URBANA, Ill. – The Cache River Basin, which once drained more than 614,100 acres across six southern Illinois counties, has changed substantively since the ancient Ohio River receded. The basin contains a slow-moving, meandering river; fertile soils and productive farmlands; deep sand and gravel deposits; sloughs and uplands; and one of the most unique and diverse natural habitats in Illinois and the nation.
According to a recent University of Illinois study, the region’s agricultural lands dodged a bullet due to the timing of the great flood of April 2011 when the Ohio River approached the record high of 332.2 feet above sea level.
“The floodwaters eventually drained back into the Ohio River and upper Mississippi River ultimately leaving approximately 1,000 acres of agricultural land flooded from a backup in the middle and lower Cache River Valley, which flooded the adjacent forest-covered alluvial soils and the slightly higher cultivated soils,” said U of I researcher Ken Olson.
According to Olson, who has studied the effects of that particular flood extensively, these cultivated soils drained by the middle of June 2011 and were planted to soybeans. The floodwaters left a thin silt and clay deposition on the agricultural lands and crop residue when they receded. These coatings included significant amounts of soil organic carbon, microbes, and pathogens. After the coatings dried, they were incorporated into the topsoil layer of the alluvial soils using tillage equipment.
“Because the flooding occurred during the non-growing season for corn and soybeans, the mixing in of sediment into the topsoil prior to planting resulted in little significant loss of soil productivity, little soybean damage, or yield reduction on lands outside the levees along the Mississippi, Cache, and Ohio rivers,” Olson said.
As a result of the record Ohio River flood level, floodwaters passed north through the Post Creek cut-off, then west through the 2002 Karnak breach and into the middle Cache River valley to the Diversion to Mississippi River, which was already above flood stage so the floodwaters continued west. In late April, the Ohio River floodwaters then started to flood the towns of Olive Branch and Miller City, the Horseshoe Lake area, and surrounding agricultural lands. On May 2, 2011, the Len Small levee on the Mississippi River failed and resulted in the flooding of an additional 30,000 acres of Illinois public and private lands.
Illinois agricultural statistics recorded the harvest of 4,500 fewer acres of corn and 6,500 fewer acres of soybeans in Alexander County in 2011. Soybean production was 1,200,000 bushels in 2010 but dropped to 865,000 bushels in 2011 due to flooding from both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and crop and soil damage. The floodwaters also scoured lands in some places and deposited sand in other locations.
Olson cautioned that, had winter wheat been planted outside the levees in the fall of 2010, the wheat crop would have drowned. “Illinois farmers are aware of the flooding potential, especially in the winter and early spring, so they don’t plant winter wheat on unprotected bottomlands,” he said. “Consequently, there was no crop loss outside the levees in April and May of 2011. Local floodwater in the lower Cache River Valley, south of the Mississippi River Diversion and Dike, could not flow back into the Ohio River. It was blocked by the Cache River levee on the south side and by the closed gate at the Ohio River levee. Instead, water backed up and flooded forested and agricultural lands along the lower Cache River and north of the Cache River levee,” Olson said.
Olson said that the damage to the land could have been much worse. “Land use changes, diversion ditches and levees, loss of wetlands and flood-holding capacity, internal channelization of the Cache River and tributaries, and an ever-changing climate have altered the hydrology of the valley, redistributed soil from fields and ditch banks into the river, and transported tons of sediment during flooding events into both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers,” Olson said.
As the 2011 Ohio River floodwater reclaimed its ancient floodway, Olson says that the extent of these hydrologic changes and their social, economic, and environmental impacts have become more apparent. “The Great Flood of 2011 lends urgency to the reevaluation and implementation of the Cache River Watershed Resource Plan completed in 1995,” Olson said.
He cited nine resource concerns that were identified: erosion, open dumping, private property rights, water quality, continuation of government farm conservation programs, Post Creek Cutoff stream bank erosion, open flow on the Cache River, dissemination of accurate and timely information throughout the watershed, and the impacts of wildlife on farming and vice versa.
“Most of these concerns still need to be addressed,” Olson said. “Since that plan was created, there have been additional compromises/breaches that need to be repaired. As the repair and rebuilding of the valley infrastructure is undertaken, there will need to be a significant investment of human and financial resources to reduce the impacts of future catastrophic events.”
