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On the Fence - June 2017

On The Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights May 2017.

June 2017

It doesn’t seem possible that June is here already. I guess since May was cooler than normal, it makes it seem like earlier in the spring. If you haven’t noticed, the frequent rains in May have made it a challenge for farmers to complete their planting in a timely fashion. Some fields have yet to be planted and others will have areas, if not the whole field, that need to be replanted. As a good farmer friend of mine said, “I’m done planting… the first time!” This is particularly true on some of our bottomland fields where drainage may be a problem.

If you missed it, watch this video: Corn Field Wakeboarding.  The farmer in this is a good friend of mine. Sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad situation! The good news about all this rain is, often the moisture in the soil now is what helps crops make it through dry weather later this summer. And fields where there isn’t a drainage problem are looking very good, just a week or two behind where they would normally be at this time of year.

Calving Ends, Hay Harvest Begins
For the most part, calving and lambing are done or close to being done. The next task in some farmer’s activities will be harvesting alfalfa hay. Alfalfa makes an excellent feed and some of you may buy alfalfa to feed to livestock you might have on your acreage. We’ll hope the weather cooperates so farmers can finish planting and get hay put up without it getting rained on.

Musk thistle flowerMusk thistle flower.

Musk Thistle, Canada Thistle and Leafy Spurge
Another task this time of year for farmers and acreage owners alike is to look for and control noxious weeds on their land. There are 12 noxious weeds in Nebraska. However, I’m going to talk a little bit more about the three that are the most common problems. I’m speaking from firsthand experience because I have all three of these on my acreage, but by working on them each year, there are fewer and fewer.

We’re past the optimum time to control musk thistle. If you see any of these on your place, clip off and collect the flowers even if they haven’t fully opened. Then burn or dispose of them. Then take a shovel or heavy hoe and cut the plant off at the soil line. They are a biennial weed (completes life cycle in two years) so they were going to die at the end of the summer anyway. By clipping off and removing the heads, you prevent them from going to seed. If you just cut them off, seed will be released from the dead plant. For more information - Noxious Weeds of Nebraska: Musk Thistle

Leafy spurge flowerLeafy spurge flower.

The other two noxious weed I’m going to talk about are harder to control. Canada thistle and leafy spurge are both perennial weeds (come up from the roots every year) and spread by underground “roots” (actually modified stems) called rhizomes. Because of this, both of these noxious weeds are commonly found in patches. To control them, spray the weeds you see and another 10-20 feet beyond the patch to catch any that are just coming up. You will NOT be able to control them by cutting them off, they will just come back from the roots. You will need to treat repeated times, spring and fall, to bring these two under control.

Leafy spurge has a pale yellow flower and is often mistaken for some of the wild mustards that have a yellow flower. The easiest way to tell the difference is to break the stem. Leafy spurge will have a milky sap, like a milkweed, while mustards do not have this kind of sap. The best time for control is as it is flowering in the spring or in the fall. For more information - Noxious Weeds of Nebraska: Leafy Spurge.  

Canada thistle flowerCanada thistle flower.

Canada thistle is a nasty weed! (Well, none of these are nice.) About the time you think you have it controlled one place it will show up somewhere else. (Personal experience!) It has a small purple flower, about the size of the end of my little finger. Unlike other thistles you spray as rosettes, the best time to control it is just as it starts to form flower buds or in the fall. For more information - Noxious Weeds of Nebraska: Canada Thistle

In some ways, June is my favorite month of the year. The weather is usually not too hot and it’s great to be outside. I have planted areas on my acreage specifically for pollinating insects. By June, these areas are full of flowers. But I also have things that flower all summer, from April to October because these insects need a source of food all summer. If you need more information on pollinators, there are many good references. Check them out and do something that will beautify your place and help these beneficial insects.

So until next month, have fun on your acreage!

On The Fence, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights June 2017.
On the Fence. Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights,
On the Fence with John Wilson
Extension Educator - Innovative Cropping and Water Systems
Nebraska Extension Educator John Wilson discusses life on an acreage.

Location: Based in Burt County with responsibilities in Thurston and Dakota counties; statewide responsibilities with soybean cyst nematode education
Program Areas: Crop Production, particularly corn, soybeans & alfalfa; integrated pest management, particularly insects, diseases & nematodes
Focus Area: Soybean cyst nematodes and soybean diseases
Education: BS and MS degrees in agronomy (crop production option) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln