- [Announcer] "Montana Ag Live" is made possible by the Montana Department of Agriculture, MSU Extension, (cheerful guitar music begins) the MSU Ag Experiment stations of the College of Agriculture, the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Cashman Nursery and Landscaping, (cheerful guitar music continues) the Northern Pulse Growers Association, and the Gallatin Gardener's Club.
(cheerful guitar music continues) (cheerful guitar music continues) - If you haven't guessed it, you are tuned to "Montana Ag Live," originating today from the studios at KUSM on the very dynamic campus that we call Montana State University and coming to you over your Montana Public Television System.
I'm Jack Riesselman, happy to be your host, retired professor of plant pathology.
We've got an interesting program tonight.
For the last two or three years we've had several comments on, "Why haven't you done a program on shelter belts?"
We always take your suggestions, so if you do have suggestions on other programs you'd like to see on this "Montana Ag Live" segment, let us know, but tonight we are going to address shelter belts and if you drive around the state of Montana, you know that we probably still have more shelter belts in this state than any other of the lower 48 states.
So we'll get into that tonight.
If you have questions about shelter belts, we have an expert here to answer that tonight.
But before we get there, let me introduce the panel tonight.
On my far left at the end of the desk is Uta McKelvy.
Uta is our extension plant pathologist.
She specializes in row crops and potatoes, but she knows a lot about everything.
So if you have any disease questions tonight or concerned about something, hey, get on that phone and call 'em in.
Our special guest tonight and I'm happy to have her here, Celie Meier.
Celie is with the NRCS USDA.
She is a forester and she knows a lot about shelter belts and I'm here to learn about shelter belts because I don't know much about 'em, but I'm gonna learn something tonight.
We've been missing an entomologist and Frank Etzler with the Montana Department of Ag decided to join us tonight and I'm glad to have Frank here.
We've had several questions, what happened to Lori?
Lori Chrisink took a job with the forest service over in Missoula.
She's swamped this spring, but she did tell me she will come back for a program or two this fall.
So keep watching.
But Frank, thank you for being here.
And if you have bug questions tonight, and as you well know, we have lots of bugs and lots of weeds in this state.
So hey, phone them in.
And Abi, Abi Saeed is our horticulturist.
If you have any questions relative to horticulture, excellent time to call them in.
And by the way, happy spring.
This is the first nice weekend that we've had since last October.
A lot of people in the garden, I know that.
May not have a huge audience tonight because they're still out there putting their peas, radishes, lettuce in the ground.
But those of you who are watching, if you have questions, send them in this evening.
And our phone operators, we have Nancy, she's here all the time.
Nancy Blake, thank you for being here.
And Cheryl Bennett, so get that phone ringing.
Celie, tell us what you do with the NRCS and a little bit about your shelter belt.
- Yeah, so my name's Celie.
I am the state forester and technical lead for all things forestry related for NRCS in Montana.
we have five agro-forestry practices that we actually offer and help private landowners implement on the ground through conservation.
And wind breaks and shelter belts is one of those practices.
So we help landowners get those on the ground and do renovation of those wind breaks, help them plan for different resource concerns and different reasons that they're gonna need those wind breaks.
And that's the majority of it.
- [Jack] Keeps you busy, doesn't it?
- It does, it does.
- Okay, so we had some questions come in from Facebook and also on email, which is not surprising because there is a lot of interest in shelter belts in this.
And one of them came in from Antelope, Montana.
And how many people know where Antelope, Montana is?
- Still learning about Montana.
(Jack laughing) - It's in the extreme eastern part of the state.
And a little story about Antelope before I get to the questions.
Town may be about 30 or 40 people at most.
And as you drive by the highway, there's a sign there that says "Antelope next six exits."
So they're pretty proud of Antelope.
Celie, this question says if they are not mistaken, wind breaks were originally used to prevent wind erosion in Montana.
With the arrival of no-till is there still a place or an advantage for wind breaks?
You know, in our dry climate we don't generally get enough cover on that soil to be sure that our, you know, prevailing winds in the springtime don't cause additional wind erosion.
And so along with those wind breaks and other, you know, soil health conservation covering practices, we can meet those goals to make sure that we don't have that soil erosion from wind.
Is there certain areas of state that we have more wind breaks now than we did in the years past?
I know the northeast part still has a lot of them.
- Yeah, I'm not certain on the specific areas, but we do have an initiative, some financial assistance, in the Mile City area on the eastern side of the state that does have wind break and shelter belt practices being put in right now.
You know, we'll get into how you start a wind break, because I know it's a little bit tricky.
But I've seen a lot of wind breaks come out and I hate to see that because it's not only good for erosion prevention, but it's great for wildlife habitat.
Abi, a quick one.
This person would like to know when to prune and how to prune raspberries.
Are we gonna have raspberries this year?
Last two or three years and not been very good.
- Yeah, I'm hoping so, I actually was in my raspberry patch earlier this afternoon and I was going to prune, but the deer did that for me pretty much.
So basically I prefer to wait until later in the spring to prune my raspberries because a lot of those canes that are bent canes, the dead ones from last year, could be habitat for cavity nesting bees.
