Got Nature? Blog

Posted on April 24th, 2018 in How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »
ACCESS PROGRAM PROVIDING LAND EASEMENTS (APPLE)

Source: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/9572.htm

The DNR is seeking private landowners to allow limited public gamebird hunting opportunities on their properties in exchange for financial incentives and technical assistance through a program called APPLE.

APPLE stands for Access Program Providing Land Easements. In its second year, APPLE provides hunters with an opportunity to hunt ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, and American woodcock, while also providing landowners with significant benefits.

With nearly 96 percent of Indiana privately owned, public gamebird hunting opportunities are limited.

Participating landowners are eligible for incentives of up to $25 per acre. Additional financial assistance is also available for creating or improving habitat.

DNR biologists will work closely with each landowner to develop a wildlife habitat management plan. Biologists will also help landowners plan the number and timing of hunts on their land.

The DNR is targeting landowners of 20 acres or more within five focal regions across the state. For more information, including a description of the five focal regions, visit wildlife.IN.gov/9572.htm.

Hunters will be selected for the program using Indiana’s online reserved hunt draw system.

Landowners can continue to hunt all other species on their land during the duration of the APPLE hunts, and may hunt gamebirds after the APPLE hunts.

Resources:
Indiana DNR
Field Season Upon Us! Be Prepared, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jason Wade, North Region Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife
260-468-2515,  jwade@dnr.IN.gov

Erin Basiger, South Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife
812-822-3302, ebasiger@dnr.IN.gov


Prescribed fire is a great tool to improve the food and cover for a variety of wildlife species on your property. One of the most important aspects of using prescribed fire is making sure the fire is conducted safely. This point cannot be overstated, safe use of prescribed fire is paramount. Beyond taking the appropriate training courses or seeking help from a professional, one the most important aspects of safely conducting a prescribed fire is ensuring you have adequate firebreaks.

Firebreaks can serve multiple purposes related to the safe use of prescribed fire, and can provide additional food and cover for wildlife. The main purpose of firebreaks is to stop the fire from escaping the burn unit, but they also can provide quick and easy movement around the burn unit, help reduce the amount of people required for the burn, and can make igniting the fire safer. Here are a few examples of different types of firebreaks.

Logging Road

This logging road is a good example of an exisitng road that can be used as a firebreak.

Existing roads
Existing roads, whether they are paved, gravel, dirt, or logging roads, can serve as outstanding firebreaks, plus they require very little work to prepare prior to a burn. These are also one of the cheapest options for firebreaks. If you are using gravel, dirt, or logging roads as firebreaks, you need to make sure there is not excessive vegetation or leaf litter in the road. Too much vegetation
on the firebreak could lead to an escape.

Streams, creeks, or other bodies of water
Another cheap and easy option for firebreaks is to use existing streams, river, or bodies of water. If you are using water features as a firebreak, here are some things to consider: is the stream or river wide enough to stop the fire from escaping and can people helping with the fire move easily around, across, or through the stream or river to access various part of the burn unit or to stop an escaped fire?

Crop fields
Crop fields with cool-season grains (wheat, oats, rye) or cover crops can serve as a great firebreak. Crop fields with only soybean or corn stubble should be used with caution, as fire may creep through a field with excessive stubble. For fields with crop stubble, planting the edge of the field in a cool-season crop (wheat, clover, oats, etc.), disking the edge of the field, or wetting the crop stubble are all steps that can used to improve the field as a firebreak

Leaf-Blown Firebreak

This leaf-blown firebreak was only 3-4 feet wide, but it easily stopped the fire in this situation.

Leaf-blown firebreaks
If you are burning in the woods, using a leaf blower to remove leaf litter and expose bare mineral soil is a quick and easy way to create a firebreak. These firebreaks do not need to be as wide as those in an old field or native grass stand because the flame length when burning in the woods is typically much shorter than burning in a field.

Disked firebreaks for multiple purposes
Disking or tilling to expose bare mineral soil is an extremely effective method of creating a firebreak. These breaks can also provide food and/or cover for various wildlife species if managed correctly. Disking the firebreak and then letting the firebreak remain fallow during the growing season creates outstanding cover for brooding turkeys, pheasants, and quail.

