Natural needle drop results in interior needles of pine and spruce trees turning yellow and eventually dropping off. Fall needle drop is natural. It is not a sign of a disease or insect.

Pine trees hold needles for two to three or more years. Spruce trees generally hold needles longer than pines, approximately five to seven years. One evergreen whose needle drop is quite noticeable in is Austrian Pine. Generally, they will hold their needles for three to four years. However, if a pine is under severe stress for a long period, it may drop needles that are only two to three years of age. This is a natural defense of the tree to reduce the amount of vegetative growth to sustain itself.

Natural needle drop occurs only on inner needles. If entire branches or needles at the tips of branches are dying, then something else is happening. A sample of an affected branch can be submitted to local UNL Extension offices for diagnosis.

Water conference

Water its quantity, quality and the economic impact of its sustainability is the topic for the "Water and the Future of Kansas Conference" scheduled for Oct. 26 in Topeka.

The conference, designed for anyone who is interested in learning more about issues affecting water supply and quality in the state, will be at the Capitol Plaza Hotel at 1717 S.W. Topeka Blvd. It begins with registration at 8 a.m. The program begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.

Presentations at the conference will focus on an array of topics, including a national perspective on sustainability; an overall look at the state's economy; watershed sedimentation; increasing effective action; water quality issues in Kansas; the national agenda for improving water quality and states' roles; best management practices; no-till practices in agriculture; the status of Kansas reservoirs and others.

An early registration fee of $65 per person is due by Oct. 12. Registration includes lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments. The fee after Oct. 12 is $90. Students may attend the conference for a fee of $25. Conference planners encourage early registration for meal-planning purposes. More information, including online registration, is available at www.dce.k-state.edu/conf/waterfuture or by contacting the conference office at (785) 532-5575 or (800) 622-2578, or e-mail debbieh@k-state.edu.

Feed use efficiency

To improve efficiency of feed:

* Don't waste feed by using broken or poorly designed feeders.

* Improve digestibility of the diet. Use lower particle size of grain.

* Eliminate "extra" nutrients and ingredients, such as products without a documented economic return.

* Use high-efficiency genetics.

* Maintain housed animals at the proper temperature. Provide shade and shelter for pastured animals.

* Don't under- or over-formulate for protein and amino acids.

* Use alternative feedstuffs to lower feed cost. Alternatives include DDGS, crop residues and annual forages.

* Change grazing patterns to optimize pasture utilization.

For example:

1) Extend the grazing season or use a rotational grazing system.

2) Delay breeding or calving season to match with grass green-up.

3) Wean early to save grass for cows.

For more information or assistance on this or other topics, call the Extension Office at 272-3670, located at 501 S. Ninth St.