“The 2011 Ohio River flooding of the Cache River Valley in southern Illinois,” which was co-authored by Kenneth R. Olson and Lois Wright Morton, was published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and can be found online at http://www.jswconline.org/content/69/1/5A.full.pdf+html.
“Impacts of 2011 Len Small levee breach on private and public Illinois lands,” co-authored by Kenneth R. Olson and Lois Wright Morton, was published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and can be accessed online at http://www.jswconline.org/content/68/4/89A.full.pdf+html.
Partial funding for this research was provided by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. Additional funding support came from National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Regional Research, Project No. 15-372 and in cooperation with North-Central Regional Project No. NCERA-3 Soil Survey; and published with funding support from the Director of the Illinois Office of Research, ACES, University of Illinois.
Pansies brighten up spring garden
URBANA, Ill. - Pansies are making a comeback in the garden world, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“According to the Garden Media Group, pansy and violet sales were up 6.4 percent in 2011,” said Rhonda Ferree. “Since then, pansies have been in high demand for both spring and fall sales.”
In the fall of 2011, Ferree said she planted two types of pansies along her back entrance walkway. Four plants were from the ‘Majestic Giants II Mix’ and two were Cool Wave™ Violet Wing pansies.
“I actually planted the Majestic Giants in my porch container, then transplanted them to the ground bed in late fall,” she said. “All plants survived the winter and greened up nicely the following spring.”
Pansies and their relative, Johnny-Jump Ups, are cool-season annuals, which means they prefer cold weather. These charming little flowers come in many colors with a variety of markings and flower sizes.
There are more than 250 cultivars of pansies. As with other bedding plants, most of those are part of a series. The ‘Majestic Giant’ series, for example, has large flowers that are 3 to 4 inches across with face markings and comes in many colors. The ‘Majestic Giants Mix’ pansy won the All-America Selections (AAS) flower award in 1966 so it has been around a long time.
Other AAS pansy award winners include the 1990 ‘Jolly Joker,’ which is velvety purple with an orange face. In 1991 two pansies were winners. The ‘Maxim Marina’ is light blue with a dark blue face that is outlined in white. The ‘Maxim’ series has small faced flowers on more compact plants. The 1991 ‘Padparadja’ is a rare brilliant orange pansy. The most recent pansy winner was ‘Ultima Morpho’ in 2002, which has a distinct bicolor with upper petals of mid-blue and yellow lemon lower petals.
“In recent years, the folks who brought us the popular Wave™ petunias added a Wave™ pansy to their collection,” she said. “Available in several colors, this pansy was bred to grow faster in the spring, spread wider (up to 2 feet), and have double the color of regular pansies. It is available in yellow, white, frost, and violet, or as a mix with a lemon color added.”
Ferree was eager to see if the plant lived up to all these claims.
“I was very happy with the performance of the new Wave pansy,” she said. “It lasted well into early summer, forming a large colorful clump. I might try it in a container or hanging basket in 2014.”
Pansies do best in full sun with well-drained soil. For the fullest display, plant them 8 to 10 inches apart. Use them along bed edges or in containers and window boxes. Plan to replace pansies in early summer before the hot weather fades them away. Ferree interplanted hers with coleus to take over after the pansies were done.
“Consider adding pansies to brighten your spring garden,” Ferree said. “When summer fades into fall, plant some more pansies to cheer up the fall garden.”
NRES Departmental Seminar by Dr. Ben Zuckerberg
W-109 Turner Hall
NRES Departmental Seminar by Dr. Ben Zuckerberg, Forestry and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin
Speaker's website: http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/zuckerberg/bzuckerberg/
If you wish to meet with this speaker, please contact host Michael Ward at email@example.com.
More information to come!
Who’s right about corn prices?
URBANA, Ill. – There is considerable difference of opinion about the prospects for corn prices beyond the current marketing year. Those differences are illustrated by the contrast in price expectations reflected in the USDA’s baseline projections released last week and the current price structure in the corn futures market, said a University of Illinois agricultural economist.
“Although somewhat dated, the USDA baseline projections suggest that the average farm price of corn will be near $3.50 for the next five years,” said Darrel Good. “In contrast, the current futures market points to an average farm price between $4.40 and $4.50 over the next four years. Other price projections are even more extreme than these two examples, particularly on the low side.”
