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Annual Field Days at Purdue Agricultural Centers Lead to Financial Improvements from Adoption of Recommended Practices

There are 56,800 farming operations in Indiana, and 97% of Indiana’s farms are family-owned. Of Indiana’s roughly 23.3 million acres, 84% are farms, forests and woodland. Corn ($3.16 billion) and soybeans ($2.84 billion) account for the largest value of sales for Indiana’s commodities. Successful and sustainable production requires attention to a vast array of variables, including soil health, water availability and access, prevalence of weeds, insects, invasive species, and diseases, and seasonal and weather variability. The need for access to and understanding of new technologies and management is great for Indiana’s producers and the future for crops and livestock. It is prudent for Indiana to protect its resources and support productivity of the land, farms, and operations.

In conjunction with the eight Purdue Agricultural Centers (PACs) across Indiana, Extension provided 13 field days between May and October to address field crops, horticulture, livestock, and natural resources. Activities included presentations, demonstrations, and field tours. Topics presented were strawberries, seed treatment, pesticide application and storage, insects, apples, cover crops for vegetables, weed management, hemp, grapes, irrigation, vegetables, sprayer drones, regulations for agronomic use of drones, precision nutrient management, disease management, soil diagnostics, corn response to sulfur, pest management, forest management, invasive species, soybean seeding rates, nitrogen timing management of corn, foliar disease management, and livestock fencing. Participants could earn professional credits for Private Applicator Recertification Program (PARP), Continuing Certification Hours (CCH), and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA).

A total of 1,085 farmers, livestock producers, owners of woodlands, and fruit and vegetable producers attended the 13 PAC events. All PAC events included a post-survey asking participants about adoption of recommended practices after the program.

Of the 925 attendees at seven field days that focused on field crops (Seed Treatment Workshop, five Field Days, Ag Sprayer Drone Technology Day), 555 (60.0%) responded. As a result of attending, more than a third (41.3%) indicated they plan to adopt recommended field crop practices for their farm/operation. A third reported that they plan to adopt fertilizer and/or pesticide practices (35.6%) or management practices (31.3%).

Focusing on the four horticulture programs (strawberry field day; fruit, vegetable, and hemp field day, and two vegetable field days), a total of 128 attended, and 55 (43.0%) responded. Participants indicated they plan to adopt recommended practices/technologies for horticulture and the environment (44.4%), increased yields (38.9%), increased efficiencies (35.2%), and conservation of resources (33.3%)

For a livestock event, Fencing School, 19 attended and 11 (57.9%) responded. As a result, nearly three-quarters (72.7%) indicated they plan to adopt management practices, and more than half (54.5%) intend to adopt technologies for their farm/business. The forestry field day, focusing on natural resources and land use, had 13 attendees and 11 (84.6%) responded. As a result, three-quarters (72.7%) indicated they plan to adopt or improve stewardship practices. More than half (54.5%) plan to contact professional advisors for natural resource management, or plan to create or revise their land management plan.

Participants were asked if they had attended the PAC event in the past. Of the 574 field day participants responding, three-quarters (72.1%) indicated they had. Of those, more than half (52.7%) reported they had adopted a new, recommended practice for their farm or operation. Past participants reported new practices they adopted, and most mentioned fertilizer/chemical applications, cover crops, sulfur, and no-till. When asked about financial improvements observed as a result of adopting recommended practices, more than half (58.7%) indicated improvements as increased dollar return per acre. A third (35.5%) reported reduced costs per acre. When asked to estimate dollar per acre of financial improvement, more than half (58.2%) reported financial improvement between $1 to $100 per acre. Other responses for improvements were soil quality, improved weed control, efficiency, more yield per acre, and better-quality pumpkins. Purdue Agricultural Center Field Day events contributed to farmer and producer adoption of recommended practices resulting in financial improvements up to $100 per acre.

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