4-H agronomy pilot work
By Brian Mc Neill, U of MN Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
Agronomy is the science of utilizing plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. 4-H projects in agronomy can explore the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, soil science and even the weather! Agronomy is unique because it combines sciences like biology, chemistry, ecology, earth science, and genetics. As a career choice, Agronomists help in producing food, creating healthier food, managing environmental impacts, and creating energy from plants. Just imagine, you might invent a fuel for our cars.
With the help of the Minnesota Corn Growers, five pilot sites were selected in the Southwest 4-H region to test a variety of educational experiences. Here are some of the results of the work with these pilot sites:
- Project Kits – One hundred and ten youth signed up for two hundred and thirty five kits (in the five counties). For many of the youth this was their first time experiencing the Agronomy project areas.
"This was a brilliant idea and project opportunity!! Kudos to those involved in getting this up and running! Thank you! It was fun!”
- A successful "Agronomy Tour" was conducted in the Stevens County area. Three sites included: Bonanza Bean (kidney bean plant), Riverview Dairy (forages) and a seed plot site were visited by tour participants from multiple counties. Five hands-on sessions were offered in the afternoon for deeper learning including: soil, drones, weed identification, virtual crop tours and soil testing.
- Increased project numbers. There was a 65% increase in the Crops project, 45% increase in the Plants and Soils project and a 67% increase in the Vegetable Gardening project.
- County Fair displays and experiences to provide visibility of the program. Interactive displays were created to provide fair-goers with an agronomy experience.
- A Farmfest activity was conducted to bring awareness of the agronomy focus. Over 60 youth participated in learning about agronomy or careers by visiting three booths and asking questions. Extension Educators and Local Educators from Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (ANFR) helped facilitate questions at the U of M booth.
The next step in this work is to move it forward in the twenty counties of the Southwest 4-H region. The pilot team is working on a variety of pieces that will be replicated in 2019. Some of them include:
- A support guide is being created to help staff and volunteers provide a 4-H Agronomy experience in their counties.
- Three more project kits are being developed and will be made available in the early spring of 2019.
- An Agronomy day is being planned and hosted at Ridgewater College in Willmar also in the early spring.
- Plans are also being made to support up to five counties in the 4-H SE region.
- A tentative Crop Scouting competition is being researched for mid-summer.
This is an exciting opportunity to see enthusiasm and growth in this area of the 4-H Program.
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