Q&A With Seth Nagy- EEE, Grass ID, and Farm Leases

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

Question: What is Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis?

Answer: Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a mosquito-borne, viral disease that affects the central nervous system of horses and causes inflammation of the brain. There are typically a handful of cases reported in North Carolina each year. Birds are the reservoir of the virus. Birds can be carriers of the virus without showing any signs or symptoms of disease. Mosquitoes spread the virus when they take a blood meal from a horse after feeding on an EEE infected bird.

Symptoms of EEE are impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions, and death. Once a horse has been infected by a mosquito bite, symptoms appear within 10 days.

EEE is fatal 90 percent of the time in horses. Vaccinations are the best approach to protecting your horse from EEE. Eliminating mosquito breeding sites also lowers the risk of EEE infection as well as other mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Disease and Western Equine Encephalitis.

Question: What is this grass? (See picture.)

Answer: This is a weedy grass called sweet vernal grass. It is native to the acidic soils in Eurasia and northern Africa. This is an indicator species that tells there is low soil fertility. If this shows up in your lawn, pasture, or hay field, it is time to do a soil test. Correcting the soil deficiency with the recommended lime and/or fertilizer will eliminate this grass.

Sweet vernal grass get its common name because of its unique sweet smell. The smell comes from a compound known as cumerin. When making hay from sweet vernal grass, it is important the hay is dry before baling. When sweet vernal grass molds (or spoils), the sweet smelling compound becomes dicumarol. This compound inhibits Vitamin K in the blood and prevents clotting.

Dicumaril is better known as warfarin, or by the brand name Coumadin. This compound has been used to control rodent populations, as well as to save lives as a blood thinner.

This discovery came about in 1933 when a dairy farmer named Ed Carlson drove to Madison, Wisconsin with a milk jug full of blood, a dead cow, and a pile of moldy hay. Mr Carlson’s dairy cows were dying, and he needed help. He connected with University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Karl Link and his student assistant, Eugen Schoeffel. Sweet clover disease was known, but Dr. Link and his assistant isolated the culprit dicumarol. This compound came to the market in 1955.

Question: Do you have a sample lease agreement? I want to rent my farm.

Answer: NC State Extension has sample lease agreements and general information about farm laws in North Carolina. This information can be accessed by contacting our office or visiting the website farmlaw.ces.ncsu.edu. Andrew Branan is our farm law specialist and provides this information. However, this is general information. If you have specific questions about your situation, you should contact a lawyer.

If you have an agricultural question please contact the Caldwell Extension Center (828.757.1290) or visit us anytime online at caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.