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Agriculture Blog

College of Agriculture alumna is first woman to win Precision Impact Award

Missouri State University Darr College of Agriculture alumna, Tayler McLane, from Broseley, Missouri, became the first woman to receive the Precision Impact Award at the 2016 Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) meeting in Orlando, Florida, after being nominated by the Missouri home office, MFA Inc. at Columbia.

Raised on a nearly 5,000-acre row crop farm in the Missouri bootheel, McLane wasn’t sure what her agricultural path would entail, but her love for the industry led her to Missouri State and an agronomy degree. McLane credits Dr. Michael Burton, professor in agronomy and ecology at Missouri State, and Dr. Ben Fuqua, faculty emeritus in plant science, along with all of her other agriculture professors for her success and knowledge.

“I’m super happy to hear of Tayler’s success and that her efforts were rewarded. I’m not surprised by her success, though. She was always one to look for the practical application to what she was learning,” said Burton, when he heard she had received this award.

After working for a year at the Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, Missouri, as an assistant weed scientist, McLane accepted a position as the precision agronomist for MFA agriservices in Bernie, Missouri.

As the precision agronomist, McLane takes soil samples and makes fertilizer recommendations based upon those samples. MFA agriservices in Bernie believes variable rate application (VRA) fertilization is the most efficient way to optimize farm productivity. VRA fertilization allows farmers to allocate certain amounts of fertilizer to meet the yield potential of specific areas within fields, improve low yielding zones and replenish high yielding spots.

McLane noted Bernie MFA agriservices and herself were nominated due to the number of acres she uses precision soil sampling on, and the amount of acres the company spreads fertilizer on. McLane received the Precision Impact Award after working three years with Bernie MFA agriservices. She commended her entire team and their customers for their hard work and dedication to precision agriculture.

“It takes a whole store to accomplish something like this, so when I got to thinking I thought, ‘no wonder we won,’” McLane said.

When McLane discovered she was the first woman to win this award she was honored and hopeful.

“It’s an even greater honor not only to win the award, but hopefully to start the path for other women to also win in the upcoming years,” McLane said.

According AGPRO, the Precision Impact Award is awarded annually at the ARA meeting to, “local retailer operations and local management individuals for excellence in incorporating precision ag into their retail operations and their farmer customers’ operations.” This award allows the public to see how agriculture retailers are using this technology to promote good stewardship and sustainable practices. One winner was chosen from each of the three regions; Plains-West, Northand South.

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Plant science grad students publish in industry newsletter

This summer, Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang’s graduate students, Daniel Adams and Surya Sapkota, began sampling berries for juice analysis from vines resulting from their grape breeding work. They want to relate berry and wine quality to particular genes in grapevine.

In the past, we have observed differences in juice analysis results between species related to the processing technique used. We decided to run a simple trial looking at three berry processing methods and four types of grapes. It is important for the analysis results to represent the juice that would result from actual pressing at the winery. This trial is of interest to grape growers and was recently published in the Iowa State Wine Grower News #345.

The Wine Grower News has a circulation of over 1,700 in 11 countries and is a great way for our students to help the grape and wine industry with their findings.

Surya Sapkota collects berry samples from Norton grapevines. It is important to collect an equal number of berries from each side of the trellis.
Surya collects berry samples from Norton grapevines.  The students tested Vitis aestivalis ‘Norton’, Vitis labrusca ‘Catawba’, Vitis vinifera ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ and the mixed hybrid ‘Chambourcin’.
This is the stomacher machine - one of the three methods used to process juice. The other two were hand pressing in a ziploc bag and hand pressing then wringing through cheesecloth.
This is the stomacher machine – one of the three methods used to process juice. The other two were hand pressing in a ziploc bag and hand pressing then wringing through cheesecloth.
Daniel and Surya analyze the juice processed by three different methods for sugar content, pH and acid content.
Daniel and Surya analyze the juice processed by three different methods for sugar content, pH and acid.


