MSU Agriculture Innovation Day will better serve needs of Michigan agriculture than former Ag Expo

Inaugural event to provide in-depth focus on soil health.

As a long time tradition of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at Michigan State University (MSU), Ag Expo first started in 1976 as a Machinery Show with educational seminars. The show was held near the present location of the Michigan State University Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center. Shortly thereafter, Ag Expo moved to the MSU campus and was located there for its duration.

In 2014, it was decided that Ag Expo no longer met the needs of the Michigan Agricultural Industry and Ag Expo was not held in 2015. A steering committee of Michigan agricultural leaders was formed to advise the college on what would better suit the needs of Michigan agriculture in the future. The recommendation was to have a first-class educational event each year that would serve as an avenue for delivering information specific to current issues facing Michigan agriculture. Additionally, it was proposed that this new event should move throughout the state, providing cutting-edge information based on the identified needs of the specific locale.

This new event is called, “MSU Agriculture Innovation Day” with the title to include the theme for each year’s event. For 2016, the event will be “MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Soils” and will be the first event in this new format.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Soils is a daylong event that will be held on August 24, 2016. The inaugural event will be held at the Michigan State University Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center, located at 3775 S. Reese Road, Frankenmuth, Mich. Farmers, agribusiness professionals and anyone interested in crop production are invited to attend this new cutting-edge field day with sessions beginning at 8:45 a.m. Registration starts at 8 a.m., no pre-registration is necessary. A catered lunch celebrating Michigan agriculture will be provided to all participants. The lunch session will feature MSU President, Lou Anna K. Simon and the new Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ron Hendrick.

The day will feature nine educational sessions discussing topics important to optimizing fertilization rates, better managing cover crop usage, improving soil quality, better understanding water percolation in field tile, and what to do to reduce soil compaction.

Two sessions, one on nitrogen and one on phosphorus, will discuss timely applications of fertilizer elements to optimize crop growth and minimize nutrient loss. Peter Scharf from the University of Missouri will demonstrate how to better time nitrogen application, while Kurt Steinke, MSU Extension specialist in the department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, will demonstrate how to strategically time phosphorus applications to economically optimize crop growth, and reduce nutrient loss.

In the past, farmers, educators and researchers have engaged in many discussions regarding using cover crops but much confusion still remains. Utilizing a soil pit, MSU Extension educator Dean Baas will show how using cover crops in an extended rotation can improve soil quality. This demonstration will show the results from an on-going research project on extended rotations. Erin Hill, MSU Extension specialist in the department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, will demonstrate how different mixes for cover crops can improve biomass and improve soil quality and health.

Modern agriculture uses advanced technology to reduce time in the field but often with the size of equipment today, soil compaction can hinder crop productivity. Francisco Arriaga from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will use a soil pit to demonstrate the results of soil compaction and what can be done in modern cropping systems to alleviate problems caused by soil compaction. James Crouch from Michelin North America, will be on hand to show what is new with tires. James will show new tire and track technology as well how adjusting air pressure and field traffic can reduce soil compaction and improve crop production.

Field tile has helped many Michigan farmers improve their productivity and consistency in crop performance. Yet water percolation is different through different soil types, and how field tile impacts nutrient loss is a growing question. Through the use of a soil pit, Frank Gibbs will show how quickly water can move through field tile and will discuss strategies to reduce nutrient loss in different soil types. An additional session will feature MSU Extension educator Paul Gross, along with NRCS staff members, providing a demonstration on how rainfall moves through soil with different physical properties. Larry Brown, from Ohio State, will talk about how new ideas regarding soil drainage can be implemented to reduce nutrient loss through field tile and hold more of those valuable nutrients in the soil to be used for crop growth.

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day is slated to become an annual event that will focus on in-depth education on a single topic. The event will rotate to various locations throughout the state. Experts will deliver innovative information to help producers take the next step in improving their bottom line while maintaining environmentally sound practices on their farms. 

This article was originally published in the July issue of the Michigan Farmer Magazine.