In The Field - March 2020

D3 IN THE FIELD Agronomy in action at NCTA in Curtis THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020

By MARY CRAWFORD NCTA News CURTIS — Growing crops and future farm managers starts in the classroom. Yield at harvest and career is proven in the field. Two years of agron- omy studies in the field laboratories and campus farm at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis is building crop consultants, re- searchers, ag producers and teachers. “NCTA definite- ly prepared me for the workforce with their hands-on teaching,” says John Paul Kain, a crop production advisor with Frenchman Valley Coop in McCook. The 2017 graduate from NCTA was on one of Professor Brad Ramsdale’s national champion crops judging teams. He credits compre- hensive crops judging knowledge and “the total package” of agron- omy courses for his career path, also earn- ing a 4-year degree in agronomy through Oklahoma Panhandle State University. A three-semester crops practicum is foun- dational as well. In teams of two, Aggie stu- dents gain practical experience managing their nine-acre portion at NCTA farm. Three irrigated cen- ter pivot and dryland fields, plus pastures to- taling 550 acres lie over the hill, just north of main campus. In Practicum I, each student creates a port- folio in of crops, seed varieties, crop inputs and possible rotations. A class requirement in- cludes emphasis on corn and soybean.

Photo courtesy of Cy Cannon / NCTA

Dr. Brad Ramsdale, right, NCTA agronomy professor, shows a student how to adjust a new crop planter.

Then, in Practicum II, students are matched in pairs based on their se- lected crops. Freshman Taylor Sayer of Cambridge and her teammate Lilly Calkins of Palmyra both compete in crops judging. Those chose triticale and sunflow- ers for a double harvest this year. “I grew up on a farm but never had to make those choices about a crop. I know how important every lit- tle aspect is from my class,” Sayer said. This summer, she will be able to monitor those fields on campus while her summer internship is with local crop con-

By JOB VIGIL Nebraska State cli- matologist Al Dutcher, who gives a report of the weather on the weekly broadcast of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Market Journal, said 2020’s spring weather is much different than last year’s. “The difference is starkly evident when we look at the amount of snow on the ground,” Dutcher said. “Basically, from the first of February all the way through the big bomb cyclone, almost every lo- cation in the state we got data for reported in excess of 20 inches of snowfall during that pe- riod last year.” Dutcher said that was in addition to the exceptional snowfall that occurred in south- east and east-central Nebraska up to and through January of last year. “We didn’t have that much in the northwest (last season),” Dutcher said. “This winter has been a total flip of that. Lincoln ended up with 52 inches last year and we’re sitting right around 11½ inches offi- sultant, Kelly Popp with Servi-Tech. Sayer’s goal after ob- taining her Associate of Science degree is to transfer in 2021 to the University of Nebraska- Lincoln and earn her bachelor’s. She is ex- ploring a master’s in agronomy, as well. Aggie agronomy grad- uates say their NCTA internships and campus work leads to job offers. A summer re- search internship with Monsanto at the Water Utilization Learning Center near Gothenburg evolved into fulltime employment in 2016 for Blue Hill native Amelia Petska. Today, Petska is em-

cially at the airport.” He said this year Nebraska is at 20% to 25% of last year’s total, depending on the loca- tion. This year the pat- tern is in the process of changing with one pat- tern from the end of September to the middle of November dominat- ed by a strong northern stream. “From the middle of January on, that peri- od was dominated by a weak northern stream and a much stron- ger southern stream,” Dutcher said. “We’re now seeing a change with the southern stream become much more active. Typically, Dutcher said, the pattern is about 6 to 8 weeks before a change. “That’s the atmo- sphere changes phases from a trough in the east to a trough in the west,” Dutcher said. “This oc- curs as a normal part of our climate.” He said the current pattern should remain in place through April. “The big key issue is how many of those sys- tems move toward the northeast,” Dutcher said. “That’s going to be de- ployed as an assistant agronomist in research with the Bayer WULC while also taking a busy online-load of class- es through Fort Hayes State University. In May, the nights and weekends studies will leave just 10 hours away from a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness. She is used to juggling a very full load. While at NCTA, Petska took crops judg- ing for one semester, was on the Aggie rodeo team all four semesters, and also worked in the campus IT department. She recently advised Aggie students in fo- rum to work hard and take advantage of all

