Tag Archives: Agriculture

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

To Purchase Your Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

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Native Plant Communities Of Iowa Article

By: Howard Bright

The Plant Communities of Iowa are vast but we will limit them to four major communities knowing there are many subgroups of these four.  What is a plant community? In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form specific colonies of plants called  “plant communities”. Native plants always grow in association with others to create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given environmental conditions. 

Why is it important to know about natural plant communities?  It is very important because we can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are: Prairies, Savannas, Wetlands and Woodlands.

When the white man drove deeper through the hardwood forest driving westward until they eventually broke through the dark shadows of trees and the shrubs of that forest land and peered out onto the blinding light of the open prairie, it was a sight to behold waving in the wind and appearing as a sea of rolling grasses dotted with the colors of blooming flowers.  Indeed this was a strange land to these new visitors.  Steeping out onto this sea of grass, the pioneer disappeared and kept moving westward.  This land was covered with Buffalo, Elk, Deer, Bear, Cougars, Prairie Chickens, Beaver and all kinds of wildlife.

It wasn’t long before this land was discovered, occupied and changed forever. In the 1800s, Iowans reworked the face of their new state with a speed and to an extent perhaps unparalleled in human history.  At the beginning of the century, a blanket of prairie cloaked three-quarters of this “land between two rivers.”  Pothole marshes dotted the flatter north-central part of the state, while a network of streams laced the rolling hills elsewhere across Iowa.  Dense forests engulfed some valleys in the east and groves of bur oaks climbed out of the river corridors and onto the ridges to form savannas.

Thousands of Native Americans lived on the land, harvesting wild plants and animals, growing crops, and occasionally managing the vegetation with fire.  By 1900, however, Euro-American settlers had claimed nearly all of Iowa’s 36 million acres as farmland. Non-Indian settlement officially began on June 1, 1833, when pioneers first were allowed to claim new land in the 6-million-acre Black Hawk Purchase along the west side of the Mississippi River.  By 1846, when Iowa became a state, census records listed 96,088 people.  The population doubled to 192,914 by 1850 and topped one million before 1870.  In 1900, Iowa had 2.2 million people, compared to 2.9 million people today.  Most lived on the state’s 200,000 farms, working land where 95 percent of the prairie, two-thirds of the woodlands, and most of the wetlands had been converted to agriculture.  This dramatic, swift, almost complete change of diverse prairie to a monoculture of cropland profoundly altered the ecosystem.  Twenty-eight million acres of bluestem, dropseed, compass plants, coneflowers, gentians, and hundreds other species were transformed, in a relative eye-blink, into a patchwork of corn, wheat, oats, hay, and pasture.  Those plots have expanded to the huge roadside-to-roadside corn and soybean fields that we see today.

Before Iowa was settled a map depicts the vegetation that was present around 1850.  Note the majority of the landscape was tall grass prairie.  There were thousands of acres of wetlands, especially in Central and Northwest Iowa.  The Woodlands were confined to the steep areas along streams and in the Driftless area of Iowa.  Rolling and steeper hills were occupied by Savannas.

It only took 60 to 70 years to almost completely change the ecosystem of Iowa.  It is said that this was one of the quickest and largest annihilations of a natural ecosystem.  Oxen with wooden and steel plows developed by John Deere ripped up the prairie sod and crops were planted.

Glacial deposits occurred over the entire state of Iowa during a period of 2.5 million years and as recent as 10,000 years ago.  The only region not affected by glaciations is northeast Iowa where bedrock is exposed in many areas.

