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Question of the Week

Answer: First, take some time to get the field turned around and build tilth and soil structure. The best way to do this is through the biological activity of soil microorganisms. This, in turn, is accomplished with addition of carbon, or organic matter. For small-scale plots: The use of a broadfork would be advantageous, even if you use it to work over small plots at a time. After broadforking, the soil can be amended with compost and gypsum (helps loosen clay soils), followed by a cover crop. Do this twice in a growing season in spring and fall, and then the...

Answer: Production practices have a tremendous effect on the quality of fruit at harvest, postharvest, and during shelf life. For example, some cultivars are known to have a longer shelf life and to ship better than others. Because of this, you should consider your market before considering which varieties to plant. In addition, environmental factors such as soil type, temperature, frost, and rainy weather also have unfavorable effects on the crop’s harvest quality. For example, some tomato varieties have a tendency to crack after a rain. Therefore, choosing varieties such as Sapho and Mountain Fresh, which are resistant to cracking,...

Answer: USDA's new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) provides assistance to farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some $19 billion will be "to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need." CFAP will provide $16 billion in direct support to agricultural producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This support will include: Direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Assistance to producers with additional...

Using seed and planting stock that is well adapted to cold climates is important for successful gardening. For warm-season crops such as melons, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, look for seed that has "short days to maturity." A typical seed package will include the “days to maturity” on the back. If you are ordering from a catalog, look for warm-season crop seeds that mature in less than 75 to 80 days. A good rule of thumb is to use seed that is adapted to your region, which may be available from small, regional seed companies. Judy Fisher, the owner/operator of Fisher Garden*...

Answer: Organic apple production has many challenges, and controlling trunk borers is one of the most serious. Left unchallenged, borers can kill young apple trees before they ever get started bearing fruit. And older trees are not immune from the ravages of these pests either. The first line of defense is maintaining tree health, especially providing adequate water.  A tree in good health and growing vigorously can literally drown or cast out a young borer before it really gets started. But this is an imperfect, though important, management technique. A surer control is to wrap the trunks with window screen from the...

Answer: Instead of creating a custom potting mix from scratch, you may choose to purchase a basic commercial mix and boost it with additional organic amendments. This allows you to save time mixing bulk ingredients, but still end up with a premium potting mix. A basic "peat-lite" mix, composed primarily of peat moss and perlite and/or vermiculite, makes a good foundation for a custom mix. These commercial mixes already have a balanced pH and contain an organic wetting agent to help the peat moss absorb water. A starter fertilizer is usually included in commercial peat-lite mixes, but you may choose to...

Answer:  After washing, eggs are sanitized to reduce microbial load. Chlorine-based sanitizers should be from 50 to 200 ppm (Zeidler, 2002). However, using less than 100 ppm chlorine may help protect the cuticle (Hutchison et al., 2003). One tablespoon of household chlorine bleach, usually 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite, per gallon of water will result in a solution of 200 ppm chlorine (McGlynn, 2009).  Free chlorine level must be frequently checked because chlorine is inactivated by organic material such as dirt. Chlorine test strips are available in restaurant supply stores. Organic requirements permit a final rinse with a chlorine level less than 4...

Answer: There are two key components to consider when selecting a hand tool for crop production: ergonomics and durability. Ergonomics refers to how a tool is best designed for comfort, efficiency, safety, and productivity. The more ergonomically designed a tool is, the easier it will be on the human body. The length of a handle, the type of handle grip, the weight of the tool, and the angle of the tool head to the handle affect the ergonomics of a tool. The more durable a tool is, the longer it will last without sustaining significant damage or wear. Durability can be...

Answer: All pricing for a profit begins with costs. You must know yours. At the outset, you might assume that if you are selling your premium product to a local market for a premium price, you must be making money. Unfortunately, you could be very mistaken. This was our case. Until we entered the weight of each cut and its associated price from every lamb on a spreadsheet, we did not know we were actually losing money on lambs that finished less than 110 pounds. This was rather eye opening. ATTRA has developed a simple lamb cut-yield calculator that can...

Answer: The COVID-19 pandemic is causing financial distress across the country. Here are some resources that can help. A Closer Look at Farmer Relief in Senate Pandemic Aid Package, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) NSAC breaks down how the senate aid package in response to the COVID-19 crisis provides relief to farmers and ranchers. The Coronavirus Financial Impact Loan Program, Hebrew Free Loan Society – New York City Area HFLS is providing interest-free loans of $2,000 to $5,000 to residents of New York City’s five boroughs, Westchester, or Long Island who are facing financial challenges caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19 Bridge Loans Program,...

Answer: In many cities, large gatherings of people, such as farmers markets, have been banned for the time being, while our country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media can be an effective tool for finding an alternate direct market for your products. An online presence is an important component of direct marketing. A Pew Research Study found that over 85% of adult Americans use the Internet, and over 78% search for products and product reviews online before purchasing them (Jansen, 2010). It is essential that a farm have a place or site for customers to find more information on the...

Answer: Lavandula angustifolia, English lavender, is the most cold-hardy lavender and I would say it is a sure bet in your climate and zone. It overwinters down to zone 5 (there isn’t a lavender that overwinters in zone 4 or below). There are so many varieties within this species, but they typically bloom from late spring through early summer. Tender lavenders (L. dentate, French lavender) and L. stoechas (Spanish lavender), would need to be grown as annuals in your region. There are some angustifolia varieties that are considered "twice blooming." If the flowers are cut back shortly after the bloom period...

Answer: Weeder geese have been used successfully both historically and in more recent times. They are particularly useful on grass weeds (and some others, too) in a variety of crops. Chinese or African geese are favorite varieties for weeding purposes. Young geese are usually placed in the fields at six to eight weeks of age. They work well at removing weeds between plants in rows that cannot be reached by cultivators or hoes. If there are no trees in the field, temporary shade will be needed. Supplemental feed and water must be provided as well. Water and feed containers can...

