ISU Extension Office News and Notes Print
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Saturday, 28 May 2011 11:58

Search New Website, Visit Iowa Farms

AMES, Iowa — The Visit Iowa Farms website,, has unveiled a new look.  "The new site features detailed descriptions of Iowa farms and the ability to map out locations of interest in your area," said Ray Hansen, director of Iowa State University Extension’s Value Added Agriculture Program, which created the Visit Iowa Farms project.

“Our goal is to stimulate the agritourism industry in Iowa,” Hansen said. “Having additional visitors to Iowa farms benefits local farmers, rural economies and promotes agriculture in general.”

Interactively map farms by county or type of agritourism operation; Inform producers on legal requirements, regulations and business/marketing plans; and Display upcoming events related to agritourism for both producers and consumers.

A news feature allows consumers and producers alike to keep up to date on events, programs and what's new.

“The new site provides an updated, appealing look for producers and tourists,” Hansen said. “Higher gas prices could cause Iowans to stay closer to home this summer. However, they can still enjoy fun, affordable family experiences at many Iowa farms in their region and can find those farms through this site.”

Producers not registered on the site are encouraged to use the “contact us” feature of the site to register their agritourism operation. Registration is free.

“We encourage traffic to the site,” Hansen said. “Teachers and summer youth program leaders can use this site in planning field trips, as well.”

The Value Added Agriculture Program (VAAP) provides unbiased, science-based information to help establish or expand agricultural-related businesses in Iowa. Contact VAAP at 515-294-2136 for more information.


Yard and Garden: Blueberries

This week Iowa State University Extension garden experts respond to common questions related to growing and caring for blueberries. Gardeners with additional questions can contact the experts by emailing or calling the ISU Extension horticulture hotline at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 515-294-3108.

Can blueberries be grown successfully in Iowa?

Blueberries can be grown successfully in Iowa. However, they do have special growing requirements.

Blueberry plants require a sunny location and a well-drained soil high in organic matter. Avoid wet, poorly drained sites. Blueberries are susceptible to root rots in poorly drained soils.

Soil pH also is important. Blueberries require acid soils with a pH of 4.0 to 5.5. Since the pH of most Iowa soils is above this range, the soil pH must be lowered to successfully grow blueberries.

Home gardeners can lower their soil pH by adding sphagnum peat moss to the soil. Sulfur also can be used to acidify the soil. Sulfur should be incorporated into the soil a year before planting, as it reacts slowly with the soil. Aluminum sulfate should not be used to acidify the soil, as large amounts of this material can be toxic to blueberry plants.

When using sphagnum peat moss to acidify the soil, dig a wide, shallow hole. Set the plant at the same depth it grew in the nursery, then backfill with a 50:50 mixture of soil and moist peat (moisten dry peat before mixing with soil).

Which blueberry varieties perform well in Iowa?

Highbush and half-high blueberries can be successfully grown in Iowa.

Highbush blueberries perform best in central and southern Iowa. Plants develop into 6- to 8-foot-tall shrubs. Suggested varieties for gardeners in central and southern Iowa include ‘Patriot,’ ‘Blueray,’ ‘Bluejay,’ ‘Bluecrop,’ ‘Rubel,’ ‘Jersey’ and ‘Elliott.’

Half-high blueberries possess greater cold hardiness and are the best choice for gardeners in northern Iowa. Plants are relatively small (varieties commonly grow 2 to 3 feet tall) and produce small to medium-size berries. Suggested varieties are ‘Northblue,’ ‘Northcountry,’ ‘Northsky’ and ‘St. Cloud.’

Plant two or three blueberry varieties to ensure good pollination and maximum fruit set.

I just planted some blueberries. When can I expect them to produce a crop?

Blueberry plants should not be allowed to bear fruit the first two years after planting. Any blossoms that form should be removed. Removal of the flowers maximizes vegetative growth and increases yields in later years. Blueberry plants should come into full production by the fifth or sixth year. Gardeners can expect to harvest five to 10 pounds of fruit per plant from mature highbush blueberries. Half-high blueberries generally produce two to three pounds per plant.

Established blueberry plants can be fertilized with an acid-producing fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate, in early spring. Apply one-half to one pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of garden area. Ammonium sulfate supplies nitrogen to the plants and also helps to maintain soil acidity.