But in general, how to prune them.
Raspberries are biannual, so the first cane is gonna be your leafy cane and then that same cane next year is gonna bear fruit so if you had a cane that bore fruit last year, remove those.
And then thin it out and leave about four to six inches between, keep, like, three or four strong stalks on your plant.
- You know, that's been my problem.
I don't prune 'em out enough.
And they don't grow very tall and they don't survive very well.
Frank, this question came in a week ago from Wyoming.
They've had a problem with slugs in their potatoes and also a few of their other vegetables.
Any solution to controlling the slugs or preventing them?
So with slugs it's all about moisture.
So if you have slugs, you have too much moisture.
So I guess make it drier.
Pretty common around the state, around Wyoming too probably.
- Yeah, they're all over the state.
They've been here since I'd say the '30s.
They're all introduced, they're non-native slugs, mostly.
They thrive on moisture.
If they keep it kind of dry they'll be fine.
- So we've gotten into this a couple times in the past, but one of the old control procedures to put a pan of beer out in the garden and I believe Kansas State University did a test to see which beer they preferred and I don't recall for sure, but I think it was regular Coors that was the most effective.
I won't swear by that, but it is an effective method.
- Yeah, it still works.
You put out some beer, they'll come right to it.
They'll get drunk and you got 'em on one spot, They can't get far.
(Abi laughing) - Uta, I got a hold of you ahead of time.
We've had a couple questions about Cytospora canker that have come in Facebook and also via email.
And I asked Uta to bring in a sample of Cytospora canker on spruce.
Very common in the state.
So Uta, you want to show us an example of that?
- Yeah, I'd be happy to.
Yeah, Cytospora canker is one of those diseases that can occur on evergreens like the spruce here, but can also be an issue on deciduous trees.
And so I just brought a sample on a spruce that came in.
So it's a fungal disease and you will see it on trees that are stressed, so anything that you can do to reduce stress on your plans is what's gonna help you.
And the other thing you need to know is that the fungus enters the plant through a wound, so from hail or from pruning or in this case, which is why I find the sample super interesting, is you can see here there is a trace of a wound where probably two branches were rubbing against each other or maybe this branch got injured while somebody was pruning in the tree.
And so this is how the pathogen got in and then down here you can see what we call a canker in an early stage.
So you can see the bark receding and you can see the sap oozing out.
And then these two examples here are what it would look like.
(laughs) At an advanced stage of the canker, you have that white grayish resin and yeah, it can eventually kill your branch.
So if you have this canker on a branch, you wanna prune the branch out.
If you have this canker on the trunk of the tree, it's not looking good for the tree.
So that will probably eventually die.
And so as you're pruning and removing infected tissue, be sure that you're sanitizing or cleaning your equipment afterwards.
And then you also don't wanna have these cut, infected pieces laying around your yard forever until you start the next bonfire because the pathogen produces spores and in wet weather will potentially infect more plants in your backyard.
- [Jack] Thank you, no, go ahead.
- Uta, if you have it on the base of your trunk, is there anything you can do to slow it down before... - Chainsaw.
- The damage is done.
So the pathogen thrives in wet weather, so that's when it produces spores that can reinfect.
But how do you control the weather?
So I think you're just gonna kind of start saying goodbye to your tree at that point.
I have to say goodbye to one of my plum trees soon.
(laughs) - Celie, are we using spruce in wind breaks?
In new wind breaks that are established in Montana?
You know, conifers are really good options for wind breaks because they keep that density and porosity 'cause they keep their needles all year round.
So that wind, you know, being that springtime is our big prevailing wind time in Montana, you know, if we had deciduous trees, they don't have leaves on 'em yet.
So it's really important to have some sort of conifer in your windbreak in places with cold climates.
- You know, I go back a long time but we used to use a lot of Cotoneaster in the state.
Are we still using Cotoneaster?
- It's one of the options on our list.
We have an extensive list, of a bunch of species that have good options in Montana and we have information on our field office technical guide, which is a website on NRCS.
And those lists include all sorts of things about the location of where you're going to plant and so you can put the best plant in the best location.
- Okay, Frank, spruce.
There are some bugs that cause some serious issues on spruce.
What are they?
- A main one would be spruce bud worm.
- [Jack] And how do you prevent that or control that?
- Preventing it, it's kind of difficult 'cause they fly, they're moth, so they'll come to you from other areas around the state they're native to, so you're gonna have problems that way to control it 'cause they're gonna come from wild spruce.
But to control it, once it's on your tree, you can prune off some infected material, you'll get rid of their nesting area right there.
Or you can do some systemic pesticide in the base of the tree.
- All right.
- We actually do a lot with trying to make sure that private forest land that has spruce or other, you know, doug fir, other plants that are susceptible to spruce bud worm, as long as they're healthy, so thinning those trees, keeping the ones that are there really healthy, make them, you know, less susceptible to getting spruce bud worm.
And from Circle, we're on the conifer topic.
What is killing the conifers and shelter belts in McComb County?
And that's northeast part of the state.
And we can't really tell without seeing them.
Or do they think it's just winter kill?
