Johnsongrass: Friend or Foe?

Outdoors

Johnsongrass:  Friend or Foe
Plus Master Cattleman Program in Dalton this Fall
By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

A common sight right now is thick stands of what might be confused for corn growing on roadsides, pastures, and hayfields. What you’re seeing is most likely Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense.)  Two important questions often asked are “what good is this plant” and “is it a beneficial forage plant or merely a persistent weed?”

Johnsongrass is a summer perennial grass that belongs to the sorghum family and can serve as a good forage crop in our pastures and hayfields. Livestock will graze young Johnsongrass plants if given the chance, as it is relatively high in crude protein and highly digestible. The issues with Johnsongrass arise from its persistent growth and potential toxicity issues for livestock.  When stressed by drought or frost damage, the plant produces hydrocyanic acid which is a derivative of cyanide, also known as prussic acid. This compound can be very toxic and even lethal to cattle.

Johnsongrass grows from a very thick set of fibrous roots and rhizomes (underground root nodules that form new plants) that make the plant more difficult to kill because it can “fall back” on energy stores in these rhizomes whenever the plant is stressed, whether by grazing, mowing, or herbicides. These rhizomes can also form new plants if disturbed or cut (by plowing or leaving part of the root in the ground). These rhizomes overwinter and send out new shoots in the spring and early summer. Johnsongrass also reproduces by seed, with a single plant producing 80,000 seeds per year. Because of these tendencies, Johnsongrass can be very persistent in a field if not controlled early and often.

Even though the symptoms of poisoning from Johnsongrass look like nitrate poisoning, the prussic acid can dissipate over time within the forage. If a large field of Johnsongrass is cut for hay, the hay should be dried to a safe baling content (15 to 18%) to ensure the prussic acid content has dissipated. Young plants, plants killed after frost, or plants growing after a long drought are the most susceptible to high prussic acid levels.

Control of this plant is difficult if it’s allowed to take control of a field in large areas.  Tillage is not recommended as it will most likely make the problem worse by distributing more rhizomes. Pulling up of plants is possible, but making sure that all the root is dug up is important. Mowing or grazing to prevent seed head production will help keep the plant at bay, but it will not remove the plant from the field.

There are some herbicides available to control Johnsongrass, but most of them cannot be used in tall fescue, which is the major part of our hayfields and pastures in Gilmer County.  Treatment of plants with glyphosate (Roundup) will allow for translocation of the product into the root system. One good option to get the glysophate to the Johnsongrass and not harm the desirable forage is through a wick applicator.  Fortunately in our area the Limestone Valley Soil and Water Conservation District has one that can be rented. It is housed at Hinton Milling Company in Jasper. Contact them at 706-692-3626 to schedule a time to use it. You can also make or buy a wick applicator to try and control this (and other) pesky weeds.

I also want to mention that the UGA Extension office in Whitfield County is hosting a Master Cattleman Program this fall in Dalton from September 4th through October 23rd from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, which is every Tuesday for 8 weeks.  Paid registration before August 17th entitles participants to one free forage sample analysis; sample must be submitted no later than September 11th.  Registration is $85 per person and includes a dinner on the final night.  Pre-Registration deadline is August 24th and can be done on-line at: https://nwgeorgiacattle2018.eventbrite.com or for more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

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Voles or Moles?

Outdoors

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Are some of your plants suddenly dying?  Did the tulips forget to bloom this spring?  After you hunted for some bulbs, did you find little tunnels in and around your flower beds?  If so, you may be a victim of the pine vole.

Often confused with moles, pine voles can be found in underground tunnels.  In fact, they may use mole runs just to make it easier to move around. Pine voles are usually 4 to 6 inches in length and are covered with brown, dense fur with a bicolored tail.  Their under parts are gray.

Pine voles prefer areas with a heavy ground cover of grasses.  They like living in deciduous and pine forested areas, abandoned fields and orchards.  They will eat grasses, seeds, tubers, bulbs and any underground growing part.

There are 23 vole species across the country.  They can cause extensive damage to orchards, ornamentals and trees due to their girdling of seedlings and trees.  Girdling usually occurs in fall and winter. The easily identifiable sign of voles is numerous burrow openings of about an inch around shrubs and flowers.  Voles are active day and night, year round, and they do not hibernate during the winter. Their “home” range is usually ¼ acre or less.

Moles, on the other hand, are found throughout a lawn or garden.  They have runs and push up soil just like the voles, but they do not come out of the ground.  They stick to a diet of grubs and other crawly creatures found in the soil, and they will sometimes kill plants as their tunnels will create air pockets that roots cannot live in, so proper identification of the mammal is important.

