Feb 2014

Life Outside the City Limits

Safety for You and Your LivestockImage of healthy goats
By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Livestock Educator

One of the benefits of living on an acreage is having room for livestock.  Although considered domestic animals, working with livestock carries with it an inherent risk of danger.  National data shows livestock, machinery and falls are the dominant sources of occupational injury on farms.  In fact, studies show that up to one-third of injuries on the farm are associated with livestock.

Safety becomes an important issue when handling livestock.  Livestock safety applies to both the animal and the animal handler.  It involves much more than simply "being careful" around livestock.  In fact, many livestock accidents are not directly related to the animals themselves but are caused by improper use of equipment and poorly-maintained or poorly-built facilities.

People tend to give animals human qualities and forget that animals quickly revert to primal reflex reactions when they are threatened or under stress.  Animals will fiercely defend their food, shelter, territory, and young.  This is especially important to remember during late winter and early spring when livestock may be giving birth.  When frightened or in pain, animals may react in ways that threaten their and our health and safety.  While livestock fatalities are not nearly as frequent as deaths involving tractors or machinery, animals are involved in more total accidents and with more work related accidents.  Typical animal-caused injuries to handlers range from cuts and sprains from falls, to broken bones and whole body injuries from being kicked, pushed, shoved, or run over by an animal.

Livestock handlers must be fully aware of the different ways livestock and humans react to certain situations.  Handlers must remain in control of potentially dangerous situations and avoid actions which make them vulnerable to injury.  The more predictable our actions, the less likely we are to injure livestock or be injured.  The better we understand livestock, the less risk of the animals harming us or themselves.

Observing animals to determine their temperament can alert the handler to possible danger.  These signs include raised or pinned ears, raised tail or hair on the back, bared teeth, pawing the ground, and snorting.  Male animals are always dangerous.  Males of some breeds are more aggressive than others, but protective females, especially new mothers, can be just as dangerous.  Often injuries occur from animals that do not openly exhibit aggression or fear.  This reaction may be triggered by excitement caused, for example, by a person walking nearby.  Typical injuries from this type of situation are usually a result of being kicked, bitten, stepped on, or squeezed between the animal and a solid structure as the animal tries to flee.

Treat livestock with respect.  Always know where you are and where the animal is in relation to you when you are working with livestock.  Never overlook warning signs exhibited by animals being handled.

An ounce of patience when handling livestock will be worth a pound of good working relationship when farm animals are concerned.  Take time to understand how animals respond to various situations.  This understanding should reduce the potential for accidents.

Source: Introduction to Livestock Safety, Auburn University



After facing the cold temperatures and wild winds of January, many of us are dreaming of spring. Here are some videos on planting shrubs, strawberries, and herbs to raise your spirits!

John Fech and Kathleen Cue, UNL Extension, suggest you think about fall color now, and look through catalogs for ideas. You can purchase plants through the catalog, or visit a local nursery in a few months with your plant list in hand. The video shows a number of plants that will bring color to your yard this fall.


Dreaming of fresh fruit? Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension, describes different types of strawberries for that strawberry patch you've always wanted, and how to get the best crop.


Consider planting herbs this spring and summer to enhance your meals. Alice Henneman and Sarah Browning, UNL Extension, present Herbs 101.


The 10 Garden Catalog RulesImage of garden catalogs
By John Fech, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Most of us hate rules, myself included...so why does the title of this article contain the word "rules"?  Actually, they're not so much "rules" per se, but guidelines to help make the most of the garden catalog perusing experience and application for better living on the acreage.  

