K-State Research and Extension News
September 04, 2008
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Briefly . . . This week’s news briefs from Kansas State University Research and Extension

1)   First Freeze Date Affects Everyone from Farmers to Allergy Sufferers
2)   Poor Man’s Lilac’ Can Now Grow in Kansas
3)   Herbicide-Resistant Grain Sorghum Trait Developed at Kansas State University
4)   At the Kansas State Fair: 4-H Horse Show Expected to Draw 250 Entries


1)  First Freeze Date Affects Everyone from Farmers to Allergy Sufferers

MANHATTAN, Kan. – As the state climatologist for Kansas, Mary Knapp answers many questions about the weather. But, a particular one always starts surfacing at this time every year.

“The curious want to know when we’ll see our first freeze,” said Knapp, who runs the Kansas Weather Data Library, based with Kansas State University Research and Extension. “Gardeners are hoping for an extended growing season, and allergy suffers are hoping for an end to the pollen.”

History says this year’s first Kansas freeze could come any time now, she said. In Manhattan, the record date for the earliest freeze – when temperatures reached 32 degrees F or lower -- is Sept. 13. That happened in 1890 and 1902.

Yet, the long-term average freeze date for Manhattan is Oct. 12.

In northwest and north central Kansas, freezing weather can arrive even earlier, Knapp said. For example, Colby and Hoxie have had freezes as early as Sept. 3 – which makes a very short growing season.

On the other hand, the latest date for a first frost in those communities is Nov. 10. That happened in 1998.

Earliest and average frost dates for other Kansas communities include Ottawa, with its earliest freeze date at Sept. 13 (1902) and an average first freeze date of Oct. 20. The earliest freeze in Minneapolis, Kan., was Sept. 20 (1901), but the average there is Oct. 18. Winfield’s earliest freeze was Sept. 21 (1995), while its average is Oct. 20. Hays’ earliest freeze was Sept. 14 (1945), but it has an average first-freeze date of Oct. 10. The earliest freeze in Ashland, Kan., was Sept. 31 (1993), yet its average is Oct. 12.


2)  ‘Poor Man’s Lilac’ Can Now Grow in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. -- Horticulturists used to say Zone 6 landscape plants are too tender to survive Kansas winters.

“But that was then. This is now. And, thanks to global warming or a warmer weather cycle or the like, Zone 6 plants are proving to be welcome additions to our plant palette,” said Chip Miller horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

One of the most promising he’s field-tested in Saline County is the Chinese chaste tree (Vitex negundo or Vitex agnus-castus). This fast-growing, open and airy plant is also commonly known as the hemp tree, Mexican lavender, poor man’s lilac and monks pepper.

Miller said its popular names point to some of the factors that make Vitex interesting:

* Slow to arrive in spring, many Vitex varieties’ gray-green leaves are arranged in marijuana-like, hand-shaped clusters.

* The tiny blooms are fragrant and grouped in purple to lilac spikes that are shaped much like a butterfly bush’s panicles. They can create a spectacular show in midsummer. They also attract numerous bees and butterflies, as well as become long-lasting cut flowers.

* Some companies now process the plant’s aromatic, dark-brown to black seeds into a “women’s herb.” Centuries ago, the seeds were ground and applied to food like black pepper -- supposedly to help people remain celibate.

But, today’s gardeners should deadhead the spent flowers, the horticulturist said. Letting a Vitex go to seed zeroes its odds for a second bloom, plus can turn the plant into a weedy “spreader.” If winter’s cold doesn’t kill the shrub to the ground, Kansans also should prune Vitex to 6-12 inches tall in February.

“Heterophylla may be the hardiest Vitex variety available now. Even with it, though, Kansans can’t expect to maintain a Vitex year after year as a small tree. So, they might as well prune while it’s dormant in order to restrain or maintain its size -- depending on how much the weather is helping things along,” Miller added. 


3)  Herbicide-Resistant Grain Sorghum Trait Developed at Kansas State University

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Weed management is one of the biggest concerns for grain sorghum producers, but Kansas State University scientists are finding ways to remedy the problem.

“Research has shown that heavy weed infestations can reduce grain sorghum yields by 50 percent,” said Kassim Al-Khatib, K-State professor of weed physiology. “In addition, weeds may decrease grain quality, increase insect and disease pressure, and increase harvest difficulty.”

Now, however, K-State researchers have developed a herbicide-resistant grain sorghum line, Al-Khatib said. It is tolerant to such acetolactate synthase (ALS)-inhibitor herbicides as Steadfast, Accent, Resolve, and Ally. This tolerance seems likely to give grain sorghum growers a new tool in their efforts to control weeds.

“This technology has excellent potential for controlling broadleaf and grassy weeds in sorghum, using post-emergence herbicides,” he said, adding that he expects producer acceptance to be high because no post-emergence herbicide is now available for managing grassy weeds in sorghum.  

K-State’s work is moving forward to developing ALS-resistant sorghum with several seed companies. The university team involved in the project is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program for Minor Use Pesticides, as well, to register the use of Steadfast herbicide on ALS-resistant sorghum.

“In addition, we are currently evaluating several herbicide programs to identify the most effective ones for Kansas,” Al-Khatib said.

The K-State team is planning to use this year’s research to refine the recommended herbicide program before the herbicide-resistant hybrids can be available in the market, he said.


4) At the Kansas State Fair:
4-H Horse Show Expected to Draw 250 Entries

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – More than 250 4-H horse project participants and their horses are expected to compete during the 4-H horse show at the 2008 Kansas State Fair, Sept.12 -14, said Anna Muir, show coordinator.

Events are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Expo Center, said Muir, a former Crawford County, Kan. 4-H member and horse show participant. She is now a Kansas State University Research and Extension agent in the Phillips-Rooks District.

“The excitement is here,” said Muir, who noted that a full range of classes, from showmanship to break-away roping, are on tap during the annual show.

The competitive events are respectful of age and skill-building activities that are consistent with educational 4-H programs, she said.

The annual state show is typically one of the highlights of the year’s activities, but is a small part of the 4-H horse project, which teaches much about the characteristics of different breeds of horses, animal health, including food and nutrition, care, training and safety, Muir said. 

Admission to the state 4-H horse show is included in general admission to the Kansas State Fair. A list of events scheduled during the 4-H Horse Show and elsewhere at the fair is available on the Kansas State Fair Web site: www.kansasstatefair.com, on the daily schedules posted on the fairgrounds and in 4-H Centennial Hall

More information about educational opportunities in 4-H throughout the year is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and Kansas 4-H Web site: www.Kansas4-H.org.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research & Extension News

Contributing writers: Mary Lou Peter-Blecha, Nancy Peterson and Kathleen Ward