The USDA projections will be updated at this week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum. Good said that the forecast of the average farm price for the 2014-15 marketing year will likely be increased from the projection of $3.65 in the baseline projections due to smaller supply projections. Projected stocks at the start of next year will be smaller than in the baseline projections, and the forecast of planted acreage may also be smaller. The smaller supply projection would point to smaller year-ending stocks and a higher average price.
“Differences of opinion about the level of corn prices in the more distant future seem to reflect differences of opinion about a number of fundamental supply and demand factors,” Good said. “There are two issues on the supply side. One is the expected level of corn yields, and the other is the expected response of corn acreage to changing corn prices. Corn yield expectations are generally based on an analysis of trend yields. It might be expected that trend yield analysis would result in very similar estimates of the magnitude of the trend yield for the current year and the rate of increase in that trend. That is not the case for at least two reasons. First, the calculation of trend yield depends in part on the time period over which the trend is calculated.”
By way of example, Good used the period starting in 1960 to calculate the trend in U.S. average corn yields. “Using a longer or shorter time period could result in a different calculation of the rate of increase in corn yields over time and therefore different projections of the magnitude of the trend yield over the next few years. Second, the calculation of trend yield depends on whether the trend is calculated using actual (unconditional) historical yields or whether the trend is calculated using conditional yields. In the latter case, the trend yield is calculated after adjusting historical yields for factors such as variations in growing-season weather conditions from year to year.
“The USDA baseline yields reflected a trend yield of 165.6 bushels per acre in 2014 and an increase of two bushels per acre per year going forward,” Good said. “In contrast, our forecast of the trend yield for 2014 is about 2.5 bushels less than the USDA projection. With harvested acreage of 85 million acres, for example, the difference in yield expectation represents a difference in expected production of about 212 million bushels.”
Good said that the second corn supply issue is the likely responsiveness of corn acreage to the level of corn prices, and more generally, the responsiveness of total crop acreage to the level of crop prices. “Both corn acreage and total crop acreage increased with the higher level of crop prices beginning in 2007,” he said. “The higher crop prices were generated by rapidly growing ethanol demand for corn, increasing export demand for soybeans, and periodic yield shortfalls.”
With lower prices being offered for 2014 crops, Good said that the questions are: Will total acreage of spring-planted crops decline from that of 2013? And what share of the acreage will be planted to corn?
“Most seem to believe that both corn acreage and total crop acreage will decline this year,” Good said. “Beyond 2014, the acreage response to the level of and mix of crop prices will continue to be important. The USDA baseline projections reflect expectations of declining acreage in response to a relatively long period of low prices,” he said.
From the demand side, differences of opinions about future corn price prospects basically reflect a difference of opinion about the responsiveness of corn consumption to the price of corn, that is, the price elasticity of corn demand, Good explained.
“Corn demand is generally thought to be fairly price inelastic, requiring a relatively large price change to alter consumption,” Good said. “With large crops, it is argued that prices will have to be ‘low’ in order to stimulate sufficient consumption to prevent a buildup in stocks to unacceptably high levels. However, the responsiveness of corn consumption to lower prices during the current marketing year, particularly in the export sector, is very encouraging. If corn demand is more price elastic than generally believed, large crops would result in less price weakness than is reflected in some of the very low projections being offered,” he said.
Good concluded that, while a return to the high corn prices of the past three years is not expected any time soon, a combination of more modest trend yields and more responsive consumption suggests that larger crops would not be as bearish as reflected in some of the more extreme price forecasts.
Turf tips for spring
URBANA, Ill. – Lawn care questions in the wake of last summer’s drought are now pouring in, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
Rhonda Ferree listed the following as her top 10 tips ranked in order of importance.
1. FERTILIZE at the proper time. Most homeowners only need one application per year, which should be done in early September. This helps the grass prepare for winter dormancy and spring growth. If your grass needs two applications a year, add the second application in early May.
2. MOW using the one-third rule, which means to never remove more than one-third of the grass height in a single mowing. Many homeowners mow their lawn too short. For best results, mow grass 2 to 3 inches tall and let the grass clippings remain on the lawn to return nutrients back to the soil.
3. WATER infrequently and deeply, providing 1 inch of water a week. If you decide to water your grass to keep it growing in the heat of summer, be consistent. Don’t water a little each time the grass starts to brown. This stresses the grass as it bounces in and out of summer dormancy.
