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June 30, 2020  -  Avoid the weeds when buying baled forage

Now that spring has come and gone, and summer is officially here, you can look forward to a bit more sunshine, heat and plants that grow and change rapidly. As plants grow, signs that plants are not operating at 100 percent may start to appear. In some cases, plant health can decline rapidly, with plants going from healthy to dead in a matter of days. 

Rob Spencer, horticulturist, suggests that there are several "early warning signs” for gardeners.

"However rapidly the plant declines, things rarely develop so quickly that you won’t get some earlier indicators that all is not perfect in paradise.”

Once the garden is planted, under "normal conditions”, Spencer says that you should start to see plants emerge within less than 2 weeks.

"If you are watching where you planted things and nothing emerges, or there are big gaps, that might be an indicator that there is a germination problem or something affecting the emerging seedlings. Keep in mind that there is always variability in seed health and vigor.”

Human error can lead to differences in seed spacing and depth, so be patient for a few days before raising the alarm. Once plants are up, watch for whether they continue to grow. If you suddenly notice that plants are missing from one day to another, or plants have collapsed or started to waste away, this might be an indication that something is either preying on them (e.g. cutworms) or something is attacking the seedlings (e.g. soilborne fungal pathogens. 

Plants have limited ways of communicating their issues to us. Spencer says that one of the ways that they "speak” to us is through colour change, specifically changes that occur out of season.

"If you see a gradual fading or weakening of colour, gradually turning more and more yellow, this can be an indication that the plant isn’t getting the nutrition it is needing, either due to damage below the soil surface, or due to deficiencies in the soil.” He adds "If you see a sudden colour change, such as a shift from green to purple or red, this is another signal that things aren’t functioning properly.”

Where the colour change occurs is also important. Are the older, lower leaves turning colour, or is it the young, new leaves? Is everything changing colour, or just specific parts of the leaves? For example, are the veins staying green, while the rest of the leaf turns yellow?

If you start to see little holes or missing edges from your leaves, that is likely an indicator that something is chewing on the plant. Look for the culprit under the leaves, in the top layer of the soil, or right on the leaves. Spencer suggests that the nature of the damage, as well as any pest life stages that you might find, will give you the clues that can help in identifying and dealing with the culprit.

If there is an accumulation of sticky fluid on some part of the plant, either associated with a wound or a hole, you might find something infecting that location. You might find a colony of aphids (guarded by ants) pumping out sweet "honeydew” or plant juices during their feeding, or you might find some light webbing on the undersides of leaves, along with sand that moves (mites).

Sometimes, you will find a point where the leaves, stem, or some other plant part have a strange growth or swelling on them. It might be tiny or could be quite sizeable. If it is not really obstructing growth, you can probably ignore it. Or, if you want to unveil the culprit, you could cut it open and see what is inside. In many cases, you will not find anything, simply because the swelling is a response by the plant, stimulating tissues to divide rapidly, essentially cordoning off the point of infection or attack.

Fungal pathogens typically have some sort of visible stage where they are growing on the surface of the plant, whether it be spores or other structures. It might have a different colour and may or may not be associated with rotted tissues. If you see fuzz or growths, look closer for the possible cause.

You can sometimes see that plant tissues are starting to act strangely. You might see them twist and curl or swell. If the plant suddenly starts growing oddly, look closely for what might be going on.

Spencer says, "Much of the art of diagnosing issues in a yard or garden is really about recognizing change.”

You cannot see a difference if you have never established a baseline to compare things to from the start. It is critical to continue to reestablish that baseline as the season progresses. 

In short, "Watch your plants!” says Spencer.

Current Programs:

  • Rural Beautification Award Nominations: It is that time of year again! Landowners who have put in the extra effort to make their properties look outstanding should be recognized for their efforts. If you see an exceptional yard in the county, or know of friends, family or neighbors that deserve an award, call Agriculture & Community Services at 403-845-4444. Nominations close July 24, 2020.
  • 10% Herbicide Discount: In lieu of the cancelled weed workshops this spring, Clearwater County residents can still qualify for a discount on range and pasture herbicides by filling out the questionnaire at, or search the County website and follow the links.
  • Caring for my Land Program: Do you have any watershed friendly projects in mind? Projects that help protect surface water will be considered, some examples include planting trees as a buffer, riparian fencing, beaver co-existence structures, watering livestock away from a creek or slough or seeding deep-rooted perennial grasses in an erosion prone area. The Caring for my Land program offers 50-50 cost shared funding – up to $5,000. For more information, call Agriculture & Community Services at 403-845-4444.

To view previous Ag news articles, click of the archive folders below: 
  • 2017
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  • 2020