News Briefs from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

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Thanksgiving: Sweet potatoes are a ‘rags-to-riches’ vegetable
(Longer version: 1112SweetPotato)
        FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without the rustic sweet
potato, eaten simply as-is or whipped up into fantastic pies and casseroles. This festive delicacy
is actually a warm-season crop that grows well in Arkansas and just about anywhere else, said
Dr. Craig Andersen, extension horticulture specialist-vegetables, for the University of Arkansas
Division of Agriculture.
        They‘re packed with nutrients, being a good source of vitamin A, fiber and minerals.
―Sweet potatoes can grow in poor soils and still make a crop, so it‘s no wonder it was so
widespread in cultivation,‖ he said.
        The humble sweet potato is a New World crop that originated in South America, in what
is now Brazil. Sweet potatoes have been cultivated for thousands of years there and were thought
to have spread to Polynesia over 1,000 years ago by early visitors.
        When the Spanish and Portuguese took sweet potato roots back to Europe, the plant was
immediately accepted and spread around the world. ―To put this into context, Irish potatoes,
another New World vegetable not related to sweet potatoes, took more than 100 years to be
accepted into everyday use in Europe,‖ said Andersen.
        Sweet potatoes are sometimes referred to interchangeably as ―yams‖ in the U.S., but to a
botanist, nothing could be further from the truth. ―A true sweet potato is a member of the
morning-glory family, while true yams belong to the genus Dioscorea and are white, starchy and
dry,‖ he said.
        In the U.S., sweet potatoes are grown from California to Florida, with North Carolina,
Louisiana and Mississippi among the largest producers. They also grow well in Arkansas, and
prefer a well-drained soil that is not too rich. Limited nitrogen fertilization produces the best-
quality roots, said Andersen.

Thanksgiving: Squash has a colorful, tasty history
(Longer version: 1112Squash)
        FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Thanksgiving dinners often feature some kind of squash, and
the vegetable is often associated with cooler weather. Squash, in fact, are a warm-season crop
that does well in Arkansas, said Dr. Craig Andersen, extension horticulture specialist-vegetables,
for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
        ―As Thanksgiving approaches, we leave summer squash behind and turn our attention to
winter squash,‖ he said. ―The only difference between the two is that winter squash are harvested
as a mature fruit and can be stored for long periods of time.‖
        Squash is a nutritious vegetable high in vitamin A, fiber and minerals. ―In the vegetable
world of nutrition, color counts — the deeper the orange, the brighter the yellow or green, the
more nutritious they are,‖ said Andersen.
        They belong to the cucumber, gourd and pumpkin family, and are another New World
crop. There are many different types, from the large Hubbard and banana squash, which may
weigh 30 to 50 pounds, to the smaller acorn, butternut, buttercup and delicita.
       The other squash genus is Cucurbita moschata, or the pumpkin family. ―The current
world record pumpkin is 1,810 lbs. and is actually an Atlantic Giant squash belonging to the
genus Cucurbita maxima,‖ said Andersen. This genus also includes most of the smaller winter
squash types.
       Pumpkins are a featured gourd at mealtime. ‗Long Island cheese‘ and ‗Rouge Vif
d‘Estampes‘ are two of the most famous for eating. Pumpkin flesh is used in baking and
pureeing; its seeds can be used as a snack, as ―pepitas‖ or in mole sauces; and its oil, pressed
from the seeds, is highly sought-after as a salad and cooking oil.
       All squash are part of the Native American agriculture maxim known as ‗the three sisters‘
— squash, corn and beans. ―In its various forms, this has been the core of agriculture in the New
World for several thousands of years,‖ said Andersen.

Twenty-six Ark. counties join rain network
        LITTLE ROCK – Extension agents and members of the Master Gardener program of the
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in 26 counties will be joining a nationwide
precipitation reporting network whose data are used for research and forecasting.
        The data collected will be submitted as part of CoCoRaHS, or the Community
Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, said Michael Borengasser, the Arkansas state
        Borengasser will be offering a training session for county agents and Master Gardeners
on Nov. 12 at the Little Rock state headquarters of the Cooperative Extension Service. The
counties being introduced to CoCoRaHS are: Arkansas, Ashley, Baxter, Benton, Chicot,
Columbia, Crawford, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Fulton, Hot Spring, Izard, Jefferson, Johnson,
Logan, Lonoke, Miller, Montgomery, Ouachita, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Washington and
        ―For some, participation is a hobby, while others want to see that what they do has use,‖
Borengasser said. ―I‘m hoping that enough people do this on a regular basis that it will help us
understand more about drought‖ and other conditions related to precipitation.
        The data are used to build models for drought and flooding, which can aid the National
Weather Service in deciding where and when to issue flood watches and warnings.
        ―I hope that it helps with managing the water and can be useful in the long term in
tracking trends, once you get enough data over a year,‖ he said.
        Earlier this year, Borengasser contacted Janet Carson, extension horticulture specialist for
the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, to see if Master Gardeners might be
interested in participating.
        ―I thought it was a good fit for Master Gardeners,‖ she said. ―I met with Michael and
discussed it with our Master Gardener board and had 26 counties respond and I brought some
backups – a total of 60 rain gauges.‖
        Unlike gauges found in hardware or garden stores, these instruments measure rainfall
amounts in hundredths of an inch and require training to use properly.
        ―We have 200 of these reporting stations in Arkansas and I hope the Master Gardeners
will help boost that up,‖ he said. ―My goal is to have about 1,500 statewide.‖
Look for burn bans to be reinstated as dry air hovers over Arkansas
(Longer version as 1110Wildfire Danger (previously moved as spot news)
         MONTICELLO, Ark. – Recent rain was enough to prompt some
county judges in Arkansas to lift their burn bans, but dry, windy weather between fronts means
the fire danger hasn‘t passed and burn bans are likely to be reinstated, Caroll Guffey said
         Guffey‘s official title is continuing education director at the Arkansas Forestry Resources
Center for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. He might prefer ―fire nerd.‖
         ―Even though most counties have lifted the burn bans, with high winds and drier air, the
danger will be just about as dry as it was between July and October,‖ Guffey said. ―I don‘t want
to sound like ‗Chicken Little,‘ but we are still going to see fires on the news until we get some
more significant rainfall.‖
         According to the Arkansas Forestry Commission, wildfires consumed more than 30,000
acres in Arkansas as of Monday, nearly twice the total for all of 2009: 16,159. The agency also
reported that since Nov. 1, commission crews have suppressed 124 wildfires that burned more
than 2,100 acres.
         The next chance for rain is Friday, with a 60 percent chance Friday night, according to
the National Weather Service at Little Rock.
         The decision by professionals on whether to start a prescribed burn to manage a forest is
done using specific standards. Prescribed burns imitate natural wildfires that help renew
         ―We use several measures, but the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, or KBDI, is the most
commonly used index for predicting fire behavior and effects in the Southeast United States,‖ he
said. ―The KBDI is a continuous reference scale for estimating the dryness of the soil and duff,
or forest litter, layers.‖