A multitude of events were occurring simultaneously during the last glacial period known as the Wisconsian Glacial Age.  Notably, while the older glaciers of the Nebraskan, Kansan and Illinoinian had long retreated and left their heavy loads across the state, a new glacier advanced from the north covering the north central and central pars of the state.  At the same time huge amounts of silt were blowing in from the northwest from the exposed glacial plains due northwest of Iowa’s western border. Loose materials much younger than the bedrock beneath dominate the present land surface across Iowa. These materials consist of sediment originating from ice sheets, melt water streams, and strong winds during a series of glacial events between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago (Quaternary). This familiar “dirt” consists of pebbly clay, sand, gravel, and abundant silt, which over time have weathered into Iowa’s productive loamy soils. These easily eroded “Ice Age” deposits account for the gently rolling appearance of much of the Iowa (and Midwestern) landscape.

During the Ice Age, glaciers advanced down into the mid-continent of North America, grinding underlying rock into a fine powder like sediment called “glacial flour.” As temperatures warmed, the glaciers melted and enormous amounts of water and sediment rushed down the Missouri River valley. The sediment was eventually deposited on flood plains downstream, creating huge mud flats. During the winters the melt waters would recede, leaving the mud flats exposed. As they dried, fine-grained mud material called silt was picked up and carried by strong winds. These large dust clouds were moved eastward by prevailing westerly winds and were redeposited over broad areas. Heavier, coarser silt, deposited closest to its Missouri River flood plain source, formed sharp, high bluffs on the western margin of the Loess Hills. Finer, lighter silt, deposited farther east, created gently sloping hills on the eastern margin. This process repeated for thousands of years, building layer upon layer until the loess reached thicknesses of 60 feet or more and became the dominant feature of the terrain.

Even though the prairie is gone, it has left us with a black treasure, our soil.  Over the eons of time the plants that grew on the prairie formed the richest soil on this planet.  Millions of acres are blanketed with black earth known as prairie soils.

What makes soils the way they are?  How did Iowa end up being the most fertile land in the world?   A unique combination and interaction of all of these factors formed our soils.  How are the soils of Iowa different?  By changing just one factor, we affect a major change in the soil.

Factors that interacted to form our soils can be simplified to: Parent Material, Climate, Topography, Vegetation, Time and Human Beings.

Soils are conceived, as we are, from our Parent Material.  Parent materials are composed of the raw earth that lays exposed to the elements. Major parent materials in Iowa consist of bedrock, glacial deposits called glacial till, water deposited material or alluvial deposits, and wind blown silt known as “loess”.  In other parts of the world, soils may be formed in volcanic ash or rock.

Climate has a profound effect on our soils as they are influenced by rainfall, temperature, freezing and thawing, sunlight and day length.

The way the land lays called Topography greatly influences our soils.  From the steep hills along river corridors to the level bottomlands, slope of the land can change the characteristics of our soils.

Vegetation and Organisms dramatically affect our soils.  Within a very localized area, we can note the effect of our past vegetation and what influence it has had on soils.  From the deep rich organic prairie soils developed under the influence of the tall grass prairie to the soils developed under a woodland condition depth of topsoil and fertility vary greatly.

We probably forget about a factor that is ever present and that factor is Time.  It is obvious when we think about the sediment deposited by a river or stream, which is in geologic times, is extremely young.  What a contrast when we sit atop a rock out crop that has been exposed for eons of time.  The stream deposited material stays forever young while the bedrock of a long ago sedimentized ocean bottom gets older and older.  Soils can’t hide their age either.

On the recent geologic scene came Humans and they have now joined the forces of soil forming factors.  By plowing, the natural vegetation and protection of the soil has been removed increasing erosion to an alarming rate.  Topsoil is destroyed, texture of the soil, which allows infiltration of water, is altered, soil forming organisms are eliminated, fertility is diminished as organic matter is washed away and soil tilth is destroyed.  Man has and is having his influence on our soils.  Fallow land and row crops now occupy land that was once a lush sponge to absorb water and cleanse it.

Once we understand the importance of our geologic past, recent history and soil forming factors, we can start to put together nature’s puzzle.  This intricate puzzle laid down over the eons is now at our fingertips for those who pay attention.

What other questions do we need to ask to get this right combination of plants that will fit our site?

