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 www.enviroweather.msu.edu.