Category Archives: Agriculture

Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Colored Petals?

Thought You Might Enjoy this Q&A From Ask.com regarding Wildflowers

Question: Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Coloured Petals?

Top Answer: Some wild flowers are highly scented with brightly colored petals so as to attract pollinators like insects and birds. The pollinators feed on the nectar and help in distribution from pollen grains from anthers to stigma of the same plant or another plant. This enables continuation of reproduction.

Ion Exchange, Inc.

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UNI student helps return cropland to native prairie Article from The Gazette

Researchers assessing benefits of converting grasses to biofuel

Tall Grass Mix

WASHBURN — University of Northern Iowa professor Mark Myers considered it a “theoretical exercise” when he assigned his wildlife ecology and management students to develop a habitat management plan for a local site.

But, said Myers, Jarrett Pfrimmer, 25, of North Liberty, “took the assignment to heart,” and a year later, prairie grass was growing on 20 acres of former cropland along a Cedar River tributary.

“I did not think he could make it happen in that short a time,” said Myers, who is working with Pfrimmer on another major project with the potential to restore natural functions of the Cedar River watershed — research to determine the feasibility of native prairie as a biofuel.

Pfrimmer, who will complete work on his master’s degree next month, said he worked with the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District to line up cost-share funding for the stream buffer project.

The Boone native said he also took advantage of expertise at UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center to plan and execute the 120-foot wide buffer strips on both sides of Dry Run Creek, which flows past the UNI campus en route to the Cedar River.

Seeded a year ago, the native vegetation will become well established next year, greatly reducing erosion from the former farm fields, improving the quality of the water flowing into the Cedar and providing habitat for songbirds, pheasants and other wildlife.

The absorbent grass also will play a small role in reducing the crest of future Cedar River floods.

“Every little bit helps” when it comes to watersheds’ ability to store and slowly release floodwaters, said State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, a leader in legislative efforts to improve watershed management.

Small-scale improvements like the two Black Hawk County projects can help create a mindset and policies “that will help buy down flood peaks for those of us downstream,” Hogg said.

In addition to the Cedar Falls stream buffer project, Pfrimmer has worked with Myers and others to assess the benefits of converting cropland into a prairie biomass production site at the 593-acre Cedar River Natural Resource Area about 10 miles south of Waterloo.

On flood plain land that had formerly been leased for row crop production, the researchers established 48 test plots, each seeded with one of four types of native vegetation ranging from switch grass alone to a mix of 32 species of grasses, legumes, forbs and sedges.

Those plantings were equally distributed among three distinct soil types, enabling the researchers to control all key factors contributing to the productivity of native grass not only as a source of energy but also as habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

The research got off to a rocky start with the historic Cedar River flood of 2008 wiping out the initial seeding. The plots were reseeded in 2009, burned in 2011 and finally harvested in April, compressed into 550-pound rectangular bales, with an average yield of 4 tons per acre.

About 150 of those bales were later pelletized for an upcoming test burn by Cedar Falls Utilities. “We’re looking to find out how well it burns for energy generation,” said Daryl Smith of the UNI Tallgrass Prairie Center, a partner in the research.

Researchers have suggested that cultivation of low-input, high-diversity grassland biomass could have significant energy and environmental advantages over corn-based ethanol, according to Myers.

While it remains to be seen whether the energy yield would justify conversion of marginal farmland to production of native vegetation for use as an energy source, biofuel production with diverse mixtures of native prairie vegetation “contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes,” the researchers concluded.

Grassland birds and butterflies quickly found and colonized the test plots, according to Myers.

Pfrimmer, who has led bird data collection efforts, will soon complete his master’s thesis on “Bird Use of Heterogenous Native Prairie Biofuel Production Plots.”

In each of the past two years, he has found at least 100 delicate nests hidden among the grass stems by species such as the sedge wren, dickcissel, grasshopper sparrow and lark sparrow. Pheasants and turkeys also have moved into the grass, he said.