So Uta, you want to touch on that a little bit?
- Yeah, I mean, so we do get samples from shelter belts and very often, especially over the last years, the issue has been winter kill or essentially issues related to not watering the evergreens enough.
They also do need water and especially going into the winter, in the fall, you need to make sure you want to water your evergreens even in the shelter belt and if you don't do that, that's when we tend to see the winter kill.
And this is about the time of year where this shows up, but we've talked about winter kill plenty of times this season already, so I'm gonna keep it short here.
But yeah, water your shelter belt plans.
You mentioned watering and I'll back over to Celie.
When you establish a wind break, you almost need to water 'em a little bit to get it established in this state, don't you?
Sometimes fertilization too.
Depends on where and what you're planting, but we have some guidance on micro irrigation or irrigation, drip irrigation, so that we make sure that they get established well.
And then of course competition control can be a big issue.
So making sure that we generally try and keep the grasses and other competition between the rows at a minimal.
Or else they will compete for water and nutrients with those trees we're trying to establish.
- Do you use black mulch yet in establishing something?
- Absolutely, yeah, and that really helps keep the moisture too.
It stops, you know, evaporation.
So some of those black plastic or black mulch fabric is really good to put between the rows and it'll keep down competition.
- Okay, what about, you know, we've always had a lot of questions about voles damaging.
If you have that black plastic, is that a invitation for voles to... - That's a good question.
I don't have a good answer.
You know, my yard right now is, probably all of our yards are just full of activity from the wintertime, but I can look into it and you can contact me, yep.
- And actually Steven Van Tassel, and we should have asked that question to him.
But we will delve into that because I am curious about that.
As I said, I'm here to learn about shelter belts this evening.
And here's a good one for you.
Are you ready?
- [Abi] I'm ready.
(laughs) - Okay.
This caller from Billings has a 25 year old cotton-less cottonwood tree that has put out many more seeds in the past two years.
The caller is wondering if this is normal or if there's a problem with the tree.
- So sometimes when trees are producing more seeds it could be a sign of stress, so they're just trying to reproduce.
So it could be that the tree is stressed.
But as long as they're taking care of it, making sure that, you know, they have the outside area kind of mulched and watering it, 'cause it's been a pretty stressful couple of years for a lot of our trees.
- Well, it has, there's no doubt.
A lot of drought.
Uta, from Toole County and that's up in Shelby area.
This person wants to seed some spring weed, he's behind.
And he is noticed that he's got, he saved his own seed.
He has some ergot, which are small black bugs.
You might explain what ergot is.
He wants to know whether or not he can seed that.
- Yeah, so ergot is a fungal disease of small grains.
So we can see it in our wheat and barley, but it's also common in our grassy wheats that we have around our crops.
And so it's actually a very obvious disease in that at harvest you will see these big kind of misshapen black kernels, which are the ergot grain.
So if you have that in your seed that you're using or that you wanna use to plant a new crop, I would say, it depends, so how high is the infestation?
So we do have thresholds.
Well actually that is for the grain for consumption.
But obviously if there's a lot of ergot in your grain, you probably don't wanna plant that because essentially this kernel is reintroducing the pathogen in your crop and so it's germinating right next to your crop.
And you know, you're putting your crop at risk.
I will say it needs moisture and rather cooler temperatures around flowering for infection but since we can't control the weather, don't know how that's gonna turn out.
So if they have any way to separate the ergot from the grain because it's lighter than the grain, that would be a way to at least reduce the infestation, so to speak.
And then there are fungicides seed treatments in the triazole group.
They can suppress germination of that ergot, so you can kind of reduce the risk of infecting your crop.
And another thing is if you can afford to put your seed a little bit deeper into the ground, an inch at least, a little bit deeper, that will essentially bury the ergot and so prevent the pathogen from spore relating up.
And then I would just say, sorry.
Scout in your fields and if you have areas where you notice that you have a lot of ergot, maybe don't harvest them or harvest them separately so you don't carry this forward into your next harvest.
- You mentioned something about ergonite.
There are a lot of commercial seed cleaners in Montana.
And if you clean that seed, I think you get rid of a lot of that ergot, probably, because as you mentioned it is lighter.
So that is another option, I think.
We talked about this earlier and this caller from Great Falls has had this question three times now.
So we're gonna answer it tonight.
Is diatomaceous earth still all right to use on slugs?
Diatomaceous earth is a natural barrier for a lot of arthropods and invertebrates.
So the slug will get to that and move away from it.
- Okay, sounds good.
You know, slugs are kind of, they're really not that big a pest, but they can become annoying and they're not particularly attractive.
From Helena, Abi, this person has a thin lawn, they want to know whether or not they can overseed a thin lawn.
- Yeah, you definitely can.
If you have a thin lawn, a few things that I would say you wanna look at too, if you have any soil issues, get a soil test to see kind of what might be going on.
A lot of times compacted soils will result in really thin, patchy lawns.
So aerating your lawn is a really good idea and you can add some compost when you aerate to kind of help that soil texture and you can overseed it at that time that you aerate, so that would be a really good way to get it to fill out more.
