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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week



Permalink What organic hay preservatives are available?

D.E.
Illinois

Answer: The Resource list below contains several publications and articles discussing various hay preservation methods. The only preservatives that might be approved as organic are acetic acid (vinegar) or bacterial inoculants. Several articles say apple cider vinegar is an alternative treatment, but is only half as effective as propionic acid as a preservative and requires twice as much for equal preservation. Bacterial inoculants may be allowed as long as no GMO bacteria are used or other restricted materials are included. The Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association publication Raising Organic Livestock in Maine: MOFGA Accepted Health Practices, Products and Ingredients specifically calls propionic acid (preservative for forages) a PROHIBITED material on page 10.

Vinegar as a preservative may be an option, but to be considered an animal feed it would need to be organic vinegar. As a crop additive it would not have to be organic vinegar. You will need to discuss the specific products with your certifier prior to their use.

Remember, organic production practices and materials needs to be approved by your USDA approved, certifying agency and written into your organic system plan. Each certifying agency has different interpretations on approved control methods and materials. You should also check with your certifier with any questions.

Please consider the following advice with respect to use of material inputs:

a. List every material you use or plan to use in your Organic System Plan (OSP) that you submit to your certifier as required.

b. Identify the source and/or manufacturer of every material.

c. Attach a label with a list of all ingredients including inerts.

d. If the manufacturer does not provide a complete list of ingredients for the product, check to see if it is on an approved list of Brand Name materials, such as OMRI or WSDA (see www.OMRI.org and http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/organic/materialslists.html)
Note: if someone says their product is OMRI listed or cites an article that states that they are, or even shows the OMRI seal on the packaging, beware. It is the producer’s responsibility to verify the truth of that statement by checking the current lists on the website. Inclusion on the list must be renewed every year. Products may be listed one year and not the next. Reformulations (common in the industry) may render a product non-compliant or possible make it compliant. In some cases, producers will be required to document which lot number of a product they used in order to verify compliance.

e. Be sure everything is in your OSP and that it is approved by your Certifier before you use it. Your certification depends on it!

f. Keep documentation of every input material purchase and application for 5 years.

Resources:

Anon. 2006. Raising organic livestock in Maine: MOFGA accepted health practices, products and ingredients. January. 14 p. www.mofga.org/other/tech_livestocklist.pdf

Anon. 2006. The breakdown on hay preservatives and additives. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. February. 9 p. www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/forages/bja03s28.html

Jones, Antony Meyer. 1996. Hay types for performance horses. 7 p. www.tamaris.org.uk/equigen/hay.htm

Rankin, Mike. 2000. Preserving baled hay with organic acids. Focus on Forage. 2 p. www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/uwforage/Hay-OA.pdf

Undersander, Dan. 1999. Hay dessicants and preservatives. 2 p. www.uwex.edu/ces/forage/pubs/preserv.htm

Winquist, Christy. 2005. Frequently asked questions – Hay preservatives. Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. 2 p. www.agr.gov.sk.ca/docs/about_us/department_info/SAFRRFAQs_Hay_Preserv.asp

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Permalink How can I organically control weeds under my perimeter electric fence?

P.S.
Ohio

Answer: There are several alternative herbicides available from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply and other companies that have OMRI listing.

Below is a list of some articles and other sources dealing with the use of vinegar as a natural herbicide. Some practices mentioned in these resources may not be allowed by your certifying agency. As far as I can determine, OMRI allows herbicides using acetic acid as an active ingredient if they are natural source only, and are registered with EPA. If the natural acetic acid is not listed as the active ingredient (non-active ingredient or inert), then the product 1) must have natural acetic acid content of less than 8% before it is added to the formulation, 2) must have natural acetic acid contents less than 5% as a final product, and 3) must have another ingredient listed as the active ingredient.

Remember, organic production practices and materials needs to be approved by your USDA approved, certifying agency and written into your organic system plan. Each certifying agency has different interpretations on approved control methods and materials. You should also check with your certifier with any questions.

Please consider the following advice with respect to use of material inputs:

a. List every material you use or plan to use in your Organic System Plan (OSP) that you submit to your certifier as required.

b. Identify the source and/or manufacturer of every material.

c. Attach a label with a list of all ingredients including inerts.

d. If the manufacturer does not provide a complete list of ingredients for the product, check to see if it is on an approved list of Brand Name materials, such as OMRI or WSDA (see www.OMRI.org and http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/organic/materialslists.html)
Note: if someone says their product is OMRI listed or cites an article that states that they are, or even shows the OMRI seal on the packaging, beware. It is the producer’s responsibility to verify the truth of that statement by checking the current lists on the website. Inclusion on the list must be renewed every year. Products may be listed one year and not the next. Reformulations (common in the industry) may render a product non-compliant or possible make it compliant. In some cases, producers will be required to document which lot number of a product they used in order to verify compliance.

e. Be sure everything is in your OSP and that it is approved by your Certifier before you use it. Your certification depends on it!

f. Keep documentation of every input material purchase and application for 5 years.

