By: Krystle Rhoades, TAPS Program Manager
West Central Research, Extension & Education Center (WCREEC) in North Platte, Nebraska, was abuzz with activity on Thursday, August 26th as they hosted the Annual Water & Crops Field Day.
The event started with a unique breakfast of sorghum pancakes which were provided by the Nebraska Sorghum Board and prepared by the North Platte Buffalo Bill Kiwanis. Dr. Kelly Bruns, Director of WCREEC, welcomed attendees to the annual event.
Chuck Burr, Water & Crops Extension Educator, kicked off the presentations for the day with a discussion focused on the Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program and “Using Technology to Improve Efficiency & Resiliency” which was the theme of the field day. “Our UNL-TAPS data has shown that improving efficiency is directly correlated to improving profitability,” Burr said.
The 160 attendees were then given the opportunity to see in-field demonstrations and learn about research currently being done at WCREEC. Dr. Julie Peterson, Associate Professor, in Entomology, and her MS graduate student Andrea Rilakovic and research technologist Ruby Anderson discussed their work in the Agroecosystems Entomology Lab. They highlighted the research projects they are doing on Western Bean Cutworms and the use of chemigation to control the pest. Dr. Daran Rudnick, Irrigation Management Specialist, and his Biological System Engineering (BSE) PhD students, Hope Nakabuye, Abia Katimbo and Jamie Duan presented on their individual research projects centered around irrigation and nitrogen management.
The last session before lunch covered precision conservation management. Andy Little, UNL Landscape & Habitat Management Ecologist, discussed increasing profitability while conserving soil, water and wildlife. USDA-ARS Research Soil Scientist Virginia Jin presented on soil health in perennial and annual cropping systems. Peterson, along with Ron Seymour, UNL Cropping Systems Extension Educator, finished the session discussing on-farm practices to conserve beneficial insects while controlling crop pests.
Over twenty businesses showcased their products and newest technologies throughout the day.
Following lunch, Dwane Roth, Enogen Sustainability Lead for Syngenta, provided the keynote address. Roth discussed his southwest Kansas operation and what he has learned by having it involved with Kansas State University as a “water technology farm”.
Agency updates were delivered by Senator Mike Groene in regard to the Nebraska Legislature, Kent Miller and Ann Dimmit with the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and Amy Harsch and Roric Paulman with the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance (NEWBA).
The afternoon session focused on using technology in crop management, specifically with nitrogen usage. Presenters during this session included: Assistant Professor of Soil & Water Sciences, Laila Puntel; Associate Professor of BSE, Dr. Joe Luck; and Rudnick. Luck ended the presentations with a discussion on the Farms of the Future Initiative.
“It was exciting to see a large turnout even with COVID concerns and to see so many producers and industry interested in improving efficiency,” Burr commented.
The field day was made possible by donations from Komet Innovative Irrigation, Arrow Seed, AgSense, Valley Irrigation, Eco-Drip, NEWBA, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Sorghum Board and the United Sorghum Checkoff.