- Okay, thank you.
From Forsyth, Celie.
This person would like to know why we are not using more wind breaks as snow fences in the state.
Is there a reason for that?
I mean, they do work, I'm told.
I would assume that it takes so long to establish that maybe even just putting up a fence or a snow fence can be more efficient and effective if there are issues straight away.
But it's definitely an option to help capture that snow and keep it from going to places that you don't want it or keep it on your field and keep that moisture on your field.
- You know, on that tune.
Do shelter belts help conserve some of the snow that often moves into North Dakota from Montana?
- I suppose it could, yeah.
(laughs) - Okay.
I'm just thinking.
I have seen shoulder belts hold some snow.
- A year like this, it makes it difficult to get in and seed on time.
Interesting question here from Kalispell.
They lived out in the country for a long time and watered their plants in their garden with no problems.
They've moved into town, have a garden, they're concerned about the chlorine in city water.
Will that have an effect on garden plants?
- That's a good question.
When I was in Colorado, they did a really nice publication about it, but a lot of people are concerned about that.
But just the amount of chlorine in city water is low enough that it won't really impact plants.
It can affect soil microbes.
But usually because chlorine binds so easily to the soil, it'll only stick around the surface and those microbe populations will bounce back pretty quick.
So people can be very successful with gardens, they are successful, I wouldn't worry about that.
- Yeah, I think that's absolutely correct.
I'm surprised it took this long for this question to come in.
Celie, why can't we use Russian olive in shelter belts?
The Russian olive talk.
(Jack laughing) So we obviously, you know, at one point several federal agencies and probably state agencies suggested it because it's a very successful small tree at establishing in certain areas where you might not be able to get other species established.
But it's incredibly invasive.
It replaces our native species.
And I think it even has some allelopathic tendencies so it doesn't allow other things to grow.
So we try to avoid it.
It's very hard to get rid of.
It's an invasive species.
- Yeah, I've been told that, but I tell you, you talk to a lot of ranchers and farmers in this state and they still love the old Russian olive.
So it's a tough one.
But, yeah, I would agree with you.
It's not really suitable.
We have better plants now, I believe.
Caller from Glendive has sand burr in their playground.
And that's for next week because we have, we signed this on next week to really address this.
Jane Mangold will be here and she just loves sand burr questions.
They also found cut worms around his tomatoes early in the season.
How can he fix that problem?
- Oh, with cut worms?
You'll probably have to, right?
Already, this early?
- I doubt it, I think this has been previous years.
And I don't think many people have got tomatoes on the ground yet here.
- Yeah, okay.
So yeah, usually at that time you'll probably want to have a full year insect spray to keep 'em from eating your tomatoes at that time.
- [Jack] No, go ahead.
- Sorry, I was gonna say one of the things that I've done, 'cause I just keep getting my plants just chopped down by them.
You could put little toilet paper rolls around the base and they won't be able to get to the base of that plant.
So I've seen people do some creative things by just creating that physical barrier.
That can help, you know, prevent it before, because by the time they get through they've just chopped them all off.
But that's definitely been a problem.
- Are those generally army cut worms that attack the tomatoes and gardens?
Are there different species of cut worms too?
- There's a bunch of different species.
Army cut worms are just more prone to population explosions.
I think there's a pink cut worm.
You also have the pale western cut worm as well.
So it really depends on which one is in your particular area.
- When I lose a plant, I mean, you can tell.
Suddenly it's healthy one day and it's not there the next day, it's wilted.
You dig around, you'll find them.
And then I'll do the rounds to the others.
There's usually not a big population.
One cut worm can do a lot of damage.
- [Frank] Yeah.
- So that's my take.
Caller from Missoula has, what's a mahonia?
- I mean it's a nice ornamental.
- Well they have a mahonia that has brown leaves after winter.
Her neighbors are the same.
Is there anything they can do to bring them back to health?
- Yeah, so this is a question that I've gotten a lot over the past few months, but a lot of our, you know, evergreens are also showing, like, really, really bad winter injury and we've talked about this a little bit, but that's probably, you know, the respiration of that plant over winter and not getting enough moisture is probably responsible.
So stressed plants, usually you can help them kind of recover depending on the extent of the damage by making sure that they're getting plenty of water now.
You can add some mulch around the base to kind of prevent that water from evaporating, some arborist wood chips, and just take care of it.
Don't fertilize it, just kind of give it time to recover.
- Okay, thank you.
Question from Havre.
This person knows that Frank has worked on wireworms.
They're concerned that with the late season this year, seeding season, they're a little more worried about wireworms than in the past.
Is that a legitimate concern, Frank?
- Yes, it is definitely a legitimate concern.
The ideal time to plant is usually the most active time for wireworms in our area.
So they're gonna be active right now in the soil, when you're planting, and as the seed germinates, it's gonna emit CO2 and attract that wireworm to eat the seed and you'll prevent it from germinating.
So there are, I would recommend a seed treatment for it.
Right now there are broflanilide seed treatments that are really good and they actually kill the wireworm so they can prevent it from building up over many years.
- I'm not an entomologist but I've been told there's numerous different species of wireworms.
