Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2022

Stunted seedlings: just the cold weather, or is there something more going on?

Authors: Natalie Hoidal & Marissa Schuh, UMN Extension horticulture educators A cold, cloudy April is bad news for seedlings, and slow growth under these conditions is to be expected. However, there may be more going on if your seedlings are looking yellow and stunted. It can be hard to pinpoint the cause of stunted seedlings, so in this article we'll cover some issues we're seeing this season and how to identify them.  Potting soil issues Potting soil can have a major impact on the health of your seedlings. The physical make-up of it (e.g. the ratios of peat to bark to compost to perlite, etc.) impacts water holding capacity, and even minor shifts in composition can mean that growers need to change their watering routines to avoid drying out or over watering. The chemical properties of your potting soil are also critical. Potting soils vary widely in their pH, electrical conductivity, and nutrient availability. Potting soil with very high electrical conductivity can negati

Food safety and livestock - safely using manure this spring

  Annalisa Hultberg, extension educator, food safety Did you have chickens in your high tunnels this winter? Or are you planning to apply manure to your fields this spring before planting? Animal-based soil amendments such as composted manure and poultry litter can build the health, tilth, fertility and water hold capacity of your soil. They can also be a great way to use resources you might have on the farm such as manure.  However,  all animal-based soil amendments, especially those that include untreated (raw) manure pose microbial risks and should be used safely to reduce the potential for causing illness.  Here are some guidelines to help you minimize any potential risk of contamination and foodborne illness as you use these soil amendments this season.  What are the risks with animal-based soil amendments? All animal-based amendments carry a risk of microbial contamination, though many factors affect the level of risk in each. Different animals tend to be reservoirs for different

Include last year's nitrogen credits in your fertility plan this year

As you figure out how much fertility to add to your fields this year, make sure you're including nitrogen that is left over from previous cover crops and compost / manure applications. You may need less nitrogen than what is recommended on your soil test. What is a nitrogen credit? There are two basic categories of fertilizers: inorganic and organic. Organic in this case does not mean USDA certified organic, but rather any fertility source that is bound in carbon. Organic sources of fertility include things like manure, composted manure, compost, cover crops, fish meal, etc.  When nitrogen is bound in an organic form, it takes a while to mineralize, or become usable by plants. In some cases, it can take 1-2 years. Farmers should take this into account when making fertility plans to avoid over-fertilizing. Calculating nitrogen credits from cover crops If you planted a cover crop in the fall, you are likely going to receive some nitrogen from it this spring. Legume cover crops can pr

When to remove straw from strawberries in 2022

Photo: Strawberry field following straw removal.   Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production Straw mulch must be removed from strawberries when they first begin growing in the spring. Once the straw is off, plant growth accelerates rapidly. Delaying mulch removal too far leads to delayed harvest and decreased yield. The key is to balance straw removal with the weather, to minimize risk of late spring frost damage. Each spring is so different in Minnesota, so it is a grower's challenge figure out the ideal time to remove straw from strawberry fields. This decision should depend on a few factors: Strawberry leaf growth under the straw Soil temperature and moisture The weather history and forecast This year, our spring is off to a slightly slower start than in 2020 and 2021. We look at growing degree days to find out if our spring is "ahead" or "behind" the average.  For example: Based on three weather stations in southeast

Soil testing resources and support for fruit crops

 Author: Annie Klodd, UMN Extension Educator - Fruit Production. This week is a perfect time to take a soil test as a fruit grower. Pruning is done, and it is too early to spray. I have started receiving calls from growers asking for assistance interpreting their soil test reports.  Please feel free to reach out to me for assistance with your test report or soil sampling. If I can't answer your question, I consult with soil scientists at UMN to get you the answer. In addition to emailing, here are seven other ways to get help with soil testing and soil reports: 1) Watch this video on how to take a soil sample in an orchard or vineyard. 2) Contact your local county Extension Educator . Many, but not all, counties in Minnesota have an agricultural Extension Educator who is happy to help you interpret the test report and decide what amendments to apply.  3) Call or email the UMN Soil Testing Laboratory . Contact info is on their website. Order soil sample collect