Whether your home was built a year ago or a century ago, the soil around it may be compacted, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Pollard.
"Soil compaction is the result of construction equipment, vehicles, and trampling by animals and people," she explained. "While squashed soil is a pain in the back for gardeners, it causes plants even more distress."
Seeds and roots need to be in good contact with the soil, but too much compaction presses the mineral grains together, reducing the air and water content. There is little room for roots to grow, and they cannot access enough nutrients and water. Most roots grow best in soil that is about 25 percent air and 25 percent water. Plants grown in compressed soils look stunted and drought-stressed, and they are more susceptible to disease.
It cannot be over-emphasized that soil preparation and improvement needs to be done before you plant. This is especially true for perennial plantings.
"Be sure the soil is dry enough to crumble when worked or you will make the problem worse," Pollard cautioned. "Some folks create new beds in late summer and then plant a cover crop because the soil is usually drier, and it may be easier to work, than in spring.
"At any time of year, here's how you tell if the soil is dry enough. Pick up a handful of earth and squeeze it. If the soil remains in a firm ball when pressure is released, it is too wet. Wait several days (without rainfall) before digging or tilling. If the soil ball crumbles when pressure is released, it is ready for working," she said.
If the drainage is acceptable, you may decide to break up compaction. To prepare a new bed, till as deeply as possible once the soil is dry enough, turning in organic matter such as shredded or composted leaves, peat moss, or well-rotted manure. Sawdust in moderate amounts may be added along with about a pound of nitrogen for every 100 pounds of sawdust.
"Why is organic matter so good? It improves the condition of the soil," said Pollard. "Water can infiltrate better and be held available for plant roots. The soil drains better with organic matter. It can keep nutrients from leaching beyond the reach of roots, or running off. Organic matter is not permanent; it needs to be added annually. About eight inches of organic matter will decay into about one-eighth inch of soil in a year or so."
What about adding sand?
Not such a good idea, according to Pollard.
"Research at the University of Illinois showed that homeowners would need to add eight parts of sand to one part clay to improve the soil quality," she said. "Adding less only allows clay particles to fill up between the sand particles, which actually makes the structure worse — more like cement."
If water stands in the garden area, it may be better to build raised beds. When the soil stays wet, clay particles break away and fill up pore spaces, causing the soil to collapse and become even denser.
"A good mix for filling ground-raised beds is one part garden loam and one part compost," Pollard said.
Using summer-flowering bulbs in the landscape
Using summer-flowering bulbs will add that extra spot of color in the home landscape at a time when spring- flowering shrubs and bulbs have been done for a while, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Richard Hentschel.
"Summer bulbs will provide different textures, plant shapes, and flower colors to the landscape," he said. Gardening catalogs and the Internet offer a great many summer bulbs to choose from. Some of the more popular are canna, gladiola, calla lily, elephant ear, dahlia, and agapanthus. Some are true bulbs, others are corms and tubers. The main difference between spring and summer bulbs is the ability to survive winter weather. Spring bulbs go dormant in the fall and the bulbs, corms, and tubers survive in the soil in temperatures below freezing. Summer bulbs are more tender and cannot tolerate below-freezing temperatures. They flower well after spring bulbs are done.
Summer bulbs are planted once the soils warm and well after the last spring frost. Cannas and elephant ear need warm soil temperatures. If it is warm enough for tomatoes to be set out, you can plant summer bulbs.
"If you own a soil thermometer, check to make sure the soil is at 60 degrees F or higher," Hentschel said. "Most bulbs will prefer a well-drained soil, so be generous with the compost. You can even create a bit of a raised bed, further ensuring good soil drainage."
Drier soil is also warmer soil. Compost provides nutrients and creates water and air spaces that increase both water holding and drainage at the same time. The continued success of any bulb will be the ability to store the reserves it needs to grow and bloom in the next season.
Gardeners who like to get a head start can begin to grow summer bulbs indoors, starting one to two months before it is time to transplant them outdoors. The summer bulb already has everything inside to grow, including the flower buds. Start with clean containers and a fresh soil mix.