Answer: The Oriental fruit moth (Grapholitha molesta) is related to the codling moth, a pest of apples, and causes the same type of fruit damage. Larvae burrow in the new shoots in the spring, then move through the stem into the developing fruit. They feed near the pit, so there may be no visible damage to the fruit on the surface, but the fruits become much more susceptible to brown rot, and they break down rapidly after harvest. There are up to seven generations of worms each year, with the earliest one feeding on young leafy shoots in the same way...

Answer: Organic peanut growers need to get a sense of their soil fertility by obtaining a soil test report with recommendations specifically for peanuts. Previous experience with rotational cover crops and compost or manure applications is also helpful. Organic peanut growers must work closely with crop advisers familiar with organic production and peanuts. Growers should always consider the history of the field they select for peanuts, especially if it is a new site. In 2003, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned new peanut growers about zinc buildup due to chicken litter application, especially in eastern counties. Some fields...

Answer: Sustainable agriculture relies on biodiversity to provide the environmental services on which it depends to maintain productivity. Biodiversity is created by establishing habitat on the farm that harnesses the diversity of wildlife, including birds. Several types of effective habitat can be created or enhanced on agricultural land that can increase beneficial bird populations and provide pest control services (Garfinkel and Johnson, 2015). Here are a few: • Hedgerows of native plants around edges of farms provide habitat for birds, as well as attracting beneficial insects, reducing weeds, reducing soil erosion, and improving water quality. Perennial grasses provide cover for ground-feeding...

Answer: There are many benefits to having a grazing plan and schedule. They allow a producer to balance forage productivity with animal intake requirements, plan pasture use before the grazing season starts, and obtain accurate information on forage productivity and use. They also provide documentation for programs and certifications, such as NRCS conservation programs and organic certification requirements. A grazing schedule allows you to chart the grazing events visually for each management unit throughout the season and over the years and, when used with a monitoring plan, can assist in refining and adapting the grazing system over time. As well, a...

Answer: Housing needs for meat goats are very simple, and in moderate climates may consist of natural cover such as thick trees and brush or rock ledges. Goats do need protection from rain and from cold wind and snow. A sturdy shed, open to the south, with rear eave height of 4 to 6 feet and front eave height of 6 to 8 feet will help conserve body heat. (The shed will be more difficult to clean out if the roof is this low, however.) For night shelter, allow 5 square feet per goat. If the shed is near the...

Answer: Strategies to protect soil surface, often called soil armor, can include the use of cover crops and mulch. Both provide many benefits for the land, including the following: Wind and water erosion are brought under control. Cover crops and mulch protect the soil as wind or water move across the soil surface. This holds the soil in place and allows increased water infiltration, not to mention providing organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Mulch reduces evaporation from the soil surface, reserving more moisture for plant use. Soil temperatures are moderated with cover crops and mulch, which act as...

Answer: Restaurants provide lamb entrepreneurs with a steady and relatively high-volume demand for your product. Often, a single delivery run to restaurants will generate more revenue than hours at a farmers market. This makes up for the necessity of selling your lamb at a wholesale price. Selling to restaurants requires building relationships with chefs. The quality of your lamb and the fact that it is locally raised are major selling points. These are counterbalanced by the fact that it is not as convenient for a chef to buy from local producers. Wholesale food distributors offer a much more efficient manner for...

Answer: In conventional turkey production, the Broad Breasted White is the most commonly used variety. The Broad Breasted White is a fast-growing bird, able to reach a marketable weight in about 12 to 14 weeks. However, they have trouble reproducing naturally without the aid of artificial insemination and may have health problems stemming from rapid growth. Although the Broad Breasted White can thrive in pasture-based systems, many consumers are more interested in purchasing heritage-breed turkeys. Reasons cited for this interest include taste differences, genetic conservation, or interest in something different than the perceived norm. Unlike heritage breeds, Broad Breasted Whites...

Answer: The smut and bunt diseases can basically be broken into two groups. In the first group, fungal spores occur on the exterior of the seed coat. This group includes common bunt of wheat, covered smut in barley, and loose smut in oats. These spores on the coating of the grain infect the plant after seeding but before emergence. These diseases can be quite serious: common bunt can wipe out 60% to 70% of a crop. However, because these spores are on the exterior of the seed, some organic treatments show promise. Organic producers in Europe have had success with a...

Answer: There are many differences when it comes to processing plants. Small to mid-size plants can especially differ in these key areas. When analyzing a processor, the following factors should be taken into account and then investigated to see if they will properly fit the needs of your livestock operation. First, a processing plant should be located within an appropriate range of your operation. Transporting animals over long distances can result in excess stress and have a negative impact on the quality of meat harvested. With poultry or other smaller stock, losses can occur, especially in inclement weather. Excess time spent...

Answer: Instead of creating a custom potting mix from scratch, you may choose to purchase a basic commercial mix and boost it with additional organic amendments. This allows you to save time mixing bulk ingredients, but still end up with a premium potting mix. A basic "peat-lite" mix, composed primarily of peat moss and perlite and/or vermiculite, makes a good foundation for a custom mix. These commercial mixes already have a balanced pH and contain an organic wetting agent to help the peat moss absorb water. A starter fertilizer is usually included in commercial peat-lite mixes, but you may choose...

Answer: Wintertime or dry-period feeding may include supplements in addition to hay. Grain (corn, barley, oats) is used as a supplement to provide energy. Soybean or cottonseed meal is used to provide protein. Other potential feedstuffs include crop residues such as cornstalks, crops spoiled by wet weather, cull vegetables, and by-products from cereal milling, wheat milling, and food processing. Trace-mineralized salt or other mineral supplements are also needed. It is best to feed calcium, phosphorous, and trace minerals in the grain or in a salt mixture to ensure that the animals actually eat them. Test your forages to determine their mineral...

Answer: Since its introduction to the United States, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been a model for connecting people with where their food comes from. By encouraging customers to become shareholders in the farm business, CSA gives farmers a chance to spread both the risks and the rewards of farming across a larger community Having a solid legal footing protects farmers in all sorts of situations. This is especially true for running a CSA, and the most important document involved is the member agreement. The CSA customer signs a member agreement to become a member or shareholder of the operation. It...