  1. Create a landscape sketch.  It's a good idea to start with a visual representation of the acreage landscape; where the house, buildings, driveway, pasture, fences, etc are located, so that existing plantings can be evaluated and new ones considered.
  2. Where are the "holes"?  A list of needs, otherwise referred to as holes, is a good identifier.  They could be actual gaps in the landscape or places where trees/shrubs/fruits are dying and need to be replaced.
  3. USDA Hardiness Zones 4 and 5.  In Nebraska, we're in zones 4 (north and west) and 5 (east and southeast).  Before you get too excited about the description, be sure to note the hardiness zone.  If it is zone 6 or greater, move on to another potential plant.
  4. Plants with built in disease resistance.  Resistance to diseases such as apple scab, fireblight and rust are great features of a particular species or cultivar.  Big money savings and reduced pesticide applications are the benefits of disease resistance.
  5. Size and Shape.  How big will the plant grow?  How wide?  The eventual size and shape of a plant makes a big difference and will determine if it is sustainable in a landscape.  Stuffing a medium to large plant into a small space usually means frustration and repeated pruning efforts.
  6. Location, Location, Location.  Sun and shade, wind and soil - these are the important considerations.  Hostas, bergenia and pachysandra belong in the shade; putting them in the full sun is only going to lead to disappointment.
  7. Consider Views.  Especially in winter, an acreage landscape is viewed from inside the house.  Be sure to look from the inside out when making plant selections.
  8. Color in all seasons.  Dovetailed on the views rule, looking at only brown stems and grass gets kinda boring in February.  Fortunately, all types of plants with winter interest are available.  Winter features include colorful bark, persistent fruit, evergreen leaves and stems that sway in the wind.Image of AAS gardens
  9. Need accent plants AND neutral plants.  Both attention getters and plants that fill in the gaps are needed in a landscape.  If you fill the spaces with plants that all scream  for attention, your eye doesn't know where to go first, leading to an overwhelming feeling and dissatisfaction.  Choose wisely.
  10. Try one new plant.  Hundreds of plants are introduced each year.  Feel free to experiment with something that looks fun and attractive.   If you are leery of a specific plant, look for  the AAS (All America Selection) or PW (Proven Winner) logo.  It's a good place to start.


Sunscald Winter Injury
By Kelly Feehan, UNL Horticulture Extension Educator

Image of sunscald damage on red mapleWhile evergreen trees and shrubs are susceptible to winter desiccation or drying; sunscald is a winter injury that can occur on southwest side of deciduous trees. Sunscald occurs when tree bark warms up on sunny days and dormant cells become active. Once active, plant cells lose some of their cold hardiness and are then injured when temperatures drop at night.

Sunscald damage appears as discolored bark, cracking, or sunken areas. This damage stresses trees and provides an avenue for insects and diseases to enter.

Sunscald is mainly a threat to young, thin-barked trees with southwest exposure. As most young trees mature, they develop thicker bark and become less susceptible to sunscald injury. However, trees that have thin, dark-colored bark (cherries, peaches, and plums) even as they mature  can remain susceptible even with age.

Preventing Sunscald
Drought stressed trees are more susceptible to sunscald than trees that go into winter well-hydrated. This is another reason to pay attention to correct fall watering; especially of young trees. Deep watering and using mulch to conserve soil moisture are good practices.

Avoid over pruning young trees, especially removing lower limbs earlier than needed. Lower limbs provide some shade to tree trunks during winter. Wait two to three years after planting before removing the lowest tree limbs.

If possible, plant susceptible trees to the north and east of buildings or of evergreens. This way, the lower portions of the trees will be shaded during winter.

Tree Wrap
Protecting trees from sunscald is fairly easy and inexpensive. Wrapping the lower branches and trunk of susceptible trees with light colored tree wrap during winter is the best prevention. Tree wraps can be purchased at most home and garden stores.

White or light colored tree wrap reflects light helping to keep tree bark cooler. Dormant cells then remain inactive and are at less risk of being injured by temperatures dropping at night or suddenly when a cold front or cloud cover comes through.

Ideally, wraps should be put in place in late fall. If you have a susceptible tree, there is still time to protect it. As air temperatures warm in mid- to late winter, the risk of sunscald increases. Warm winter days followed by cold nights can be more common in late winter.

All tree wraps need to be removed in spring after the risk of freezing has passed. Tree wrap left on a tree during the growing season can harbor pests and hold moisture against a tree trunk which may promote disease.

Trunk Paint
Some orchardists paint the trunks of fruit trees white during winter. This is usually not acceptable in a landscape, but if trunk painting is done use an interior latex paint. Some exterior paints contain antimicrobial agents that could damage a tree.

If sunscald injury does occur, the area may repair itself. In the meantime, damaged areas should not be painted with a wound dressing or filled with any sealing substance such as paint or tar. These products can interfere with the trees own natural process to close the wound.

Source: Utah State University


Using Dormant and Horticultural Oil Applications for Insect Control
By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of oystershell scaleVarious types of oils have been used for many centuries to control hard-to-kill insects like aphids, scale and spidermites on fruit trees, providing good control of these insects with little risk to the plant, beneficial insects or the applicator when used according to label directions. Oils kill insects in several ways, most importantly by blocking the air holes through which the insects breathe, causing them to suffocate. Oils may also acts as poisons by interfering with insect metabolism or disrupt insect feeding. Oils act like a contact insecticide and provide no residual control, so the insects must be present and in a vulnerable stage of development for an oil application to be effective. The development of insect resistance to oils is rare, since the mode of action is mechanical rather than chemical.