You can also plant the firebreaks after disking to create a food plot for various wildlife species. If you disk the firebreaks in the fall and plan to burn in the spring, you can plant the firebreaks with a mix of wheat and crimson clover or a mix of perennial clovers to create a great food plot for deer and turkey. You can also plant the firebreaks with millet, grain sorghum, or sunflowers after you have burned the field in the spring.

Fire creeping

If you use mowed firebreaks you run the risk of fire creeping across the firebreak and escaping, especially if there is too much thatch in the firebreak.

My absolute favorite multiple purpose firebreak is one that is disked in Aug-Sep, planted to winter wheat (40-60 lbs/ac), and then left to remain fallow after the wheat has produced seed. This firebreak effectively stops fire, provide green browse from the fall through the spring, provides seed during the early summer, and provides excellent brood cover throughout the summer and early fall. This is truly an all-in-one firebreak.

Mowed grass firebreak
Mowed grass firebreaks are not ideal, but they can be used in certain situations. If mowed firebreaks are used, you must be sure that there is not excessive thatch built up in the break. Too much thatch will allow the fire to creep across the break and potentially escape. Even on firebreaks without excessive thatch, using water to create a “wet” firebreak is recommended.

No matter which type of firebreak you choose to use, taking the time to make sure the firebreak is adequately installed and is sufficient to stop the fire from escaping will help make the burn safer and will create less headaches for you when conducting the burn.

Additional Resources:
Firebreaks for Prescribed Burning, Oklahoma State University Extension
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR,
On-line Basic Prescribed Fire Training, Extension, USDA and NIFA
Publications Focus on Plan, Safety of Prescribed Burns, Iowa State Extension,
eFIRE, North Carolina State Extension
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Planting at the proper seeding rate is an important step to ensure a successful native warm-season grass and forb planting or a wildlife food plot. This video will discuss how to properly calibrate the seeding rate for a Truax No-Till Seed Drill. The video will also discuss a calibration method that can be used with multiple different types of seed drills.

Check out these detailed resources that are referenced in the video:
Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs
Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots

Resources:
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Food Plots, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Food Plots for White-Tailed Deer, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on March 21st, 2018 in Forestry, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Handling Harvested Game, FNR-555-WV, videoIn this new video series Handling Harvested Game: Field Dressing, wildlife biologist Bob Cordes with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shows how to properly treat and handle deer in order to receive the best results for your venison. This video shares step by step safe handling techniques to reach your goals in providing a wholesome  source of meat for you and your family.

More resources:
Handling Harvested Game – Episode 2, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Playlist
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Age Determination in White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store,
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store,
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store,
Indiana Deer Hunting, Biology and Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science/Engagement Faculty Fellow
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


FNR-226-WSuccessfully starting a tree plantation involves several steps, ideally starting with preparation a year or more before the seedlings are planted. This updated publication with current resources titled Resources and Assistance Available for Planting Hardwood Seedlings, landowners can find valuable information about planting trees for conservation, such as resources, contact information, tools, professional advice and assistance and financial incentives.

Resources:
Ordering Seedlings from the State Forest Nursery System, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Instructions for Ordering Tree Seedlings – Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
Importance of Hardwood Tree Planting – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Forest Improvement Handbook – The Education Store
Designing Hardwood Tree Plantings for Wildlife – The Education Store

Lenny D Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on January 11th, 2018 in Forestry, Gardening, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | Comments Off on Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs

seeder on land

Seeding rates for native warm-season grass and forb mixtures (NWSG) have changed drastically over time. In the past, native grasses were planted without forbs at rates exceeding 10 lbs/ac. This may be ideal from a forage production standpoint, but this created dense stands of native grass with little to no forb component and lacked benefits to most wildlife.

Mixtures have shifted from heavy planting rates of tallgrass species with few forbs to reduced rates of mid-stature grasses with an abundance of forbs. Recommended seeding rates of some current mixtures may be lower than what no-till drills are capable of planting. In this case, fillers may be needed to increase the bulk weight of the seed to allow the equipment to plant at the correct rate.

