The more things change…..

The Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension Council met this week for some educational tours in southeastern Michigan, and as always, I end up learning more from the council members than they learn from our program features. This week was no exception. Ken Norton, farmer and council member from Branch County, told the story of finding a historic newsletter in his house when he and his wife first moved in a few years ago. The house had been in the family for some time when Ken’s family moved in, and they found the newsletter tucked in a nook above a floor joist in the basement. It had been prepared by agriculture Extension agent Gordon Schlubatis, who had sent word out to farmers that September 15 would be a fly-free date (I’m not sure what that means), with the implication that farmers should plan on planting their winter wheat as soon as they could after September 15. What’s particularly ironic was that Ken then proceeded to pull out his smartphone and showed it to the rest of the council. He went on to explain how today he can use his smartphone to get up-to-date weather information through Enviroweather and with applications available there, he can determine optimal times and durations for scheduling irrigation, planning fungicide or pesticide applications, and even for figuring out when it is optimal to plant winter wheat. I thought it was a great illustration of the concept of what a land-grant university provides to growers through research supported by MAES and programs supported by Michigan State University Extension. We adapt the technology to be relevant to how producers work today, but when it comes right down to it, what they need is information that is timely and based on solid research. We’re still doing that, perhaps with different gizmos, but with the same dedication and forethought that Gordon Schlubatis demonstrated years ago.

 You can learn more about Enviroweather, a service funded jointly by MAES and MSUE and with a great deal of support from Project GREEEN, from their website at


Filed under Technology

3 responses to “The more things change…..

  1. Kay Pratt

    I was curious to know the date on the newsletter. . .

    • Ken Norton

      Unfortunately I don’t recall the date, but it was late 40s or early 50s. It wasn’t really a newsletter. It was a personal letter to my grandfather, Clarence Norton, hand-signed by Gordon Schlubatis. Gordon was very influential in Branch County. Among his accomplishments was starting a club in the late 40s for youth too old for 4-H, called Rural Youth. My Dad was a member. As the group matured it became Married Rural Youth, then Country Couples. Most of the surviving members are in their 80s and 90s and they still meet every month.

  2. Tom Coon

    I received this email response from MSUE retiree William Muller ( and he agreed to have me post it for him as a comment on the blog:

    “Tom: The fly free date pertains to the Hessian Fly that would infest wheat seedlings had the seed been planted prior to that date. Seems that the British with their Hessian troops brought over wheat straw for bedding during the Revolutionary War and evidently it was infested with the Hessian Fly. I suspect that you have or will receive similar answers from some of us old timers that were aware of the Hessian Fly and the problems it caused Michigan wheat farmers back then….bill”

    Thanks for answering that question, Bill!