Upcoming Events



First 4-H Camp-Out at HBNMP a Success

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park and the Tallapoosa County 4-H program partnered for the first-ever camp out for children at the park last weekend.

“It was great,” Jennifer Stroud said of her and her daughter Jania’s experience. “It was our first time camping ever. We loved it. We walked the trails and threw horseshoes.”

“It was great,” HBNMP’s Heather Tassin said. “It is the first time ever that we have done a campout with kids.”

Tassin said the park’s mission and that of 4-H worked out well for the event.

“The history and interpretative program of the park went well with the outdoor programs of 4-H,” Tassin said. “We had a 1814 militia encampment set up and 4-H had archery and other things.”

Christy and Michael Champion accompanied their three children to the park this past weekend for the campout.

“We really enjoyed it,” Christy said. “The kids really enjoyed the astronomy program.”

The Champions have been around 4-H for a couple years.

“We started with our daughter in the fourth grade and she is now in sixth grade,” Christy said. “We have taken part in speech contests, photography contests, cook-offs and the cookie contest.”

Stroud is happy that Jania has been taking part in 4-H activities for the last year.

“She has done kayaking,” Stroud said. “She loved camping. At the park we tried archery and horseshoe throwing. I would not trade Shane for the world.”

Tallapoosa County 4-H Agent Assistant Trent Carboni was happy that everything went off without a hitch.

“I think everything went very well for a first-time event,” Carboni said. “We look forward to expanding and doing more of these types of events in the future.”

Tallapoosa County Commissioner John McKelvey grilled hamburgers and hotdogs but brought out wild game also to give back to a program that he grew up in.

“We had a ball,” McKelvey said. “We cooked up some deer steak, deer rollup with peppers and onions, quail and I gave them some summer sausage that I make.

“Some tried the wild game and liked it.”

McKelvey is no stranger to 4-H having been part of the program as a kid and is happy to help out with 4-H programs.

“It is part of the youth programs that we (county commission) help sponsor,” McKelvey said. “It is something you got to do with the youth. You have to start with them there as youth to develop them because it is hard when they get to be 20 or so.”

-Article written and posted in the Alexander City Outlook on April 6, 2017 by Cliff Williams.

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Dead Trees Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Have you looked up lately? Many times after a long winter, people fail to look up and notice that something is wrong with their tree. If and when people do, they are surprised to find that a tree on their property is not doing well or has died. By mid spring, every deciduous tree that is healthy has at least shown some type of sign that it is alive by either blooming or putting on new leaves. Trees with no leaves, when they should have some, are either declining, dying, or dead. Any tree that you see that has yet to become green should raise a red flag and be labeled as a hazard.

A hazardous tree is defined as any tree that might fall and cause property damage and/or bodily harm and should be removed immediately.  This includes all trees that have dead branches, dieback in the top of the tree, extensive damaged or diseased areas, hollowed out, and/or are completely lacking foliage when they should not.

There are numerous reasons that cause trees to decline or die. Any time the most sensitive area of the tree, the roots, are attacked directly or indirectly, the tree will be harmed. Building construction near the tree, digging within the root zone, old age, and insects are the most common reasons. The traffic of heavy equipment during house construction causes soil compaction and limits the tree ability to take up nutrients and water.  Digging, for whatever reason, ultimately always severs trees roots and limits the tree’s longevity.  There is really no way to know how long a tree will live and bugs always manage to go undetected until the damage has been done.

Although the reason why a tree is unhealthy is important, your main concern should be removing that tree.  Once trees begin showing symptoms like that above, they may live several more years or could come tumbling down at any moment. Leaving them is very risky. Get rid of it and go buy yourself a new and better tree.