They are also effective against powdery mildew and some aphid-transmitted viruses. In fact, oils can easily be worked into an organic spray program for fruit trees as well as small fruit plants, vegetables, flowers, tree and shrubs.

Understanding the terminlogy related to horticultural oils is important so that you understand the references made in spray guides.  Important terminology includes the following:
  • Horticultural oils are products used to control pests on plants.
  • Dormant oil is a term that was originally used to refer to heavy grade oil products used on woody plants during the dormant season. These older products caused phytotoxic effects if used during the growing season, so were limited to dormant season applications. These products have now been replaced in the horticultural market with lighter grade, more highly refined products that can be used both in winter and summer. The term dormant oil now refers to the time of application rather than the product. Dormant oil applications target overwintering insects and can kill adults, nymphs and eggs of insects like mites.
  • Summer oil is a term that refers to lighter grade oil products that can be used when plants are actively growing and in full leaf. The leaf damaging components like sulfur have been largely removed, therefore summer oils can be used in both winter and summer. The term is now more commonly used to refer to the time of application rather than the product used.
  • Superior oil refers to oil products that have reached a level of purification that allows year-round use without phytotoxicity if used according to label directions.
  • Supreme oil is a term used to categorize highly refined oils that distill at slightly higher temperatures. Most supreme oils meet the characteristics of a superior oil.
  • Some common brand names of commercially available oil products include Sunspray ®, Ultra-Fine and Volck ®. These products are superior oils and can be used both in summer and during the dormant season.

Horticultural oils have an emulsifier component added, allowing them to mix with water. Other types of oil, including vegetable oil or automotive oil, do not contain emulsifiers so will not mix with water; consequently, these products should not be used on plants and may cause plant damage.

History of Dormant Oil Applications
Before the development of current oil refining techniques, oils were used primarily on fruit trees during the dormant season, before the spring bud break. The application was timed to kill insects overwintering on the trees but also to avoid burning or damaging the leaves, which frequently happened with heavier, less highly refined oils. These oil products could not be used on plants during the growing season due to their phytotoxic effects. For this reason, the term 'dormant oil' was coined. Oil products currently available are more highly refined and the leaf damaging components including sulfur have been largely removed. Products like Sunspray® , Volck® and superior oil can be used both in summer and during the dormant season. Summer foliage applications of horticultural or 'summer oils' can control such insects as aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies, scale and spidermites.

Dormant Season Fruit Tree Applications
Fruit tree oil applications are commonly recommended as either a dormant or delayed dormant application.   Dormant oil applications darken tree bark and buds, speeding up spring bud development. This reduces the flower buds ability to withstand cold temperatures, therefore, applications are best delayed until just before bud break.
  • Dormant application- A dormant application is made just before bud break and is targeted to control Eriophyid mites, San Jose and oystershell scale.
  • Delayed dormant application- A delayed-dormant application is made when plants are in the green tip (fruit buds are open at tip showing 1/16 inch of green) through half-inch green bud growth stage (1/2 inch of leaf tissue is projecting from the fruit buds) for fruit trees to control insects such as San Jose scale, European red mite eggs, and aphid eggs.
Many labels will recommend higher rates of oil be used for a dormant application and slightly lower rates for a delayed-dormant application, however, always follow label directions and rate information when mixing oil products.

Dormant and delayed-dormant oil applications are most effective when applied with large quantities of water, which is necessary to thoroughly cover all the bark cracks and crevices for mite and scale control. Also make sure branches in the center of the tree receive adequate coverage. Poorly pruned trees with heavy center branching will required higher amounts of water for thorough coverage.  Based on tree height, a 20 foot tall tree should be sprayed using a minimum of 4 gallons of water; tree height 15 feet, 3 gallons; tree height 10 feet, 2 gallons; and tree height 5 feet, 1 gallon.

Later season fruit tree applications usually are made using an orchard spray, which incorporates both a fungicide and insecticide for control of both disease and insect problems.

Image of conifer aphidsInsects Controlled with Horticultural Oils
Insects such as adelgids, aphids, leafhoppers, scale insects, mites and whiteflies can be controlled on landscape ornamentals with oil applications.

