Farm Progress

Alex rain welcomed and not

Jeffrey Stapper

July 7, 2010

5 Min Read

So, while you were celebrating the July 4th Holiday, I hope you reflected on some things we have to be thankful for, including our freedom and this great country we call home, and also those life-giving rains we have seen the last several days. Remember last year!

Reflecting back on our country's founding fathers, they probably wouldn't have been able to imagine what America would look like more than 234 years after they signed the Declaration of Independence. However, they certainly were right about one thing: the importance of farming to America and its ability to propel our fledgling nation into one of the world's superpowers. For example, take what Ben Franklin had to say about Agriculture: "There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry."

As far as what we saw last week, just as Alex showed up in the Gulf of Mexico, our early grain sorghum crop was reaching maturity, with some harvest beginning; that was halted by rainfall. Rain was not good for these folks as now we have seen sprouting grain and grain just falling to the ground.

The cotton crop for the most part has reached the “cut-out” stage and rain should help complete boll development. Cattlemen are thankful for the rain, as this summer rainfall will certainly benefit warm season grass development and help make another hay crop. Rainfall received last week from around the county reached totals of eight to nine inches.

One of the side effects of Hurricane Alex is that standing waters provide the perfect opportunity for the development of mosquitoes. “Excessive moisture and flooding help create optimal conditions in which mosquitoes can breed," said Dr. Mark Johnsen, a medical entomologist with the AgriLife Extension agricultural and environmental safety unit in College Station. “And having good information on mosquito behavior and control can help reduce both their nuisance factor and the threat of disease transmission."

Two waves of mosquito activity typically follow a flooding event, he said. The first wave occurs five to seven days after the flooding event and consists of "floodwater" mosquitoes, which include salt marsh and pastureland mosquitoes, usually more of an annoyance than a disease threat. The second wave usually comes a few weeks later and consists mainly of "standing-water" mosquito species which breed in stagnating post-flood locations.

"Post-flood mosquito species are the primary vectors of disease,” Johnsen said. "And the southern house mosquito is the most significant of these since it has been identified as the main vector for spreading West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis."

The best way to combat mosquitoes after flooding is by applying the “four Ds” of personal protection – DEET, dusk/dawn, dress and drain, according to Johnsen.

The first D refers to using a mosquito repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535, he said. The second D means restricting activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. The third refers to dressing in loose-fitting, light-colored, long-sleeve shirts or blouses, and long pants. And the fourth D refers to draining standing water from bottles, cups, unused plant pots, tires and other receptacles that might provide a mosquito breeding site.

Johnsen said materials covering the four Ds and other information on mosquitoes and mosquito control are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded free from two AgriLife Extension websites.

The AgriLife Extension publication, “Potential Mosquito Problems after a Hurricane,” is available for free download at the Agricultural and Environmental Safety website,, as are the other free publications “Mosquito Life Cycle” and “The Best Way to Control Mosquitoes.”

More information can be found in the AgriLife Extension publication, “Mosquito Problems after a Storm,” available though the AgriLife Extension Bookstore at The publication number for the English-language version is ER-042, and the number for the Spanish-language version is ER-042S.

Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services has health-related precautions, including precautions about mosquitoes, for people in areas where heavy rains may occur as a result of Hurricane Alex. These can be found at

Another resource, the "Mosquito Safari" website,, sponsored by AgriLife Extension, the Dallas County Health Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 6 Pesticides Division, is a free interactive site containing scientifically based information on mosquitoes and their control.

“Mosquito Safari was created as an alternative to other Internet sites on the pests that are bogged down by heavily text-oriented pages,” said Dr. Mike Merchant, an AgriLife Extension urban entomologist in Dallas who helped create the site. “It's a visually appealing and interactive site that helps the user search out and eliminate places where disease-carrying mosquitoes might breed,” Merchant said.

Container-breeding mosquitoes breed in anything that can catch and hold water, including soft drink cans, open grills, watering cans, clogged gutters, wheelbarrows and used tires, Merchant said. “The core of the Mosquito Safari site is a virtual backyard that you can explore with your computer mouse,” he said. “As you hit hot spots in the backyard, a window pops up and a narrator discusses what appears on the screen and how it relates to mosquito control.”

In addition to showing the most common places for mosquitoes to breed, the site discusses mosquito biology and control methods, including repellents for people and sprays for foliage. It also describes characteristics of six common U.S. mosquito species, including behavior, physical characteristics and breeding sites. "While the site provides useful information and technical assistance to the public, it may still be necessary for people to contact a pest control professional or employ additional do-it-yourself methods," he said.

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