Farm & Agribusiness Management Services Available

Alabama Cooperative Extension has created a Farm & Agribusiness Management team of regional agents to be a resource for business and economics related questions producers may have. With decisions increasingly tied to analytics and trying to decide what makes sense financially, the farm and agribusiness agents are available to provide information that will help in making those decisions. Information can include:

  • How to create a business plan for new or beginning farmers.
  • Bookkeeping and tax information to ensure records are accurate while being informed and taking advantage of existing tax law.
  • Enterprise budgets for producers to use and plan their year.
  • Assistance with marketing through social media and other strategies to increase awareness of the business.
  • Transition and estate planning information is available and lastly, a specialized farm financial tool that will provide detailed analysis and insight into a producers business.

FINPACK

The farm financial analysis tool is through software called FINPACK, a business application used to examine a farms financial position. This was developed by University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management as a way to help producers analyze their current position, plan for the future and have data on the financial health of their operation.

There are several options available to producers who are interested in having a FINPACK review. Not only will the software produce common financial statements such as a balance sheet, cash flow, and income statement. It will run ‘what-if’ scenarios for farms to see how their business could be affected by various situations. For instance, the 2016 drought that impacted much of Alabama, if a producer had their information within the FINPACK system, they could contact Extension and see the effects on their operation for increased feed costs, additional cattle being sold or any other sales or expenditures they are considering. Another example, a producer that has always produced strawberries may be interested to see what would happen if they shifted some of their strawberry production into blueberries, the FINPACK project will be able to run several different scenarios changing parameters such as price, acreage, expense and market conditions. Projections are not guarantees but more information on financials can help producers make informed decisions.

If you would like to have a review, a balance sheet and budget are information agents need in order to be able to complete the analysis. Farm and agribusiness agents are available to help producers create these items to be ready for a review. As with all Extension programs, the information and service is free or low-cost in an effort to provide impactful research-based education to communities. Additionally, all financial information will remain private to the producer and the agents working to complete the review.

Livestock

As livestock producers get ready to file their taxes for 2016, they may consider discussing cattle sales with their accountant. The IRS provides tax relief in events like weather disasters and this past year much of Alabama was affected by the drought. We know because of the drought, producers had to manage animals differently. Either additional purchases of feed were necessary or additional livestock were sold in order to consume fewer resources. If producers decided to sell additional livestock, the IRS provides tax breaks and ACES has information on that. Your local livestock agent, Sarah Dickinson, is a great resource for information to manage the animals or land and your local agribusiness agent, Kevin Burkett, has additional information on taxes and any other items in this article.

Agriculture producers in Alabama may be interested in learning more about Alabama Cooperative Extension’s new farm and agribusiness management team by contacting their local Extension office.

Tips on Buying Container Plants

This time of year, true plant lovers know how tempting it is to walk through a garden center full of vivid blooms and beautiful foliage. It is difficult not to pick up at least one extra plant.

“While a spontaneous purchase can turn out to be a real blessings in the garden, more often impulses lead to wasted money and plant materials. There is either no planting spot suitable for the plant or the plant doesn’t fit the needs of the garden”, says Mallory Kelley, a regional horticulture agent in Montgomery County.

Avoid Impulse Buys

Kelly offers some suggestions to help you avoid impulse buys and choose healthy plants on your list.

First, know your needs. How much attention are you willing to give a specific plant? Is the planting area sunny or shady? Moist or dry? Know the size and color requirements of your landscape. Avoiding plants that don’t suit these needs will save you time, money and worry.

Examine Each Plant

Kelley says, “once you know what species you need, examine each specific plant.” Often the plants have been on the shelf a long time without proper care and attention and are no longer the best buy for your money.

Gently tap the plant out of its container and look at the roots. If the roots swirl around the bottom of the mass and there is little remaining soil, the plant is “pot bound” and has been constricted too long in a pot that is too small.  This environment can lead to stunting, poor performance and, in many cases, death.

Check For Insects

Bedding plants, such as impatiens or begonias, packed too close into flats are likely to have increased insect and disease problems. These same plants can become overgrown, tall and lanky.  Choose plants that are small and stocky. Many insect pests feed underneath the young, tender leaves and may go unnoticed without special attention. A garden center employee should be able to assist you in identifying any insect you may find.

Following a few simple recommendations in your plant-shopping routine will save time and money, and in the long run, provide you with a healthier garden.