Is that correct?
Actually I study them.
So there's actually 184 species in Montana.
(Jack laughing) But don't let that number scare you.
- [Jack] Give or take one or two.
- Give or take one or two.
But only about 20 of them are species of concern.
And I would say of those 20, arguably only about 4 should we be really worried about.
- And they're primarily a issue in wheat and barley?
Some corn, but that'll be a different species.
From Victor, this person wants to grow blueberries.
I know we don't put them in shelter belts.
How would they go about preparing the soil or don't bother?
- The first thing I would say is get a soil test.
It would be very challenging to grow blueberries in the state.
Most of our soils are way too alkaline to do that.
They like a pH pretty low, you know, around five or so.
So get a soil test and if your pH is really high, you know, any sort of soil kind of treatments are very temporary.
It's not gonna impact the long-term health of the plant.
So I would say look for another alternative berry, like a haskap, they grow really well here.
They taste like blueberries and they're delicious.
So maybe look at a different type of berry.
- Okay, good advice.
Soil pH down under six, right?
- [Abi] Yes.
Five or so.
- Five, okay.
This person is establishing a wind break in the Denton area, not so much for erosion control but to encourage birds, like pheasants and so forth.
Do you have any suggestions for this individual?
What would be the best shrubs to put in a shelter belt for that reason?
- Yeah, so we'd probably go back to that same list I mentioned that's on our website, our field office technical guide.
We have extensive information in there about which wildlife species benefit from each one of the plants we have listed.
You know, windbreaks definitely serve several purposes.
You can even have pollinator habitat, you have to be considerate about any sort of herbicides or pesticides and where you're spraying those.
But you know, they can be for pollinators, they can be for wildlife habitat, they can be for noise control or noise barriers.
So it's a great idea.
You know, I'm gonna comment a little bit.
I used to have a honeysuckle hedge around where I live.
And number one we got Cytospora in it.
But number two, paraslugs.
Now I love honeysuckle.
But I don't think it's really that suitable.
Would you agree, in the state?
- We have one on the list, one honeysuckle species, and I can't remember what it is off the top of my head.
But if there are any issues or potential issues with some of the species on the list, we note that on there.
So we note the common issues and the common diseases and pests that could infect them just so you have a better awareness of if you have that in your area or if you are concerned about those types of issues and having to deal with them, then you can choose other species.
- Okay, thank you.
Uta, and this came in last week.
it was from the Heishman area, east of Billings.
They've had tomatoes about every second or third year, more so the last two years once it's been dry, they've had tomatoes that develop what they've been told is curly top, I believe that's the virus.
Any way to avoid that?
- That's a tricky one.
You're right, it's a virus disease.
And so viruses are always carried by what we call a vector.
In this case it's a leaf hopper.
And so the approach will be probably to think about how you can get the leaf hopper from getting in your tomatoes, but how do you do that?
I think that's a pretty tricky task because they have a broad host range.
They come from your range land, from the surrounding area, into your tomato, so it'll be tough.
There may be resistant varieties.
I know they breed for that in sugar beets, which is a crop that suffers from this disease.
But I don't know about tomatoes, to be honest.
- I'm not sure either.
I think there are a few out there, but I think... - [Abi] Yeah, I don't know them off the top of my head, but there are a few, yeah.
- Look at a garden catalog and they'll tell you the varieties that, and the other thing is I'd be growing determinate varieties instead of indeterminate varieties.
Do you agree with that?
Yeah, I would say so.
- And then in reading about the leaf hopper that transmits that virus, it seems that they prefer, I mean they have a broad host range, but they do like Russian fizzle a whole lot.
So, you know, certain weeds that we know they really prefer, if we can control them in the environment, that could also be an approach.
- Okay, thank you.
This is an interesting one.
It tells you how hungry grasshoppers can be.
It was from Glasgow and it was awful dry in Glasgow.
I know a producer up by Turner said he had about two inches of moisture all last year.
This person has a 40 year old blue spruce that was attacked by grasshoppers last year.
The tree is now without needles.
So they were hungry up there.
The bark is intact.
So he wondered if it could come back and be viable.
- Sorry, could you repeat that?
- I'll repeat it.
The grasshoppers ate all the needles off a blue spruce and the bark is fine.
- All of them.
- [Jack] All of them.
I mean it's worth seeing what happens to the tree.
Sometimes trees can be defoliated and survive a year or two after and may, you know, be able to get through it.
But it would be pretty stressful for the tree.
So make sure it's watered well, see if it bounces back.
I would say it's a watch and see kind of situation.
- [Jack] Okay.
- Abi, I was talking with Eva in the diagnostic lab the other day, hi, Eva.
And she was telling me like, check for the buds right now.
Like, are they green and juicy?
So at least I would tell you if the tree's still trying to push out the needles.
- That's a good point.
Check the buds.
You can also check the branches to see, you know, if the branches are still alive by just doing a little pinch of your fingernail and seeing if it's green and and white in there instead of brown.
- So on that note, when we go to Celie, I'll put her on the spot now.
Did the grasshoppers cause damage to shelter belts up in the northern part, the high line, this past year?