After identifying the culprit, controlling these rodents can be challenging.  Keeping grass in an area short helps with control because they do not like to move across open areas because of flying enemies.  Frightening devices or repellents generally do not work and although owls, snakes and hawks are predators of voles, they seldom control vole populations.  However, trapping, using a mouse snap trap, is effective along an active run during the winter. Favorite baits are peanut butter-oatmeal mixtures or apple slices.  Place several traps around a hole and cover it with a box to fool them with shelter and prevent pets from getting in the traps and if by chance one gets into a home, setting a snap or live trap as you would for house mice results in successful control.

If you are seeing the pushed up soil runs made by moles, there are two basic types of control.  There are harpoon traps that can be placed over an active run, but these are very tricky to use.  The most effective control has been to apply granular insecticides labeled to kill grubs. These will limit the moles food source and they will leave the area if they don’t have anything to eat.  The down side to this method is that the granules will also kill the beneficial critters that live in the ground. Remember when using any insecticide to always read and follow the label directions.

For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Japanese Knotweed

Outdoors

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Driving around the area, I have been seeing a plant that has become a problem in both Gilmer and Fannin Counties.  The weed I’m talking about is Japanese knotweed, commonly known as crimson beauty, Mexican bamboo, or Japanese fleece flower.  It was probably introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental and a plant that has flowers that bees love. It’s fairly easy to spot as it has been growing in large patches all over the area.  The leaves are alternate, 6 in. (15.2 cm) long, 3-4 in. (7.6-10 cm) wide, and are broadly-ovate or heart shaped. Flowering occurs in late summer when small, greenish-white flowers develop in long panicles in the axils of the leaves.

This native of Japan was initially useful for erosion control, as an ornamental, and for landscape screening.  It spreads quickly to form dense thickets that can alter natural ecosystems or interfere with landscaping. It is a semi-woody, bushy perennial and a member of the Polygonaceae (Knotweed) family.  Another fact about the plant is that the stem is hollow. Knotweed spreads rapidly from stout long rhizomes. Seeds are distributed by water in floodplains, transported with fill dirt, and to a lesser extent are wind-blown. Populations escaped from neglected gardens, and discarded cuttings are common methods of distribution. Once established, populations are quite persistent and can out-compete existing vegetation.

Japanese knotweed can tolerate a variety of adverse conditions including full shade, high temperatures, high salinity, and drought. It is found near water sources, in low-lying areas, waste places, utility rights of way, and around old home sites. It can quickly become an invasive pest in natural areas after escaping from cultivated gardens. It poses a significant threat to riparian areas, where it can survive severe floods. It is rapidly colonizing scoured shores and islands.

Controlling this invasive fast growing plant is very difficult.  One method that is used is grubbing. This method is appropriate for small initial populations or environmentally sensitive areas where herbicides cannot be used. Using a digging tool, remove the entire plant including all roots and runners. Juvenile plants can be hand-pulled.  Any portions of the root system not removed will potentially resprout. All plant parts, including mature fruit, should be bagged and disposed of in a trash dumpster to prevent re-establishment.

There are several herbicides that can be used, but it takes some work for them to be effective.  One treatment method is the cut stump treatment. Use this method in areas where plants are established within or around non-target plants. Cut the stem 2 inches above ground level.  Immediately apply a 20% solution of glyphosate or a 10% solution of Arsenal AC, Polaris AC or Imazapyr 4SL and water to the cross-section of the stem. A subsequent foliar application may be required to control new seedlings and resprouts.

The other spray method is foliar spraying the plants.  Use this method to control large populations. It may be necessary to precede foliar applications with stump treatments to reduce the risk of damaging non-target species.  Apply a 1% solution of glyphosate or 20%Garlon4 and water to thoroughly wet all foliage. Do not apply so heavily that herbicides will drip off leaves. The ideal time to spray is after surrounding vegetation has become dormant (October-November) to avoid affecting non-target species.  A 0.5% non-ionic surfactant is recommended in order to penetrate the leaf cuticle.

For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Outdoors

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

As I ride through the county I’ve noticed some webs are back in the wild cherry trees but before you start having nightmares about the webbing we had last fall, you can rest assured that this insect is different.  This culprit is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. The webs serve as a home to the newly emerged larvae or as we like to call them, caterpillars. The eggs are timed to hatch when the cherry buds unfurl as they need to eat to grow and complete their life cycle.

Older larvae are generally black, with long brown hair and a white stripe down the middle of their backs. Along the midline is a row of blue spots with brown and yellow lines. At maturity, the caterpillars may reach a length of 2½ inches. The adults are reddish-brown moths which have two white oblique stripes on each forewing.  These are harder to notice, but they are the final step in the life cycle.