4. Put the RIGHT PLANT in the RIGHT PLACE. Grass types for full-sun areas include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue. For shady areas, use fine or red fescue. If the area is too shady to grow grass, try shade perennials or mulch instead.
5. WEEDS are best managed by maintaining a healthy, dense lawn. If weeds become a problem, time control measures carefully. For example, if using a herbicide to control crabgrass, it must be applied before the crabgrass seeds germinate. They germinate when soil temperatures are 50 degrees for five consecutive days, which is usually about the time the forsythia blooms.
6. When SEEDing a new lawn or renovating an older lawn, timing is very important. The best time to seed lawns is in the fall between mid-August and mid-September. The second best time is spring between mid-March and mid-April. Prepare the site and provide tender loving care until plants are big enough to survive. Consider overseeding your lawn every three to five years in the fall with a mix of resistant turf-grass varieties.
7. If your grass needs a CULTIVATION activity, such as dethatching or core aerification, do those in the fall or spring. Only detach if the thatch layer is greater than 1/2 inch. Aerify every three to five years to reduce soil compaction.
8. INSECTS and DISEASE should only be treated if the problem actually exists. If confirmed, proper timing of control measures is critical.
9. Decide on the QUALITY of grass you prefer, but remember that the more you do, the more you'll have to do! Fertilized grass grows quickly and needs to be mowed more frequently.
10. Finally, have fun and ENJOY your home lawns!
For more information on lawn care, visit the U of I Extension LawnTalk website at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawntalk/. You can also post questions on Ferree’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.
CANCELLED! 5K Zombie Chase
Start Line between the Education Building and the Natural Resources Building
!THIS EVENT IS CANCELLED - TOO COLD FOR THE ZOMBIES!
Zombie outbreak! An unsuspecting student took a bite out of a contaminated burger after a late night study session. Now the undead are swarming the University of Illinois campus! Two laps are a necessary test to ensure that you are prepared for survival in this post-apocalyptic world. Do you have what it takes to survive or will you end up zombie chow?
In an effort to raise funds for outreach and professional development, The Wildlife Society invites you to participate in this fun event! You can register to run the race or to join the zombie horde that will pursue the runners. Zombie make-up will be available if you can get there by 9:00am. See our website for more details and to register. DO NOT WEAR CLOTHES YOU CARE ABOUT! STAINS ARE A STRONG POSSIBILITY! 3rd Annual 5k Zombie Chase March, 1st 2014 @ 10:00am Presented by: The Wildlife Society, Illinois Student Chapter
Take a new look at dandelions
URBANA, Ill. - Earth Day falls every year on April 22. Rhonda Ferree, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, recommends using the day to reflect about our world around us.
“You might even try to look at a small piece of our world from a completely different viewpoint,” she said. “Take dandelions, for example. To many people the dandelion is a weedy pest that invades our lawns, but other people find many positive attributes in the plant.
“Kids love dandelions and enjoy collecting masses of blooms to give to their mothers. As a mother, I equally enjoy receiving the clumps of yellow blooms. My sons Derek and Tyler routinely gave me dandelions, and I loved every one. They don’t last long, but the thought is what really matters,” Ferree said.
Kids also love the seed heads that follow flowers. Who can’t remember blowing dandelions and watching them float on the breeze?
“Dandelions actually have several uses, including culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, and commercial,” she said. “For at least 1,000 years, the dandelion has been in constant use as both a food and a medicine. Like so many plants, its origins were in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Asia Minor.”
History shows that the dandelion was brought to this country for its culinary uses. There are even books that detail how to grow this “new” crop.
“About four pounds of seed to the acre should be allowed, sown in drills, one foot apart. The yield should be four or five tons of fresh roots to the acre in the second year,” Ferree said.
Can you picture an entire field of dandelions?
Today dandelions are used commercially in the United States. Large quantities of the plant’s leaves are used as fresh spring greens in many ethnic grocery stores and supermarkets.
“Dandelion roots are domestically grown for use in patent medicines, and more than 100,000 pounds are imported annually to fulfill the pharmaceutical needs,” Ferree said.
In addition to the leaves, dandelions are cooked as a potherb or infused as a tea. One source said that it’s the dandelion flowers that pack a wallop. Yes, the flowers are also edible.
“My grandma used to fry them like mushrooms in the early spring, and I enjoyed eating them,” Ferree said.