Should blueberry plants be watered during dry weather?

Blueberries have shallow, fibrous root systems. Plants quickly become stressed during hot, dry weather. To help retain moisture and control weeds, apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around blueberry plants. Sawdust, wood chips, pine needles and shredded leaves are excellent mulching materials. During dry weather, water plants every seven to 10 days.

Do blueberries have insect and disease problems?

Phytophthora root rot can be a serious problem in poorly drained sites. Phytophthora root rot can be avoided by planting blueberries in well-drained soils. Outside of root rots, blueberries generally have few insect and disease problems in Iowa.

Birds can be a problem as they may devour much of the crop. While scare devices may be helpful, netting is the most effective way to protect the fruit from birds. Netting should be placed over the plants when the fruit begin to turn color. Hang the netting over some type of support structure with the bottom edges of the netting buried or anchored to the ground.


Three-Day Research, Information Trip Set for Iowa Beef Producers

CHARITON, Iowa – A three-day trip to southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska offers Iowa beef producers the opportunity to tour innovative beef operations and visit with successful producers and cutting edge researchers. Iowa State University (ISU) Extension beef program specialist Joe Sellers said stops at the Armstrong Research Farm in Cass County, University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) near Clay Center, Neb., will provide current information on research being conducted at those locations.

“We’ll leave Chariton at 8 a.m. on July 6 and return the evening of July 8, with tours at private ranches and operations, visits with UNL and ISU staff and discussions with other producers,” Sellers said. “Those who attend will be able to see and ask questions about a number of timely topics pertinent to their own operations.”

Registration fee for the tour is $100 per person, which includes bus travel from and to Chariton, and lunch each of the three days. Lodging and other meals are not included, and checks will be held until the minimum number of 40 paid attendees is reached. If interest is strong among producers along the route, other pick up locations will be arranged.

“We’ll stay in Hastings, Neb., on both July 7 and 8, and a block of rooms at $77 per night plus tax is being held at the Holiday Inn Express for our group until June 8,” Sellers said. “People are responsible for making their own lodging arrangements, and should mention ‘Iowa Beef Tour’ when they call Holiday Inn at 402-463-8858.”

Sellers said that while the agenda is a busy one, producers will learn a great deal at both the stops and through conversations with others.

“The first day we travel to the Armstrong Farm near Lewis for discussions on cattle age, source verification, hoop buildings and retained ownership,” he said. “After lunch we head to UNL where we’ll visit with staff about research efforts in Nebraska before heading to Hastings for the first overnight.”

The next day features tour stops at TC Ranch near Franklin, Gotsch Feedyards at Red Cloud, S&S Herefords at Guide Rock and the Herz confined deep bedded beef barn at Lawrence. The final day includes a tour, discussion and lunch at MARC, located between Hastings and Clay Center, before heading back to Chariton. “Those wanting to attend must register by sending name, address and a check for $100 per attendee by June 4,” Sellers said. “Make the check payable to Lucas County Extension, and send to 48293 HyVee Road, Chariton, IA, 50049.”

For more information contact Sellers by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by phone at 641-203-1270.


Games from ISU Extension Help Children Learn to Manage Money

In tough times and in good times, all family members should be involved in making decisions about money, say Iowa State University Extension experts.

Children grow in understanding and self-worth when they contribute to the resolution of financial problems. Studies by the Consumer Federation of America indicate that including children in decisions involving money both prepares them to become wise consumers and brings the family closer together.

"Including children in financial decisions can increase their appreciation for the financial challenges you face as their parent," according to Mary Beth Kaufman, ISU Extension family resource management program specialist based at the Shelby County Extension Office in Harlan.

Extension offers two games that families can use with children of all ages to help them make decisions about managing money and spending. The Allowance Game helps younger children make decisions about spending allowance money wisely, and The Spending Game assists older youth in making choices among spending categories. Both games would make good discussion starters for family talks on managing money and making financial decisions.

Each game is described in a four-page publication available from ISU Extension county offices or from Extension’s online store at The cost of the publication is $1 or a .pdf version can be downloaded at no cost.

The Spending Game, PM 1103, was developed for older youth as they think about heading off to college or living on their own Players are given 20 beans to spend in 13 categories including housing, communications, insurance, food, gifts and recreation. In round 2 of the game the budget is reduced to 13 beans. Follow-up discussion topics include talking about what to give up first and why, and how much money should be in an emergency fund.