  • Aphids- many hosts. Spray affected plants during the growing season when mites are detected.
  • Oystershell scale- many hosts. Spray affected plants after eggs hatch and light yellow crawlers appear (late May). Repeat in 7-10 days, unless prohibited by the label. Oil may damage some maples.
  • Pine needle scale- hosts include pine and spruce trees. Thoroughly spray foliage, branches and trunk with horticultural oil in March.
  • Spruce spider mite- hosts include spruce, juniper and pine. Spray affected trees during the dormant season just before bud break. (April) Repeat applications when mites are detected during the growing season (April to May, and September to October). Make the first application then a second application 7-10 days later. Oil will remove the blue needle color of spruce.
  • Twospotted spider mite- many hosts. Spray affected trees during the growing season when mites are detected. Make the first application then a second application 7-10 days later. Oil will remove the blue needle color of spruce.
  • Whiteflies- many hosts. Only nymphs are killed and thorough coverage of the undersides of leaves is necessary for control. Spray affected trees during the growing season when whiteflies are detected. Repeat applications as needed and according to label directions.

To get the best results from a horticultural oil application, follow these precautions.

  • First, read and follow all label directions, paying particular attention to which plants are listed on the label as sensitive to the product.
  • Do not apply oils to sensitive plants or allow the product to drift onto them.
  • Do not combine oil applications with sulfur or pesticides containing sulfur like Captan.
  • Do not apply horticultural oil when temperatures are above 100 degrees or below freezing.
  • Do not apply oils to quickly expanding shoots in spring.
  • Finally, allow plants to harden off well in fall before making dormant oil applications; this avoids increased susceptibility to winterkill.

Spray guides for homeowners and commercial fruit growers. 


Test Your Poison Ivy Identification SkillsImage of poison ivy
By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Anyone who has suffered through the agony of a poison ivy rash learns pretty quickly to avoid the plants whenever possible, but poison ivy can be tricky to identify.  The old saying tells us, "Leaves of three, let it be." This refers to the structure of a poison ivy leaf, which consists of three leaflets, however the leaves can be quite variable in appearance. Each leaflet is 2-4 inches long, and dull or glossy green in color with point tips.  The middle leaflet is generally larger than the two side leaflets, and the leaflet edges are quite variable, being either lobed, toothed or completely smooth.

Plants can grow as an upright woody shrub, a trailing shrub that grows along the ground, or as a woody vine. Vines climb trees quite high and develop a mass of aerial roots along the stem, resulting in the appearance of a "fuzzy rope" growing up the tree. Poison ivy produces yellowish-green flowers in the leaf axils, which later develop into waxy, white, berry-like fruits. Birds love these berries and after eating them, spread the seeds hither and yon.  In fall, leaves turn a beautiful orange-red.

Poison ivy is common in uncultivated areas, such as fence rows, roadways, ditches, and woodlands, but it can also find its way into home landscapes. All parts of the plant contain the chemical urushiol, an allergen, so the resulting rash is actually an allergic reaction.

Test your skills at poison ivy identification by taking this picture quiz.  Is This Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy can be effectively controlled by hand pulling, spot treatment of the leaves with a herbicide or by cutting woody plants down and painting a herbicide on the stump. Hand pulling is most effective on small plants when the soil is moist. Remove each plant's entire root, because sections of roots left behind can resprout. Wear rubber, chemical resistant gloves, long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks to avoid skin contact. When finished, wash clothing and gloves separate from any other family laundry and rinse the washing machine afterwards.

Spot treat individual plants with a selective, brush-killing herbicide containing triclopyr, such as Ortho's Brush-Be-Gon, or a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate (RoundUp) if damage to nearby plants is not a concern. The herbicide can be applied anytime during the growing season but is most effective in late summer to early fall. Use a sprayer to wet the foliage with herbicide, but avoid soaking the soil or allowing herbicide to drift or splash onto non-target plants. Poison ivy is a difficult plant to control, so repeat applications will usually be necessary.

Finally, woody shrubs or vines can be cut down and the stump painted with concentrated (undiluted) glyphosate, which will translocate into the roots and kill them.

Once the plants have died, remove them but always use safety precautions when handling dead poison ivy. Even though the plants are dead, the toxins remain. Dispose of the plants completely, but don't add them to your compost pile or burn them. Inhaling the smoke can result in an internal rash. If you have contact with poison ivy, wash the area as soon as possible with cool water and soap.