Answer: The pear psylla (Cacopsylla pyricola), an aphid-like insect whose only host is the pear, is the crop's most significant insect pest. In conjunction with fire blight, pear psylla is largely responsible for declining eastern pear production. The honeydew left by the psylla damages the fruit by supporting growth of sooty mold and causing a black russeting; these two effects account for most of the economic damage caused by the psylla. It is also an important vector of fire blight and pear decline disease and can weaken trees in areas of heavy infection. Although the psylla develops resistance to insecticides, it...

Answer: The specifics of how you build your grape trellis will depend on the system you select, but there are many common factors across all trellis systems. It will behoove you to set your trellis posts before planting the grape vines in the high tunnel, so as to avoid damaging vines in the process of setting posts. In addition, it may be easier to set trellis posts before the high tunnel construction is finished so that the high tunnel bows do not obstruct the equipment you are using to set posts. However, you will want to have the ground anchors...

Answer: One of the main marketing points that pastured poultry farmers use to sell their products is that their meat and eggs are different from those produced by confinement-based poultry. While some critics dismiss these claims, a multitude of customer experiences reinforces the claim that pastured poultry is indeed different. As pastured poultry production fills an ever-larger niche, research is beginning to explore claims of different nutritive profiles for pastured eggs and meat. In the case of eggs, evidence is emerging that the poultry products from grass-fed flocks tend to have less cholesterol, more vitamins A and E, multiplied Omega-3 content,...

Answer: The codling moth, Cydia pomonella, is present throughout North American apple-growing regions. Prior to the advent of synthetic pesticides, the codling moth larva was the proverbial "worm in the apple." Relatively cold regions may have only one generation of the codling moth, while in the warmest apple-growing areas the codling moth may pass through two to three generations per season. Several organically acceptable controls are available and discussed below. Among the most effective nontoxic controls for codling moth is mating disruption using pheromones—chemicals naturally produced by insects as a means of communication. During the mating period, female codling moths...

Answer: The term "palatability" refers to how "tasty" a bird finds a particular plant to eat at a particular time. Whether or not a plant is palatable is one of the most critical factors for birds on pasture: if the bird won’t eat a plant, the benefits of the plant—no matter how nutritious—are worthless. Several factors directly affect palatability: • Plant Species/Variety. Like people, poultry find some plants highly palatable, while others are completely unappealing and will not be eaten. Some plants have strong flavorings that poultry love, like the tart taste of yellow wood sorrel or clover seed pods, or...

Answer: There are several ways to keep watering tanks open and storage tanks from freezing. Each livestock watering situation is unique, so you'll need to tailor a solution to your site, weather, and terrain. Following are some ideas. 1. Pump water into a large, enclosed storage tank at a higher elevation. You should insulate the tank in some way, bury it, or mound dirt up around it. If the tank is exposed, paint it black to absorb the sun's heat during the day. From the storage tank, run a buried line to supply the watering tanks by gravity and control this...

Answer: The good news is that only the leaves are infected. Unfortunately, this disease progresses quite rapidly, and can reduce crop yield, and because there is less leaf protection, sun scald on the pumpkin can become a problem. Symptoms appear four to 12 days after infection, so an apparently healthy crop can already be infected. The pathogen likes it cool and moist. Optimum conditions for sporulation are 59 degrees F with six to 12 hours of moisture present (usually in the form of morning dew). Copper sprays would likely be effective in halting the infestation. Cultural Controls Because this disease is...

Answer: The most serious insect pests of cherry are the cherry fruit fly and western cherry fruit fly (also known as black cherry fruit fly), Rhagoletis cingulata and R. fausta, respectively. For practical purposes, the two species can be considered together because life cycles and controls are essentially identical, though the western cherry fruit fly emerges from the soil 10 to 14 days earlier than the cherry fruit fly. In places like Michigan and New York, where both species overlap, there is a correspondingly longer period necessary to monitor and control. Failure to adequately control these pests can cause severe crop...

Answer: Supplemental lighting is normally used by alternative egg producers to maintain productivity, and sometimes for alternative broiler production in northern climates. Small layer flocks housed during late spring through mid-summer with daily access to the outdoors do not require supplemental light. Supplemental lighting is necessary for pullets to maintain production during late fall and winter as days shorten. Poultry are very sensitive to three aspects of light: intensity of light (measured in footcandles), wavelength (measured in color temperature), and day length (duration of light period). Research by Michael Darre and others has found that blue light wavelengths help calm birds;...

Answer: Nutgrass is the common term for what is technically nutsedge. There are two types on nutsedge in Texas: yellow nutsedge and purple nutsedge. New plants from both types arise from underground tubers. The tuber's skin contains a chemical substance that inhibits sprouting. Soil moisture "washes" this inhibitor off the tuber allowing it to sprout. This is one reason why the plant thrives in a wet area of the lawn or garden and proliferates during wet spring seasons. When a nutsedge shoot reaches the surface, it forms a basal bulb, from which grow roots and thin, wiry underground stems with new...

Answer: Conservation buffers are generally strips of vegetation placed in the landscape to influence ecological processes and provide a variety of services. They are called by many names including wildlife corridors, greenways, windbreaks, and filter strips. Buffers represent an opportunity to implement conservation practices that benefit the operation by creating habitat for beneficial organisms (birds, pollinators, or parasites and predators of crop pests), as well as providing a barrier against weed seed migration, preventing wind damage to crops and protecting water quality. There are several considerations when choosing a buffer site: Location: The overall design of a buffer site must meet Natural...

Answer: For any market garden, it is important to consider which market is right for you and your farm. In order to assess the types of markets it is important to ask yourself these questions: Is my farm location conducive to direct marketing? Are you near lucrative farmers markets, restaurants, and specialty food stores? If not, you might need to consider wholesale marketing. Do I enjoy interacting with people? If so, farmers markets might be perfect. If not, something that does not require as much personal interaction might be a better fit. Many of the crops described here are unique and could...

Answer: Grazing different species together can cause some logistical problems that go beyond fencing and working facilities, and it requires producers to think about new ways of accommodating the needs of different animals. One of these issues is mineral supplementation. It is well known that cattle mineral should not be fed to sheep due to sheep's lower tolerance of copper. As cattle mineral has more copper in it than sheep need, toxicity can occur if sheep consume it. There are a few tricks producers can use to help ensure that animals get the minerals they need without overdosing on copper. One...