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Plant science students visit the Mountain Grove Campus

Dr. Melissa Remley’s Plant Science class visited the Mountain Grove Campus to tour the facilities and meet our group. Jennifer Morganthaler presented an overview of our programs which was followed by a tour of the MSU Winery and Distillery led by C. J. Odneal. We then toured the field and research plantings. Susanne Howard and Surya Sapkota talked about their work in plant genetics and breeding at the genomics vineyard. Then we stopped by the high tunnel to talk about the raspberry trial. It was great to meet this class and introduce them to opportunities at our station!

C. J. Odneal led the tour of the MSU Winery and Distillery for the students.
C. J. Odneal (right) led the tour of the MSU Winery and Distillery for the students.
The production and marketing of our products were discussed.
The production and marketing of our wine and distilled products were discussed.
Jennifer talked about the raspberry project and then the group harvested some berries.
Jennifer Morganthaler talked about the raspberry project and then the group harvested some berries.
We really enjoyed this visit and were happy to show the student what our campus has to offer.
We really enjoyed meeting the students and were happy to show them what our campus has to offer!
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Fall mushroom cultivation workshop

The Mushroom Cultivation Workshop held on Saturday, September 4 at the Darr Center was interesting and fun. We learned about Shiitake mushroom cultivation and actually got to inoculate our own oak log for production. It takes a year for the fungi to grow into the log before they will produce mushrooms. The log may produce up to 5 years! Dr. Goerndt of Missouri State partnered with the UMC Center for Agroforestry to offer this event.

Dr. Goerndt, right, helps Susanne Howard, horticulturist at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove, drill holes in an oak log for innoculation with spawn.
Dr. Goerndt (right), MSU Agriculture forestry professor, helps Susanne Howard (left), horticulturist at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, drill holes in an oak log for inoculation with spawn.
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Greenhouse and High Tunnel Workshop Aug 3 -4, 2016 at Mountain Grove

One of the features of the workshop will be an on-site tour of the State Fruit Experiment Station greenhouses and high tunnel.
One of the features of the workshop will be an on-site tour of the State Fruit Experiment Station greenhouses and high tunnel.

All are invited to a two day workshop on greenhouses and high tunnels Wednesday and Thursday, August 3 and 4, 2016 at the State Fruit Experiment Station at Mountain Grove.

Topics include hydroponics, greenhouse and high tunnel crop production, insect and disease management and more. Cost is $40 per person and includes lunch on both days.

For more information and to download the registration form, go to


This workshop is a collaborative effort involving Missouri State, the University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University.

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Home Wine Making Workshop July 26, 2016 at Mountain Grove

We are having a Home Wine Making Workshop at Mountain Grove on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

Pressing grapes for home wine.
Pressing grapes for home wine.

The workshop is designed for beginning and experienced home winemakers.

Cost is $40 for lunch and wine kit.

Class is limited to 25 participants.

For more information see http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu/mtngrvcellars/HomeWinemaking.htm


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Make starting a garden quick, easy

Missouri’s rocky soil can make it difficult start a garden. According to Dr. Clydette Alsup-Egbers, associate professor of agriculture at Missouri State University, there’s a quick and easy way to overcome this obstacle. “One of the easiest ways I have found to establish a new garden is to basically create an instant raised bed,” said […]

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Hope for Haiti


By Laura Wolf, Missouri State alumna

Haiti: the most impoverished country in the world. As the students and professors journeyed from village to village, is was obvious that help had come, but it hadn’t stayed. At one time, a huge influx of support had begun reconstruction on infrastructure and buildings in Port au Prince, the country’s capital. Now, efforts to help exist on a much smaller scale, providing assistance one family or one village at a time.

In Pignon, the group’s destination, a few organizations are working with locals to improve their quality of life. Home of Hope orphanage, operated by members of a congregation in Kansas City, Missouri, provides housing and care to children, and has open dormitories for the visitors.

Project Hope, an organization also based in Kansas City, Missouri, is just across the road. A large building is under construction, which will one day house workers and visitors from abroad, as well as provide seminar and demonstration space for the staff agronomist and visiting experts. Surrounding the construction site are seven acres of donated farmland, which is where our story begins.