What You Need to Know When Selecting Water Treatment EquipmentImage of glass of water
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Water Quality Educator

Are you concerned about contaminants in your private drinking water supply that may affect health, cause taste and odor problems, or create staining and maintenance problems? The water treatment industry focuses on improving the aesthetic quality of household water and on treating contaminants that may pose a health hazard. Consider the following key factors for selecting water treatment equipment. Then, check out our University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension NebGuide, Drinking Water Treatment: What You Need to Know When Selecting Water Treatment Equipment  for additional information on each point.

Key Factors for Selecting Water Treatment Equipment

  • Correctly identify the problem to be addressed using appropriate tests.
  • Determine whether whole-house point of entry (POE) or single-tap point of use (POU) treatment is needed.
  • Determine which type of treatment will effectively remove or reduce the problem contaminant(s).
  • Select a reputable dealer and obtain second opinions. Check with others who have used the equipment.
  • Check if the equipment has been certified or validated for the targeted contaminants by a third-party organization such as NSF International (formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation) or the Water Quality Association (WQA).
  • Determine whether the system has adequate capacity to meet household water needs at household pressure and flow rates.
  • Consider all costs involved, including purchase price, installation, operating costs, maintenance costs, and re-testing costs.
  • Understand maintenance requirements and decide if you are capable of performing routine maintenance operations.
  • Understand how to determine if the equipment is functioning properly and targeted contaminants are being removed.
  • Determine the expected life of the equipment and its components, and understand the warranty.

Also, see our Extension Circular Drinking Water Treatment: An Overview for information on possible water quality problems and appropriate treatment methods for each. Detailed information on a variety of contaminants of concern in Nebraska and on the most commonly used treatment technologies can be found in NebGuides at http://water.unl.edu/drinkingwater/publications.


Ethanol Use in Small Engines
By John Hay, UNL Energy Extension Educator

A free web seminar covering ethanol use in small engines will be held Friday March 28th at 10 am CST.  Small engines are ubiquitous on acreages and yet much is unknown and misunderstood about fuel and fuel systems for small engines.  This web seminar will cover how ethanol blends change the characteristics of gasoline and how this can affect your small engines.  Ethanol blends are approved for use in most small engines. This seminar will cover which blends are approved, which are not and why.

All web seminars are archived at http://bioenergy.unl.edu. The most current web seminar announcements can be found at 2014 Bioenergy Friday Web Seminar Series.

How To Connect:  

  • Begin connecting 5 minutes prior to the start time. 
  • At the meeting time, copy and paste this URL into your browser to enter the meeting: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/agenergy/
  • You will find a login page. Choose "Enter as a Guest" and submit your name, and business or institution and click "Enter Room."
  • The audio portion of the meeting will come through your computer speakers.
  • Any time before the meeting you can visit the following URL to confirm your ability to connect:http://www.extension.iastate.edu/testconnect/


Solar PV Economics: Impact of Inflation
By John Hay, UNL Energy Extension Educator

Common criteria used to evaluate an investment:

  1. The simple payback period.
  2. The rate of return (often called the ROI).
  3. The present value of the benefit compared to the investment cost, or Net present value.
  4. Internal rate of return (IRR).

These criteria are explained in the NebGuide G2182 Economics of Solar Photovoltaic Systems. This publication explains how inflation of electricity costs impacts the economics.  

There are several reasons why the economics of putting a solar PV system on your home is more beneficial than ever.  Firstly, the price of solar panels has been reduced by over half in the past three years.  Second, the cost of grid electricity is continuing to increase, driven by inflation and emissions regulation.  In Nebraska we get a significant portion of our electricity from burning coal which is facing some of the most pressing emissions regulations.  Finally, consumption of electricity is increasing and demand leads to increased price for electricity (2).  The U.S. Energy Information Administration recorded a 77% increase in the amount of electricity demanded in the 21-year period of 1985-2006 (2). 

Over the period 1990-2011 an average inflation the electric utility in Lincoln Nebraska increased rates at an average rate of 2.85% per year. The rest of the state's utilities saw similar increases (1).  The price of electricity has become more volatile in recent years; when the time frame is shortened to 2001-2011 the average inflation rate per year increases to 4.73% over this eleven year period (1).  The price per kWh (kilowatt-hour) sold from the state's largest utility has increased from 6.43 cents per kWh in 2008 to 8.75 cents in 2012, a 36% increase in the cost of electricity in just four years (3). 

