UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center Expo at Harvest Festival - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 2012

UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center Expo at Harvest Festival - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 2012

September 7, 2012

Agriculture, history, and science will intersect at Gering’s Farm and Ranch Museum Sept. 15-16 when the University of Nebraska Expo, the Panhandle Research and Extension Center’s annual showcase of projects and programs in western Nebraska, joins the Harvest Festival.

Harvest Festival exhibit hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at the Farm and Ranch Museum west of Gering on Highway 92. A pancake breakfast starts at 7 a.m. Saturday and a church service starts Sunday at 9 a.m.

Exhibits and demonstrations of historic equipment and farming methods will fill both days. Children and grown-ups also will find plenty of hands-on activities to join in. The featured crop this year is dry edible beans. More information is available at the Farm and Ranch Museum web site at www.farmandranchuseum.com.

This year’s event has added historical significance because 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges like UNL. The Morrill Act made education more affordable to all people, especially in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other professions practical at the time.

Jeff Bradshaw, UNL entomologist and chair of the Panhandle Expo Committee, said the UNL Expo is a good fit with FARM’s Harvest Festival.

It is a good opportunity for area residents to come see the science that benefits agriculture in the High Plains, Bradshaw said. At the same time they can experience the history of agriculture and understand the legislative initiatives that facilitated the connection between science and agriculture.

“It got us where we are today,” he said of the Morrill Act.

Bradshaw said UNL specialists will be discussing and demonstrating the tools, techniques and technology that they use to improve agriculture. Visitors also can see the diseases, weeds and insects that the specialists work with.

Also in the spotlight will be other UNL programs that contribute to quality of life, such as 4-H, entrepreneurship and business development and nutrition education. And Harvest Festival always includes a bunch of fun kids’ activities.

All the while, the focus will be on the role of beans in sustaining a healthy society and their contribution to economic vitality.

Bradshaw plans to bring live insects. He’ll be shedding light on how American entomology was founded to safeguard natural resources and agriculture, and also will highlight some insects that benefit agriculture. The Panhandle’s “hidden treasures” will be revealed by Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, extension entrepreneur and business development specialist. She will talk about tourism attractions that attract visitors even as they sometimes go unnoticed or taken for granted by local residents. For example, 90,000 visitors go to Scotts Bluff National Monument annually.

A lot of attention is being paid to dry edible beans by nutritionists. Lisa Franzen-Castle, extension nutrition specialist, will point out that beans fit under not one but two food groups. USDA’s MyPlate lists them under both the vegetable and protein groups because they are so packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber. She will share more about the health benefits of beans and tasty recipes.

While historic methods of farming beans are demonstrated, UNL’s Carlos Urrea, the dry bean breeding specialist, will share advanced work aimed at improving the crop’s future. Urrea will show how the UNL dry bean breeding program is using molecular markers extensively for a more efficient use of resources. Urrea and his crew will have hands-on demonstrations of how DNA is extracted from plants.

They also will demonstrate cooking tests conducted on dry edible beans. Cooking time is a limiting factor in adoption of new cultivars in developing countries. Cooking time is related to the age of the beans.

Other fields of knowledge that will be on display by UNL staff include plant pathology, beef innovation and technology, ag economics and markets, soils, weed science, emerging new crops, and fiber arts such as wool felting. 4-H leaders also will be on hand to talk about the youth organization and conduct a number of fun activities for kids.

News Release
Panhandle Research and Extension Center