Extension Agent: County Crop Tour begins June 17

Larry Stary is shown with the root plow that he built. He was contracted by about 20 area farmers to build a root plow that could be used to sever tree roots, which deplete crops of nutrients. The plow will be demonstrated at the crop tour.

By Joe Janak

The Victoria County Extension Crops Committee plans to showcase the County Crop Tour next week Thursday, June 17. Keith Johnson, local farmer and chairman of the committee and educational tour is not only involved with the planning, but also with the planting of several demonstrations on the tour. Besides the excellent crops that are evident in the county because of our great farmers and timely rains, numerous crop demonstrations and several special stops will be featured on this year's tour.

The tour will feature the following crop demonstrations: Nearly 60 corn, cotton, grain sorghum and soybean varieties, 17 soybean varieties planted three times at two week intervals, soybean fungicides, soybean inoculants and eight fertility rates applied to corn and grain sorghum.

Additionally, attendees will have two other opportunities to see interesting features on this year's tour. The first is three newly-erected, farmer-owned grain storage bins owned by Bill Obsta. The GSI grain storage facilities, engineered, designed and constructed by Gasaway Inc., will have the combined capacity of more than 200,000 bushels of grain. Each bin is 54-feet wide and more than 46-feet tall, and feature a unique 8-inch "loop system" to move grain from the truck to and from the bin and between bins. A truck with 60,000 pounds of grain can be unloaded or loaded in just 20 minutes.

The second special feature, if weather permits, will be a demonstration of the 5-foot tall "Giant Chisel Plow/Root Plow," custom built by Stary's Custom Work, Inez, for about 20 area farmers. It is designed to plow alongside existing tree lines adjoining fields to cut tree roots down to 3-feet deep. Tree roots are known to steal nutrients and water from adjoining crops at least two to three times the height of the tree away from the trunk into the field. Special "dig" provisions will be discussed.

Additional topics planned include current crop and pest management strategies, integrated pest management, "Refuge-in-a-Bag" and other new crop technology.

The Victoria County Crop Tour will start at 1:30 p.m. from the Sons of Hermann Hall in DaCosta, about seven miles south of Victoria on U.S. Highway 87. It will conclude with a fish-fry dinner at about 6:30 p.m. The tour will offer three TDA CEUs: two in IPM and one in general. Anyone is invited to attend, but urged call 361-575-4581 by noon Tuesday, June 15, to assist the committee in planning the event. Attendees are urged to use the two buses provided for tour transportation and alleviate traffic and congestion problems on the tour.

Walnut Caterpillars

Walnut caterpillars are a periodic problem to area homeowners, but have built up numbers over the last three years, especially in areas of downtown Victoria where some pecan trees are now defoliated.

The caterpillars prefer pecan trees and start in early spring feeding on the leaves. They feed for about three weeks, going through five instars or stages, molting or shedding their skin 5 times before becoming a full grown worm about 1-inch long. They are generally a reddish/bronze color in the early stages and then change to a gray/black color in the final larvae stage.

Spraying the colony of worms with an insecticide or even with just soapy water will kill that colony. Just a little soapy water mixed at about 1 cup per gallon of water will cause the worms to suffocate, plugging their breathing pores.

For further info, go to http://agrilifebookstore.org and search for E-535.

Jerusalem Cherry

While not a toxic problem now with ample rainfall and forage, the weed or shrub Jerusalem Cherry can readily be identified now with its brilliant orange and red berries. During times of drought such as in 1998, when several cattle were found dead in Victoria county because of eating it, this plant can be costly. The entire plant is toxic, especially the leaves and unripened fruit.

If you notice this plant on your ranch, it would be prudent to control it with any of the hormone type herbicides. Be on guard when children are around this plant in the pasture.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.