March 2014

Life Outside the City Limits

Growing Giant Pumpkins
By Vaughn Hammond, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of giant pumpkin festival.One of the biggest competitions in the world of horticulture is........growing a record breaking giant pumpkin and now is the time to get ready.  The Holy Grail of the giant pumpkin world has been growing a pumpkin that will tip the scales at one ton.  This was finally achieved in 2012.  The first pumpkin to ever break the one ton mark was grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island.  His pumpkin weighed in at a whopping 2,009 pounds.  Mr. Wallace also broke the 2006 world record by growing a pumpkin to a mere 1,502 pounds.  How does he do it?  Well, lots of planning and work.

In order to grow giant pumpkins there are a few considerations that one has to keep in mind. The first is genetics-the variety of choice needs to have the genetics to allow it to become the behemoth that you are striving for. Then there is nutrition, water and sunshine.

The variety Atlantic Giant has by far the greatest number of official record breakers.  There are many other varieties of pumpkins available that are capable of achieving 300 pounds and greater so check your seed catalogs for some of these varieties.

Site Selection & Preparation
If possible it is best if you can start preparing the site for your giant the year prior to planting.  The site needs to have as much sunlight as possible to keep the pumpkin growing.  No shade will give you the best results.  Remember, the site needs to be dedicated to the growth of the pumpkin so prepare a large area to accommodate the roots and vine growth.

The first task the grower needs to consider is soil testing.  This will give you baseline fertility levels and the amount of organic material in the soil but more importantly will give you the soils pH level.  The optimal pH is between 6.5 and 6.8 for growing giant pumpkins.  Minimally, 300 square feet per plant for is needed and up to 2500 square feet to accommodate vine growth for maximum results.  Add plenty of manure, compost and leaves to the whole area and work deep into the soil.  Test for pH again once the soil amendments have been in place for a period of time.   If you are able to make site preparations the year prior to planting sow a cover crop such as annual rye over the area.

Starting the Seed
To get a jump start on the growing season start your plants indoors in early to mid April.  Use a well-balanced potting media rather than a seed starting mix.  Start the seed in full sunlight or under lights.  Make sure the planting media does not dry out.  The new plants grow very quickly and need plenty of space to grow, particularly the roots so if possible start the seeds in 6 inch peat pots.  This is a larger container than normally used to start seeds so pay particular attention to watering and do not overwater the seeds-keep them moist and never lacking for water but not soaking wet either.  Once the first true leaf is fully expanded, start a fertilizer program using a fertilizer high in phosphorus to promote maximum root development.

Transplanting Outdoors
Transplant the plants outdoors as soon as the danger of frost has passed.  Remember that pumpkins are a warm season plant and love heat.  If possible cover the area that the plants will be planted in with black plastic a couple of weeks prior to moving outdoors.  This will allow for soil temperature to warm up creating a better environment for the roots.  It will also help with water conservation and weed control directly around the plant.

In order to provide the best environment for the plants create a mini greenhouse and keep it in place the first 3-4 weeks after moving outdoors.  It can be as simple as two storm windows leaned against each other to create a teepee or as complex as a small, 4x4 framed plastic covered greenhouse.  The intent of the structure is to shelter the plant from wind and rain as well as to increase the temperature around the plant during both the day and night.

Transplanted pumpkin vineWatering and Fertilization
Along with genetics and sunlight, water and fertilizer are two more ingredients essential to growing a giant pumpkin. Giant pumpkins are huge consumers of water.  Much more than most growers would think.  Amounts vary with soil type, temperatures and wind but the general rule of thumb is 1 to 1 ½ inches per week over the entire planting area.  This equates 623 gallons per week over a 1000 square foot growing area during peak growth.  The amount should be divided into 2 or even 3 watering per week.  Early, in development the amount is much less due to the smaller size of the plant.  Later as the plant vines out and rooting along the vine takes place throughout the pumpkin patch water needs grow with plant and fruit development.

