Michigan Field Crop Ecology: Training and Field Demonstrations

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1998: $47,677.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Natalie Rector
MSU Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans, sugarbeets, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: manure management, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health


    The Michigan State University Field Crops Area of Expertise Team (AOE) consists of 24 county agents and campus faculty working together to provide local and state wide training for themselves, agri-business personnel, NRCS and farmers. This third year of funding through the PDP program has allowed for the continuation of 8 projects and instigated new ones, mostly on-farm demonstrations between agents and farmers, and a special training emphasis on Michigan Field Crop Ecology.

    The SARE funds were allocated to 13 projects across the state, pursuant to the agent/farmer needs and cropping systems of our diverse state. A major goal of this project is the responsibility of each agent to report back on their project to the entire AOE team at an annual December training session. This alone has created accountability, cross programming, improved communications, and the obvious multiplication of sharing what one agent learns with many others.

    A portion of the funds were invested in planning and implementation of training, utilizing a newly published, 118 page, “Michigan Field Crop Ecology”. This has been a wonderful tool to coalesce basic biological principles and real world farming practices. An initial training was conducted in two locations of the state, reaching mostly Extension and NRCS. The following season, 214 producers were reached in 6 locations, including a Kodec uplink to reach the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. 60% of the participants identified themselves as “traditional” farmers, which is the audience we were seeking. 39% indicated they would use the information to make changes in their farming operation. This project was coordinated by Dr. Dale Mutch and Dr. Larry Dyer.

    A parallel project is continuing with the outreach efforts of Dr. Doug Landis and his work on beneficial insects. A short course for agriculture professionals gave 27 MSU Extension agents the opportunity to learn about the benefits of predators, parasites and pathogens that help biologically control insect pests and weeds. The course combined web-based guided learning with hands-on field experience. An additional objective was to develop teaching resources and natural enemy demonstrations for participants to incorporate into their own programming.

    The response was overwhelmingly positive. Agents felt bio-control is a growing trend that they need to learn more about. Course content ranged from recognizing common bio-control agents and enemies, to greenhouse tours and commercially available natural enemies, to sampling for and enhancing natural enemies in field crops. An MSU website has some of this information on it: www.ent.msu.eduiocontrol or www.cips.msu.eduiocontrol.

    Using locally based projects continues to be a training tool for both new and experienced extension agents. Thirteen locally based projects meet the needs of the farmers and their unique cropping needs.

    One project, by Mark Seamon, has brought attention to the soybean cyst nematodes in an area of the state that was incurring damage but unaware of the impacts.

    The northern portion of Michigan relies on forages for grazing and dry harvest. Dr. Rich Leep introduced plots in 8 locations (4 on farm) to evaluate Kura clover into the cropping and grazing systems. Other projects continue to evaluate cutting management on alfalfa quality, reduced tillage in narrow row grain production, site specific management education to farmers, adding liquid alum to swine manure, cover crops in rotations, alternative crops to meet local opportunities through value added education and a continuation of organic bean and grain production.

    Project objectives:

    1) Expand the basic sustainable agriculture knowledge of Michigan agriculturists (farmers, NRCS, Extension, agri-business) by presenting 6 regional trainings on field crop ecology, presented by a core group of trained agents, NRCS personnel and/or other trained people.

    2) Continue and enhance learning through 10 local sustainable agriculture innovation teams conducting on-farm projects involving Extension agents, farmers, NRCS staff and others, to gain practical knowledge and leadership for widespread adoption of more sustainable approaches.

    3) Use Michigan’s Field Crops Area of Expertise (AoE) team as a clearinghouse to compile local invention team and agent experiences for sharing with other agents and NRCS staff, and draw upon AoE team resources to support local efforts.

    4) Expand interaction between Extension agents and sustainable/organic practitioners through greater agent involvement in farmer organizations, projects and events

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.