UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Livestock studies, pasture systems, forest management and water quality will be among the topics featured on several research and educational tours offered during Penn State’s Ag Progress Days, Aug. 9-11 at Rock Springs.
Most of the tours will transport visitors by bus to locations in and around Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, a 2,400-acre facility where researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences study technologies and best practices in farming, conservation and natural resources. Those who can’t attend the annual expo still can get a flavor for Penn State agricultural research by viewing online virtual tours that are available anytime.
All Ag Progress Days tours are free, and all except the Water Wellhead Safety tour require tickets, which can be obtained at the departure point at the corn crib near the top of Main Street at the show site. The tours, most of which involve some walking or standing, include the following:
• Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center Farms (1 hour). This tour will visit the horticulture, plant pathology, agronomy and entomology research farms, where visitors will hear a brief overview of each farm’s history, current research and student engagement. Farm managers will answer questions and explain why these farms are critical field laboratories for the researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Bus leaves at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. daily.
• Animal Research (1.5 hours). This tour will take visitors to the nearby Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Livestock Evaluation Center to learn about BeefXDairy calves and the current marketplace for those cattle. Producers will see crossbred beef dairy steers from Charolais, Angus and Waygu sires. Participants also will get a window tour of the center’s remodeled swine facilities, hear an overview of swine production and learn about the American Berkshire Association Progeny Test. Buses leave at 2 p.m. Tuesday; and 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday.
• Forest Management: Water, Woods and Wildlife (1.5 hours). Explore the Penn State Demonstration Woodlot and gain valuable insights into how woods are managed for timber production, wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation and more. Find out how trees and forests contribute to clean air and water, carbon capture, wood products, and wildlife, and learn about threats from insect pests and invasive plants. Forestry and wildlife professionals will be on hand to answer questions. The tour leaves at 11 a.m. daily.
• Multifunctional Stream Buffers and Native Grasses (1 hour). Learn how planting and maintaining trees, shrubs and grasses to create a multifunctional stream buffer can improve water quality, wildlife and pollinator habitat, livestock health, and property value, while providing edible or medicinal plants. Demonstration livestock practices such as fencing and stream crossings will be on display. This tour leaves at 11:30 a.m. daily.
• Managing Equine Pastures and Drylots (1.5 hours). This tour features a demonstration using horses with hands-on activities in equine pastures. Learn about the do’s and don’ts of sacrifice areas, the tools needed to help improve equine operations, grass and weed identification, innovative pasture methods, and drylot design for horses on limited acreage. The tour will depart at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday; 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday; and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Managing Livestock Pastures with Alternative Forages (1.5 hours). Producers will gain an understanding of paddock fencing/watering system components, the use of alternative forages for pasture production, and evaluating cover crop mixes by looking at root structure and soil health indicators. High stock density grazing will be demonstrated with a small herd of Angus cattle, and experts will show how annual forages can be used to renovate a degraded pasture without tillage. Buses leave at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday; 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday; and 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Water Wellhead Safety (30 minutes). This walking tour and demonstration will highlight how to keep your well water safe for your family and your livestock. Meeting at the J.D. Harrington Building, the Penn State Extension Water Resources Team will take visitors to three wellheads near the building, where they will discuss proper wellhead inspection, use of a sanitary well cap and setting up a zone of protection around your well. No tickets are required for this tour, which leaves at 10 a.m. daily from the main entrance of the J.D. Harrington Building near the end of East 5th Street.
Ag Progress Days hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 9; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 10; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 11.
More information is available on the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).
–Chuck Gill, Penn State University