The adult moths emerge in May and early June and lay egg masses that resemble chocolate-colored collars that encircle the smaller limbs of their host. Each egg mass is about 1 inch long. Eggs overwinter and hatch in mid-March of the following year to start the cycle again. From each egg mass, several hundred tiny feeding machines emerge, and for four to six weeks they hungrily strip the trees of their leaves. The larvae are gregarious and upon hatching they gather in the forks of the limbs and develop the web that can be seen in the trees.  This serves as their home for the larvae. From this mass of silk, the developing larvae move outward to feed on developing leaves, but they return at night and during rainy weather. The nest gradually becomes larger and larger as silk accumulates. Although the nests are most commonly seen in the forks of wild cherries, this pest can be found in other ornamental, shade and fruit trees, especially apples. While not a serious pest in the natural forest, the unsightly web insect can reduce the beauty and esthetic value of shade trees and other hardwoods in the landscape.

About four to six weeks after hatching, full-grown larvae will crawl away from their nests and accumulate on the sides of homes, on driveways and sidewalks and on various woody ornamentals in search of sites to complete the next phase of life, the pupae phase.  This phase is a shell or cocoon in which the caterpillar matures into a moth. There is concern that they may be attacking other plants, but when they do leave their web, the larvae are finished with their feeding and will do no damage to plants on which they are found. The caterpillars are primarily a nuisance and do not usually pose a danger to the overall health of a larger, well-established tree as the tree can produce another flush of foliage.  However, young fruit and ornamental trees may be damaged, so it is a good idea to remove the web from these trees.

Usually, no chemical controls are necessary or very effective.  One reason is that the web is water proof and insecticides that are applied usually do not reach the larvae but you can break open the web and apply an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), BT or a pyrethroid if you would like. If you decide to use an insecticide, please read the label and follow the instructions.  In addition, the egg masses can be clipped from the limbs in late June to prevent nests from developing the following spring.

For more information about the webs in trees right now, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Ask the Doc! With Dr. Raymond Tidman

Health

Today on Ask the Doc! we are welcoming Dr. Raymond Tidman, who will be filling in for Doctor William Whaley while he is on vacation. This Morning #BKP and Dr. Tidman discuss health concern and answer: 1. After my last regular exam, my doctor said the results showed cervical dysplasia. What does that mean? Is it cancer? 2. My allergies have caused my throat to feel inflamed and caused sinus drainage. I have seen a doctor but I am still dealing with a cough a week or so later. Is there anything I can do to help get rid of this cough? 3. Can too little sleep be a cause of weight gain? This segment is brought to you by Georgia Cancer Specialists, affiliated with Northside Hospital.

Fetch Your News Interviews Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Georgia’s 2018 Gubernatorial Election

FYNTV, State & National

BKP Interviews Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Georgia’s 2018 Gubernatorial Election and important spotlighted information striking concern in rural Georgia.

FYN Interviews Rebbeca Yardley on Georgia’s 2018 Sine Die – Last Day of Legislative Session

Politics, State & National

It’s Sine Die day, that means it’s the last day of the 2018 Legislative Session! Interviews First Vice Chairman of Georgia Congress 9th District GOP Rebecca Yardley on the experience and what to expect from the Georgia Capitol today!

 

Ruff leads Panthers over Bobcats

UCHS Baseball

The Panthers faced off against the Gilmer County Bobcats in a non-conference matchup. The Panthers entered the contest with a 1-1 record.

Davis took the mound for the Panthers for the second time this season. Davis pitched well as he allowed one earned run during 4 innings of work.

Davis got info some trouble to start the game allowing a hit and a walk as the Bobcats pounced onto an early lead 1-0.

UCHS senior RJ Banton warms up on the mound during Tuesday night’s game against Gilmer High. Photo by Isaiah Garrett, TeamFYNSports.

Banton stepped in to relive Davis after 4 innings of work. Davis finished with 1 K and 2 BB’s over the course of 4 innings. Davis allowed one earned run.

Can Colwell helped the Panthers grab a lead in the bottom of the 4th with a 2-out, 2-run, single.

The Panthers got into some trouble early in the 6th inning after an error at 3rd base let the Bobcats gain some momentum as they went on to score 3 runs. The Panthers trailed 4-2.

After allowing 3 runs, 2 of which were earned, Banton returned to pitch in the 7th. Banton struck out a batter to start the 7th and finished with 2 groundouts.

Trialing by 2 the Panthers looked to regain the lead and a win. Allison and Ruff walked. Banton got on base with a single. Junior Kelley hit a 2-out, bases clearing, double in walkoff fashion to win the game.

The Panthers were led by, Ruff with 3 HBP BB’s 1RBI and Can. Colwell 1-3 with 2 RBI’s.

The Panthers improve to 2-1. The Panthers will host the Rabun County Wildcats Monday, Feb. 26th in a non-conference matchup.

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