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Friday, May 6, 2016

Ad innovations shared at Field Day

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Andrew Thomas, at center, horticulturalist for the Southwest Research Center, showed visitors plant studies underway near Mt. Vernon during Field Day last Friday. Thomas pointed out the Southerlandia plant, the tall bush at center right, one of four received from South Africa for research. The plant did not flower in the Missouri setting but has been available for medical research. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Experts in agriculture shared information on the latest research and options at the University of Missouri's Southwest Research Center during the 48th annual Field Day last Friday. The event offered a chance to show off the local facility and discuss innovations being considered.

One of the most recent trends for dairy and cattlemen has been the shift to rotational grazing, moving cows into small pasture areas every few days rather than relying on continuous grazing. Successful use of rotational grazing requires fencing. In a special program on fencing, three experts discussed requirements for making a system work.

Wesley Tucker, University Extension ag business specialist, looked at expenses for fencing. It cost $55 per acre in fencing to set up a rotational grazing system, plus $80 per acre to develop a water distribution system. Even so, Tucker figured a cattle stocker, who only gets paid when his cattle go to market, could pay for a system in six years or less. A dairy farm, getting regular returns from milk sales, could recoup costs faster.

Rotational grazing, which has been used heavily by dairy farmers from New Zealand, has several other strategic advantages. Tucker said cattle left to roam will eat only about 30 percent of the available grass. In rotational grazing, up to 70 percent of the grass is consumed.

Each cow also produces around $200 worth of fertilizer in the form of manure annually. Tucker said in an open grazing arrangement, it would take 27 years to get manure on every acre. The same number of cattle moved every two days in a rotational grazing arrangement will spread manure over every acre in two years, thus saving fertilizer costs.

Mark Green, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Springfield, discussed putting up electric fences. Green recommended renting an electric jackhammer to place posts in rocky soil and driving in posts at an angle to get past rocks.

"Ninety percent of problems with electric fences is poor grounding," Green said.

A formula for installing a fence, including distances and post depths, was presented. Green said landowners should not skimp on their grounding system and should keep grounding rods at least 25 yards from a power pole. Lightning arrestors can be purchased for $10 to $20 or built for a few dollars each. Green also recommended using a continuous electrical line instead of small pieces strung together.

Parts for electric fences were reviewed by Jamie Kurtz, resource conservationalist for the NRCS. Kurtz advised buying a fault finder to detect the location of a break in an electric fence. He also recommended compression springs for gates and installing switches facing down to avoid rain.

Large groups gathered at both the forage presentations, where tips on grasses where given, and at the horticulture tours, where gardeners sought information to help their gardens.

Patrick Byers, Extension regional horticulture specialist, provided tips on irrigating gardens. While sprinklers work well, Byers advised more specific watering in the rib zone of the plants. Dosing plants exposes them to potential fungal problems, he said. Byers recommended small pieces of hose with holes for soaking that can regulate pressure.

Cracks in tomatoes, for example, come from irregular watering or a sudden influx after a drier period. Byers recommended learning about the soil in the garden to see how well moisture is retained.

"If a screwdriver can be inserted six inches with little effort, you've got moisture," Byers said.

Jaime Piņero, an Extension pest control specialist, said researchers are trying to find better ways to target unwanted insects. General traps catch everything, including beneficial bugs. Piņero said researchers are exploring ways to attract insects with pheromones. A handout was available listing a specific pesticide to target the cucumber beetle, one of the most destructive area insects.

Andrew Thomas, the center's horticulturalist, led a walking tour through the trees and shrubs growing on the grounds. A new plant at the center this year is Southerlandia, from South Africa. Used heavily in research to combat cancer and auto-immune diseases, Southerlandia was given to the university for its potential. The center got four plants to grow to supply ingredients for lab studies.

Another plant being studied is hemp dogbane, a common plant long considered a weed. Thomas said dogbane makes a chemical only found in one other plant that has almost been picked to extinction in Tibet. The chemical is considered a key for treating strokes.

This was the fifth year for the vineyard at the center and the first year for producing a crop of grapes. The grape and wine industries have continued to grow in the state. Keith Striegler with the Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture said it is hoped the two industries will inject $1 billion into the Missouri economy this year.

Striegler explained continental weather patterns offer much different challenges than what grape growers on the coasts experience. Much of the research at the center helps to uncover what works best for growing in Missouri.

The center has some different grapes this year, including a graft from the University of California in Davis being tested for the first time outside of the West Coast. A row of plants from Cornell University are the only ones not of the Chambourcin variety in a search for what grows best in the state.

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