By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Spring is in sight for those who look forward to the start of our annual growing season, usually measured in length by the number of frost-free days. In our area, we can count about 180 days as the frost-free period, about the third week of April until the third week of October. Row crop farmers are busy preparing for planting season with corn and soybeans on their mind.
They replace worn planter parts, apply grease, calibrate seeding rates, control weeds and apply fertilizer as needed. Seed is on hand; crop protection chemicals and fertilizer accounted for in production budgets and ready for application at the onset of the planting season.
Virginia Cooperative Extension conducts annual corn variety trials across the Commonwealth with Extension Agents recruiting cooperating farmers to host variety trials. Data from these trials helps corn growers gain knowledge on corn grown under localized conditions, on our soils and in our weather. Regional adaptability is important in making variety choices. The 2018 plot work planned by the George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center is in conjunction with our cooperating producer, Battle Park Farms. Together we plan to plant 36 corn varieties across three maturity groups – involving all available corn companies.
These plots will be our second research trial delivering on our programing promise to conduct large plot research beneficial to the regions commercial farms. The first trial was to test disease control in soybean. Virginia Tech pathologist Dr. Hillary Mehl, tested her theory over four years, in Battle Park Farms soybean fields. http://gwcarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/VA-Soybean-Board-2014-Project-Report.pdf Follow this link for full detail on this first large plot study.
In the upcoming corn variety trial, large-scale planting (12-row planter) and harvesting equipment (six row combine) will allow our cooperators to cover the big plots in a timely fashion. This is in contrast to the small plot work conventionally done in state trials. We will use tester varieties spread out among the dozen varieties in each of the three maturity group plantings, to help account for variations other than corn genetics. Look for field day announcements and reports sharing results from this Northern Piedmont corn variety trial.
The “Carver Center” has several other program priorities moving ahead. The Commercial Kitchen, lead by Extension Agent Becky Gartner, awaits a design grant pending with the Ohrstrom Foundation. We should know in May if this has been successful. Becky will then kick off design work for the kitchen spaces she has identified in the main building.
Our Beginning Farmer program lead by volunteer Roger Williams, is working with county government and Virginia State University to design a suitable agreement for all our needs. We are optimistic VSU will begin classes at Carver this spring. Final additions are in the works for our hi-tunnel greenhouses, slatted for inclusion in VSU plans and the Rapidan River Master Gardeners demonstration gardens. With spring around the corner, farmers and gardeners are making plans for the new growing season.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent 9/29/17
Farmers are a curious bunch, naturally drawn to new information and capable of solving their own problems. You see, problem solving is necessary if farmers are to keep on track with timely work. Ultimately, they save the cost of hiring someone and save time too. They find ways around problems or invent new and novel solutions to them. They do not give up easily and often have more than one plan for the day and more than one solution at the ready.
The best get ahead of trouble through preventative maintenance, early action on planting and harvest and early adoption of new methods. While this makes many of them leaders, there are also a large group in the middle looking for good ideas. This makes them sharp about recognizing the good ideas of others and willing adopters when beneficial ideas are found.
Just the other day I was using an unusual distance-measuring device. A wind up cable capable of measuring football field length. Not often seen in use, it drew the attention of the young men I was helping. Their interest in and curiosity about this tool made me think of these important traits. Thankfully, these traits still exist in our next generation of farmers. Maybe the business draws this type of personality or at least quickly culls those who do not master its importance.
Many farm magazines have a page describing inventions and plenty of these good ideas are in place on local farms. A special gate latch copied from a farmer who loves to make modifications improving the function and ease of operation on his farm near Reva. Time saving, labor saving, safety improving inventions are all around us. A farm north of town is in the finishing phase of improvement, where the new owner shows remarkable and functional ideas at work. Cantilever overhangs on buildings protecting poles from likely damage when set out on front corners. Water catchments and piping systems made from recycled materials, a back gate not easily breached, decorated for looks and security. Interior roads connecting the property within itself, making easy access in all weather.
Equipment inventions are less common, but often seen are equipment modifications. Adding a hydraulic cylinder eases the burden of lifting; attaching a hitch pin rope allows the operator to remain seated, and a sliding wagon tongue makes connections simple, a rear view mirror soothes the strained neck while keeping an eye on what is following. However, inventions are the real story.
