One of the things in N.C. agriculture that is helping 2021 feel a little more normal is the return of field days at the state’s agricultural research stations. During 2020, several of the field days were cancelled, and others switched to a virtual online format. This year, the calendar has a few field days that once again welcome people to the research stations.
Field days operate like an open house with some presentations and/or tours on the schedule. They give people a chance to see the work university researchers are doing and ask them questions about their projects on the stations. The general public is invited to attend, and the field days can be of particular interest to farmers and industry partners such as regional agronomists, agricultural extension agents, soil and water conservationists, seed company representatives and more.
“I would like to think everyone needs to come so the public can understand what the farmers go through and the decisions they must make to run a successful farming operation,” said Creig Deal, the superintendent of the Peanut Belt Research Station in Lewiston-Woodville. “The farmers need to take an active interest in the field days as well as industry workers, but in the end we need to get the public out so everyone will know what the farmers face in their operation and maybe be more understanding in the things that farmers have to do to make a living.”
The field days offer researchers a chance to give updates on their research. They are often focused on increasing yield, which includes developing new plant varieties, managing pests and weeds or improving production techniques.
“Field days are very important to the agriculture community so farmers can interact with researchers and extension agents personally and maybe learn something to help their operations,” Deal said. “Of course, we have technology, and that has, and is, working great, but meeting and greeting people and learning things personally from each other is the way to go in the future.”
The Peanut Belt Research Station held a field day on June 30 called the CHROME Regional Ag Expo. CHROME comes from the first two letters in Chowan, Roanoke and Meherrin River areas, which was the focus area for the field day. It was a collaborative effort by Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton County Extension Centers. The day was designed to show farmers and ag representatives what works best on several different applications throughout the growing season. This year the crops covered were peanuts, cotton, corn and soybeans.
“We are doing research on applying different nutrients at different rates and also checking proper planting speeds, planter settings and planting depths to see which would work best under the conditions we are facing now,” Deal explained.
Other field days are coming up this summer and fall. Here’s the list so far:
• Dairy Field Day at Piedmont Research Station in Salisbury (7/28/21)
• Tomato Field Day at Mountain Horticulture Crops Research & Extension Center in Mills River (8/12/21)
• Mountain Research Station Field Day at Mountain Research Station in Waynesville 8/19/21
• Beef Field Day at a T.B.D. location (10/9/21)
Another big event that’s open to the public at a research station soon is the grand opening of a produce handling facility. That facility will be at the
Mountain Horticulture Crops Research & Extension Center in Mills River. It’s not a full field day, but it will be similar in that show-and-tell will be a part of the event. The produce facility will help in research and training related to safe produce handling and packing. The public grand opening is scheduled for July 20.
The Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs will also be welcoming a group of visitors on August 6. As the National Christmas Tree Association Board of Directors (based in Colorado) and members of the N.C. Christmas Tree Association meet in the area, they’ll stop by the station.
“Upper Mountain conducts a significant amount of research on Fraser fir Christmas trees, and Ashe County is the largest Christmas tree producing county in the nation,” explained station superintendent Tracy Taylor. “The group will be stopping here to get a look into our research programs and the work we are currently conducting at the station.”
N.C. State University has a breeding program dedicated to Fraser fir, and the work from the breeding program will be highlighted during the visit. A tour of the station will also include a nursery at the station where researchers conduct research on seedlings and transplants.
Anyone who registers with the N.C. Christmas Tree Association can attend. Online registration is available at https://ncchristmastrees.com/become-a-member/meeting-information/.
“This is important because it gives tree growers from all over the nation a chance to collaborate and share ideas and methods. I expect there will be folks looking to secure tree purchases for the upcoming years as well. North Carolina is a big swinger in Christmas tree production, and it gives folks a chance to see how things are done here in the mountains of North Carolina,” Taylor said.