Q&A With Seth Nagy

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There were interesting questions that came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week. I’d like to share three of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: My yard looked great earlier this year. Now there is a lot of brown in the lawn. What can I do?

Answer: Most lawns in Caldwell County are a tall fescue. Examples of tall fescue varieties are Rebel, Millennium, or the most common and oldest – Kentucky 31, commonly called K-31. The brown color that is plaguing most tall fescue lawns is the result of disease. This disease culprit is a fungus called Rhizoctonia solani. This fungus causes the disease “brown patch”. Brown patch is by far the most common disease of tall fescue.

Brown patch (or any plant disease) only develops when three things come together the disease organism, a host for the disease organism to infect, and the right weather conditions (temperature and moisture).

brown patch on grass

An up-close look at brown patch reveals an irregular pattern on the leaf blade with a dark purplish margin between the healthy green tissue and the tan necrotic tissue. This is the most common disease of tall fescue.

In this case, if you have fescue, you have a suitable host. The fungus that causes brown patch is always present in the environment. So for us, when the weather condition are right, brown patch develops.

Brown patch is most severe during extended periods of hot, humid weather. For the disease to get started nighttime temperatures have to be greater than 60°F and the grass must be wet for at least 10 hours. Poor soil drainage, lack of air movement, shade, cloudy weather, dew, and watering in late afternoon favor prolonged leaf wetness and increased disease severity.

Question: How are the bees doing?

Answer: It is not uncommon for people to ask about the health of our local honey bees. The ample spring rain showers have created a challenge for the bees. Frequent rain water can wash the nectar from flower blooms. The nectar is what the bees collect to make honey.

frame of honey

A local beekeeper is inspecting a frame of capped honey that is ready for extraction.

The rains may have reduced the sourwood honey flow some. We will know soon. Sourwood trees bloom from mid-June to mid-July. Beekeepers are just now starting to collect and extract the honey from the sourwood flow.

If you would like to know more about honey bees, consider attending the Caldwell County Beekeepers meetings. The group meets on the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room space of the Lenoir branch of the Caldwell County Public Library. The group also has an active Facebook page. Search “( CCNCBA ) Caldwell County NC Beekeepers Association” to find them online.

Question: In a recent News-Topic article you stated that home-grown eggs were not superior to commercial eggs. This is hard to believe. Can you explain?

Answer: Back in February, I was asked, “Are free-range eggs more nutritious?” To answer this, I referenced a study performed by Dr. Ken Anderson, a professor in the Department of Poultry Science at NC State University. Dr. Anderson conducted this study using more than 400 Hy-Line Brown pullets. All of the pullets in the study were hatch mates and were reared identically until they were split into two groups at 12 weeks of age. The range group had access to pasture. The conventional group did not have access to pasture or forages.

At the end of the study, Dr. Anderson concluded, “a significant nutritional advantage of eggs produced by chickens housed on range versus cages could not be established.” He said, “The key takeaway from this research is that an egg, no matter where it’s produced, is a very nutritious product. Eggs from the range production did have higher levels of total fat than eggs produced by caged hens, but they did not have higher levels of cholesterol. Perhaps the most striking finding was that both cage and range birds produced eggs with lower cholesterol levels than previously believed, which has led the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to lower the cholesterol guidelines for eggs in the USDA Nutrient Database for shell eggs to 185 mg per egg, down from 213 mg.”

For answers to your agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.