Making a machine do twice the work is a great advancement – many do this. Anytime farmers can replace labor with equipment, they often do. You see the equipment shows up every day, has no complaints, is never sick (almost never), works in cold and hot, dusty conditions, forgives operator error and has few paperwork needs. Equipment inventions are simply once you understand how they work. The few capable of these inventions make the rest of us their beneficiaries, as we adopt what we see working, it becomes possible then. Our rate of adoption is increasing as the benefits of new and proven inventions take less time to be realized by each generation.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Slow but steady wins the race according to Aesop’s fable, a story about the tortoise and the hare. One would assume the fast hare could easily cross the finish line first, but there is more. Many interpretations surround this fable and here we can agree that slow and steady leads to progress.
This is the rate progress is made at the Carver School on route 15 here in Culpeper, slowly unfolding after a kick-start. This stimulus came from a feasibility study funded in early 2015 by the Building Collaborative Communities grant by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. See the article published in several papers at the link provided:
http://www.dailyprogress.com/madisonnews/news/rrrc-receives-bcbg-grant-for-agricultural-asset-study/article_ab9c5106-acb4-11e4-a7fd-d71806b24c49.html or search for key words on the topic.
Once the good bones of the 1948 structure were confirmed in the study (http://gwcarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/20160128-CPAI.pdf), interest in and support for regionally beneficial uses increased. Not only were the original agriculture research and education center plans supported (http://gwcarc.org/) but also validation was found for the planned vocational education uses important to Culpeper and surrounding counties.
To date there is much progress to report. From route 15, visible changes show with window replacement ongoing with new, energy efficient glass to occupy the old spaces while maintaining the original appearance. Inside, thousands of square feet are undergoing rehabilitation. Lead and asbestos removed, floor and ceiling improvements and utility upgrades to spaces on each side of the entry foyer. Plan to visit the school during the October 7 & 8 Farm tour https://www.facebook.com/culpeperfarmtour and see these and other changes for yourself.
The GW Carver Regional High School alumni have plans for a museum; see their website https://www.gwcrhsaa.org/ to find out more about their work. In the other spaces undergoing renovation will be offices for those whose programs are coming online. These include a commercial kitchen headed up by the GW Carver Food Enterprise Center found at https://www.facebook.com/GWCFEC/ . In vocational training, New Pathways progress is described at the link provided to an article describing their work
http://www.starexponent.com/news/culpeper-machinist-school-attracting-global-attention/article_181bf62f-fb0e-553d-8363-fb9cbd96519e.html . Learning by doing for young adults who can use their machinist training as a springboard to a meaningful career.
The Rappahannock River Master Gardeners have been busy at Carver since spring. See their link https://www.facebook.com/rapidanrivermastergardener/?rc=p for details on their demonstration garden, a teaching lab in keeping with the educational mission planned by the GWCARC. To conclude, the Beginning Farmer program is geared towards giving new farmers opportunities to learn and practice before going it alone. Find more on this program at our website http://gwcarc.org/news-announcements/page/2/.
By: Tiffany Patrick
Summer Intern, Virginia Cooperative Extension
My internship this summer was much more than an internship. Along with all the things I was sent here to do, I learned much more. My main responsibility was data collection in the Variety Trial at Bald Top Brewing Company in Madison, VA.
Aside from that, I was also in the Culpeper Extension office doing many different activities, such as forage samples, hay samples, Cloverbub camp, and the annual Farm Show.
My data collections in the hop yard consisted of monitoring the growth of the plants, seeing which variety reached the peak of growth first, seeing which variety had cones first, and taking leaf samples for data collected back at VSU.
Some of my findings are as follows:
- The Zeus variety reached the top of the line (18 ft) first, followed by Cascade, Newport, Nugget and then Chinook.
- Several varieties reached the point of coning at the same time: Cascade and Zeus
I also kept record of when things were applied, such as fertilizer and pesticides. Below is some of my records:
- On 5/22/2017, 50 lbs of 34/0/0 granular fertilizer was applied
- Oxidate and boron were sprayed for mildew and insects on 5/31/2017
- The yard was mowed and weeded on 6/8/2017
- Oxidate was sprayed on 6/8/2017
- 8lbs of Miracle grow was added via irrigation 6/11/2017
This is the chart that shows how the varieties were planted in the yard:
I was housed for the first five weeks with a couple in Madison, VA that was provided by their donation. The second half of my stay, along with my travel funds, was provided by scholarship by the Ohrstrom foundation. My payment for the summer was provided in part by the Ohrstrom foundation, the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association and Virginia State University.
