Monthly Archives: December 2020

JenREES 12-27-20

There’s perhaps a certain anticipation to see the end of each year and the dawning of a new one. That speaks to optimism and hope many have.

While covid changed many things in 2020, there’s many positive things that happened too. One has been watching families, communities, and neighbors rally around each other as hard times and losses were realized. I hope that’s something that never changes within our communities. Both personally and professionally, covid also provided an opportunity for increased focus and intentionality on what was genuinely important in my life. Perhaps for others as well?

In Extension, and most likely for all, the challenges forced us to stretch, learn new technologies, and think outside the box more. For example, video production via smartphones out in the fields, pastures, and feedlots exponentially increased and more of my colleagues learned video production/editing. The 4-H, Family, and Food/Nutrition teams brought many virtual learning opportunities to family living rooms and provided fitness challenges for families. We also made some changes for county fair that worked better. Being forced to think outside the box was beneficial in many ways!

I’m also so grateful for my administrators allowing and trusting me to do my job in serving people in the midst of covid. That may sound strange to say, but I have colleagues in other states who weren’t allowed to leave their homes for work…essentially research shut down and anything done Extension-wise happened virtually. So I’ve been incredibly grateful that much of my job remained the same with field visits and conducting on-farm research studies!

As we approach a new year, how can some of the challenges and positives of 2020 impact our 2021? Are there things in our lives that aren’t necessarily bad, but are keeping us ‘busy’ and taking time from the more ‘important things’? What realistic yet necessary goals should we individually set for 2021? Here’s wishing you a blessed 2021!

Screen capture of the first page of Dr. David Kohl’s Business IQ spreadsheet. The second page has specific action considerations. (Please click to enlarge).

Business IQ may be one key to success in the 2020’s: This may perhaps help with some goal setting. In a recent webinar, Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus Ag and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech, shared a ‘Business IQ’ spreadsheet with 15 key performance indicators ranging from knowing cost of production and having a written marketing plan to one’s attitude. It’s an assessment where farmers (or any business owner) can honestly score oneself. He then suggests to write down 3 areas to continue and 3 areas to improve (no more than three each). I’m unsure I can share it on a website, but am willing to email or print a copy if you’re interested.

He also shared two poll results. In the first, 976 ag lenders were polled in the summer of 2020 on “Characteristics That Are Important to Agricultural Producers for Resiliency & Agility”. The top three answers included: knowing cost of production (62%); executing a marketing risk management plan (58%); and strong working capital (41%). In the second, 300 Kansas farm and ranch women selected their top three “Specific Actions You Are Taking in Your Business, Family & Personal Life for Resiliency & Agility”. Their collective top three answers included: Reexamining goals-business, family & personal (68%); Building cash and working capital (41%); and Refining family living budget (39%). If you’d like to learn more, his recorded presentation is available till January 10th at: https://go.unl.edu/dec10recording.

Extension Survey: It’s also that time of year for annual reporting. If you could please help me out by completing this 5 question anonymous survey, I’d appreciate it: https://app.sli.do/event/s8g48y8z. Thank you!

JenREES 12-20-20

Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas!!!

Farm Bill Webinar Link: Received some questions this month regarding decisions for 2021 ARC/PLC election sign-up but haven’t looked at or worked with decision tools yet. Last week there was a webinar on program elections and the recorded link can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/yg90. For those of you who elected ARC-IC for 2019-2020 due to prevent plant or significant yield loss in 2019, it will be important to reconsider your options. This webinar does a great job of explaining and going through them. While our last election we could look back to get an idea, we don’t have that opportunity going forward. It’s nice that it’s a one year election so it can be changed as prices/yields fluctuate. Hope to share more information in January after working with real data to get a feel for things. Curious how the significant windstorm and drought in areas may impact decisions for specific counties going forward. For now, you can find more information, including the decision tools, at: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/arcplc_program/index. If you’ve used the decision tools in the past, you will use the same login info. you created in the past.

Ag Land Leasing and Budgeting Webinar was also held last week. If you missed it or were interested in watching the recording, you can do so at the following YouTube link for 30 days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH-RVIhnIG8&t=166s.

Ag Budgeting Workshop: calculating the cost of production per crop enterprise was a webinar held after the ag leasing webinar. You can also view this recording via YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIgbkp0QNH0.