Fruit growth takes place at night so applying water in the early evening results in the greatest amount of water available to the plant.  The best method of watering is through drip irrigation.  In general, drip irrigation places the water directly on the soil surface. Drip irrigation also facilitates late in the day watering by keeping the foliage dry reducing foliar disease potential.  Overhead watering is also an option.  If using sprinklers to apply water it is important to water as early in the day as possible to allow for early drying of the leaves and reduced disease incidence.

Providing nutrition keeps the plants roots, vines, flower and fruit growing and developing.  Early in the season fertilize using a formulation high in phosphorus such as 15-30-15 to promote root and shoot development.  Once fruit begin to set, switch to a balance formulation such as 20-20-20.  The balanced formulation will help provide well rounded nutrition to the plant during this period of rapid growth.  The goal is to get as great a ratio of leaf number to fruit as possible.  Each leaf is capable of supplying up to 4 pounds of fruit weight through the growing season.

Late in July switch to a fertilizer formulation that is high in potassium such as 15-11-29 to support the development of the fruit.  This formulation is used throughout the rest of the growing season.  Again, it is important to water and fertilize through the whole growing season to keep the plant healthy and actively growing right up until the end of the season ensuring the greatest amount of fruit growth.

For best results, dividing the fertilizer rates in ½ and applying fertilizer with each watering provide the optimal amount of nutrition being available at all times for plant utilization.  Periodic foliar applications of fish emulsion and seaweed extract are also beneficial in keeping the foliage in optimum condition.  Foliar applications need to take place early in the day to allow for leaf drying and reduced disease incidence.

Fruit Selection and Vine Positioning
A strong plant can set as many as 6-8 pumpkins.  This happens through natural pollination.  As the fruit develops watch it carefully to determine which fruit is growing the fastest rather than the largest and is approximately 10 ft. away from the base of the plant.  This distance is important because as the fruit gains size it allows for movement of the vine to accommodate growth.  Remove all the fruit except the chosen one from each plant. Then continue to remove flowers as they develop.  Carefully, reposition the chosen pumpkin so the stem is perpendicular to the vine.  Naturally the stem and fruit develop at a acute angle off the stem.  Repositioning the fruit to a more perpendicular angle enhances the sap flow into the fruit by reducing restriction.  At this point the fruit is very susceptible to aborting so repositioning may need to be gradual over the course of a few days to reduce the risk.

In order to direct as much energy to fruit development as possible some vine pruning and management needs to take place.  Huge amounts of energy are directed toward producing expansive vines.  That energy needs to be redirected to fruit development and this takes place through pruning.  Approximately 10 ft. away from the developing simply cut the tip off and bury the cut end to help reduce seepage.  Any side branching should be repositioned to run perpendicular to the main vine to facilitate movement throughout the patch.  Side branching should be limited to 8 ft. of growth by again cutting the growing tip off and burying the cut tip.

The vine will develop roots at each leaf.  These rooting points are very important in the giant pumpkins development as they are aiding in bringing water and nutrients into the system to support the fruit.

Shaded pumpkinProtecting the Vine and Fruit
The vine and fruit needs to be actively protected.  Protection from the wind is important to keep the vines well rooted at the leaf nodes. Bury the rooting points with soil to anchor them in place and create good soil to root contact.  A simple snow fence around the pumpkin patch is adequate to slow the wind down.  The foliage needs to be protected from disease and insect pests through the implementation of an Integrated Pest Management program.  The fruit itself needs protection from a variety of vermin including deer, groundhogs, rodents and more.  The fruit also needs to be protected in the area that touches the ground to reduce insect and moisture related problems.  Early in the development create a bed of sand that separates the fruit from the soil beneath.  Weed barrier can also be used.

In a normal pumpkin patch, the leaves shade and protect the fruit from the sun.  Giant pumpkins grow out of this natural sun screen and are highly susceptible to sunburn. Building a shade structure around your giant to protect it from the July sun can be the difference between success and failure.  Something as simple as draping shade clothe over the pumpkin can be beneficial but does not allow for air movement.