Any thought on that?
- I haven't heard any direct landowners calling us or talking with us, but I suppose our field offices up there would know about that.
I definitely was up in that area doing some field work last year and it was incredible.
I mean, you know, we should have had a lot of green plants and there was a lot of grasshoppers.
- Yeah, there were plenty of grasshoppers.
I love to put entomologists on the spot.
How many are we gonna have this year?
- It's gonna be probably a lot.
So the whole state is pretty moderate, for the whole state.
And then areas in the center of the state, I wanna say about Fergus County, you're gonna have a high population this year, predicted.
And then in the south central, again, you'll have a high population and then the northeast is another high population area to watch out for.
And this is probably the time to go scouting right now, especially as it gets warmer and warmer.
Scouting is best with the nymphs.
So the best way to scout is quite simple.
You go walking out into your field.
And if you're gonna start seeing little grasshoppers, probably about, I'd say, four or five each step you take, you kind of wanna say we have a problem here.
And the nymphal stage is where you really wanna start treating.
- So what are some of the things that impact these populations?
- It's gonna be spring rain and early summer.
So if it's gonna be a rainy May, it's gonna be a rainy June, you'll have a lot of pathogens and you'll knock down that population.
But if it's gonna be, if it just continues to be pretty warm, it could ramp up pretty quickly.
- All right.
And from Jefferson City, and thank you.
That's the first call we've ever had from Jefferson City.
So that's kind of interesting.
This person would like to know if buffalo berry would be good in a shelter belt.
It provides lots of berries for wildlife and sharp tails love it.
- Absolutely, yep.
It's on our list.
It's a great, it's a native and yeah, it has other benefits.
- And it's hardy.
- Very hardy.
- And that is the real benefit to it.
From Summers, and first call from Summers in a long time.
Does saw dust make a good mulch or soil amendment?
- I wouldn't add that to soil as an amendment.
Sawdust can be good for mulch, but it's so windy that it's just gonna blow away.
So I would say going for something more substantial like wood chips is better than sawdust.
If you're wanting to improve your soil texture, compost is usually the best bet.
But I wouldn't mix sawdust in.
- I agree.
- And we've really been talking about biochar.
It's the buzzword for forestry right now as a great soil amendment.
It's got a lot of positive benefits and it's a way to get rid of slash from a forestry operation that you may not want and get good use out of it.
- That's great, yeah.
- What is biochar?
- Yes, biochar is burnt wood down to a certain level that you then quelch and so it still holds the nutrients, water holding capacity, and other benefits without being completely turned into ash.
- Okay, cool.
Thank you, I did not know that.
See I told you I was gonna learn something tonight.
And at my age to learn something is difficult.
So question on emerald ash borer.
Frank, has the status of the emerald ash borer changed in our part of the country?
- It has not changed.
It, I think about two years ago, was found in Oregon.
But we are watching it carefully.
I'm planning on doing some surveys for it in the next couple years.
So I run surveys for invasive species across Montana.
And that's one I'm keeping an eye on.
- So we've lost a lot of ash, not from ash borer, throughout the state, from winter damage, a variety of different things.
As people replace these, would you suggest not putting that back in, but maybe diversifying?
- Yes, 100% - And box elder maples?
Jump in, you're a forester.
What would you replace them with?
(laughs) - In a wind break?
- Well, in a city.
- In a city.
You know, hackberry's really good.
Hackberry does well.
Maybe some locusts.
- [Abi] I like locust.
- Yeah, yeah.
Locust is good.
Some of the maples do well, you gotta be careful with Norway maple.
It can be invasive along waterways.
- But yeah, I think variety is the best thing to aim for.
Don't plant the same trees everywhere.
- No, I agree entirely.
And take Bozeman for example.
You could call it the city of the ash.
But as they die out and age out, it's nice to plant some other trees, diversify.
I actually like the oak and I've seen a lot of oaks in Bozeman that have done very well.
It has more of a tap root system, I'm told.
They're slow growing, which is fine for Montana.
You don't want a fast growing tree.
Okay, that's my opinion.
From Bozeman, vole damage and shrubs.
And my burning bushes took a major hit.
They like it.
Are they gonna survive?
- It's hard to say.
This has been a really tough year for voles.
My shrubs too.
And the damage is higher than I would expect because the snow was so tall.
And so in that case it might be beneficial.
So I would take a look at the extent of the damage and cut it down from below where that damage is.
And a lot of our woody shrubs are gonna bounce back and rejuvenate from that, so do some major pruning and they should be able to recover.
- All right, I hope so.
I'm tired of replacing those things.
And actually, Dave Bombauer who sits here once in a while, he lost 30 apple trees a few years back from voles, in one winter.
- [Celie] Is there anything you can do to try and... - There is.
- Yeah, so, like, in terms of once the tree's been girdled?
Yeah, so there's bridge grafting.
I haven't tried it personally, but it can work.
So you just take Zion wood from the tree and cut a notch from the top and below the damage, and you do that every three or four inches around the tree and that can help save the tree.
It's very tough to do and it's a very intensive tree surgery type procedure.
