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Released: May 10, 2007

Briefly . . .

This week's news briefs from Kansas State University Research and Extension:

1)   Flood Recovery Facts On-Line From K-State Research and Extension, Other Agencies
2)   Do Your Family a Favor
3)   Flooding May Not Kill Trees
4)   Sidebar: Flooding Affects Some Trees Less Than Others
5)   Soaking Rains, Floods Put Flowers and Vegetables at Risk
6)   Excess Rainwater Can Reveal Soil Problems




 1) Flood Recovery Facts On-Line From K-State Research and Extension, Other Agencies

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Information to help central U.S. residents clean up basements, clothing and appliances after recent spring flooding is available from Kansas State University and other sources.

Several factsheets are available on the K-State Research and Extension Web site: The sheets were originally produced to aid citizens affected by the 1993 floods in the Midwest. 

In addition, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Water offers a brochure on basement flooding and cleanup at: (click on “Basement Flooding Brochure”).

In-depth information regarding cleaning flooded private wells is also available:  (click on “Publications” and on “Restoring a Flooded Well to Service”).

Other useful sites for guidance on post-flood health and safety include: 1) U.S. Food and Drug Administration -, 2) U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - (click on “emergency preparedness and response”) and 3) U.S. Department of Agriculture -


2) Do Your Family a Favor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Preparing a "need to know" list can spare family and friends in the event of an illness or unexpected death, said Michael A. Creedon, Virginia-based chair of aging studies at A.T. Still University.

A “need to know” list typically should identify health-care providers, allergies to medications, insurance information, and the location of key documents -- for example, a will, funeral plans, and financial and investment account information, said Creedon, speaking at the 2007 National Priester Extension Health Conference in Kansas City.

The list can reduce stress at what probably will already be a stressful time, he said.

Creedon, who has more than 30 years of experience as a leader and teacher in improving services and programs for older adults, advised ensuring that your wishes will be carried out by sharing a hard copy of the list with family or, in the absence of family, with a trusted friend.

“Keep the list on the computer, too,” Creedon said. “Update it every six months and be sure to let others know how to access the information.” 

- Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension News


3) Flooding May Not Kill Trees

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Most trees can recover from flooding if the water recedes in seven days or less, according to a Kansas State University forester.

“It helps, however, if the water has been flowing, not stagnant,” said Charles Barden, tree specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

The main reason trees die from flooding is lack of oxygen, he said. Some species have mechanisms for getting oxygen to their roots when soil is saturated with water. But, other trees don’t have that kind of backup system.

If floods leave a sediment layer behind, that can restrict tree roots’ access to oxygen, too, Barden said.

So, as soon as conditions permit, tree owners should remove silt deposits that are 3 inches or deeper -- particularly from around the small and recently transplanted trees that are most at risk.

“You also need to be diligent about removing any dead or dying branches that could serve as a point of entry for disease organisms or insects,” he said. “And, you should avoid imposing any additional stressors during the growing season.

“Ironically, one of the most important practices will be to water flood-stressed trees if the weather turns dry later in the growing season. Flooding damages roots, so they’re less efficient at using available soil water while they recover.”

The progressive symptoms of flood-related tree damage are: leaf drop, leaf curl, iron chlorosis (yellowing leaves with green veins), branch dieback, and sometimes tree death.


4) Sidebar: Flooding Affects Some Trees Less Than Others

MANHATTAN, Kan. – One way the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service categorizes trees is by the length of time they can withstand being in flooded conditions.

The Forest Service says trees that can survive being flooding for an entire growing season include the white and green ash, baldcypress, eastern cottonwood, hackberry, red and silver maple, pin oak, pecan, persimmon, sweetgum and sycamore.

Those that won’t survive more than a few days of floods include the flowering dogwood, red mulberry, black oak, blackjack oak, red oak, white oak; most pines; redbud; and black walnut.

The trees that are only moderately tolerant of flooding include some that many people associate with water. Species that can survive 30 consecutive days under flooded conditions include the river birch, American elm, downy hawthorn, honeylocust, and four kinds of oak – the swamp white, southern red, bur and willow oaks.

–Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension


5) Soaking Rains, Floods Put Flowers and Vegetables at Risk

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Two facts may become bad news for the water-soaked gardens now spread across the High Plains and Midwest:

1. Every living cell in plants must have oxygen or die.

2. Garden crops exposed to flood waters that may be contaminated – particularly by animal manure, chemicals or sewage – must be treated as if they’re contaminated, too.

“Most of our landscape flowers and garden vegetables have no way to provide oxygen to their roots if the soil becomes saturated. They’re automatically at risk when the weather is this wet,” said Ward Upham, horticulturist, Kansas State University Research and Extension, referring to recent heavy rains in the nation’s midsection.

If standing or flooding water drains away within 24 hours, its impact on plant health is usually minimal, Upham said. But, the longer plants are in saturated soils, the more likely damage becomes. 

“The risk doesn’t end there, either. A heavy rainfall alone is enough to make soils crust and become more compacted as they dry. This also can reduce roots’ access to oxygen,” he said.

Plants that remained mulched or mounded (e.g., potatoes) may have fewer problems. Still, lightly scraping soil to break up any crusting will help maintain healthy roots and, in turn, healthy plants. 

“Be careful not to cultivate too deeply, though, to avoid damaging shallow roots,” Upham said.

Standing water alone won’t cause safety problems in garden vegetables if the plants’ above-ground growth remains healthy. So long as it isn’t cracked or soft, the fruit that develops after water subsides is a safe harvest from such plants as the cucumber, sweet corn, pepper, squash and tomato.

“To err on the side of safety, discard all crops that may have been in contact with contaminated water – certainly any leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach,” Upham said. “Don’t keep plants that rapidly yellow, either. That can signal exposure to contaminants, as well as a lack of oxygen.”


6) Excess Rainwater Can Reveal Soil Problems

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Excessive water is great for exposing soil with drainage problems. 

“Unfortunately, the first solution that occurs to some gardeners is to add sand,” said Ward Upham, who coordinates the Master Gardener program for Kansas State Research and Extension.

For sand to be effective in breaking up a clay soil, the sand grains must touch one another, Upham said. This creates “pores” between the irregular grains – spaces that can hold air and/or water.

“If the grains don’t touch, clay will fill in all the voids. That’s the principle used to make concrete, and the result’s somewhat the same in soil. You make a bad situation worse,” he warned.

But, incorporating enough sand to allow the grains to touch requires producing a soil that has sand and clay in an 80 to 20 percent ratio, Upham said.

“In most cases, that’s simply impractical. If nothing else, it means hauling away 80 percent of the clay or ending up with a garden that’s about 80 percent deeper,” he explained. “Fortunately, organic matter is a better soil improvement anyway. Anything from sphagnum moss to grass clippings will do.”

Fall can be best for improving heavy soils, Upham said. Then gardeners can shred and plow in fresh, as well as decomposed organic materials. Winter’s freeze-thaw cycles will turn them into compost.


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 research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

For more information:
K-State Research and Extension - News
Mary Lou Peter-Blecha, News Coordinator

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

K-State Research and Extension