Extension Information



3 Independence Day Holiday  

7 Robotics Day Camp, 9:00 a.m., Edgewood Community Room, Edgewood

8 Robotics Day Camp, 9:00 a.m., FreedomBank Community Room, Elkader

9 Clayton County 4-H County Council Interviews, 6:30 p.m., Extension Office, Elkader

13 4-H Design Elements & Art Principles Workshop 7:00 p.m., Extension Office, Elkader

13 4-H Photography Workshop, 8:00 p.m., Extension Office, Elkader

Robotics Camp To Be Offered In Elkader

Due to high demand we have added another Robotics Camp for K-4 th graders on July 16 in Elkader. This camp will run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Call the Extension Office for details and registration information.


Yard and Garden: Dealing with Tree Abnormalities

Knowing how to properly care for trees and how to identify harmful tree abnormalities is a great skill for all tree owners to have. However, not all tree abnormalities are harmful. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach identify some tree abnormalities and explain what exactly they are. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or call 515-294-3108.

There are wartlike growths on the undersides of my hackberry tree leaves. What are they? 

The wartlike growths on the hackberry leaves are called galls. Galls are abnormal growths of plant tissue induced to form by mites, insects or other small organisms. They are quite common on trees. 

The gall found on the hackberry leaves is referred to as the hackberry nipple gall. The hackberry nipple gall is so common on hackberries that its presence can be used to identify the tree. 

While galls may be unsightly, they do not cause serious harm to healthy trees. Preventive insecticide treatments are seldom warranted. 

There are white, fuzzy objects on the branches of my maple tree. Are they harming the tree? 

The white, fuzzy objects on the branches of your maple tree are called wooly alder aphids. The insect also is known as the maple blight aphid. Wooly alder aphids feed on the sap of maple trees from bud-break until late June.

Winged adult wooly alder aphids, some with abdomens covered in white fluffy wax, are produced in colonies. These winged migrants readily fly when disturbed and create the illusion of tiny masses of cotton floating through the air. The winged adults leave the maple tree and fly to alders where they establish new colonies on the secondary host. Wooly alder aphids require both maple and alder trees to complete their life cycle. 

While the presence of white, fuzzy colonies of wooly alder aphids on a maple tree may cause alarm, they don’t cause serious harm to infested maples. Damage is usually limited to the loss of some leaves. Large wooly alder aphid populations usually collapse from predation and parasitism. Control efforts are not necessary. 

There are gray-green patches on the trunk of my tree. What are they? Are they harming the tree? 

The gray-green patches are probably lichens. Lichens are unusual organisms. They consist of two unrelated organisms, an alga and a fungus. These two components exist together and behave as a single organism. The alga provides food via photosynthesis while the fungus obtains water and minerals for itself and the alga. 

Lichens are common on trees because the bark provides a suitable place to gather sunlight and to grow. They grow especially well on dead branches because they receive more sunlight. In addition to growing on the trunks and branches of trees, lichens can be found on: exposed soil surfaces, rocks, wooden fence posts, shingles, gravestones, stone walls and other sunny surfaces. Lichens may be flat, leafy or branched and hairlike. Lichens on trees are often gray-green. Other species may be: orange, yellow, slate blue or black.

Lichens are fascinating, unique organisms. However, they do not harm trees. 


At 30, Iowa Concern Continues Serving Iowans in Crisis

In the last 30 years, much has changed for Iowa Concern, but many things remain the same.

Rich Miller-Todd knows this well. A Congregational minister who is co-minister at Berwick Congregational Church, Miller-Todd has worked at Iowa Concern as a hotline counselor for most of the last 30 years, and continues that role today.

I just happen to be the old guy now, when I was the young guy (back then),” Miller-Todd said recently.

After originating during a statewide farm crisis 30 years ago, Iowa Concern has grown to embrace all Iowans. Today, Iowans can call counselors like Miller-Todd at  FREE800-447-1985, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to discuss tough issues facing their communities, their families or themselves.

Iowa Concern serves as one of the most important resources that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, which has administered the program since 1985, offers Iowa citizens. It has served the state’s citizens through numerous crises including the Great Floods of 1993, the Missouri River floods of 2008, drought, the H1N1 crisis and the current avian flu crisis. It has grown to include stress counselors, a website and live chat features.