Answer: When the weather is good for growing plants, it is also good for composting. However, because composting generates its own heat, the composting season is often longer than the growing season. Composting is a simple process that combines the nitrogen and carbon in the materials you're using with moisture and oxygen to create an ideal environment for the microbes and other organisms that are doing the work. When you combine those ingredients with a little elbow grease, you can use "hot" composting techniques to support microorganisms that get results in a relatively short period. In order for the compost to generate...

Answer: Good storage should prevent excessive dehydration, decay and sprouting. Maintaining good sanitation, adequate humidity and appropriate temperatures in storage facilities, combined with adequate curing of harvested potatoes, are important considerations, particularly since organic growers do not have the array of chemical controls available that conventional growers have. Helpful practices include: • Thoroughly clean the storage space and machinery of all potato debris and excess dirt, using a pressure washer and steam as needed. • Disinfect equipment and the storage structure with organically approved materials and methods. Contact your certifier for more information. • Perform routine maintenance and repairs on ducts and structure...

Answer: Aquaponics is a bio-integrated system that links recirculating aquaculture with hydroponic vegetable, flower, and/or herb production. Advances by researchers and growers alike have turned aquaponics into a working model of sustainable food production. The selection of plant species adapted to hydroponic culture in aquaponic greenhouses is related to stocking density of fish tanks and subsequent nutrient concentration of aquacultural effluent. Lettuce, herbs, and specialty greens (spinach, chives, basil, and watercress) have low to medium nutritional requirements and are well adapted to aquaponic systems. Plants yielding fruit (tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers) have a higher nutritional demand and perform better...

Answer: Once fire blight infection has occurred, there is no spray or other treatment, beyond quickly cutting or breaking out newly infected limbs, that will minimize damage. However, infection has almost certainly extended beyond what the grower sees; therefore, it is all too easy to spread the disease by trying to prune it out during the growing season. If you do cut during the growing season, remove all blighted twigs, branches, and cankers at least eight inches — some sources recommend 12 inches — below the last point of visible infection, and burn them. After each cut, the shears can...

Answer: While mulching has many benefits, the basic idea behind mulching for weed control is to create a physical barrier between the weed and the sunlight and air, thus preventing seeds from sprouting and plants from growing. With enough mulch, weed numbers can be greatly reduced. Nebraska scientists applied wheat straw in early spring to a field where wheat had been harvested the previous August. At high straw rates, weed levels were reduced by more than two-thirds. Wheat, like rye, is also known to possess allelopathic qualities, which may have contributed to the weed suppression. Mulches can be organic, such as straw,...

Answer: Fall/early winter planting is recommended in all parts of the U.S. A cold period is required in order for the mother bulb to split into cloves. The bolting cultivars of garlic require a cold period to trigger cellular division. For spring planting, which is not recommended, the bulbs need to be refrigerated at 40°F for 40 days. By planting garlic in the fall, the plants obtain significant root growth before the ground freezes. Then in the spring the plant focuses its energy on sprouting, leaf growth, and ultimately bulb development. If the garlic is planted too late in the...

Answer: The first strategy in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, especially in organic production, is to harness the natural enemies that occur in the local agroecosystem. This could be achieved by providing habitat with native flowering plants that provide pollen, nectar, and shelter to predators, parasites, and pollinators. These habitats could be in form of hedgerows or surrounding native landscape with annual and perennial plants. Beneficial insects commonly seen in Florida include the following: • Lady Beetles, which come in many colors beside the orange with black spots. • Lacewings, both green and brown. Larvae are carnivorous, preying on soft body...

Answer: As with all poultry in a pasture-based system, turkeys are susceptible to predation. Most predators will view a flock as an easy target if it is not properly guarded. Common predators of poultry include coyotes, weasels, skunks, opossum, raccoons, snakes, rodents, hawks, eagles, and owls. Domestic animals such as cats and dogs can also be of concern. Dogs, especially strays, will chase a flock and become more excited as the flock tries to escape, often killing many in the process. The first line of defense in protecting a flock from predation is secure housing. Doors should have latches that cannot be...

Answer: Methods that use spraying, pouring, or dipping reduce the time of contact between water and egg. Soaking eggs is generally not recommended because it may allow microbes to enter the shell. If you have just a few eggs, use a brush and wash them in a sink with hot running water and then dip them in a sanitizer (Bigbee and Froning, 1997). The water should be warmer than the egg. Pre-wetting and using a detergent will help. Brushes that can be sanitized are helpful. For example, surgical brushes, which are small nylon brushes packed with micro bristles, are made to...

Answer: Important considerations in site preparation include alleviating soil compaction, enhancing fertility, adjusting soil pH, and managing weeds, pests, and diseases. Attention to the details of site preparation can help reduce weed and disease problems and assure a vital planting through soil improvement. What needs to be done depends on the previous use of the land, including crops grown, current vegetation, and the presence of pests and diseases. Many growers rip or chisel the soil to loosen layers of compaction before they plant a new orchard or vineyard because deep tillage will be disruptive once the trees are established. Before establishing...

Answer: Compost piles can attract a number of pests, including deer, bears, voles, mice, raccoons, and skunk. If your compost area is close to your production area, consider composting only leaves and vegetable scraps. Leftover vegetables that have oil or a lot of seasoning can attract animals easily. Fruits may also be enticing but rather than leaving them out of the compost, I would just suggest burying them a little deeper and breaking up large pieces such as melon rinds. You don't necessarily want to turn the compost every time you add something new, but maybe add some 'browns' to...

Answer: Selecting appropriate cultivars is critical for success with high tunnel grape production. Attributes to consider when selecting cultivars include vigor (speed of vine growth), hardiness (cold tolerance), disease resistance, harvest date (early, mid, or late season), yield potential, grape cluster attributes and flavor, and adaptation to your specific environment. The ATTRA publication High Tunnel Grapes: Establishment offers a useful table listing University of Arkansas table grape cultivars with descriptions. These grape cultivars have been selected for the warm, humid environment of the Southeast, with varying degrees of disease resistance. It is important to consider the preferences of your...