Living the public affairs mission

Five Missouri State University Darr School of Agriculture students and two professors, as well as a few Project Hope volunteers, settled in to their dormitory at the orphanage. Other collegians had checked in to luxurious hotels for their spring break adventures, but this group had different goals in mind.

They had prepared seminars on a wide range of topics, from water conservation and composting to human nutrition. Students came from a variety of agricultural backgrouIMG_0964nds to learn about the communities in central Haiti and bring their knowledge to farmers in the area.

“You don’t have to be an agronomy expert to help,” said Melissa Remley, an associate professor from Missouri State. “The main thing was to have that desire to learn about their culture and have that interaction – to want to be there and help.”

The agricultural land next door provides an opportunity for demonstrations and projects to benefit farms and families in surrounding villages. Mike Burton, the lead professor on the trip, said initial projects will likely include testing water retention systems on the landscape with terracing and diversions as well as trials of other practices that will increase long term profitability.

Students presented their seminars in two local villages. Outreach to the rural communities was facilitated by contacts previously established with the orphanage. The seminar audiences were farmers relying on agriculture not as a career, but as a subsistence effort to support their families.

“What we find is that through what we consider pretty typical practices that we would talk about in the soil conservation class or the sustainable agriculture class or plant nutrition and fertility, are all skills that are readily and desperately needed in those villages,” Burton said.

Facing challenges in Pignon

Even something as simple as treating a crop before a rain was a challenge for the communities they visited. The visitors faced challenges because of their assumptions about the tools and education available to villagers.IMG_0954

People might have cell phones, Burton said, but they don’t have calendars, and they don’t necessarily know what the temperature is outside. Most have never seen a radar weather map.

“In a developing nation, everything is more difficult when you don’t have the right tools or materials, even for simple things,” said Ben Rodabaugh, a natural resources student from Lowry City, Missouri, one of the students in the group. “It takes a lot more work to do it by hand and by improvising.”

The trip was eye-opening for students and advisers alike. Remley said the most poignant experience for her was seeing all the communities and churches there to help build an infrastructure and improve people’s lives.

“It’s basic human rights that we’re trying to give these people – proper food, clothing safety,” she said. “So it’s really humbling to see how joyous they are as a people and how helpful they are to one another despite what they don’t have.”

At one village location, students presented seminars on recycling nutrients in compost and saving water. When they gave the audience time for questions, it became clear that it wasn’t water for crops that was their concern. “Their main concern was to have enough drinking water,” Remley said. “As one man put it, ‘I can have crops, I can have food, but I have no water to cook my food in.’”

Silas Myrick, a senior agriculture student from Blue Springs, Missouri, spoke about human nutrition for his seminar. It’s really difficult, he said “telling somebody that they need to drink a certain amount of water every day and then having them reply that often they go days without water because it is difficult to get.”

An ongoing commitment to serve

A common sentiment from participants was one of humility and help. Myrick said the group’s goal was to find needs and try to amend them in any way they could. Remley said it was eye-opening to go there and see with their own eyes how people lived and provided for themselves.

“It’s the public affairs mission at its finest,” Remley said. “I was amazed by these students. We were literally in huts in the middle of these villages talking with people about their issues, going out and seeing their farms and seeing what they’re doing and talking about ways we can give them improvements.

“We learned more than we were telling them, and that gave us a really good idea of what we should go back and research on so we could come back with some helpful answers for them.”

They were also eager to return and continue helping the people they met. “For most of our students, they had never been someplace where they are the minority. And certainly, they had never been someplace where they were not only the minority, but they also couldn’t speak the language,” Remley said.

Between deforestation, poverty, and unpredictable rain, he said Missouri State students and faculty need to go back. “Not to shock our students, but to help where we can and for our student to learn all they can about what might be done,” Remley said.

Students in the Darr School of Agriculture will likely have the opportunity to visit Haiti in coming semesters, as Missouri State is developing a partnership with the University of Haiti to facilitate agricultural improvements, which will soon allow Haitian students to study at Missouri State and Darr students to study for longer periods in Haiti, whether it’s a semester-long Study Away program or master’s research.

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