- The best solution is to fence your younger shrubs, and even some of your older ones, from the ground level up to maybe 10 inches.
- Do you even have to bury those, maybe?
- You know, I've never had to bury 'em.
As long as they're right at the ground level.
The voles don't dig very much there.
They'll go find something else.
But that has worked for me.
Here's a good one.
Comment from Billings.
This woman heard in her garden club that you can keep grasshoppers off of tomatoes by sprinkling flour on or around the base.
Is there any truth to this?
I love these just unusual questions.
(laughs) - I haven't heard this before.
- [Uta] Which flour?
- Yeah, if it was wheat flour, I would say you're just adding a little flavor to your plant.
(panelists laughing) Because they'll eat anything and it won't stop too much.
They'll come by and they'll eat it.
- If it got wet and they got stuck to it, but that's not gonna be-- - I think then another grasshopper will come by (panelists laughing) and find the flour, some yeasty grasshopper.
So it'll be a perfect recipe.
- Sounds good.
Celie from Denton, this person would like to know what they can do maintenance-wise to keep shelter belts in good health.
- Yeah, so there's a lot of things.
Ideally, you know, we want to utilize what's already in place.
So if we can use some copus regeneration methods where if we're starting to see decline in certain species we can cut them down and then they will re-sprout.
So we already have that root system.
We already have, you know, an established system and we don't have to start from scratch.
But, you know, we wanna replace any dead trees because without those, you know, with those gaps in the shelter belt or in the wind break we're losing the efficiency and effectiveness of that wind control.
We can also, you know, just replace by replanting.
Frank, this question, we have it every week, so I'll throw it out now and we won't answer it again.
When is a good time to put out wasp traps and do they need to have a pheromone in it to really be effective?
- So I'd say within the next few days would probably be the best time.
- [Jack] It's warmed up pretty rapidly and that should activate 'em, I would suspect.
- And then I would put in the pheromone.
- [Jack] Yeah, absolutely.
- Make sure to do that.
- Okay, this is from Townsend.
They have a new arborvitae that is turning brown, less than a year old.
Probably winter damage, do you think?
- Yeah, I'd say winter damage, a lot of times new plants or plants planted within the past, you know, even up to five years, when plants are transplanted, they get a lot of root damage which makes it even more difficult for them to take water.
And that ends up making them more susceptible to things like winter desiccation and stuff.
So that's probably what's going on.
Make sure to add plenty of water and give that plant some TLC.
- Okay, thank you.
From Missoula, this person has heard the term "climate smart forestry."
I have not heard that.
Fill me in.
- Yeah, so President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, August of last year, August of 2022.
And in that the Natural Resources Conservation Service got about $19.5 billion for conservation projects.
And part of those are climate smart projects.
So they're calling 'em Climate Smart Ag and Forestry or CSAF.
And of those they've picked out practices that we offer and deemed them as climate smart or climate mitigating.
And so they've limited and they're going to allow us to give financial assistance to landowners just for those types of projects.
And windbreak is on the list.
So windbreak is, most of our agri-forestry practices are, as well as a whole host of other agriculture range pasture projects.
- Okay, thank you.
From Great Falls.
"Since you have an entomologist on, would you ask him the question, whatever happened to the Russian wheat aphid?
It was such a hot topic several years ago and now we hear very little about it."
Do you want to jump on that one?
- Yeah, it's still out there.
It's still a problem.
But like a lot of aphids it's very hard to control it with the chemical application.
I'd say it's more of a problem that's been accepted versus trying to control for it.
How old are some of the wind breaks that they see throughout the state?
Some of 'em look pretty ragged and look like they've been there forever.
Any thought on how old some of these might be?
- Yeah, you know, after the Dust Bowl there was a huge incentive to put in wind breaks to try and control that wind erosion.
And so, you know, that would've been the '30s.
So we're going on 90 some years.
And so a lot of 'em were put in at that point in time and have been renovated or put in, you know, still quite a while ago.
It's not a big practice that we from NRCS standpoint install.
And so I would assume most of them are 50 plus at a minimum.
I've seen a lot in the older shelter belts.
I assume it's Siberian or Chinese elm.
They're not suggested to be put in wind breaks anymore, are they?
- We have one, well, we have American elm, of course, on the list and we have another one, I think it is.
- [Jack] Siberian?
- Siberian Elm.
Yep, that's on our list.
Yeah, it does well and we don't have a lot of issues.
It can be aggressive, but we haven't seen a lot of aggression in Montana.
- What I've seen with them is they have a tendency if you get an early snow, you get a lot of limb breaking.
- [Jack] So that's the only reason I'd be a little cautious of using it.
- Yeah, and, I mean they're susceptible to a lot of pests and disease issues.
If we're limited in what we can plant it could be an option.
Back to Frank.
This person has aspens with holes in the side of 'em and sawdust at the bottom of the tree, what's going on?
- You probably have a aspen borer of some sort.
So it really depends on if the hole is gonna be round or a D shaped hole depending on what kind of borer.
So if it's round, it'll be a round headed borer.
Cerambycidae, longhorn beetle.
