Become Part of N.D’s Climatological History

It’s fun, easy and only takes five minutes a day.

North Dakotans can become part of the state’s climatological history by becoming volunteers for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS)

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS)

“In your neighborhood, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are measuring precipitation in their backyards as part of CoCoRaHS, which has grown to more than 15,000 volunteer observers covering every state of the country,” says Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist and assistant professor of climatology in the North Dakota State University Soil Science Department.

North Dakota joined CoCoRaHS in October 2008 and has 180 volunteer observers.

“We need as many volunteer observers as possible around the state to help forecast flood potential, especially in the Red River Valley,” Akyuz says. “It’s fun, easy and only takes five minutes a day.”

The observers measure rainfall, snowfall and snow depth. Some observers also measure the water equivalence of the melted snow. The National Weather Service uses that information to assess potential river flooding more accurately.

“The more data points there are, the more accurate the assessment of the flood potential,” Akyuz says.

The CoCoRaHS network engages volunteers of all ages, from grade-schoolers to people in their 90s, to document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their backyards.

“Don’t worry if you do not know how to do all that,” Akyuz says. “We have lots of training materials for you to become an observer. All you need is an interest in weather to participate in the program and a cylindrical rain gauge.”

The rain gauges that the CoCoRaHS uses are available from several distributors on the network’s website at http://www.cocorahs.org. The website also offers online training.

Data from CoCoRaHS volunteers routinely are being viewed and used by many professions and organizations, including the National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, agribusinesses, engineers and science teachers. Data are used for many applications, such as water resource planning, irrigation scheduling, severe storm warnings, teaching, predicting crop yields and assessing hail damage.

For more information or to join CoCoRaHS, click on the “Join CoCoRaHS” tab while in the CoCoRaHS website at http://www.cocorahs.org.

Posted in Weather | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Perennial Plant of 2012 Named

Jack Frost in BloomThe Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has named Brunner macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ the 2012 Perennial plant of the year. Known by many common names – Siberian bugloss, brunnera, heartleaf brunnera, and false forget-me-not – this hardy beauty for North Dakota and surrounding prairies will be put to good use in many shade gardens this upcoming growing season. While this perennial will thrive in shady locations, it can be used in eastern exposures – morning sun – providing the soil can be kept moist.  With that qualification of consistent moisture, the soil ‘Jack Frost’ will be planted in should be high in organic matter and dressed with a generous covering of peat or compost.

Jack FrostGrowing to a height of 12 to 15 inches with a spread of 20 inches, this hardy perennial will give multi-season character to the garden and landscape setting. The forget-me-not flowers show up in mid-to –late spring, and are held in clusters several inches above the frosty silver foliage. Because of the rough texture of the foliage, it will be less palatable to browsing deer.

Jack Frost in BloomThis handsome, mound-forming plant will mix/blend well with other shade garden favorites like hosta, bleeding heart, and ferns. Propagated mostly by tissue culture, ‘Jack Frost’ is a sport of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Langtrees’ and was discovered in a flat of ‘Langtrees’ at Walters Gardens, Inc.in Zeeland, Michigan. From a practical standpoint, the expanding foliage does a pretty good job of hiding ripening bulb foliage.

Ron Smith, Ph.D.

Photo Credit: Walters Gardens, Zeeland, Michigan

Posted in Gardens, Lawns & Trees | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wind Lessons Make Big Impression

Bottineau County elementary school students have discovered a simple saltine cracker can  teach them about wind energy.
Kids Learn About Wind Energy

These youngsters were among about 4,100 North Dakota students who joined millions of youth nationwide on Oct. 5 for “Wired for Wind,” the 4-H National Youth Science Day’s 2011 experiment.

After discussing types of energy and studying photos of wind farms and wind turbines, the Bottineau County kindergarteners and first-, second- and third-graders made their own turbines. They balanced crackers on their fingers and gently blew on the crackers to make them spin. Then the students made pinwheels and went outside to see the wind in action.

“It was a really windy day, and the kids squealed with delight as their pinwheels came to life,” says Bottineau County Extension agent Karla Monson.

4-H launched National Youth Science Day in 2008 as part of a massive effort to help build American’s future workforce in science, engineering and technology.