Resources:

Anon. 2003. Vinegar-based and citrus-based weed killers. Fine Gardening. May-June. p. 88, 90.

Chinery, David. 2002. Using acetic acid (vinegar) as a broad-spectrum herbicide. Rensselaer Horticulture. 5 p.

Jensen, Erika. 2004. Organic inputs: distinguishing myths from realities. Organic Broadcaster. No date. p. 6.

Peaceful Valley. 2006. AllDown Green Chemistry Herbicide, Matran EC, Pest Solution Chart, and Using our products & organic certification. 7 p. www.groworganic.com

Shaffer, Bob. 2003. Vinegar coffee, grapes and ginger. 4 p.
SANET-MG@LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU

Williams, Greg and Pat. 2003. Commercial acid-based herbicide. HortIdeas. March. p. 1.

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Permalink What do I need to know about seeding turnips into corn as a forage crop?

S.F.
Iowa

Answer:
Forage brassicas can be successfully intercropped with corn to produce a late season grazing without decreasing corn yields. Rapes and turnips are short season crops yielding from 7000 to 8000 pounds per acre. Kale is a later maturing crop that can produce as much as 12,000 pounds per acre. Regional differences determine which crops and varieties do well. Consult your local cooperative Extension agent to obtain information on crops and varieties that do well in your area.

Brassicas are very digestible for livestock. In the vegetative stage brassicas can have dry matter digestibility compositions of greater than 85%. Crude protein is high as well, where tops are often greater than 17% crude protein and roots greater than 12% protein. Fine feed for most classes of livestock, especially in the fall when nutrient requirements can be low. Brassicas are generally low in fiber; therefore it is important to watch for problems with rumen acidosis. Provide hay or other forage when grazing pure brassicas, and restrict brassicas to no more than 2/3 of diet to prevent digestive problems.

Brassicas can be seeded into corn in two ways, an early season and a late season planting. No-till works best if you can get in early enough, but if broadcasting be sure to increase the seeding rate at least ½. For early season planting, sow brassicas at 2-4 pounds per acre at last cultivation (V7 to V9). This typically occurs at around 3 to 5 weeks after emergence. Later plantings are successful if broadcasted into corn at blister stage, or no later than two weeks after silking. Broadcast planting rates should be increased to 3 to 6 pounds per acre at the very least.

Turnips and rutabagas will be ready to graze 70 to 90 days after seeding and will hold up well into the winter if good grazing management is employed. Kale will be ready to graze from 120 to 150 day from seeding. Strip grazing is best, as this gives daily control of defoliation and helps to control intake as well. Turnips can be grazed to the ground without damaging regrowth, but other brassicas should be grazed no lower than about 6 inches to maintain the stand late into the season.

References:

Bartholomew, H.M. and J.F. Underwood. No date. Brassicas for Forage
AGF-020-92. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Extension, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science.

Diver, S., G. Kuepper, and P. Sullivan. 2001. Organic Sweet Corn Production. Fayetteville, AR: ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

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Permalink What are some alternative CSA crops to grow during a hot Texas summer?

C.G.
Texas

Answer: You are looking for crops that can be grown when temperatures can be in the upper 90s to 110–116 degrees F. during the day. You mentioned that you are trying chard, NZ spinach, pricklypear cactus (for pads), okra, yellow squash, and high-heat-setting tomato this summer and are looking for heat tolerant varieties of traditional American vegetables, as well as new vegetables from other hot climates for your CSA.

The ATTRA publication on Specialty Vegetables may be of interest to you. Also, more information about any of the crops mentioned below is available from ATTRA.