The Allowance Game, PM 1776, targeted to younger youth, offers several choices at various cost levels. A 20-bean budget is spent in categories where children typically spend allowances, such as recreation, clothing, hobbies, music and movies, and savings. Players are asked to think about how spending changes when allowances are reduced, and what is easy or difficult about making choices on what to spend.

Lessons learned in using The Spending Game or The Allowance Game can be applied on the practical level as well. Extension experts suggest the following strategies, based on the ages of the children involved:

Preschool children. In the store, show the children two or three items, from which they are to choose one to buy. If after the purchase they are disappointed in their decision, do not give them more money—let them learn from their mistake. Help them understand the relationship between working to earn money and buying to satisfy their needs and wants.

Elementary and middle school children. Help them to understand about wise spending and savings. Let them help make some of the purchasing decisions when shopping for the family. Ask teens and older preteens to assist in bill payment by making out the checks, or by addressing the envelopes, or with your close supervision, by assisting you electronically.

High school youths. In nationwide financial literacy tests of high school seniors, teens received low scores in their understanding of financial management principles. Yet nationally, teens purchase billions of dollars of goods and services each year. They want and need opportunities for learning how to stretch and spend their money wisely. Give them experience in planning purchases, keeping records, and using credit sparingly. These experiences can go far to prepare them to be responsible consumers.


  See Extreme Cabin Makeovers at 4-H Center Open House

AMES, Iowa – The results of an “Extreme Cabin Makeover” will be on display June 2 at the Iowa 4-H Center, 1991 Peach Ave., Madrid. The public is invited to an open house to see the cabins and the fun opportunities for campers this summer.

“The cabin makeovers are a result of citizenship and volunteerism, key outcomes of the Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program,” said Annette Brown, 4-H youth development specialist.

Eight 4-H clubs began the makeover challenge last October, Brown explained. Seven Hickory Cabins received major renovations over the last several months.

Several Boone County clubs worked on the cabins: Madrid Duets and Merry Makers, Shellbark Cabin; Green Clovers, Carolina Cabin; Montana Miners, Swamp Cabin; Bluff Creek Wranglers, Big Bud Cabin; Westside Hustlers, Mockernut Cabin; and Green County Young Leaders, Water Cabin. The Richland Royals from Chickasaw County renovated the Shagbark Cabin.

The projects began Oct. 23 and the clubs had until May 1 to complete their assignments. Each team was responsible for gathering resources and materials, developing a plan for their cabin and communicating with Iowa 4-H Center staff throughout the renovation.

4-H members, parents and partners spent hundreds of hours in planning, raising money, preparing for and carrying out the makeovers, Brown said. This resulted in cleaning, painting and staining walls; building new shelves; cleaning or replacing carpets; making curtains; adding wall decorations; new lighting and more.

Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development’s Reach out Iowa program, funded by Learn and Serve American and the Iowa Commission on Volunteerism, provided partial funding for the makeovers. Additional funding varied based on clubs’ fundraising efforts.

In addition to the club work, the cabins also had new electrical lines and breaker boxes installed to accommodate new heating and cooling units. A Boone County Community Endowment grant, Midland Power, other donors and volunteers provided funding.

To preview the makeovers, visit the 4-H Center Facebook page. The Iowa 4-H Center is hosting a public open house on June 2 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Youth groups across Iowa are engaging in service learning projects through ISU Extension’s Reach Out Iowa program. Check out what’s happening at Any youth group (10-17 years old) may request orientation and funding for service learning projects through Reach Out Iowa by contacting Annette Brown at Boone County Office Extension office, 515-432-3882.


Cover Crops Research Featured at Spring Field Day on June 15

The annual spring field day for the Iowa State University Southeast Iowa Research Farm near Crawfordsville will be on June 15, with tours beginning at 1:00 p.m. Iowa State University Extension provides research-based information and education to help people make better decisions, in their personal, community and professional lives.

One of the features on the tour will be Dr. Jeremy Singer’s presentation on “Cover Crop Establishment and Management.” Dr. Singer is an agronomist with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment. “We are seeing more interest in the use of cover crops in Iowa, both for soil conservation and for improving the soil tilth,” according to Jim Fawcett, ISU Extension Field Agronomist.

