June 2011

Life Outside the City Limits

Collage of Images for June 2011

The Dangers of Acreage Noise
By Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Educator

Image of EarThe Midwest Producer (August 27, 2010) had a front page story by Shelby Haag I thought is something worth mentioning, as it is something we usually don't think too much about - until it is too late: our HEARING.

The article says that farmers and ranchers are frequently exposed to hazardous noise levels that can cause significant hearing loss, but noise-related hearing loss can affect anyone. The key to preventing or lessening hearing damage is early awareness and protective actions. Approximately 10-12% of the U.S. population experiences some sort of hearing difficulties. In Nebraska, that number jumps to 78% of the agricultural population that have a measurably reduced capacity to hear, according to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. This hearing loss does not know any age boundaries - everyone is equally susceptible.

"Hearing is a very valuable asset." audiologist, Kelly Wacker says, "Hearing loss from exposure to excessive noise is the only type of hearing loss that is 100% preventable. By following the necessary precautions, an individual does not need to experience hearing loss as a result of noise exposure."

There are two variables which contribute to hearing loss. The first is the volume of the noise; the second is the duration of the noise. The longer and louder a noise is, the greater the chance of developing hearing loss at a higher rate. When a person is exposed to a noise they may experience a ringing or muffled sound; which can return to normal in a few hours or days. Repeated noise exposure may cause the destruction of the thousands of hair cells in the inner ear.

According to OSHA, when a sound reaches 85-90 dB (decibels) it is becoming excessive and hearing protection is recommended. To put this into perspective, an idling tractor has an average decibel level of 80 dB and a riding lawn mower averages 90dB. ATVs range in sound levels from 91-100 dB, while power tools and woodshop noise averages 100 dB. A gas power grass trimmer and chainsaw averages 105-110 dB and a snowmobile averages 120 dB.

The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association says that noise and hearing loss can have other negative effects on a person, which may include: stress, increased blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, tension, and difficulty sleeping just to name a few. A study also indicated that farmers, who had difficulties hearing normal conversations, were 80% more likely to be involved in a farming accident.

The best advice: wear proper ear protection when you know you will be exposed to loud noises. If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss you should make an appointment with an audiologist. They can determine if you have hearing loss or if hearing loss will be something you develop in the future. It is also important to note, that just because you have hearing loss now, it does not mean you cannot preserve what hearing is left. Wearing protective devices will help to preserve what hearing is left.

Tips to keep your hearing on the acreage:

  • Make hearing protection convenient. Keep earplugs near your wallet or keys. Hang ear muffs on your tractor steering wheel, ATV, and lawn mower
  • Keep machinery and equipment well lubricated to reduce noise
  • Take breaks from noisy environments throughout the day
  • Limit the duration of elevated noise exposure
  • Doubling the distance between the source of the sound and the listener reduces the sound level heard to ΒΌ of what it was at the listener's original position

Signs you might have hearing loss:

  • Asking for frequent repetition
  • Have more difficulty following a conversation with background noise
  • Thinking others sound like they are mumbling
  • Turning up the volume on the television or radio
  • Watching people when they speak to you



This month's features include timely information for June: managing those weeds in your pasture, ten mulches to consider for your yard, rain barrels, and managing rabbit damage.


 Jessica Jones, UNL Extension, tells how to use integrated weed management to keep weeds under control in our pastures. 


Here are ten mulches to consider for trees and shrubs in Nebraska, according to John Fech, UNL Extension.


Bobbi Holm, UNL Extension, describes how rain barrels can help to protect water quality as well as conserve water.


Scott Hygnstrom, UNL Extension, tells how to live with cottontail rabbits, even if we don't especially enjoy their presence in our yards.

Heavy Rain, Flooding and Well Water Safety
By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Educator

News reports are providing information about flooded roads and properties in several Nebraska locations. Much of the flooding is occurring in rural areas. If flood water came near your private drinking water well, your water supply may have been contaminated with pollutants carried in the flood water.  Resources are available to you through University of Nebraska- Lincoln Extension to assist in maintaining the safety of your well.

Managing a Septic System after a Flood
Septic systems are not designed to function properly when flooded, or when the soil around the soil absorption field (drainfield) is saturated. These conditions can lead to failure and contamination of private drinking water supplies.

 Image of Flooded property

Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Heavy Rain, Flooding, and Well Water Safety
Recent heavy rains and flooding may have impacted private drinking water wells. If flood water came near your private drinking water well, the water may have been contaminated with pollutants. Read more about what you should do if your well is affected.

