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COL Plumeless thistle increasing problem

Plumeless thistle has continued to increase as a problem noxious weed in Minnesota, says Doug Holen, Extension specialist in West Ottertail County (Minn.).

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture estimates 500,000 acres in the state are infested with plumeless thistle with a territory predominately in the western half of Minnesota.

Specific identification of the plumeless thistle is critical to controlling it, he said. Plumeless thistle is a biennial plant that grows vegetatively the first season, overwinters, and produces seed and dies the second year. It is a prolific seed producer, resulting in large soil seed banks requiring years to control. Prevention is the best cultural control accomplished by addressing small infestations and managing sites to be naturally competitive with desirable species, Holen said.

Grass tetany can be a spring threat

Grass tetany occurs when cows don't receive enough magnesium in their diets, usually in early spring when forages aren't yet established, says Nolan Hartwig, Iowa State University Extension veterinarian. Often, clinical symptoms are not observed and the only evidence is a dead cow in the pasture.

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"The trouble with tetany is that the symptoms, when noticed, can vary widely and often resemble other disordered such as milk fever,'' Hartwig said. "Prevention is key.''

Tetany is most likely to occur in unsupplemented beef cow herds in April or May. Once night-time temperatures begin rising to 55 degrees or higher the incidence of tetany falls because grasses are more able to draw magnesium from the soil at warmer temperatures.

Pastures with high levels of potassium in the soil often have more cases of tetany.

Interest rates at historic low levels

Interest rates are at historic low levels, says David Bau, Extension director in Murray and Nobles counties. Now may be the time to reduce the cost of borrowed money.

"Farmers can lower their cost for money by doing a balance sheet analysis and setting up their loans on the balance sheet to lower the interest costs for their operations,'' he said.

Farmers can reduce interest costs by locking low interest rates in with long-term fixed rate notes.

"The best rates offered are often for variable rate notes that can adjust a certain amount during a certain period,'' Bau said. "But again, with rates at historic lows the most likely way interest rates will adjust is up.''

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Be alert for herbicide contamination

Remember to take extra time and care to clean your sprayers between products to avoid spray tank contamination, says Bill Halfman, Extension educator based in Houston County, Minn.

In the past, we only really needed to be careful when switching between corn and soybeans or other sensitive crops, he said. However, we now need to be careful and clean herbicide residues out of the sprayer even when switching between different types of corn and beans. For example, a conventional corn hybrid can be damaged by a sprayer contaminated with Roundup after spraying Roundup Ready corn.

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