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Focus on Ag: Second Annual Agronomy Field Day

Published Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Senior Brock Fox talks to those at the second annual Agronomy Field Day
Senior Brock Fox talks to those at the second annual Agronomy Field Day

One thing was clear following the second annual Agronomy Field Day held August 5: There’s a lot going on with agriculture at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The event was an opportunity to learn more about the test plots, located on 50-plus acres just a few miles northwest of campus on land donated to the University by the late Ron and Marilyn McLaughlin. The plots are in their sixth year and it was the vision of retired Agronomy Professor Lee French which got them started, said Tim Moline, a 2001 alumnus and CENTROL Certified Crop Advisor and Technical Service Provider, who oversees the test plots. “The Agronomy program started in 2009 and these plots complement the classroom experience of our students,” he said.

Moline welcomed those in attendance and introduced two senior interns, Justin Buysse and Brock Fox, who talked about their research and the work they have been doing this summer.

Corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa, barley, sweet corn and squash are some of the crops grown in the test plots.

There’s also research being done for private industry involving soil bacteria, said Moline.

Sam Tutt, Agronomy instructor, said the test plots “are all about the students. It lets them see first-hand what they are learning in the classroom, and they are close enough (to campus) that they can just drive out.”

Buysse and Fox echoed his remarks.

“It gives you hands-on experience,” said Buysse, an Agricultural Education major. “I learn by doing and seeing, and this allows me that opportunity.”

Fox said the plots “allow me to apply what I learn in the classroom. I remember taking a Zoom class from Mr. Tutt in the spring. He said that if the weeds are up first, they will win the battle. It’s one thing to hear something in class, this gives the students an opportunity to get out and see for themselves.”

Any weeds at the test plots, added Fox, “are there on purpose, believe me.”

“This year, it’s almost a 180 change from last year,” said Moline about the weather. “This year we planted between May 10th and 15th. Last year we planted between the 15th and 20th of June.” The results of ideal weather conditions and timely rains were on display in the fields for those who toured the plots after lunch.

Dr. David Kee, Director of Research for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, was on hand to talk about a $5,000 grant that SMSU recently received that will prepare students this coming semester to take the two tests in the spring to become Certified Crop Advisors. “Any soybean grower needs quality information,” he said. “Where do they get that? From certified crop advisors.”

The grant grew out of a conversation that Kee had with Professor of Economics and Department Chair Dr. Gerry Toland at last year’s inaugural Field Day. “As the conversation went along, he said they’d like to work with SMSU because we produce good students, and they need people who have a good training background,” said Toland. “He encouraged us to apply for the grant.”

Also on hand was Josh Pinkernell, lab director for Western Farms near Scottsbluff, Neb., who gave an interesting presentation on hemp production. He is a former lead botanist with Midwest Hemp Farms in Waseca, Minn., and is helping to establish hemp as a viable alternative crop in Nebraska.

Retired Agronomy Professor Lee French was also honored — via telephone — for his service to the University, and region. He started at SMSU in 1979.

Dr. Adam Alford was also introduced as the newest member of the Agronomy faculty.