“We are starting to see different bird communities established in the plots in accordance with their preferences for the vegetation mix and even the soil types,” Pfrimmer said.

Article taken From The Gazette Newspaper

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[IOWA-NATIVE-PLANTS] Developing Problem – Wild Feral Hogs

There is a developing problem in native habitat areas. Wild feral hogs have been a plague in southern states and have been known to be far southwestern Iowa for nearly a decade. They are spreading farther into the state. Last week, two were killed in Crawford County, north of Denison. They can be dangerous to individuals hiking or working in remote areas and they are an ecological disaster. They can root up and destroy large areas of vegetation and devastate native wildlife.

They multiply rapidly, having two or more litters a year, and can start reproducing six months after birth. If you should encounter one in the wild, give it a wide berth and report it immediately to the DNR. They may have large tusks and can be quite fearless. Be careful when you are out and about, and take this threat seriously.

By: Larry Grill

 

Earthyman Article on How to Do a Dormant Seeding

When and how to do a dormant seeding is a question that is often asked when sowing native seeds.  By following these simple guidelines, you can be successful using a dormant seeding.

Make sure your site is prepared and there is no sign of any growing live vegetation present.  An exception would be if you were planning on supplementing an existing planting to add more diversity.  After the ground temperature drops below 50 degrees, you can start sowing your seed usually in the Midwest this occurs at the end of October or the first of November.  Even if you have 2 inches of snowfall, the seed can be broadcast over the snow.  Any time in late fall or even winter, seeds can be broadcast.

You can check your soil temperature in your state by googling for soil temperatures for instance in Iowa, you may go to: http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/NPKnowledge/soiltemphistory.html

If you have a small area, one to two acres or less, broadcast your seed by hand.  In this instance the seed can be mixed with 10 to 20 parts of wet sand to 1 part seed by volume.  After you have thoroughly mixed your seed with the wet sand, divide it into 2 to 4 lots and go over the entire area with each lot.  The seed can then be broadcast by hand using an ice cream container under one arm and reaching in with the other hand to grab a handful of this seed matrix.  Cast it in a swinging motion just as you would feed chickens.  With the next lot of seed, walk in a different direction so as to get a more even distribution of the seed.  This is repeated with each lot and going a different direction each time.

Since this is a dormant seeding, we are depending upon Mother Nature to achieve good seed to soil contact which is the most important element in any kind of seeding.  Mother Nature will then rain, snow, freeze and thaw. This is just what we want as it will ensure the proper stratification of the seed to break the dormancy code and allow better germination in the spring.  Stratification is a process whereby we can either by Mother Nature or human treatment break the dormancy of seeds to enable germination.

Go to Native Wildflowers & Seeds Website for a variety of quality native seeds and seed mixes.   Ion Exchange, Inc. is a Native Plant and Seed Nursery for over 25 years.  They grow and market native wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes.

[IOWA-INSECTS] Monarch butterfly research story

Here in SE MN I noticed the same lack of Monarchs in mid-summer. We also had robust milkweeds with very few larvae. I heard from (entomologically oriented) folks in NE MN that in June they saw far more Monarchs than usual, but with their relatively low population of milkweeds the Monarch seemed to overload the larval food plant. Then in August the flight of Monarchs here in SE MN was the lowest I have every seen.

Joel Dunnette

 

On Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 8:21 PM, Bruce And Georgeann <crazcoot@evertek.net> wrote:
I have been following this topic and want to ask about another angle of the past summer’s Monarch slump -at least it was in Nw Iowa.

The Monarch Butterflies, were a real concern here this year. We had quite good numbers showing up in early spring – in fact the dates were record early arrivals for us. And I witnessed egg laying in the pasture…even photographed eggs as they were so obvious. But the thing that really puzzled and concerned me was we had no egg hatches and no caterpillars all summer! I have never, in my life, “Not” seen a Caterpillar all spring, summer or fall!!!???!!! Why after finding eggs, I could later not find larva?

