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Corn College: Five Years of Farming Fundamentals

September 29, 2012
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Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer shows attendees how to evaluate stalk quality for standability concerns and prioritize fields before harvest, especially important in this year’s tough growing conditions.   

Celebrating its five-year anniversary, Corn College events bring farmers to the field with Farm Journal experts

Even in a drought, farmers are thirsty for knowledge. For the fifth year in a row, Farm Journal hosted its series of Corn College events, which focus on reaffirming the fundamentals of farming and keeping pace with the ever-changing technology.

This year, more than 1,125 attendees from 25 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces and Brazil joined Farm Journal agronomists in the field.

"It’s a testimonial to the events that so many farmers make this part of their summer," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "Many farmers realize how fast our industry is moving. It can be frustrating—but good—to have access to new technology, machinery, genetics and more to fit into our farm practices."

Ferrie and Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer work to host events that turn those frustrations into opportunities. With a mix of classroom and in-the-field sessions, they build the curriculum around the Systems Approach.

Since the series began in 2008, the events have spread from the first campus near Bloomington, Ill., to include a campus in southern Michigan, near Coldwater. The trainings expanded beyond corn in 2011 when Soybean College was offered to help farmers seeking higher bean yields. In addition, each campus hosts a one-day event for ag retailers and consultants—those who serve and support farmers’ ability to raise higher yields.

From the beginning, Corn College created a fever. Fourteen "alumni" who have attended since the beginning were recognized this anniversary year with a special gift.

"After attending five years of Corn College, I always leave thinking how little I know about growing corn, which makes me want more," says Greg Goplerud, a farmer from St. Ansgar, Iowa. "Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been on nitrogen management."

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With hands-on examples, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie hosts lessons in the field about soil health and soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties.

Take yields higher. From July 16 to 19, Ferrie hosted the Corn College Advanced series of events, which focused on three topics: nitrogen management, soil health and the emerging threat of resistance.

"It was such a different year when it comes to moisture, and in a nitrogen program, the timing and positioning of product is as important as the rate," Ferrie says. "In our in-field diagnostic session, we taught how to evaluate the crop from emergence to black layer to know how a nitrogen program is playing out.

Positioning nitrogen to make sure it’s there at the right time in each growth stage is often tougher than finding the right rate."

Another key topic was weed, insect and disease resistance. In both a general session given by Isaac Ferrie of Crop-Tech Consulting and a breakout given by Larry Steckel, associate professor and row crop weed specialist at the University of Tennessee, attendees learned how resistance happens and how it can be managed.

"Right now, it’s important to have a campaign of awareness around the issue of resistance," Ferrie says. "We also wanted to provide sessions that showed how farmers can take the issue into their own hands by ensuring proper application of chemicals."

Fred Whitford, coordinator of the Purdue Pesticide Programs at Purdue University, presented on how to avoid common missteps and accurately measure liquid and dry chemicals.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - October 2012



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