pendent once again on the northern stream.” If the northern stream remains strong enough to deflect those systems to the south and east, Dutcher said, then there will be a much drier pat- tern going into planting than last year. “The biggest question then is when do those events hit and what will be their general impact,” Dutcher said. “I would say the first and longest storms appear possible as we go into the middle of (March).” He said that period of time has the greatest chances for inclement weather. “The good news is because of the warm conditions and what lit- tle frost is in the ground would be expected to be extracted out of the ground before these events would occur,” Dutcher said, “therefore the snow would never last very long with those opportunities that are available. Those paths lead into careers. ”I knew I wanted to be in agriculture, and pre- ferred a crops focus for me,” Petska said. “From NCTA, I have a job right that I really like.” Research work at NCTA also was in- grained in North Platte native Dalon Koubek. In May, he will grad- uate from UNL in agronomy, then head to an internship scout- ing fields in Boardman, Oregon with CSS Farms, a large seed po- tato producer. “I come from a fami- ly that was not involved in agriculture, so I did a good job of building my

soils not frozen, and with the high solar angle, we’re talking a day or two, even with a heavy snow event.” However, he said stream flow could be problematic under those types of situations. “A quick runoff event could bring the stream flows back up,” Dutcher said. “But they should quickly subside as long as we don’t get into con- tinual events.” He said there are in- creasing signs of the equatorical Pacific mov- ing toward a cooler phase. “We’ve been in a warm phase over the last few years,” Dutcher said. “If that goes to a cooler phase, that’s more sup- portive of dryness across the western United States.” There needs to be some southwesterly flow con- ditions to stave off any dryness issues as we go into the spring. agricultural background at NCTA,” Koubek said. “Being there, it helped me ease into it and learn about true production agriculture.” Between crops judg- ing, working in the campus greenhouse, set- ting up weed and plant samples for Professor Ramsdale’s classes, and helping on research at NCTA, Koubek says “it gave me a good founda- tion for the work I am doing now at UNL.” Koubek garnered top individual in the 2018 national crops judging contest, leading NCTA’s championship team. His career goal is agronomy research at a university in the Midwest.

Mother nature offers up mild winter Snow totals across the state down 20% to 25% from 2019

Crop growers, pesticide applicators can work together Telegraph staff reports LINCOLN — Specialty crops, like fruits, veg- etables, hops and honey, add value and diversity to Nebraska agriculture, the state’s number one industry. That’s why the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is encouraging growers and out- door pesticide applicators to work together to protect sensitive commercial specialty crops and pollinators from pesticides, according to a press release. Pesticides include all categories of pest control products such as herbicides, in- secticides and fungicides. “Specialty crops are one way for Nebraska farm and ranch families to diversify and grow their agriculture businesses,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman. “In order to protect and support specialty crop producers and ag- riculture in Nebraska, growers and pesticide applicators need to communicate with one an- other throughout the planting and growing season to raise awareness of specialty crops and beehives in the area.” DriftWatch and BeeCheck are online mapping services from FieldWatch that allow those with commercial specialty crops, organic crops and beehives to report their field locations. Farmers and other pesticide applicators can review the map to see where specialty crops are located. In Nebraska, 927 growers have registered a total of 2,007 specialty crop and apiary sites on FieldWatch. Those sites are currently found in 80 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, and contain over 105,000 acres of specialty crops. Registration is voluntary, free, easy to use and secure. Pesticide applicators can view the map, sign up for free email alerts and get the free FieldCheck app, or receive direct data feeds or downloads. NDA monitors the FieldWatch registries for the state. Information about FieldCheck, DriftWatch and BeeCheck can be found at, or by calling Craig Romary, NDA program specialist, at 402-471- 2351.


Telegraph staff reports USDA extends ReConnect application deadline WASHINGTON — This week, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy

Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced USDA has extended the dead- line for ReConnect Pilot Program applications to March 31. Information can be found at nect.

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