Then the summer was “scant” as far as Monarchs were concerned. Nearly none, just a handful all summer. This should not have been the case here, we had the largest crop of Asclepias (milkweeds) that I’ve ever seen here…we had A. tuberosa(Butterfly Milkweed) in record numbers…they were stunning all over the county…even the area farmers were asking me what that “orange plant” is showing up everywhere! We had way more A. syriaca (Common Milkweed) than I care to see here – the neighborhood is coated with seed parachutes from our pasture…not a real “good neighbor” relations maker with the local farmers. We also had a good share (but down slightly from past years) of A. verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) and a small compliment of A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) in the ditches out front.

I witnessed a lone Monarch laying eggs on some Common Milkweed outside the studio windows in late August and tried keeping an eye on them – they were gone after just 3 days!? I don’t know of “egg” eaters in the insect world but maybe something is going on? I know of parasitic wasps in caterpillars – but saw NO CATERPILLARS all summer (as I said before). I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on?

This fall we had virtually no Monarch roosts here – we usually have 150-500 individuals roost here each fall. 13 was our high number in a roost this fall…”6″ was the other high day…”high” used very sarcastically…

Some folks following this have raised issue with the drought hurting the mid section of the continent’s Monarch survival…I’m sure that has some bearing. They also have raised issue with GMO crops. But it does nothing to explain a local phenomenon like we’ve been experiencing here…eggs laid but no hatching, no larva…with an abundance of food source for larva and adult stages. We do not spray insecticides here on the acreage, but I have no knowledge of GMO crops or spraying issues in the surrounding area, so I can’t speak to that.

Am I imagining things or is there anyone else raising these kinds of observations or concerns? …Bruce Morrison, SE O’Brien County

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Garden Myths & Facts Article By Horticultural Professionals

Two horticultural professionals took some of the most popular garden myths into the university laboratory to prove or disprove the accuracy of these myths. Dr. Linda Chalked-Scott from Washington State University and Dr. Jeff Gilliam from the University of Minnesota tested these myths under controlled conditions to determine if they really work.

The Myth
For years we’ve been told that if we water plants on a hot sunny day the sun reflecting through the water droplets will burn the foliage.

The Facts

We are constantly being warned in books, magazines, and various websites that if we water on a sunny day we will burn the leaves. The premise behind this is the water drops that accumulate on the leaf surfaces act as tiny magnifying glasses, focusing the sun’s energy into intense beams that burn leaves. We’re told that since water conducts heat, wet leaf surfaces are more likely to burn than dry ones. This is one of those myths that refuse to die. Although most of the university web sites dispel this myth, hundreds of other web sites keep the misinformation alive.

If your plants are showing signs of water stress in the middle of the day, by all means you should water them!

Delaying irrigation until the evening (not a good time to water anyway, as this can encourage fungal diseases or the following morning could damage your plants and open them up to diseases.

There are many causes of leaf scorch, but irrigation with fresh water is certainly not one of them.

So remember:

Wet foliage is not susceptible to sunburn

Analyze site conditions to ensure optimal root and shoot health and prevent drought problems

Any time plants exhibit drought stress symptoms is the time to water them

Ideal watering time is in the early morning; watering during the day increases evaporative losses, and evening watering regimes can encourage establishment of some fungal diseases

Do not overuse fertilizers and pesticides, especially those containing sodium or other salts

If using recycled or gray water, consider running the water through a filtering system before applying it to plants.

The Myth

Using nursery tags is an accurate method to determine a plant’s final size.

The Facts

Fall is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Selection can be a tricky practice, especially when site conditions limit size of plantings. Small landscapes require small-scale plantings.

At the nursery, one can be overwhelmed by the variety of deciduous trees and conifers, and even within a species there may be several cultivars from which to choose.

Without any prior knowledge of these plants, gardeners resort to nursery tags to determine mature heights and widths. Armed with this information, one can select those trees and shrubs whose size is appropriate to the site. But does this approach really work?

