A scientific approach

SMSU students report on agricultural Research Plot program during field day

Photo by Sabrina Pankratz Pictured is Tim Moline, SMSU alumnus and certified crop adviser, speaking to the audience about what the students accomplished this summer.

MARSHALL — With a hands- on agriculture background, Brock Fox described how a Southwest Minnesota State University program helped him take more of a scientific approach.

“I’ve always worked for farmers, but it’s been more labor. Whereas here you have to understand the specific functions and science behind insecticides and fungicides we use in the fertilizers, all and all just understanding why we are doing the things we are doing,” Fox said.

Students at SMSU — Justin Buysse, Melissa Downing, and Fox — shared what they learned from the SMSU Research Plot intern program this summer at the inaugural Agronomy Field Day event Thursday.

“I really enjoyed the field work and just hanging out with the guys. I love being out in agronomy. I just love soil and I’m a plant nerd,” Downing said.

Downing described how they took different varieties of corn (red, blue, green corn seeds) and inoculated the corn worm eggs to see how that affected their roots.

“We did 25 different rows, and then one replicate and then two different trials,” Downing said.

“Basically what we’re trying to do is see how the corn root worm affects different varieties and which varieties can hold up compared to the other ones,” Buysse said.

Tim Moline, SMSU alumnus and certified crop adviser, directed students in conducting the corn-hybrid trials in the SMSU Research Plot intern program.

“I was asked two years ago to be involved with the plots, I also carry another title as director of field research at the plots here at SMSU,” said Moline.

“They (the students) work very hard and are very dedicated to it. There is a lot of times where we have to work odd hours and as they know agricultural is not an eight to five job,” Moline added.

Downing said the educational plots are provided by the McLaughlin Farms for students.

“The educational plots out here, what we do is we plant crops, we start with a regular plant. We take those original planting days and plant the arriving crops and then we also come back about 60 days later and plant those crops again. So, when the students come in to the fall semester they have real live, in field not just classroom activity to learn from and develop their skills,” Moline said.

The field day also featured speakers, Professor Sam Tutt at SMSU, and Ken Franzky, Centrol Crop Consulting agronomy services manager.

Tutt discussed topics concerning the teaching, research, and agricultural outreach at SMSU.

“It is all about the students,” Tutt said. “This aspect is so critical when we have these teaching crops that Tim and the interns put out for me.”

Tutt handed out a completed general scouting report that students must complete when diagnosing a field.

“They fill out the scouting report based on their knowledge. They collect samples. We take that information and put it in to the scouting report but the bottom line is the recommendation on the bottom. You do the diagnostic and then you have to make a determination of what you would tell the farmer?” Tutt said.

Franzky spoke later about the state of agronomy in Minnesota to date.

“Growers had to make an economic and agronomic decision about how long am I going to keep planting corn? How many acres in Lyon County that were intended to planted to corn went prevent planning? 79,000,” Franzky said.

At the end, SMSU Provost Dwight Watson gave closing words and thanked the student and others in attendance at the field day.

“One thing about the institution is that we really pride ourselves on agriculture classes. We are one of the only institutions within the state that has agriculture and agricultural ed. We can only do that because of you all, you are all the ones who contribute to our students,” Watson said.

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