"It will be better to start a little later rather than earlier if you are not sure of your planting date outdoors," said Hentschel. "Planting the bulbs directly in your flower beds is just like planting your spring-flowering bulbs. Unless your instructions state something different, bulbs usually are planted at depths of two to three times their diameter in the soil."
"Any bulbs you have grown ahead would be planted to the same depth as the container because the bulbs have already established themselves. Bulbs grown in larger containers can be used on the deck, patio, or near the front door for added color," he continued.
Spring bulbs, corms and tubers will certainly add to the landscape and also to your fall gardening activities.
"Your summer bulbs will need to be dug up after the frosty weather has taken the foliage down and before the soil freezes," he added. "Allow them to dry down and store in a cool area, above freezing but not too warm or they will begin to grow. "
Barnes receives Harry M. Vars Research Award
Barnes was presented the award for her work on the paper "Intestinal Adaptation Is Stimulated by Partial Enteral Nutrition Supplemented with the Prebiotic Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharide in a Neonatal Intestinal Failure Piglet Model," which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
She grew up in Joliet, Ill., and graduated from the University of Illinois dietetics program in 2008. She joined Kelly Tappenden's laboratory at the U of I for her graduate studies and expects to complete her Ph.D. and dietetic internship in 2013. She is a Ruth L. Kirschstein Fellow and has recently received an American Society for Nutrition predoctoral fellowship and the Robinson Nutrition Impact Award through the U of I's Division of Nutritional Sciences.
"The Vars award is a highly respected honor," said Debra S. BenAvram, ASPEN chief executive officer. "We are pleased to honor Jennifer Barnes with this award for her hard work and dedication to advancing clinical nutrition and metabolism. The future of our field depends upon emerging investigators like Ms. Barnes to tackle difficult questions through basic science or clinical research."
Study simulates effects of foot - and - mouth disease outbreak in Mexico
"For diseases that spread very quickly, such as foot-and-mouth, the best way to minimize economic losses is to have a very good surveillance system," said University of Illinois agricultural economist Lia Nogueira. "You can identify the herds that are sick right away and contain or slaughter them so the disease doesn't continue to spread throughout the country."
Nogueira said that when FMD ravaged the Mexican cattle industry in the 1940s, things were very different. Ranches were more isolated.
"If there was an outbreak in a certain region, it would have been contained to that region," she said. "Today we're seeing a lot more feedlot finishing in Mexico like in the United States. There are more cattle traveling all over the country to finishing centers. Once the cattle start traveling, the disease can begin to spread all over and then you get into real trouble."
Nogueira's study simulated several scenarios that incorporated different levels of surveillance, which involves traceability and checkpoints so every cow's origin and movement can be documented.
"In the scenario in which surveillance was very efficient and infected cows were identified quickly, the losses would not be very great," she said. "A mid-range scenario of traceability would be probably the most feasible for Mexican ranchers. It would involve a 60 to 70 percent depopulation rate, and losses to society as a whole would be $9.6 to $16 billion. Producers sustain obvious losses, but consumers can also be affected through market responses, and tourism can suffer because of traveling restrictions."
The 1940s outbreak of FMD in Mexico lasted for seven years and resulted in large losses in inventory with costs estimated over $250 million. More recently, an FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001 caused losses of between $3.6 and $11.6 billion with around 4 million animals slaughtered. Nogueira said the estimated costs for an outbreak today are much higher because it includes government costs of cleanup, producer costs, and consumer costs.
The study also recommended that Mexican cattle ranchers consider raising a heartier breed of cattle so that if an outbreak should occur, the herd could be repopulated more quickly.
"One of the characteristics of the cattle industry in Mexico is that birth rates and death rates of the young cattle are much higher than they are in the United States," Nogueira said. "A different breed of cattle could decrease those rates, but to do that would take a lot of education, extension and outreach activities to convince ranchers to switch from the type of cattle that they've been raising all of their lives."