Pamela Jones, the author of Just Weeds, said, “If you have never tasted dandelion herbal wine, it is one of the most elusive, delicately fragrant flavors imaginable, the color pure liquid gold.”
So look at the dandelion differently on Earth Day. You might even celebrate the day with a salad of dandelion greens followed by fried flower heads and a glass of dandelion wine.
“Supposedly the best dandelions are found where no lawn mower has touched them,” she said. “But it is of utmost importance to look for a lawn that has not been sprayed if you plan to eat from it.”
weSTEM2014 Conference April 19th
I Hotel and Conference Center at the University of Illinois
NRES will co-sponsor the weSTEM conference:
Register Now for the 2014 Women Empowered in STEM (weSTEM) Conference!
Saturday, April 19th, 2014, I Hotel Conference Center
GradSWE's flagship conference, Women Empowered in STEM (weSTEM), brings together women engineers and scientists with advanced degrees to share experiences from their academic and professional career paths, providing insight into their personal successes in STEM. This year, weSTEM has been expanded to include two keynote lectures, dual-track session talks, break-out discussion forums, and social networking sessions. Graduate students from around the nation have been invited to attend weSTEM 2014, which will feature a keynote lecture from SWE national president Stacey DelVecchio. weSTEM registration is open until April 12th or until all spots are filled - space is limited! To learn more about weSTSEM, please visit their website: weSTEMillinois.com.
Conference Flier (PDF)
Illinois agriculture expands collaborations with Mexico
URBANA, Ill. – To promote collaboration and create opportunities for expanded trade between Mexico and Illinois, the University of Illinois has established an official partnership with the Universidad Autónomous del Estado de México (UAEM) and the Mexican-based Foundation for Regional Development and Competitiveness (FUNDECO).
“Illinois agriculture is an export-dependent industry, and Mexico is one of our best customers,” Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. “The memoranda signed today will build upon that friendship. It will start new dialogue on everything from animal genetics and crop science to biofuels and agro-business development, identify areas of potential collaboration and, hopefully, create opportunities for expanded trade,” Flider added.
The partnership became official this afternoon at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield with a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) document by Dean Robert Hauser of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), representing the U of I, and Dr. Jorge Olvera García, the rector of UAEM.
Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois and Gov. Eruviel Ávila of the State of Mexico also signed the document as honorary witnesses.
The cooperation has the potential to boost the state of Illinois’s already strong ties with Mexico. Every year, more than 40 percent of Illinois’s farm commodities are sold overseas, and Mexico is one of Illinois’s most loyal trading partners. The past five years alone, Mexico has purchased $3.3 billion in agricultural products from Illinois, making it the state’s third-largest agricultural export market.
The academic component to this agreement, aligning the U of I and UAEM, will allow the Illinois Department of Agriculture, FUNDECO, and other economic organizations to benefit from cooperation between the universities who are best equipped to disseminate knowledge on science and technology.
“This agreement is a continuation of the College’s ever increasing involvement with institutions in Mexico,” noted Dean Hauser. “We have forged similar agreements with institutions such as the Univesidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), El Colegio de Postgraduados, and the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, the latter, of which has resulted in several projects pertaining to obesity in our respective countries. Additionally, we have fostered dually funded research programs with the Mexican government and Mexican universities, for example, the University of Querétaro. This new relationship with UAEM has tremendous possibilities for both Illinois and Mexico as we collaborate to realize our shared interests in agricultural, nutritional, and economic benefits,” Hauser added.
The specific objectives outlined in the MOU include fostering a collaborative relationship through joint educational, cultural, and research activities and faculty and student exchanges, and promoting collaboration between the two states and universities on extension, animal genetics, biofuels, crop sciences, irrigation, and veterinary medicine.
The partnership among the three organizations was initiated by the Illinois Trade and Investment Latin America Office, based in Mexico City, which is part of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. This office promotes Illinois exports in the Latin American Spanish-speaking countries, and endorses Illinois as the ideal place to invest among Latin American entrepreneurs.
Michel Robe - ACE Departmental Seminar
426-428 Mumford Hall
Dr. Michel Robe, Associate Professor, Finance at the American University will give a seminar entitled "The Financialization of Food?" on Friday, February 28, 2014 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in 426-428 Mumford Hall.
Everyone is welcome. Pizza will be served.