Seed mixtures are also more commonly being established by broadcasting seed during late winter (frost seeding) using cyclone fertilizer spreaders. Broadcasting native warm-season grass and forb seed usually requires the use of a carrier to ensure the mixture flows correctly through the spreader and the seed is distributed evenly across the field.

Using fillers when no-till drilling native warm-season grass and forb mixtures

Planting native grass and forb mixtures with a no-till drill is the most common establishment method for NWSG plantings. It may be difficult to achieve the correct seeding rate with a no-till drill because of the combination of reduced bulk weight of dechaffed seed and reduced seeding rates of common mixtures. Fillers can be used to increase the bulk weight of native grass and forb seed if a drill cannot achieve the recommended seeding rate. Traditionally, native grass and forbs have been planted separately using the grass or fluffy-seed box for the native grass seed and the small-seed box for the forbs. However, if the seed has been cleaned and dechaffed it is common for seed companies to mix the seed and recommend it be planted together using the fluffy or grain box on a no-till drill. Fillers can be used when planting native grasses and forbs separately or when planting native grass and forb mixtures. Refer to the chart below for recommended fillers for the different seed boxes of a no-till drill.

seeding box

 

No-till drill planting box
Recommended fillers
Small-seed box, when planting switchgrass, clovers, or small-seeded native forbs.
Cat litter, clay absorbent
Grass or fluffy-seed box: when planting big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, or native grass/forb mixtures.
Vermiculite
Grain or large-seed box: when planting native warm-season grass/forb mixtures
Cracked corn

Example:

We are planting a 10-acre field to a native warm-season grass and forb mixture using a no-till drill. The recommended seeding rate is 6 lbs/acre. The seed will be planted with the grain box of the drill, but the drill will only plant a minimum of 10 lbs/acre of our seed mixture.

10 acre field * 6 lbs/acre bulk seeding rate = 60 lbs of the seed mixture
Minimum seeding rate for the no-till drill is 10 lbs/acre = 10 lbs/acre * 10 acres = 100 lbs

We need to add a filler to increase the bulk weight of the seed mixture to be able to plant at the correct seeding rate. We added a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of cracked corn to our seed mixture:

60 lbs of seed + 60 lbs of cracked corn = 120 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres

We now need to adjust our bulk seeding rate to account for the added crack corn.

120 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres = 12 lbs/acre

We need to calibrate our drill to plant 12 lbs/acre in order to plant 6 lbs/ac of our initial seed mixture.

Generally, you should use a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of filler-to-seed, but in some cases you may need to use a higher ratio (e.g., 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 filler-to-ratio) to achieve the correct seeding rate.

Using carriers when broadcasting native warm-season grass and forb mixtures

Broadcasting native warm-season grass and forbs mixtures is most commonly accomplished with a cyclone fertilizer spreader. These spreaders may have issues broadcasting the native grass and forb seed. The 2 main issues are: (1) the seed is not heavy enough to flow through the spreader and (2) the seeds of various size will settle and will not be spread evenly across the field. Carriers will add more bulk weight to the native grass seed and will help ensure the seed stays mixed across the field. Common carriers that are used with native grasses are cracked corn, pelletized lime, wheat, or oats. The recommended rates of common carriers are in the table below:

Carrier
Pelletized lime
Wheat
Oats
Cracked corn
Recommended rate
200 lbs/acre
40 lbs/acre
32 lbs/acre
1:1 ratio of seed-to-cracked corn by weight

Table adapted from the publication Warm season grass establishment,
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, 2006.

pelletized lime

Pelletized lime mixed with native grass and forb seed prior to broadcasting.

Example:

We plan to broadcast a native grass and forb mixture on a 10-acre field. The recommended bulk seeding rate is 6 lbs/acre.

10 acre field * 6 lbs/acre bulk seeding rate = 60 lbs of the seed mixture

We need to add a carrier to the mixture to increase the bulk weight of the seed mixture. We plan to add 200 lbs of pelletized lime per acre:

200 lbs/ac of lime * 10 acres = 2000 lbs of lime
60 lbs of seed + 2000 lbs of pelletized lime = 2060 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres

We now need to adjust our bulk seeding rate to account for the added pelletized lime.