Now for some background about me. I am from Damascus, a small town in Southwest Virginia. I grew up on a small-scale farm, with goats and sheep that we raised for pleasure and showing, along with a garden that we harvested mostly for ourselves. But I have had my foot in just about everything throughout the years. I showed lamb and goats through 4-h and FFA, and I was very active in both.
In high school, FFA was my entire life. I competed in a variety of activities, such as parliamentary procedure, floriculture, creed speaking, livestock judging, etc. So you could say that I developed quite the passion for agriculture along the way. I decided my Junior year of high school that I wanted to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education. Of course, my ag teachers were thrilled and very helpful in the application and getting there process. My first school of choice wasn’t VSU, but I have no doubt that it is where I am supposed to be. My professors are pretty amazing, and even though my major is newer to the school, there are so many people who are excited about it and trying to push the program to its fullest potential. I am very excited to be one of the people who develops new ideas and getting to see where the program goes in the future. I believe that Agriculture Education is SO important and it’s in very high demand right now. The teachers that are out there now are older generations, and there aren’t many people who can truly see the importance of educating the up and coming generations. But they are our source of, well, everything. The farmers and people who grow and even market our daily essentials, are all older generations as well, so we need to be showing people the importance of Agriculture again. And I for one can’t wait to be apart of that process. I hope to one day spark the interests of young people enough that they, like me, develop a passion for Agriculture.
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Internal parasites better known as “worms” are a production efficiency issue with cattle and other grazing livestock. Cattle producers address this performance problem by using de-wormers known as anthelmintics. There are three chemical classes approved for use in cattle and several non-chemical management methods help reduce the impact of worms on cattle.
An issue with chemical controls is development of pest resistance. You understand that not every pest is killed when treated and those remaining reproduce, concentrating resistance. This can lead to failure of the control used. In the case of anthelmintics, new information is out from a federal study informing us of a possible solution to resistance – the refuge.
As is the case in management recommended for genetically modified corn, using a refuge is a way to avoid exposing the entire pest population to the control. A refuge will allow untreated pests to be available to cross breed with the survivors of the control. This results in a dilution of resistance in a given pest population and slows down the buildup of trait(s) leading to full resistance.
Cattle studies done by Virginia Tech have recommended for at least 20 years that adult cows not be treated for internal parasites. They found adult cows left untreated performed just as well as treated cows. Scientists concluded this was development of age related immunity. In light of this knowledge, it is puzzling to read of long acting de-wormers recommended for the entire herd. If you want this new product to work for years to come, reserve it for the young stock and save money on unnecessary treatments to adult cows. Leaving cows untreated also lets them serve as the refuge. New work at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine shows no benefit to adult cows treated with this long acting product.
De-wormers can also be used to treat cattle for lice as some product labels support this use. Considering the risk of resistance, it seems we could save our de-wormers for the internal parasites and use other lice labeled treatments when needed. Another option is to select for worm tolerance.
Small ruminant breeders have been selecting for worm tolerance in their flocks for years as their
de-wormers have stopped working in most cases. They choose females that tolerate parasites and keep their daughters as replacements. They also check for worm load and only treat those showing signs of needing the treatment. Historically small ruminants have required more frequent de-worming and resistance builds faster because of this.
There are pasture management techniques that help with worm problems. Keeping pasture taller and rotating pastures is another approach to suppressing worm impact on grazing livestock. Nematodes need to stay close to the ground or dehydrate for lack of moisture. Grazing tall grass limits exposure to short grass where the worms live. Making hay from our pastures will also help to remove worms for the short term. A final point would be about tall growing warm season grasses. It is not likely that worms can survive far from the soil; it is just too dry up there where warm season grasses grow. Graze these with confidence and gain access to quality forage when our pastures are least productive.
Wheat markets are about to change in Virginia and Culpeper’s Ardent Mills is leading the way. Their new investments in flour milling, for human consumption, has farmers talking about how to meet this new demand for local wheat.
10:00 am until 4:00 pm
There are a variety of farms and related businesses on this year’s tour. Those participating reflect our agricultural heritage and the millions of dollars in production, wages, and salaries generated by the agricultural industry in our county and state.
The tour, a self-guided driving experience, can be started at the Welcome Center located at Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises on Route 29.