  • What direction is your site facing, called Aspect?  A north and northeasterly direction may receive much less sunlight on a steeper slope than those facing south or west on the same steepness of slope due to the angle of the sun.
  • Is your site level, rolling or steep?  Slope as a steep south slope may be hot and dry while a steep north slope may be cool and moist.
  • How much Sunlight does your site get?  If it is dense shade versus full sunlight, you will need entirely different plants to suit your situation.
  • What is the condition of the soil in regards to Soil Moisture?  Drainage of the soil can range from saturated to excessively drained.
  • What are the sizes of the particles that make up your soil, called Texture.   It could range from sand to clay which an important characteristic to note as some plants will not tolerate these conditions.  For detailed description of your soils contact your local NRCS office and get a soil survey report of your county.

Absorbing and understanding the characteristics of our landscapes and soils allows us to then classify our sites.  In site classification we will assign a general category to our site based on all the previously mentioned information.  There are basically five sites to consider:

  • Dry
  • Dry Mesic
  • Mesic
  • Wet Mesic
  • Wet

Next we need to decide which plant community we are dealing with.  It may be a pre-existing condition or one that we want to create.  It is usually best to take what nature has given us if we have that opportunity.  However, if you live in an urban area, your site may have been severely altered and you will have to decide what you want to create there.  As mentioned before, we have four categories of plant communities:

  • Prairie
  • Savanna
  • Wetland
  • Woodland

Once the plant community is determined, select the most appropriate species for your plant community.  Now you are using nature’s prescription for success in creating your native wildflower planting.

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Monsanto Fails at Improving Agriculture Article

Monsanto Fails at Improving Agriculture

Help UCS Set the Record Straight by Sharing Our New Ad Campaign

Monsanto’s advertisements tell an impressive tale of the agribusiness giant’s achievements: Feeding a growing population. Protecting natural resources. Promoting biodiversity.

It sounds wonderful, but unfortunately, there’s a catch: These claims are often exaggerated, misleading or downright false. Monsanto’s products—and the practices they promote—may sustain the company’s profits, but the evidence shows that they stand in the way of truly sustainable solutions to our food and farming challenges.

In the ads below, we counter Monsanto’s feel-good rhetoric with some facts gleaned from UCS analysis. Share them with friends, and spread the word: when it comes to healthy farming, Monsanto fails!

(Click on the images to see full-size versions.)

#1: More Herbicide + Fewer Butterflies = Better Seeds?

Monsanto Says: “In the hands of farmers, better seeds can help meet the needs of our rapidly growing population, while protecting the earth’s natural resources.”

In Fact: Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, genetically engineered to tolerate the company’s Roundup herbicide,increased herbicide use by an estimated 383 million pounds between 1996 and 2008. And Monarch butterflies have laid 81 percent fewer eggs thanks to habitat loss since Roundup Ready was introduced.

#2: A Bumper Crop of Superweeds

Monsanto Says: “Our rapidly growing population is putting limited resources–such as land, water, and energy–under increased pressure.”

In Fact: The challenge is real, but Monsanto’s products aren’t the answer. UCS analysis shows that GE crops have so far done little to improve yields in the U.S. Meanwhile—speaking of rapidly growing populations—overuse of Roundup Ready crops has spawned an epidemic of “superweeds,” causing huge problems for U.S. farmers.

#3: All Wet on Drought Tolerance

Monsanto Says: “With the right tools, farmers can conserve more for future generations.”

In Fact: If farmers want to conserve more water, Monsanto’s DroughtGard corn isn’t the right tool. A recent UCS study found that DroughtGard won’t help farmers reduce water use—and its engineered drought tolerance will likely only be useful in moderate drought conditions. (Research has shown that organic farming methods could improve drought-year yields by up to 96%.)

