Dave Smith fields his share of calls about trees and shrubs. It goes with the territory today with an Extension ag educator working in a mixed county- part suburban, part rural. The population of Johnson County where Smith works is well over 100,000, but there is still a large farming base. He's convinced that he should serve farmers as well, and go above and beyond just answering calls about trees and shrubs, even if they are important.
Smith is one of a handful of Extension educators seeking to reach out and work with farmers on on-farm test plots. His goal this year was to establish a twin-row vs. 30-inch row corn study. Since no one in his county is trying twin-rows yet and doesn't have the equipment, he wound up working with a Rush County farm family who had just purchased a Great Plains planter for twin-row planting. He convinced them to put out a field-size, replicated plot. A neighbor brought in a 30-inch row planter to plant the 20-inch row strips. The family used their new planter to plant the twin-rows.
While harvest is over, he's still working with Bob Nielsen, Purdue University corn specialist, to analyze results. You'll find them here as soon as they are available.
Smith also worked with farmers in his own county on nitrogen plots. The goal was simple and nothing new- apply different rates of N and measure the results. What's different is that he's trying to help Nielsen establish baselines for rates and production over a variety of years to know how much N farmers in various parts of the state might want to apply year in and year out.
For an Extension ag educator with a pHD in weed science, working with farmers on key issues on their own farms is important. Smith specialized in herbicide work and weed control while completing his pHS program.
His hope is that other Extension ag educators in other parts of the state will follow his lead. Some efforts were made in the past, primarily to promote countywide hybrid or variety trials. However, until recently, educators haven't been encouraged to get out amongst their clientele
One exception is Jeff Phillips. The Tippecanoe County Extension ag educator is constantly talking to farmers and dealers, and conducting various trials. This year, he is cooperating with Indiana Prairie Farmer and Precision Planting on a detailed plot that compares planting speed, seed depth and tension on planter units. Already harvested as well, results should be available soon.