Many factors determine the mature size of any tree or shrub. The most obvious on plant size is genetic makeup – you only have to look at cultivar names like ‘Midget’ or ‘Giant Candles’ to understand this component.

Geographic location also plays a role in determining height. For instance, trees tend to grow taller in areas where temperatures are more moderate; trees in coastal areas are generally larger than these same species in more interior regions. Within a geographic area, local climate will further influence final size: rainfall and temperature can vary widely within a region. The microclimate of a site will influence tree size due to differences in environmental factors such as drainage, and soil type.

Competition for water, light, and nutrients, will affect not only growth rate but final height as well.

1.  Nursery tags most likely contain species information relevant to that nursery’s geographic location
2.  Genetics, geography, climate, and plant competition will all influence the maximum height any specimen will obtain
3.  To determine the most likely height range for a tree in your landscape, observe how that species performs elsewhere in your area
4.  If no local landscape specimens exist for a particular plant, look to the internet for plant performance information from similar climates elsewhere in the world.

The Myth

Landscape fabric provides permanent weed control for landscapes

The Facts

Concern over the use of herbicides has caused landscape professionals and gardeners to look closely at non-chemical methods of weed control. Mulches are increasing in popularity as weed control measures and have a number of additional benefits, including water retention and soil protection. Mulches may be organic, inorganic, or synthetic. Synthetic mulches, including geotextiles, are of interest to many consumers and professionals because they are perceived as nonbiodegradable, permanent solutions to weed control.

Developed for agricultural use, geotextiles have found their way into ornamental gardens as landscape fabrics. These fabrics, a vast improvement over the impermeable black plastics still (unfortunately) used for weed control, are woven in such a way that water and gas exchange can occur but light penetration is significantly reduced. Hence, they are effective in reducing weed seed germination in areas where soil disturbance would otherwise induce germination of weeds. Such fabrics have been so effective in reducing weeds in vegetable and ornamental crop production that they have been applied to more permanent landscape installations.

Like the dieter searching for a permanent weight loss pill, so we as gardeners continue to seek permanent weed control solutions. Unfortunately, there is no such permanent fix.

We must remain ever vigilant in our battle with weeds and cannot rely on a product to do this. The fact is that weed control fabrics are not permanent and will decompose, especially when exposed to sunlight.

For permanent landscapes, they are not a long term solution and in fact can hinder landscape plant health.

Some of these facts are listed below.

Any organic matter or soil on top of the fabrics will hasten their colonization by weeds; this precludes covering the fabric with anything but inoert mulch like pebbles. It also requires continual maintenance to keep the fabric free of debris. Weeds will eventually grow on top of and through these fabrics, making their removal difficult.
Geotextiles degrade in the landscape in as little as one year if unprotected from sunlight.
The aesthetic quality of landscape fabrics is minimal; it becomes worse as the materials begin to degrade.
Personally I had a situation where field bindweed grew some 25 feet under landscape fabric before emerging at the edge of the bed, seeking sunlight.

In closing, I expect some of you might disagree with some of these findings. However remember that this research was done in reputable university labs under controlled conditions. Each of us will draw our own conclusions.

Article Taken From Dave’s Garden Website
By Paul Rodman
October 29, 2012

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Email:  hbright@acegroup.cc

Phone:  800-291-2143

Iowa Prairie Partners Program for Iowa Landowners Explained by Ion Exchange, Inc.

Howard Bright also Known as “Earthyman” is President of Ion Exchange, Inc., Seed and Plant Nursery

Here’s a Special Program that is a Cooperative Effort Between Iowa Native Seed Growers; Pheasants Forever & the Iowa DNR

It’s so we can Re-Create Iowa’s Natural Heritage including Savanna, Prairie & Wetlands

Iowa Landowners Get 50% Off so call  me at 563-535-7231 or email hbright@acegroup.cc and I will help and explain in Detail how this program works

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