Nogueira explained that FMD is not transmitted to humans when they eat the meat or are in contact with an infected cow. This makes the disease very different from mad-cow disease, but of course it is still devastating to cattle ranchers.
"It's a virus, so it spreads kind of like the flu to other cattle," Nogueira said. "To contain the virus, you have to either completely quarantine or slaughter the cattle.
Cattle exports are a very small percentage of Mexican total exports and primarily calves that are produced in the northern Mexican states exported to the United States. Because the percentage of calves exported to the United States is so small, it would likely not have much of an implication on the U.S. industry.
"Analyzing Mexico for the FMD outbreak was interesting because most of the countries that have been analyzed are much more dependent upon export," Nogueira said. "In those countries, if you declare that you have FMD, the borders are closed and surrounding countries will not import anything."
Nogueira's research was part of a larger study for the USDA about infectious diseases. Foot-and-mouth disease and the Mexican cattle industry was published in Agricultural Economics. Coauthors are Thomas L. Marsh, Peter R. Tozer, and Derrell Peel.
Heart Murmurs Speak Volumes to Veterinarians
"Lub-dub, lub-dub" beats the normal heart over and over. When the heart is making any other sounds, however, further investigation may be needed to determine just what the heart is saying.
According to Dr. Mauria O'Brien, a veterinarian board certified in emergency and critical care at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, one such irregular heart sound, a murmur, has different meanings depending on the age and breed of pet.
A heart murmur indicates turbulence in the flow of blood. Normally, blood flows only forward through the heart's chambers, making a distinct "lub dub." A murmur may indicate that blood is moving backwards or is being pushed through an opening that is narrower than normal.
If your pet has a heart murmur, your veterinarian will grade the murmur on a scale of 1 to 6, depending on how loud the murmur is.
It can be normal for puppies younger than 16 weeks old to have a "baby" murmur. Your veterinarian will to listen to your puppy's heart at its routine puppy wellness appointments (at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks) in order to determine whether the murmur is a "baby," or "innocent," murmur that will go away as the puppy ages. If a murmur is still heard beyond four months of age, the murmur could be considered a congenital defect, and your veterinarian will likely refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for a complete diagnostic work-up.
Acquired heart murmurs are those arising as your pet ages. In dogs, signs of a heart problem include exercise intolerance and cough, whereas cats often show no early warning signs.
Heart murmurs themselves may indicate a variety of underlying diseases. For example, in cats a murmur may indicate hyperthyroidism or hypertension as well as various heart diseases. The underlying cause of an acquired murmur must be identified in order to determine the correct treatment.
Radiographs (x rays), ECGs, and echocardiograms are among the diagnostic imaging approaches that can help your veterinarian understand what is going on with your pet's heart. In certain cases, examination by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist will be advisable to reach a diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
The best way to catch a heart murmur in its earliest stages is to have regular examinations for young and adult pets so your veterinarian can listen to what your pet's heart has to say. If you have further questions about heart murmurs in pets, contact your local veterinarian.
Writer: Brittany Way Rose
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Chris Beuoy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
Identifying poverty levels requires accurate measurements
"In 2008, there was a lot of quick-response research trying to measure the poverty effect across the world from the food price increase," said U of I agricultural economist Carl Nelson.
"They adopted an older research method and looked at what the household consumption bundle was, multiplied by the price increase to determine how much income they lost. The World Bank Studies reported that 13 million households were moved into poverty, but that number was overestimated by about 6 million households because it didn't take into account the ability for households to substitute foods in their diet."
In the study, Nelson and his colleagues argue that the simplified equation to calculate income loss fails to recognize that when a household has variety in their diet, and one food item becomes more expensive, they have the ability to switch to other items that have become relatively less expensive.
"If you measure the income loss assuming no change in quantity, no ability to substitute, you get a much bigger income loss than if you measure it correctly accounting for the change," Nelson said. "The method we used is based on the economic theory of household consumption, but it takes the budget constraint seriously and accounts for both the reduction in consumption of more expensive goods as well as the increase in expenditures on relatively less expensive goods."