Source: Extension Daily

Crank up the Mower for Spring Lawn Clean-up

The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. And the birds are singing.  Spring is near.  It just a great time of the year to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and do some much needed yard work.

By mid March, most home lawns look sort of ragged.  It’s not that the grass isn’t growing much or needs mowing; it’s just all those winter weeds out in the lawn have gotten bigger. Weeds can be an eyesore and you may be motivated to go out on one of those sunny days and spray them.  But don’t bother because you would likely be wasting your time, herbicide, and money. Most selective herbicides do not work on full-grown weeds. For annual weeds, like those in your lawn, they mature in early spring and begin reseeding themselves for next year. Their life cycle will be ending soon and they will begin dying. So for right now, forget using a herbicide on your lawn.

The best way to get rid of nuisance lawn weeds in the spring is to just crank up the lawn mower and cut them down. Running over the lawn a few times will help hide and suppress some of those pesky weeds that may have escaped or sneaked in and will make the lawn look much better.  Bagging the grass clippings and weeds a few times in the early spring (as well as in the late fall) will suck up those weed seeds and small debris that has gathered on the lawn the last few months.  If the lawn still has leaves and small twigs scattered around the lawn, bagging or picking them up is a must.  Excessive leaves and leftover piles of grass clippings on the lawn can serve as mulch and may smother any new growth.

Don’t get me wrong, herbicides are a great way to control weeds.  However, in order for them to work properly, they must be applied at the right time of the year. Timing is critical. Unfortunately, March is not the right time to start controlling winter weeds. The month of March is more of a transition time when winter weeds are maturing, reseeding, and dying and summer weeds are starting to germinate.  Simply mowing the weeds down will suppress them and ultimately help clean up the yard. If you bag the clippings while mowing, you will also reduce the number of weeds and seeds left behind on the lawn.  Plan on applying a pre-emergence herbicide in the fall so you don’t have such a weedy lawn next year.

Remember a major weed problem in the lawn is a sign of poor management and improper cultural practices. Sound cultural or management practices such as proper fertilization and liming, adequate watering, proper mowing height, and correct turfgrass selection for the site will result in less weeds and a dense, healthy attractive lawn. If the real problem is not corrected, then the use of herbicides will provide only a short-term fix and, in all likelihood, weeds will reoccur. The key to having no weeds is having a dense, healthy lawn.

Although mowing and clean-up is okay in the early spring, applying fertilizer too early isn’t a good idea for warm season grasses. Don’t get overly anxious with wanting to force the grass to green-up.  Wait to late April and May after any chance of a late frost before fertilizing.  Don’t waste your time and money guessing; know what nutrients your lawn really needs.  This includes most weed and feed products commonly found in stores; they all contain lots of nitrogen fertilizer.  Always follow the recommendations of an official soil test.

Generally, most people wait until the lawn has gotten fairly tall and thick and may actually need baling before the first real mowing of the year is done.  No reason not to start early this year. Whether you want to have that perfect lawn or you’re just excited about riding the lawn mower again, doing a little spring clean-up will help get that lawn back into shape for another year.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass (or weeds) in the spring!

by Shane Harris

Fertilize Old Pecan Trees to Improve Production

Have you ever wondered why the nuts on your pecan tree are undeveloped?  There are several pests that pecan trees can get.  These pests include pecan scab, downy spot disease, fungal leaf scorch, pecan phylloxera, and black pecan aphids.  These pests decrease the productivity of the tree.  Homeowners can not spray big pecan trees like the commercial growers.  But, planting disease resistant trees, along with proper fertilization, will help your pecan production.

Some of the recommended pecans that are scab resistant are hard to find at nurseries and may need to be ordered a year in advance. Pecan nurseries and much more information on pecan trees are listed on the Alabama Pecan Growers Web site at www.alabamapecangrowers.com.

Cross-pollination should be considered when planting pecan trees.  A particular pecan cultivar does not receive pollen at the same time the tree sheds pollen. Generally, the more different cultivars (types) of trees in the planting, the greater the chance for cross-pollination.