Answer: In the United States, maximum protein accretion is the goal both in conventional and most organic poultry production. The fast-growing Cornish Cross broiler is used in both conventional and organic production because of its high growth capacity when raised on a high supply of amino acids. In contrast, slow-growing meat chickens are used in the European Union organic program, the French Label Rouge program, and American producers of heritage breeds. In contrast to harvest of birds at eight weeks typical of fast-growing birds, these birds have a growing period of about 12 weeks. Small farms in the United States...

Answer: The pawpaw grows best in areas with hot summers and cold winters (USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8). It is hardy and relatively pest-free, and its tolerance to shade makes it suitable for intercropping with certain other trees. In addition, the pawpaw has genetic variability that can be used to improve the plant. To propagate, separate the seeds from the fruit and store the seeds in a plastic bag with moist (not wet) peat moss or some similar medium. Never allow the seed to dry out or freeze, as either will kill the seed. The bagged seed should be...

Answer: Adding good compost or compost tea to your pastures in place of inorganic fertilizers is a good way to improve nutrient cycling. Compost and teas derived from it inoculate the soil, augmenting the initial microbial populations. As many graziers have experienced, compost applications can result in immediate production responses that are sustained for three or more years. How many applications are needed and how long they last is a function of how well your soil is functioning biologically. At Montana Highland Lamb, for example, Dave Scott tries to cover each acre once every three years. On areas of the...

Answer: Navigating the permitting and licensing process for marine aquaculture can be confusing, as there are regulations from federal, state, and sometimes local agencies. For South Carolina, in general, you'll have to obtain permits and/or follow guidelines and regulations from at least three entities: The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. These cover regulations that relate to tidal and intertidal waters use (floating gear, aids to navigation, etc.), licensing, and food safety/water quality. In addition to permits, you’ll need to have food safety/harvester training mandated...

Answer: Walnut leaf extract, principally Juglone, was found to reduce leaf miner damage to less than 3% but requires weekly application to maintain efficacy. In one study, researchers produced a tincture by extracting the phytochemicals from powdered leaves with ethyl alcohol. They used 50 g of material and 250 ml of pure ethanol in a Soxhlet apparatus (Rizvi et al., 2015). This can be done at home with 50% or higher clear alcohol such as vodka. Fill a quart-sized mason jar with dried walnut or black walnut leaves, cover with alcohol, and let sit for eight weeks. After this time,...

Answer: Because of the prevalence of soil-borne diseases, the selection of disease-resistant or disease-tolerant rootstocks for plums and apricots can be important. Size-controlling rootstocks (dwarfing rootstocks) can also be advantageous to the grower trying to reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides because: 1) a smaller tree can allow for better spray coverage with organic pesticides; and 2) smaller trees are more easily accommodated in high tunnels where the blowing rains that often spread disease can be eliminated. Because many scion-root combinations are compatible within the genus Prunus, researchers and nurserymen have a lot to work with to find the best plum and...

Answer: Eggs need to be inspected both internally and externally to determine that they are wholesome and suitable for consumers. Conduct an external inspection by looking at the shell. Discard eggs with cracks in the shell, or leaking albumen (commonly referred to as "leakers"), and do not sell them to consumers. These defects pose a health risk to consumers, as bacteria have an easier pathway into the internal contents of the egg. Remove any foreign material on the shell, including feces, feathers, or bedding, and clean the egg. Other external defects include excess calcium deposits and "body checks." A body check...

Answer: Insecticides not only kill pollinators, but sub-lethal doses can affect their foraging and nesting behaviors, often preventing plant pollination and bee reproduction (Thompson, 2003; Decourtye et. al., 2004; and Desneaux et. al., 2007). Herbicides can kill plants that pollinators depend on when crops are not in bloom, thus reducing the amount of forage available (Kremen et. al., 2002 and Tscharntke et. al., 2005). In general, while pesticide labels may list hazards to honey bees, potential dangers to native bees are often not listed. For example, many native bees are much smaller in size than honey bees and are affected by...

Answer: Sharka virus was confirmed in Adams County, Pennsylvania—the first outbreak in North America. The disease has since been found in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and in Canada. This has caused much concern among producers because plum pox is an exceptionally destructive disease of stonefruit. Infected fruit are unmarketable because of spots and ring blemishes, and fruit may also drop prematurely. Plum pox is transmitted either by aphids or by grafting. The disease was not found in nursery stock, and an ongoing quarantine has apparently contained the outbreak of plum pox to a limited area, although testing is ongoing. In 2007, USDA plant...

Answer: Especially in times of high energy costs, efficient irrigation equipment is essential to the viability of farms and ranches. Following are some effective hardware improvements for electric motors: • Rebuild older motors and gain several percentage points in motor efficiency. This procedure typically involves replacing the bearings, rewinding, and "dipping and baking," and is done by qualified motor repair shops. • Consider a premium-efficiency motor instead of a standard-efficiency motor when installing a new system, when replacing over- or undersized motors, and when the cost of rewinding exceeds 65 percent of the price of a new motor. Premium-efficiency motors are two...

Answer: Successfully selling cuts of meat that don't easily move is often the key to a flourishing meat business. Typically, the most profitable way to market your lamb is in the form of wholes, halves, or bundles. However, if you are direct marketing a large number of lambs, this may not be possible. Hence, individual cuts will likely be the majority of your sales. Some beginning lamb-entrepreneur businesses start their sales operations with the guaranteed sale of a certain amount of racks or chops, coupled with the enthusiastic hope that they can sell the rest of the cuts. This is not...

Answer: The principal minerals of concern for livestock on growing forages are calcium and magnesium. Others to consider are salt, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur. These minerals are very important for cellular respiration, nervous system development, protein synthesis and metabolism, and reproduction. Mineral supplements are available in many formulations. Because soils differ in mineral content from place to place, it is difficult to recommend a mineral mix that works in all places, although most animal scientists suggest at the very least a mineral mix with a calcium:phosphorus ratio of 2:1. Consider using a loose mineral mix fed free-choice rather than mineral...

