals are drinking enough.

    Last but not least are the traditional standbys. These include sticky traps, fly paper, baited traps, spray repellents and the like. Though many of these have advantages, there are also disadvantages as well. Fly traps that claim to be innovative and cutting edge are often expensive to purchase and ship and not reusable. Fly paper and sticky traps can quickly become ineffective in dusty, humid areas and must be placed out of reach of animals. Spray repellants are great, but also temporary and need to be reapplied. Spot treatments such as Spot On Insecticide for cattle and sheep may be a better bet, promising extended results.

    Despite the many fly control options available for your farm, you could always give one old fashioned method a chance. Strange and unlikely as it sounds, suspending a Ziploc bag half full of water with a penny inside from barn rafters is a surprisingly effective tool in the war against flies. The jury is out as to why this works, but the most commonly seen argument is because the bags create light refraction which is confusing to the eye of the fly, sending it elsewhere. Whatever the reason for the success of this method may be, it is cheap and easy to use in barns, but the problem of pasture fly control in wide open spaces still remains.

    Regardless of the method of fly control you choose, the bottom line is that you have to do something. You may even have to do everything, combining various techniques to keep animals as well as yourself at the hands of biting flies. Though the choice as to what to use will depend largely on the size of your farm and the climate in which you live, one can only hope for a fly season that is swift, bearable, and inexpensive.

  • 07Apr

    New Research Links Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Monarch Butterfly Declines
    By Jonathan Latham, PhD

    Synopsis: New research has identified the neonicotinoid insecticide
    clothianidin as a likely contributor to monarch butterfly declines in North
    America. The research, published on April 3rd 2015, identifies concentrations
    of clothianidin as low as 1 part per billion as harmful to monarch butterfly
    caterpillars. These concentrations of clothianidin were found in the
    populations of milkweeds sampled by the researchers. Previously, no research
    had been done on neonicotinoids and butterflies and therefore this is the
    first report of neonicotinoids affecting monarchs or any other butterflies.
    The research was conducted in Brookings, South Dakota and is published in the
    journal Science and Nature (Springer).

  • 23Feb

    One of the largest problems beginning farmers face is pest control. It could be that insects are a problem for you, but as bad as they are, something even bigger lurks in the shadows, that being mice, rats, and other vermin. Difficult to handle with trapping alone, these rodents can wreak havoc and contaminate animal feed. They are capable of damaging crops or anything else that suits their fancy. With teeth made for chewing, it can be tough to keep these animals from making their way into containers and feed bins that are not tough enough to keep them out. Even then, it is not possible to contain everything you need and use on the farm, so there comes a time when a choice must be made. Oftentimes that choice is to get a barn cat.

    Although it is not always high at the top of our lists to acquire another mouth to feed, having barn cats can make a world of difference when it comes to pest control. Keep in mind that for mice and rats, your barn and farm are quite literally an all you can eat buffet. Poison is an option, albeit a risky one because it can harm or even kill animals for which it was not intended. A cat, on the other hand, with its natural prey drive, is a much more logical solution to the pest problem.

    Even if your feed is secure, that is not to say that mice and rats cannot pose a problem. For one thing, they are drawn to and like to chew electrical wires. That means lighting and other electricity is at risk of not only failure to work but chewed, frayed wires present a fire hazard. Aside from that, there is the fact that such animals carry and spread the hantavirus as they move about, dropping feces along the way.

    Photo: Feral Cat Focus

    Photo: Feral Cat Focus

    Though we’ve all heard stories of failed mousers who’d rather lie around and do nothing, most barn cats are attune to their job and very willing to do it. Even so, there are some steps you can take to gently encourage your barn cats to embrace a working lifestyle as opposed to a leisurely one. For starters, get them young–yes, them, as in more than one, since we all enjoy having a buddy for hunting, playing, and keeping warm. Much as you would with any other type of animal, select your kittens from good stock, such as another successful, proven barn cat. If their mother knew and did her job well, she will usually teach her babies, which means that by the time they are a few months old, they will have the know-how to do their job. In the event you do not want kittens, it is often possible to get feral cats in need of relocation through your local animal shelter.

    With kittens it is also easy to establish a home area, making them less likely to relocate on their own accord which could be a problem with older, more independent cats. Keep your kittens contained for a few weeks, providing food, water, and litter box access so they will understand that this is their home base. A stall is a good area in which to start them, and as they grow they will likely venture out on their own to explore their world. Once this exploring starts, it is likely that the mousing will, too. Don’t let this be an excuse to stop feeding them or cut them back; a mouse only diet is not enough to sustain, especially during cold weather, and the presence of cat food will reiterate where home is. Just take care to keep cat food in an area away from other vermin; twice daily feedings after which uneaten food is picked up is useful in removing temptation when it comes to other animals.

    Don’t forget to provide routine healthcare. This means worming, treating for fleas, and vaccinating. Just as you wouldn’t want unhealthy vermin around your barn, you do not want unhealthy cats. A sick animal is a sick animal, after all, so stay on top of the health care of yours. Also, don’t forget to spay and neuter unless you want more barn cats…and more and more and more. Additionally, part of their health and wellbeing is giving them a place to stay warm. Make sure that place is not your house as it negates the purpose of a barn cat, but set aside a space in the barn where they can get out of the elements and remain warm when the mercury drops.

    Though cats are very useful in pest control, it may be necessary to keep them away from baby chicks as those could be mistaken for a snack. Barring incidents such as this, most barn cats truly are worth their weight in gold. Not only do they keep rodent populations under control, they also give you the peace of mind that is knowing your barn and feed is safe from contamination, saving you the time lost and headaches you could have without feline employees on the payroll.