If you already have an established pecan orchard, fertilization is about the only way to increase production.  Of course a soil test is the best way to know for sure how much to fertilize your pecan trees.  But if you have not had a soil test done, there are some general guidelines to follow for fertilizing your pecan trees.

You should apply the following:  1 pound of 13-13-13 per tree per year of age up to 25 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1 pound of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per tree per year of age up to 20 pounds per tree.  Plus, 1/10 pound of zinc sulfate per tree per year of age up to 2 pounds per tree.  Plus, 5 pounds of dolomitic limestone per tree per year age up to 100 pounds per tree.

That may sound confusing.  Basically, if your trees are more than 25 years old you need 25 pounds of 13-13-13, 20 pounds of ammonia nitrate, 2 pounds of zinc, and 100 pounds of lime per year per tree.

For large trees, apply all of the fertilizer in March.  For younger trees, apply all of the 13-13-13 fertilizer, lime, and zinc in March.  Apply half the ammonium nitrate in April and the remainder in June.

The use of a mechanical spreader may help ensure an even application of the fertilizers.  Do not disturb the soil before applying the fertilizer.  Spread it under and around the tree in an area twice the branch spread of the tree.  The dolomite lime is the cheapest, but pelletized lime is easier to spread.

Remember that many pecan trees tend to be alternate bearers.  That means if they produce a heavy crop one year they may produce a light crop the next year.  Fertilizing is very important, but there are other things you can do to increase production.

Overcrowding can be a problem.  When the trees are close together and the limbs begin to overlap you may want to remove a few limbs.  This will increase air circulation and sunlight in the canopy of the tree. Mulching the trees can also help.

Healthy Fast Food, is this a Myth?


It’s Tuesday at 6 p.m. you just got off work, you  are hungry, tired and don’t feel like cooking and you are looking for healthy fast food. On your way home you see a McDonald’s. You’re trying to eat healthy. Instead of going home and eating you tell yourself you will order the grilled chicken sandwich, which is healthier, right? Are restaurants that claim to serve healthy and nutritious food actually good for you?

What do the experts say

“Yes, many fast food restaurants offer grilled meat items, fruits, salads and other healthier food choices,” said Dr. Onikia Brown, Extension specialist and assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics. “Variety and moderation are important when making food choices on the go.”

Fast food can be healthy for you. It is not about where you get your food, or how fast you get it, it is about the ingredients in the food. One fast food restaurant is not better or worse for you, it all depends on what you order.

“The worst thing for you to eat are the foods that contain high fats, sugar and salts,” says Dr. Michael Greene, director of Auburn University’s metabolic phenotyping laboratory. “A combination of all of these things is unhealthy. Try to avoid them and foods with refined ingredients.”

When it comes to fast food, people don’t usually consider it to be healthy at all. There are ways to eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal at a fast food restaurant but the unhealthy options are usually more appealing and desirable to eat.

It’s all about the ingredients

Eating a nutritious meal is all about the ingredients and are well-balance between protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. Most fast food restaurants don’t serve many vegetable options. The most common vegetable served at fast food restaurants is a potato served as french fries. There is no problem with eating fast food. The issue is they don’t offer many vegetable options.

“Salads are one of the healthiest options for you,” said Greene. “ You should eat not only lettuce but more leafy greens such as spinach or kale.”

The healthier options at fast food restaurants are soups, wraps, salads and grilled meat. These food items generally contain more nutrients and lower calories. All foods contain nutrients, however, eating food in moderation is they key to a well-balanced diet. Consuming too much of certain foods can be unhealthy. Moderation and variation are essential to a balanced diet.

“Eating lower calories helps, but over all, lower calorie foods might not give the proper nutrition,” said Greene. “Given the choice between which food item to choose, fewer calories is better, but it’s all about the ingredients.”

Not all fast food is bad for you. Today, more fast food restaurants are creating healthier options. You don’t have to feel mislead by a healthy option because it’s offered at a fast food restaurant. There is always a way to customize your order and choose a specific item that is healthy for you.

“Claims of healthy foods are based on caloric specifications. Fast food restaurants may offer a low-calorie salad or wrap, but what the consumer does to it once purchased may change the caloric content,” said Brown. “ If you frequently eat at fast food restaurants, drink water instead of sodas and teas.”

“When eating at a fast food restaurant, try to consume more fruits and vegetables,” said Greene. “Consuming more fruits and vegetables is the best way to eat. You don’t necessarily need to avoid a certain types of food but, by eating fruits and vegetables you will essentially eat less of other foods.”

Eating healthy on a budget

If the primary reason for eating fast foods is because of a low budget, there are many more ways to eat healthy than limiting yourself to fast food restaurants.

“For your source of protein, stay away from meats. Instead, eat more grains, beans and lentils,” said Greene. “ Don’t waste money on sodas and high sugary drinks, instead, buy fruit.”

Eating healthy on a budget requires more thought. Stay away from high processed foods with a lot of fat and sodium.

Moderation and variation are essential to a balanced diet. Wherever you eat, you can find a healthy option. Stick to fruits, vegetables and foods with high protein. Next time you order at a fast food restaurant, read the nutritional information carefully, skip the salty, fatty foods and avoid sugary drinks.

Source: Healthy Fast Food, is this a Myth? – Extension Daily

Alabama Extension Launches Avian Influenza Website

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has launched www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com in response to the recent confirmed cases of avian influenza in Tennessee.

“This website will be Extension’s education portal for consumers, backyard flock owners and commercial operators,” said Dr. Gary Lemme, Alabama Extension director.  “The site features important information on biosecurity measures for backyard keepers in particular.”

The website, www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com, features up-to-date information about the current status of Tennessee outbreak avian influenza as well as resource materials including fact sheets and videos.

Alabama is one of the nation’s leaders in broiler chicken production. The state’s poultry industry creates more than $15 billion in revenue and employs more than 86,000 workers in the state.

March is National Nutrition Month – Extension Daily

Source: March is National Nutrition Month 

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which acts as a reminder that each bite counts. Making just small shifts in your food choices can add up over time. Start with small changes in your eating habits – one fork at a time –to make healthier lasting changes you can enjoy.

Whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, put your best fork forward to help find your healthy eating style.

Key messages

Some of the key messages for National Nutrition Month include:

  1. Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  2. Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  3. How much you eat is as important as what you eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages you to do.
  4. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
  5. Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

Alabama Extension has nutrition professionals that serve every county in the state. If you have a nutrition question, contact your county Extension office.

 

Pasture Management in the Winter-Spring Transition

The time surrounding spring green-up offers livestock producers an excellent opportunity to manage their pastures for success through the spring and summer months.

To maximize forage production through the summer, producers should take this time to establish and begin implementing a plan to:

1)     Evaluate Pastures for Drought Related Damage

2)     Begin Pasture Renovation if Needed

3)     Control Pasture Weeds

4)     Establish Proper Soil Fertility

5)     Set Up Grazing Systems to Reach Success

Let’s talk first about drought related matters…Did you know that sections of Alabama still remain in extreme drought? Furthermore, the northern counties of East Central Alabama are still in a severe drought as of 02/27/2017. To look up the drought status of your county, click here to go to the Alabama Drought Monitor.

Pasture Evaluation and Renovation:

As we enter the spring green up in drought recovery years, pasture assessment can help producers evaluate the impact of the drought on their summer perennial pastures. NRCS has an excellent system for examining pastures, and their Guide to Pasture Condition Scoring can be viewed here. In brief, once summer perennials emerge, you will want to determine what species are present (is this the type of forage you desire, or have weeds taken over?) and how well the forages cover your pasture (what percentage of the ground is covered by plants and what percentage is left bare?), plus other important factors.

