Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: chinch bugs in sorghum

Better Kansas – August 8, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. Don’t forget to hit subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

IT’S SO GOOD TO DRIVE THROUGH A COMMUNITY and see thriving businesses, whether a store that’s taken an innovative approach or a restaurant that serves great food AND has figured out a way to market it. Running your own business, however, leaves little time to communicate with your peers in other communities who have similar challenges or successes, or ways to learn about technology or legislation that may affect your business. To support small businesses in communities across Kansas, First Friday e-Calls are available the first Friday of the month. It’s professional development information without leaving your business and the only cost is the time it takes to participate. Previous First Friday e-Calls are archived, and topics run the gamut from “Funding Options for Small Businesses” to “Effective Use of Social Media for Rural Organizations”; “Cyber Security Threat to Small Business”; “Innovative Rural Business Models”; “Business Valuation and Business Transition Planning” and many more. Take a look at the website or send an email to to learn more or to be added to the notification list about upcoming e-Calls.

THINK OF ALL OF THE WAYS OUR LIVES HAVE BECOME CONVENIENT, the drive-throughs, the remote controls, and now the grocery delivery! But is that convenience always a good thing? A decline in physical activity is especially a problem for older adults, less than 20% of whom engage in adequate physical activity. That loss of muscle mass can sneak up on us and post-menopausal women can lose 1%-2% of their bone mass annually. To help get us back to where we should be, many K-State Research and Extension offices offer the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program. Participants meet for one-hour sessions, twice a week for eight weeks. Activities include warm-up exercises, strengthening exercises with or without weights, and cool-down stretches. Class members are encouraged to do the exercises on their own once more per week. Benefits? A potential to restore bone density and reduce the risk of fractures, plus a decrease in arthritis pain, weight maintenance, and a reduction in the risk of diabetes, heart disease and depression.

DO YOU DREAD GETTING THOSE LATE SUMMER ELECTRIC BILLS as much as I do? Thank goodness for electricity and air conditioners, but some days they can barely keep up with our heat and humidity. Air conditioners use about 5% of all electricity produced in the United States, costing homeowners more than $29 billion a year. Save on cooling costs by installing a programmable thermostat and replacing your home’s air filter. Take a look at more tips to beat the heat or listen in.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO THIS TIME OF YEAR is to spend time on my patio with my flowers, something good to read and yes, the bees, flitting from flower to flower as though they’re trying to decide which classmate to ask to the prom. As a child I was afraid of bees, but that was when I was ignorant about the crucial role they play in our lives. Nearly 75% of the world’s food crops depend on honey bees and other pollinators. But bee populations have been declining and there is evidence to suggest that humans’ inappropriate use of pesticides may be part of the problem. For a closer look, including great photos, check out Pesticides and Bees. So yes, I’m happy to share my space with the bees. Certain other crawly creatures not so much, but I’m really trying to stick with the idea, can’t we all just get along?

SORGHUM (AKA MILO) IS ONE OF KANSAS’ MOST IMPORTANT CROPS, partly for its drought-resistant ways. It’s a key ingredient in livestock rations and increasingly food products, not to mention other uses. But some insects, such as chinch bugs and sugarcane aphids among others, also love sorghum and can take more than their share from a farmer’s yield (and the bottom line). For a whole lot of practical, research-based information on how to control the pesky bugs, take a look at Sorghum Insect Management. And for a radio interview on sugarcane aphids in sorghum, plus other ag related topics listen to Agriculture Today .

IF YOU EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES of farming in southwest Kansas, there’s a spot (or many spots) for you at the K-State Southwest Research-Extension Center Fall Field Day on Thursday, Aug. 22 in Garden City. It’s a place to come learn what scientists have found, including what’s working well and what isn’t in this part of the state, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions of researchers and your fellow producers. And this is one of those days where you tour the fields and see for yourself what the researchers are working on. Topics range from weed control, summer annual forages, irrigation efficiency, Bt corn refuges, beneficial insects, and several on control of the weed, kochia, that can cut crop yields by more than half. Industry exhibitors will be on site and did I mention, there’s lunch?!

For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here:

Better Kansas – July 18, 2019

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**ALERT: If you’ve signed up to subscribe to Better Kansas by email, make sure is added to your safe sender list.

Welcome to Better Kansas. Every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, your businesses, your communities and state better. For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. In the meantime, check to sign up for a weekly email and for archived entries. – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

PARENTING CAN BE WONDERFUL, JOYFUL, SATISFYING, and oh, maybe just a tad stressful. And for the many parents who are also stepparents, there are other things to consider, especially if the blended family has recently come together. We all like to think of The Brady Bunch (OK, some of you may have to Google this), but in reality, children who find themselves in a newly blended family with a new stepparent and maybe new sisters or brothers, may perceive the situation differently than their parents do. Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies provides insight into how young minds work and offers suggestions to help with this important transition. Give your family and yourself permission to try things differently. How important is your annual custom of opening gifts on Christmas Eve rather than the next morning? Build your own new traditions. Spend time doing things with each child and in combinations of family members. When it comes to discipline, it may be best for the biological parent to take the lead with the stepparent’s support, especially in the beginning.

DRIVING TO WORK EVERY MORNING I pass a farm that sells fresh produce and one thing that pulls me in is when they hoist the banner for peaches. They’re low in calories, contain no saturated fats, are a moderate source of antioxidants and vitamin C (which helps with our bodies’ ability to build connective tissue and resist infections), and oh yes, they’re delicious. And then there’s peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp … you know. I always think of them as so perishable, but you can freeze or can them. Check Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe – Peaches for how-to information.

NOW WHO’S READY TO TALK ABOUT DEATH? NONE OF US, RIGHT? I know I’m not, but when it’s not imminent is probably the best time and for that reason I’m going to write about these things from time to time. There’s a lot of paperwork involved after the passing of a family member and thinking ahead might ease the difficulty of those days. In what bank did Grandma have that CD? DID she still have a CD? Wonder where mom and dad’s marriage certificates are? Or their birth certificates for that matter? Decisions After a Death includes important questions and documents that can help guide us through some of the tough days. Now the big question, do your own grown children or siblings have this information about you? I don’t know about you but this is a reminder for me to do a better job of communicating this information.

Another resource is the Social Security Administration; check the Survivors area for audio and print resources.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

FOR THE ONE OR TWO CATTLE FEEDERS OUT THERE … OK, there may be a few more in the state … the latest report on the estimated net returns of cattle finishing operations is now available on the Department of Agricultural Economics website. The report comes out monthly and reflects the most recent feedlot closeout estimates and current market conditions. This is a page to bookmark if you haven’t already, or sign up to be notified of this and other ag economics updates on By the way, as of June 1, 2019, there were 2.38 million cattle in Kansas feedlots, up 3% from a year ago, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That was in feedlots with 1,000 or more capacity. Overall, there were 11.7 million cattle on feed across the U.S. on the same date, which USDA says was the highest June 1 inventory since they’ve been tracking the data in 1996.

YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO FEED A HUNGRY TEENAGER? Chinch bugs can be a little like that when they’re looking for their next meal, so watch for signs that they’ve marched from newly-harvested wheat fields over to tender, new sorghum plants in the field next door. Planting delays caused by rain in some areas may have made the sorghum (milo) and feed crops even more vulnerable this year. Problems with chinch bugs were historically confined to eastern and central Kansas, with damage beginning in May or June, but in recent years, they’ve become more problematic farther west in the state. To learn more, take a look at the column Don’t forget about Chinch bugs after wheat harvest and the publication, Sorghum Insect Management.

REMEMBER THIS ON SATURDAY as you’re heading out to mow the lawn: The type of grass in your yard should dictate where you set the height of your mower. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and tall fescue are mowed higher than warm-season grasses because of their upright growth habit, especially during really hot weather. The additional height helps insulate the ground against heat, furnishes more food-producing area and encourages roots to grow more deeply into the soil, which all helps curb heat stress. Alternatively, mowing heights for warm-season grasses, particularly bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, are shorter than for cool-season grasses because their leaves are produced on runners (what the scientists call stolons) that grow close to the ground. The Mowing Your Lawn factsheet has mowing height recommendations by grass type, how often to mow, what to do with those clippings (and how to avoid them), mowing patterns and safety. It even covers the “one-third rule” – who knew?

And remember – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – yourself that is. It’s hot out there.