2060 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres = 206 lbs/acre

We need to calibrate the spreader to broadcast 206 lbs/acre in order to plant 6 lbs/acre of our seed mixture.

Conclusions

Planting native warm-season grass and forb mixtures at the correct rate is a critical step in ensuring a successful planting. Using fillers and carriers when establishing native warm-season grasses and forbs can help ensure the mixtures are planted at the proper rates, flow correctly through the seeding equipment, and ensure the seed is spread evenly across the field.

Other Resources:
Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots, Detailed Resource, Purdue Extension-FNR
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots-video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store

Printable Version:
PDF available for print: Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs (pdf 771.45) detail resource.

Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist


Posted on January 9th, 2018 in Forestry, Gardening, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | Comments Off on Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots

sproutlings

Have you heard the old adage “proper planning prevents poor performance?” This adage applies perfectly to establishing food plots for wildlife; you just have to adjust the words, “Proper planting prevents poor food plot performance”.

When we talk about planting we include planting method, timing, depth, and planter calibration (see video), but we also include seeding rate. While there are many steps prior to planting to ensure a successful food plot, including taking a soil test, adjusting the soil fertility, and proper site preparation, determining the proper seeding rate based on pure live seed rather than bulk weight may be one aspect that people skip or ignore.

All agronomic seeds have a recommended seeding rate. This is the rate that maximizes forage or grain production and minimizes seed costs. Planting food plot seed too heavily is often a waste of money, because it increases your seed cost, but does not necessarily increase you forage or grain production. Planting food plots too lightly is an inefficient use of field space, opening areas up for weeds to overtake your planting, and could result in failure because of overbrowsing.

Seeding rate also varies by planting method and it’s important to make sure to follow the recommended seeding rate for the planting method you will be using. This rate is greater when broadcasting rather than when drilling or planting seed (broadcast rate: 75-100 lbs/ac vs. drilling rate: 50 lbs/ac for iron-clay cowpeas).

It is important to recognize the difference in how seed is sold (bulk weight) and how seeding rates are recommended (pure live seed [PLS]). When you buy seed from a supplier you are buying it in the form of bulk weight. Bulk weight is the total weight inside the bag, including the food plot seed, as well as the weight of the seed coating and other material (other crop seed and weed seed).

While seed is sold by bulk weight, seeding recommendations are commonly given as PLS rates. This distinction is important. For example, all the recommendations in A Guide to Wildlife Food Plots and Early Successional Plants by Dr. Craig Harper, University of Tennessee Extension are given in PLS rates. Pure live seed is the living seed of the intended crop that will germinate from a seed bag and accounts for the weight of the bag made up of impurities, weed seed, and other crop seed.

Percent PLS in a seed bag varies, depending on the amount of pure seed in the bag as well as the germination rate of that seed. It is important to know the difference between PLS and bulk weight so that you can calculate the amount of bulk weight you need to achieve the recommended PLS seeding rate.

Keep the distinction between bulk weight and PLS weight in mind when buying seed to ensure you purchase enough seed to cover the entire area of your food plot. In this article we will explain how to calculate PLS based on information given to you when you purchase seed.

Dissecting a seed tag – know what you’re getting before you purchase

Before we get too far into calculating PLS, it is important to understand what information you get when purchasing seed. Regardless of whether you buy a seed mix or a single species from a co-op, feed store, or sporting goods store, all agricultural seed sold in Indiana must come with a label – commonly called a seed tag. By law, that seed tag must contain these 12 items: 1) commonly accepted name (species) and variety, 2) lot number, 3) origin of seed, 4) company who labeled the seed, 5) percentage of pure seed (>5% of weight), 6) percentage of other crop seeds, 7) percentage of inert matter, 8) percentage of weed seed, 9) species and amount of any noxious weeds (if present), 10) germination rate, 11) hard seed, and 12) calendar month and year the bag was tested.