In Morton County, fourth- and fifth-graders designed and built wind turbines as their Wired for Wind project. They chose vertical or horizontal blades and decided which blade pitch would produce the most energy.

“The kids strategized as to what turbine style they would make and watched as others put together their wind turbines so they would have a better reading of voltage,” says Morton County Extension agent Karla Meikle.

The students also learned how tall commercial wind turbines are, how much they weigh and how much concrete goes into building them, as well as about the challenges of building wind farms, the best locations for wind farms in North Dakota, impacts of wind farms on bird migration, and power transmission.

“They thought it was pretty cool how power generated in North Dakota could be transmitted and used all he way to Duluth, Minn.,” Meikle says.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 Annual Highlights of the North Dakota Argicultural Experiment Station and NDSU Extension Service.

Posted in 4H Youth Development, Energy, Kids & Family | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

NDSU Extension economist has some tax tips for producers.

Agricultural producers need to take a close look at some tax preparation items, says Ron Haugen, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm economist.

Items to note for 2011 income tax preparation:

  • Producers have until March 1, 2012, to file their returns without penalty. If a producer made an estimated tax payment by Jan. 17, he or she will have until April 16 to file.
  • The 179 expense election is $500,000. Generally, the 179 expense election allows producers to deduct up to $500,000 of machinery or equipment purchases for the year of the purchase. There is a dollar-for-dollar phase-out for purchases of more than $2 million. It is scheduled to revert to $139,000 for 2012 unless Congress acts.
  • The additional first-year bonus depreciation provision is in effect. It is equal to 100 percent of adjusted basis after 179 expensing. It only applies to new property that has a recovery period of 20 years or less. The bonus depreciation is set to return to 50 percent in 2012.
  • The standard deduction is $11,600 for those who are married and filing jointly. The deduction is $5,800 for singles.
  • The personal exemption amount is $3,700.
  • Qualified dividend income is taxed at a 0 percent rate for individuals in the 10 or 15 percent tax brackets and at 15 percent for those in higher tax brackets.
  • Long-term capital gains are taxed at a 0 percent rate for individuals in the 10 or 15 percent tax brackets and at 15 percent for those in higher tax brackets.
  • The child tax credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child.
  • The annual IRA contribution is $5,000 for 2011 or $6,000 for individuals 50 or older.
  • The annual gift tax exclusion is $13,000.
  • The 2011 Social Security wage base is $106,800.
  • The business mileage rate for 2011 is 51 cents per mile to June 30, 2011, and 55 1/2 cents after that.
  • Crop insurance proceeds, if received in 2011, may be deferred to 2012 if you qualify. You must use cash accounting and show that, under normal business practices, the sale of damaged crops would occur in a future tax year.
  • A livestock deferral can be made by those who had a forced sale of livestock because of a weather-related disaster. Two methods can be used. In the first method, income can be deferred to the next year for all types of livestock sold prematurely. In the second method, income from livestock held for draft, breeding or dairy purposes is not taxed if like-kind animals are repurchased within four years (or more depending on weather conditions or disaster declarations) from the end of the tax year in which the animals were sold. Only the gain on the sale of those animals beyond what normally was sold would qualify for postponement.
  • Remember that qualifying farmers can elect to compute their current tax liability by averaging, during a three-year period, all or part of the current year elected farm income. This is done on Schedule J. North Dakota farmers who elect to use income averaging for federal purposes also may use Form ND-1FA, income averaging for North Dakota income tax calculations.

Information on agricultural tax topics can be found in the “Farmers Tax Guide,” publication 225. It is available at any IRS office or can be ordered by calling (800) 829-3676. Any questions about these topics should be addressed to your tax professional or the IRS at (800) 829-1040 or http://www.irs.gov. Call the North Dakota Tax Department at (877) 328-7088 or go to http://www.nd.gov/tax/ for answers to North Dakota income tax questions.

Posted in Farm Economics & Mangement | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prevent Hardware Disease in Cattle

Inverted tires can make great containers to hold cattle feed and water, but tires also can pose health risks for the animals if the tires aren’t maintained regularly.

These heifers are eating from a tire being used as a feeder.

