Category Archives: Tours

Alabama Agriculture-What I learned

At our first stop, this farming operation had fields where peanuts were strip cropped between rows of pecan trees.  He went from 1500 to 900 pecan trees after the hurricanes in the 1980s.  The pecan trees were around 80 years old.

At our first stop, this farming operation had fields where peanuts were strip cropped between rows of pecan trees (shown in background). The farming operation went from around 1500 to 900 pecan trees after the hurricanes in the 1980s. The pecan trees were around 80 years old.

Peanut plant up close.  The soils in this part of Alabama are highly acidic and peanuts like  a pH between 5.8-6.8, so the producers add quite a bit of lime.  Different maturities of peanuts are grown so they're harvested anywhere from September to October.

Peanut plant up close. The soils in this part of Alabama are highly acidic and peanuts like a pH between 5.8-6.8 and well-drained soil, so the producers add quite a bit of lime. Different maturities of peanuts are grown so they’re harvested anywhere from September to October.

Sweet potatoes!  I absolutely love to eat them :)  This farm had tried a variety of crops in the past and continues to grow cotton and peanuts as well for a rotation with the sweet potatoes.  With low commodity prices for the other crops, sweet potatoes provided another source of income.  They are planted mid-April and will be harvested early August this year.  The smaller sweet potatoes will go to a canning facility.  Potatoes have to be at least 2" in diameter to be processed for sweet potato fries.

Sweet potatoes! I absolutely love to eat them ūüôā This farm had tried a variety of crops in the past and continues to grow cotton and peanuts as well for a rotation with the sweet potatoes. With low commodity prices for the other crops, sweet potatoes provided another source of income. They are planted mid-April and will be harvested early August this year. The smaller sweet potatoes will go to a canning facility. Potatoes have to be at least 2″ in diameter to be processed for sweet potato fries.

The nephew of the sweet potato farmer was interested in value-added herbs and greens.  He put up this greenhouse 11 months ago and has been growing hydroponic greens and herbs for high end restaurants and supermarkets.

The nephew of the sweet potato farmer was interested in value-added herbs and greens. He put up this greenhouse 11 months ago and has been growing hydroponic greens and herbs for high end restaurants and supermarkets.

A cotton plant.  Cotton is actually in the hibiscus family and can get 5-7 feet tall.  Growth regulators are used to keep the cotton short so more energy goes into producing cotton instead of vegetative material like leaves and branches.  The "square" (at top,  middle of picture) is where each cotton blossom and seed will be produced.

A cotton plant. Cotton is actually in the hibiscus family and can get 5-7 feet tall. Growth regulators are used to keep the cotton short so more energy goes into producing cotton instead of vegetative material like leaves and branches. ¬†While not easily seen on this picture, the “squares” are¬†where each cotton blossom and seed will be produced.

Auburn specialist explaining how a cotton plant puts on a new node (where flowers and seed are produced) about every 3 days.  He was also showing the shortened internode length due to adding growth regulators to the cotton.

Auburn Extension Specialist explaining how a cotton plant puts on a new node (where flowers and seed are produced) about every 3 days. He was also showing the shortened internode length due to adding growth regulators to the cotton. ¬†Cotton was often no-tilled into wheat. ¬†They have similar findings as we do here regarding the improved yields of crops following wheat in dryland. ¬†Although, interestingly, they receive on average 66″ of rain a year and Mobile, AL has surpassed Seattle as the rainiest city in the U.S.

#Ag Tour Day 1

UNL Extension Ag Educators from throughout Nebraska gathered together in late October for an excellent professional development tour toWhat is that bush and how many educators does it take to figure it out?  Apparently a lot and we still sent it to Elizabeth Killinger! Iowa and Minnesota!

Before the bus started moving we were working on plant identification for a client.  Then we learned about the status of Emerald Ash Borer among other pests at the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office.  By the end of the presentation we were considering getting a meat thermometer and recordable Hallmark card!  (will explain later).

Along the way, John Wilson provided an update regarding the flood recovery efforts from the 2011 flood. ¬†He mentioned at¬†Gavins Point Dam, the lake would have drained every 25 hrs. when releases were occurring for ¬†the flood. ¬†He was involved with an effort in putting togetherJohn Wilson speaking a webinar that involved 25-30 agencies and 14 speakers from 5 states. ¬†During the recovery there were 2″ to 25′ drifts of sand in fields. ¬†One piece of ground that was reclaimed cost $125-150K and needed 7 excavators for a month. ¬†One 300 acre piece of ground that wasn’t reclaimed was going to cost $10,000/ac. to reclaim it.

John Hay provided an update regarding wind energy. ¬†He pointed out the different types of towers along the way as we passed several wind farms. ¬†Facts included: ¬†a 1.5Megawatt wind turbine can run 1000 homes each and the gear box is turning 2000:1 compared to the blades. ¬†Iowa is #1 in ¬†percent of electricity produced from wind power (20%) and it costs $3-6 million each to install a wind turbine (essentially double the cost of how many megawatts). ¬†The life span of a turbine is 20 years with a maintenance cost about $0.05/kwh. ¬†When considering efficiency, wind turbines are 40-50% efficient vs. coal power (35%), nuclear (35%), cars (25%); so they’re more efficient at converting free energy into electricity but they are less cost John Hay speaking about wind energy.efficient than those other energy sources. ¬†Windfarms also typically pay for themselves in 5-10 years.

Our first stop was at Hawkeye Breeders where we saw their semen storage facility that essentially had enough semen to fertilize every cow in the U.S.  They ship all over the world and their primary customer is the dairy industry.  We also toured their semen collection facility and got the coolest pen from there.

From there we stopped at Blue River Organic Seeds and were surprised to learn that all their organic seed research is done conventionally.  They provide organic seed for corn, alfalfa, soybean, and various forages and are looking for more growers.  We also learned about PuraMaize which was developed by Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer to essentially block pollen from outside sources to maintain purity.Semen storage at Hawkeye Breeders.

That night we had supper with faculty from Iowa State University talking about programming efforts there, including their manure programming, ag economics, and Roger Elmore spoke of the corn programming there. ¬†But before that, a few of us took advantage of the 45 min. of time to get a few geocaches in the area ūüôā

IMAG2514 Geocache #1Geocache #2

%d bloggers like this: