Ethan Sattler

NORTHEAST COMMUNITY COLLEGE agronomy student Ethan Sattler of Stuart scouts a soybean field on the College’s Norfolk campus this fall as part of an Issues in Ag class. 

The approximately 500-acre farm at Northeast Community College serves more than just the college community; it plays an important role in research and development for the agriculture industry.

Recently, a number of ag students joined industry professionals as part of an Issues in Ag class in a field of corn and soybeans on the Norfolk campus just off Victory Road.

“This is an annual event we have setup with Helena (Chemical) to talk with students in the Issues in Ag classes,” said Rob Thomas, college farm manager. “This year the topics at the field day included corn hybrid trials and plant characteristics, corn and soybean growth staging and key management decisions, pest management strategies to manage weeds, diseases, and insects in soybeans and how to make management decisions from data collection technology.”

A local sales team from Helena and representatives from DeKalb also participated in the class with agriculture faculty members.

“The event allowed students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the field to learn about the newest information coming from local seed and chemical dealers,” Thomas said.

About 80 students representing all 12 degrees from Northeast’s ag program took part in the class. Thomas said he worked with Alan Colsden, local Helena manager, to present the event for the students.

“We partner with Helena because they are a great local resource and have a strong connection with us as they hire many graduates from Northeast Community College,” Thomas said.

Tara Smydra, associate dean of agriculture, math and science, said it is important that the ag department works with industry professionals to demonstrate current and best practices to students.

“The college farm has production ground that is offered to industry through a proposal process for applied research projects,” she said. “Helena Chemical has worked with the college for multiple years through this process. They complete on-farm applied research and share it back with our students and faculty through classes, labs and field day events.”

A week after the class, Northeast hosted its annual Cover Crop Field Day, which featured ag students discussing their own research and findings by using best practices in order to improve yields.

Cover crops are planted shortly after summer crops, such as seed corn, soybeans, and silage, are harvested. Most often, they are species that survive over winter, such as cereal rye and winter wheat.

Once planted, the roots of these crops grow down into the soil throughout the winter months. The field day allows the ag program to showcase what students have learned in the management of cover crops and how these crops are part of the soil health process.

“There are a number of soil health factors that have been shown to improve yields through the use of growing cover crops,” said Bob Noonan, Northeast agriculture instructor.

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