Article Taken From Union Of Concerned Scientists Website

http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/impacts_genetic_engineering/monsanto-fails-at-improving.html

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Start Making Preparations and Plans and Order these Great New Products from Ion Exchange, Inc.

Two great new products being offered by Ion Exchange.
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Envirolok logoEnvirolik’s patented system provides immediate stabilization, erosion control, and a permanent vegetated solution. Envirolok is adaptable to water or dry land sites.

Envirolok’s patented system provides immediate stabilization, erosion control, and a permanent vegetated solution. Envirolok is adaptable to water or dry land sites.Envirolok information on erosion control

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 PermaMatrixTM

Primes the natural ecosystem using a process designed to mimic relationships found in native ecologies. Results surpass traditional topsoil-seeding-fertilizing efforts.

It is a blend of pure organics and recycled materials for use in all created wetlands and biofiltration swales to improve the performance of the native plant communities without fear of contamination of sensitive waterways!
 PermaMatrixTM Graphic BENEFITS of PermaMatrixTM:

 * Enhanced plant establishment
 * Improved plant performance
 * Pure carbon based organics
 * 30:1 c/n ratio
 * Stimulates production of optimum
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 * Recycled materials
 * Renews poor soils
 * Improves soil microbial life
 * Optimum host for microbes
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 * Carbon sequestration in soil
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Ion Exchange, Inc.  Ion Logo 

“Helping you create your own natural beauty”

Howard Bright, President

IonXchange.com

phone icon

QUESTIONS??

CALL US, 800-291-2143

Emai Icon

or

Like us on FacebookEMAIL US Visit our blog

hbright@acegroup.cc

Check out our Brilliant Red Wildflowers

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Envirolok’s patented system provides immediate stabilization, erosion control, and a permanent vegetated solution. Envirolok is adaptable to water or dry land sites.

Envirolok informationprogressive images envirolok

 PermaMatrixTM

Primes the natural ecosystem using a process designed to mimic relationships found in native ecologies. Results surpass traditional topsoil-seeding-fertilizing efforts.

It is a blend of pure organics and recycled materials for use in all created wetlands and biofiltration swales to improve the performance of the native plant communities without fear of contamination of sensitive waterways!
 PermaMatrixTM Graphic BENEFITS of PermaMatrixTM: 

 * Enhanced plant establishment
 * Improved plant performance
 * Pure carbon based organics
 * 30:1 c/n ratio
 * Stimulates production of optimum
   rhizosphere in soil
 * Sustainable
 * Recycled materials
 * Renews poor soils
 * Improves soil microbial life
 * Optimum host for microbes
 * Increased water absorption
 * Carbon sequestration in soil
 * Hydraulically applied
 * Bioremediation for environmental contaminates

PermaMatrixTM Graphic

Ion Exchange, Inc.  Ion Logo 

“Helping you create your own natural beauty”

Howard Bright, President

 IonXchange.com

phone icon

QUESTIONS??

CALL US, 800-291-2143

Emai Icon

   or

Like us on FacebookEMAIL US Visit our blog

hbright@acegroup.cc

Check out our Brilliant Red Wildflowers

ionxchange.com/species_pages/s/silene_regia 

ionxchange.com/species_pages/l/lobelia_cardinalis

This email was sent to kay@thenaturalgait.com by hbright@acegroup.cc |

 

Ion Exchange, Inc. | 1878 Old Mission Drive | Harpers Ferry | IA | 52146

Growing Problem of Roundup-Resistant Weeds

Penn State Logo

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

University Park, Pa. — When Penn State weed scientist David Mortensen told members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee this summer that the government should restrict the use of herbicide-tolerant crops and impose a tax on biotech seeds to fund research and educational programs for farmers, it caused quite a stir.

The growing problem with weeds that have become resistant to the most common herbicide used by American corn, soybean and cotton farmers has gotten so serious that new strategies are needed to combat them, he contended.