A Web search of the Texas A&M Extension site turned up a great deal of useful information. The Extension site offers lists of recommended vegetables for your region and planting dates. (Many are either spring or fall crops; this is a way of working around the extreme heat of the summer.) The site also provides a helpful list of specialty crops for Texas. It seems to me that you should definitely consider pigeon peas, tomatillos, and jicama. Ground cherries (Physallis spp.) are relatives of tomatillo used in cooking jams and pies. Yard-long (Chinese) beans (a relative of cowpea) have done well for me in Arkansas during extremely hot summers, as has edible luffa (Chinese okra). Both should be trellised. Jerusalem artichoke (a relative of sunflower) is extremely tough and, once established, goes right through hot summers. Don’t overlook melons and cantaloupes, which withstand heat very well if water is available for the roots. There are edible tropical gourds, as well, that withstand high temperatures. I’ve successfully raised Asian “bitter melon” during hot summers with little irrigation. (Bitter melon is definitely an acquired taste.) Malabar spinach is another possibility—especially for barrel culture. (Sweetpotato can also be raised in barrels. See the ATTRA publication Sweetpotato:Organic Production.)

Have you considered eggplant? Many types are grown in Asia and Africa; it can be raised in containers.

Vegetable amaranth is a heat-tolerant cooking green, known in the Caribbean as callaloo. (However, the type most commonly grown there —A. giganticus—is banned from entry into the U.S. because of its invasive nature. 'Tri-color' is the variety most commonly found in the U.S. Try Johnny’s Seed Company.) For more suggestions, see the on-line catalog of hot-weather vegetables of the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) (www.echonet.org). I ordered two types of perennial okra from ECHO this year (Polynesian and African) and am eagerly waiting for results.

Another organization offering seeds and a wealth of information for growing food crops under extreme conditions of drought, heat, and alkaline soils is Native Seeds/SEARCH (Tucson, AZ), with 2000 accessions. See www.nativeseeds.org. Native Seeds/SEARCH offers a guide to desert gardening in the American Southwest. An in-depth study of native foods of the Southwest was published in 1990 by the University of California’s Walter Ebeling, Handbook of Foods and Fibers of Arid America (900 + pages). It can be borrowed through InterLibrary Loan. Inquire at your nearest public or university library.

Peanuts are recommended by A&M, and you might try a variety of tropical root crops. I am wondering whether you have considered Mexican type peppers, as well as sweet peppers. I raise them as perennial plants in 1-5 gal. pots for ease in moving them in during the winter and to conserve water. Although peppers appreciate some shade, mature plants can certainly withstand high temperatures and go right on setting fruit. Pasillas have done well for me, as have Caribbean types (habaneros/Congo pepper, Jamaican, etc.). In the presence of sufficient fertility and occasional watering, a single wintered-over, mature plant can produce 25 or 30 pasilla peppers during the season (fewer for other types). I have to assume that you are not in a frost-free area, so I’m inclined to recommend container culture (which can be half-barrels on rolling carts). Peppers start blooming and setting fruit in March, if wintered over. See the article listed below on uncommon species of chile pepper.

You may also want to consider herbs—such as chia, epazote, and Mexican mint marigold—as additions to your CSA basket.

Some of the crops recommended in Florida Extension’s Manual of Minor Vegetables might be adapted to your area. Also see the Web site http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

For seed sources, check the ATTRA database of Suppliers of Seed for Certified Organic Production and heirloom varieties.

Advanced culture:

A hoophouse modified for warm season production—open-sided for air circulation and fitted with a shade cloth—would be helpful in providing shade for some types of vegetables during extreme heat. See the ATTRA publication Season Extension Techniques for Market Gardeners for more information on hoophouses.

You might also consider water vegetables grown in hot parts of Asia—such as lotus, water chestnuts, a sweet potato relative known as “water spinach,” etc. Two years ago I visited a demonstration garden for water vegetables on the outskirts of Fayetteville. It takes a lot of equipment.

You did not mention water availability, nor how much specialized equipment you envision for producing crops. As Virginia Extension’s Andy Hankins has said, “You can raise anything anywhere—if you put enough money into it.” Some commercial operations in Mexico and Israel now use state-of-the art air-conditioned greenhouses for export crops.

Resources:

Harris, Scott. 2000. Native fruits of central Texas and the Hill Country. The Fruit Gardener. September–October. p. 12–13, 22.

Holthe, Peter A. 1995. The uncommon cultivated species of chile peppers. The Fruit Gardener [California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.]. January–February. p. 16–17.

Longbrake, Thomas D., Marvin L. Baker, Sam Comer, Jerry Parsons, Roland Roberts, and Larry Stein. 2006. Specialty Vegetables in Texas. 2 p.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/specialty/index.html

Stephens, James M. 1988. Manual of Minor Vegetables. University of Florida Coop. Ext., Gainesville. p. v–viii.

