Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pennsylvania Forest Landowner Conference

After a long silence during the recent recession when the demand for hardwood lumber tanked, the log trucks are rolling again. Loads of beautiful American white ash are being salvaged, unfortunate victims of the emerald ash borer. Ash wood is white and quite dense, strong, and straight-grained. It’s been the timber of choice for baseball bats and tool handles; it makes good furniture and flooring. We hate to see the woodpeckers working on its bark and to see it disappear from our woods.

I’d like to suggest to folks who have sold their ash trees that they use this as an opportunity to think about the future of their woods. What can you do now to insure that at least part of that resource is still there for you? Would you like to use this opportunity to manage your woods as a future/different timber resource, or for firewood, for wildlife or deer, or especially for your children or grand kids? If so, plan to investigate the upcoming statewide Penn State Forest Landowners Conference: Enriching Woodland Values.

Held in Altoona’s Blair County Convention Center March 24 and 25, it’s a biennial (every two years) gathering of woodland owners from across the state and beyond, with a phenomenal set of professional presenters and a wide array of topics. Attendees are sure to find something that interests them: select from nearly 100 presentations, multiple field tours, extended-learning workshops, a full hall of exhibitors, and perhaps best of all, time to compare notes with other landowners and the opportunity to corner the experts with your personal questions.

It may seem a long way to Altoona, PA, but it is right down I-99. Get a car-load together, take your family, assemble your hunting buddies, grab a neighbor. The trip will be worth every penny when you come back and look at your own woods with new eyes, understanding, and intention. We’ve extracted the value of ash, now it’s time to put some value back into our woods. Pennsylvania holds the most valuable hardwood resource in the United States, and you are the steward for your part of it.

There is still time to register: You can register online through today, March 14; telephone registrations will be taken through next Monday, March 20, by calling 1-877-778-2937; and after that walk-ins will be accepted at the Convention Center.

Nancy Baker

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Invasive Species Highlight - Oriental Bittersweet

We often hear Kudzu vine referred to as the vine that ate the south. Well, we may have the vine that eats Pennsylvania, Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatusis). It is becoming more and more of a problem, a problem that is not easily solved.

Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture
As I sat on my favorite deer stand, in the woods of central Pennsylvania, this past hunting season I began to pick them out. The climbing vine and the orange seed pods of Oriental bittersweet were easily recognized through my binoculars. I mentally marked the vines locations with the intent of coming back after the season and cutting them at the ground line to free the trees from its strangling grip. I plan to treat the freshly cut stumps with a systemic herbicide to prevent re-sprouting.

Learn to identify this damaging invasive vine before it takes over your woodlot…..if it hasn’t already. It is important to get control of this vine early before it has a chance to spread, and it will spread. Those bright orange berries found on the female vines are readily eaten by birds and transported great distances. Once under control, a scouting and maintenance program is an absolute must.

Oriental bittersweet is a deciduous, climbing, woody vine that can grow up to 60 feet in length and up to four inches in diameter. Native to Korea, China, and Japan, it was introduced in the 1860s as an ornamental. It quickly naturalized in many areas. Bittersweet rapidly grows into the tops of trees, overtoping existing vegetation, shading and eventually killing saplings and trees. Vines can cause structural damage by girdling branches and trunks and even toppling trees.

The finely toothed, round leaves are glossy and alternately
arranged. The plant flowers in the spring and bears clusters of small greenish flowers that emerge from the leaf axils. The globular green to yellow fruit ripens in the fall. Upon ripening, the orange fruit splits open revealing three red-orange, fleshy berries. The berries remain on the vine through the winter. The seed remains viable in the soil for years.

Oriental bittersweet grows in fields and woodlands, around old home sites, along roadsides, and hedgerows. It thrives in moist to semi-moist soils but has also been found growing vigorously in sand dunes along coastal areas. This vine tolerates shade, but prefers full sun. Dense, smothering stands may form under the right light and moisture conditions.

Mechanical control, such as pulling or mowing, can be used to remove light infestations of small plants. When soil moisture is high, vines can be pulled by hand. Take care to remove all root fragments as bittersweet will re-sprout. In old fields, mowing two to three times a year stimulates root suckering.

To successfully control infestations of this vine a two-step approach is recommended. First, remove the aerial portions by “window” cutting the vines any time of year. Window cutting means the vines are cut at eye level and again close to the ground. This allows you to visually see what vines have been cut as you move through an area. It is optional to treat the stumps at this time with a systemic herbicide (e.g., glyphosate) or to leave them. The vines will re-sprout unless an herbicide is applied to the cut stump.

The second step is to treat the re-growth. Even if the stumps were chemically treated the root system will likely send up sprouts. After a growing season, the re-growth will be like a small shrub rather than a climbing vine. The foliage can be successfully managed with an herbicide (e.g. glyphosate or triclopyr amine). For root suckering species, like bittersweet, it is important to treat foliage late in the growing season to enhance herbicide translocation to roots.

It is important not to confuse the invasive Oriental bittersweet vine with its native look-alike, American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). American bittersweet has flowers and fruits at the ends of its branches, rather than in the axils of the leaves. Because native bittersweet is beneficial, consult a natural resource professional to properly identify bittersweet before implementing control plans.

To view an excellent 4 minute video by the University of Minnesota Extension click on the below link.

For a Penn State Invasive Plant Species Management fact sheet click the below link.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pennsylvania DEP Announces Drought Status Updates

A number of Pennsylvania counties improve in regards to their drought status. However, with record high temperatures forecasted for this week things may take a turn for the worst. Drought watch and warning declarations in winter aren’t common. However, they have occurred several times in the past decade, in 2011, 2010, and 2008.

For more information on water concerns in Pennsylvania see the recent news article by Allyson Muth from Penn State's Center for Private Forests entitled Winter Precipitation and Forests: Was It Enough? posted February 21, 2017. 

Drought Declarations Change for 17 Counties
Two Counties Remain in Drought Warning Status
Harrisburg, PA – Following a meeting today of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that two Pennsylvania counties remain in drought warning status. Six improve from warning to watch status, and 11 improve from watch to normal status.
•    Drought warning: Mifflin and Union Counties remain in drought warning status. DEP encourages a voluntary water use reduction of 10–15 percent.
•    Drought watch: Six counties moved from drought warning to drought watch: Carbon, Juniata, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, and Snyder. Fifteen other counties remain on watch: Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill. DEP encourages a voluntary water use reduction of 5 percent.
•    Normal: Eleven counties—Adams, Bedford, Clinton, Fulton, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Pike, Wayne, Sullivan, and York—moved from drought watch to normal status, joining the rest of the state.

DEP bases its declarations on four indicators: precipitation deficits (averaged from numerous gauges), stream flows, groundwater levels, and soil moisture.

Public water systems in affected counties continue to implement voluntary and mandatory water reductions in response to reduced supplies. DEP suggests several steps citizens can take to voluntarily reduce their water use:
•    Run water only when necessary. Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Shorten the amount of time you let the water run to warm up before you shower. Use a bucket to catch the water and then reuse it to water your plants.
•    Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.
•    Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.
•    Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy.
•    Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.

DEP also offers other water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions. These recommendations and additional drought monitoring information are available on the DEP Drought Information website.

Deborah Klenotic, DEP

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Announcing New Backpack Sprayer Calibration Forest Science Fact Sheet

Penn State Forestry Extension has just released the fourth in a series of Forest Science Fact Sheets. The latest in the series, entitled Backpack Sprayer Calibration Made Easy, provides in-depth practical information on calibrating backpack sprayers for both band applications and spot treatments. The fact sheet was written by Dave Jackson, Penn State Forest Resources Educator, Art Gover, Penn State Wildland Weed Management and Kimberly Bohn, Penn State Forest Resources Educator.

“Calibration” simply means determining the output of a sprayer so a known amount of spray solution is applied to a given area. Applicators must know this if they wish to apply an herbicide at a specific dosage, e.g., ounces or quarts per acre. Failure to calibrate spray equipment can result in misapplication of herbicides, repeat applications, damaged non-target plants, excess costs, as well as environmental concerns.

This fact sheet presents a simplified process of calibrating a backpack sprayer known as the “ounces to gallons” method. With this method, the amount of spray, measured in ounces, converts directly to gallons per acre.

Band applications are fixed-width, fixed-speed applications in which the applicator treats larger, continuous areas of vegetation. In forestry applications, band treatments are commonly used for spraying interfering plants such as hay-scented and New York fern. Band applications may also be used to treat weeds along fence lines and trees planted in rows.

Spot treatments are used to treat discrete targets scattered about a site, such as a single shrub or patches of continuous vegetation. This is probably the most common use of a backpack sprayer. This type of treatment is commonly used when controlling invasive shrubs such as multiflora rose, honeysuckle, and autumn olive. Calibrating for these types of treatments allows the applicator to estimate spray coverage so the mix will be effective without over- or under-applying.

Taking the time to calibrate the application will ensure the proper dose of herbicide is used. Although calibration represents an “extra” step and time you feel you may not have, it is not. Applications cannot be made correctly without first calibrating. Applicators who master calibration gain a valuable skill and take control of the process rather than simply mimicking instruction that may be incorrect.

This fact sheet is available online at the link below or in hard copy by contacting the Penn State Extension Ag Publications Distribution Center at: 
Phone: 877-345-0691 or E-mail: AgPubsDist@psu.edu