The growing season is pretty much finished sometime in the month of September.  If early frosts are predicted cover the pumpkin to protect the surface.   Cut the stem away from the vine.  Leave at least 2 inches of the stem attached to the pumpkin.  It is important to leave a good stem because if the stem is broken off rot organisms can move directly into the pumpkin.  To estimate the weight, measure the pumpkin parallel to the ground from the blossom end around to the stem.  Measure from ground to ground along the line of the stem and the blossom end and then again ground to ground perpendicular to the first ground to ground measurement.  Add the 3 measurements together and multiply by 1.9 for an estimate of the weight.

All growers have their own little secrets to successful giant pumpkin growing.  Many do it year after year and each has experienced their fair share of failures.  The key is to keep trying and improve from year to year.  With time and experience you too may be able to grow a pumpkin as big as a small car.



Are you ready for the lions and lambs of March? This month's videos cover nitrate in drinking water, low tunnels, and an Extension celebration.

Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension, tells us that nitrate can be a problem in private drinking water supplies. Testing for and management of excessive nitrate is the responsibility of the owner of the well. Spring is the perfect time to test private drinking water supplies for nitrate.


Low tunnels are a commercial vegetable production technique that can easily be adapted for use in the home vegetable garden. According to the University of Maryland, they can be easily constructed using flexible transparent to semi-transparent material to enclose a crop row and provide some early season protection from cold, wind damage, and insects. Depending on the fabric used, row cover material can provide 2-7 degrees of frost protection for early season crops such as cabbage and other cole crops, lettuce, spinach, and many more.

Use of Row Covers in the Home Garden, Cornell University



Join us in celebration of UNL Extension's 100-year anniversary! Brandon Schulte of UNL shows why we should celebrate.


Winter Burn and Winter Drying Common Winter Tree Injuries
By John Fech, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Dry winter conditions contribute to winter tree injury. It's common this time of year for people to be wondering what is causing the yellowing or browning of their pine trees.

Winter burn and winter drying are two common injuries to trees caused by weather. Winter burn is most obvious on coniferous trees due to the browning of the needles during the winter months, but it can also damage deciduous trees. Winter burn is basically freeze damage caused by rapid temperature changes, which most often occur during sunset or sunrise, often when mild winter daytime temperatures are quickly followed by arctic temperatures at night. Often winter burn is more evident on the south side of trees where there is more exposure to the sun. Rapid temperatures changes may damage or kill needles, but sometimes branch tissues. Winter burned trees usually recover, if the buds are healthy, when new growth in the spring cover damaged areas. However, when damage is severe, whole trees can be killed.

Winter drying damages mostly evergreen trees. The actual damage occurs in late winter or early spring, but the symptoms may not show up until growth begins in the spring. Winter drying is caused by the dessication of foliage and twigs by warm, dry winds, when water conduction is restricted by frozen plant tissues or by frozen soil. All trees transpire (lose) water, even during the winter months. Sometimes this loss of water is greater than the roots can replace, so drying damage results. Minor damage results in reddening or browning of foliage, which may later recover. Symptoms of more severe injury include browning and the subsequent death of branch tips or entire branches. The side of the tree facing prevailing winds is most susceptible to winter drying.

Often a combination of winter burn and winter drying will occur, occasionally compounded by drought. If damage is severe enough, affected branches or sometimes an entire tree, may be killed.

Little can be done to control the weather, but a few precautions can be taken to reduce the possibility of winter weather injury. Whenever possible:

  • Choose species which are hardy and best adapted to the area.
  • Plant in well-drained, deep soils.
  • Plant where trees are protected from winds and sun.
  • Water young trees thoroughly in the fall, and possibly during the winter when the soil in not frozen.
  • Mulch around trees to prevent deep freezing.
  • Maintain a fertile, well-aerated soil to encourage deep root growth.

