Soil Health & Issues in Ag Take Centerstage at WCREEC Field Day

By: Krystle Rhoades, TAPS Program Manager

Providing opportunities for networking and making connections was the goal of the recent West Central Research, Extension & Education Center's (WCREEC) Water, Crops & Soil Health Field Day. The event, held in North Platte, NE, on Thursday, August 25th, not only accomplished those goals, but also offered an abundance of learning opportunities to over 180 people in attendance. The event had a two tract focus this year, with soil health and issues in ag taking centerstage.

The first session of the day had participants choose between taking a tour of the soil health plots or hearing an update on the Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program, and then hearing from producers about their own farming operations. On the soil health tour, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) educators and specialists highlighted their work with cover crop varieties, inter-seeding research, nematode introduction, and a demonstration of soil health research that is currently being done. Chuck Burr, Water & Crops Extension Educator, presented on the TAPS program, with highlights of the 2022 competitions, as well as a number of possible changes and opportunities coming in 2023. Don Batie of Lexington, NE, and Conrad Nelson of Wallace, NE, followed Burr with a discussion about their ag operations and use of On Farm Research through UNL Extension, as well as answered questions from the attendees.

Field Day

After a break that allowed participants to network and visit industry booths, the attendees again divided into two groups. One of the options focused on global supply issues with presentations by Paul Rockwell of Frenchman Valley Coop, Jay Rempe of Nebraska Farm Bureau, and Brad Cook from BASF. The other option available was a producer panel focused on soil health. Steve Tucker of Venango, NE, and Tom Schwartz of Smithfield, NE, along with Batie, served on the producer panel and answered questions from both in-person and online attendees, thanks to a collaboration with the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus.

Following lunch, Jay Rempe, Senior Economist with Nebraska Farm Bureau, provided the keynote address. Rempe discussed the issue of food inflation and the effects on producers.

Agency updates were delivered by Lincoln County Commissioner Chris Bruns on the current and future local issues, Senator Mike Jacobson in regard to the Nebraska Legislature, and Upper Republican NRD Assistant Manager Nate Jenkins with a regional outlook.

The afternoon session focused on what producers need to know to address challenges. Attendees could rotate between stations focused on farm management, irrigation management, pesticide management, disease management, insect management, and soil health nutrient cycling. All of these stations were led by UNL extension educators and specialists.

“It was a great day to showcase University of Nebraska-Lincoln research being done and to answer challenges that producers were dealing with on their farms,” commented Chuck Burr, event organizer.

The field day was made possible by donations from North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), Nebraska Water Balance Alliance (NEWBA), NebraskaLand Bank, AKRS Equipment, Soil Health Nexus, Eco-Drip, Nebraska Corn Board, Sorghum Checkoff, and Nebraska Sorghum Board.