Category Archives: Drought

Natural Resource District Updates

Rod DeBuhr with the Upper Big Blue NRD spoke at a few meetings recently.  He shared there’s a lot of rumors floating around, but if you have questions, please just ask the NRD.  There will be no well drilling moratorium and no restriction on adding new acres in the District.  The only exception to this is if the allocation trigger is reached, there will be no new transfers.  The UBBNRD encompasses 1.2 million irrigated acres and 57% of the water is used on only 29% of the acres; thus there’s still some inefficiencies within some producers’ operations.  These are producers using, on average, more than 8” since 2007.  The average water use since 2007 is just under 8” for the District.

Rod DeBuhr from Upper Big Blue NRD speaks at the Hamilton Co. Ag Day in Aurora.

Rod DeBuhr from Upper Big Blue NRD speaks at the Hamilton Co. Ag Day in Aurora.

Flow meters are required on all wells by January 1, 2016 or by when an allocation is triggered-whichever comes first.  The first allocation period is 30” of water for 3 years.  They will then evaluate where the water levels are.  If recovery doesn’t happen after the three years, then there will be a second allocation of 45” for 5 years.

For flow meter specifications:  all new meters must record in acre-inches.  They must also have an anti-reverse feature on them.  They must be installed based on the manufacturer recommendations-no exceptions.  Existing meters are grandfathered if they are determined to be accurate.  There is no cost share on new meters, but there is some cost share for repairing old meters.  Please contact the UBBNRD at (402) 362-6601 for questions or more information.

Little Blue NRD updates during the Soil and Water Conference in Clay Center.

Little Blue NRD updates during the Soil and Water Conference in Clay Center.

Daryl Andersen with the Little Blue NRD also shared some information with me.  These rules are effective as of January 17, 2014, which were put in place in 2006 or sooner.  For well constructions and flow meter requirements as of Mar. 2006, new or replacement water wells to be used for domestic, stock, or other such purposes shall be constructed to such a depth that they are less likely to be affected by seasonal water level declines caused by other water wells in the same area.

Any new irrigation well or water wells for all other uses except municipal, domestic, public water supply, or livestock are required to have a minimum of 10 times the pipe diameter of clear space in the discharge pipe to allow for potential installation of a flow meter at a future date.  There are some exceptions if a new meter is installed during the time of well completion; please contact the LBNRD at (402) 364-2145 for further info.  Spacing between all new irrigation wells should be set at 1000 feet.

Nitrogen fertilizer restrictions include:  Pre-plant anhydrous ammonia may not be applied prior to November 1.  Pre-plant nitrogen fertilizers in liquid or dry forms may not be applied prior to March 1 except under the following conditions: a “Fertilizer Permit” will be required by the LBNRD prior to fertilizer applications, a nitrogen inhibitor will be required if applying over 20 lbs of active nitrogen/acre and an annual report will be required by March 15 of each year if receiving the “Fertilizer Permit.”

For the Clay/Nuckolls Water Quality Sub-Area:  Two new rules were enacted March 1st, 2013 along with all of the prior rules.  First, water samples need to be collected from all high capacity wells by the producer, delivered to LBNRD and NRD will analyze it for nitrates for 2013 and 2014 growing season.  Second, water pumpage report is required from all wells for all producers in 2013 and 2014.  Report can be hour meters, flow meters or other devices.  Please contact the LBNRD for additional questions.

What do Mycotoxin Levels Mean?

Last week I was receiving text messages from a few of our farmers about corn harvest results from damaged corn.  Low levels of mycotoxins are being detected in samples thus far, thankfully.

A reminder, the presence of mold does not automatically mean a mycotoxin is present.  The fungi producing mold have the potential to produce mycotoxins.

A reminder, the presence of mold does not automatically mean a mycotoxin is present. The fungi producing mold have the potential to produce mycotoxins.

Here’s What the Numbers Mean…
For aflatoxin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a recommended limit of 20ppb (parts per billion) for dairy animals, 100 ppb for breeding animals, and 300 ppb for finishing animals.  To put this is simpler terms, a sample would need 20 affected kernels out of a billion kernels to be at the legal limit for dairy animals.  So far, most samples are coming up at 5-6ppb which is very low.

For fumonisin, 20ppm (parts per million) is the recommended limit set by FDA for swine, 30ppm for breeding animals, 60ppm for livestock for slaughter, and 100ppm for poultry for slaughter.  So, this would mean 20 affected kernels in a million kernels could cause a problem for swine.  Again, our levels are averaging closer to 5ppm right now which are low.

Deoxynivalenol (DON) also known as vomitoxin is another mycotoxin being tested from grain samples.  This mycotoxin causes reduced weight gain and suppresses animal feeding, especially in swine. Concentrations greater than 10ppm can result in livestock vomiting and totally refusing feed.  FDA has recommended that total feed levels of DON not exceed 5 ppm for cattle and chicken, and 1 ppm for swine.

