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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

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

Tag Archives: lawn care

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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Citizens will have the opportunity to get their hands on the newest irrigation technology during the Williamson County Residential Irrigation Workshop. The workshop will be a come and go event beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 22 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Williamson County campus and ending at 12 noon. The campus is located at 3151 SE Inner Loop in Georgetown.

Demonstrations will give homeowners insights on how their sprinkler system works; how to recognize water pressure issues; how to set controllers for water efficiency; how to diagnose problems and make simple repairs plus how to do simple drip conversions.

The presenters will include professionals from Ewing Irrigation, Rain Bird Irrigation, Texas Land & Water Designs, City of Round Rock, City of Georgetown and the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Williamson County Master Gardeners are coordinating the event to help citizens understand that landscape irrigation accounts for up to 70 percent of residential water usage in the summer months– with most homeowners overwatering landscapes, sometimes to the detriment of their landscape.

As water availability continues to be a growing concern in Central Texas, citizens need to understand how to conserve more water while still maintaining a beautiful landscape.

For more information contact the Texas AgriLife Extension Service office in Williamson County at 512.943.3300.


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The Texoma Turf and Tree Seminar is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3 at the MPEC. This all-day program is for Texoma turf and tree professionals, school athletic field managers, park care-takers or anyone who want to be armed with the most up-to-date information to help with the issues and questions that are sure to come this spring concerning drought, trees and turf in landscapes.

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The Wichita County Master Gardeners are hosting a drip irrigation for homeowners educational program at the Kell House on Saturday, October 13 beginning at 10 a.m. Bill Bosworth from North Texas Design and Landscape will present a program on how drip irrigation works and how it can save you on water and on work.

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Several calls this week asked if cast0r oil will get rid of moles.In fact, many chemicals and home remedies (including castor oil derivatives and grub controls) are not only ineffective when dealing with moles, but they allow the animals time to establish and become real problems. The best control comes by traping. Rolling the lawn and eliminating grubs help by making the food supply less and the lawn less hospitable. Several publications are on our website that go into more depth on mole control.

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