Emergency Disinfection of Flood-Contaminated Private Drinking Water
Flooding and surface water runoff can contaminate some private drinking water wells. If your well was impacted and you do not have a safe alternative water source, emergency disinfection of water for cooking and drinking will be necessary.

Well Shock Chlorination
If you are thinking about shock chlorinating your own well, see the shock chlorination NebGuide for directions and use the shock chlorination calculator to determine the amount of chemical required for your system.


Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Educator

Image of horses at fenceIn 1914, poet Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors." This is still true today in Nebraska, whether we live on an acreage or a large ranch. Keeping livestock out of fields, gardens, and off other's property is just part of being a good neighbor. Keeping fences in good repair can help to build good relationships with neighbors.

For many years, Nebraska has been a fence-in state, in which livestock owners are liable for any damages caused by trespassing livestock. This trespass liability created an obligation on the part of livestock owners to restrain the animals, but not a specific requirement that the animals be fenced in.

The 2010 Unicameral revised Nebraska's division fence statutes by enacting Legislative Bill 667. The primary change is that the cost of a wire division fence is split 50-50 in all cases, except where the neighbors have agreed to a different division of the fence cost.

Under LB 667, the costs for constructing and maintaining a division fence are divided 50-50, even if only one landowner owns livestock. If a landowner wants to build a division fence or repair an existing fence, he must give written notice to the neighbor. If the neighbor does not agree, the landowner files a suit in county court. If the parties agree to negotiate the cost and work, the judge may refer the case to mediation. Otherwise, it goes to trial. LB667 does specify that a barbed wire fence is the default division fence unless both landowners agree to a different type of fence.

The likely result of the 2010 division fence statutes is that once landowners realize they will have to pay 50 percent of a new division fence, most landowners will pay their share or else build their half of the fence as per the right hand rule.

Hopefully, most landowners also will agree to the right hand rule approach for fence maintenance, which would simplify fence maintenance disputes.

If a neighbor is not maintaining his half of the fence, the other landowner can notify the neighbor of the need for repair. If the neighbor does not agree, then the two parties may go to court. Maintaining a fence includes keeping trees and shrubs out of the fence line. Each landowner is responsible for removal or trimming trees or shrubs within or encroaching upon the fence line.

Building good fences and maintaining them is just one of the many responsibilities that come with owning livestock and living in the country.


In The News: Equine Herpes Virus
Kathleen Anderson, UNL Extension Horse Specialist

Image of horse & ridersEquine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) has frequently been in the news recently, and is a concern of many horse owners, but what is EHV-1?   It's one of the most common respiratory diseases affecting horses, commonly found in horse populations worldwide.  There are at least four equine herpes viruses.  EHV-1 and EHV-4 are the two herpes viruses that commonly cause respiratory disease.

EHV-1 is also well known for causing reproductive disease, and was previously referred to as the equine abortion virus, but it can also cause neurological disease. In horses infected with the neurologic strain of EHV-1, clinical signs may include: nasal discharge, uncoordination, hind end weakness, recumbency, lethargy, urine dribbling and diminished tail tone.

Transmission occurs when infected and uninfected horses come in either direct (nose to nose contact) or indirect contact (through buckets, clothing, blankets that are contaminated) with nasal discharges of infected horses. The virus can travel via aerosol (in the air) for short distances.

Recent Events
Horses participating at the National Cutting Horse Association's (NCHA) Western Championships show in Ogden, Utah during the period of April 30 through May 8, 2011 are believed to have had opportunity of exposure to EHV-1. A statement from the National Cutting Horse Association regarding the reported cases of EHV-1 at the event can be found at http://nchacutting.com.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, there have been 6 confirmed cases of horses with EHV-1, as of May 18, 2011. There are also 14 suspect cases. Suspect cases are those horses that are believed to have been exposed to EHV-1 but confirmatory tests are still pending.

For updated and accurate information regarding the EHV-1 situation, visit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. 

In Nebraska...
Currently, five horse premises in Nebraska have been quarantined by Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) due to horses that participated in the NCHA Western Championships.  However, to date none of these horses have shown signs of the disease. NDA has not implemented any additional commerce or import requirements on horse movement at this time. This status could change, and it would be prudent for horse owners to check the NDA website prior to the date of any travel for updates.