Lorenz, Studebaker, Akin part of award-winning Mid-South Entomologists team
(Longer version as: 1111IPM Award)
        LONOKE, Ark. – University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Entomologists Gus
Lorenz, Glenn Studebaker and Scott Akin are part of a five-state team that has earned the
―Friends of IPM ‗Pulling Together‘‖ award from the Southern Region Integrated Pest
Management Center.
        The Mid-South Entomologist team was nominated by Robert Wiedenmann, entomology
department head at the University of Arkansas.
        ―I nominated this group of entomologists because they are, in my estimation, the best
group around at approaching regional pest management issues, and developing solutions that are
applicable across state lines to growers throughout the Mid-South region,‖ he said. ―I am
continually amazed by the collaboration and continued progress that this group has
        The team came together about five years ago, according to Lorenz, associate department
head and extension entomologist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
        ―We started talking and decided that we could better answer client questions and solve
problems if we started working together, rather than doing our own thing,‖ he said. ―We all
pretty much have the same issues. Problems for us in Arkansas are the same in Mississippi, and
the Bootheel of Missouri and Tennessee and Louisiana.‖
        The result of this teamwork has been more data, more publications and more information
reaching the people who need it most.
        ―We communicate weekly and sometimes daily, to talk about what we‘re seeing out there
and how they‘re handling the issue and how we‘re handling the issue,‖ Lorenz said ―We share
real-time data and it helps us handle those calls from consultants and growers.‖
        The team is comprised of:
         University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture – Drs. Akin, Lorenz, Studebaker.
         LSU – Dr. Roger Leonard, professor, field crops pest management.
         Mississippi State – Dr. Angus Catchot, associate extension professor; Dr. Fred
           Musser, assistant professor; Dr. Jeff Gore, assistant research professor; Dr. Donald
           Cook, assistant extension professor.
         University of Missouri – Dr. Kelly Tindall, research assistant professor.
         University of Tennessee – Dr. Scott Stewart, professor/IPM specialist and
         USDA-Agricultural Research Agricultural Research Service – Dr. Ryan Jackson and
           Dr. Gordon Snodgrass, both research entomologists.

Plant of the Week: Water Clover                                         (Marsilea mutica)
(Longer version: 1112WaterClover)
         FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Say the word fern and people instantly conjure images of a
green, feathery plant that is, well, ferny. But of course, the typical ferny leaf is but one body
design used in this ancient and extremely variable group of plants. One of the oddball ferns, the
water clover (Marsilea mutica), looks like your typical lucky four-leaf clover but in fact is one of
the older fern species.
         Water clover — also called banded nardoo, an Aboriginal name for these plants in its
native Australia — is a mud-growing aquatic fern in the Salviniales section of the fern group.
This section consists of five families of aquatic ferns, two of which are free-floating plants and
three are mud dwellers along banks or in shallow water.
         The Salviniales are united as a group because they produce two types of spores: a small
male spore and a large female spore. Typically ferns produce a single, unisex spore that gives
rise to both male and female gametes during the fertilization process. Evolutionarily water ferns
are an ancient group found in both hemispheres and on all continents (except Antarctica), and
probably date back at least 300 million years, about when the supercontinent Pangaea began to
separate into the earth‘s northern and southern land masses.
         Banded water clover is the most common of the water ferns offered for sale by water
garden suppliers. It is hardy through at least zone 7 and perhaps will survive even further north.
It cohabits nicely in sunny water gardens with water lilies and other water plants and doesn‘t
seem especially aggressive or extremely finicky in its preferences. Propagation is by division in
the spring. This species has been reported as escaped in Maryland and is banned from sale in

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion,
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