Important items to look for when purchasing seed are explained below.
Important seed information

As we can see from this red clover seed tag above, only 65% (32.5 lbs) of the 50 lb bag is actually red clover (Pure Seed). Most of the other weight is the inoculant (Coating Material; 34% or 17 lbs). Of the 32.5 lbs of red clover seed, 80% will germinate after planting (Germination). So, if you planted 15 lbs (bulk weight) from this bag (recommended PLS rate) you would actually be planting 9.75 lbs of pure seed, of which only 7.8 lbs would germinate. Meaning you would be planting a little over half the recommended rate. See why PLS is so important now?

Clover seed: bag half empty or half full?

It may seem odd to buy a 10 lb clover seed bag only to expect 5 lbs to actually grow, but in the case of legumes – like clovers – the 5 lbs in the bag that isn’t seed may actually save you money in the long run. Having as little as 50% PLS in a bag of clover is not uncommon, as much of the weight is made up of the seed coating, which is typically an inoculant. The inoculant on clover, soybeans, alfalfa, or other legumes is living bacteria that help fix nitrogen from the air and make it usable to plants. Planting inoculated seed – whether you inoculate it yourself or purchase pre-inoculated seed – reduces the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed, ultimately saving you money on fertilizer application. The benefit of buying pre-inoculated seed is that it saves you the hassle of inoculating the seed yourself.

seed coating

Most pre-inoculated clover seed will have a colored seed coating (purple and orange seed), which helps distinguish it from uninoculated seed (tan seed in this mix).

Calculating pure live seed (PLS)

Now that you know the importance of reading the seed tag before purchasing seed, you can now think about calculating PLS. All the information you need is right there on the tag. Using the example seed tag below locate the two items labeled “PURE SEED” and “GERMINATION”.

Iron clay cow peas information

Our example is 98% pure seed, meaning in a 10 lb bag there are 9.8 pounds of pure iron-clay cowpea seed. The next number we will need is the germination rate; this will also be indicated as a percentage. Our example has an 85% germination rate.

To calculate percent PLS for this seed, multiply pure seed and germination and then multiply by 100 (example below). The result is the percentage of pure live seed for this bag of seed.

98% pure seed
85% germination
(0.98 x 0.85) x 100 = 83% (Percent PLS)

We now know that 83% of our bag is iron-clay cowpeas capable of germinating. Now that we have the PLS of our seed we can calculate the amount (lbs) of pure live seed in our bag. To do this, multiply the bulk seed weight by the percent PLS.

50 lb bag x 0.83 (Percent PLS) = 42 lbs PLS

For example, a 50 lb bag would equal 42 lbs of iron-clay cowpea seed that will germinate.

Determining bulk seed rate

Using the percent PLS information we can also find the amount of bulk seed necessary to plant at a recommended seeding rate. To do this, take the recommended seeding rate for your planting method and divide it by the percent PLS of the seed you are using (example below). The result is the bulk weight that you will need to plant per acre to achieve the recommended seeding rate.

50 lbs/acre = recommended seeding rate for iron-clay cowpeas when drilling
0.83 = percent PLS of seed being planted (from example above)
50/0.83 = 60 lbs/acre

In order to plant a cowpea food plot at the recommended rate of 50 lbs/acre, we will need to plant 60 lbs/acre from this particular seed bag.

Another benefit of calculating pure live seed? Comparing seed prices

 Not all seeds are of the same quality. Some have lower pure seed and germination rates than others. For this reason, it is not always most cost effective to buy the cheapest bag of seed on the shelf. If you wish to compare pure live seed prices between seed bags, first divide the price of the bag by the weight of the bag. This will give you the price per pound of bulk seed (example below). Now divide this price per pound by the  percent PLS of the seed. The result is the price per pound of PLS.

Seed Manufacturer X                      10lbs
Pure seed 97%
Germination 82%
Price                                                    $30
PLS                  (0.97 x 0.92) x 100 = 89%
$/lb (bulk)                         33/10 = $3.30/lb

$/lb (PLS)                    3.3/0.89 = $3.70/lb

Seed Manufacturer Y                      10lbs
Pure seed 91%
Germination 92%
Price                                                    $33
PLS                 (0.91 x 0.82) x 100 = 74.%
$/lb (bulk)                              30/10 = $3/lb

$/lb (PLS)                    3.0/0.74 = $4.05/lb

According to these calculations, seed manufacturer X is actually a better value than Y. Using this process, especially when purchasing seed in bulk, you can be a practical money saver.

