One of the highlight events of the year for Carolina-Virginia commodity farmers, particularly those near the northeastern section of North Carolina, is the annual Northeast Ag Expo. This year the event will be held July 26 in Pasquotank County on the Charles Gray and Sons Farm, near Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Although a variety of crops are touched upon, there is a focus area for the research each year, whether on cotton, small grains, soybean or corn. In 2012 the research is focused on corn.
Al Wood is a Pasquotank County Extension agent with duties emphasizing field crops, pesticides and nutrient management plans.
"The research this year is looking at the latest in thinking about what we can do to enhance yields, particularly regarding the varieties that are being tested and evaluated," Wood says about the 2012 Expo. "With the current price of corn and the cost of inputs, farmers are interested in squeezing as many bushels out of each acre that they can.
"…There is a lot of interest in irrigation," Wood continues. "We're looking at how much benefit we can get from that – although if it keeps raining this year we won't necessarily get as much from that as we hoped. Also, we are looking at fungicides in a number of these tests and at seed treatments of various sorts."
Wood says he is particularly interested in some of corn specialist Ron Heiniger's research targeting various components of a cropping system, whether it be the differences that show up in new varieties, fertilizers, seed treatments and so on. Heiniger has plots with various varieties using varying combinations of inputs, in an effort to see which play important roles or contribute most to yields.
"Does an improved variety need these extra inputs to yield like it should?" Wood asks. "Does an older variety fail to respond as well to these various inputs, compared to the newer varieties?"
NCSU entomologist Dominic Reisig has considerable research at the Expo this year, along with NCSU soil scientist Alan Meijer and others.
The field day not only benefits growers but is also invaluable for the researchers themselves.
"These sites are well looked after and maintained so it does give them the opportunity on an on-farm situation to conduct field tests," Wood says. "It gives their research some exposure. Not only do the growers and other members of the agriculture community get to learn about the results but they (the researchers) actually get to experience it first hand and see the plots out in the fields."
Wood notes Cooperative Extension conducts grower surveys each year to see how much they are getting from the Expo, and the interest they've measured is considerable. He's seen growers come to a NE Ag Expo field day, then try something they learned directly in their own fields as soon as they go back home.
They recognize the things they see at the Expo "benefit them on their bottom line," Wood says.