However, as Iowa Concern marks its 30th anniversary, its main goal remains the same: to assist Iowans in distress and explain options. It continues to look for new ways to improve its reach and connect with new populations.

I think people know that the Iowa Concern has been around,” said Margaret VanGinkel, the Iowa Concern hotline coordinator. “A lot of people know it and remember it. We’re here to help people, and they can talk to a person, seven days a week, all night long, and it is a person.”

Rural Roots

In 1985, the state of Iowa was in the throes of a major farm crisis. Across the Midwest, farm land values had dropped by as much as 60 percent, leaving farmers unable to pay their bills and throwing farmers and rural banks alike into bankruptcy.

In Hills, Iowa, a farmer facing huge debt killed a banker, another farmer, his wife and himself, illustrating the issues many rural residents faced.

The stress was out there,” VanGinkel said. “Because of the economy, the farm community was having a very hard time.”

Miller-Todd said the farm crisis was a difficult time for Iowa.

There were disasters going on, shootings, we saw a real negative side of that,” he said. “It was a real intense time for bankers and I saw a coming-together with a lot of different organizations trying to assist people.”

A number of organizations including the Iowa Farm Bureau and the United Way, as well as multiple farm-related organizations, told Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Legislature that farmers needed a place to discuss their problems and get referrals for potential issues.

Thus, the hotline Rural Concern was born, with funding coming from a line item in the state budget. It gave farmers crisis counseling but also offered legal advice, discussing matters like mediation in foreclosure and what their rights really were.

As the farm crisis eased, funding was threatened, but Iowa State University Extension and Outreach absorbed it into its budget and made it one of its programs.

Urban Embrace

In 1993, the program evolved again.

The Great Floods of 1993 devastated Iowa and surrounding states, causing over $15 billion in damages in the Midwest. The Des Moines Water Works was inundated with floodwaters from the Raccoon River, knocking it offline for 12 days and leaving 225,000 people without drinking water for 19 days – the largest population ever to suffer such a hardship.

Sometimes people were confused about what Rural Concern (covered),” said VanGinkel, who has been with the program since 1989. “We decided in 1993 when the floods hit Des Moines, that was urban. (We) were asked to take calls for the floods. We said, ‘Let’s call it Iowa Concern. That way people won’t question it and anyone can call.’”

Stress counseling has become a crucial part of Iowa Concern’s mission. If a person has issues that he or she simply wants to talk through, Iowa Concern is there to help.

Callers also can ask about legal issues, with help from attorney John Baker and a rotating group of law students from Drake University’s law school. Twenty-five percent of calls to the hotline concern legal matters, from contracts to home-buying issues to other matters like divorce and landlord-tenant issues and the agriculture “fence law,” which deals with rural land borders. The attorney and the students can’t represent callers in court, but can explain the matters and provide legal education about the caller’s concern.

ISU Extension and Outreach’s 100 county offices often refer clients seeking further resources to Iowa Concern for assistance and guidance. The hotline also finds itself as an indicator for larger societal problems, well before they pique a wider radar. Several years ago, calls started coming from grandparents who had become guardians for their grandchildren after being abandoned by their parents.

It (grandparenting issues) wasn’t on the radar yet,” VanGinkel said, “but about a year later people were running into all kinds of issues with their grandkids (statewide).”

Miller-Todd says Iowa Concern has a natural connection with the state and its people in numerous ways.

"As a clergy person I’ve always been very surprised by how much extension has an ear to what the church is doing,” he said. “Getting resources to people, in lots of ways it felt like a natural fit."

Always Something Different

Walk through Iowa Concern’s call center on an average afternoon, and you’ll see a hub of activity filtering in from a number of different sources. The Iowa Concern line isn’t the only hotline managed here. An operator can receive a call from one of several hotlines contracted here, including 800-BETS OFF, Healthy Families and Teen Line. In addition, it serves as a 211 call center for 23 Iowa counties.