Image of solar economics graph

Note that on the graph it shows money inflation as a total and electricity inflation as year by year.

As you can see, the price of electricity has begun to rise faster in recent years. This may be due to increasing energy demand, rising costs of fuel, pollution regulations, or other infrastructure or economic factors.  The higher the price of electricity per kWh, the more money you save for each kWh you generate from a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.  The price of electricity plays a large role in the time it takes for a solar PV system to pay itself off and thus begin making you money on your investment.

The inflation of money from 1990-2011 (as you can see in the graph above), when compared to electricity, has risen in a linear pattern whereas electricity inflation was relatively stable until increasing faster in the last eleven years.  Over this 21-year period the average inflation rate for the U.S. Dollar was at 3.43% per year which is higher than electricity's inflation over the same period (1).  The linear nature of monetary inflation holds true when looking at the same eleven year period from 2001-2011.  During those eleven years the inflation of the dollar increased an average of 3.27% per year, slightly lower than the 21-year period due to the recession of 2008 (1).  The linear inflation of the dollar shows the significance of the large changes in inflation we are observing in the price of electricity, especially since 2001. 

Purchasing a solar PV system for your home must be considered as an investment as the large majority of costs will be upfront.  It is important to determine a way to measure the savings per kilowatt-hour produced during the life of the system.  Many solar PV systems have about a 30-year lifetime (until capacity drops to 80% of the original amount), but to be safe we will assume it will operate at its best for 25 years.  For our example we will assume a house on average uses 12,000 kWh annually.  There are many different solar calculators that you may reference but we will use a simple spreadsheet available online to figure payback and return on investment (5).  Other assumptions used for the solar calculator are $0.095 or 9.5 cents per kWh generated (4) and a 30% tax credit from the federal government. 

The total cost for the solar panels, frame, inverters, and installation is about $22,400 for a 5.6 kilowatt system with an average cost of $4/watt installed. 

After the federal tax credit of 30% is applied:
$22,400 * 30% = $6,720  then $22,400 - $6,720 = $15,680

The total cost, as solved for, comes out to $15,680. 

Dividing the total cost by the lifetime in number of months
25 years * 12 months = 300 months, then
$15,680 / 300 months = $52.27 per month

as the average fixed cost for the lifetime of the system regardless of electricity generation.  Using the following formula to estimate production, where you can substitute the size of your system and calculate the total, we found:

5.6  kW system * 5 hours (sunlight/day on average) * 365 days/year * 0.75 (efficiency of panels) = 7665 kWh/year

At a rate of 9.5 cents per kWh means you are saving $728.18 in your first year on your electricity bill.  Over the life of the system it will generate:

25 years * 7665 kWh = 191, 625 kWh

Dividing the total cost after tax credit by the total electricity produced:

$15,680 / 191, 625 kWh = $0.082 / kWh

We see that the price per kWh is about 8.2 cents per kWh produced, which is about the current average price of electricity.  There will certainly be inflation in price as demand and other factors contribute to an increasing price for electricity (2).

In the example an average electricity cost inflation rate of 3.79% is assumed, which is the average of the long run 2.85% inflation and the short run 4.73% inflation discussed earlier.  If one were to purchase this system in cash it would pay back in a little over 17 years, making a projected profit of $1,142 in year 17 and a total profit on your investment of $13,563 at the end of year 25.  The payback time is especially influenced by the inflation in the price of electricity.  For this exercise we are using a relatively conservative inflation rate of 3.79% - Nebraska Public Power District's 2012 annual report showed that from 2008-2012 the inflation in the price of electricity was 7.2% per year on average (from 6.43 cents per kWh in 2008 to 8.75 cents per kWh in 2012) (3).  If we apply this 7.2% inflation rate to the Bergey calculator we find that, if paid in cash, payback time would drop to 14 years with a profit of $650 in year 14 and a total profit at the end of year 25 of $30,138 on your investment.  That is over double the profit of our conservative 3.79% estimate. 

If you are considering taking out a loan for 100% of the cost to purchase your solar PV system (loan at 2.5% interest for 10 years), your results will be drastically different than a cash purchase.  With our conservative estimate of 3.79%, it would take 29 years to make a profit on your investment, which is outside of our (conservatively) estimated lifetime.  Again, the electricity inflation rate can have a significant effect on this payback period.  Changing the electricity inflation rate to 7.2% and still taking out a loan for 100% of the cost, the system would pay back in 22 years with a profit of $385 in year 22 and a total profit of $10,712 on your investment in year 25.

