Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Agricultural Working Group Meeting for the Crooked, Stephens and West Runs and Willow Brook Water Quality Improvement Plan




This is a reminder that our second Agricultural Working Group Meeting for the Crooked, Stephens and West Runs and Willow Brook Water Quality Improvement Plan will be held on March 8, 2016 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Warren County Fire & Rescue Company #1 in the second floor assembly room (221 North Commerce Avenue, Front Royal, VA).  In the event of inclement weather, the meeting will be postponed until March 16th, to be held at the same time and  location.  I will send out a meeting postponement announcement if this happens, and you are also welcome to call me to confirm postponement. 


During the meeting, we will discuss specific agricultural best management practices to include in the plan along with associated costs and a project timeline.  We have been working on some additional outreach to the agricultural community, so I am hopeful that we will have good representation from local farmers at the meeting.  Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about the meeting or the project in general.  I hope to see you all there!






Nesha McRae

Non Point Source TMDL Coordinator, Valley Regional Office

VA Dept. of Environmental Quality

4411 Early Road, Harrisonburg VA

Mailing address:  P.O. Box 3000, Harrisonburg VA 22801


phone: (540) 574-7850

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Frost Seeding Clover: JUST DO IT!

Frost Seeding Clover: JUST DO IT!

            Everyone is familiar with Nike’s ad campaign that encourages people to “JUST DO IT”.  I am officially adopting this slogan for my 2016 Frost Seeding Campaign.  Legumes are an essential part of a strong and healthy nitrogen cycle in grasslands.  In many cases they come by themselves when we start to manage for them, but in some instances, we need to introduce them back into our pastures.  Listed below are a few steps that we can take that will help to ensure that our frost seedings are successful:.


  • Control Broadleaf Weeds.  Broadleaf weeds must be controlled prior to seeding legumes.  This is best accomplished by controlling weeds the season prior to renovation.
  • Soil Test and Adjust Fertility.  In order for pasture renovation to be successful proper soil fertility is required.  Lime and fertilize pastures according to soil test results.  Lime should be applied six months prior to renovation if possible.
  • Suppress Sod and Decrease Residue.  The existing sod must be suppressed and plant residue reduced prior to seeding.  The reduction in plat residue facilitates good soil-seed contact.  This can be accomplished by hard grazing in late fall and early winter. 
  • Ensure Good Soil-Seed Contact.  Regardless of what seeding method is chosen, good soil-seed contact is required for seed germination and emergence. 
  • Seed on Proper Date.  Frost seeding or drilling legumes back into pastures is usually best accomplished in late winter or early spring (February and early March).  Frost seeding is accomplished by simply broadcasting the seed on the soil surface and allowing the freezing and thawing cycles to incorporate the seed into the soil.  Success with frost seeding can be enhanced by dragging your pasture after or as you broadcast the seed.  This simply gets the seed in better contact with the soil.  Prior planning and preparation are important so that seeding can be done in a timely manner.
  • Use High-Quality Seed of an Adapted Species.  Choose forage species that are adapted to the area and end use.  Use either certified or proprietary seed to ensure high germination, seed genetics, and low noxious weed content.  Cheap, low quality seed often cost more in the end due to lower production and thin stands.  In Virginia, a good mixture for renovating pastures with is 4-6 lb red clover, 1-2 lbs of ladino or grazing white clover, and 10-15 lb of annual lespedeza per acre. 
  • Use correct seeding rate.  Calibrate your seeder prior to planting (see box on calibrating forage seeding equipment).  Seeding at too high of a rate needlessly results in higher seed costs.  On the other hand seeding at too low a rate results in weak stands and lower productivity. 
  • Inoculate Legume Seed.  Always use inoculated legume seed or inoculate it with the proper strain of nitrogen fixing bacteria prior to seeding.  This is relatively inexpensive insurance that legume roots will be well nodualted and efficient nitrogen fixation will take place.
  • Control Seeding Depth.  Small seeded forages should never be placed deeper than ½ inch.  When using a drill always check seeding depth since it will vary with seedbed condition and soil moisture status.  Placing small seeded forages too deep will results in stand failures.
  • Check seed distribution pattern.  When using a spinner type spreader/seeder make sure and check you spreading pattern.  In many cases small seeded forages are not thrown as far as fertilizer.  This can result is strips of clover in your pastures rather than a uniform stand.  Also check your seed distribution pattern.  Single disk spinners often throw more seed to one side if not correctly adjusted.   
  • Control Post-Seeding Competition.  Failure to control post-seeding competition is one of the most common causes of stand failures.  Clip or graze the existing vegetation to a height just above the developing seedlings.  This must be done in a timely manner to ensure that the competing vegetation does not get ahead of the seedlings. 


  • Pray for rain.  Lastly and most importantly pray for rain.  We can do everything just right, but if it doesn’t rain success will be unlikely.


For more information on frost seeding contact your local extension agent or visit Virginia Cooperative Extension’s webpage at http://www.ext.vt.edu/. 


Agriculture Education Clearinghouse: Innovation Funded By a Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project Mini-Grant.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) announces the dissemination of over $30,000 of mini-grant funds to Coalition partner organizations for 2016 programming opportunities aimed at supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers in Virginia.  A fundamental component of this mini-grant initiative is to assist VBFRC organizations to support the goals of the Coalition while, at the same time, increase the capacity of the partner organization's ability to either initiate new or enhance existing programming projects designed to support place-based and culturally-appropriate education, training, and networking opportunities for Virginia’s beginning farmers.  Funds support expenses directly related to the implementation of the project such as educator travel, human resources, and educational related materials.