Source: Dennis M. Adams, Nebraska Forest Service


Plant Myths
By Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of red paint on tree woundsAs with many aspects of life, plant stories are passed from generation to generation. While some of these stories are true, some are myths. Here are a few myths encountered when answering plant questions.

Tree Sap
Tree owners will ask if they should prune trees during late winter. They are concerned tree sap will have come up during warmer weather. And if so they are worried pruning will lead to excessive bleeding or loss of tree sap.

The thinking that sap goes down in the fall and comes up in spring is a myth. Tree sap remains throughout a tree all year long. It is only the flow of sap that stops during cold winter days. March is a good time to prune. Just make sure your pruning shears are sharp and make correct pruning cuts.

Along with this myth is the often-held belief that if a tree is pruned and bleeds sap, this hurts the tree. While the flow of sap out of a pruning wound is unsightly, it does not harm trees. As horticulturists, we should stop using the term "bleed sap". Maybe this would help dispel the idea that flowing sap is harmful.

The sap that is flowing out of the pruning wound is sap that would have gone into the branch. Since the branch is no longer there; the loss of that sap is not harmful to the tree.

Painting Pruning Wounds
Painting pruning wounds or applying wound dressings to stop sap flow or prevent insects entering a tree wound is another myth. These products should not be used on pruning wounds. Research has proven they can actually increase decay in wounds. Healthy trees take care of wounds by sending natural chemicals to the wound to decrease decay and aid wound closure.

Thatch in Lawns
A lawn related myth often heard is if grass clippings are caught while mowing then thatch won't build-up. This is not true, thatch can develop whether grass clippings are caught or left on the lawn. Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer made up mostly of grass roots, rhizomes and stems. Grass blades contribute very little to thatch. The higher a lawn is maintained, the faster thatch can build up.

Another myth about turf thatch is it can be seen on the surface while walking across a lawn. Thatch is not visible from the surface. Thatch is a reddish brown mat found between the soil and green plant crowns. To check for thatch, a small plug of turf needs to be cut out of the lawn. Ideally, lawns should have a one-fourth to one-half inch layer of thatch to provide insulation from foot traffic and extreme temperatures.

If planning to power rake this spring, check the true thatch layer first. If it is less than one-half inch, core aerate the lawn instead of power raking. Aeration is very beneficial to turfgrass and it is a lawn care practice that should be used more frequently. If a lawn is power raked once a year, this is likely too often. If a lawn is core aerated once a year, this frequency would be just fine for home lawns.

Sand as a Soil Amendment
The idea of adding sand to heavy clay soils to improve drainage is a garden myth. We know sandy soils drain better than clay soils so this appears to make sense. However, it is difficult to incorporate enough sand evenly throughout a soil to make a difference. The end result is often a cement-like soil. To try and improve clay soils, incorporate a two to three inch layer of well rotted organic matter 6 to 8 inches deep and evenly throughout a soil prior to planting.

Using Gravel to Improve Container Drainage
Another soil drainage myth is the idea that placing gravel in the bottom of plant containers will allow excess water to more readily drain out of the container. In practice, the opposite happens. The soil above the gravel ends up holding more water. The result can be a water logged soil and root dieback due to a lack of soil oxygen.

This happens because water does not readily drain from fine textured soil into the coarser textured gravel. It's also because the amount of soil has been reduced; hence the smaller volume of soil holds more water than if the water could disperse throughout a greater volume of soil.

For container gardening success, select containers with drainage holes and use a well drained, soilless potting mix. When water is needed, add water until water runs out of the drainage holes; then pour off any excess water that drains into the catch basin of the container. It is fine to cover the drainage holes with broken shards of clay, but do avoid placing a one to two inch layer of gravel in the bottom of containers.


Distiguishing Winged Ants from Winged Termites
By Nicole Stoner, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of antAnts can be found inside or outside your home throughout most of the year, but it's in spring and again in fall when we tend to have the most problems with ants invading homes. 