Answer: Both of these varieties are primocane-fruiting varieties so they will bear fruit on both first year (primocane) and second year canes (floricanes). The only canes you will want to remove at this point are the canes that are entering their third season. These canes will not bear fruit for you this year so they’re useless. It may be difficult to identify these canes because at this point your primocanes and floricanes will look pretty similar. But you are looking for the canes that were floricanes last year. You’ll want to prune them as close to the ground as possible...

Answer: Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the process of milling corn and has been used successfully on lawns and high-value crops as a pre-emergent herbicide that inhibits growth and root development. It is non-selective and must be applied carefully to ensure crop safety. It must be applied just prior to weed-seed germination to be effective. A common rate is 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet, which suppresses many common grasses and herbaceous weeds. Corn gluten meal cannot be derived from genetically modified (GM) corn if being used in an organic operation (Dufour et al., 2013; Quarles, 1999). Herbicidal soaps...

Answer: Funding for a startup enterprise is often challenging. Below are some potential resources you might pursue. Keep in mind that if you can establish some good partnerships, perhaps with UM or MSU, you could add value to a proposal. An excellent place to start is the Food Animal Concerns Trust website. This site identifies funding resources, including Get Your Farm Funded: A Guide for Farmers to Find and Apply for Grants. The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs has a directory of state-by-state ag loan programs. In addition, the National Young Farmers Coalition has a guidebook that can help...

Answer: Perennial peanuts (A. glabrata) are native to South America. This plant is different from its more well-known cousin A. hypogaea in that it's most often propagated from its rhizomes, rather than by seed. It can cross with other closely related species like A. paraguariensis and A. kretschmeri, giving rise to sterile triploids that only form short rhizomes. Its creeping nature makes perennial peanut suitable as a forage crop and understory ground cover for tropical fruit and nut groves. Without competition it can spread six feet per year, but expect less than a sixth of that with grass competition. Thus,...

Answer: Vermicompost (or worm compost) will play a similar role to thermophilic compost in a potting mix, though less is generally needed, due to a higher concentration of nutrients and beneficial microbes. Unlike compost, vermicompost does not go through a thermophilic (or hot) stage and relies on the processing of worms, usually red wigglers (Eisenia fetida), to produce a finished and stable product. In a potting mix, vermicompost improves moisture retention and contains nutrients such as N, P, K, Ca, and Mg in readily available forms, with concentrations of nitrate-N that can be twice as high as those in themophilic...

Answer: If there is one animal with Barber Pole eggs in the feces, assume that all sheep are exposed and that vigilance is a priority. Barber Pole Worm is a "warm-season" parasite. Take fecal egg counts in late spring through early fall. In the Intermountain West, it usually takes a minimum of 45 days on irrigated pasture for Barber Pole Worm infections to become significant. Don’t take fecal egg counts within four to five weeks after deworming unless it is for a Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test (10 to 14 days). The dewormer will (hopefully) reduce the Barber Pole Worm populations in...

Answer: Early applications of inorganic nitrogen can increase first cutting yields if available soil phosphorus and potassium levels are adequate. This is a quick-fix solution that has historically bypassed the soil food web and has generally resulted in reduced soil health through mining. Organic farmers are limited to fertilizers that are organic, and these need microbial activity to mineralize the N and make it available to the plants. If you're going to have to spend a lot of money to improve your soils, you have several options: the input method outlined by Fertrell, which is surely better for the soil...

Answer: Although some cultivars are upright in growth habit and can be grown without a trellis system, most bramble fruits benefit from the additional support. The goal of a trellis system is to keep fruit off the ground, allow for good light penetration and air circulation throughout the canopy, and assist in ease of harvest. These factors will contribute to a healthier bramble planting with higher productivity and more efficient harvest. For organic growers, ensuring good canopy management is key to reducing disease and pest incidence. And because trellising allows for easier access to fruit, cleaner picking is possible, resulting...

Answer: There are several tools one can consider for controlling weeds organically. No matter what tools are used, it is important to recognize weeds as a symptom of land management. Individual weed species are indicators of specific nutrients lacking in the soil. For example, dandelions are an indicator species of low organic matter in the soil. Organic weed management should consider both proactive and reactive strategies. Proactive approaches to weed management include mulching, crop rotations, cover crops, and the use of flame weeding in which weeds are "seared" with a flame weeder prior to planting. Flame weeding can also be...

Answer: Blackhead disease, also called Histomoniasis, is a serious disease capable of decimating turkey flocks and negatively affecting other poultry. Caused by the protozoan Histomonas meleagridis, Blackhead can also have a significant economic impact on chicken production. Physical Symptoms of Blackhead • Mustardy, yellowish colored stool — varies from a watery, foamy diarrhea to a dry, solid black stool with waxy yellowish streaks • Bulls-eye-shaped necrotic pitting on liver • Ceca filled with yellow, cheesy substance Behavioral Signs of Blackhead • Lethargy • Drooping wings • Dry, ruffled feathers • Suppressed appetite, increased thirst • Decreased/lack of flight distance (distance the turkey keeps between itself and humans) • Decreased/lack of inquisitiveness Blackhead...

Answer: Trapping is an effective method of control for small areas or light infestations. Snap traps are very effective, inexpensive, and may require more labor, but are considered to be more humane because they generally kill the rodent instantly. Baiting the traps with peanut butter, dried fruit or nuts, or dried pet food may be necessary to lure the rodent to the traps. It's good practice to tie the traps down (using twine, tying to a nearby pipe or beam, which will prevent too much movement of the trap) because you don’t want a wounded rodent dragging a trap to...

Answer: Draft animals can perform a full range of farm duties. After all, draft animals were the primary motive power on most farms for centuries before tractors replaced them. But farming with animals doesn't necessarily mean a return to the…...

Answer: Perhaps one of the most notable benefits of multispecies grazing is its effect on parasite management. Cattle will consume parasite larvae such as the Barber Pole Worm, which only infects sheep and goats, and because this worm is incompatible…...