If it's gonna be more of a D shaped hole or a more oval hole, that'll be a flathead borer and that'll be Buprestidae.
It really depends on how infested that aspen is.
It's usually a sign of stress as well.
So a stress tree will attract those wood borers.
So I guess repeat whatever we've been saying here, water and water and water.
And keep an eye on that.
And I guess you could probably, if it's pretty high up, you can trim it off and you'll control for it.
Or you can leave it and shouldn't spread too far into it if it's not stressed.
- You know, the beauty that I found with the aspens, and they're not long-lived in any case.
And when they do die out, if you start an aspen bed and keep the grasses out and just have mulch around it, you're gonna get suckers coming up that grow quite nicely.
So you have a continuous source of aspen.
And then you don't have to dig holes and plant 'em, which is more work.
- [Frank] That's what I've done for my aspen tree.
- It works very well.
(laughs) - I have four out of one.
- I also hear complaints on the other side.
(panelists laughing) When there's aspen saplings popping up on everybody's lawn.
- Okay, we have several questions here concerning various different herbicide questions.
We'll get to those next week.
We don't have somebody that really wants to answer those tonight.
We have a call from Laurel, they wanna know, they're starting a lilac hedge, but is it attracting deer and how they can they protect lilacs?
I don't think deer really like lilacs that much, do they?
- I mean, deer will eat anything-- - If they're hungry.
If they're hungry enough, and other things, like if you're near more deer habitat, that can impact it.
Other than a fence, a high fence, it's really difficult to prevent any sort of damage.
You can sometimes plant plants that are more deterrent to deer, so ones that have, like, prickles or really strong aromas around it, that may deter.
But deer are pretty crafty.
They'll eat anything if they're hungry enough, unfortunately.
So protecting things from deer is difficult.
We do have a mod guide coming out about protecting your plants from deer in residential areas that should be in the next month or two.
So that has a lot of good information where our wildlife specialist and Steven Van Tassel and myself have some recommendations for people as well.
- Are lilacs on your list, outta curiosity?
- [Abi] I don't think so.
- I've seen 'em in some hedges, but it surprises me.
Where I do see 'em is wind breaks around farmsteads.
A lot of times they'll put 'em on the inside of that wind break, more for at attractiveness than anything else.
Question from Carter.
I'm surprised you haven't gotten it before.
Does the NRCS USDA have a cost sharing program for shelter belt establishment?
- Absolutely, we have financial assistance for private landowners.
In Montana here we do something called Montana Focus Conservation.
It's kind of a more locally led process where landowners and other folks in the county get together.
They write a long-term plan and come up with the issues in the county.
And then off of that plan, they come up with targeted implementation plans, which is the targeted areas where they're gonna put financial assistance to address some resource concerns.
- So, okay, if I wanted to establish a shelter belt, who would I go see and gimme a little bit of the process of how this would work.
- Absolutely, so in almost every county in Montana, we have a field office, that's an NRCS field office.
And in that county is a district conservationist and some other field staff.
And you'd go in and see them.
They would come out to your property, look around, see what issues you have, and then start the planning process with you, which could include filling out some applications and forms for financial assistance from us.
- All right, thank you.
This person has 65 apple trees that are all 6 years old.
He thinks they have stopped growing in the past year.
They're in hard ground and windy conditions.
A soil test showed that there was too much nutrients.
That would surprise me.
That's a good question.
I'm not sure in terms of, you know, in encouraging them to grow, I mean, making sure that they're not stressed out, but you can add some fertilizer and see if they grow a little bit.
Do some pruning.
A lot of times, you know, if you do some intensive pruning that can really encourage that growth too.
So being six years old would be a really good time to really prune that tree and-- - Shape 'em up.
- And shape 'em.
I'm thinking they probably might be a little short of water up there because it's been relatively dry.
Okay, we're getting down.
I've got a couple more questions here.
Quick one from Butte.
This person has an ash tree by his garage.
The concrete has cracked there.
Could it be that the tree roots are getting in the concrete?
- Yeah, it's possible.
A lot of times if your tree root system extends far beyond the canopy of your tree, and so it's possible that, you know, any cracks in the concrete, the roots will be able to push through.
- Okay, if nothing else, just the expansion sometimes of the roots will crack.
And I've got poplar, Lombardi poplar, which I'm not particularly fond of.
But even the shoots or the suckers of that will push through asphalt.
- Yeah, they're pretty strong.
We got any new insects, invasive, that we're worried about in about 10 seconds?
- If you're in Billings, keep an eye out for brown marmorated stink bug.
So they've been established there.
- [Jack] Have we seen 'em there or not?
- Yes, they are there.
- Okay folks, a lot of questions tonight.
Thank you for calling 'em in.
We appreciate that.
We always encourage comments.
If you'd like to request a certain type of program you can get ahold of us and let us know what you'd like to see.
Celie, thank you so much for coming in.
Uta, Frank, glad to have you guys here.
And of course, Abi, as always.
Next week invasive species.
We got Jane Mangold.
Y'all know Jane, she's gonna come back and tell us about all the invasive things that we have to worry about.
Have a good week, good night, and stay safe.
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