In spring, ants emerge early, and begin searching for food and warmth during cold spring nights.  Many people don't realize where the ants are coming from, which can make control difficult.  Ants will find any tiny crack in the foundation of your home or any holes around doors or windows to find their way into your home.  Once inside, they become a real nuisance. 

One of the most common invading ants is the odorous house ant.  These are very tiny, reddish-brown ants, and if crushed they smell bitter.  They can be found anywhere in the home, but are especially common in the kitchen.

Controlling Ants in the Home
Control of ants can be done through multiple techniques.  If you can find the colony, the best control method is to treat the colony directly.  But even if you don't know where the ants are coming from, and cannot locate the colony, you can still control them.

There are many types of bait stations used for ant control.  Many use a dry, hard food material ants don't like as well as other foods.  The point of the bait station is to provide a favored food treated with a chemical, something the ants like so they pick it up and take it back to the colony, killing all of the ants including the queen.  If they don't take the bait back to the colony, you will continue to have problems. 

The most effective option for ant baits are liquid bait stations.  Or you can simply apply the liquid bait to a piece of cardboard.  This type of bait is more desirable than the hard baits. 

Ants vs. Termites
During spring, flying reproductive ants as well as winged termite reproductives appear.  The flying reproductives of both ants and termites usually come out in swarms.  A male and female pair will break off from their original colony to find a location for a new colony.  Seeing swarms of winged ants often frightens people because they misidentify them as termites.  Accurate identification is important!

The biggest, most noticeable difference between winged ants and termites is that ants have elbowed antennae. So look for an elbow bend in the antennae on ants.  Other differences between ants and termites include wing size.  Winged termites have 2 pairs of wings, both the same length.  Winged ants also have two pairs of wings, but the hind wings are shorter.  Finally, ants have a constricted waist rather than the broad waste of termites. 

If you are unsure whether you have an ant or a termite, bring a couple to your local UNL Extension office for identification.


Is Your Newborn Getting Its Colostrum?
By Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Livestock Educator

There is always lots of new life that comes this time of year. Lambing, kidding, and farrowing have probably begun for most, while calving is just around the corner. In these brutally cold temperatures it doesn't take long for a newborn animal to become chilled to the bone or experience some frostbite on their ears or tails if their mamma doesn't do a good job cleaning them off. As livestock producers, this time of year can mean early mornings, late nights, and midnight checks to make sure all is well on the new baby delivery front.

It is also VERY important for all baby animals to receive their "first milk", which is called colostrum within the first few hours after birth (the sooner the better). Colostrum contains proteins, peptides, and high levels of antibodies (these are the highest in the first milking), which aid in building a strong immune system enabling babies to fight possible infections. A new born baby does not carry antibodies since they do not pass through mother's bloodstream into the placenta, but the babies can get these antibodies in the colostrum!

Sometimes when a newborn baby has a difficult birth or for whatever reason doesn't receive the proper care from its mother, you may need to assist it in receiving the colostrum it needs until it becomes strong enough to stand and nurse on its own. The mamma will need to be milked out by hand, capture this milk in a bottle to be used at another time. Generally, the babies may not be willing or able to nurse and they will need to be tubed. These tubes will vary in size depending on specie. The feeding tube is slid down the baby's throat, past the esophagus, and into their stomach. This would look very much like a feeding tube that a human would have, but this is not permanent. The colostrum in the tube is slowly dispensed and the tube is slowly removed. This causes them no pain. If you have never tubed a baby before, it is advisable to have someone with experience aid you, as there is a chance the tube can go into the baby's lungs instead of the stomach, which would cause the baby to accidentally suffocate.

Ensuring that the colostrum gets into the baby's system as soon as possible can mean the difference between life and death! A newborn baby may need to be tubed several times before it is strong enough to stand and nurse on its own. While the mother's milk is ideal, sometimes a powder replacement is used or colostrum that has come from another lactating female can be used (it can be frozen and slowly thawed for later use).

