My Day at a Farm - May 15, 2013

Posted: May 17, 2013

Today I traveled with John and Andrew to a farm near Kutztown, PA. This farm is owned by Norman Burkholder, who is collaborating with John and Penn State Extension.

Last fall, Mr. Burkholder and his son Edwin planted twelve 0.125 acre wheat research plots on his farm for John’s genotypic diversity project. At the farm we were joined by several other extension educators and about a dozen local farmers to discuss the research being conducted. John Tooker and Dr. Alyssa Collin, Director of Penn State’s Southeastern Research and Education Center (SEREC) in Lancaster County, both discussed the benefits of planting cultivar mixtures of wheat rather than a monoculture. Both advocated for a mixture, which has advantages for disease and insect control and plant health. A few farmers commented on the logistical challenges that it mixing generates—it is not easy and may be expensive to mix seeds, which are two things that have not been considered in this research project.
After about two hours of discussion, Andrew, John, and I began to assess the research plots. John used a sweep net to see what insects were present while Andrew and I assessed the presence of powdery mildew in our plots of wheat. Once we had finished all 12 plots, we traveled to SEREC to layout plots for an experiment with corn rootworm that will begin shortly. Overall, today was an excellent learning experience. I gained knowledge and perspective from extension agents and farmers. This was a great way to see our research in action.

Katie Speicher