Let’s Plant

Now that you know what all those numbers on the seed tag of your favorite food plot seed mean and you know how to calculate PLS, you will be able to plant your food plots at the most effective rate possible. Remember, regardless of whether you are planting acres of soybeans with a no-till drill or frost seeding a ½-acre clover patch, knowing how to calculate PLS will allow you to be more successful and save money when planting food plots.

Other Resources:
Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs, Detailed Resource, Purdue Extension-FNR
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots-video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store

Printable Version:
PDF available for print: Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots (pdf 636.75) detail resource.

Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist


Posted on December 13th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Natural Resource Planning, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-551-w CoverOutbreaks of bovine tuberculosis have occurred sporadically around the world since the 1900s. In Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, Bovine tuberculosis transmission, hosts, current status in Indiana, clinical signs, effects on deer populations, effect on white-tailed deer meat, management, and monitoring is extensively covered. If you’re a hunter or cattle producer, the information provided within this free publication would greatly benefit you!

Resources:
Bovine Tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana DNR Needs More Submissions from Deer Hunters for Disease Testing, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

 


It’s that time of year again. The desperate rush to find the ‘perfect’ tree for your annual year-end celebration is very real. Unfortunately, you chose a tree last year that died within a month and was disappointingly dull. This year, you are going to do your homework to find the best tree available.

Home preparations:

  1. Tree Location: Select an area out of direct sunlight and away from the heating vents in your house for the tree. Excessive sunlight and heat will cause your tree to fade and dry out more quickly.
  2. Ceiling height: Measure your ceiling heights and take into account the height of your tree stand and the tree topper or you’ll have to make excessive cuts in your tree to adjust for the differences. Write down these measurements.
  3. Tree shape: Visualize the shape of the tree that best fits the space you have available (tall and thin, short and broad) and keep that in mind. Certain tree types are more expensive therefore knowing your budget will help ensure you purchase the perfect tree for your household. Measure the width of the space and write down these measurements.
  4. Tree stand: Anticipate needing to support your tree stand and acquire a piece of plywood that you can bolt the stand to keep it level. Measure the inside diameter of the tree stand and write down the measurements.

Choosing a tree farm:

  1. Buy from a local farm if at all possible. These trees are bred to be hardy and to remain fresh longer.

Bring to the farm:

  1. List of required measurements for your perfect tree.
  2. A large unbreakable ornament to view branch spacing (ensures your ornaments will hang straight).
  3. Measuring tape to measure prospective trees before getting them home.
  4. Thick gloves for handling your tree as the needles may be sharp and the bark rough on your bare hands.
  5. An old blanket that can cover the truck bed or car roof to protect it from sap.
  6. Rope, twine, bungee cords, and twist ties to secure the tree to the car if these items are not provided by the tree farm.

Species selection:

  1. Each tree species is different so careful selection is important: Soft needle species (pines, firs) are best for homes with small children while hard needle species (spruce) are the adult choice.
  2. Firs often have shorter needles, strong stems, and well-spaced branches making it easier to hang lights and decorations.Needle Charcteristics Table*click image to enlarge

At the tree farm:

  1. Check freshness: Bend a needle with your fingers (firs snap, pines ben).
  2. Gentle run your hand over the branch from inside to out or if possible, gently bounce the tree on the cut end. If a few interior needles come off, it is probably fresh; if many exterior needles fall off, choose a different tree.
  3. Remove and crush a few needles in your hand, if there is little scent choose another tree.
  4. The tree should have even coloration 360° around and needles should be fresh (shiny, green) and not old (dried out, brown).