Live Christmas Trees: Just a reminder to daily check live Christmas trees for their watering needs to avoid a fire hazard. Kelly Feehan, Extension horticulture educator shares, “The rule-of-thumb is a tree will use one quart of water per day for every inch of trunk diameter near the base. If you have a tree with a 3-inch base, it can use 3 quarts of water per day. The trunk should have been freshly cut at a slant just prior to putting it in the stand. If the stand is empty for more than six to eight hours, the tree’s pores plug up again. Water uptake is much reduced and the tree dries out sooner. If a tree stand dries out for half a day or more, the only thing that can be done is to remove the tree from the stand and recut the base; which is not a fun task with the lights and ornaments. When watering, nothing needs to be added to water in the tree stand to promote freshness.”

Christmas Cactus: Kelly also shares the following, “to keep Christmas cactus blooming as long as possible, place it in bright but indirect light. Too much sun can cause leaves to turn yellow. Keep soil or potting mix constantly moist but not waterlogged. Even though they are cactus, they are jungle natives and prefer just moist conditions with indirect light. Avoid fertilizing Christmas cactus during the winter; but do fertilize every other week from spring through fall. Plants seem to flower best if they are a little pot bound; but if roots become over-crowded in the container, blooming will decrease. If you haven’t repotted in several years, or you notice a decrease in flowering from the previous year, repot the plant into a slightly larger pot, but wait until spring. If possible, move the plants outside for summer. Keep in a shady area as Christmas cactus will not tolerate full sun.”


Merry Christmas! So grateful for Jesus humbling Himself to be born as a baby-to die, rise again, and ascend into Heaven-that we may have hope and eternal life by placing our faith and repentance in Christ alone!
And, I can appreciate it may be a difficult and different Christmas for some for a variety of reasons. It’s ok to acknowledge the difficulty and pain. Wanted to share this powerful and encouraging song. It reminds us in the midst of everything, to Behold Him, the One who came to seek and save us! He holds you in the midst of your pain! Christ is our living Hope!

JenREES 12-13-20

The sun glistening on the snow holds such beauty after a warm, dry beginning to December! Moisture is very much needed! For curiosity sake, I looked at the Drought Monitor for this past week and compared it to the same week in previous years. The pics are shared at jenreesources.com and it’s quite interesting comparing and thinking back through the years. Hopefully we can receive more precipitation prior to planting season.

If you missed it, the Farmers and Ranchers College program featuring Dr. David Kohl and Eric Snodgrass can be found for 30 days at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cFKs13i_Ak. I appreciate how Eric shares global weather and climate information in an easy to understand way! He also shared an interesting story of how El Nino is related to the Christmas season, so you’ll have to watch the recording to learn that. Some stats he shared for the State of Nebraska: June was the 18th driest on record followed by the wettest July on record. That was followed by the driest August on record with September as the 18th driest on record (would have been driest but thankfully we received precipitation after Labor Day weekend). He looked at weather data from 1901-2020 for Nebraska and the U.S. which showed a trend of 2.5” precipitation gain from April-October (with higher gains as one goes east in the U.S.). He also looked at the past 40 years which showed heavy rainfall events (more than 2” per event) has tripled.

There was an effort my colleagues began a few years ago called “Weather Ready Farms” https://weather-ready.unl.edu/. It was designed to improve or increase resilience towards the impacts of extreme weather on Nebraska’s farms. A number of things go into that with some examples at the website. A few examples of things farmers have done since the 2012 drought and the 2019 floods include keeping the ground covered with residue and cover crops to help reduce evapotranspiration, increase water infiltration, and reduce wind/water erosion as we experience these more extreme events.