Mexico is a good example, Nelson said, because although tortillas are a staple, Mexicans also have access to dairy products, meat, fruits and vegetables, and beans. He explained that, if in 2008 corn became much more expensive and corn is the primary feed for chicken in Mexico, then chicken would become more expensive because of the higher cost of the feed.
"If you assume that the household is consuming the same amount of chicken that they consumed before the price increase, you get a much larger income loss for that household," he said. "But if you recognize that a household could substitute beans and cheese for the chicken, and include that in the equation, the measure of income loss from a price change accounts for the full range of household adjustment in consumption."
Nelson said that when this new statistical model meets the data, it accounts for the behavioral theory of household consumption, such as the ability to switch to a lower-priced protein. The older studies fail to do that, producing a significant misinterpretation of the data.
Other methods to measure income changes due to food spikes have underestimated the poverty effect, Nelson said. The problem arises by not recognizing the entire household budget.
"When the price of chicken goes up, households face a budget constraint," Nelson said. "When they reduce the amount of chicken they buy, they don't save that, they use that money to increase their consumption of beans, and so by only measuring the reduction, they're actually underestimating the income loss because they're not accounting for the increase in expenditure on the goods that they are substituting for the relatively more expensive good."
Understanding a food price spike requires accurate estimation, Nelson said, because the information about that effect is needed to accurately determine the need and the level of policy response. He cited Mexico's successful conditional cash transfer program for poor households called Oportunidades in which a household must satisfy a condition, such as accessing health care, in order to qualify for the cash transfer.
"In response to food price shock, one of the Mexican policy responses was to increase Oportunidades payments to households," Nelson said.
"Correctly identifying income loss is important when governments need to adopt policies that involve giving back some of the loss," Nelson said. "You need an accurate measure of the monetary loss in order to not over- or underpay."
Poverty effects of food price escalation: The importance of substitution effects in Mexican households was coauthored by U of I economist Lia Nogueira and U of I Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Wood and was published in Food Policy.
"In the world of gardening and horticulture, there are plenty of terms that look downright confusing if not intimidating," said University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist Greg Stack.
"A new gardener who does not understand these terms could make the wrong choice of plants for the garden. On the other hand, understanding the vocabulary can make your gardening a lot more enjoyable, productive, and successful."
To get you started with "horticulture- speak" and help guide you in selecting what you need, here are a few terms that appear not only in catalogs but also on seed packets and in stores that sell plants. These terms can be applied to vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and many other types of plants.
F1 Hybrid: These are seeds that are from the first generation of a cross between two known varieties. These varieties are often grown for specific traits such as color, flavor, size, and disease resistance. Seeds of F1 Hybrids do not remain true to type in future generations, so saving the seeds and replanting them will not give you the same thing you had the previous season.
OP: Open Pollinated (OP) refers to plant varieties that breed true seed. This means seed saved from the parent will produce plants that are true to type. OP seed is produced by allowing a natural flow of pollen between different plants of the same type. Seed from these plants can often be saved and replanted in the next season's garden with acceptable results.
Heirloom: These are open pollinated varieties that have been around for a long time (often 50 years or more) and have evolved by natural or human selection, often into very interesting vegetables and flowers. Many catalogs offer them.
TMV, F, V, EB, N, A: These letters, which appear after the name of a tomato, pepper, or other vegetable variety name, indicate that the variety has resistance or tolerance to some of the commonly occurring, mostly soil-borne, diseases. If you garden where these diseases may be present, check these letters when you choose your plants.
Determinate: Used with tomato variety names, this term refers to plants that tend to be shorter and to spread out and make little or no growth after the fruit is set. Their fruits usually ripen all at once. Determinate varieties are good for growing in small gardens and containers, as they are easy to manage.
Indeterminate: This term is used to describe tomato varieties that tend to grow tall and are best staked or caged. The plants keep on producing new shoots and blossoms even after fruit set, allowing harvest over an extended time period.