NDA encourages all horse producers to follow biosecurity measures on their operations, including: requiring individuals to wash their hands before and after contact with each horse; avoid contact with other horses; disinfect boots and change clothes that come into contact with horses other than your own; isolate horses returning from shows or events for 2-3 weeks.

Managing EHV-1: Online Resources

Many information resources are available for horse owners, enabling them to learn more about this disease and implement good management practices on their farms and acreages.

American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Resources on EHV
Find EHV-1 updates, informational resources and information on individual states on The American Association of Equine Practitioners' (AAEP) EHM & EHV Resources webpage.

USDA EHV Resources
The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has collected a number of resources on EHV-1 including informational brochures about the disease, as well as outbreak information from previous years.

Strike a Balance with EHV-1, from American Horse Daily
Learn how to strike a balance between showing and protecting your herd against equine herpesvirus-1 myeloencephalopathy with tips from Dr. Tom Lenz.

Image of horseExtension Resources and Publications on EHV-1

Neurologic Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), Utah State University
Informational publication written by Dr. Kerry A. Rood, Utah Extension Veterinarian and Dr. L. Earl Rogers, Utah State Veterinarian. Read more about the background, clinical signs, diagnosis and prevention of Neurologic Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1).

Equine Herpes Virus, Colorado State University
Informational article about EHV, including the mode of transmission, the primary and secondary symptoms, the treatment options, applicable vaccinations and what you can do to prevent your horse from contracting the disease.

Equine Herpesvirus Fact Sheet, University of Connecticut
Informational fact sheet written by Jenifer Nadeau, Associate Professor and Equine Extension Specialist at the University of Connecticut. This fact sheet touches on the different types of equine herpesvirus, clinical signs, routes of transmission and how to protect your horses from EHV.

Biosecurity Information/Resources for Horse Farms

Protect Your Barn and Horses from Disease, eXtension.org
Learn about evaluation methods and advice for prevention, protection, and proactive ways of minimizing disease risk in your horse facility by watching this recorded webcast, hosted by Dr. Betsy Greene, Professor of Animal Science and Extension Equine Specialist at the University of Vermont.

USDA Horse Biosecurity Brochure
The United States Department of Agriculture has provided this brochure with general suggestions and guidelines regarding biosecurity on horse farms, including topics on transporting horses and using disinfectants.

AAEP Biosecurity Guidelines & Recommendations
The American Association of Equine Practitioners has organized this document with various biosecurity guidelines and recommendations for farms that house horses with EHV-1 or horses that have been exposed to the virus. Read about management of manure and bedding, as well as methods of disinfection horse equipment and facilities.


Recognizing Pine Wilt
By Nicole Haxton, UNL Extension Educator

Image of pine wilt

USDA Forest Service - Region 2 - Rocky Mountain Region Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The most common questions I have been asked lately are in regards to pine wilt. I thought I would take the time in this news article to clear all of these questions up. Pine wilt is a bad disease spreading rapidly throughout the area, so the more we know about it, the more trees we can possibly salvage.

Pine wilt is a disease that affects primarily Scotch pines, but it will also affect Austrian pines and less often ponderosa pines. The disease is one that is caused by a nematode, a microscopic worm-like creature, which burrows through the tissues in the wood and decreases the amount of water flow throughout the tree. The nematode is then moved from tree to tree with the help of a pine sawyer beetle. This beetle carries the nematodes on its back to new trees and when it bites into the next pine tree, it makes a wound in the tree where the nematode can go into it and start feeding, causing a large amount of damage.The needles on an infected tree will turn grayish green and will eventually turn all brown.

The death usually occurs over a short amount of time. The dead needles will remain on the tree well after the death occurs.

There is no control method for pine wilt infected trees. If you have a tree that has or gets pine wilt it needs to be removed as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the disease. If your tree gets pine wilt after the first of October of the year, it should be cut down and burned or chipped by the end of April. If the tree dies between the beginning of May and the beginning of October it should be cut down and burned or chipped as soon as possible. This is done to reduce the spread of the disease and possibly save some of our beautiful Scotch pine trees.

Image of pine wiltThere are two other diseases that affect these pine trees in similar methods that are commonly mistaken for pine wilt. Diplodia blight is one that mainly affects ponderosa and Austrian pines. The difference between diplodia blight and pine wilt is that in diplodia the pine cones will usually have tiny black spots on the cones which are the fruiting bodies of the fungus. This disease usually occurs as stunted and brown new growth or as entire branches that have brown needles.