While most babies are born with no problems and never need the extra assistance from their human caregivers, there are times when they will need extra help - and it is good to be prepared for those moments.

Feeding Tube

Above - A syringe tube with a very soft latex tube. Good for lambs or kids.

Right - A bottle type feeder with firm tubing. Good for calves.


Bottle feeder with tubing


image of a skunkSpring Can Bring Odor Issues with Skunk
By Stephen Vantassel, UNL Extension Project Coordinator Wildlife Damage, Scott Hygnstrom, UNL Extension Wildlife Specialist,  and Dennis  Ferraro, School of Natural Resources

Skunks are famous for their odorous defensive spray, deployed against perceived threats such as people, pets, and automobiles. They also spray in basements, garages, window wells, and under porches. Skunk musk spray is a yellow-tinted oily liquid stored in two sacs located on opposite sides of the anus. Each sac holds about a teaspoon of musk and is enough for multiple sprays. Skunk musk does not emanate from the animal as it does in the Pepé Le Pew cartoon; it is discharged through two "ducts" that allow the skunk to adjust the spray to a mist or stream, direct it at a specific target, and to shoot up to 15 feet with "both barrels."

Skunk musk can temporarily blind and stun individuals unlucky enough to be sprayed in the face. Victims experience watering eyes, nasal irritation, and nausea. Asthmatics also may encounter difficulties breathing when exposed to the odor. The rabies virus is not transmitted through skunk musk.

Skunk musk is composed primarily of seven ingredients, six of which are sulfur-containing thiols that give the skunk musk its awful smell. Humans can smell skunk musk in concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion.

Removing Skunk Odor Continued...


Report Reveals Sharp Drop in Statewide Groundwater Levels
By Aaron Young, UNL School of Natural Resources Groundwater Resources Coordinator, and Mekita Rivas, UNL School of Natural Resources

The recently released 2013 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report reveals significant groundwater level declines throughout Nebraska.

"Almost the entire state - with the exception of a small area in the Sandhills - saw declines last year," said Aaron Young, groundwater resources coordinator at UNL. "And even then, I would suspect that in the next year or two we're going to see some substantial groundwater level declines in the Sandhills as well."

From spring 2012 to spring 2013, every county in Nebraska experienced a water-level decline greater than one foot with the exception of Grant, Hooker and Thomas Counties. Some parts of Nebraska saw one-year water level changes of almost 25 feet.

"That is unprecedented since we have been keeping records for water-level changes," Young said.

Groundwater-level monitoring began in Nebraska in 1930. The annual reports and maps have been produced by the Conservation and Survey Division in the School of Natural Resources at UNL since the 1950s. The latest report was released Jan. 30.

On average, groundwater levels in Nebraska declined 2.54 feet from spring 2012 to spring 2013 as the result of increased groundwater pumping, and decreased recharge from precipitation.

"An average one-year decline of this magnitude has never been recorded before in the state," Young said.

Drought conditions in Nebraska during 2012 - the worst ever recorded in the state - created a heavy demand for irrigation water to keep crops alive. According to the High Plains Regional Climate Center, precipitation values for the state were 12-16 inches below normal for Nebraska, with the highest average temperatures ever recorded.

"The extreme drought resulted in dry wells, municipal water shortages and water restrictions throughout the state," Young said.

Statewide groundwater-level monitoring reports depict the change in water levels from spring to spring at different time scales. The reports study the rates of drawdown and recharges measured in regional wells, and give a general depiction of the current state of groundwater levels on a yearly basis. The reports also compare historical trends of regional water levels over extended periods of time.

Collecting data is a collective effort between the United States Geological Survey, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Nebraska Natural Resources Districts and Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District.

The 2013 Nebraska Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report is $12 and available for purchase from the Nebraska Maps and More Store on the first floor of Hardin Hall. The book can also be purchased online at To place an order by phone, call 402-472-3471. The report is available online as a PDF at


Nebraska Broadband Initiative
By Randy Saner, UNL Extension Educator

Image of antennaBroadband high-speed Internet access is transforming Nebraska's economy and society.  Beef producers are using more apps on their mobile devices and cell phones to keep track of cow records, pesticide application records and markets.  This works great if you have access in your area.  You can help in improving coverage in your region by downloading an app called Mobile Pulse.  The app will measure speed and availability of coverage on mobile devices.  Simply search for the free Mobile Pulse app on your device.  No personal information is collected.  Data is capped at 100 MB/month (~5% of a 2GB monthly data plan).

Identifying broadband availability, speed and location of broadband services and the mobile pulse app are part of the Nebraska Broadband Initiative's mapping efforts.  The Nebraska Broadband Initiative is part of a larger national effort to facilitate the integration of broadband and information technology into state and local economies.  A map of broadband coverage is available at  You can also take a speed test plus provide feedback on internet connectivity at this site.

Another component of the broadband initiative is planning.  Regional plans have been developed with input from focused conversation throughout our region and a household survey.  These plans can be viewed online at  Statewide workgroups have been formed in the areas of broadband availability and affordability, digital literacy, agriculture and economic development.  You can be part of the work group.  Contact me if you are interested.

Bench marking data is another component of the effort.  A recent business assessment of the ag producers that responded (n=88) found the following.

  • 49% used broadband for crop management with 7% planning on using in the next 12 months
  • 19% said they used it for herd management
  • 16% for animal registration
  • 36% for production testing
  • 3% for insemination services
  • 17% for veterinary services and information
  • 38% for water management, and
  • 86% for weather information

Farm and ranch marketing 42% for direct product sales, 45% for auctions, 66% for commodity prices and market information, 88% for information, news and events, 33% for training and certification etc.

A series of Broadband Technology fairs - Power of Business - Next Steps will be offered at the following locations.  These tech fairs will be hands on short presentations on topics of interest. - Cloud computing, Security; Mobile Applications; Cool Tools; and Remote Sensing

The Nebraska Broadband and Planning Initiative is funded through a grant to the Nebraska Public Service Commission by the U.S. department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and aims to increase broadband adoption and utilization.  The Nebraska Public Service Commission led the mapping efforts.  The University of Nebraska, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the AIM Institute have led the planning efforts. 

For more information contact Randy Saner at or 1-800-200-1381.


Innovative Youth Corn Challenge
By Brandy VanDeWalle, UNL Extension Agronomy Educator

Image of cornToday's agricultural world faces several challenges, one of them being the decline of our most valuable resource, the future workforce. Keeping youth in rural communities and involved in production agriculture is important to the agricultural industry. With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, there is and will be the need for more young people to engage in agricultural careers to feed the world.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Corn Board have teamed up to offer the 3rd annual Innovative Youth Corn Challenge contest. This contest, open to 4-H members (age 10 & older as of Jan. 1st) or FFA members (in-school members), will guide youth through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production.  As a team, youth will be challenged to implement a production practice different than normal to determine if they increased their yield. Economics and sustainability of the practice will also be considered. Yields, cropping history, and production information will be collected in the Corn Yield Challenge management summary.

Goals of the contest are: achieve new, innovative, and economically feasible crop production methods to improve yields; provide research data for producers to implement in their operations; distribute data to corn producers, researchers, and agri-businesses for decision making purposes; introduce youth to a variety of agronomic professionals, including corn producers.

As a team, youth will work with an adult mentor throughout the process. Mentors can be extension faculty, ag teachers, or other qualified agronomy professionals.

Cash prizes and plaques will be given to the first, second, and third place teams. First place will receive $1,000, second place will receive $500, and third place will receive $250.  A data completion and innovation award will also be given. A "limited resource" award which will be based on participants achieving a higher yield with limited inputs will also be given.