Mini-grant projects illustrate new and enhanced programming opportunities to be implemented across the Commonwealth in 2016. These projects reflect a number of capacity building and farmer-led approaches.  Start-up issues these projects address include: gaining access to scale-appropriate markets and marketing channels; peer development for young and military veteran farmers; building ecological farming skills and experience for new farmers; and gaining access to farmer-knowledge through online networking and resource sharing. 


Virginia Cooperative Extension - Clarke and Warren Offices in cooperation with Fauquier Office of Agriculture Development, the Loudoun Rural Economic Development Council and Loudoun’s Office of Economic Development proposed the Agriculture Education (AgEd) Clearinghouse.  The clearinghouse will enable users to identify, review, and compare disparate agriculture related education programs available nearby.  The primary features of the AgEd Clearinghouse are 1) the convenience of a single, online information source and 2) a user interface that enables learners to create a personalized learning plan that identifies and sequentially aligns independent programs.  The primary benefit of the AgEd Clearinghouse will be its ability to empower VBFRC members and others to determine how, when, and where they apply life resources to obtaining knowledge.  A secondary benefit will be its innovation value. 


The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition and this mini-grant initiative are sponsored through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Award Number: 2015-70017-22887.  For more information, Dr. Kim Niewolny at niewolny@vt.edu; 540-231-5784.  Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Agricultural Damage Assessment and Resources for the Coming Storm

I sincerely hope that each of you are getting prepared for what is projected to be a Serious Winter Storm.   

If you live in Virginia's P.D. 7 - My co-workers, Mark Sutphin, Bobby Clark and I are responsible for providing agricultural damage assessment and situational updates to local, regional and state Emergency Operations Authorities.  Due to the serious and wide spread nature of this storm system, I have a a couple of requests:

Please take this seriously and Prepare for the storm (farm and family) as best you can - be watchful of damages and or loss caused to agricultural related items such as livestock, horses, barns/structures, fencing, equipment, greenhouses, etc. – If you have losses like these  please let one of us know.


Also, If you know of someone in your area that experiences losses as described please contact one of us.  We will do all that we can to help.


I also wanted to share with you some resources that have been passed around in various forms and additional information just in case you need it. 


    Heavy snow and high winds are a recipe for widespread power outages. Prepare a plan now before a possible outage.
    Learn how you can use alternative heat sources and generators safely.
    • Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit with three days of food, water, prescription
    medications and other supplies ready.
    • Consider obtaining a NOAA Weather Radio to stay abreast of current weather conditions.
    If heavy snow begins to accumulate on your roof, remove the snow with a snow rake and a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing safely on the ground.
    Inspect your source of heat for any damage which can cause a fire and result in costly property damage. Also, remove combustible items placed near a heat source.
    Prevent costly water damage caused by frozen pipes by:
    • providing a reliable back-up power source
    • insulating all attic penetrations
    • ensuring proper seals on all doors and windows
    • sealing all cracks and openings in exterior walls
    When severe winter weather is on its way, it’s important you know and understand what each alert means so you can respond accordingly.


Contact Information:




Thank you and Please Stay Safe!



C. Corey Childs

Unit Coordinator - Agriculture Extension Agent

Warren County Extension Unit

220 N. Commerce Avenue

Front Royal, Virginia  22630

Cell: 540-692-4075

Office: 540-635-4549

Equine management in Cold Weather Events

With the imminent winter weather upon us, the following tips are friendly reminders to help ensure the health and welfare of your horses:

  • Water is the most essential nutrient for horses. A safe and adequate water supply should be provided free choice 24/7. Horses require at least 7 to 10 gallons of water per day to avoid adverse health effects such as dehydration and colic. Prevent access to frozen ponds as horses may fall through ice seeking water. Streams should not be counted on as a sole water source. If using tank heaters or de-icers, ensure they are functioning properly. Make sure you have a back up plan if there is a loss of electricity or pipes freeze. Wells cannot pump water, electric de-icers will not work, and some automatic water troughs will not work without power. 
  • Hay and feed are critical to meet nutrient and energy requirements and a supply of at least two weeks should be on hand and stored properly to avoid rodents and moisture damage. Hay is important to provide fiber necessary for a healthy digestive system and helps keep horses warm through hindgut fermentation. Hay should be provided free choice in most circumstances. Hay should be fed under cover to prevent moisture damage and molding. Maintain a regular feeding schedule and do not change feeds abruptly, as this can disrupt digestion and cause colic.
  • Power and electricity loss should be planned for. It is ideal to have a back up generator available to provide electricity. Be aware of carbon monoxide toxicity from running generators and propane heaters. Extra fuel should be on hand to power generators and heaters. All people on farm should know how to turn off water, electricity and other utilities in case of bursts pipes, power outages and fire hazards. Car chargers should be available to charge cell phones.  Cell phones may not work in severe storms so prepare for communication loss.
  • Fencing may be damaged from downed trees and wind. Materials and supplies to repair fences and temporary fence materials should be on hand to contain horses.
  • Facilities should be prepared by removing dangerous tree branches or debris that could potentially injure humans, animals or buildings prior to winter weather.
  • Shelter should be provided to protect horses from wind and precipitation. If horses are kept in stalls, a plan should be in place to clear snow and debris for adequate exercise for stabled horses. Plan to have enough bedding for at least a few weeks. Run in sheds should provide enough room to safely house the number of horses in a paddock or field. If the shelter is natural (trees, woods, etc) make sure there are no safety concerns such as dead limbs that might fall.
  • Turnout blankets are usually not necessary for horses unless they are clipped or do not have adequate shelter. If turnout blankets are used, they should fit properly and horses should be checked daily to make sure they are not rubbing or wet underneath. Only use waterproof turnout blankets.
  • Veterinary supplies should be on hand for emergencies and routine care. Discuss emergency care with your veterinarian should they not be able to access the farm due to impassable road conditions.