The other disease of pine trees is dothistroma needle blight. Dothistroma affects mainly ponderosa and Austrian pines. The difference between dothistroma and pine wilt is that in dothistroma the needles will get dark brown bands across the needles that have turned brown. This disease is also different from pine wilt because it affects the bottom of the tree first and will eventually move up throughout the tree.

There are different fungicides that are available for use on both dothistroma and diplodia, but they must be applied two times each year. Pruning the diseased branches out of the tree can help to increase the air flow therefore reducing the incidence of the disease.

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Too Mulch of a Good Thing?
By John Fech, UNL Extension Educator

Image of Excessive Mulch

Excessive mulch applications cause problems for trees.

The more, the better, right? In most cases, human nature being as it is, if we find something that works well, we apply more of it, take more of it, buy more of it or use it more often. Is this always a good plan? Usually not.

In all actuality, when it comes to the care of ornamentals on the acreage, a real balance is important. Other aspects of our lives set the tone for this approach and are filled with examples of the need for balance. Sure, spicy tortilla chips are tasty, but eating a super size bag of them at every meal is probably too much of a good thing - too much fat for your diet, and too much of the same flavor and texture. A better plan is to eat a few for a snack once or twice a week, and include some green veggies at mealtime instead.

Guiding Principle
When it comes to mulching, consider the following. The guiding principle is to replicate Mother Nature. In most forest settings, you'll find "leaf litter" or "arbor droppings" on the forest floor - bits and pieces of bark, twigs, faded flowers, fruits and leaves. They are usually piled up to about a 3-4 inch depth.

Seeing is believing, so the next time you want a diversion or feel the need for a "road trip", drive to a nearby forest preserve or nature center and kick your way through the trees. As you walk through, reach down and examine what's fallen off the trees. Directly underneath the droppings, you'll find that some that are decomposing into soil, and under that, you'll find black gold.....natural compost. The decomposition process is how nutrients are cycled back to the tree, eventually picked up by the roots.

This exercise emphasizes the need for areas around each tree that will allow for leaf and arbor dropping recycling. Trees planted in restricted areas, or with lots of rock or concrete around them, such as when placed near grain bins or driveways, develop poorly due to a compromised root system, in part due to the lack of nutrient recycling.

With those concepts as a foundation, when mulching around trees, consider what's best for the plant as well as what is practical for the acreage. Start by placing mulch 2 inches away from the tree trunk, and extend it as far away from the tree as is practical. Six to eight feet is not too much. Avoid mulch volcanoes - those obnoxious looking loads of mulch dumped at the base of trees. The trunk of a tree should remain open to the air; otherwise a more favorable environment for diseases such as Armillaria root rot is created.

Image of too much mulchMulching Materials
Real men don't each quiche, and real horticulturists and arborists (and acreage owners) don't use rock mulch. Again, replicate nature by using plant by-products. Lucky for us, Mother Nature isn't choosy.........pine needles, wood chips, cypress pieces, bark nuggets, cedar chunks, ground corncobs, prairie hay, stump grindings and even cocoa bean hulls or cottonseed hulls are good for trees. Oh sure, in very windy areas rock might make sense; however the benefits of cooling the soil, suppressing weeds and recycling nutrients are lost. A particularly poor place to use rock is on acreages where a stray juvenile delinquent might feel the urge to toss a stone through the dining or ballroom window. A 2 inch depth is ideal.

Each of these materials has certain characteristics that should be considered when choosing a mulch material.

  1. Wood Chips - Usually free, can be obtained from tree services.
  2. Pine Needles - Usually free, but removing them from your pines can be detrimental. Also, using "borrowed" needles can be problematic as foliar diseases can be held on the surfaces.
  3. Cypress Pieces - Can be expensive. Much of cypress mulch is made from areas where trees are cut and not replanted.
  4. Bark nuggets - Can be pricey, but usually the larger size reduces washing and blowing away.
  5. Cedar Chunks - Smaller particle sized products can be lost to wind, but good overall.
  6. Ground Corncobs - Gives you a chance to get to know your corn farming neighbors. 2 inch size chunks are better than smaller ones.
  7. Prairie Hay - Can use material that isn't the finest for animals to eat, but use caution to avoid applying an overly thick layer.
  8. Cocoa Bean Hulls - Expensive, but can add a wonderful aroma to the landscape. Be sure to use a thin layer only, as they have a tendency to mat and cut off oxygen exchange to plant roots.
  9. Cottonseed Hulls - Ditto, except for the wonderful aroma.
  10. Stump Grindings - Free, can be obtained easily by scooping up the residue left after a tree is removed and the stump ground out. They tend to be on the coarse side, but usually make a good mulching material.



