URBANA, Ill. - The Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center (NIARC) will host its summer Agronomy Day on Thursday, July 10, in Shabbona, Ill. University of Illinois Extension specialists and researchers will address issues pertinent to the 2014 crop growing season.
The program begins at 9 a.m. and will finish with a noon meal. There is no registration fee and the meal is free. Certified crop adviser continuing education units will be available.
More than 45 individual research projects covering corn, soybean, oats and cover crops are under way though the NIARC. Currently there are more than 45 individual research projects at the NIARC encompassing corn, soybean, oats, and cover crops. Some specific studies include evaluationg crop rotations, date of planting, row spacing, plant populations, crop diseases, variety comparisons, and crop nutrient management. Studies demonstrating herbicide and insecticide efficacy will be signed, allowing visitors to evaluate their current or future pest management programs side by side.
Weather permitting, presentations will take place outside next to research plots and guests will be transported by tour wagons. Field topics include:
The 160-acre Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center has been used for crop research since 1948. It is the northernmost research center within the U of I Department of Crop Sciences dedicated primarily to row-crop research.
The research center is located at 14509 University Road, about a half-mile east of Shabbona, Ill. on U.S. Route 30 and 5 miles north on University Road. Perry Road, which runs from the Steward exit (#93) on I-39 south of DeKalb, is a quarter-mile north of the center. For more information, contact Higgins at 815-274-1343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
URBANA, Ill. – Summer can be a hectic time in the vegetable garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“Heat, wind, rain, insects, squirrels and disease can make gardening difficult,” said Ron Wolford. “The following are some month-by-month suggestions to help you combat those summer hazards and produce a bumper crop of vegetables.”
Plant warm-season veggies: Warm-season veggies need warm soil and air temps. Plant or direct seed pumpkin, cucumbers, squash, and melons the first week in June. TIP: Check out the U of I Extension website, ‘Watch Your Garden Grow,’ at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/ for detailed information on growing vegetables.
Check for cabbage worms on cabbage and collards: Cabbage worms can do a lot of damage to cabbage and collards by chewing large holes in the leaves. The adult white or brown butterflies lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. Control by covering the plants with row covers or spraying with the biological control Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).
Attract beneficial insects: Don’t waste your money on buying a box of ladybugs at your local garden center. Ladybugs will fly away if there is not an ongoing food source for them. Attract beneficial insects and parasites by planting flowers in your vegetable garden. Some good choices are cosmos, coneflowers, dill, yarrow, tansy, fennel, marigold, zinnia, salvia, sage, and sweet alyssum.
Scout the garden for insects: Take the time to walk through your garden every couple of days checking for insects. Insects and insect egg masses can be found on the upper and undersides of leaves. Insect populations can increase rapidly. Aphids, for example, can go from a few to hundreds in a short period of time. Always identify the insect before deciding if treatment is needed. Call your local U of I Extension office for assistance in insect identification. TIP: Clean up the garden at the end of the growing season because insects will overwinter in dead plant debris.
Use organic mulches: Mulches help to reduce the evaporation of moisture from the soil and reduce weeds. Mulches help to maintain uniform soil temperatures. Organic mulches include compost, shredded bark, leaves, pine needles, cocoa bean hulls, and dried grass. Avoid using grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides. Put down a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around vegetable plants after the soil has warmed. TIP: Dig the mulch into the soil at the end of the gardening season. This practice will add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure and drainage.
Install a rain gauge: Rainfall can vary over just a few miles in the summer. Installing a rain gauge in your yard will give you an accurate measurement of rainfall. Install your rain gauge in an open area away from your house and trees. TIP: Empty the gauge after each rainstorm.
Give your vegetables an inch of water per week: Vegetables need at least 1 inch of water per week. Water the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches. Do not water during the hottest part of the day. Water at the base of plants to avoid wetting the foliage. Wetting the foliage is an open invitation to disease. TIP: You will lose 50 percent of moisture applied through evaporation when watering between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Watch for blossom-end rot on tomatoes: Blossom-end rot causes the blossom end of the tomato to turn brown and black. This is not a disease. It is a calcium deficiency caused by high temperatures and fluctuating soil moisture levels. It usually occurs on the first ripening fruits. Water tomatoes consistently with the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week to avoid fluctuating levels of soil moisture. Mulches also help to conserve moisture.
Watch for leaf spots on tomatoes: Leaf spot diseases are common on tomatoes. Yellow or brown spots occur on the lower leaves first. Remove the infected leaves to prevent further spread. Growing tomatoes in cages and staking tomatoes helps to control leaf spots. Control tomato diseases by removing old tomato-plant debris from the garden and avoid wetting the foliage when watering. TIP: The best way to prevent vegetable disease is to buy disease-resistant vegetable varieties.