These heifers are eating from a tire being used as a feeder. (Photo by Carl Dahlen, NDSU)

“If the tires you are using on your operation have wire in the walls, this wire can break off and subsequently be consumed by cattle,” warns North Dakota State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen. “Cattle ingesting these pieces of wire can develop a condition known as hardware disease.”

Once wire is swallowed, it goes into the digestive system and often gets trapped in the chamber of the stomach called the reticulum. The reticulum has honeycomb-shaped structures on the walls and is designed to trap foreign materials. If the wire punctures the reticulum wall, stomach contents can leak through the wall and cause a condition called peritonitis. Peritonitis can lead to poor health and also may cause systemic infections. Cattle that continually decline in health eventually may need to be culled.

Metal, wire and other foreign materials in the reticulum also can lead to sudden death, Dahlen says. The diaphragm is the thin muscle that divides the abdominal cavity (which contains the stomach, intestine, liver, etc.) from the thoracic cavity (which contains the heart and lungs). The reticulum and heart are close to each other, separated only by the diaphragm. In instances when cattle experience severe abdominal contractions, such as while delivering a calf, foreign material in the reticulum can be forced through the reticulum wall and into the heart.

“If this happens, the animal will die shortly thereafter,” Dahlen says. “Alternatively, the metal may pierce only the protective layers around the heart and cause inflammation and/or infection. Either way, it is not a good situation.”

To avoid hardware disease, perform regular maintenance on your tire feeders. Maintenance should include:

  • Cutting or grinding off exposed wire, and picking up pieces and removing them from the cattle-feeding area
  • Removing any wire, nails or other metal scraps from areas to which cattle have access
  • Including powerful magnets in feed mixers
Posted in Livestock | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NDSU Partner in $1 Million Energy Beet Development Project

A project that will develop an advanced biofuel from energy beets and provide growers across North Dakota with a new industrial crop is taking another important step forward, fueled by a significant two-year North Dakota Renewable Energy Council grant.

“This project truly is a public-private partnership with the Green Vision Group (GVG) of Fargo and Heartland Renewable Energy of Muscatine Iowa, plus research by North Dakota State University, to develop the energy beet biofuels industry in North Dakota,” says Cole Gustafson, NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics chair.

Cole Gustafson

Cole Gustafson, NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics chair

The NDSU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and the Carrington Research Extension Center will continue to provide research for the project.

The $1 million phase II project includes $500,000 in funds from the North Dakota Renewable Energy Council, with approval from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, plus cash-match funds from industry partners Betaseed and Syngenta, and other in-kind contributions.

The project seeks to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency multiperil crop insurance program for energy beets; engineer and evaluate new front-end energy beet processing methods; expand regional energy beet research trials; scale up whole-energy beet and juice storage technology to enable year-round processing; and inform producers, community developers and the biofuel industry of the emerging opportunity.

“We envision developing at least 12 sustainable ethanol facilities across North Dakota,” says Maynard Helgaas, president of GVG. “Each plant will use energy beets grown within a 20-mile radius and support job creation in rural communities. This grant will help us make significant progress toward that vision and help develop North Dakota’s energy beet biofuel industry.”

GVG is in the process of selecting the location for its first processing facility, which is expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol per year once complete.

The first phase of the energy beet project focused on research, including yield trials, storage research and commercially testing the use of a coproduct to provide processing heat. Current yield trials are in Dazey/Hannaford, Turtle Lake, Langdon, Minot, Williston, Carrington and Oakes. In 2012, trial plots will be expand to include Jamestown, Harvey, Litchville and Colgate. The yield trials will continue to be sponsored by Betaseed and Syngenta.

The plot trial research results in phase 1 exceeded expectations, according to Blaine Schatz, Carrington REC director.

“So far, our research shows that energy beets can be grown successfully outside of the Red River Valley in a variety of soil types and conditions,” Schatz says. “The beets actually help growers improve soil health and give them greater farm income.”

“Ethanol produced from energy beets can be sold at a premium,” Gustafson says. “We expect that energy beet ethanol will produce 50 to 60 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuels, which will designate it as an advanced biofuel. We are working to finalize the life-cycle analysis of energy beets through a formal Environmental Protection Agency application. Securing EPA approval of energy beets as an advanced biofuel will mean a significant premium for producers and processors in the sugar-based ethanol market.”