Days to Harvest: This number (e.g., 78 days) is printed after a variety name. It tells you how soon you can expect to start seeing harvestable fruit after setting plants in the garden as transplants. For seed-sown plants, this generally refers to the time needed after seedling emergence. This is, of course, is tempered by weather and other growing conditions but is a good way to estimate when you can start expecting a harvest.
Gynoecious: This term refers to cucumber hybrids that produce only female flowers. These plants may flower earlier and produce more fruit because every flower is a potential fruit (unlike on standard varieties, where both male and female flowers are produced on the same plant and only the female flowers are capable of producing fruit). They are great for small gardens where production efficiency is important. Seed packets often include seeds of a standard variety, which will be a different color (pink or blue). Make sure to sow some of them so you will get a source of pollen from the male flowers to pollinate the gynoecious variety.
Plant in Hills: Often applied to vine crops, this term means that several seeds (three or four) are planted in a three- to four-inch circle. The next circle is then planted the recommended spacing from the first circle. These spaced circles are referred to as hills, even if they are not made into mounds.
Succession Planting. When radish, lettuce, and beans are sowed at the same time, the result is that all the produce is also ready at the same time, often in quantities that are too large to use efficiently. Succession planting is sowing smaller amounts of seed at staggered intervals to extend the harvest over time.
Four-, Six-, or Eight-Inch Plants: These designations are often used with transplants, flowering gift plants, or houseplants, and refer to the size of the pot in which the plant is being sold. If you are buying a four-inch marigold for your garden, the plant will be growing in and sold to you in a four- inch pot.
"Knowing a little bit about some of the words that are found in the horticultural world will help to make you a more educated and, hopefully, a better gardener," said Stack.
Easter, Fisher recognized by Illinois Pork Producers Association
Bill Fisher, former manager of the U of I Imported Swine Farm and instructor in introductory animal sciences and production courses, was named the IPPA's 2012 Pork Promoter of the Year.
"Dr. Easter's illustrious career has included conducting leading-edge swine-related research projects, teaching students and others around the world about ways to improve pig production. He has also provided outstanding leadership to the College of ACES and the U of I in administrative positions," said Dereke Dunkirk, IPPA president.
Easter joined the U of I as a Ph.D. student in swine nutrition. In 1976 he joined the faculty as an assistant professor and became a professor in 1988. He was responsible for advising undergraduate and graduate students, teaching undergraduate pork production courses and the graduate course in nutrition research techniques.
His research focus from 1976 through the mid-1980s emphasized B-vitamin nutrition of swine with particular attention given to riboflavin and vitamin B-6. By the late 1980s his work had expanded to address weanling pig nutrition and amino acid nutrition and growth. Easter's research was instrumental in developing a lean growth model in the early 1990s.
Between 1992 and 1999, work in his lab emphasized the sow, although he continued to work with weanling pigs. The data from these experiments with sows were used to construct a computer-based computational model to estimate amino acid requirements of the sow during lactation.
In 1996 Easter became head of the U of I's Department of Animal Sciences, and in 2001 he accepted the position of dean of the College of ACES. He served as dean until 2009 when he was appointed to serve as the interim provost and then served for 23 months as interim chancellor of the university.
Throughout his career Easter engaged in educational and consultative activities in the swine and feed industries both in the United States and around the world. From 1994 to 2008, he lectured for two to three weeks each summer in the American Soybean Association-sponsored Chinese Animal Management and Production Systems (CHAMPS) program in China, and he is co-author of a textbook on swine management that is used in China.
As Pork Promoter of the Year, Bill Fisher is being honored for his work in swine production beginning in Oklahoma and continuing through his career as an educator and swine farm manager at the University of Illinois.
"Bill has been instrumental to the success of many IPPA activities and has freely given of his time and assisted wherever possible, going above and beyond the call of duty," said IPPA President Dereke Dunkirk.
As a U of I graduate student, he worked as the Moorman Swine Farm manager and assisted with laboratory classes under Al Jensen. He held positions in the swine industry in Illinois and Oklahoma until he returned to the U of I in 1988 to manage its three swine research units. His responsibilities included the construction and start-up of the new Imported Swine Farm, and he played a valuable role in much of the groundbreaking research that took place at these farms in the next 21 years.