When calculating the economic estimates of your solar array take the inflation of electricity into account.  A conservative number to use may be 3.79% while inflation in the near term has been closer to 7%.


  1. www.les.com/pdf/Annual_Report_2011.pdf
  2. www.eei.org/whatwedo/PublicPolicyAdvocacy/StateRegulation/Documents/rising_electricity_costs.pdf
  3. www.nppd.com/assets/2012annualreport.pdf
  4. www.les.com/Your_home/rate_schedules_resservice.aspx
  5. www.bergey.com/technical  ? Residential & business cash flow / payback period


Interested in pollination?  Join the Bee Corp!Image of bumblebee
By Natalia Bjorklund, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Pollinators have a profound impact on our lives.  One third of the food we eat is directly derived from insect pollination, with many more foods such as beef indirectly linked to pollinators.  Recent bee declines have raised public awareness of the importance of pollinators and their conservation, and have a direct link to Nebraska agriculture.    Many people think of honeybees when they think of pollinators, but there are many other bees and insects that are important pollinators.   Bumblebees, sweat bees, butterflies, moths and beetles are all important pollinators.  Even flies!

Participate in the Bee Corp
Pollinator conservation classes and workshops will be taking place around the state in 2014.  These classes and workshops will offer opportunities to learn about the impacts of human interactions on pollinators, native pollinators, and design solutions to help pollinators.  Improving or conserving pollinator habitat doesn't just increase the numbers of insect pollinators, but also provides food and habitat for other Nebraska creatures such as quail and pheasants.  All this, as well as the benefits your fruit and vegetables will reap from more pollinators!

In addition to participating in classes and/or workshops, people are also needed who are willing to do habitat remediation in their own landscape.  Volunteers would gain valuable pollinator knowledge and be contributing to real world science research.  This could include ground nesting and leafcutter bee habitat remediation research and showcase pollinator plot plantings.   A variety of plant material would be made available to participants, as well as assistance with installation, construction, etc.  Information homeowners would then collect through the season, could include such things as 'how many different pollinators were observed,' or 'which plants seemed to be the most popular with pollinators.'  This data would then help conservation efforts in the future across the state, and maybe even farther!

Dates and locations for classes and/or workshops are still being arranged.  Some will be in spring and taught indoors, while others will be later in the summer, and taught outside.  If you are interested in receiving more information about class times and dates, please contact Natalia Bjorklund, Extension Educator at 402.727.2775, or by email at natalia.bjorklund@unl.edu.


2014 Nebraska Master Naturalist Program Now Accepting Applications
By Annabel Lee Major, UNL Master Naturalist Program Coordinator

Join the Nebraska Master Naturalist revolution and become part of the legacy. Nebraska Master Naturalist is thrilled to announce its 2014 training schedule.

"There are many new experiences to be had, and great new people to meet," said Annabel Lee Major, Nebraska Master Naturalist program coordinator.

The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program is an adult education program, focused on providing volunteers with hands-on experiences in Nebraska's natural resources. Participants spend 60 hours with Nebraska's finest educators, learning both in the classroom and in the field about topics such as Nebraska ecosystems, plants, animals, nature interpretation, conservation and more.

"I am so excited to be a part of this great program. I have the opportunity to teach and lead programming with fellow Master Naturalists. We have tremendous fun and the guests do too. I love what I do," said Kathie Barton, who is a part of the "Naturalists in the Park" program at Platte River State Park.

Become a Certified Master Naturalist and join a dedicated network of conservation volunteers, share exciting experiences, connect with Nebraska conservation organizations, and share your passion for the great outdoors.

Image of master naturalistMaster Naturalists have contributed more than 17,000 of hours of service valued at more than $350,000 in areas such as Interpretation and Outreach, Resource Conservation and Management, Outdoor Skills and Recreation, and Citizen Science Research.

Upcoming trainings:
- Thursdays through Saturdays from April 3-26 in Omaha and Lincoln
- Thursdays through Saturdays from May 1-17 in Omaha and Lincoln
- Sunday through Saturday from June 8-14 at the Niobrara Valley Preserve

Registration is $250 and discounts may be available. Apply today at http://NATURALIST.unl.edu or call 308-382-1820.