Operators must be versatile and nimble. During the current avian flu crisis, they had to learn quickly in order to capably answer the calls which flooded in (100 in a two-week span). When a disaster like the Parkersburg EF-5  tornado hits, Iowa Concern becomes a clearinghouse for information and volunteers in the immediate aftermath and offers crisis counseling for a year to 18 months afterward. When there are federal and state disasters, such as the floods of 1993 and 2008, it is an extended resource for those facing uncertainty and a trusted partner for local and state officials to spread sound, proven advice.

Crisis also can be an opportunity for education. Many callers asking about the avian flu are nowhere near its concentration in northwest Iowa, but were asking if chicken and eggs are safe to eat. VanGinkel tells her operators that it’s an excellent time to teach food safety and how to properly handle chickens and eggs.

That has nothing to do with the avian flu,” she said, “but people are open to that.”

Next Steps

Evolving with the changing digital times is a priority, too.

Iowa Concern offers online chat with operators 24/7, and is also expanding into social media. Texting, particularly with TeenLine, is the next frontier.

That’s been the biggest concern,” VanGinkel said. “How do we keep up with all the new technologies?”

That said, there’s nothing better than the human voice – and knowing that you’ve helped someone along the way.

"We don’t hear a lot of feedback, but when you do hear feedback that you’ve helped someone, you think, oh boy, they did find a resource or used what the attorney told them, they were very pleased with what we’ve done,” she said. “Hearing those success stories is really rewarding to me.”


Yard and Garden: Keeping Roses Healthy

Several common disease problems can damage a rose’s natural beauty. Disease organisms can cause unsightly leaves, reduced flower production and result in the death of leaves or even the entire plant. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists give advice on how to keep roses healthy and protected from these diseases. To have additional questions answered, contact ISU Hotline at hortline@iastate.edu or call 515-294-3108.

There are round holes in the foliage of my roses. What is responsible for the damage?

Leafcutting bees are most likely responsible for holes in rose foliages. Leafcutting bees resemble honey bees but are often darker in color.

Female leafcutting bees tend to make nests in rotted wood or the stems of plants. The sides of the nesting cavities are lined with round pieces of foliage. After lining the cavities with leaf discs, pollen and nectar are placed in the nest cells to serve as food for the immature bees.

Leafcutting bees may remove discs of foliage from many plants. However, they prefer rose, green ash, redbud, lilac and Virginia creeper. Holes in the leaves are typically one-half inch or less in diameter. The cuts are clean, as if they were “punched out” with a paper punch.

Leafcutting bees are beneficial pollinators. Damage to roses and other plants is usually minor and control efforts are rarely justified or necessary.

Small, green worms are eating the foliage on my roses. What can I do?

The small, green “worms” are probably the larvae of the rose sawfly. Rose sawfly larvae, commonly referred to as roseslug, have tapered bodies, may be up to a half-inch in length, and are pale green in color. The larvae somewhat resemble slugs, hence the common name of roseslug.

Rose sawfly larvae usually feed on the undersides of the rose leaves. They consume most of the green tissue of the leaf, leaving behind a thin layer of tissue and veins which eventually turns light brown. Foliage damaged by roseslugs has a window-pane or skeletonized appearance.

Small numbers of roseslugs can be picked off by hand and destroyed. However, larger infestations can be controlled with insecticides, such as: insecticidal soap, carbaryl (Sevin) or permethrin (Eight).

How can I control blackspot on my roses?

Blackspot is a common fungal disease of roses. Symptoms of blackspot are circular, black spots on leaves. Initially, symptoms develop on the lower leaves and gradually move upward. Infected leaves will turn yellow and drop prematurely. By late summer, severely infected plants may be nearly defoliated.

The blackspot fungus overwinters on fallen leaves and infected canes. Spores are splashed onto newly emerging foliage in spring. Blackspot development is favored by warm, wet weather. Careful rose selection, cultural practices and fungicide treatments can be used to control blackspot on roses. Rose cultivars differ widely in their susceptibility to blackspot.

When purchasing roses, select rose cultivars that are resistant to blackspot and choose a planting site that receives full sun and provides good air movement. Full sun and good air movement promote drying of rose foliage and discourage blackspot infections. When watering roses, apply water directly to the ground around the plants. Do not wet the foliage.

Reduce the amount of overwintering fungi by carefully cleaning up leaf debris in fall. Fungicide applications must begin at the first sign of disease symptoms.