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Will's Windmill: Take steps to make your farm safer

Here are 10 basics suggestions for making your farm a safer place to work and live:

1. Buy a rollover protective structure (ROPS) for older tractors. If an approved ROPS is not available, avoid using that tractor or consider trading or selling it through a local dealer.

2. Replace all missing power take-off and rotating equipment shields. Shut off power equipment before leaving the operator's station.

3. Make sure lights, flashers, and reflectors on machines work properly. Always use them when traveling on roadways.

4. Replace slow-moving vehicle emblems that aren't clean and bright.

5. Prepare farm machinery before the busy season. A well-maintained machine will operate more efficiently and reduce your chances of injury.

6. Use proper equipment and procedures when hitching and unhitching implements.

7. Never enter a manure pit, grain bin, or silo without following confined space entry procedures. The gases and materials in these structures kill several farmers each year.

8. Make sure all workers receive specific instructions on their tasks and the machines they are operating. Be sure they read and understand all operational procedures in the owner's manual.

9. Take the time to learn basic first aid, CPR, and emergency response.

10. Do not assign jobs to children unless they are physically, mentally, and legally ready to perform the jobs safely, follow directions, and can respond to unexpected situations. This may mean waiting until kids are at least 16 years of age.

Have a safe and profitable harvest!

What are those ugly black globs?

Each year local Master Gardeners and I receive a number of calls asking what can be done to control black distorted growths on stone fruits such as wild, fruit-bearing and ornamental plums and cherries. This disease, known as Black Knot, is a disfiguring and potentially lethal disease of trees and shrubs in the genus Prunus.

During the first year of infection, black knot-infected trees develop greenish-brown to brown swellings on affected branches and trunks. During the second year, these swellings enlarge into the ugly, black, erupting tumors (galls) characteristic of the disease. Older gall tissue (greater than two years old) often dies and then is colonized by fungi that give the gall a whitish or pinkish color. Severe black knot infections may cause general tree decline or death if galls girdle large limbs or tree trunks.

To manage existing black knot galls, simply remove the galls each winter from infected trees, then burn or bury them. Prune branches six to eight inches below each gall. On trunks, use a chisel to remove tissue from at least one inch beyond the infected area. Be sure to clean pruning tools between cuts by dipping them in a 10% bleach solution or alcohol to prevent accidental movement of the black knot fungus from branch to branch, or from tree to tree as galls are removed.

How can you avoid problems with black knot in the future? In established plantings, remove any undesirable volunteer or wild cherry or plum trees from within 500 feet of susceptible fruit-bearing or ornamental cherries or plums.

When purchasing new cherries and plums, carefully inspect trees prior to purchase to be sure they are black knot-free.

When available, buy black knot-resistant cherry or plum species or varieties. Do not attempt to control this disease with fungicide treatments, as these treatments are expensive and not likely to be effective.

For more information on controlling Black Knot and other diseases in our landscapes, please call your local Master Gardeners or contact me: Will Yliniemi, Hubbard/Becker County Extension Educator at 1-218-732-3391, 1-218-846-7328 or by cell at 1-218-252-1042; you can also e-mail meat