Answer: Cherries are notoriously susceptible to root rots in wet, poorly drained soils. Clay soils should be avoided, though some soil drainage problems can be mitigated by berming, ditching, or tiling. Sandy or sandy loam soils are best. Phytophthora…...

Answer: Farmers value the USDA Certified Organic label?and consumers are often willing to pay a premium price for products that are certified organic. But can crops grown in vertical farms qualify for this valuable certification? There's an ongoing…...

Answer: There are several tools one can consider for controlling weeds organically. No matter what tool(s) are used, it is important to recognize weeds as a symptom of land management. Individual weed species are indicators of specific nutrients lacking…...

Answer: Garlic is propagated vegetatively from the clove. One clove produces one bulb. The size of both the clove and the bulb is an important consideration when selecting planting stock. Grade your garlic for both size and quality. Bulbs should be firm…...

Answer: The most common diseases in greenhouse herb production are fungal diseases, including botrytis, damping-off, powdery mildew, and root rots. Vascular wilts are also common in herbs. These diseases can cause tremendous plant loss in just a few…...

Answer: When selecting a commercial potting mix, it is important that you choose a mix that is appropriate or your intended use. You will be able to find commercial blends formulated for seed starting, growing transplants, and maintaining larger…...

Answer: June-bearing strawberries set buds for the following year's fruit in the fall. (Most perennial fruit crops set their fruit buds in the spring or early summer.) To get a good bud set, the plants must have adequate chilling and not be…...

Answer: Lavender?a small, non-hardy, perennial, evergreen shrub?is best propagated from softwood cuttings of standard types. Seed may not come true to type, and lavandin seeds are sterile. Different cultivars are raised for different purposes. Most…...

Answer: There are two species of flatheaded borers that may invade apple trees. Chrysobothris femorata is the species endemic to the East. On the Pacific coast, C. mali fills a similar niche. Adults emerge from woodland trees in late April through early…...

Answer: In laying operations, most of the eggs are generally laid within five hours of the first light in the morning. Collect eggs often ? twice in the morning and once in the afternoon ? to help decrease the number of dirty and broken eggs and start…...

Answer: Sheep are a bit different than cattle or hogs in that they have a high tolerance to pain. They bond to their shepherd and the herd, and they do not like to be left behind. You can use these aspects of their behavior to tell when they are sick.…...

Answer: Prior to using gourds, they must be ripened, harvested, and properly cured. Harvesting should take place when the stem at the top turns brown and withers. This is a good indication that the rind should be hardened enough that it cannot be…...

Answer: Lablab (Lablab purpureus) is a vine native to Africa that has been used there and throughout Asia for many years. It is a monotypic genus, meaning that there is only one species within the genera: Lablab purpureus, formerly known as Dolichos…...

Answer: Agrihoods are a type of housing subdivision design that is built around a working farm, with much of the land preserved for growing food or set aside in conservation easements. Since most agrihoods are based around a working farm, they can also…...

Answer: The most important step in organic potato production is planning a crop rotation scheme that allows a few years between potato crops on the same land. For organic production, a lengthy rotation from four to seven years generally assures good…...

Answer: Fall/early winter planting is recommended in all parts of the U.S. A cold period is required in order for the mother bulb to split into cloves. The bolting cultivars of garlic require a cold period to trigger cellular division. For spring…...

Answer: Production practices have a tremendous effect on the quality of fruit at harvest, postharvest, and during shelf life. For example, some cultivars are known to have a longer shelf life and to ship better than others. Because of this, you should…...

Answer: Alleycropping involves growing crops (e.g., grains, forages, and vegetables) between trees planted in rows. The spacing between the rows is designed to accommodate the mature size of the trees while leaving room for the planned alley crops. When…...

Answer: Most herbs will grow anywhere if you are prepared to factor artificial light and heating into your production costs. For the new producer, the best approach is to contact local restaurants, food stores, micro-breweries, and other businesses and…...

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Answer: Important considerations in site preparation include alleviating soil compaction, enhancing fertility, adjusting soil pH, and managing weeds, pests, and diseases. Attention to the details of site preparation can help reduce weed and disease…...

Answer: Cucumber beetle is a common name given to members of two genera of beetles, Diabrotica (spotted) and Acalymma (striped), both in the family Chrysomelidae. Cucumber beetles are present throughout the United States and cause serious damage to…...

Answer: One of the oldest insect pests of grain crops is the grasshopper. This insect can be difficult to control with organic methods, because it can move from a control area to a non-control area and vice-versa. There has been some limited success…...

Answer: The two related fungi (Leucocytospora cincta and L. leucostoma) that incite cytospora canker are opportunists, invading sites where damage has occurred due to mechanical injury, cold, poor pruning techniques, improper pruning time, borers, or…...

Answer: Commercially produced bee blocks, consisting of a wood block drilled with a series of dead-end holes, are now widely available. These types of bee nests were initially developed in the 1960s by alfalfa seed producers in the western United States…...

Answer: Harvest and processing of your lambs are cornerstones in the successful marketing of your product. In most cases, they are also the components in the production chain over which you have the least direct control. All of your skill in producing…...

Answer: For any market garden, it is important to consider which market is right for you and your farm. In order to assess the types of markets it is important to ask yourself these questions:Is my farm location conducive to direct marketing? Are you…...

Answer: Peach leaf curl, caused by the fungal organism Taphrina deformans, is a common disorder in peach and nectarine orchards, especially during wet springs. Infected leaves become misshapen, deformed, and necrotic, resulting in premature defoliation…...

Answer: Because astringency of the fruit can be such a powerful disincentive to eating persimmons, it is important that the marketer either sell only properly ripened fruit or provide good information to the end consumer about how to ripen the fruit…...

Answer: Alternative saps are becoming more popular for making syrups and other value-added products. Collecting and boiling sap from trees such as black walnuts, birches, and box elders offers a niche product that can have a higher price point than…...

Answer: Poor soils for fruit plants can be those that are too rocky, clayey, poorly drained, too well drained (droughty), acid, and/or infertile. Luckily, there are remedies for almost all of these, and, once established, woody plants are often quite…...

