Monday, July 31, 2017

Learn to Protect Water Quality at Ag Progress Days

Pennsylvania has 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, which flow through farms and backyards, cities and towns, forests and fields. This means that no matter where Pennsylvanians live, virtually all citizens have a role to play in protecting the state's critical water resources.

Visitors to the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building and Theater at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 15-17, can learn how they can contribute to keeping water clean, safe and abundant. Through educational displays and presentations, Penn State Extension educators and faculty specialists will cover a variety of water-related topics of interest to a broad spectrum of audiences.

Water quality is a prominent issue in Pennsylvania, especially for agriculture, according to Matt Royer, director of Penn State's Agriculture and Environment Center. "Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have done much to improve water quality by implementing conservation practices on their farms, much of it with their own dollars," he said. "But more needs to be done. Penn State is helping to lead a coalition of agriculture and environmental leaders to advance innovative, farmer-led solutions to our water quality challenges."

But it's not just farmers who have a role, Royer noted. "Everyone, whether they farm 200 acres or have a small backyard lot, can take management steps to protect our water quality," he said. "We'll be highlighting those steps in the College Exhibits Building during Ag Progress Days, with experts on hand to talk about what farmers, homeowners, forest landowners, private well owners and city dwellers can do to ensure clean water in Pennsylvania."

The building will feature a flowing stream landscape, with "tributaries" to four program displays aimed at helping visitors identify specific things they can do to help protect Pennsylvania's water resources. Exhibits will cover the following topics:

 -- Drinking Water Protection: If you're one of the 3 million Pennsylvanians who gets your water from a private well, what should you do, and not do, around your well head to help ensure that your drinking water stays safe for your family? Well owners can learn about Penn State's Ag Analytical Lab and how to test and treat private wells that provide water for households, livestock and other uses.

-- Stormwater and Green Infrastructure: How can you better manage stormwater at your home to reduce flooding, erosion and other water-quality problems on your property and downstream? Learn about the "Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater" and online mapping tools you can use to make a plan for your home. This exhibit also will feature Penn State's Master Watershed Stewards program, which enlists volunteers to help educate communities across Pennsylvania.

-- Agricultural Water: What are the best practices for farmers to protect local water while raising livestock and field crops? This display will spotlight streambank fencing, proper manure management and other conservation practices. Also, visitors can explore the results of a recent Penn State survey on best practices that Pennsylvania farmers already are implementing to protect local water resources.

-- Forest Buffers: Why are streamside forests so important, and what resources are available to help get them planted? Whether you have a stream running through your farm or your suburban backyard, streamside buffers — also known as riparian buffers — are one of the most important practices to protect Pennsylvania's water. Visitors can learn about the many programs available to help with installing a forest buffer on their property.

Also, organizers encourage youth and families to visit the College Exhibits Building at 1 p.m. each day, when 4-H State Council members will lead kids in the new, award-winning "Rain to Drain — Slow the Flow" 4-H activity. Young people will get hands-on experience learning how water moves on Earth and how we can reduce flooding, maintain groundwater supplies and prevent water pollution.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website.

By Chuck Gill

Monday, July 17, 2017

First wild deer found with chronic wasting disease in Clearfield County, PA

Photo by Dave Jackson

The dreaded chronic wasting disease has shown up for the first time in wild deer in Clearfield County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s traditional hunting territory and adjacent to the state’s famous elk herd.

At a press conference held by the Pennsylvania Game Commission Thursday, officials said the very future existence of whiteailed deer and elk in Pennsylvania is at stake. "We've got a big problem. The threat is real. The situation is potentially dire," said Wayne Laroche, the Game Commission's wildlife-management director.

A mature buck in Bell Township, Clearfield County, was shot by a Game Commission officer on June 7 on State Game Lands 87 after it showed signs of being diseased, the agency said. The deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a disease that is always fatal to infected deer and other members of the cervid family, including elk. It's highly likely that means other wild deer are infected, Laroche said.

CWD had been found in captive deer at two different locations in the region in Jefferson County in 2014, but this is the first case of an infected wild deer. Besides being bad news for hunters in the big woods counties of the state, the Game Commission also is worried now that the disease has spread closer to the state’s elk herd. The infected deer is only 10 miles from the nearest elk herd.

Deer-hunting in Pennsylvania is a $1.6 billion industry. And tourism surrounding viewing elk has become a linchpin in local economies in northwestern Pennsylvania. More than 100 elk are tested annually for CWD and so far none has been found with the disease. But the history of CWD in other states has been to continue to spread despite efforts to stop its progression by killing local infected populations.

That's because saliva and feces and urine that spread the disease is easily picked up by deer because they are social animals. And the disease can remain on the ground for up to 15 years, Laroche said. "Everywhere it has always increased. There are no examples of it burning itself out." At best, wildlife managers can keep the disease controlled, he said.

