By Kirstee Schutte, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener
Have you ever encountered a parasitic nematode? Root-knot nematodes are microscopic roundworms that pierce the roots of plants and lay their eggs inside the roots, giving them a “knotty” appearance, while the plant itself may appear wilted or stunted. Plants growing in nematode infested soils are typically stunted and have galled decaying roots. Plants with infected roots are more susceptible to other diseases caused by fungi and bacteria and tend to stop producing early. It is important for control steps to be taken before planting such as carefully sourcing soil and plants. There are many nematode resistant varieties of vegetables available through Johnny’s Selected Seeds and other sources.
Solarization is a technique that utilizes heat to decrease harmful organisms and weed seeds. By covering soil with transparent plastic sheets, you allow short wave radiation from the sun to penetrate the plastic. Once the light passes through the plastic and is reflected from the soil, the wavelength becomes longer and cannot escape through the plastic. The trapped light facilitates the heating of the soil to temperatures detrimental to most living organisms. The plastic must be sealed to prevent air movement underneath which would prevent temperatures from rising. The soil should remain covered for a minimum of four weeks but increasing solarization time improves effectiveness.
Have you observed yellowing of leaves in the landscape? Chlorosis describes a condition in which leaves, or needles develop an abnormally light green or yellow color. Causes of chlorosis include a deficiency of iron, over-watering, and high pH (or alkaline) soils. When iron and other micronutrients are present in the soil in sufficient quantities the high pH may be rendering them unavailable to plants, and trees. In this case sulfur applications are appropriate to achieve and maintain lower pH levels. Because roots need oxygen to function overwatering and compaction can leave low levels of oxygen in the soil affecting the ability of roots to pick up iron.
Nebraska Natural Resource Districts
Are you familiar with Nebraska’s Natural Resource Districts? Established in 1972, Nebraska's unique Natural Resources Districts were created to solve flood control, soil erosion, irrigation run-off, and groundwater quantity and quality issues. Nebraska's NRDs are involved in a wide variety of projects and programs to conserve and protect the state's natural resources. NRD boundaries are organized based on Nebraska's major river basins making 23 different districts. Located near the Western Nebraska Regional Airport, the North Platte Resource District includes Sioux, Scotts Bluff, Banner, Morrill and Garden Counties.
Did you know that a windbreak doesn’t just compliment your property, but it can also be an energy saving tool that has positive effects on soil health. By planting a row of trees on your property you can reduce heating costs by lowering windchill as dead airspace between the windbreak and your home provides insulation during the winter. Windbreaks positively influence microclimate on an area much greater than the space they occupy. These influences extend into fields about twenty times the height of the windbreak.