SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Though it’s been locked down for months due to the novel coronavirus, staff and technicians at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center have not been idle.
Research has carried on despite PHREC being generally closed to the public. And the results of that research was presented last week at a modified Panhandle Agricultural Research and Technology Tour.
“It’s so important that we see our folks face-to-face, even in masks these days,” said Brijesh Maharjan, PHREC Soil and Nutrient Management Specialist and co-organizer of PARTT this year.
Across the country, agriculture research field days are going virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Maharjan said. Meeting with growers and agribusinesses from across the Wyo-Braska, however, is important to the ongoing mission of PHREC.
“We work for our stakeholders, including farmers, agribusiness, cooperatives,” Maharjan said. “it’s important, I think, to share what we’ve been doing all these years and showcase what we’ve been learning that would benefit them in their operations.”
One of the early-morning speakers, Mike Boehm, Vice President and Vice Chancellor of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said PHREC is one of the most important assets of the university and that interaction provided by the PARTT keeps that relationship alive.
“The most important relationship we have at the university is between us and the producers of the state,” Boehm said. “University of Nebraska is blessed to be part of the Panhandle – this is a special place.”
Eight speakers talked about everything from agriculture economics to irrigation to “pulse crops,” legumes grown and harvested as foodstuffs, including dry beans, a current staple of Wyo-Braska agriculture.
Presentations included some existing knowledge and more than a few new items currently in testing for possible inclusion in future plans.
Technology, from moisture sensors to drones, is being integrated more into day-to-day farm management, Maharjan said. Getting the latest information on what’s available is just one focus of field days.
And, just like everything from the weather to crop diseases, information doesn’t stop at the state line. Though it’s based in Scotts Bluff County, Neb., knowledge developed at PHREC has applications throughout the Wyo-Braska region, Maharjan said.
“We do work with our agencies within the state and also with farmers from our neighboring state,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s just a state boundary.”
Jack Whittier, retiring PHREC director, said field days are a great opportunity for the university and its researchers to show off what they do the rest of the year.
“Remember, back in elementary school, we had show and tell days?” he said. “This is a little more than just show and tell. It’s more in depth – it’s an opportunity for our stakeholders to get an update on what the university is doing with their tax money.
“Hopefully, (producers) take something they can go home with today and apply” on their own operations, Whittier said. “Not only see what the research is, but how it applies, what the implications are for themselves.”