Have You Seen Me? Invasive Forest Pest Community Detectors – Free Webinars

The Maine Association of Conservation Districts is offering free regional webinars to highlight how to protect Maine forests from invasive forest pests. Webinars will be presented by local soil and water conservation district (SWCD) staff and will focus on statewide and regional pest problems. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry staff will be on-hand with information on current local forest pest management issues.   Presentations are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020; Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020; Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020; and Tuesday, Oct, 13, 2020. Webinars are free and sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).   Click here to register for the webinar series.

Aroostook County Farmers are ‘Soil-ing’ their Underwear… for Science

From The County website

HOULTON, Maine (July 17, 2019) — Aroostook County’s three soil and water conservation district organizations are trying out an unusual experiment with area farmers this summer using “soiled underwear” to highlight soil health.

About a dozen farmers and gardeners around Aroostook County are participating in the project by burying all-cotton pairs of underwear in their gardens and crop fields, and planning to dig up what’s left of them in two months.

“The idea is that the more alive your soil, the more the undies will decompose,” said Angela Wotton, district manager at Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District. “It’s sort of a fun experiment. It’s a good visual for soil health.”

The more biologically active soil is, with a diversity of bacteria, fungi, earthworms and microorganisms, the quicker the cotton or other natural materials will break down. Agricultural fields with more soil life can better support crops and retain organic matter and nutrients over the long term.

In the last decade, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped more farmers adopt soil-building strategies such as cover crops planted over multi-year rotations of cash crops like potatoes and grains.

The demonstration in Aroostook County is a collaboration with the local offices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Southern Aroostook, Central Aroostook and the St. John Valley.

Wotton credits the start of the initiative to Kelsey Ramerth, soil conservationist. The St. John Valley team will be digging up the underwear to display during the annual Ploye Festival Aug. 9-11 in Fort Kent.

“Our ultimate goal and our focus has been on building soil health. I feel like a lot of farmers in Southern Aroostook plant a fall or winter cover and try different combinations of cover crops. A picture is worth 1,000 words. It shows how alive the soil is,” said Wotton. “The farmers in our district have made a lot of gains. They’re doing a lot of work on their farms to focus on soil health.”


Conservation Districts at the State House

Maine’s Soil & Water Conservation Districts presented their latest programs to legislators at the annual Conservation District Day at the State House in Augusta.  District displays focused on local accomplishments with agriculture, forestry, invasive species, wildlife, lakes, urban issues, and water quality.

MACD Displays

Senate President Justin Alfond, House Majority Leader Seth Berry, and Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe thanked Districts for their presence and offered support. Senator Emily Cain and Representative Dennis Keschel from the Appropriations Committee spent time viewing displays and talking with District employees.  Districts thanked members of the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee for their ongoing support.

Conservation Districts brief legislators at the State House

Conservation Districts brief legislators at the State House

Legislators from every county in Maine took time out from their busy schedules to visit with their Conservation Districts, renew acquaintances, and learn about the effectiveness of locally-based programs for natural resource conservation.

Rosetta Thompson (Franklin SWCD) and Rep. Russell Black (Wilton)

Rosetta Thompson (Franklin SWCD) and Rep. Russell Black (Wilton)

Southern Aroostook SWCD Announces “Winter Ag School”

Southern Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District
WINTER AG SCHOOL: February 18 – March 29, 2014
Confirm class location and time under each class listing

Tuesday, February 18, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Live video feed from Omaha, NE and soil health discussion with local NRCS staff
Mars Hill High School, Music Room, 35 Pleasant St, Mars Hill
Pre-registration is appreciated – please contact the District
• Panel of farmers will discuss experiences with cover crops and impacts on soil health (live video feed)
• Soil health in Maine discussion
1 Pesticide Credit
2 Nutrient Management Recertification Credits
2 Certified Crop Advisor Credits – Soil &Water

Tuesday, March 4th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Dave Handley, Small Fruit and Vegetable Specialist, Cooperative Extension
Houlton office of Cooperative Extension, Military St, 2nd Fl
• Basic care of growing small fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries

Tuesday, March 11th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
George McLaughlin, Agricultural Engineer, Maine Potato Board
Houlton High School, Rm 34
• Broad discussion regarding precision ag and its uses, including pros and cons
1 Pesticide Credit

Tuesday, March 18th, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Gary Anderson, Animal & Bio-Sciences Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Houlton High School, Room 34
• General overview of estate planning and issues of transferring the farm/generational transfers
• Outcome of determining need and interest level for future day-long workshop on this subject