Watch for tomato hornworms: Tomato hornworms are 3- to 4-inch long, green worms with white stripes and a horn at the rear end. If there are large enough numbers, they can strip a tomato plant of leaves. They are difficult to find because they blend in with tomato foliage. Sometimes you will not notice them until feeding has occurred. The easiest control is to pick them off and squish them with your fingers. TIP: If you see white bumps on the back of the hornworm, the worm will soon die. A parasitic wasp lays eggs in the hornworm. The eggs hatch and larvae feed on the worm. They eat their way through the worm’s skin and pupate, spinning the white oval cocoons.
Harvest onions: Harvest onions when the tops have turned yellow and fallen over. Pull the bulbs and let them dry. Place the bulbs on screens or hang in small bunches for two to three weeks to complete the curing process. After drying, cut the tops back to 1 to 2 inches long and place bulbs in cool storage area with good air circulation
Protect tomatoes from squirrels: Pick tomatoes when they show some pink color and bring them indoors to ripen. This will save the tomatoes from squirrels who like to take a bite out of ripe ones. To ripen tomatoes, place them in a paper bag. Punch some holes in the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process. Check them daily. TIP: You can also wrap tomatoes in newspaper for ripening.
Sow radish, lettuce, spinach, and chard in late August: Leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, and chard can still be planted for a fall harvest. Prep the soil for planting and fertilize before seeding. TIP: Mix Lettuce ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’ with a red leaf lettuce variety like Lettuce ‘Red Sails’ and plant in late summer or early fall in empty areas of your veggie and flower garden. These colorful plantings make great salads and will survive hard frosts.
Plant a green manure crop: Sow a green manure crop in empty areas of the vegetable garden. Sow seeds of oats, rye, or buckwheat. Cut the plants back if they flower to stop them from self-seeding. The green manure crops can be dug into the soil in the spring. Wait two to three weeks for the crop to decompose before seeding or transplanting. Green manure crops will add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.
Start a compost pile: Late summer is a great time to start a compost pile because of the plethora of plant material available as the garden season ends and fall begins. Composting is a great way to turn plant material from your vegetable garden into a dark, crumbly soil conditioner. TIP: Check out the Extension website ‘Composting for the Homeowner” at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/.
URBANA, Ill. – On June 30, the USDA will release an estimate of U.S. stocks of soybeans as of June 1 and forecasts of planted and harvested acreage. Both reports will provide important information to the soybean market, but the acreage forecasts should have more important price implications than the stocks estimate because soybean consumption is mostly already known. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, although the acreage estimate may be more important, there is more to say about the stocks estimate.
“Because the magnitude of both the domestic crush and exports during the previous quarter are mostly known, the stocks estimate is expected to reveal the smallest June 1 inventory in 37 years,” said Darrel Good. “However, there is always room for some surprise in the June 1 stocks estimate as the magnitude of seed and residual use in the previous quarter is revealed. In addition, the unknown magnitude of imports during May will be reflected in the stocks estimate. Based on estimates from the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), members crushed 9.3 percent more soybeans from March through May this year than during the same three months last year. Crush estimates for the entire industry are not available, but the crush by NOPA members accounted for 95.7 percent of the industry total in the 10 months prior to the discontinuation of the Census Bureau crush estimates after June 2011. The USDA no longer makes quarterly crush estimates, but the NOPA estimates have represented 95.4 percent of the USDA marketing-year estimates in the past two marketing years. Assuming that ratio for the most recent quarter, the NOPA crush of 415.3 million bushels points to an industry total of 435.3 million bushels,” Good said.
Census Bureau export estimates are available through April whereas USDA estimates are available for the entire quarter. Through April, cumulative marketing-year Census export estimates exceeded USDA export inspection estimates by 23.5 million bushels. “Assuming that margin persisted through May, exports for the March-May quarter are estimated at 186.7 million bushels,” Good said.
Census Bureau estimates of soybean imports are also available only through April. Imports in March and April totaled 10.7 million bushels, and cumulative imports for the year totaled 31 million bushels. “If imports are to reach the 90 million bushels projected by the USDA, imports during the last four months of the marketing year need to average 14.8 million bushels per month,” Good said. “If May imports were at that level, March-May imports would have totaled 25.5 million bushels.”
Seed and residual use of soybeans during the March-May quarter ranged from 11.7 million to 62.7 million bushels in the previous 10 years. The average use was 41.2 million bushels, very close to the average of 47.6 million bushels in the past two years. “If use this year was at 47.6 million bushels, total consumption of U.S. soybeans during the March-May quarter would have been near 669.6 million bushels,” Good said. “With March 1 stocks of 992.3 million bushels and quarterly imports of 25.5 million bushels, June 1 stocks would have totaled 348.2 million bushels.
“Unless June 1 stocks are 25 to 30 million bushels larger than expected, the domestic soybean crush during the final three months of the marketing year will have to be much smaller than during the same three months last year, and/or imports will have to exceed the projected level, in order to maintain year-ending stocks at a pipeline level,” Good added. “Stocks below the expected level would obviously require a larger drop in the domestic crush or increase in imports.”
The USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report revealed producer intentions to plant a record 81.493 million acres of soybeans this year, 4.96 million acres more than planted last year. The surveys for the June 30 Acreage report were conducted mostly in the first two weeks of June. According to Good, forecasts of planted and harvested acreage will reflect some level of intentions. The USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report indicated that 8 percent of the soybean acreage was yet to be planted as of June 15, mostly double-cropped acres following wheat harvest.
“Much of the uncertainty about the June acreage forecasts relative to March intentions centers on northern producing states where wet conditions delayed corn planting and may have resulted in some switching to soybeans,” Good said. “Extreme wet conditions, however, may also result in some acreage not planted at all. Those prevented plantings may not all be revealed in the June surveys.
“For the most part, expectations are that the upcoming forecast of planted acreage will not be smaller than March intentions,” Good concluded. “If large acreage is confirmed, prospects for a record-large soybean crop and a build in stocks during the year ahead will be maintained. The potential U.S average yield and size of the crop will be indicated by the weekly crop condition ratings. In the first two reporting weeks, the percentage of the crop rated in either good or excellent condition was record large. That percentage is expected to decline as the season progresses, as it almost always does, but it will likely be above average for at least the next few weeks,” he said.
Anthony Santarelli, an agricultural and consumer economics graduate, loves developing creative solutions to help make the world cleaner and more sustainable through his work with the Illinois Green Business Association.
“The most enjoyable part is being able to see the areas where teamwork can lead to actual impacts in the world and ways that it can save resources,” Anthony says. “A good program for a business can have a really far reach if it’s designed properly.”
The association’s three main programs include green certification, in which an IGBA representative works with a business to assess nine potential sustainability practices. Anthony first got involved with green initiatives while in college.
“We created a group called CORE that focused on recycling efforts in the community,” Anthony says. “At the time, Champaign wasn’t offering recycling at the city level, so we were working on a campaign to demonstrate the need and demand. Eventually the city required recycling.”
The almost countless student organizations at the University of Illinois give students like Anthony wide opportunities to follow their passions.
“The U of I Facilities and Services environmental compliance office posed a question,” Anthony said. “Actually, it was more of a challenge: How are you green, Green Street? From there, CORE did research and found green business certification programs in California; we decided that we wanted to try the same thing here.”
Through the course of his time at U of I, Anthony observed support for students both within and outside the university.
“I think the connection with the community is fairly strong, and it seems like everyone wants to help students get where they want to go,” Anthony says. “The support and enthusiasm both inside and outside of the university are tremendous."
URBANA, Ill. - If you look at ferns, mosses, lichens, and club moss closely, they look like something right out of a fairy tale, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
“In fact, these non-flowering plants do have their very own kingdom in the plant world. Instead of reproducing by flowers and seeds, these plants use spores to multiply,” said Rhonda Ferree.
There are more than 13,000 species of mosses, which are small, primitive, leafy, green plants that develop fine, tangled mats over a surface. Various species are often seen on old brick walls, stone paths, or walls, roofs, and rocks. “Moss is something that we seem to love or hate. Many people try to get rid of it in their lawns while others try to grow it,” she said.
In the right place, mosses can be very attractive. As a natural component of woodlands and shade gardens and in the right combination with wildflowers and other native plants, moss helps to create a stunning landscape. Ferree noted that psychologically, moss also has a soothing, relaxing effect on people.
“Mosses grow where other plants won’t, preferring low soil fertility, poor soil drainage, compacted soils, excessive shade, poor air circulation, high humidity, or a combination of these conditions,” she said. “Mosses are not always found in low pH soils; thus altering the soil pH may not eliminate mosses. In turf, mosses are not the cause of turf decline, but a symptom of environmental or management levels that are unsuitable for supporting quality turf.
“Once while hiking in southern Illinois, I discovered a large patch of club moss—something I had never seen it before and was immediately intrigued,” she said. “Club mosses are ancient, prehistoric plants that reproduce by means of spores, either clustered into small cones or in the axils of their scalelike leaves. I suspect that the one I saw was a ground pine because it resembled miniature evergreens with flattened fan-shaped branches. For a plant-geek like me, this was an amazing find!”
For areas where you do not want the moss, it can be eliminated, at least temporarily, by hand raking when it first appears or by applying ferrous ammonium sulfate or ferric sulfate. “Remember, however, that moss will probably reappear unless the environment and/or turf management program is altered,” she cautioned.
For areas where you do want moss, the basic requirements are shade; compact, bare, acid soil; and moisture. The best time for transplanting is in early spring. Once established, Ferree said moss is a tough plant. It is hardy from zones 2 to 9 and able to survive severe drought.
“Although we often try to control and manipulate Mother Nature, sometimes she really knows best,” said Ferree. “Although I do not believe in gardening exclusively with natives, I believe native habitats tell us an awful lot. Sometimes it is worth considering ‘giving in’ to situations where a certain plant wants to grow.
“Moss is a good example. It is a good alternative to grass in shady areas and in the right location can be used very effectively,” she added.