Farmers ‘harvest’ fields

Published 3:06 pm Friday, August 8, 2008

By Staff
Reaping knowledge from scientists, agents
Staff Writer
PANTEGO — Area farmers, and several farmers from out of state, took a day off from their chores to participate in the Blackland Farm Manager Summer Tour on Wednesday.
The three-hour tour was hosted by the operators of the Gary Respess Farm in Pantego. The tour took farmers through corn, wheat and soybean fields. North Carolina State University agricultural extension agents and professors were on hand to give farmers tips on successful crop-management techniques. The agents and professors said knowing the best growing techniques is even more important during growing seasons plagued by drought, such as the current season.
Extension Agent Darren Armstrong welcomed attendees to the tour.
He said, “We want to make it easier for ya’ll to make the tough decisions.”
The tour, which started at 9:15 a.m., accommodated more than 250 agricultural-minded people, Beaufort County Agriculture Extension Agent Gaylon Ambrose said.
He was impressed by the turnout, and he said attendance for the annual tour is usually from 200 to 225 people.
Among the attendees were Midwest farmers from as far as Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota. The farmers are members of the American Soybean Association. They are in the middle of an extensive tour of eastern North Carolina.
Farmers affiliated with the N.C. Small Grain Growers Association, N.C. Soybean Producers Association and Corn Growers Association of North Carolina also took the tour.
Ambrose said the tour gives farmers across the region and country a chance to “nurture relationships.”
The tour had a family atmosphere, as farmers were seen conversing before, during and after the tour about topics ranging from their latest crops to farm equipment.
The tour included a lunch buffet featuring barbecued pork chops, hush puppies, slaw, buttered potatoes, fried shrimp and sweet tea.
Covered wagons hitched to tractors carried tour groups to the heart of the farm’s corn rows to start the tour.
The wagons were parked during a presentation on using layer manure and cover crops as alternative nitrogen sources. The presentation was made by Carl Crozier, a professor of soil science at N.C. State University.
After the brief presentation, the wagons moved on to a covered tent in the middle of the corn field. The covered tent housed a visual presentation about the impact of brown stinkbugs in corn by Eric Blinka, a graduate student at N.C. State University, and John VanDuyn, a former professor at N.C. State University.
Blinka informed the farmers that brown stinkbugs can be found in wheat, corn and cotton, but they nest, hatch and mature in wheat.
Although the stink bugs cause little damage to wheat crops, they sometimes move on to corn crops and feed on kernels. That causes corn ears to lose kernels and, therefore, market value. Blinka and VanDuyn are conducting research on at what stage corn crops are most vulnerable to stinkbugs.
VanDuyn recommended that wheat farmers spray pesticide on the bugs before they mature.
He posed the question, “What do we do with all the bugs coming out of the wheat?” He answered, saying, “In wheat fields, if there is a high number of bugs, spray them.”
Ron Heiniger, a professor of crop science at N.C. State University and extension agent at the Vernon James Research Center in Roper, gave a presentation on management practices that minimize the effects of drought.
He emphasized the effect that row spacing can have on corn crops by showing four different plots, one each with four-, six-, eight- and 12-inch spacing.
He said the use of proper spacing, preferably 6 inches between stalks, will bring a sufficient yield.
After Heiniger’s presentation was over, the wagons came back to the main farmhouse, where Ambrose gave a wheat-production update. Ambrose gave way to Charles Hall, executive director of the N.C. Soybean Growers Association, who gave some pointers on how to deal with farm-law violations.
Hall told the farmers, “If their is a situation where you are unfairly ticketed, contact me.”
Ambrose said the tour does more than just inform farmers about their vocation.