Questions From Consumers

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Some excellent questions came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week, and I’d like to share a few of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful. If you have a specific question not answered here, please contact the Caldwell Extension Center directly.

What is neem oil?

Neem oil is oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree. The neem tree is indigenous to India. Neem oil is a type of horticultural oil that can be used to help control plant pests such as insects and diseases. Studies have been performed to determine the effectiveness of neem oil against a wide range of plant pests. The results of these studies have been varied and contradictory. The challenge with neem oil is the variability of the extraction process. This variability of neem oil makes it difficult to make general claims about its efficacy beyond that of other horticultural oils.

Horticultural oils in general are compatible with beneficial insects. They control plant insect pests like aphids and scale insects by dissolving their waxy outer layer. When this cuticle or outer layer of the insects is damaged, the insects actually “dry out”. The fancy word for this is dessicate. There is some evidence that also suggests that oils may also suffocate pest insects as well.

Horticultural oils can be applied in the winter to reduce insect eggs as well as insects that are over wintering on plants. Like any pesticide, please read and follow the labeled directions.

How can you determine the sex (gender) of day-old chickens?

It might seem like a simple question, but determining the gender of a day old chick is not obvious. Commercial hatcheries sex day-old chicks by examining the vent. The vent is the common opening all birds have. Though this sounds easy, it actually takes a great deal of training to be proficient with this direct examination procedure. This technique was developed by the Japanese and brought to the United States in the 1930’s.

By making specific breeding choices, the sexing of the birds can be easier. This is called sex-linking. Sex-linking is where a plumage trait, like slow feathering or a certain color pattern, is linked to the sex chromosome so that there is a distinct difference between the sexes of day-old chicks. This makes it much, much easier to determine the female pullet from the male cockerel.

As the chicks get older, they will exhibit differences in behavior and feathering. The males switch from chirping to attempting to crow. The males also have larger bodies, combs, and wattles than females. The males develop larger spurs than the females. The males have longer, more pointed, and narrower hackle feathers (located on the neck). The hackle feathers typically have a rounded oval shape in females.

Should I fertilize my lawn now?

Yes! February is the month to fertilize fescue lawns in Caldwell County. Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet. In absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio. To determine the amount of product required to equal 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag.
Example 1:
A 16-4-8 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 16 = 6.25 (100/16 = 6.25) pounds of product applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Example 2:
A 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 10 = 10 (100/10 = 10) pounds of product to be applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

If a mulching blade is used on the mower and the grass clippings are allowed to return to the soil, the fertilizer rate can be cut in half.