April 14th, 2014 by Chris Parks
Lavon Eblen talks about getting out and walking.
Lavon Eblen talks about getting out and walking.
Jim Field discusses getting ready to plant and divide rhubarb this year, despite the funky weather.
DEWITT, Iowa – With the coming start of the growing season in Iowa, a group of volunteer “drift catchers” is preparing to spread out across the state to monitor the air for floating pesticides. Among the group is Greg King, who grows vegetables, fruits and flowers in rural DeWitt, and had some problems with agricultural drift last spring. “It was later found out to be drift of glyphosate or Round-Up,” he said. “It affected one of our crops, which was tomatoes, and they’re extremely sensitive. It also affected some of the trees in our yard, curling up the leaves and in one case, one of the plants died.”
According to Practical Farmers of Iowa, there were nearly 200 reported instances of pesticide drift in the state last year, although many go unseen and unreported. King said one way rural residents and horticulture farmers can minimize the potential for pesticide drift damage is to get on the sensitive crops registry, a directory compiled by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for use by pesticide applicators.
“And it gives the various sprayers in the area an opportunity to look up your particular address in the area where they’re going to be spraying and a chance to realize that perhaps they need to be more diligent,” King said. Beehives can also be registered with the state.
King said that when pesticide applicators know they’re working in a sensitive area, they do have options to minimize drift.
“They can slow the machines down, slow the pumps down, drop the booms. There are several things that can work in conjunction with what I might do on my side of the fence,” he said. “And in my case with a high tunnel, I would drop the sides down, close it off, turn the ventilation fans off, and that type of thing.” A high tunnel is a sort of greenhouse made of plastic sheeting supported by frames.
King urged those who want to get on the registry to act before May 1, since the start of the month is frequently when applicators will review the sensitive-crops list.
Information on the sensitive-crop registry is at IowaAgriculture.gov. Details on the drift-catcher program are at PANNA.org.
Water safety experts are warning canoers, kayakers and boaters that Iowa’s bodies of water have been slow to warm. Certified paddling instructor Darrin Siefken, of Waverly, says even though the air temperature feels spring-like, the water can be ice cold and dangerous. “Our rivers and lakes here in northeast Iowa just thawed out within the last week. So, most of those water temperatures are only about 50 degrees…when the air temperature is in the 60s or so.”
“It’s a good opportunity to dress properly and bring along another set of clothes in a dry bag just in case you would tip over,” Siefken said. Kayaking is becoming increasingly popular in Iowa. Charles City has a world-class course built in 2011 and similar venues are under construction in Manchester and Elkader. Siefken instructs his students, before they hit the water, to let others know where they’re going and when they expect to return.
“And then make sure you follow up and tell them when you get back…it helps with today’s technology that we can get a hold of people pretty easy,” Siefken said. He warns that many rivers in Iowa are full of debris that has washed downstream and could cause navigation problems.
w/ Jim Field and Stacie Linfor
GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa (AP) – Environmental specialists with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are investigating following the crash of ammonia tanks into a western Iowa creek. The department says dead fish were discovered downstream from where two anhydrous ammonia tanks and a tractor fell into Brushy Creek north of Guthrie Center on Friday. The driver of the tractor, 34-year old Michael Haag, of Adair, was transported by Guthrie Center Rescue to the Guthrie County Hospital.
The John Deere 9510R tractor was pulling a disc and the two tanks when an old wooden bridge it was crossing on Oak Avenue, between 200th and 210th Street, collapsed, and the equipment fell into the creek. Investigators determined that the valves of the tanks had been shut off and that there was no fuel leaking from the tractor, but that some ammonia leaked into the water.
Some dead fish and elevated ammonia levels were found as far downstream as Monteith, about five miles southeast of Guthrie Center.
Coordinators of a grant related to local farmers markets are looking for public input. The Cass County Local Food Policy Council received a USDA grant late last year to support and promote farmers markets as access points for local grown food. The grant committee is in the process of holding community meetings to get ideas and suggestions from interested local residents and businesses.
Organizers have already met with groups in Anita and Massena to discuss support for community farmers markets. The Atlantic community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15th, from 4:30 to 6 PM in the meeting room at the Atlantic Chamber. Anyone interested in supporting or helping with local markets like the “Produce in the Park” project that has happened for the last two summers is welcome to attend to learn more and give their input.
Those who are unable to attend are still welcome to contact organizers LaVon Eblen, Lora Kanning at Cass County Conservation, Teddi Grindberg at the YMCA or Kate Olson at the Cass County Extension Office to share ideas or express interest in being involved with the project.
Warmer temperatures combined with strong winds and dry conditions lead to more brush and wild-land fires across the state. These types of fires can pose a serious threat to lives and property. The National Fire protection Association (NFPA) has reported over 59 million acres have been burned by wildfires in the past decade. While Iowa is not known to have large wildfires like those that regularly affect western states, our state is still prone to dangerous brush fires created by dry conditions, strong winds and low humidity.
To prevent the spread of brush fires and other debris, the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office suggests keeping in mind:
Check for county burn bans, city restrictions and with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Air Quality before conducting any open burning; Never burn on dry and windy days; Have water and tools on hand to extinguish anything that may escape the burn area; Do NOT burn alone, always have another person with you; Do NOT leave a fire unattended; Call 911 immediately if a fire does get out of hand.
And, if you have questions about outdoor fire safety, contact the Iowa Department of Public Safety – State Fire Marshal Division at (515) 725-6145 or e-mail at email@example.com.
1212 PM CDT FRI APR 11 2014
…ELEVATED FIRE DANGER THIS AFTERNOON…
VERY DRY CONDITIONS PREVAIL ACROSS THE AREA AGAIN THIS AFTERNOON…WITH RELATIVE HUMIDITY FALLING TO 15 TO 25 PERCENT IN MANY AREAS. COMBINED WITH GENERALLY WESTERLY WINDS OF AROUND 15 MPH AND GUSTY THIS WILL LEAD TO AN ELEVATED FIRE DANGER UNTIL WINDS SUBSIDE THIS EVENING. ANY OUTDOOR FIRES WILL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO SPREAD RAPIDLY AND BURNING IS DISCOURAGED.