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Articles from 2015 In September


Support 4-H youth: Buy a clover for one dollar

Support 4-H youth: Buy a clover for one dollar

After a record-breaking 4-H Paper Clover campaign in the spring, Tractor Supply Company, in partnership with National 4-H Council, is hosting another Paper Clover campaign in October.

Tractor Supply Company once again supporting 4-H with Fall Paper Clover Campaign

On Oct. 7 – 18, Tractor Supply Company and Del's Feed and Farm Supply customers have the opportunity to purchase paper clovers for $1 or more during checkout. At the end of the campaign, 70 percent of the funds raised will benefit state and local 4-H youth development program activities, such as local camps and after-school programs, and grant scholarships for 4-H youth in the communities where Tractor Supply and Del's stores are located. The remaining thirty percent of the total funds are donated to National 4-H Council to help connect more young people across America to high-quality 4-H youth development programs.

"The Paper Clover fundraiser is a significant part of Tractor Supply Company's support of 4-H programs throughout the 1,300-plus communities we serve," says Christi Korzekwa, Senior Vice president, Marketing, Tractor Supply Company. "We are proud to be able to provide essential funding to more than 1,000 county 4-H programs. These programs make a positive impact on young people that last a lifetime. The continued success of the Tractor Supply Paper Clover fundraisers demonstrates the importance of our 4-H partnership with our customers, team members and communities."

"For many years, the fundraising event has allowed us to provide thousands of 4-H youth across the country greater access to 4-H programs," says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. "We are thrilled about our continued partnership with Tractor Supply Company as it drives the excitement of local community participation and support for 4-H programs, and therefore the success of the 4-H Paper Clover campaign."

Tractor Supply Company, the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States, raised $913,553 during the 12-day spring Paper Clover campaign. The amount broke the record for most monetary donations during the four-year collaboration. Tractor Supply has raised $7,029,426 for 4-H programs across the country through Paper Clover campaigns in just five years.

4-H is a community of seven million young people around the world learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In the United States, 4-H programs are implemented by the 109 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension through more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, 4-H programs operate through independent, country-led organizations in more than 50 countries. Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org.

Lessons learned from avian influenza

Lessons learned from avian influenza

With collective losses totaling more than $1.8 billion throughout their respective turkey and chicken industries, Minnesota and Iowa poultry leaders shared their experiences with avian influenza at a recent Animal Science Conference in Willmar.

On the avian influenza panel were Steve Olson, Minnesota Turkeys Growers Association executive director; Brigid Turk, University of Minnesota economic impact analyst; Randy Olson, Iowa Poultry Association executive director; Dale Lauer, Minnesota Board of Animal Health assistant director; and Michael Starkey, Minnesota Department of Agriculture emergency planning director.

Lessons learned from avian influenza

From March through June, avian flu claimed more than 9 million turkeys and chickens in Minnesota and affected 108 farms in 23 counties. U-M analysis pegs the economic loss at $647.2 million, with more than half the losses impacting supporting industries, such as trucking, feed mills, grain farms and construction.

In Iowa, the disease claimed more than 30 million hens and 1.5 million turkeys, causing a $1.2 billion economic impact in that state.

Panelists offered these observations:

-Response times must improve. Everyone was expecting the flu to hit, it was just a matter of time and where, since it had shown up on the West Coast late last year. Minnesota health officials and turkey growers have worked on and dealt with disease responses in the past so they had action plans in place and ready to go. Unfortunately, this particular bird flu hit hard and it hit fast.

"We didn't know how transmissible and deadly this agent really was," Lauer said. "We were hearing that 20 to 50 birds an hour were dying."

With multiple flocks hit at once affecting from 15,000 to millions of birds at a time, state and federal officials tried to keep up. However, there were instances where lack of consistency hurt individual farm businesses. USDA case managers rotated in and out of Minnesota every three weeks and many of them had no poultry background. In the future, officials decided that Minnesota resources will be relied upon more than USDA due to speed of response and familiarity with producers and local infrastructure.

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The key to disease control is to shut down an infected farm in 24 hours to stop the additional disease spread and that did not happen, Randy Olson added. Also in Iowa, he said the lack of premise ID really hurt response times.

-Infrastructure and equipment must be adequate. Immediate testing of birds is crucial since USDA makes indemnity payments based only on live bird numbers. In Minnesota, samples were driven by courier to the U-M St. Paul Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and given a highly sensitive test that takes three to five hours to complete. MBAH officials shaved off a couple hours when they started posting test results online. Even more time will be saved when renovations are made to the Poultry Testing Lab in Willmar. The state legislature last spring approved $8.5 million for improvements. Lab tests will be conducted here, in the heart of the state's turkey production.

-Past on-farm biosecurity practices are not enough. "We thought we had really tightened up things before, but it wasn't enough," Randy Olson said. "Farmers must be focused on every potential vulnerability." Research indicates the disease may be airborne so barn intake vents, worker clothing and dust are potential entry points and carriers. Steve Olson noted that each farm should have a biosecurity plan tailored specific for the farm. It should cover buildings, management and training, too.

-Communication, relationships are vital. An emergency response is all about relationships, Starkey said. MBAH's track record of working with livestock and poultry industries on disease control and outbreaks is strong. Open and quick communication to all farms--infected and not--is crucial.

-Animal disposal plans are needed. Lauer pointed out that carcass disposal caused some snags. Burying dead animals or composting them must be a part of the discussion when making virus containment plans. Randy Olson said that by the end of 2016, Iowa poultry barns will be fully restocked. As they come back on line, he added that each farm will be encouraged to have a biosecurity indemnity plan and that a carcass disposal plan will be required.

Corn field at sunrise

10 short lessons for life

I shared this list in my column in the magazine this fall and given the whirlwind that has been Illinois agriculture this week, I thought it might be pertinent to share here. In all that I've heard and read over the past few days, I've been reminded: this is the stuff that sets agriculture apart from the rest of the world. May every young person in ag be reminded of that, too.

Life is about choices, not circumstances. This is courtesy of my friend, Colleen Callahan, and I'm telling you, it may be the most true thing I have ever heard. We live in a world that says this thing happened to me and now my life is bad. Yes, bad things happen and we have little control over them. But we can always, always choose how we respond. And your response will make all the difference.

Do what you're called to do. The world will tell you that you can be anything and do anything you set your mind to. It's not true. It's like saying I can will myself into being a ballerina. It's not going to happen. You can, however, be and do anything God has intended for you. And there is real beauty and peace in that place.

Just ask. Do not be afraid to shape your life. Do not confuse this with control, however there are times in your life when it will behoove you to ask for what you want. When I interviewed for this job, I asked to work from the farm; they said yes. When I had my first baby, I asked to work part-time; they said yes. When my youngest went to school, I asked to come back full-time; they said yes. There have been plenty of no's along the way, too, but there's a lesson here: Until you ask, the answer is always no.

Know people. Really know them, beyond a surface relationship. People are wonderful! Don't limit yourself to the people in your immediate circle. One of the best things I did in college was get involved outside my ag circles. Do that. Meet people who think differently than you. This is the stuff.

Do good work. If you work hard and you learn your craft and you do good work, you will be recognized for it. It may take years. It may not show up on a billboard or a trophy. But good work always gets recognized, and you will be known for it. Don't be afraid to toil away quietly. People who shine from within don't need the spotlight.

Go on the road trip. I've never regretted a single road trip, even the one when I should've been studying for a math quiz in college. Or the one with nine college girls and a hotel called the Pink Porpoise and FM hand radios. You'll talk about them for years and the legends will grow, as they should. Be smart, of course. But go. Just go.

Do hard things. If it scares you a little bit and you think you can't do it, it probably means you should. I have learned more from taking on offices I didn't think I could handle, and stretching myself a little bit every day. It's ok to feel uncomfortable or ill-equipped. Doing those things makes you feel more comfortable and more equipped.

Work hard, all the time. We live in this world that says fame is good and it's instant and you deserve it. There's a difference between being famous and being infamous. Learn it. And know that fame is deceptive and fleeting and rarely all it's cracked up to be. Likes and shares and retweets and favorites don't really matter. Instead, just do good work. (see "Do good work," above)

Shift gears as necessary. I went to the University of Illinois to be a doctor. Stop laughing. It's true. And I was determined to not be one of those student statistics who dropped out of pre-med. But by October of my freshman year, I was sitting in the office of one of my favorite ag communications professors, asking to switch to ag com. I hadn't heard of it two months prior but I knew as I lived and breathed that it was right for me: these are my people. Don't be afraid to say you were wrong and make it right.

Protect your hope. Life is difficult. Those of us who have lived a little more life tend to go through things that chip at our hope. My mother died from cancer, my best friend in childbirth, my college roommate from a drunk driver. Life can be hard. But there is good - and even hope - in the face of much darkness, if you'll look for it. Look for joy, look for hope, and guard them carefully.

Researchers study ‘mysterious’ lower limb dieback disease in almond

Researchers study ‘mysterious’ lower limb dieback disease in almond

Since lower limb dieback (LLDB) was first identified in almonds more than 10 years ago, the disease has confounded growers and researchers alike.

“Lower limb dieback is one of the most mysterious diseases of almonds,” said Florent Trouillas, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) plant pathologist. “There are a lot of hypothesis around and different ideas and different suggestions, but nothing really straightforward.”

David Doll, UCCE farm adviser in Merced County, agrees.

“It's a complex problem. There are likely three to four issues involved,” he said.

Trouillas is a new plant pathologist at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Education Center near Parlier. He is approaching the malady with an open mind.

His LLDB work is part of a larger project looking at trunk and scaffold cankers, funded in part by the Almond Board of California.

Before determining which direction the LLDB research will take, Trouillas plans to survey growers.

“First we have to define what we’re talking about with LLDB,” the plant pathologist said.

“Some issues are related to shading and others are tied to over watering and over-fertilization. There are also cases where the problem can be caused by high infections of hull rot or a high scale population.”

Trouillas recently visited an almond orchard near Five Points where a heavy infection of hull rot caused by the Rhizopus ­or bread mold fungus ­ was likely responsible for LLDB. In some orchards north of there, he’s seen high scale populations associated with LLDB.

In addition, Trouillas is talking to colleagues in Australia who share that the country’s almond industry is equally concerned about LLDB.

As the name implies, lower limb dieback affects limbs in the lower half of the canopy. It is typically found in 7-8 year-old trees and then progresses as the orchard ages.

LLDB is more pronounced in Butte and particularly Padres, but also has been seen to a lesser extent in the Aldrich, Fritz, NePlus Ultra, Nonpareil, Sonora, Wood Colony, Mission, and Carmel varieties.

Limbs can look fine as the growing season begins. From late May though late July, leaves begin to turn yellow and the limbs become girdled from enlarging cankers. Eventually the entire branch collapses and dies. Symptoms may progress through much of the summer.

One theory suggests over saturation of soils whether from unexpected rains or over irrigation during the spring. The soil may remain saturated for longer periods which reduces the amount of oxygen in the soil which can cause deeper roots to die.

This makes the tree dependent on shallower roots unable to pull needed soil moisture during the hot summer. The tree can respond by shutting down the lower limbs.

Doll says the problem seems more pronounced in years with a cool spring, followed by a hot spell. This year, May was unseasonably cool. LLDB showed up in July - about a month later than usual.

Other suspect contributors to LLDB could include soil compaction, shade out, soil with low rates of infiltration, severe hull rot infections, or severe scale infestations.

Even without a causal agent, Doll says growers should irrigate based on soil- and plant-based moisture readings to reduce tree stress. They should also conduct dormant spur sampling for scale, follow proper orchard sanitation, and remove dead limbs.

Based on several fungicide field trials, Roger Duncan, UCC farm adviser in Stanislaus County, says LLDB does not appear to be caused by a foliar or canopy disease.

Duncan says spring or fall treatments with several fungicides had no significant effect in reducing the symptoms. Among the products tested were copper hydroxide, liquid lime sulfur, Pristine, NytriPhyte P, plus PlantShield, a commercial formulation of the biological fungicide Trichoderma harzianum.

Applications of Captain 80 WDG, Pristine, and Agri-fos in May, all applied with a bark penetrant, produced no significant differences compared to the untreated control.

Duncan is currently conducting a trial with dormant sprays in two 6-7 year-old Butte and Padre orchards with minor LLDB symptoms. Parts of the orchards received dormant sprays of 12 pounds of Kocide 2000 plus oil mixed in 100 gallons of water while other areas were not sprayed.

After two years, there were no visible differences between the treated and untreated plots, and LLDB symptoms were substantial throughout.

Duncan plans to continue the trial through at least this season to determine if there is a long-term cumulative effect of dormant copper sprays on LLDB.

Nickel deficiency in pecans can cause small and rounded leaflets a malady nicknamed mouse earrsquo Photo Richard Heerema
<p>Nickel deficiency in pecans can cause small and rounded leaflets, a malady nicknamed mouse ear.&rsquo; Photo: Richard Heerema.</p>

Using nickel to solve 'mouse ear' issue in pecans

Although nickel deficiency in pecans is fairly common in some orchards, associated ‘mouse ear’ symptoms can be corrected with foliar applications of the micronutrient, university Extension specialists report.

“We see symptoms of nickel deficiency commonly in sandy, gravelly, shallow, or highly calcareous soils, including caliche clay," said Richard Heerema, New Mexico State University Extension pecan specialist based in Las Cruces.

“When you begin seeing mouse ear symptoms on very young leaves, a spray will not fix mouse-eared leaves but the new growth will look healthier."

Whether the improvement in appearance translates to better overall tree health is an unanswered question, says Jim Walworth, University of Arizona Extension soil specialist based in Tucson.

“We see trees with very low nickel levels that don’t have symptoms,” Walworth said. “It's not really clear what leaf levels the grower should target.”

“Whether growers should make a nickel application if they have nickel deficiency is an even harder question. I'm not sure if the deficiency is really damaging the trees.”

Walworth is involved in a research project to gain a better understanding of the role of nickel in tree health and yield. Since pecans are slower to bear fruit, he says production results are still a few years off.

Nickel is needed in small amounts to activate the enzyme urease which helps mobilize nitrogen within the pecan tree. Without adequate nickel levels, spring foliage may be sparse, bud break may be slowed, leaflets may be small and rounded resembling mouse ears, and the wood can be brittle.

The malady is more pronounced in younger trees plus those in sandy or high-lime content soils, or trees growing in colder growing areas, including in New Mexico’s Valencia and Quay counties.

Heerema sees scattered cases of mouse ear in orchards in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley. The nutrient deficiency is more commonly found in eastern New Mexico and Texas.

As with many other micronutrients, he notes that soil samples will not provide an accurate picture of nickel availability for tree uptake.

“With all metal nutrients - ­zinc, copper, iron, manganese, and nickel­ - they become unavailable in high pH soils and calcareous soils in the southwestern U.S.,” Heerema said.

Although lab results from leaf samples may provide information about deficiencies of several nutrients, the usefulness of nickel data is still viewed as questionable.

“We don’t have a very good interpretation of leaf analysis (for nickel),”" Walworth said. “We haven't pinned down the acceptable levels yet.”

For growers who pull samples for laboratory analysis, Heerema says first rinse leaves in a phosphate-free detergent, such as dish soap.

If foliar nutrients were applied before sampling, Heerema recommends running the leaves through a 0.1 percent hydrochloric or muriatic acid solution. Since acid is caustic, he urges growers to wear protective gloves and safety glasses.

Next, the leaves should be rinsed three times in deionized or distilled water, available at many discount stores.

“Cleaning the leaf is very important,” Heerema said.

Nickel levels higher than 2.5 parts per million are considered adequate, according to the NMSU Extension publication, “Diagnosing Nutrient Disorders of New Mexico Pecan Trees.”

In orchards with mild mouse ear symptoms, Heerema says a single foliar nickel application early in the season is typically enough. He has worked with nickel lignosulfonate, and a handful of other nickel sulfate products available on the market.

The nickel lignosulfonate label says the product can be successfully tank mixed with other nutrients or crop protection materials. Yet Heerema has heard from several growers who suggest that applying nickel separately from other materials brings better results.

In severe mouse earring cases, Heerema says growers can apply another foliar nickel treatment about one to two months after the first - timing it to impact the midseason flush. A third treatment, if needed, can be applied in the fall.

The pecan specialist said, “In many cases, a single application in the spring is sufficient.”

With nickel, a late-(season) application can carry over. The demand for nickel is so low and it's required in such small quantities that the amount that can move around and into storage sufficiently to help.

Vic Story, Jr., is the 2015 Florida Farmer of the Year

Vic Story, Jr., of Lake Wales, Fla., is a citrus leader during a time the industry faces a threatening bacterial disease called citrus greening.

Story is fighting back by spraying psyllid insects that spread the disease, by replanting infected groves and by planting alternative crops such as peaches. This year, he’s increasing his citrus plantings by 22% and doubling his plantings of peaches.

As a result of his success as a citrus grower, Story has been selected as the 2015 Florida winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Story joins nine other state winners as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

The Story Companies own about 2,000 acres and manage citrus production on another 5,000 acres. Most groves are planted to Valencia or Hamlin oranges yielding 400 boxes of fruit per acre. His other citrus includes Pineapple, Navel and Murcott oranges, white and red or pink grapefruit, Orlando tangelos and Sunburst tangerines.

During the early 1990’s, he needed additional income. So he started a caretaking company, providing citrus production practices to other grove owners. This company has grown and now has 25 employees.

He recently was hired to fertilize 490 acres. Story says variable rate application will save this grove owner 20% on fertilizer costs.

He bases fertilizer applications on extensive soil and plant tissue sampling. His irrigation has been converted from overhead sprinklers to water-conserving microjet sprinklers placed under the trees. Water with a high pH can harm tree roots, so Story adds urea and sulfuric acid to irrigation water. This gives the trees a healthier appearance.

In past years, Story followed a set routine of production practices with little variation in the amount of fertilizer or herbicides. He says, “Citrus growers must now be real farmers due to greening and other diseases. We raise citrus in five counties, and in blocks of five to 20 acres. You can no longer treat each block the same.”

Greening is serious, and many believe greening will doom citrus production in Florida. Story disagrees. He’s planting new citrus groves at a time others are pushing up their trees and converting their land to other uses.

Until last year, he raised grass sod and beef cattle. He liquidated these enterprises to plant this land to his new citrus groves.

Citrus plantings in Hardee County symbolize his approach. There, he has an established grove, a young grove and a grove just now being planted.

A farmer for 50 years, Story began farming with his dad after attending the University of Florida and serving in the Army Reserves. He and his father specialized in buying depressed groves and turning them into productive groves.

Over the years, he has increased citrus planting density. Story says many new groves have about 300 trees per acre, while older groves were planted at 150 trees per acre.

He markets processed citrus as premium fruit juice. He uses multi-year contracts with floor prices and clauses that allow for higher prices when industry average prices rise. He sells peaches through an established cooperative.

Story helped develop the Sun Lion fresh fruit brand and sells this citrus to the Whole Foods grocery chain. He hopes to expand this label by producing juice and by selling to other grocery stores.

Peaches are a new crop in Central Florida. Story planted his peaches on small blocks where greening rendered citrus unprofitable. His peaches are University of Florida-developed varieties that require low chill hours.

By partnering with another company, Story is able to use H-2A foreign guest workers to harvest his crops.

He also participates in an incentive program from the Florida’s Natural cooperative. It offers loans to growers planting new citrus trees. “Your trees are your most important asset,” says Story. “Keep your trees productive as long as you can.”

Greening is a challenge, but Story views it as another in a long list of citrus threats such citrus canker, tristeza virus and the like. He believes greening can be managed if not completely controlled.

Read more about Story at the Sunbelt Ag Expo website. The Sunbelt Expo will be Oct. 20-22 this year.

Walnuts are protected from the Navel orangeworm until an entryway is created in the hull either through hull split sunburn pictured here codling moth feeding or blight
<p>Walnuts are protected from the Navel orangeworm until an entryway is created in the hull either through hull split, sunburn (pictured here), codling moth feeding, or blight.</p>

NOW pressure builds in walnuts, prompts call for winter sanitation

For years, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisers have reminded almond growers about the importance of winter orchard sanitation as part of year-round Navel orangeworm (NOW) control.

Now they are extending the same advice to walnut growers, many who have recently seen increased damage to the crop.

The recommendation comes as NOW pressure is higher this season, partly due to a mild winter followed by an early spring which allowed the pest to have four generations instead of the usual three.

“In most years, the timing doesn’t work out (for a fourth generation), but this year it's a little bit of a perfect storm,” said Dani Lightle, UCCE farm adviser for Glenn, Tehama, and Butte counties.

This has made walnut more of a potential host. In most years, walnuts are not as susceptible.

During winters with more normal rainfall, many mummies left on trees after harvest fall on the orchard ground, consumed later by mold. Yet after the last dry winter, Lightle walked into walnut orchards this spring and found good quality walnuts still attached to trees.

These same nuts provide overwintering habitat for NOW larvae.

An early spring hastened moth development. It included first generation maturation in about 750 degree days rather than the predicted 1050 degree days. Coupled with the early spring biofix, this meant fourth-generation eggs were laid in mid-to-late August.

Emily Symmes, UC area integrated pest management adviser for the northern Sacramento Valley, says increased walnut and almond acreage also could affect NOW populations.

“In the upper Sacramento Valley, farms are typically smaller than in the south Central Valley, but we're getting more contiguous acres of almonds and walnuts,” Symmes said.

“I think that's why we're seeing more Navel orangeworm. I believe the pest in walnut is pretty much here to stay. Just how bad it could be I just don't know.”

She is conducting trials this year to try to better understand how trap catches equate to NOW orchard populations.

Symmes work will continue next season, hoping to learn more about NOW population dynamics, and whether the problems are caused by native populations within walnut orchards, or whether the moths are migrating in from nearby host crops.

“Right now, there’s a lot of speculation,” she said.

As long as the hull remains sound and intact, walnuts are protected from NOW, says Lightle. Yet once an entryway is provided ­through hull split, then sunburn, codling moth feeding, or blight nuts can become susceptible to larval feeding.

This is one reason why farm advisers recommend a prompt nut harvest after hull split.

Once inside the hulls, worms enter the stem end of the nut through softer tissue and feed on the kernel - producing frass and webbing - which renders the nut unmarketable.

Hulls of early walnut varieties were already splitting in Northern California in mid-September. Symmes hoped to conduct demonstrations on later varieties to examine various hull split sprays to protect the nuts until harvest.

Unlike almonds, Lightle says UC does not have current insecticide recommendations for NOW in walnut.

Reviewing post-harvest grade sheets is one way to determine whether a problem exists, yet the information only notes the insect damage percentage and does not differentiate between NOW and codling moth.

Symmes encourages pest control advisers and grower who suspect damage ­to collect nut samples at harvest to crack out and identify the pests. The samples also can be stored in a refrigerator for later inspection.

NOW can be differentiated by a crescent shape behind its ear and shoulder, or head capsule, which is not found on codling moth.

A codling moth-infested nut also has a limited amount of frass and webbing, compared to a NOW-infested nut which may have multiple worms. Regardless of the number, NOW tends to be a messier pest.

As part of year-round NOW management in almonds, UC IPM recommends that growers shake or poll trees during the winter to remove un-harvested nuts, and leave no more than two mummies per tree.

Growers also should flail or chop afterwards to destroy nuts on the ground.

Lightle does not know how realistic this might be for walnut growers as walnut trees tend to be taller and not as many growers own shakers. The university does not have a mummy nut threshold for walnuts.

Lightle and Symmes agree that growers should remove and destroy trash and nuts around orchards, hullers, and dryers to help reduce the overwintering NOW habitat.

Tar spot on corn
<p>Tar spot on corn.</p>

Corn diseases: Tar spot Q+A

A few weeks ago, Tar Spot, a new disease of corn caused by the fungus Phyllachora maydis, was reported for the first time in the U.S., first in Indiana and then in Illinois. It was later found as far east as Allen County, IN, bordering Paulding County in northwest Ohio. Pierce Paul, Ohio State University, offers these answers about the new disease.