Answer: Food hubs can help agricultural producers achieve and maintain profitable businesses. A 2011 survey found that a food hub working with a median of 40 suppliers has the ability to increase producer profitability by enhancing access to commercial…...

Answer: Flatweed, or false dandelion, can infest pastures that have been disturbed or have been overgrazed. Control is possible but takes a comprehensive, multifaceted approach including grazing management and possibly a low-toxicity herbicide. Creating…...

Answer: Bermudagrass is one of the most challenging pests in sustainable agriculture. Use of the herbicide Sethoxydim should reduce the initial infestation, and following up with the subsequent recommendations will eliminate the need for further use of…...

Answer: Direct seeding requires contact between the seed and the soil so that the crop can establish itself once it germinates. Spin seeders are used for broadcasting cover-crop seeds at a set desired rate. They can be handheld or tractor mounted. Light…...

Answer: Yes! Crop rotations limit the buildup of weed populations and prevent major weed-species shifts. Weeds tend to prosper in crops that have requirements similar to their own. Fields of annual crops favor short-lived annual weeds, whereas…...

Answer: What do you plan to do? Here you need to think about your farm goals. Do you want to sell market lambs or fi ne wool? Are you interested in conserving rare breeds or in selling meat at the farmers market? For goats, is it meat or milk that is…...

Answer: Aphids overwinter as eggs and emerge in the spring, and continue to reproduce all season. They reach maturity in about 10 days, which makes for several generations each growing season. Because of their rapid life cycle, they are difficult to…...

Answer: An excellent place to start is the USDA Small Farm Funding Resources http://ric.nal.usda.gov/small-farm-funding. This guide contains information about funding sources for beginning farmers, training, technical assistance contacts, organizations…...

Answer: Crop rotations limit the buildup of weed populations and prevent major weed-species shifts. Weeds tend to prosper in crops that have requirements similar to their own. Fields of annual crops favor short-lived annual weeds, whereas maintaining…...

Answer: A bacterial disease, blossom blast (causal organism: Pseudomonas syringae), may afflict pears, usually as a blossom blight resulting in reduced fruit set. It can also cause twig dieback and bark cankers and may lead to severe wood damage of…...

Answer: It is necessary to consult with your veterinarian is necessary to devise a coccidiosis treatment program, which may include the feeding of ionophores, treatment with sulfa drugs or amprolium, and/or using alternative treatments. Note that…...

Answer: A wide variety of soil textures can be used for tomato production. Ideal soil textures range from sandy to fine-textured clays as long as the soil is well drained (tomato roots will not tolerate being waterlogged), has good structure, and is…...

Answer: Draft animals can offer farmers the advantage of a low initial investment in farm motive power compared to the purchase of even a relatively small tractor. A prospective horse farmer can spend a great deal of money on registered stock, harness…...

Answer: Local foods purchasing has moved beyond farmers markets to mainstream grocery stores. As consumers become more interested in purchasing local foods, chain grocery stores from Walmart to Safeway tout their support of local farmers. At the same…...

Answer: There are numerous benefits to incorporating flowering cover crops into fruit production, including increased pollination, erosion control, and improved soil health. When it comes to your blueberries, I would recommend that you plant your living…...

Answer: The mechanical roller-crimper is a tool that "rolls down" and "crimps" the stalks of cover crops for no-till weed suppression. Mechanical suppression of cover crops for no-till production can be accomplished through various kinds of mow-down and…...

Answer: Important considerations in preparing a site for an organic orchard include alleviating soil compaction, enhancing fertility, adjusting soil pH, and managing weeds, pests, and diseases. Attention to the details of site preparation can help…...

Answer: One way to do this is through contract grazing, which involves grazing a customer's livestock on your land for a fee. This approach allows you to control the stocking rate, recovery period, stocking density, and grazing residual.There are…...

Answer: Acephate is a pesticide in the organophosphate family that is registered for use in the United States by the EPA. It has moderate persistence and has residual activity for approximately 15 days. It is used to control insect pests in agricultural…...

Answer: The environmental impact of micro-hydro systems is usually small but by no means absent altogether. When water is diverted or dammed, or when structures installed in the stream channel interfere with the natural flow of the water, there is an…...

Answer: Biological and allowed synthetic substances can be used for weed control, but there must be evidence that the first- and second-tier strategies are already in place, as defined by the National Organic Program. Currently, most organic small…...

Answer: Let's consider the agricultural practices that help build healthy soil. In essence, we want to increase aggregation, contribute soil organic matter, increase biodiversity, buffer soil temperature, and minimize soil compaction and disturbance.…...

Answer: Polyculture is growing two or more species together to take advantage of inherent trophic characteristics and increase marketing opportunities. Some species will grow well together, especially if they have similar (i.e., vegetarian) or different…...

Answer: Maple sugar producers should identify markets for their sap, syrup, and value-added products and develop a cohesive marketing plan even before they tap their first maple tree. Marketing options available to producers include selling the raw…...

Answer: The blotch diseases are fungal leaf diseases similar to Tan Spot and Septoria, but they affect only barley. There are three blotch diseases to be aware of: Net Blotch, Spot Blotch, and the Spot Form of Net Blotch. Temperatures of 68? to 77?F and…...

Answer: Grasshoppers are pests all over the world. They are voracious feeders that chew on just about anything. Some reach massive numbers if conditions are right, and they can strip fields of all vegetation in minutes. Grasshoppers leave large holes in…...

Answer: An excellent place to start is the USDA's Small Farm Funding Resources. This guide contains information about funding sources for beginning farmers, training, technical assistance contacts, organizations with resources and programs for beginning…...

Answer: There are a number of cultivars that produce superior fruit. An unbiased description of most of these cultivars is available at Kentucky State University's pawpaw website. Grafted trees of these named cultivars can be relatively expensive?up to…...

Answer: Organic farming requires any pest management materials used be in compliance with USDA's National Organic Program regulations and must be used in the context of organic principles for farming and handling practices. The Organic Materials Review…...

Answer: Two medium-size breeds, the New Zealand White (NZW) and the Californian, are the most important for meat production. They have white fur that is difficult to see if a few pieces are stuck to the carcass, and they have higher meat-to-bone ratios.…...