When you and your tree get home:

  1. Protect Your Floor– Place a plastic or other waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand so you don’t ruin the carpet or get watermarks on hardwood flooring.
  2. Put down waterproof coverings or plastic sheeting under the tree skirt to prevent ruining the carpet or hardwood floor if water is spilled.
  3. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree, take off ½” from the base so that tree can absorb more water (slows needle drop and helps maintain tree color) and immediately place the tree upright in the stand with lukewarm water.
  4. Trim any low-hanging branches that hit furniture or are too thin for ornaments parallel to the floor. Keep them in a bucket of water before using as decorations.
  5. Secure your tree to the wall or heavy furniture if you have pets and children that could knock it over or heavy ornaments that may sway the tree.
  6. Ensure that your tree stand always has water in it.
  7. Take a photo of your tree when set up and secured as a reminder for the following year.

After the holidays:

  1. Recycle your tree through your local waste management company.
  2. Trees can also be chipped for mulch. Never burn your tree because of the likelihood of starting a fire.

Examples of holiday tree types:

Examples of holiday tree types*click image to enlarge

Resources:
Which Real Indiana Christmas Tree Will You Select? – Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on November 20th, 2017 in Forestry, Got Nature for Kids, How To, Wildlife | No Comments »

Sandhill Cranes in WildHave you walked outside recently and heard a loud rattling bugle coming from the sky, and thought to yourself “what in the world is making that noise?” More than likely, you were hearing the calls of sandhill cranes. Often times you can hear the calls of sandhill cranes long before you see them, and sometimes you may never even see them. Sandhill cranes can fly at altitudes exceeding 1-mile high and their calls can be heard from more than 2 miles away.

Sandhill crane sightings are a common occurrence in Indiana from October through early-December and from February through March as the cranes migrate between their breeding grounds in Michigan, Minnesota, Ontario, and Wisconsin and their wintering grounds in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.

When and where to view sandhill cranes in Indiana

Sandhill Cranes stopped at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area during fall migration. Photo: Indiana DNR

Sandhill Cranes stopped at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area during fall migration. Photo: Indiana DNR

While sandhill cranes can be viewed throughout the state, Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville, IN is one of the top spots in the eastern U.S. to view sandhill cranes. Jasper-Pulaski lies in the heart of the sandhill’s migratory path, and the birds congregate here in the thousands to tens-of-thousand during the fall and spring migration. Jasper-Pulaski serves as an important staging area for eastern sandhill cranes during migration, and the cranes stop here to rest and replenish their fat reserves to complete the migration.

Fall is the best time of year to view sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski, and more specifically crane numbers are the greatest from mid-November to early-December. The Indiana DNR has a website that provides information about the sandhill crane migration at Jasper-Pulaski. Managers at Jasper-Pulaski even track the number of cranes using the area weekly, throughout the fall migration, and post an estimated count to the website. On Nov. 7th, 4,630 sandhill cranes were counted at Jasper-Pulaski. You can view cranes from the observation deck located just to the west of the Jasper-Pulaski main office.

Other hot spots to view sandhill cranes during migration include Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area in northeast Indiana, Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in southwest Indiana, and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Indiana.

Crane Capture

Purdue Wildlife Society members assisted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Researchers with sandhill crane capture and banding at Jasper-Pulaski in the fall of 2010. Photo: Purdue Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

GPS collars on sandhill cranes highlight importance of Jasper-Pulaski

Just how important is Jasper-Pulaski to sandhill cranes? Researchers with The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Minnesota attached Global Positioning System (GPS) collars to sandhill cranes to track their fall and spring migratory routes. A majority of the sandhill cranes, regardless of where spent the summer or winter, stopped at Jasper-Pulaski during the migration. Sandhill cranes spent 34% of the fall and spring migratory period at Jasper-Pulaski, which is almost twice as much time as any other single place on their migratory route. The map below shows the migratory paths taken by GPS-collared sandhill cranes during the fall (gold lines) and spring (blue lines).

Crane Map

The gold lines are migratory paths of individual GPS-collared sandhill cranes during the fall migration, whereas the blue lines are migratory paths during spring migration. Photo: Fronczak et al. 2017

Resources:
Sandhill Cranes Fall Migration, Indiana DNR
International Crane Foundation

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


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