Mortensen should know. The professor of weed ecology in the College of Agricultural Sciences has spent his career researching weeds that affect agricultural production, sustainable ways to control them, and the relationships between crops, native and invasive weeds, and pollinators. He has published several peer-reviewed papers on the subject in recent years.

The resistant weeds cannot be killed by the sole use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Roundup has become broadly popular with farmers since the advent more than a decade ago of soybeans, cotton, corn and other crops that are resistant to the chemical. The weeds now infest about 11 million acres — a fivefold increase in three years, Mortensen reported.

The problem is most prevalent in cotton and soybean fields in the South but is spreading to other regions. And he told lawmakers it will get worse if farmers don’t take measures to control the weeds, including nonchemical methods such as planting cover crops to suppress weeds, rotating crops and spraying herbicides other than glyphosate.

“With the rise of glyphosate-resistant weeds, farmers have to quit relying so heavily on Roundup to control weeds,” he said. “Farmers value the convenience and simplicity of these crops without appreciating the long-term ecological and economic risks.”

Testifying before the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 28, Mortensen explained that weed management is a serious matter for farmers. While weed management almost always comprises several tactics, herbicide use is central and accounts for 70 percent of all pesticides used in agriculture.

“Since the mid-1990s, adoption of genetically engineered crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate has been widespread, and herbicide-resistant crops are now grown on more than 143 million acres of cropland internationally, with 92 percent of the U.S. soybean crop planted to glyphosate-resistant varieties,” he said. “Genetic engineering makes it possible to take a crop that was formally susceptible to glyphosate and genetically transform it to be resistant to the plant-killing effects of the herbicide.”

The adoption and widespread use of genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops has greatly changed how farmers manage weeds, enabling them to rely solely on a single-tactic approach to weed management (application of glyphosate). Unfortunately, Mortensen noted, this approach has resulted in an unintended, but not unexpected, problem — a dramatic rise in the number of weed species that are resistant to glyphosate and a resulting decline in the effectiveness of glyphosate as a weed-management tool.

“During the period since the introduction of glyphosate-resistant crops, the number of weedy plant species that have evolved resistance to glyphosate has increased dramatically, from zero in 1995 to 19 in June of 2010,” Mortensen said.

This list includes many of the most problematic weed species, such as common ragweed, horseweed, johnsongrass and several of the most common pigweeds — many of which are geographically widespread.

“In practice, the problem of glyphosate resistance goes far beyond a species count,” Mortensen said. “More important, perhaps, is the increase in acreage infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds. The reported extent of infestation in the United States has increased dramatically since just November of 2007, when glyphosate-resistant populations of eight weed species were reported on no more than 3,251 sites covering up to 2.4 million acres.”

In the summer of 2009, glyphosate-resistant weeds were reported on as many as 14,262 sites on up to 5.4 million acres, and the most recent summary indicates 30,000 sites infested on up to 11.4 million acres, according to Mortensen. In a period of three years, the number of reported sites infested by glyphosate-resistant weeds has increased nine fold, while the maximum infested acreage increased nearly fivefold.

“There is reason to believe this trend will continue into the future,” he said. “The cost of forestalling and controlling herbicide-resistant weeds is estimated to cost farmers almost $1 billion each year, at an additional cost of $10-20 per acre.”

Mortensen expressed concern about herbicide- and germplasm-development companies responding to the glyphosate-resistance problem by developing a new generation of genetically engineered crops in which glyphosate-resistant cultivars are being engineered to have additional resistance traits introduced into the crop’s genome.

“These additional gene inserts will confer resistance to other herbicide active ingredients, including 2,4-D and dicamba,” he said. “For a variety of reasons, it is quite likely that such crops will be widely adopted. Disturbingly, that would result in a significant increase of older, higher use-rate herbicides in soybean and cotton production.

“If they are adopted in the way I expect they will be, herbicide use in soybean production would increase by an average of 70 percent in a relatively short time after the release of these new genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant cultivars.”