Thursday, March 27th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Dan Jacobs, District Forester, Keith Kanoti, Water Resources Forester – Maine Forest Service, and Pat Sirois, Director, Maine SFI
Houlton High School, Library
• BMPs to protect water quality
• Maine SFI programs and updates
• Interactive BMP demonstration on the SFI water table
• Intro to new Forestry Rules of Maine
2 QLP Continuing Education Credits
½ day CLP Recertification Credit
2 Continuing Ed Credits for Licensed Foresters

Saturday, March 29th, 9:00 – 11:00 am
Rob Mulvey, Pleasant View Tree Farm
the Callnan’s orchard, 1245 County Rd, New Limerick
Pre-registration is appreciated – please contact the District
• Hands-on opportunity to learn how to effectively prune fruit trees
• Pruning tips for both new and established home orchards

For more information on the classes or if you require special accommodations please call:
Southern Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District: 532-2087 ext.3 or email angela.wotton@me.nacdnet.net

Nutrient management plans

by Laura Lecker, Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District

Nutrient Management Plans: Why should you have one? Are your fields less productive than you would like? Do you see muddy/polluted water leaving your barnyard or fields? High levels of on-farm production depend on an adequate supply of nutrients. However, if nutrients are present in the soil in greater quantities than are needed or at times when they can not be used by crops or soil microbes, they may lose their benefits as soil fertilizers and become pollutants.

A nutrient management plan (NMP) is an important planning tool for producers. The Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District writes nutrient management plans for producers upon request, as a fee-for-service. These plans are written in conjunction with the producer and will reflect specific management and resource needs and issues on your farm.

An NMP uses soil and manure test results to match manure fertilizer value to needed nutrients in each field and for each specific crop. In addition, timing of manure applications are planned to reduce the possibility of nutrient runoff and increase the fertilizer value to the crops. Sensitive environmental resources are inventoried and safe setback distances for spreading and stacking are delineated.

Plans are intended to help the farmer provide crops with the nutrients they require while preventing these nutrients from contributing to water quality impairment. This is achieved by managing the storage, amount, source and timing of the application of nutrients and other soil amendments.

An NMP, therefore, serves several purposes:
• Allows for appropriate spreading of essential nutrients needed for optimum crop growth
• Addresses possible erosion and other water quality issues on the farm.
• Provides efficient and effective use of scarce nutrient resources
• Helps landowners maintain and improve the physical chemical and biological condition of the soil
• Minimizes or prevents environmental degradation caused by excess or inappropriate nutrient application
• Protects your right to farm under Maine’s Right To Farm law.

In an effort to protect our valuable water resources, the state of Maine requires all farms with over 50 animal units (an animal unit = 1000 lbs) or more than 100 tons of imported manure to have a certified NMP. Even farmers that do not fall under these guidelines may well wish to obtain a NMP. A well written plan is an invaluable management tool for all producers, large or small. Efficient and effective use of farm nutrients is an important issue for everyone, and a nutrient management plan can help producers look at the “big picture” while managing the specific details to make the farm as profitable as it can be. Consult your local NRCS or Cooperative Extension office for a list of certified nutrient management planners.

Once you do have a nutrient management plan, what do you need to do? Once the plan is written, the landowner’s work has just begun. Each year, it is important to be sure to keep accurate records of:
• what is spread on each field
• how much is spread on each field
• when inputs are applied
• crop yields attained for each field
• weather conditions
• other issues that have an effect on the timing and nature of the nutrient application

Your plan is a dynamic document that should be used to help you manage your farm. Farm records and soil tests monitor crop response to nutrient additions and management practices. This helps to maximize crop yields as well as help a landowner save money on unnecessary fertilizer and other inputs.

An NMP will need to be updated and re-certified any time there is a significant change in the farm operation (such as a change in animal numbers, land base or feeding/bedding used). State law requires that the plan be reviewed by the landowner once a year and updated by a certified nutrient management planning specialist at least every five years. New soil and manure tests are required at this time.

Be aware that many certified nutrient management planners, including SWCD personnel, are very busy in the early spring and fall, so it is highly advisable to schedule an appointment several months in advance of when you need the plan. Remember that a plan update can not be completed until current soil and manure test reports have been obtained, and those who have their tests in hand will be served first.

When used correctly, a nutrient management plan can be a powerful tool to help you get the most out of your fields and protect our natural resources. Contact the SCSWCD to help you with nutrient management plan creation, updates and questions.