If pastures grade poorly, with low amounts of desired summer grasses emerging after green up, you may need to consider pasture renovation. Here is a quick guideline to use when determining the amount of renovation you may need:

  1. If you get a 70% or greater stand of your summer perennial pasture grasses, your pasture is well on its way to recovering without much help. It should recover quickly with proper grazing strategies, weed control, and desired soil fertility. You will want to take care of this pasture as it emerges. Do not allow animals to graze too early, but you should expect good recovery under correct management.
  2. If a 40-70% stand emerges, pastures should still fully recover with weed control, proper fertility, grazing management, and perhaps a bit more patience. Though forage emergence is lower in stands of 40-70%, there are still adequate tillers underground. Between tillers and seed production, pastures should recover by fall. If these pastures are still thin in the fall, overseeding for winter annuals and/or legumes may prove helpful to keep soil covered and provide grazing through winter.
  3. In pastures with a stand <40%, much patience and effort will be needed for pasture recovery. Proper soil fertility and weed control are still important, but you may also need to re-establish desired forages in such pastures or consider utilizing a summer annual in some scenarios. You may also want to utilize winter annuals and legumes until the pasture has recovered. Click here to see the suggested planting dates for Alabama forages, and be wise if you decide to work towards re-establishing lost stands. Remember that newly planted grass will need adequate moisture and proper care to survive. It may not be a good idea to plant new perennial stands immediately if we remain in drought conditions.

Weed Control:

Weed control is a necessary part of pasture recovery. Weeds will compete with desired forage species for soil nutrients and sunlight. If pastures became bare during the drought, weeds were given an ideal scenario for growth. After this, weeds can smother out our already weakened stands of summer grasses as they attempt to emerge post-winter. There are two types of weed control you can do now:

  1. Winter Weed Control: Winter broadleaf weeds may not seem like much of an issue right now. But as we continue into spring, their presence and growth will overshadow desired summer forages as they attempt to emerge. Furthermore, such weeds are stealing valuable nutrients from the soil. Winter broadleaf weeds can be controlled now in most pastures with the usage of products like Sharpen, 2,4-D, Grazon, and Weedmaster. Make sure to read labels for guidelines, and only use herbicides on pastures when and where such products are labeled for use. If you have questions, contact a member of the Animal Science and Forages team and look up weed control options here.
  2. Summer Weed Control: You can treat summer perennial pastures before emergence with pre-emergent herbicide (Prowl H20). Before spraying pre-emergent, it is important to evaluate pasture emergence. Spraying after summer forages have begun to emerge may set desirable plants back. If you use Prowl H20, it is valuable to know that a supplemental label has been released that will allow you to use Prowl on certain pastures post-emergence, in the growing season, after cutting. See supplemental label here.

Soil Fertility:

Proper soil fertility and pH are necessary for optimum production in all years. However, proper soil conditions following drought are essential for pasture recovery. Take a soil test in all pastures today and correct soil deficiencies to allow pastures the opportunity to succeed. Click here for a more in depth discussion of soil testing.

Proper Grazing Strategies:

As summer forages emerge, it is important to correctly manage and graze recovering pastures. Remind yourself that the green leaves of grass are essential for the plant’s overall health and sustainability. Grass leaves catch sunlight that the plant uses to make energy (plant food). If we graze pastures too low, we greatly reduce the amount of leaf available to catch sunlight. This reduces the ability of the plant to make energy, and leads to slower pasture growth and recovery. Now is the time to set up a grazing system to allow you to rotate animals through pastures. Rotational grazing will allow your animals to better utilize the forage available in each pasture, and will increase forage growth since you keep animals from eating specific areas down too low. Healthier pastures will produce more forage, more quickly-allowing your animals better nutrition.

Now is the time to create and begin implementing a plan to allow your pastures to fully recover from drought! Be proactive by taking the steps above to ensure your success.

Sarah Dickinson, M.S.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Regional Extension Agent I – Animal Science & Forages

Ph.D. Student – Reproductive Physiology/Molecular Biology

Cell: 256-537-0024

Office: 256-825-1050

Email:sed0029@auburn.edu

Serving Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, and Tallapoosa Counties