Things to do in the Fall
The fall is one of my favorite times of the year with cooler temperatures, harvest and changing color of the landscape but as of the writing of this column we do need rain.
Some thoughts on things you can do now to make your landscape better … If you have a vegetable garden do not forget to cleanup those dead plants including tomatoes and either till them into the soil or as I do mulch them with my mower. This will help prevent insects and diseases from overwintering and being a source of problems next year.
Do not compost these materials as the insects and diseases often survive the process. If you have strawberries or other perennial plants needing winter protection wait till we have a hard freeze to mulch with straw or if other landscape plants mulch with 3-4 inches of loose material like peat moss as opposed to using leaves which can pack too tightly if wet which can lead to disease problems. This mulching can help minimize the damage to plant roots by freezing and thawing by keeping the soil temperature more even.
October and November is a great time to make that last fertilization of your lawn. This is the most important fertilizer application as the nutrients go mostly to development of the root system. Note that many fertilizer brands for this purpose do not contain phosphorus (the middle number in the analysis egg 32-0-10) due to the problem of this element getting into streams and lakes and causing algae problems.
The fertilizer can be applied any time when the ground is not frozen or about to freeze which could result in runoff. Until the ground freezes the fall is still a good time to treat your lawn, pastures and other weedy areas for perennial or biennial weeds like dandelions, plantain, poison hemlock, thistle etc. As long as the weeds are actively growing herbicides (weed killers) can work. You may not see immediate death of the plants but the weeds will be gone in a few days as the herbicide will work slower in cooler weather.
Finally try mulching your leaves as opposed to raking and bagging if possible. It will help your soil and grass. The leaves can add valuable organic material and nutrients to the soil.
Farm cash rent
I had a chance to sit in on a session on farming at the Farm Science Review in Sept. given by Barry Ward of the OSU Ext. Agriculture Economics Department. Oh, how the farm economy has changed over the last couple of years. Our good run in crop prices — corn, soybeans and wheat — from 2006-2013 has ended.
Crop farmers have had some really good years but livestock farmers have had some bad years as prices for livestock feed (corn & soybean oil) were high. These good years have come to an end and while we do not have October 2015 prices yet they look to be at the 2014 price level.
Crop prices are a huge driver in determining cash rent as well as value of farm land. As is always the case cash rents generally go up easier in good years as opposed to going down in times with lower crop prices. Couple that with the huge increase in taxes on land in CAUV (Current Agriculture Use Valuation) and from the land owner’s perspective there is pressure to keep cash rent the same as in previous years.
There are some changes in how some of the data for the CAUV formula is figured but it will not show up in 2015. For more info on the updates to the figuring of CAUV go to: http://aglaw.osu.edu/blog/archive/201504. Economics is the driving force behind the farm economy and the indicators for crop prices are showing a downward trend for 2016.How fast that will be reflected in land values and cash rents is hard to tell.
Some farmers went into 2015 paying more cash rent that could be penciled out with projected crop prices but were afraid to lose the land in hopes corrections to rent could be adjusted in the future. Things have not changed and some farmers are living on money made in past years. I can only recommend both land owners and farm operators sit down and look at the projected crop budgets for crops and livestock for 2016.To see these budgets and log in your own cost and income figures log on to: http://aede.osu.edu/research/osu-farm-management/enterprise-budgets.
The small things
Sometimes the small things in life catch my eye and this summer I noticed some small depressions or inverted cones in the soil near the foundation of my home . These depression were in dry and light textured soil. Upon further inspection I saw they were from antlions. These ingenious insects create a trap in the dry soil. When an unsuspecting ant, bug or other insect happens to fall into the downward shaped cone they are attacked by the ant lion and eaten. These antlions wait just under the soil at the bottom of the inverted cone and appear when they feel the soil moving. Truly a wonder of nature. For more on these insects go to: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/antlions.shtml.
A few weeks ago I wrote a short review of the induction of Tom Pitstick into the Greene County Agriculture Hall of Fame. His selection is important for many reasons with the most important being his ability to change his farming operation in times of low livestock and crop prices to survive. He has been a leader in the pork industry; is a township trustee, and farms over 2000 acres of land which produces corn, soybeans, wheat and includes some pasture and woodland.
His farming operation also includes a 2800 head hog nursery and seven finishing barns which hold over 4700 head of hogs. His newest farming endeavor is called Dovetail Energy which involves the construction of an anaerobic digester. The project is a joint venture between Pitstick Pork Farms Inc., Renergy & Quasar.
It is a green energy project which takes hog manure, organic and food by-products and converts them to renewable energy, heat nutrients and reclaimed water. Tom and his wife Lynn operate Pitstick Pork Farms Inc. along with several family members including daughter Amie and son-in-law Justin Magnone and son JT.
Jerry Mahan is a retired OSU Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources for Greene County. He can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.