Farm Talk

Front page stories

April 24, 2012

Continuing on with a mission

Parsons, Kansas — It doesn’t take much looking around to see that farming today ain’t the way Dad or Grandpa used to do it.

Equipment has changed, cultivars have changed, chemicals have changed — a lot of changes and many have occurred in the past several years.

Although there are many things that drive change in farming, few could be made without research, science and scientists.

And when all the players in the research game are looked at, one of the biggest has been university Extension.

According to Lyle Lomas, K-State Southeast Agricultural Research Center head in Parsons, Kan., there has always been one mission.

“Our mission is to conduct ag research in this part of the state, considering soils, climate, growing seasons, etc., in order to benefit producers,” he explains.

Lomas, who grew up near Mt. Vernon, Mo., was recently honored by the Research Center Administrators Society with its Distinguished Service Award for his years of service to the organization. He was recognized Feb. 7 at the RCAS annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.

Lomas came to the Southeast Agricultural Research Center in 1979 as an animal scientist. He continued at that post until 1986 when he took over as head of the Center.

The Center encompasses four locations and just over 1,100 acres.

“Our locations include Parsons, Mound Valley, Columbus and the Terril unit, which was acquired as a part of a living trust agreement,” Lomas explains.

Research, according to him, is primarily directed towards the major crop and livestock enterprises in the southeast district that make the greatest contribution to the economy of southeast Kansas. Crops research is conducted with wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum, corn, cotton, sunflowers and canola. Forage research is conducted with alfalfa, bermudagrass, tall fescue and eastern gamagrass.

Grazing research on tall fescue, bermudagrass, smooth bromegrass, and crabgrass pastures is conducted with stocker cattle.

When it comes to putting a value on the projects, Lomas says it is pretty hard.

“Different producers use things different ways,” he says. “The work we do is not to develop new technology, but to take current technology and adapt it to the agriculture in the area.”

Over the years, Lomas has seen a lot of changes in agriculture, whether in crop production or animal production. However, he recalls two items in particular that he would call highlights due to the impact they have had on agriculture in the area.

The first area, according to him, is in the development, research and testing of Round-Up Ready soybeans and corn.

“This technology has been widely adapted by the vast majority of crop producers in the area and has been a tremendous benefit to producers that no-till plant double-crop soybeans following wheat,” he explains. “This type of technology has added yet another dimension to cropping systems.”

Another area of research conducted at the Southeast Agricultural Research Center Lomas feels has been very important is the development of tall fescue with non-toxic endophyte.

“This technology alleviates the poor animal performance traditionally associated with grazing fescue during the summer months and can increase beef production in southeast Kansas by as much as 100 lb per acre annually,” he says.

Although conducting research can be tedious work which poses a number of different challenges, Lomas says the biggest challenge of all is trying to have the answers before the producers come up with the questions.

“Typical research projects are three to five year projects, some even longer than that,” he says. “They have to take this long to figure all the variables into them.”

Although research has always been ever-changing, Lomas says over the past few years there have been a number of new ideas introduced and new technologies to deal with.

“Some of the newer ideas in agriculture include things like poultry litter and distillers grains,” he says. “Years ago the Research Center was all things to all people. We can’t do that now. We are more specialized and we have to target specific areas and do them well.”

In addition to trying to keep up with the changes in technology, Lomas says the clientele has changed as well.

“Our clientele has changed,” he says. “Our farmers are older and there are fewer of them.”

And the method of getting information to that clientele has changed as well, according to Lomas.

“We have several field days each year highlighting the work done at the center,” he says. “But, there are so many more ways to get information with today’s technology.”

Lomas agrees the information producers are getting may still be the information that comes from the Center it is just delivered in a different way.

As things continue to change in the world of agriculture and in the world of agricultural research, one exciting change Lomas sees in the future is the construction of a new area Extension office in Parsons.

“The area office has been in Chanute for years and having it here will be a benefit for those of us in Extension and for those who use Extension,” he explains. “This will give us a chance to join two faculties creating joint efforts and enabling us to serve people in southeast Kansas better than in the past.”

Change has been inevitable over the years, especially in agriculture, but for Lomas the mission statement of the research center still holds its weight.

According to him, each dollar spent on public agricultural research and Extension returns roughly $32 in benefits to the economy.

“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in what you are doing on a daily basis but what we don’t want to lose sight of is that we are still in the business of food production to feed the world and increase the quality of life,” Lomas says.

The Center’s next opportunity to share research-based production information will be on Thursday, May 3 at 8:30 a.m. when the Mound Valley Unit hosts the annual Beef Cattle and Forage Crops Field Day.

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