It is very important to sample from several places in the grain to get an accurate sample for damage and mycotoxins. It is also very important that black light tests are not used to determine the presence or absence of mycotoxins.  Some of these mold fungi produce a compound that fluoresces under black light, but research has shown that this quality does not consistently predict the presence of mycotoxins (often provides false positives).  Finally, before any of your storm-damaged corn is put in a bin, call your insurance agent out to get a sample!

Protecting Your Health with a Mask

There is some great information from the University of Nebraska Med Center on what types of masks to use to protect your health from molds and potential mycotoxins.  Some people tend to have more sensitive immune and respiratory systems than others, so I’d highly recommend checking out these short videos.

Extent of Storm Damage Visual

This map came from Kansas State University in a newsletter where they were talking about the vegetation differences from the Drought of 2012 to 2013 in Kansas.  A colleague shared this with me pointing out how obvious the storm in Clay County, NE is on this map.  Look above Kansas to the brown area-that’s the LOSS of vegetation we have right now in Clay County which is quite extensive-and neat how it’s captured unexpectedly on this map.
This was a map published by Kansas State University showing vegetation difference from 2012-2013.  Look above to the dark area in Nebraska-Yep-that's Clay County and the loss of vegetation due to August 1, 2013 storm.

Storm Damaged Crops

The rain was welcome on Thursday but the wind and hail damage that came were devastating to a good portion of theSeverely damaged corn County.  I’m so sorry to all of you affected….for some of you, this is two years in a row of severely hail damaged or totaled out crops.  We are thankful the damage wasn’t worse.  You can see more pictures here.

So the big question is what do you do now?  Ultimately, each field will need to be assessed on a case by case basis.  The following are our NebGuides for hail damage to corn and soybeans.  For the most part we were in brown-silk to blister for corn and late pod-beginning seed in soybean (R4-R5).  The concerns I have right now are stalk quality, disease, grain filling, and the amount of diseased grain we may have due to mushy areas on hail-damaged cobs right now.   Several years ago, we watched how severely hail-damaged corn a little later in the season turned brown and died.  We also know that southernCorn ears damaged by hail that are turning mushy. rust is in the area and while much of the leaf tissue in the County is damaged, it is still in the County in other fields and south of us.  The Puccinia polysora fungus that causes southern rust, when severe enough, will infect and cause pustules on the stalks.  With the wounding and low leaf area for photosynthesis, stalk strength is a concern and fungicides may be a consideration depending on potential yield loss-again need to assess on a field by field basis.

I talked with a number of people on Friday regarding thoughts on silage, green chop, haying/baling, planting cover crops, etc.  Dr. Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist, said the most common salvage operation for corn damaged by hail, wind, drought, or other calamities is to chop it for silage.  Don’t be in a hurry, though.  Standing corn currently could be over 80 percent moisture.  The easiest way, and maybe the best way, to lower moisture content is simply wait until some stalks start to turn brown.  Waiting also allows surviving corn to continue to add tonnage.

But in some of our damaged fields, I don’t think we can wait to make silage.  Bruce also shared you can reduce moisture by windowing the crop and allow it to wilt one-half to one full day before chopping.  You also could mix grain or chopped hay to freshly chopped corn to lower the moisture content.  It takes quite a bit of material for mixing though – about 7 bushels of grain or 350 pounds of hay to lower each ton of silage down to 70 percent moisture from an original 80 percent moisture.  That’s 7 bushels grain or 350 pounds of hay for each ton of silage.

Or, you can allow that windrowed corn to dry completely and bale it as hay.  Be sure to test it for nitrates before feeding.   Grazing might be the easiest way to use damaged corn, and this is a good way to extend your grazing season.  You might even plant some corn grain or sorghum-sudangrass or oats and turnips between rows to grow more forage for grazing if you can wait until late fall before grazing.  Be sure to introduce livestock slowly to this new forage by feeding them before turning in to reduce the chances of digestive problems.  Also, strip graze the field to reduce trampling losses and get more grazing from the corn.

Gardening in Drought

As I set here writing, we went from wearing t-shirts yesterday to receiving freezing rain and sleet today!  The precipitation is much welcomed and it’s nice to see spring bulbs coming up and the grass turning green!  But we’re unfortunately not out of the woods yet regarding this drought, and may not be for some time.

This Thursday, April 11, Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County, will be talking to us about gardening during drought.  Come enjoy an evening of learning about drought-tolerant plants and ideas for your landscape!  The evening begins with a light supper at 5:30 p.m. and we plan to be finished around 7:00 p.m.  There will be no charge for this workshop, so please come and invite your friends and your youth who enjoy gardening as well!

Also, if you would like to bring some plants for exchange, you are welcome to do so and share with others!  Please call the Clay County Extension Office at (402) 762-3644 or Jenny at jrees2@unl.edu to let us know you’re coming so we can plan for the meal.  See you then!gardening in drought

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