Sweet Potatoes in Nebraska
By Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Educator- Specialty Crops

Sweet potatoes are not a crop that most vegetable gardeners in Nebraska often consider to be an option. Sweet potatoes are a tropical crop more naturally suited for production in more southern climates. Sweet potatoes are very nutritious in that they are high in fiber, low in fat and contain vitamins A and C. The sweet potato is also commonly confused with the yam which is completely unrelated to the sweet potato.

Produce Your Own Slips
Unlike regular potatoes that are produced from pieces of seed potatoes, sweet potatoes are produced from slips or sprout that arise from the sweet potato itself. Slips can be purchased through garden centers or producers that specialize in slip production for growers that require larger amounts. Slips can also be produced very simply if only a few are going to be planted.

Image of growing sweet potato slips

Growing your own sweet potato slips can be a fun family project.

To produce your own slips start with a whole sweet potato and a quart jar. Insert 3-4 tooth picks into the sweet potato around the middle of the sweet potato to act as supports. Place the sweet potato into the jar so one end is in the jar and the other end is out and pointing up supported by the toothpicks. Fill the jar with water and place the jar in a sunny window that will not drop below 50 degrees.

Green sprouts will begin to appear in 2-4 weeks. Let the sprouts grow until they are 6-8 inches long. Remove the slips from the sweet potato and place them in a second jar of water where they will develop roots.  You can hold them in the jar until you are ready to plant them outside. The original sweet potato if left in the jar of water will continue to produce slips.


Site Considerations
Sweet potatoes require good soil drainage. The preferred soil types range from sandy to sandy loam but most well drained soils will produce a crop. Planting in raised beds is beneficial because the soils will stay warmer and water drainage is increased making planting in heavier soils an option.

Soil pH can be as low as 5.0 but peak performance is achieved at a pH range of 6.5-7.5.

Being of tropical origin, sweet potatoes need to be planted after the danger of frost has past and both days and nights are warm. For producers in Nebraska late May into early June is the perfect time to plant sweet potatoes. Plant sweet potatoes in a ridged row or raised beds. The slips should be planted 3 to 4 inches deep and 9 to 18 inches apart. Water the slips in after planting.

High fertility soils can result in increased foliage growth and reduced tuber yields so initial fertilization should be based on the results of a soil test. Approximately 3 weeks after planting and growth has started, side dress 1 ounce of nitrogen per 100 square feet. A second side dressing using the same amounts can be applied once runners start to grow off the bed.

Image of Sweet potato slips

Sweet potato slips ready for planting.

Growing On
Sweet potatoes are considered drought tolerant but yields suffer greatly under drought conditions. Minimum requirements for optimum yield are approximately 1 inch of water per week.

Weeds can seriously impede the development of the crop. Weed control needs to take place throughout the growing season with the greatest emphasis early in development of the vines. Control can be achieved through chemical or manual means or by using a layer of mulch which helps reduce weeds as well as conserving moisture. Once the vines have covered the bed they act as a natural mulch.

Varieties that are successful in the Midwest are ready to harvest in 90-120 days from planting. The vines leaves begin to turn yellow indicated that they are ready for harvest. With some varieties this may be just prior to frost. Light frost will kill the vine but not harm the sweet potato itself but they should be dug if this should happen.

Care needs to be taken during harvest. The skin is very thin and easily damaged increasing the chance of rot. The tubers are also very fragile at this point and break easily so lift them from the ground as gently as possible.

Do not wash them after harvest. If they are muddy wipe them off as best as possible. Air dry them in a warm, shaded area with high humidity for 4 to 6 days. Proper curing toughens the skin and promotes healing of any damage as well as increasing the sugar levels and intensifying the orange color of the flesh. As they dry much of the dirt will fall away.

Wash the tubers just prior to marketing or use. Sweet potatoes can be stored for 6-10 months at 55-60 degrees.

Cultivar Selection

  • Beauregard -- 95 to 100 days. Early maturing, light red skin. Excellent shape and yield. Good storage sweet potato.
  • Jewel-- 115 to 120 days. Blocky sweet potatoes with copper skin and orange flesh. Very good quality. Does best in light-textured soils.

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