  • 13Nov

    Farmscaping: Making Use of Nature’s Pest Management Services – eXtension

    Farmscaping is a whole-farm, ecological approach to increase and manage biodiversity with the goal of increasing the presence of beneficial organisms. Many pest populations can be managed by enhancing the efficacy and local abundance of the existing community of natural enemies through modification of the environment, a concept that has been termed “conservation biological control.”Farmscaping methods include the use of insectary plants, hedgerows, cover crops, and water reservoirs to attract and support populations of beneficial organisms such as insects, spiders, amphibians, reptiles, bats, and birds that parasitize or prey upon insect pests.Insectary plants like mustards interplanted with market crops provide pollen and nectar to attract and maintain beneficial insects in the crop landscape. Ideal farmscape plantings provide food and shelter for beneficial organisms, suppress weeds, and grow in close proximity to the cash crop without competing for space (light, water and nutrients). In some cases, the term “farmscaping” is broadened beyond just augmentation of insectary plants to include trap crops—i.e. host plants that are more attractive to the pest than the cash crop that are planted near the cash crop to “trap” pests, thus reducing pressure and damage to the cash crop.

    Also See the following links for more information:





  • 05Mar

    Register now for online courses being offered by Open Learning and Educational Support through the Horticulture, Turf, and Landscape Department at the University of Guelph.  Summer 2014 semester starts Monday, May 12 (2014) and concludes 12 weeks later on Friday, August 1 (2014). Register by Friday, April 11, 2014 and save money with an Early Bird discount.

    Courses offered this summer are:


        Introduction to Plant Identification


        Introduction to Soils and Plant Growth

        Ornamental Plant Protection 

    These online courses are perfect for adult learners looking for information and credentials.  Course content is practical and applied  – use what you learn!

    Visit www.horticulturecertificates.com for course outlines and to register.

  • 30Nov

    Trap Cropping in Organic Strawberries Webinar

    Join eOrganic for a webinar next week on Trap Cropping in Organic Strawberries to Manage Lygus Bugs in California, by Diego Nieto of the University of California Santa Cruz. The free webinar takes place on Tuesday, December 3 at 2PM Eastern Time (1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time). Advance registration is required.

    Diego Nieto will discuss the rationale for using alfalfa trap crops in organic strawberries. Points of emphasis will include the efficient and targeted approach to pest management, improved classical biological control and predator dispersion and behavior. Along with research findings from recent studies, this presentation will include grower recommendations for the implementation of trap cropping.

    Diego Nieto is an entomological researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he has worked to address pest issues in commercial agriculture for 12 years. He has researched biological control, farmscaping and integrated pest management in cotton, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.

  • 20Jul

    According to a new report from Purdue University, popular fungicides long used to control apple scab have begun losing their effectiveness. An article by Brian Wallheimer reports that a recent study conducted by Purdue researchers interviews Associate Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology Janna Beckerman, a co-author of a research paper resulting from the study. According to the article, Beckerman says that “extensive, long-term use of four popular fungicides has led to resistances in apples in Indiana and Michigan”. According to the paper, lab tests indicate that dodine, kresoxim-methyl, myclobutanil or thiophanate-methyl are less effective than in previous assays. This has led to great concern for the conventional apple industry, since scab is considered a major pest in many apple growing regions. To read the full article and an abstract of the paper, visit: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110712BeckermanScab.html.

  • 16Apr

    What are the best ways to manage insects, weeds and plant diseases? Three research-based guides, available through Oregon State University Extension and updated every year, can provide you with reliable answers. The manuals provide extensive information on pest biology and chemical and nonchemical control methods and are useful to Pacific Northwest farmers and growers as well as consultants and home gardeners.

    PNW Weed Management Handbook: Starting in 2011, this handbook is updated quarterly, rather than annually, and all information can be found on a new website: http://pnwhandbooks.org/weed/ The manual is a quick reference of weed control practices used in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Chemical regulation of plant growth is complex, and a large portion of the handbook is devoted to registered uses of herbicides, crop desiccants and plant growth regulators. Most uses of chemical regulators are based on research of the Agricultural Experiment Stations or the OSU Extension Service and neighboring states, where circumstances are similar. The handbook was originally planned as a manual for county Extension specialists. Information pertaining to only a few crops, sites or situations can be found in publications at local county Extension offices and in the OSU Extension Publications and Multimedia Catalog (http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/).

    PNW Insect Management Handbook: The handbook is revised and reissued annually. More than 50 contributors review management practices for crops in the Pacific Northwest. Chemical and nonchemical control recommendations are included. The web version of the manual, http://uspest.org/pnw/insects, includes links to pest photographs, fact sheets and pesticide labels. An annual review is necessary as the legal uses of many pesticides change frequently, according to editor Craig Hollingsworth, a University of Massachusetts researcher who is one of several scientists who keep track of the legalities. “Changes include delisting of crops or sites from the label, new formulations requiring different application rates, restrictions on pre-harvest applications, reapplication intervals or reentry periods or other circumstances,” he said. Many pesticides are restricted for use only by licensed commercial growers. Separate chemical recommendations are listed for commercial and home use.

    PNW Plant Disease Management Handbook: This handbook is a reference for the important plant diseases in the Pacific Northwest, and much of the handbook’s content can be found online at http://plant-disease.ippc.orst.edu/ The handbook is the primary method for OSU Extension plant pathology to deliver information to producers, agricultural consultants, field scouts, Oregon Department of Agriculture personnel, field and nursery people, master gardeners and chemical industry representatives. Organic or conventional growers should find the guide useful. General information on disease biology as well as cultural, biological and chemical control recommendations are summarized for each plant disease. Crop diversification, evolving biological systems, new cultural and biological controls and changing chemical control recommendations require continued enhancement of the handbook. Read more »

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