Last year teams with the highest percent yield increase over their local county average were:

  • 1st Place Corn Challenge Team receiving $1,000 was the Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club.The Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club included Kaleb Hasenkamp, Matthew Rolf, and Payton Schiller with their plot located in Dodge County.
  • 2nd Place Corn Challenge and receiving $500 was the Pioneers 4-H Club. The Pioneers 4-H Club from Madison County consisted of Kaylyn Kucera, Sidney Kucera, and Andy Zessin.
  • 3rd Place Corn Challenge with $250 was awarded to Amherst FFA.

To participate, youth must complete and return an entry form by March 15th to the Fillmore County Extension Office in Geneva, NE. Forms can be downloaded at For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle, Aaron Nygren, or Amy Timmerman.


Small Scale Farming Workshop, March 22
By Jessica Jones, UNL Extension Livestock Educator

Image of grapevineLooking to learn how to produce your own food or start a diversified agriculture business on your acreage or in your backyard? UNL Extension will be hosting a second installment of "Small Spaces, Big Potential": a Small Scale Farming Workshop on Saturday, March 22nd in Nebraska City at the Kimmel Education and Research Center (5985 G Road) beginning at 9:00 am and running till 4:30 pm.

The workshop will feature presentations by local farmers and UNL Extension personnel. Breakout session topics will include: raising sheep and marketing wool products, dairy goat production, poultry production (layers and broilers), growing small fruits, composting, and growing cut flowers. In addition, there will be a farmer panel featuring farmers who represent a wide variety of diversified agricultural enterprises.

Workshop Agenda, pdf

The cost to attend if pre-registered is $35 per individual, $50 per couple, and $10 per youth participant. The cost of at the door registration is: $45 per individual, $60 per couple, and $20 per youth.  For questions or to pre-register contact the Nemaha County Extension Office (402-274-4755).

For more information, contact Jessica Jones, UNL Extension Educator in Johnson County, at 402-335-3669.


Develop a Healthful Eating Plan
By Lisa Franzen-Castle, UNL Extension Nutrition Specialist

Image of fruits & vegetablesIf you have a chronic condition, a carefully planned diet can help you manage symptoms and improve health. March is National Nutrition Month®, and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages people to develop a healthful eating plan centered on personal health concerns and "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." Below are some tips for eating healthy and being physically active while keeping personal health concerns in mind. 

Tips for Eating Right, Your Way, Every Day

  • Hypertension and heart disease. Eating heart-healthy foods can help lower high blood pressure, which reduces the risk of both heart attack and stroke. Even if you don't have high blood pressure, eating a heart-healthy diet reduces your chances of heart disease in the future. It's important to balance calories with physical activity.  Increase the variety of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat dairy. Consume foods lower in sodium, saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.
  • Diabetes. Managing diabetes can be challenging and understanding how foods and nutrition affect the body is important. It's important to eat meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times. Also, choose foods to support a healthy weight and heart, including whole-grain products, vegetables and fruits, beans, lean meat, fish and poultry, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates affect blood sugar more than protein or fat so keeping track of carbohydrates consumed is an important part of monitoring and keeping blood sugar levels in good control.
  • Food allergies and intolerances. Learn about ingredients in foods. Eggs, wheat, milk and other food allergens often are called by other names. Food companies specify on product labels if any major allergens are contained in the food. Manufacturers might change ingredients of products without notice, so double-check ingredient labels every time you buy a food. Talk with your day care, school and workplace. Make sure faculty and staff are aware of the food allergies and that they know how to respond to adverse reactions. Some people are familiar with food allergies and know what to do if a person has a reaction; others may not and will need your help in keeping the risk for exposure low.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. For those struggling with maintaining a healthy weight, establish a balance between calories consumed and calories burned through physical activity. Include foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, which offer vitamins and minerals without excess calories and keep you feeling full longer. Watch portion sizes to help manage calorie intake and cut back on empty calories from added sugars and refined grains.

The Academy's website includes a variety of helpful tips, tools and nutrition education resources. More food, nutrition and health information are available from the UNL Extension website.