The life-cycle analysis research is funded in part by a separate grant from the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission and community donations.

“North Dakota farmers, processors and rural communities should see positive financial returns by growing and processing energy beets for biofuel,” Gustafson says.

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

NDSU Offers Farmland Leasing Workshops

Strong commodity prices and high production costs have made it more difficult for operators and landowners to successfully determine appropriate farmland lease arrangements.

Landowners, renters and other agribusiness professionals with an interest in farmland ownership, management and leasing should plan on attending one of nine farmland leasing workshops across North Dakota presented by the North Dakota Extension Service.

The workshops are offered to help landowners and renters identify and manage the risk associated with rental arrangements. Dwight Aakre and Andy Swenson, Extension farm management specialists, and Willie Huot, Grand Forks County Extension agent, will be the main presenters.

The workshops are approximately three hours long. One of the topics is a historical perspective on farmland values and rents, with emphasis on causal factors and future risks. Concepts and practical examples of how to determine equitable rents also will be presented.

The main session will help participants better understand different rental arrangements, such as cash rent, share rent and flexible cash rent.

“There has been increased interest in flexible cash rental arrangements,” Swenson says. “This session will show how a flexible cash rent agreement can be designed to try to meet the desired income and risk levels of both the landowner and renter. Examples of various methods of adjusting the cash rent level will be discussed.”

There will be a session on how producers can improve their land rental negotiations by enhancing the communication process with landowners. This includes the use of resumes, portfolios and frequent communication to keep landowners informed and educated about the operation and vision for a particular tract of land. Some communication pieces will be showcased as examples.

Dates and locations of the workshops are:

  • Jan. 30 – Drake, Knights of Columbus Club, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 13 – Carrington Research Extension Center, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 15 – Lisbon, Ransom County Courthouse Community Room, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 17 – Cooperstown, Country Club, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Feb 22 – Watford City, McKenzie County Courthouse, 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Feb. 23 – Stanley, Mountrail County Extension Office, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Feb. 24 – Minot, North Central Research Extension Center, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Feb. 28 – Bismarck State College Career Academy Building multipurpose room, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Feb. 29 – Jamestown, Farmers Union state office, 1 to 4 p.m.

Contact your county NDSU Extension agent for more details.

Posted in Farm Economics & Mangement | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund

Tax Refund Check

Image courtesy Tim Faracy. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Whether your tax refund is $500 or $3,500, it can mean a real impact on your personal and financial well-being. Before you spend your refund on a flat-screen TV or an iPad, try to think through your options, even the ones that aren’t especially exciting or glamorous.

Consider three general rules:

  • DO plan ahead before spending your refund. Without a plan, you may use the money on the first important thing that comes to mind, and then later realize something else was more important. Planning ahead and involving the family increase the chances you will identify all the possibilities and think about which are most important.
  • DO devote a portion of your tax refund to build long-term financial security.
  • DON’T throw away part of your refund on loan fees – “quick refund” companies are just giving you a high-cost loan!

Here are four smart uses  for your money:

Pay Off Bills

  • First priority: regular monthly bills (utilities, phone) if you have gotten behind
  • Other bills prioritized with highest interest rates paid off first

Save for Needs in the Coming Year

  • Emergency Funds – Try to have enough to cover a couple of months should you have an emergency, such has a medical expense or car repair, or lose your job.
  • Occasional Expenses – Avoid big bills, such as holiday spending, by building savings now!

Long-term Savings

  • Save for goals such as a dream vacation, home or retirement.
  • Small amounts add up! Putting $500 a year into an IRA can yield $68,100 after 30 years.
  • Moderate-income workers contributing to retirement accounts may qualify for a tax credit.

Special Purchases

  • Once you have taken care of the basics, consider that new refrigerator, sofa or TV.
  • These may be essential or can be delayed until you have saved for that specific item.

Build a Yearlong Habit!

Making good use of your tax refund feels great. You can experience that same sense of accomplishment all year-round!

