Friday, October 13, 2017

Help Wanted: Menu Planning

Cooking nutritious meals for your family may seem like a daunting task but with menu planning and time management you CAN do it. Menu planning does not have to be complicated. What it does need to be is realistic for you and your family.
Start with these tips:
  1. Write down some of your favorite meals and ask for input from family members. If you can’t think of any ideas, look for recipe ideas on Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Dinner Tonight website.
  2. Plan a weeks’ worth of meals at a time. Don’t forget to include side dishes (which can be as simple as a frozen bag of veggies).
  3. Designate meals for each day. If you know that Wednesday nights are hectic with afterschool activities, make that night grab-and-go style. For example, you could make turkey wraps with low fat cheese and spinach, carrot sticks and use Greek yogurt as a dessert.
  4. Take a quick inventory of your pantry and fridge then go grocery shopping based on your menu. Remember to make a list.
Try this main course recipe that has less than 400 calories per serving and will still leave you feeling satisfied! To round out a healthy dinner follow MyPlate and add a  fruit, vegetables, and dairy as needed.
Tex Mex Beef Skillet
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook meat and onion until brown, stirring to crumble; drain. Return meat to skillet. Add chili powder, cumin, tomato paste and salt. Stir in rice, beans, and chilies; heat through. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve immediately. Yields 6 servings.
Nutrition Facts: 320 calories; total  fat- 4.5g; saturated fat-1.5g; sodium-420mg; carbohydrates-46g; dietary fiber-9g; protein-24g. 

Preparing For Fall

             Even though we have received rainfall in our area, isn’t it interesting how quickly we can feel the effects of drought?  2011 continues to be the year we blame for our troubles, but the facts are we have been experiencing droughts before then.   2011 was the trigger year that set all the damage in motion. It is very important to continue watering through the fall and winter months.  The meteorologists predict a wet fall and winter along with temperatures colder than normal.  However, if we endure prolonged dry periods in the fall and winter, trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials will need to be watered periodically to prevent root damage that affects the health of the entire plant.  The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems.  Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy.  Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise.  Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.
            Fall is also the time fruit tree care is forgotten or neglected, but it’s a critical time for controlling some of the peach and plum tree diseases to insure a good crop next year.  Applying a copper fungicide now can stop or at least reduce three of the major diseases that attack peach and plum trees in Wise County.  Those diseases are peach leaf curl, bacterial leaf spot and bacterial canker.  Timing of the fall spray is critical for effective control and for avoiding tree damage.  Unless applied correctly, copper, a metal, may cause severe defoliation.  Spraying should be done when 70 percent of the leaves have fallen.
            Another problem many homeowners are experiencing this fall is in St. Augustine grass.  Brown patch is a chronic lawn problem for many Wise County residents.  This fungal disease is characterized by large, circular, brown patches of grass.  Since it is a fungus, fungicides can be helpful.  Granular fungicides are easier to apply than liquid and they have longer residual.  Inspect your lawn, if the blades pull away easily from the stem and have a gray, rotted appearance, which is a sure symptom of the disease. 
         For more information on preparing for fall please call the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Small Grains Off to a Start

Small grain planting has been hit and miss this year with the unusual rainfall and weather.  Not to mention the weather has been very favorable for greenbugs and we continue to have Fall Armyworm outbreaks.  For those of you who were lucky enough to get your small grain fields planted before the rain may have a chance to have an excellent beginning and should be able to graze those fields much earlier than usual. However; if it is up and going you really need to be scouting your fields for insect damage. If the weather and pest populations continues to be good an all things fall into place early grazed forage should contain 28-32% crude protein. It is important to remember, each ton of forage harvested by livestock will remove 90-100 pounds of nitrogen. Small grain forage that stands a foot tall will easily yield one ton per acre. That means if you only applied 60 to 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre at planting, most if not all of your nitrogen will be harvested with the first grazing.    
I think we can expect to see nitrogen deficiency symptoms before the first of the year. If you are able to graze early and remove the forage before then, nitrogen top dressing in December will surely help produce more winter forage. If you delay that nitrogen application until January or February, expect a forage growth loss.
In many cases, hay quality is below average, so a few pounds of nitrogen may allow your winter forage to economically supplement the hay.
According to Noble Foundation research, limit grazing your small grains may be the best bet to extend that small grains grazing and provide the necessary protein. Grazing steers as little as 15 minutes on small grains equals about 2.5 pounds of 20% breeders cube.  Using forage supplementation in place of feed can save money if managed correctly.  Producers should look at all winter feeding options to determine the cheapest source of protein and energy to sustain suitable body condition scores throughout the winter.