Also highlighted on the tour will be “Crop Season Review & Making Grain Marketing Decisions in Crazy Times” by Kevin Van Dee, farm superintendent, and Jim Jensen, ISU Extension Farm Management Specialist; “Corn Nematode Management” by Greg Tylka, ISU Extension Plant Pathologist; and “Making Fungicide Application Decisions” by Mark Carlton, ISU Extension Field Agronomist.

Certified Crop Advisor continuing education credits will be available. Those wishing to obtain additional CCA credits can come at 8:30 a.m. for a morning training session that will focus on cover crops and soil conservation. The credit fee for Certified Crop Advisors is $50 (or $25 for the afternoon only) and includes lunch. There is no fee for the afternoon tours. A lunch will be available at noon for $7.

Please register by June 13 for the morning CCA session and the noon lunch by calling the Johnson County Extension Office at 319-337-2145.

To reach the farm, follow U.S. Highway 218 one and three quarters miles south of Crawfordsville, then two miles east on county road G-62, then three quarters mile north. Signs will be posted to guide you to the event.


New Extension Fisheries and Aquaculture Specialist at Iowa State

AMES, Iowa--Allen Pattillo joined Iowa State University staff April 1 as an aquaculture and fisheries extension specialist and a North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) program specialist. Pattillo earned a Bachelor of Science in fisheries and aquaculture from University of Georgia and master’s in aquaculture from University of Auburn before coming to Iowa.

At Iowa State, he will assume research responsibilities on several projects, work with the NCRAC program and provide outreach to Iowans wanting to better understand waterways, fish, aquatic invertebrates and aquaculture. During his first weeks in Iowa he has begun familiarizing himself with Iowa’s diverse fishing waters and nearly 130 fish species within the state.

“After a weekend of catching fish below the damn at Lake Red Rock, that quickly became my favorite Iowa fishing spot,” said Pattillo. “But I have plans to spend a weekend at Brushy Creek and haven’t been to the Iowa Great Lakes yet, so my favorite spot may change a few times as I visit more Iowa waterways.”

Pattillo grew up in Dawsonville, Ga., fishing the mountain lakes and streams in that region. His first memorable catch, at age five, was a seven and a half pound catfish that nearly pulled him and his sister into the water. He also tells of his grandfather using corn as trout bait. Listening to him talk of his family adventures, it hardly seems any wonder that he is now involved with aquatic animal studies and draws on his education and life experiences to answer questions for Iowans.

His research projects at Iowa State include a USDA funded bluegill feeding study in collaboration with Lincoln University, Mo., and Purdue University, and an Iowa DNR aquaculture study involving hybrid striped bass. Working with Joe Morris, Iowa State professor and NCRAC associate director, Pattillo hopes to get his feet on the ground with these established projects. “Allen’s aquaculture degree from Auburn University will be crucial to his role here at Iowa State,” said Morris. “His experiences as a fisheries technician will be useful as he addresses questions from Iowa clients on a wide variety of fisheries and pond issues.”

Iowans with questions can reach Pattillo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by calling 515-294-8616. In his first month, Pattillo said he has gotten a feel for the type of questions that Iowans have. “I’ve received questions about ponds – weeds in ponds and how to get rid of them, muddy water and other erosion issues, and from people wondering where their fish have gone,” he said. “People considering whether or not to get into the aquaculture business have contacted me and I’m excited to have the opportunity to expand aquaculture in the state.”

Pattillo is very interested in hearing from Iowans, getting to know what issues they are facing and connecting them with university resources and agency personnel. “I learn a bit more about Iowa with every question I get,” he said.

As a member of the Extension Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM) team, Pattillo joins Jesse Randall, extension forester, and Rebecca Christoffel, extension wildlife specialist, to provide education on topics that are of increasing interest to Iowans. “The Extension programs in Natural Resource Ecology Management are important in the protection and enhancement of Iowa’s natural resources for recreational and commercial purposes,” said John Lawrence, ISU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources director. “In addition to the enjoyment and ecosystem services these lands provide, there is also a significant economic benefit from hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities.”

The Extension NREM team provides education to Iowans interested in the various facets of the state’s natural resources.


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