Tax refund season is not your only opportunity to make financial progress toward your goals. Every week you have opportunities to improve your financial well-being.

If you don’t think you can come up with any extra money each month, look again. You may be able to plug a few spending leaks and “find” some money!

Once you’ve found some extra funds, you can use that money to:

  • Keep bills paid up
  • Pay off debt early
  • Build financial security
  • Keep saving – whether you’re saving for retirement, college or something else, even a little bit makes a difference
Posted in Money | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Poster Contest Helps Promote Nutrition, Physical Activity

North Dakota youth will have a chance to show off their creativity and knowledge of good health and nutrition in this spring’s “Eat Smart. Play Hard.” poster contest.

The contest is open to North Dakota youth ages 8 to 19 as of Sept. 1, 2011. Posters will be judged in two age divisions: preteen (ages 8 to 12) and teen (ages 13 to 19).

2011 first place poster in the preteen division of the "Eat Smart. Play Hard." poster contest by Catherine Manstrom of Wyndmere, ND.

2011 first place poster in the preteen division of the "Eat Smart. Play Hard." poster contest by Catherine Manstrom of Wyndmere, ND.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service, NDSU Extension’s Center for 4-H Youth Development and the North Dakota Dietetic Association are sponsoring the contest.

The posters should educate and promote the idea of living a healthy lifestyle. The posters also should inform North Dakota youth and adults about the importance of healthful food choices and regular physical activity.

This year’s posters must be centered on a theme that directly relates to eating healthful foods and getting regular physical activity, with a special emphasis on healthy skin. Participants can learn more about the role of nutrition and sun protection in maintaining healthy skin from “Nourish Your Skin,” an NDSU Extension publication available at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1572.pdf.

“Many children do not consume the recommended amount of colorful fruits and vegetables, and they do not reach physical activity goals,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist. “We hope this activity gives children the opportunity to be advocates for healthful eating, physical activity and sun safety for their peers, families and communities.”

Posters will be judged on how well they present information, their general appearance and their effectiveness in educating others about healthy lifestyles. The prizes are in the form of gift cards for a chosen retailer. Winners will receive a $50 card for first place, a $35 card for second place and a $15 card for third place. All entrants will receive a participation prize.

“In our past poster contests, children and teens have shown great creativity in promoting health messages to their peers and others,” Garden-Robinson says.

Some past poster contest winning entries can be viewed on the “Eat Smart. Play Hard. Together” website at http://www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart.

Entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2012. They should be dropped off or mailed to the Center for 4-H Youth Development, Attn: Eat Smart. Play Hard. Poster Contest Entry, 219 FLC, Department 7280, 1310 Centennial Blvd, Fargo, ND 58102.

Contest rules (PDF)
Entry form (PDF)

“Eat Smart. Play Hard.” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service initiative that focuses on making America’s children healthier. It provides practical suggestions to help children and their caregivers eat a healthful diet and be physically active.

Posted in Food & Nutrition, Health & Fitness | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New N.D. 4-H Ambassadors Selected

Eight youth were selected to join the North Dakota 4-H Ambassadors team.4H logo

The new team members, the county where they live and the school they attend are:

  • Hanna Pike, Ramsey, Devils Lake High School
  • Justin Mueller, Traill, Hillsboro High School
  • MaKayla Heinz, Nelson, Lakota High School
  • Tayler Wolff, Dickey, Oakes High School
  • William Klose, Walsh, Valley-Edinburg High School, Edinburg
  • Courtney Kemmet, Mercer, Beulah High School
  • Neil Lelm, Burleigh, Century High School, Bismarck
  • Anna Friedt, Stark-Billings, Trinity High School, Dickinson

The North Dakota State 4-H Ambassadors is a group of young adults from across North Dakota who are actively involved in 4-H. They coordinate many activities that involve teaching youth and adults about topics such as leadership, team work and citizenship.

They specialize in planning and facilitating 4-H events, such as the annual statewide Extension Youth Conference, workshops, training sessions and regional events. They strive to create events that are fun, educational and skill building, and promote self-improvement. They also are active volunteers for 4-H programs in every North Dakota county.

Posted in Extension News, Kids & Family | Tagged , , | Leave a comment