Thursday, January 28, 2016

Soil & Water Sampling – Why should we do it?

Soil Sampling:

            We are entering into the middle of winter season – leaves have fallen and lawns are going dormant.  What does this mean?  Well, for most of us, it means no more mowing or fertilizing until spring.  With that being said, it’s a perfect time to take advantage of a very important part of turf management – taking a soil sample!

            Unfortunately, most people in Wise County have never taken a soil sample.  It’s a very easy task and the information obtained from the analysis is vital in creating an environmentally safe nutrient management program for your turfgrass.  Without an analysis of your soil, you could be applying nitrates, phosphates, and other constituents into your soil that are not required.  Furthermore, you could be damaging both the turf and the environment if you use inorganic or organic fertilizers inappropriately.

            So, this month, come by the local County Extension office and make the right choice for your turf and your environment – take a soil sample.  It is inexpensive and will pay dividends down the road!

            For more information on “Soil Sampling”, go to the Aggie-Turf web site at and click on “News/Publications”.

Water Sampling:

            Many times, you hear folks talking about taking soil samples in order to apply the correct type and rate of fertilizer for their turfgrass.   But should we analyze our irrigation water as well?  The answer is “yes”!

            Poor quality water from irrigation wells exists throughout Texas.  Some have a high sodium content which can create problems with turf and ornamentals.  Water with high pH values may limit nutrient availability in soils and promote certain turf diseases.  Other waters may have toxic levels of some chemical constituents.  As a result, turfgrass quality can be compromised and additional irrigation from this type of irrigation water will only compound the problem.

            A water analysis provides critical information pertaining to the types and amounts of elements found in your irrigation water.  It also provides the necessary information required to determine how well suited your water is for outdoor irrigation.  So, to put your mind at ease about your water source, take a sample!

            For more information on “Water Sampling”, go to the Aggie-Turf web site at and click on “News/Publications”.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Responding to Stress

According to the American Psychiatric Association “one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress. Stress is taking a toll on people – contributing to health problems, poor relationships, and lost productivity at work.”  Some short-term stress can be positive – causing us to deal constructively with daily problems or meet challenges or deadlines.  But, when stress remains long-term – chronically or continuously – it can be damaging both emotionally and physically.
What can be done about stress in our lives?  First, identify what is causing the stress. Consider whether your stressors are:
  • major or minor (e.g., lost keys or lost job),
  • temporary or permanent (e.g., giving a speech or a poor marriage relationship),
  • relational (e.g., uncomfortable living situation or stressful work relationship), or
  • internal (e.g., unrealistic expectations, or low self-esteem or self criticism).
Once you identify the cause(s), it may be easier to choose strategies to help alleviate the stress. Below are four approaches that may help.
When you need to deal with stress on the spot, try these strategies: count to 10 before you speak; take 3-5 slow, deep breaths; go for a walk; say “I’m sorry” if you make a mistake; and begin the day by breaking bigger problems down into smaller ones.
The healthier you are, the better able you are to manage stress. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Exercise not only helps you get in shape, but it also helps you relieve pent up tension, sleep better, and burn up some of the chemicals that are released with the bodily response to stress. It is also important to get enough sleep (about 8 hours each night). 
Eat a healthy diet which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as choosing lean meats and eating less refined sugar, processed foods, and saturated fats.
Have a healthy attitude.  Most people who are resilient to stress do two important things: they focus on immediate issues – what needs to be done right now, and they have an optimistic explanatory style – assuming their troubles are temporary (“I’m tired today”) rather than permanent (“I’m washed up”); specific (“I have a bad habit”) rather than universal (“I’m a bad person”).  Find enjoyment in life.  Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to fight stress. Try to find one thing to do each day that you enjoy – even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
Left alone, stress can be bad for both your physical and mental health.  The time and energy you spend managing your stress will pay off in the long run.
And, one last tip; try laughing more. Research suggests that laughter really is the best medicine. The experience of laughter can increase our physical, mental and emotional well-being. The benefits of laughter can be documented when we consider how laughter serves to safeguard our health, to increase our ability to problem solve and to help us with difficult events or situations.
For more information, contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Wise County at 940/627-3341.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Early Weed Control

Early weed control in pastures may be one big key to pasture recovery and acceptable forage production this spring.  We have had an extremely wet fall and winter rains for soil moisture to carry us to spring green up. Thousands of acres of Wise County range and pasture support excessive cover of weeds and brush due to over grazing that use valuable water and reduce grass production.  The result of overgrazing will result in increased soil erosion. These noxious plants must be managed effectively for pastures to reach their production potential. Use of herbicides provides an effective and efficient alternative for controlling weeds to improve pastures and maintain them in a highly productive condition.