In 2008 Fisher began teaching the swine sections of the introductory animal sciences classes; he also assisted with production classes. He retired from the university in July 2010.
During his time at the university, Fisher was very active in the pork industry and in production of purebred swine. He served on the Illinois Purebred Swine Council and was president for four years. His leadership and guidance in helping with the birthing center at the Illinois State Fair and his involvement in the National Pork Board's Operation Main Street have helped thousands of people learn more about pork production.
Editor's note: High-resolution digital photos to accompany this press release can be accessed at http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/News_Photos/2012.pork.award .
Quick tips on color in the garden
Using color effectively can create a feeling of excitement or a sense of peaceful calm in a garden.
"Colors can make a large space more intimate yet make a small space feel larger," said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Martha Smith. "Simply understanding the importance of color and how to use it can change the overall look and mood of your garden."
Color is a personal matter, and there are no set rules to follow. The following guidelines can be bent to satisfy personal taste.
When planning a garden, think of it as a three-dimensional painting and the plant colors as colors on an artist's palette. Some colors will dominate and be spread with broad-brush strokes, whereas small dabs of others will give depth and dimension. Try to envision how you want the entire garden to look.
Have a color plan. Do you like a monochromatic color scheme where all the flowers share the same pigment? An example would be red, pink, and burgundy impatiens planted among pink and red astilbe. Perhaps you prefer a rich tapestry of many colors.
A color wheel is handy. A complementary scheme uses colors that are directly opposite each other on the wheel. Examples are red and green, orange and blue, yellow and violet. Some very striking combinations can be made with complements.
"To brighten a shady area, use light colors such as white, light pinks, or pale blues," said Smith. "Dark colors tend to get lost in shady areas. You can still use deep colors, but be sure to use lighter colors around or behind them to provide contrast so that they will stand out and be seen."
For maximum effect, think about how the plant colors will blend or contrast with the surroundings. For example, deep red geraniums or red barberries planted against red brick will not stand out as much as lighter colors.
Think about the colors of your home. If the exterior is a neutral color (beige, gray, or white) you have a relatively easy task because you can use just about any color scheme. If, however, it is accented with a colorful trim, you may want to pick colors that echo the trim color or complement it. Light blue trim could be complemented with yellow or orange marigolds or echoed with dark blue petunias. Just as interior decorators use three or four colors as a theme throughout a home, "exterior decorators" can do the same.
"Theme colors used with repetition will unify different garden areas just as they unify the rooms of a house," Smith explained. "For example, your theme colors are yellow and white. Adding group plantings of yellow marigolds throughout your gardens can tie different areas together.
"Repeating the same colors but in different plant types can create the same effect. Work with the yellow marigolds and plant golden barberry, yellow daylilies and black-eyed susans in other garden areas to offer visual color connections. In the shade, pick these colors up with yellow hosta and Golden Hakone Grass. Include white flowers such as white phlox, shasta daisies and white petunias to complete your theme."
Smith added that it is also important to think about your viewing distance. Dark or cool colors such as blue and purple will recede. They get lost if viewed from across the yard or in low light. Bright colors or warm colors such as yellow and orange achieve the opposite effect; they come toward you and are highly visible in low light.
"If your garden is located away from your viewing area, cool colors will be hard to see," she said. "Choose warm colors for greater visual impact. This same concept influences the perception of garden size. Proper color selection can help make a small area look larger and a large area appear smaller. If you are dealing with a small area, cool colors recede and can make the edges appear to fall back, giving the illusion of a larger space. Warm colors come toward you so that same small space can appear even smaller. Plant warm colors in distant gardens so they appear closer."
Colors can affect our emotions. Warm colors are exciting and stimulate our senses; cool colors are calming and relax us.
"As you plan your gardens, think about color and the mood you want to create and the surroundings you want to accent," said Smith. "Incorporate color repetition to help unify the garden. Simply understanding the importance of color and how to use it can change the overall look and mood of your garden."