Food Handler’s Course

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following simple food safety practices. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Wise County provides a Food Protection Management Training Program that seeks to reduce the risk of food borne illness. 
The “Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER)” was revised and updated and became effective in 2015. A major change in the revision now requires all food employees to complete an accredited food handlers training program within 60 days of employment.  The Texas Cottage Food Law also requires that anyone who operates a cottage food business have a food handler card. 
Food service employees and those who operate a cottage food business can attend a two hour Food Handler’s Class, accredited by the Texas Department of State Health Services, on Wednesday, November 8 from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Wise County office located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur. 
This 2 hour course will now be required for all food service employees to help promote the service of safe food.  The certificate is good for 2 years and is valid anywhere in the State of Texas. Participants will learn about good personal hygiene, cross contamination and time and temperature abuse.
Contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341 to sign up.  The registration fee is $20.00 and covers course materials and an official food handler card.  Registration deadline for the Food Handler certification course is Monday, November 6, 2017.  Space is limited. 
Individuals with disabilities who require auxiliary aide service or accommodation in order to participate in the event are encouraged to contact our office within 7 working days prior to the program.  Educational programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, national origin or genetic information or veteran status.
The class is taught in English, but Spanish handouts are available if requested in advance.
The Food Protection Management (FPM) Training Program is brought to you by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the County Commissioners Court Cooperating.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Many Reasons for Illness in Trees

When people see a sick tree, they often think that some sort of disease is causing the illness. Actually, a majority of the problems causing trees and shrubs to look sick stem from stress or physical injury rather than disease.          
A common symptom of stress or injury is marginal leaf burn, or leaves fringed by dead tissue. This has been a common problem with numerous species of trees and shrubs this summer. Marginal leaf burns are seldom caused by leaf disease, which usually shows up as random lesions (dead areas) scattered about the leaf? Leaf burn occurs at the leaf tip or along the leaf margin because salts (plant nutrients) accumulated along leaf margins. Anything that causes the plant to pump insufficient water (stress) can result in a toxic burn of this tissue because it contains the highest level of salt.
          Stress symptoms ranging from leaf burns to limb dieback or tree death can result from numerous causes. Drought is the most obvious cause of stress.  This year we have had both extremely wet spring and in some cases excessive and the last most extremely dry drought conditions.  Large trees show responses to stress more slowly, some of the marginal burns now being observed relate to last summer. High temperatures cause plants to pump more water and simply compound drought problems. As temperatures rise in the upper 90° F or even exceed 100° F, water loss by some trees and shrubs can equal or exceed the ability of the roots to supply water, even when the soil moisture is not deficient. I expect we will continue to see some problems with trees and other landscape plants until we receive some significant rainfall.
   Because of extreme Texas temperatures each summer, freeze injury is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most common and damaging causes of stress. Direct injury to twigs and limbs is usually fairly evident, and the damaged wood can be pruned. Often the injury is more subtle, occurring on a portion of the trunk with no immediate or noticeable effect on the entire tree or shrub.
            Thick bark sometimes remains intact, hiding trunk freeze injury for well more than a year. Probing the bark on the lower 3 feet of the trunk with a screwdriver or tapping with a mallet (listen for hollow sound) will usually reveal hidden freeze injury if it is present.
            Just as drought causes trees to stress, so does excess water. Tree roots need oxygen in order to function properly, so roots that are waterlogged lose their ability to take up water. It can take several years for a seriously injured root system to be regenerated.
            In recent years, numerous trees growing in poorly drained soil have been killed or damaged following periods of heavy rainfall. Trees with damaged roots systems are vulnerable to summer droughts and heat stress. Be sure to deeply water your landscape trees as we continue into what are normally the driest months of the year.