The Commission reacted to the bad news by announcing a program to kill deer in the immediate vicinity with sharpshooters and to issue 2,800 deer permits for hunters to kill deer in the 350-square-mile Disease Management Area 3 this fall. "It's important our response is as effective and efficient as possible to attempt to curtail this disease before it becomes well-established in an area where it not only is a threat to our deer, but also our elk," said Laroche.

The Game Commission said 2,800 extra Deer Management Assistance Program permits for hunters to kill antlerless deer in the upcoming seasons will be made available, likely beginning today. The agency asked for hunters to let them know where the deer are killed so the deer can be tested for CWD.

Sharpshooters likely will be used after the deer seasons end. CWD has been an increasing threat to whitetail deer in Pennsylvania and has also been found in 51 free-ranging deer so far in southcentral Pennsylvania since 2012. Some 25 wild deer were found in 2016.

Pennsylvania hunters reacted to the news with alarm and some with criticism of Game Commission tactics to fight the spreading disease. "As I have been saying for awhile now, CWD has long been established throughout Pennsylvania. There will be no containment plan that works. All of the current solutions have proven to not do much, yet the PGC continues to forge ahead with failing plans," said one Pittsburgh member of the outdoor forum on the Internet.

Another hunter from Elk County countered with, "There is little doubt it is going to eventually spread across most and perhaps even eventually all of the state but the people who have studied the subject know it can be slowed greatly by following the action plan in place by the Game Commission." Another blamed the mess on captive deer farms that raise private deer herds to sell to fenced-in private hunting preserves.

"The only reason it is in this state and spreading is from deer farms and transporting those deer. Every captive deer should have been killed years ago and anyone moving one over the border should be locked up and fined to the max."

There is no vaccine to prevent deer or elk from contracting CWD, which is spread by body fluids. To date, there is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans. However, the Game Commission advises hunters not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with the disease.

For more on CWD go to:


From Lancaster Online
Ad Crable, 7-13-17


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Learn to Recognize Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock is aggressively spreading in many regions of Pennsylvania. Poison hemlock is toxic and can be fatal to humans, pets, and all classes of livestock. All parts of the plant are known to be poisonous, even after the plant has died. Learn this invasive weed’s key identification features to avoid exposure and livestock poisoning. Consider making others who use your property aware of the dangers of poison hemlock and teach them how to identify it as well. A number of links are provided at the bottom of this post which can help with identification.

photo by Jeff Stachler
Poison hemlock is typically seen along roadsides, fallow areas, fence rows, pastures, and creeks. Native to Europe, this weed is a biennial, completing its life cycle in two years. In its first year, it will produce a rosette of leaves close to the ground. In the second year, it will bolt; this means that it will send up a stem, producing more leaves, flowers, and many seeds.

Poison hemlock is closely related to wild carrot (also called Queen Anne’s lace). Poison hemlock has white flowers and lacy leaves similar to wild carrot. However, it is a larger plant, growing 4 to 6 feet tall when mature. The stems of poison hemlock have purple spots and are hollow and hairless. The whole plant has a musty smell, and the leaves produce a parsley-like odor when crushed.

As its name suggests, it is a poisonous plant. Touching this plant has caused skin irritation for some
photo by Pedro Tenorio-Lezama
people. If ingested, it is toxic to both humans and livestock. It can take as little as 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent of a horse and cow’s weight, respectively, to cause poisoning and severe damage to the nervous system. If too much is ingested, it can cause death. Therefore, it is important to eradicate this weed in areas where livestock could come into contact with it. Mature seeds are the most poisonous. Ingesting significant amounts can result in muscle paralysis and suffocation.

When the plant is in late flower mowing should set it back and prevent seed production, and possibly control it. According to Timothy Abbey, Extension Educator, there are no pre-emergent herbicides to use against poison hemlock in ornamental settings. Post-emergent herbicides include: diquat, pelargonic acid, glyphosate (all non-selective), and 2,4-D (selective to broadleafs). The most effective approach is to treat the 1st year rosettes and not the larger, mature plant. When using an herbicide to control and eradicate poison hemlock use an approved herbicide and always follow the label and safety instructions.

photo by John Cardina
To remove the weeds by pulling be sure to wear rubber gloves and protective clothing. Hand-pulling of poison hemlock works best with young plants or small infestations in moist soils. Mature plants should be dug up and removed. Once plants (and roots) are extracted, place them in a plastic garbage bag and dispose of in a trash receptacle. Wash all clothing and tools afterwards. Do not attempt to compost poison hemlock, the poisons are persistent. Using weed trimmers needs to be conducted with precautions so that plant material doesn’t come into contact with the body.

Identification and eradication of this plant wherever livestock and people could come in contact is important. Be sure to wear gloves and protective clothing. Contact with the skin has been known to cause irritation for some people.

Additional Poison Hemlock information: