Yard and Garden: Lawn, Annual and Garden Care in Hot Weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:22

Iowa State University Extension specialists offer tips for taking care of your lawn, annuals and garden in hot weather. To have additional questions answered, contact the experts at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 515-294-3108.

Is it necessary to water an established lawn during hot, dry weather?

Gardeners have two basic options when confronted with hot, dry weather. One option is to do nothing and allow the grass to go dormant. The alternative is to water the turfgrass during dry weather to maintain a green, actively growing lawn.

Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, can survive long periods of dry weather. In dry weather, the shoots of the turfgrass plants stop growing and the plants go dormant. Dormancy is a natural survival mechanism for turfgrass. While the leaves have turned brown and died, the turfgrass roots and crowns remain alive. Generally, Kentucky bluegrass can remain dormant for four to six weeks without suffering significant damage.

Cool-season grasses are at risk of dying if dormant for more than six weeks. To ensure survival of dormant grass, it’s best to water lawns that have been dormant for six weeks. Apply 1 to 1 ½ inches of water in a single application. Water again seven days later. The grass should begin to green up after the second application.

When is the best time to water a lawn?

Early morning (5 to 9 a.m.) is the best time to water a lawn. A morning application allows the water to soak deeply into the soil with little water lost to evaporation. When watering is completed, the turfgrass foliage dries quickly. Watering at mid-day is less efficient because of rapid evaporation; in addition, strong winds may cause uneven water distribution. Strong, mid-day winds also may carry water onto driveways, sidewalks or streets, wasting considerable amounts of water. Watering lawns in late afternoon or evening may increase disease problems.

How frequently should I water my lawn? How much water should be applied per week?

Most cool-season lawns in Iowa require approximately 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. When watering the lawn, apply this amount in a single application or possibly two applications three or four days apart. Avoid frequent, light applications of water, which promote shallow rooting and lush growth. Lush, shallow-rooted turfgrass is less drought tolerant. It also is more susceptible to pest problems. To determine the amount of water applied by a sprinkler, place two or three rain gauges within the spray pattern.

How frequently should I water annuals in containers?

The frequency of watering may vary considerably from container to container. Watering frequency depends on the size and type of container, composition of the potting mix, plant species and weather conditions. Some plants, such as impatiens, like an evenly moist soil. Others, such as vinca, possess good drought tolerance.

Annuals growing in containers should be checked daily (especially in summer) to determine whether they need to be watered. A few plants, such as New Guinea impatiens and fuchsia, should be checked twice a day (morning and late afternoon or evening), as they dry out quickly on hot, windy days.

When watering annuals in containers, continue to apply water until water begins to flow out the drainage holes in the bottom of the container.

How often should I water my garden?

A deep watering once a week is usually adequate for fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. When watering the garden, water slowly and deeply. Moisten the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Most annuals, perennials, vegetables and small fruits perform best when they receive 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week (either from rain or irrigation).


White House Rural Champions of Change Are ISU Extension Partners PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:20

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa biology professor and an Illinois educator were named Rural Champions of Change by the White House in recognition of their innovations and ingenuity that are strengthening rural communities. Linda Barnes, Marshalltown Community College (MCC) professor of biology and organic farmer, is the founder of the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture program at MCC, the first associate degree program in sustainable agriculture in the Midwest. Ruth Hambleton, of Woodlawn Illinois, is the founder of Annie’s Project, a nonprofit organization that concentrates on education for farm women. Both women have Iowa State University Extension and Outreach support for their educational programs.

Barnes and Hambleton joined 16 other Champions of Change, President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for a roundtable summit at the White House on July 6. A highlight of the meeting for both women was meeting the President and having conversation that generated many ideas. “I learned what others are doing around the development of local food hubs where regionally produced agricultural products are being aggregated for distribution,” said Barnes.

Hambleton was proud to see over half the hands in the room go up in positive response when she asked how many knew about Annie’s Project, and even more pleased when a fellow champion provided a testimonial for the program. “When others speak on behalf of Annie’s Project, it lends credibility beyond what I could bring to the table,” said Hambleton. “Annie’s Project survives and grows because it is a demand driven program meeting a very real need for farm women.”

Sharing vision for rural America

President Obama shared his vision for economic growth and development in rural areas during the summit. The President emphasized the need for high-speed Internet access and stated that rural areas should expect to have opportunities equivalent to those in other areas of the nation. The President also discussed the importance of identifying rural Americans' success stories and sharing that knowledge across the country.

For Barnes, the summit broadened an awareness of the changes occurring in the perception of place and food. “I’d like to see the Farm Bill name changed to Food and Farm Bill, because that is how the U.S. feeds itself,” she said. “The government needs to remove barriers to growing different crops – such as fruits and vegetables. There is a huge disincentive for alternative crops, and yet the U.S. doesn’t grow enough fruits and vegetables to feed our own citizens the five-a-day that we know we need for good health.”

The vision Hambleton shared was based in part on the Preamble to the Constitution. “I feel it sums up the purpose of government; establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty,” she said. “To promote general welfare, the government has a role to support action that improves conditions for citizens of the U.S. That support can be in the form of regulation to promote fair play or can be fiscal support to get something started that otherwise would not happen.”

Continuing the work of rural champions

Participating in the summit gave Hambleton a chance to thank the source of Annie’s Project funding and ask for continued targeted support for the program. “New states introducing Annie’s Project are grateful for grant funding sources and then are excited about the results this program generates for their states,” Hambleton said. “I illustrated with real names and faces from the ranks of Iowa State University, names familiar to Secretary Vilsack, how important and impactful designated funding would be for taking education for farm and ranch women to the next level.”

Hambleton went on to say that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is the reason Annie’s Project went beyond the borders of Illinois. Along with help from the University of Missouri the program has expanded to farm women business management education being offered in 26 states. “We also received help from the ISU Foundation to formalize our organizational structure, allowing us to move ahead to make Annie’s something more than a good idea in our heads,” she said. “Farm women across the country can look to Iowa State for a continued excellent program that will become for farm women what 4-H is to youth.”

Barnes said she appreciates the Iowa State University research and outreach that supports regional food systems and consumer education on the health benefits of eating locally. She would like to see research on cropping systems that work for fruits and vegetables.

Find out more about the Rural Champions of Change and read blog posts from Hambleton and Barnes at Learn more about the Annie’s Project at and the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture Program at


Begin Scouting for Sudden Death Syndrome in Soybeans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:19

AMES, Iowa – In past years, sudden death syndrome (SDS) has appeared during the last week of July or the first week of August in Iowa. Therefore, researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) anticipate symptoms of SDS will begin appearing in the state with the next couple of weeks. Although researchers do not expect SDS to be as widespread or as severe as the 2010 growing season, there have been some counties within the state that have received higher-than-normal precipitation. Scientists expect the risk of SDS in these counties to be higher since disease development is favored by wet conditions.

Begin scouting for SDS soon
The first symptoms of the disease are usually found on more compacted and low areas of the field. First symptoms are seen on the leaves of infected plants as scattered, yellow spots between leaf veins. Large sections of leaf tissue between veins turn yellow as spots grow together. These yellow blotches soon turn brown, but the veins remain green. Eventually, the leaves die and drop, but the petioles remain on the stem. Infected plants are also easily pulled from the soil because the roots are rotted. When split lengthwise with a knife, the internal tissue of the main or tap root will be gray to reddish brown, not healthy white.
ISU researchers emphasize that, while there are no in-season management options for SDS, scouting is still important for several reasons. 

  • First, this is a good time to evaluate soybean varieties for resistance to SDS. Growing resistant varieties, or avoiding very susceptible varieties, is the most effective way to reduce losses to SDS.
  • Also, identifying fields or parts of fields with SDS can help with future management practices. These management tactics include reducing soil compaction since the disease has been associated with compacted soil; planting fields with a history of SDS towards the end of a planting schedule when soils may be warmer and drier; and testing for the presence of soybean cyst nematodes.
  • Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is usually, but not always, associated with SDS and may increase its severity, especially in varieties that are SCN-susceptible. Therefore, management practices to reduce SCN populations, including SCN-resistant variety selection and preventing the spread of soil from field to field, may delay onset and spread of SDS.

“Several Iowa State University pathologists and agronomists continue research to improve our understanding the biology of the fungus that causes SDS and develop improved management options for the disease," said Alison Robertson, ISU Extension plant pathologist. "The ISU soybean breeding program continues to develop and release germplasm with improved resistance to SDS that is available to all private soybean breeding companies. ISU scientists collaborate with scientists at other universities.”

Most of the SDS research at ISU is funded by soybean checkoff dollars from state, regional and national organizations, namely the Iowa Soybean Association, the North Central Soybean Research Program and the United Soybean Board.

ISU Research

Key advances from the last five years of research on SDS at Iowa State include:

  • Development and release of soybean breeding lines with improved resistance to SDS that can be used by seed companies to develop resistant varieties adapted to Iowa;
  • Discovery, identification and molecular characterization of a toxin produced by the SDS fungus that causes the disease and that the toxin needs to be exposed to light to cause the disease on the leaves;
  • Discovery that the fungus needs to colonize the central part (or vascular system) of the roots so the toxin can be moved up from the roots to the leaves in the cells that carry water up the plant;
  • Discovery that soybean seedlings are most vulnerable to root infection in the first few days after planting, and in cold soils the seedlings are vulnerable to infection for a longer period of time than when planting occurs in warmer soil;
  • Discovery that the SDS fungus can survive in corn residue, including corn kernels dropped in field, and this may be a way the fungus overwinters from season to season.

Several other ongoing projects include:

  • Sequencing of the entire genetic composition (genome) of the SDS pathogen, which will allow scientists to identify the genes involved in the ability of the fungus to cause disease on soybeans;
  • Identifying the mechanisms behind the interaction between the SCN and the SDS pathogen;
  • Identifying soybean genes involved in resistance to SDS using molecular approaches;
  • Continuing to screen soybean breeding populations adapted to Iowa for improved resistance to SDS;
  • Evaluating the impact of crop rotation, planting date and seed treatment for SDS management in Iowa.

Partially funded by the soybean checkoff.


Budding Workshop PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:18

A budding workshop will be held at the ISU Scott County Extension Office in Bettendorf on August 18 from 7-8:30 pm. The instructor will be Patrick O'Malley, Commercial Horticulturist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The workshop will begin with a presentation overview of grafting methods with an emphasis on chip budding and t-budding. Chip budding is the primary method that ornamental and fruit nurseries use for propagating specific cultivars. This will be followed by a demonstration and hands on practice by the participants of the budding techniques using a variety of plant materials including plum, pear, and apple. Knives and grafting supplies will be provided, however rootstocks will not be available. Those participants that may have rootstocks are welcome to bring them to the class. The workshop has a $10 fee that can be paid at the beginning of the class. To reserve a spot, email Patrick O’Malley at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 319-337-2145.


ISU Extension offers ProHort Certification Option to Master Gardener Training PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:15

Iowa Master Gardeners (MG) find many ways to volunteer in their communities, from answering horticulture questions that come into county offices to helping manage farmers’ markets and community gardens. Public plantings in many Iowa communities are visual signs of the many volunteer hours Master Gardeners provide.

Master Gardener training has been offered in Iowa by Iowa State University Extension since 1979. Over the years, more than 10,000 Iowans have received instruction on a wide range of horticulture and related topics and in return provided a specified number of hours doing volunteer outreach through ISU Extension.

However, there are Iowans that would like to have the training, without the commitment of providing community service. To better serve this group of people, ISU Extension Scott County is offering the ProHort Certification for the first time this year. The ProHort Certification program will be delivered through the Iowa State University Master Gardener training program this fall in three locations. It is different from the Master Gardener program because it is a fee in-lieu-of volunteer service version of the program.

“ProHort participants will train alongside Iowa Master Gardeners,” said Jennifer Bousselot, Iowa MG coordinator. “However, without the volunteer commitment, participants do not become Iowa Master Gardeners.”

The Iowa Master Gardener (MG) training includes sessions on animal ecology, botany, entomology, fruit culture, herbaceous ornamentals, home landscape design, houseplants, integrated pest management/pesticides, landscape plants, plant pathology, soils, turf grass management, vegetables and weed management.

Upon completion of the program requirements, ProHort participants receive an official ProHort Certificate of training from Iowa State University, which may be displayed in a place of business.

To find out more about the ProHort Certification program being offered in Scott County this fall, contact Duane Gissel, ISU Scott County Extension 563-359-7577.


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