Vapor drift of more toxic herbicides has been implicated in many incidents of crop injury and may have additional impacts on natural vegetation interspersed in agricultural landscapes, Mortensen told lawmakers. Scientists have documented that nontarget terrestrial plant injury was 75 to 400 times higher for dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively, than for glyphosate.

Together the herbicide and seed-breeding industries are moving to address the problem of resistance with crops that have been engineered to be resistant to multiple herbicide active ingredients, according to Mortensen. If these new crop introductions occur as reported, we should expect to see herbicide use continue to increase and a significant proportion of those added herbicides will be older, less environmentally benign compounds, he predicted.

Mortensen suggested that federal regulation should play a strong role in forestalling the further development of herbicide-resistant weeds. He advocated steps that could significantly improve the sustainability of weed-management practices in American agriculture.

“Biotech companies are trying to deal with the problem by engineering new crop varieties that will be immune to more than one herbicide, but even those products will eventually run into resistance problems if farmers aren’t careful,” he said. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service should require that registration of new herbicide/transgenic crop combinations explicitly address herbicide-resistance management.

“Regulations should limit repeated use of herbicides in ways that select for resistance or that result in increased reliance on greater amounts of herbicide to achieve weed control,” Mortensen added. “We should provide environmental market incentives, possibly through the Farm Bill, to adopt a broader integration of tactics for managing weeds.

“Transgene seed and associated herbicides should be taxed and proceeds used to fund and implement research and education aimed at advancing ecologically based integrated weed management,” he concluded.

Contact Jeff Mulhollem jjm29@psu.edu 814-863-2719 Contact Chuck Gill cdg5@psu.edu 814-863-2713

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Clean Water: Backyard Basics

Picture of water runoff
Image via Wikipedia

Clean water is everybody’s responsibility. We found this article below that shows what you can do in your own backyard to do your part.

By Jim Waltman Special to The Packet

Fourth column in an ongoing series.

When Sarah Roberts, of Montgomery, and Van Zandt Williams, of Princeton, look out at their backyards they see more than lawn and beautiful gardens — they see an oasis for local wildlife.

Using native plants and a variety of “River-Friendly Certified” strategies and techniques, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Willams have both created gardens and habitat for local wildlife — beautifying their homes while helping protect our water and environment.

“We decided to become River-Friendly (through the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s River- Friendly Resident Certification Program) to set an example right in Princeton Borough that you can protect rivers and water no matter where you live,” said Mr. Williams, a member of the Watershed Association’s Advisory Board.

The Watershed Association’s River-Friendly Certification Program promotes clean water and a healthy environment. The program works one-on-one with residents, businesses, golf courses and schools to improve land stewardship, reduce pollution, conserve water, restore habitat for wildlife and educate the public about becoming better environmental stewards.
Earlier this year, the Watershed Association’s State of the Watershed Report showed that as land use has shifted in our region from a more agricultural area to one with increased development, the amount of natural lands remaining are shrinking and our water quality is suffering.

As we pave and cover more of our land, increasing amounts runoff from our yards, parks, streets, sidewalks, roads and parking lots are bringing “people pollution” — things like excess fertilizers, trash, and waste from pets and leaking septic and sewer systems — to our streams and water sources. By helping preserve the natural ecology and create more wildlife habitat, we can make a difference for our water and environment.

“A lot of our neighbors’ stormwater runs through our property to get to the stream,” said Ms. Roberts, a River- Friendly Resident, member of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and Sustainable Montgomery, and advisor to the Montgomery Township Open Space Committee. “Keeping part of our property natural and wild helps protect the waterway.”

In addition, using native plants and attracting wildlife can reduce the need for pesticides. Many species of birds, bats and insects keep harmful pest under control by preying on them. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds also help maintain healthy and diverse plant growth through pollination.

“We haven’t seen any bears, but by using native plants and providing food, shelter and different habitats we do have a great variety of wildlife,” said Ms. Roberts. “With our pond we have all kinds of frogs on the property with different calls we can identify. Sometime great blue herons will stop by in the spring or fall. Last summer we had two green herons who were regular visitors and we have a great variety of butterflies.”

At Mr. William’s home butterflies, bats and birds are regular visitors. “We’ve taken what was a vegetable garden and made it a butterfly garden,” he said. “We have a bat house on the side of our house with a family of bats that swirl around the yard doing the clean-up work before heading to the canal, and we keep our birdfeeders up year-round. With trees for shelter, the birds swoop back and forth in pretty much a continuous display.”

To promote wildlife habitat in your yard, try the following “River-Friendly” strategies:

• Plant a diversity of plant species in your yard. Vary the height of vegetation to provide good habitat conditions. Include groundcovers, flowers, low shrubs, medium-story plants and taller trees.

• Use native plants to provide food for wildlife. Contact Watershed Association Stewardship Program Coordinator Amy Weaver at aweaver@thewatershed.org for native plant resources and suggestions.

• Because most species of wildlife are very sensitive to chemicals, minimize fertilizer and pesticide use. Use a soil test before fertilizing and if needed use phosphate-free fertilizers. Use non-toxic or less-toxic forms of pest control, such as spot treating.

• Put up birdhouses and feeders. Make it difficult for rodents and predators to reach them.

• If they are not diseased or pose safety hazards, leave dead trees and trunks in your yard instead of removing them to provide locations for nesting.

• If you want to attract bats in order to control mosquitoes and other pests, put up a bat house.

• Have sources of fresh water available in your yard for wildlife. Backyard ponds, birdbaths, saucers or even stones and logs with shallow depressions to catch rainwater are excellent provisions.

• Limit activity in areas designated for wildlife habitat to minimize disturbance.
Want to see some of these strategies in action? Visit the Watershed Reserve in Hopewell. The Kate Gorrie Butterfly House offers a close-up view of how to garden to provide for native butterflies. Guided tours are offered every Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. through Aug. 16. Plus — don’t miss the 10th Annual Butterfly Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See today’s TIMEOFF, Page 14.

Ms. Roberts has also planted a native plant garden in front of the Montgomery Township Municipal Building to highlight the importance and viability of using native plants.

“We decided to become River-Friendly because we care about the environment and wanted to take care of our stream corridor,” said Ms. Roberts. “Whether you have a big backyard or not, we can each do a little something to help.”

Jim Waltman is executive director of the Stony Brook- Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group. Download a copy of the State of the Watershed Report at thewatershed.org. To become River-Friendly, visit thewatershed.org/ conservation/river-friendly. Our next article in the series will take a look at the issue of bacteria in our water.

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Plant Native Plant Plugs Now

Follow these simple steps to get your native garden going with live plant plugs:  Select the proper species just right for your region and environment. Select color, bloom time, soil moisture required and sunlight conditions.  Eliminate all competition from existing vegetation by tillage or using a burn down herbicide such as Roundup.  Group your plants by species and plant in clusters to make sure you get a real burst of color during flowering time.  Space your plants approximately one foot on center but you may leave a greater distance between clusters.  Of course, plant taller species in the background so as to not to hide shorter species.  Use a dibble bar to plant your plugs. A dibble bar can be hand made. If you are in loose soil that has been tilled, you may use your hand or hand trowel but in harder untilled soil, you will need a planting device called a dibble bar that you can create or purchase.  Make sure your live plants, when planted have good soil contact with minimal air space around roots. Insure this by heeling in the plants without injuring them and water them right away.  Mulch the entire area with approximately 4 inches of mulch.  You will need to maintain your garden by eliminating any unwanted weeds or species that tend to spread.  You may want to move some of your species in the future because you do not like the aesthetics. You can paint your own picture after you get a feel for what looks good to you. Earthyman

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