What does it look like? Even though corn is drying down, if Tar Spot is present, you can still detect it on dry, senescent leaves almost as easily as you can on healthy leaves. So, please check your fields to see if this disease is present. According to Dr. Wise, my counterpart at Purdue University, “Symptoms of tar spot begin as oval to irregular bleached to brown lesions on leaves in which black spore-producing structures are formed... giving the symptomatic areas of the leaf a rough or bumpy feel to the touch… resembling pustules on leaves with rust. Lesions…may coalesce to cause large areas of blighted leaf tissue. Symptoms may also be present on leaf sheaths and husks.”

What causes Tar Spot and how damaging is it? Tar spot is caused by the fungus Phyllachora maydis, but the greatest impact of this disease in terms of yield loss occurs when P. maydis-infected plants are infected by a second fungus called Monographella maydis. So far, thankfully, only the first fungus has been reported in the U.S. (IN and IL). In regions such as Mexico where Tar Spot has been known to cause substantial yield losses, the two fungi act as a team, with Phyllachora maydis first infecting the plants, followed by infection with Monographella maydis. Damage tends to be most severe under cool, humid conditions at high elevations.

Where did it come from and will it survive and become established? At this point it is unclear how Tar Spot got here. It is not known to be seed-borne or infect other plant species, so corn seeds and weeds are unlikely to be the sources of inoculum. However, the fungus can survive and be moved around on fresh and dry plant materials such as leaves and husks. In addition, since spores of the fungus can be carried by water and wind, there is some speculation as to whether it came in on a tropical storm. Since Tar Spot is generally considered a tropical disease (common in Mexico, parts of South America and the Caribbean), it is unlikely that the fungus will survive the harsh Midwest winter and become established here. However, we’ll have to wait and see and do the research to learn more about this disease.

What should I do if I find Tar Spot? If you see anything that fits the description of, or resembles (Picture), Tar Spot, please inform your state specialist, field specialist, or county extension educator, and most importantly, please send samples to my lab (1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, OH) for testing and verification.

From the OSU C.O.R.N. site.

USDA believes cargo containers to blame for PEDV introduction

USDA believes cargo containers to blame for PEDV introduction

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says reusable cargo containers are among a few plausible ways the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus entered the United States.

APHIS released the findings in a root cause investigation report that outlines potential scenarios for how the Swine Enteric Coronavirus Disease viruses, including PEDV, entered the United States.

APHIS examined 17 potential root cause scenarios, looking to see if they meet all four criteria needed to bring the virus from an overseas location to U.S. pig farms, as well as if there was evidence to support the scenario.

USDA completes root cause investigation, finding that cargo containers represent a possible way PEDV entered the U.S.

While the investigation did not uncover definite proof for any route of entry, the scenario that best fit the criteria for virus entry into the U.S. was virus spread through reuse of contaminated Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers.

FIBCs are commonly used to transport many types of material including sand for flood control, soybeans, pet treats, or almost any kind of bulk material. They are designed to be reused. It is not a common practice to clean and disinfect these FIBCs between uses in the United States.

Evidence collected as part of the investigation suggests that the FIBCs could be potentially contaminated in their origin country and, upon arrival in the United States, are likely being reused, APHIS said.

If a contaminated FIBC was used to transport bulk feed or ingredients to the swine feed mill networks, a small bit of contaminated material could have been mixed into feed destined for many locations and spread the virus onto farms.

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APHIS said it completed follow-up testing in attempt to provide evidence for this scenario. This follow-up testing further supports the hypothesis that PEDV could easily remain stable through the time needed to travel to the United States and infect pigs.

The first cases of novel Swine Enteric Coronavirus Disease were confirmed in the U.S. in April 2013.

Related: Controlling PEDV Involves Full-Farm Commitment, Hard Decisions

SECD viruses quickly spread to many swine premises throughout the country, killing 7 million piglets within the first year and causing tremendous hardship for many American pork producers.

APHIS, the states, and the swine industry have worked jointly to slow the spread of these diseases, including enhancing biosecurity practices.

APHIS also issued a Federal Order on June 5, 2014, requiring the reporting of SECD cases to assist with tracking and understanding these viruses.  The number of new cases has dropped dramatically in the past year.