Texas A&M Extension. 2006. Gardening Regions for Texas.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/fallgarden/zones.html

Texas A&M Extension. 2006. Spring Planting Guide for Vegetable Crops.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/fallgarden/zones.html

Further resources:

Burr, Fearing, Jr. 1988. The Field and Garden Vegetables of America. Reprinted from 2nd edition, 1865, Boston. American Botanist, Booksellers, Chillicothe, IL.

DeWitt, Dave, and Paul W. Bosland. 1993. The Pepper Garden. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. 240 p.
DeWitt, the editor of Chile Pepper Magazine, has since published a series of cookbooks featuring hot peppers, including Hot and Spicy Caribbean, Hot and Spicy Latin American, Hot and Spicy African, and Callaloo, Callipso, and Carnival (cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago).

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Permalink Where can I find information about restoring native prairie and using it for hay?

V.D.
Wisconsin

Answer: The native prairie included a wide variety of grasses and broadleaved plants that adapted over the centuries into a specific ecosystem. Recreating such an ecosystem will require learning what is known about prairies that were native to your place. Using plants or seeds from as near your area as is possible is strongly advised.

Fortunately, there is considerable interest and information about prairie restoration in Wisconsin. I’ve listed several Web sites below that should be useful. The first is on the University of Wisconsin’s site and includes many other resources and books. One that is highly recommended is Shirley’s Restoring the Tallgrass Prairie: An Illustrated Manual for Iowa and the Upper Midwest, available from amazon.com and other booksellers or your library. Other books on prairie reconstruction or restoration are also available. A 52-page Minnesota manual, Going Native: A prairie restoration handbook for Minnesota landowners, is available free if you will call 888-646-6367 and request it. Also see the book list on the UW Web site. Lists of Wisconsin prairie plants are included.

Curtis Prairie is the world’s oldest known prairie restoration (1941) and is located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s arboretum. There are other restored prairies as well as remnants of original prairie throughout the upper Midwest. You might want to visit several before you begin your project. Other Midwestern prairie preserves are listed in an article from the National Wildflower Research Center.

Several other articles can help give you an initial idea of what is involved in restoring and maintaining prairies. Typically, grazing and controlled burns are tools used to maintain the native ecosystem and reduce the invasion of trees and tame grasses or other weeds.

You expressed interest in eventually harvesting hay from your restored prairie. Two articles, one from Missouri and the other from Kansas State University, deal with haying natives. As the Missouri publication notes, fertilizer is needed to replace the nutrients that are removed with the hay. However, since the prairie evolved as a low fertility system, timing is critical so that you don’t encourage the invasion of undesirable species. Carefully consider whether haying your prairie is economically advantageous.

See the farmer’s comments in the article, "Grazing for Prairie Restoration Seminar." After the author notes that none of the attendees harvested their own hay because of the expense of maintaining haying equipment, one farmer said, "…it was the most devastating thing I ever did to wildlife." Other articles offer practical suggestions about how to reduce the negative impact of haying on wildlife, focusing on timing to avoid interfering with ground-nesting bird populations and resting paddocks each year so that all wildlife will not be wiped out in any one year.

Resources:

Anon. N. d. Managing Missouri’s Hay Prairies. Missouri Department of Conservation. 4 p.

Anon. N. d. Recreating a prairie. National Wildflower Research Center, Austin, TX. 5 p.

Clubine, Steve. 2001. Grazing for prairie restoration seminar. Native Warm-Season Grass Newsletter. Winter. p. 2–3.

Clubine, Steve. 2002. [No title]. Native Warm-Season Grass Newsletter. Fall. p. 2–4.

Henrichs, Lisa. 1999. Grazing as a technique for prairie restoration. University of Minnesota.
www.hort.agri.umn.edu/h5015/97papers/henrichs.html. 6 p.

Schneider, Colleen. 1998. Establishing prairie. Wallaces Farmer. April. p. 10-11.

Schramm, Peter. N.d. A practical restoration method for tall-grass prairie. Source unknown. p. 63–64.

Towne, Gene and Paul D. Ohlenbusch. 1992. Native Hay Meadow Management. Cooperative Extension Service. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. 2 p.

Prairie Restoration Web sites:

University of Wisconsin resources
www.library.wisc.edu/guides/Biology/prairie.htm

A prairie organization
www.theprairieenthusiasts.org/

A Minnesota seed source
www.prairiemoon.com/

Describing various kinds of native prairie
www.suite101.com/article.cfm/wisconsin/117833

Native plant nurseries and restoration consultants in Wisconsin
www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/invasive/info/nurseries.htm

Ecological Restoration periodical site
http://ecologicalrestoration.info/011.asp

A Wisconsin prairie restored
www.wisconsinhistory.org/pendarvis/prairie.asp

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