Some herbicides provide a high degree of control of certain species; however, seldom is a species eradicated. Consider other potential rangeland uses when developing a brush management program. Many trees, shrubs and forbs are valuable as food and cover for wildlife and may be an important component in livestock diets. Therefore, a brush management program should provide for use of control methods that give optimum benefits to livestock and wildlife.

Herbicide application may increase palatability of poisonous plants. Thus, they are more likely to be consumed by livestock. To prevent losses to toxic plants, herbicide-treated areas with poisonous plants present should not be grazed until the toxic plants dry up and lose their palatability.

Properly used herbicides are effective and safe. Misuse can result in poor brush and weed control and possible hazards associated with herbicidal drift, dangerous residues, or killing desirable plants. Listed below are points to follow for proper herbicide use:

·         Identify the weed or brush species and evaluate the need for control.
·         Consider expected benefits, costs and alternative control practices.
·         Select and purchase the suggested herbicide for the weed or brush species.
·          Read and follow herbicide label directions for allowable uses, application
       rates and special handling or mixing requirements.
·          Provide and require the use of proper safety equipment.
·            Calibrate spray equipment.
·            Mix herbicides in a ventilated area, preferably outside.
·            Spray under conditions that prevent drift to susceptible crops.
·            Apply the herbicides at the suggested rate and time.
·            Keep a record of the herbicide used, the time required to spray, weather
conditions, rate of herbicide in carrier, date, location and the person using
the herbicide.
The sprayer used must apply the correct quantity of herbicide mixture to a specific area. To calibrate spray equipment, see Extension publication L-5465, “Weed Busters: Sprayer Calibration Guide.”

Suggested herbicides must be registered and labeled for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because the status of herbicide label clearance is subject to change, be certain that the herbicide is currently labeled for the intended use.

The user is always responsible for the effects of herbicide residue on his livestock and crops, as well as for problems that could arise from drift or movement of the herbicide from his property to that of others. Always read and follow carefully the instructions on the container label.

For more information on early weed control, contact the Wise County Texas AgriLife Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Be sure to put March 9th on your calendar to attend the Pasture Management program in Boyd.  We will be discussing soil fertility and weed control.  Both will be very important for the coming year because of the moisture we will be carrying over from the fall and winter.  We will have more detailed information on the program later.  We will be offering 2 CEU’s for applicators with a TDA license.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fast Food with Slow Cookers

It’s 5:30 pm. What’s for dinner? Each day, millions of people are faced with this question. If no plans have been made, fast food and home-delivered pizzas start to look pretty good.   A good solution for individuals who are time-restricted, nutrition-conscious, and budget-minded is the slow cooker.
For the most part, all one has to do is place the ingredients in the slow cooker, plug it in, and turn it on. However if important food safety recommendations are ignored, food prepared in a slow cooker could cause a foodborne illness. The Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following tips for safe slow cooking:
·         Always start with clean hands, cooker, utensils and work area.
·         Refrigerate perishable foods until preparation time. You can chop meat and vegetables in advance, but they must be stored separately in covered containers in the refrigerator.
·         Use only thawed meat or poultry.
·         Do not place large pieces of meat, otherwise, the food will cook so slowly that it could stay in the danger zone too long (for bacterial growth).
·         Fill the cooker between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes cook slower than meat or poultry so place them on the bottom, add the meat, and then cover with liquid.
·         Don’t peek! Every time the lid is removed, it can take 20 minutes to regain the lost heat.
·      If you are not home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw out      the food, even if it looks done!
If you want to make your favorite recipe in the slow cooker, follow these guidelines:
·         Soups, braises, and some casseroles with cooking times over an hour are the best choices.
·         If original cook time was about an hour, cook for 4 hours on high. If original cook time was longer than 1 hour, cook for 8 hours on low.
Following is an easy, slow cooker recipe:

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili

1 onion, chopped
One (16 ounce) can unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed
One (16 ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One (8 ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce
One (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels
Two (14.5 ounce) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
One (4 ounce) chopped green chilies
One package low-sodium taco seasoning
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
24 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 to 4)
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Optional: chopped chili peppers

Combine all ingredients except for chili peppers and chopped cilantro in a slow cooker (10 hours on low or 6 hours on high).When ready to serve, shred the chicken with a fork and add chopped cilantro and chili peppers. Serves 6.

Nutritional information per 1 ½ cup serving: 370 calories; total fat: 3.5g; saturated fat: .5g; sodium: 460mg; carbohydrates: 47g; dietary fiber: 14g; sugars: 9g.

For additional information on slow cooking, contact me at the Wise County Extension office:
940 627-3341.