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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Organic Seed Alliance and eOrganic will present a webinar on June 6, 2014, at 10 AM Central time. The webinar, is designed for anyone interested in organic production, especially current operations. The Williamson County Extension Horticulture Committee will host the program in the training room at the Williamson County Extension office. There is no fee, and no pre-registration.

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The All Bugs Good and Bad webinar series continues on Friday, June 6 at 1 p.m. at the Williamson County Extension office located at 3151 SE Inner Loop in Georgetown. This months topics is Fire Ant management.

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Training for Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) private pesticide applicator licenses will be held at the Williamson County Extension office on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Training begins promptly at 8 a.m. and will be completed by 12 noon. Pre-registration is required by calling the Williamson Extension office at 512.943.3300.

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Grass and weed control in grain sorghum, plus a look at new cotton technologies, will be the focus of the 51st Stiles Farm Field Day scheduled for Tuesday, June 17 in Thrall.

The Stiles Farm is located at 5700 Farm-to-Market Road 1063, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 79, 1 mile east of Thrall.

Cost is $10 with registration starting at 7:45 a.m. Presentations and tours begin at 8:30 a.m.

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The Texas Department of Agriculture will conduct a producer referendum that, if approved, would create a state beef checkoff program for beef promotion, marketing, research and consumer education. This proposed program, to be called the Texas Beef Checkoff, would be funded and managed by Texas beef producers.

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On Tuesday, May 20 the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Williamson County celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the federal Smith-Lever Act by presenting the Williamson County Commissioners Court the Building a Better Texas Award. The Smith-Lever Act provided for cooperative agricultural extension work at the nation’s land-grant colleges – as a partnership between, federal, state and county governments.

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Dr. Sonja Swiger with AgriLife Extension notes, if you haven’t tried them yet, fire ant baits are the best tools for really managing fire ants.  They are relatively inexpensive, require little labor to apply, and are safe for both you and the environment.  The biggest drawback of baits is that they cannot be used all year round. Instead applications must be timed to periods when fire ants are actively looking for food, foraging in ant worker lingo.

Many years ago a researcher at Florida State University, named Sanford Porter, spent an entire year of his life (three times a day, once a week) monitoring fire ants coming to little bits of hot dog. Along the way he carefully monitored surface and below-ground soil temperatures, relative humidity, time of day, soil moisture, rainfall, and air temperature.  Porter found that the best way to tell when fire ants would be out foraging (and thus, when they are most likely to find and collect bait) was when the temperature of the soil at about an inch was between 70 and 95 degrees F.  While fire ants will forage outside that range, these are their favorite temperatures.

This morning and afternoon I went outdoors and took the soil temperature in the lawn surrounding my office in Dallas, TX.  The temperatures at one inch averaged between 74 and 82 degrees, in morning and afternoon. This is the sweet spot for fire ants, and lets me know that fire ant baiting season is back again!

The best time of year for fire ant bait applications in north Texas is usually between May and September.  While the ideal baiting time will vary from north to south, the soil temperature rule of thumb seems pretty consistent.  You can check your own soil temperature with an inexpensive metal thermometer, like those used for outdoor grilling.

By the way, soil temperature is also changes throughout the day. Today, anytime during the day would be a good time to broadcast a fire ant bait. But as any seasoned Texan will tell you, there’s a mighty big difference in temperatures between May and July.  In July soil temperatures, even at one inch-depth, soar well over 100 degrees, effectively shutting down most fire ant foraging during the day.

During the hot months, the best time to apply fire ant bait is late in the evening. Bait applied in the morning hours, even when soil temperatures are still favorable, are exposed to high temperatures and bright sunlight, both of which are likely to render bait less tasty to ants.  By applying baits late in the day, they will be available to fire ants during their most favored time for foraging, throughout the night.

To learn more about the benefits of baiting for fire ants, and how to select the right bait product, see the Texas Two Step Method brochure.  And serve those fire ants some tasty baits.

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