BeefWatch Webinar Series is designed to highlight management strategies in grazing, nutrition, reproduction, and economics to increase cow/calf and stocker production efficiency and profitability. More information and registration for the BeefWatch Webinar Series can be found at: https://beef.unl.edu/beefwatch-webinar-series. Dates are January 5, 12, 19 and 26 with each webinar beginning at 8:00 p.m. CST. The focus for January’s webinar series is “Preparing and Managing for the Calving Season”. Jan. 5: Preventing calf scours (Is there a way to reduce the likelihood of calf scours without adding additional vaccines or other cash expenses to your current program?)
Jan. 12: Calving tool box and record keeping (favorite tools and tricks for smoother season)
Jan. 19: Calving complications and when to call the vet
Jan. 26: Cow nutrition needs at calving and in early lactation

Poinsettias: Kelly Feehan shares the following, “It’s Poinsettia time. Hard to believe these bright, colorful plants originated from a weed. And amazing what plant breeding and good marketing can do. To enjoy your Poinsettia as long as possible, place them in an area with bright sun for at least half the day. If possible, provide a night temperatures in the 50’s or 60’s. This is often the most challenging condition to meet in the home, but keep plants as cool as possible at night. If plants are near a window, don’t let the leaves touch cold window panes; and keep Poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts.  Poinsettias need to be well-watered. Because they are in a light weight soil-less mix, they will dry out quickly. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering; then water thoroughly until water runs out of drainage holes. Be sure to punch holes in decorative foil wraps to prevent soggy soil conditions or at least pour excess water out of the foil after each watering.”


Certification Trainings

This week, sharing more regarding certification trainings for ag professionals and master gardeners. Meeting in ‘hubs’ has been our vision in the midst of covid to reduce the number of people attending any one location for larger programs such as Crop Production Clinics and Nebraska On-Farm Research Updates. Example: instead of one day where 200+ people meet in York for Crop Production Clinics, attendees have the option of attending one of 6 days of central or eastern-focused Crop Production Clinics hosted by several local county Extension Offices each of those days, or they can attend virtually. As of current recommendations, if the risk dial is in the Red, we can only meet virtually.

Pesticide Training: For commercial and non-commercial pesticide applicators with the ‘ag plant’ or ‘demo/research’ categories, the Crop Production Clinics are your option for recertification. They will be virtual this year (and in person via ‘hubs’ if risk dial isn’t Red) https://agronomy.unl.edu/cpc. Initial certification is still via testing: https://pested.unl.edu/certification-and-training#commercial.

For private pesticide applicators, our goal is in person training first. Should the risk dial be in the ‘Red zone’ at the time a training is scheduled, the training will be moved to a virtual option and those registered will receive the connection information. We also have a self-study option again which is an option provided by the local Extension office for those who are uncomfortable attending in person and/or have difficulty with using computers for virtual programming. Depending on the risk dial, and also depending on the town, there may be a mask requirement in place. To follow directed health measures on meeting capacities, Pre-Registration is Required. Not all county Extension Offices are publicizing their meetings. You will need to call the County Extension Office where you’d like to attend a meeting to Pre-Register. My preference is to share my meeting dates:

York County: Jan. 7 at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. all at the Cornerstone Event Center at the Fairgrounds in York. RSVP to (402) 362-5508.
Seward County: Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Feb. 10 at 9:30 a.m. all at Harvest Hall at the Fairgrounds in Seward. RSVP to (402) 643-2981.

Chemigation Training: For those desirous to apply pesticides and/or fertilizer through irrigation systems, a chemigation license is necessary. If this is your first time, it’s helpful to have the books ahead of time and you can contact the York Co. office if you’d like them. Training for our area will be conducted by Steve Melvin on January 8th at 9:30 a.m. at the Cornerstone Event Center at the Fairgrounds in York. Pre-Registration is Required to (402) 362-5508.

RUP Dicamba Training is no longer being conducted by Extension. Nebraska Department of Ag is leaving training up to the Registrants, and if I understand correctly, they will no longer require those trained to be listed on the NDA website.

Master Gardeners: If you have a strong interest in gardening and enjoy helping others, you are invited to become a Nebraska Extension Master Gardener volunteer. This program will increase your knowledge and understanding of best cultural practices for growing flowers, vegetables, turf, plant disease and insect pest identification, and much more. One area training option is through Lancaster Co. Extension beginning in Feb. 2021 via Zoom during the day. The fee is $190.00. Application deadline is Jan. 15, 2021 at: https://ssp.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_08OngDRFkSOJIRT. Please call Mary Jane Frogge at 402-441-7180 for any questions.
Current Master Gardeners can plan on recertification training via zoom on Feb. 16, 23, Mar. 2, and 9 from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. 

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